6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– By leave, I desire to inform the House that on Monday I received a communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies conveying an invitation for me from the British Government to visit London to exchange views with Imperial Ministers. I was informedthat a similar invitation had been extended to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and I understand that the Prime Minister of Canada has also been invited. After consideration, I have decided to accept the invitation. I propose to ask Parliament to grant an additional two months’ Supply, and to ask honorable members to agree to an adjournment until my return from England, with the proviso that should any occasion necessitate an earlier meeting, the House will be immediately called together by Mr. Speaker.
– By leave. I have heard with the greatest possible satisfaction the announcement which has just been made. To me it is peculiarly gratifying to learn that the Prime Minister of Australia has been called specifically to the counsels of the
Empire. I heard the announcement with more than usual satisfaction, because on a number of occasions I have urged in this Chamber that the Government should appoint a responsible Minister to represent it in London. Since the war began I have felt that nothing but good could result to our war preparations from having a responsible Minister at the seat df Empire. An opportunity having now been furnished by the invitation of the Imperial Government, the Prime Minister has only done his duty by Australia and the Empire in cordially and promptly accepting it. Anything that will facilitate his arrangements to that end will bo readily agreed to by those on this side of the House. I hope that it may not be” necessary for Parliament to re-assemble before the Prime Minister’s return. Whatever will facilitate his trip, and make it of the greatest service to the Empire will, I am sure, be freely agreed to by honorable members generally.
Wireless Station and Shipping Facilities
– Will the Minister of External Affairs, in view of its obvious advantages, take into early consideration the question of establishing a wireless station at Norfolk - Island, either with or without the co-operation of the Pacific Cable Board ? Will the honorable gentleman also take into early consideration the advisability of getting an expert engineer’s report on the matter of improving facilities for landing and other shipping operations at Norfolk Island?
– The desirability of establishing a wireless station at Norfolk Island has been accentuated by the determination of Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company to equip with a wireless installation the steamer with which they carry out the ‘contract for the conveyance of mails between Sydney, Norfolk Island, and other islands of the Pacific. At the present time, however, our war expenditure is so large that it is necessary to curtail our outlay in other directions.
– Docs not the present state of war emphasize the need for a wireless station at Norfolk Island ?
– No ; because the enemy’s fleets have been swept from the seas. I am of opinion, however, that a wireless station at Norfolk Island would be of great service. I agree with the honorable member, too, that something should be done at an early date to provide better landing facilities at the island, and he may rely on it that the matter will not be lost sight of.
– I ask the Treasurer if the agreement or arrangement has been made with the States that any further State loans negotiated outside Australia shall be raised through the Commonwealth Government? If no such agreement or arrangement has been come to, will the Treasurer inform the House what would be the views of the Commonwealth Government if it were approached by the States with a proposal for increasing their loan indebtedness?
Mr. HUGHES__ I am unable to give the honorable member any information as to the proposed arrangements with regard to State borrowing. The matter is pending, and we are hopeful of the best results. The answer to this question will serve as a general reply to a number of others dealing with the same matter.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– In view of the increasing seriousness of the outbreak of meningitis, will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence say what steps have been taken to cope with the disease J
– I have seen the Minister of Defence, who informs me that instructions have been sent to all the States to isolate all meningitis contacts, and not to allow the public to visit them. The patients themselves are to be placed in special hospitals in which no other medical cases are treated. Suspicious cases - cases of persons suffering from serious colds, for example - are also to receive special treatment. Care will be taken of them until such time as the medical authorities are certain that they are not suffering from meningitis.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow, either now or at any other time?
– There is no such intention at present. What may happen centuries hence I cannot tell.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether I am right in assuming from his reply that, so far as he is concerned, the Small Arms Factory will not be moved from Lithgow for a hundred years?
– I cannot say that it will not be removed for a hundred years, but there is at present no intention whatever of removing it.
recruiting Returns - Gifts for the Troops - Placing of Tobacco, Cigars, andcigarettesonrationslist- Belongings of Deceased Soldiers.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the present position of recruiting, and whether the Government propose to take any steps to make up the reinforcements to the strength that we were given to understand was desirable?
– Recruiting has been referred to the War Committee, and that Committee is considering how best to promote it; but I may say that the Government will consider the whole position in the light of the information supplied by the statistics of the War Census. I want to make perfectly clear to the House what this involves. The Government have no intention whatever of departing from the policy of voluntary enlistment, but the Government do propose to consider very seriously indeed the position as it exists to-day with regard to the forces necessary to bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. We have at our disposal figures that show exactly the number of males of military age who are fit to fight, and in the light of that information we shall consider the whole situation. The War
Committee will have these figures, and by taking advantage of the information contained in them, I have no doubt we shall be able to give that impetus to the recruiting movement that it requires.
– Seeing that the Australian returned troops are well known outside Australia, I anticipate that they may receive numerous presents during the forthcoming Christmas holidays. If these goods are dutiable, will the Minister of Trade and Customs relieve them of duty?
– I stated yesterday the position regarding goods being sent to Australia by men now in the field. Perhaps the honorable member knows what is being done by theRed Cross and other societies in Australia, who are sending tobacco, cigarettes, and other articles to the men in the trenches. Apparently, these goods are going very cheaply, for the reason that no Excise duty has to be paid upon them outside Australia. That is the reason why the troops are able to obtain fifty cigarettes for 6d. TheRed Cross Society in Victoria is able to send tins of fifty cigarettes and 2 ozs. tobacco to the invalided soldiers in hospital in Great Britain and Malta. The British Government have agreed not to charge duty on these articles, which are for Christmas presents, and the secretary has asked that the same thing may be done in Australia. It will be very difficult for us to charge our wounded soldiers who are in hospitals or convalescent homes the duty they would not have to pay were they away from Australia, but in all probability we shall have to put a sum down on the Estimates so as to recoup the revenue for the loss such action would entail. Nevertheless, I think the honorable member will agree that we ought to treat our soldiers who have been returned to Australia as well as they are being treated in Great Britain or Malta.
– There will be no limitation as to tonnage?
– Ounces, not tonnage.
– In view of the many complaints that have been made by parents and friends of deceased soldiers that they have not been able to obtain the belongings of their dead relatives, will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence look into the matter, so as to secure
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs bring under the notice of the Cabinet a proposition to place tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes on the list of rations for soldiers, in view of the fact that the duty on those articles represents the greater part of the cost to the consumer ? If the Government decide to do so, and thus to supply tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes free to the soldiers, or at cost price, minus the duty, will they take care to reserve the contracts-
– Why limit the concession to tobacco? Why not include whisky?
– I am addressing my remarks, not to the honorable member for Barrier, but to the Minister of Trade and Customs. If the Government adopt the suggestion, will they see that the contracts are undertaken by firms having no relation with the enemy?
– I shall certainly bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of the Minister of Defence. I trust, however, that there will be no misapprehension as to the statement I made, and which related only to Christmas boxes given by the Red Cross Society to men in institutions, where the revenue could be amply safeguarded, or where, if the duty were paid by the Commonwealth, there would be no loss in that direction.
– The honorable member for Grampians the other day raised a question as to the congestion at the Melbourne wharfs, and desired to know whether the Customs Department was responsible, or whether the fault lay with the Melbourne Harbor Trust. I have made inquiry, and find that the Customs Department was in no way responsible for any delay in the delivery of goods that may have occurred in this instance. From a report received from the Collector of Customs, Victoria, it appears that a quantity of leaf tobacco and general cargo was landed from the same vessel, and put into
– In view of the slackening off in shipbuilding at the Naval Dockyard at Cockatoo Island, and in view of the urgent need of increasing our supplies of munitions, will the Minister of Defence take into immediate consideration the advisability of utilizing the services of the highly-trained mechanics and the machines at Cockatoo Island for the purpose of making shells or munitions there?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether he has had under consideration Mr. McC. Anderson’s report upon the affairs of his Department, and whether it is intended to take the action there suggested and transfer the Bureau of Meteorology from the Home Affairs to another Department?
– I have read the report, because I found it was very interesting. I saw that Mr. Anderson uttered praise of my administration. I will go into the matter raised by the honorable member very carefully.
– I desire to call attention to a return called for by order of the House dated 10th September, 1915. The information asked for is as follows : -
Mail ARRANGEMENTS in Egypt - De- serters from langwarrin camp-
Recruiting Badges - Importation of Dutiable Goods - Closure of Newcastle Camp - Postal Arrangements in Egypt - Soldiers’ Rest Home - Sals’ of Surplus Food at BROAD.medows - Case of PRIVATE MURDOCK
– “Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence state whether it is a fact that Mr. Keith Murdoch, an Australian journalist who was proceeding to London recently, received from the Government a commission to report as to the postal arrangements in Egypt for the delivery of mails to our troops. Further, if it is true that Mr. Murdoch’s report has been received, but that the British Government object to its publication.
– I shall endeavour to obtain a reply, to the honorable member’s question.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Henty asked -
In view of the answer given by the Defence Department to a question I asked yesterday, will the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to see that the threat of the Minister of Defence is carried out, and that the names of the deserters from Langwarrin Camp, who are spreading disease through the country, arc published in the newspapers, so that steps may be taken to have them arrested?
I promised to confer with the Minister of Defence as to what had been done, as I was not familiar with the details of the subject. I beg now to give the honorable member and the House the following information : -
The return of deserters from Langwarrin Camp is being prepared. It needs special care in compilation. Some men have gone to the other States, and are being advertised for. It is proposed, before making the men’s names public, to communicate by letters with their next of kin, inviting assistance in locating these deserters, and insuring their return to the treatment camp at Langwarrin, so as to render publication of the names unnecessary.
All who have been located have been arrested, and other arrests are expected daily. If these measures are not effective, names will be published as announced. The public have been warned by advertisement in the daily papers against harboring deserters.
On 3rd instant I promised to obtain for the honorable member for Melbourne information as to the issue of badges to persons who had volunteered and whose services had not been accepted by the Defence Department. The answer to his question ia as follows: -
The proposal to issue badges to rejected applicants for enlistment has been carefully considered, but in view of the expense and large amount of work which this would entail, together with the fact that such badges might be obtained by impersonation or other improper means, it has been decided that the issue of same by the Department is not advisable. -
A certificate, however, has been approved for issue to all persons rejected, providing they apply for same at the time of the medical examination.
The form which has been adopted provides for identification of rejected persons by means of handwriting and personal particulars. Forms are filled in locally, and no clerical work is involved beyond that which is necessary to contest their issue and to automatically obtain a record of the rejections.
The forms may also be used by Recruiting Committees for. the purpose of securing applicants for enlistment. They are to be filled in and signed by mcn desiring to enlist, and handed to the local Recruiting Officer, who will arrange for medical examination and free railway passes. They are ‘ available at” all times when recruits are expected to be obtained, and they provide Recruiting Committees with definite means of ascertaining whether . their work is successful.
If an applicant is rejected, the reason for his rejection is stated on the certificate, which is signed by the Medical and Recruiting Officers, and impressed with an official stamp to show that it is genuine.
It is considered that the certificate referred to obviates the necessity of the issue of badges by this Department or the Patriotic Leagues.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House whether the same privileges in regard to the free importation of duitable goods are allowed to nurses as to -other members of the Expeditionary ‘ Forces ?
– Yes; nurses as well as other members of the Expeditionary Forces are permitted the free importation of £10 worth of dutiable goods per annum. -.
– The honorable member for Newcastle asked yesterday to be’ sup-‘ plied with the name of the doctor who had recommended the closing of the Newcastle Camp. The reply from the Minister of Defence is that the proposal to close the Newcastle Camp was made by Captain Vickery, A.A.M.C., and indorsed by Lieutenant-Colonel Perkins, Principal Medical Officer of the 2nd Military District.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a statement made by the Minister of Defence in another place that the Government cannot publish Mr. Keith Murdoch’s report on the postal arrangements in Egypt because of objection by the British Government? Will the Prime Minister, before making further investigations into the muddle of the correspondence in Egypt, ascertain from the British Government whether a Commonwealth representative will be permitted to report on that subject?
– The honorable member will understand that with regard to the disclosure of information of this kind, we must not only consider what the British Government wish, but, unless some extraordinary reason be shown for acting to the contrary, we must abide by that wish. However, I shall make such inquiry as the honorable member suggests in order to ascertain what the British Government propose to do.
– The honorable member for Grampians asked a question recently in regard to the Soldiers’ Rest Home at Wirth’s Park. The reply is-
The home has only been available for the reception of convalescents for a few days. It will accommodate about 150, and although there is only one soldier at present in the home, there is no doubt that it will be made use of to a large extent later on as convalescents accumulate.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked the following question: -
I understand that it has been the practice in the military camps in Victoria to sell to certain persons surplus food, which can be used for feeding pigs, &c. Now there is a proposition to call for tenders for the purchase of this surplus food, with the probability of one big tenderer securing the whole of the supply. Will the Treasurer consult with the Minister of Defence and urge that small tenderers should be given preference over any large contractor T
The Minister of Defence has furnished the following reply: -
The answer to the honorable member’s question is - Preference, as suggested, could only be given in- the event of tendered prices being equal.
On the 3rd inst. the honorable member for Melbourne asked the following questions : -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the following information is now to hand : -
Action has been taken to pay him the amount due to 31st October.
– Is the Treasurer yet in a position to reply to the question that I asked yesterday regarding the decision of the Commissioner of Income Tax not to permit any deduction for commission paid on rents collected.
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Commissioner of Income Tax states that taxpayers have been so advised on an interpretation of the law verbally supplied by the Crown Law officers. An amendment of the law to deal with the matter will bc submitted to Parliament.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs be in a position to lay on the table of the House, before the Christmas vacation, the return for which I asked, giving particulars of premises rented by the Commonwealth in the capital cities and the rentals paid in respect of them.
– I hope to be able to present the return to-morrow.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs take steps to give effect to the long-standing promise made to the residents of Lord Howe Island that provision would be made for a wireless station there?
– Lord Howe Island is, I believe, part of the electorate of East Sydney. If I find that a wireless station is absolutely necessary to the safety and prosperity of the people of the island, the matter will be taken into consideration.
– Has your attention been directed, Mr. Speaker, to section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act, which provides that -
No public work of any kind whatsoever (except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament, or which are authorized during the present session, and except works for the Naval or Military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the Act), the estimated cost of completing which exceeds £25,000, and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
No such new work can, therefore, be commenced until it has been referred to the Public Works Committee and a report furnished to the Parliament. In view of that fact, I ask, sir, whether the placing on the notice-paper of the Bill to provide for the construction of a railway from Katherine River to Bitter Springs is in accordance with the rules of this House.
– It is not customary to give rulings on points of order relating to questions not immediately under consideration. The proper time to raise the point of order will be when the Bill in question is before the House.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House, before the adjournment, the papers dealing with the export of metals ?
– All information in regard to this matter has already been published in the press, but I will have that information collated and made available to honorable members on the Library table.
– Can the Treasurer give the House any information as to what steps are being taken by the Government for the manufacture of artillery in Australia ?
– Provision is being made for the manufacture of large guns in connexion with the establishment of an arsenal in the Commonwealth.
– I desire to again ask the Prime Minister whether he can give the House an approximate idea of when the Bill for the introduction of the Initiative and Referendum will be brought before Parliament?
– If the honorable member refers to a proposal to amend the Constitution, I can only say that it is not proposed to submit such a proposal to the people. But if the honorable member refers to legislation for the Initiative and Referendum under our present powers, I can say no more than that when the House re-assembles such legislation will be introduced.
– I should like to ask . the Minister of Home Affairs if the Government have decided to establish an arsenal in the Federal Capital Territory? If so, has any site been selected ?
– The officers of the Department selected site No. 1 on the banks of the lake, and close to Queanbeyan. After investigating the matter, I submitted it to Cabinet, and Cabinet, having in view the recommendation of a seven to two majority of the Public Works Committee, and the fact that the suggested site was contrary to the premiated design of Walter Burley Griffin, Director of Construction and Design of the Federal Capital, decided to adhere to his design, and adopted site No. 2.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs have prepared, during the adjournment, a comprehensive report of the operation of the new Tariff, showing particularly its effect on imports and new industries, so that honorable members may have up-to-date information before them when they are called upon to deal with the Tariff ?
– Expecting the Tariff to be dealt with early this year, I had prepared for honorable members statistics covering the last five years in reference to every item in the Tariff. That information will have to be brought up to date. The particulars the honorable member asks for will be available in regard to imports, but statistics regarding production are very difficult to obtain. Although we are now in the eleventh month of 1915, the figures for the production in the various States in 1914 are not yet available.
– As I understand that the administration of the Electoral Act is not now under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, without notice. Each day British Indian subjects are being removed from the rolls, although Ghurkas and Sikhs are fighting nobly side by side with the British troops in the great war. Will the Prime Minister carefully consider this matter with a view to stopping the disenrolment of these electors, at any rate during the war.
– I must have some further information on a matter of this sort before I can give an answer. I do not know whether the facts warrant the statement made by the honorable member. So far as I know, disenrolment is not being done under any order of the Electoral Department. If the law requires it, an amendment of the law would be necessary before these removals could be prevented.
– That is so - that is the position.
– I shall look into the matter. I can promise that when the House meets again I shall ask honorable members to consider the whole question of allowing naturalized persons of enemy origin to remain on the rolls unless and until they again take the oath of loyalty.
– About a fortnight ago I asked a question about the alleged torpedoing of a transport, and the Prime Minister then said he had no official information, but that he would endeavour to get it. I wish to know now whether the censorship has yet been removed, and, if not, why not?
– I can only say that we are unable to supply the information at present.
– Has the Treasurer yet received any information in response to the question I asked some days ago regarding the allotment made by a soldier in favour of his mother? This matter has been hanging over for four months.
– I shall endeavour to get a reply for the honorable member.
– Seeing that a number of people in well-paid positions’ are also, under the Defence Act, performing the duties of Area Officers, will the Defence Department take into consideration the advisability of appointing returned soldiers to such positions?
– I shall have the honorable member’s question brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– I should like to know what steps are being taken to compel the considerable number of men who are said to have remained in the camps for a considerable length of time, to go to the front. Some of these men have been in the camps over twelve months.
– I shall make inquiries of the Minister of Defence.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I should like to refer to a paragraph which appears in the Argus of to-day in the form of a question put yesterday by the honorable member for Batman, and an answer by myself. Inadvertently, an error has crept into the form of the question, and this I now desire to correct. The question as put to me by the honorable member for Batman was as follows: -
I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the grant of power proposed to be obtained from the States in connexion with the withdrawal of the referenda is subject to any unwritten understanding or agreement with reference to the war or anything else?
My reply was : “ No ; none.” This question and answer I quote from the Hansard report. The question, as it appears in the newspaper, is whether the grant is “ subject to any restriction or understanding in connexion with the war or anything else.” The whole point is that what the honorable member for Batman asked me was whether the power was subject to any “ unwritten “ understanding or agreement, and my answer was that it was not.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy ascertain what is the method of selection in the formation of the Mining Corps? Will the Minister also make inquiries with a view to due recognition being given to experienced and practical men, as well as to those with theoretical knowledge?
– Has the Government so far disposed of any Australian wheat, and, if so, at what price ?
– So far as I know, no Australian wheat has been disposed of. Yesterday a representative of the press put a question to me arising out of a cable that referred to the disposal, or reported sale, of some 8,000 tons of wheat on the Baltic Exchange. I said that I knew nothing of the matter, and that all Australian wheat had to go through the scheme. I repeat that; but I believe that the wheat referred to was imported from oversea to meet the shortage, and that, as it has been found in excess of immediate requirements, it is proposed to re-export it, and it has been sold. I am told by the Minister of Trade and Customs that there are only 2,000 tons of this wheat of which the sale is recorded. However that may be, only oversea wheat will be permitted to leave, unless it passes through the scheme. Australian wheat must pass through the scheme, sale or no sale. No wheat will go from here except under the condition I have mentioned.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister is advised that there has been practically no death rate.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As soon as all details in connexion with the agreement are settled the full text of the agreement, together with the charges against the wheat, will be made available.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The following statement gives the information desired by the honorable member: -
Australia House. - Accommodation of States.
As far back as 1912, as soon as Parliament ratified the proposal to acquire the Strand Aldwych site for the erection of Australian offices, the Prime Minister informed the State Premiers that it was proposed to accommodate the Agents-General in the building, a tentative design of which was submitted to the Premiers at the same time. The Premiers were asked to furnish information as to the extent and class of rooms likely to be required for their respective offices.
The present position in regard to this matter is as follows : -
Victoria. - The Government of Victoria occupies portion of the present buildings, and pays to the Commonwealth Government to cover rent, taxes, &c., an annual sum of £2,200.
Queensland has declined to occupy any space, as the premises they have leased in the Strand meet the needs of the State.
Western Australia has leased a site in the heart of London, and does not require any portion of Australia House.
Tasmania has declined to occupy space, as the rent asked was considered to be high, and the Agent-General has been informed that the State will continue to occupy premises at present used by him.
New South Wnles. - The then Agent-General, Sir Timothy Coghlan, without committing his Governmentarrangedaboutthemiddleof1914 with the High Commissioner for the reservation of certain space in Australia House.
In December, 1914. the Premierof NewSouth Walesstated that the Agent-General had been asked bv cablegram to furnish full particulars of his requirements, accompanied by plans showing the position of the accommodation desired, and asking what time would elapse before the Commonwealth buildings would be. available for occupation by New South Wales. He was informed that the probable date would be the end of March, 1916.
South Australia. - The Agent-General would not commit himself to any definite arrangement, and would not select any space in Australia House. A shop frontage was, however, provisionally reserved for him. The South Australian Government decided to allow the matter to stand over until the Agent-General’s (Hon. P. W. Young) report had come to hand. That report has not yet been received.
A communication has just been received from the Premier of New South Wales forwarding a copy of the following cablegram received from the Agent-General (Mr. B. R. Wise) : - “ New Offices. - Agent-General, South Australia, obtaining excellent site in the Strand, next West Australia, close Queensland and New Zealand, which would afford splendid and ample accommodation for our State and South Australia, permitting each to retain its separate identity, at a cost not exceeding that paid by our State today, and giving far superior accommodation. Landlords, the Duchy of Lancaster. Suggest you see Premier of South Australia and obtain authority for self and Young to negotiate, terms to be submitted to your approval. Probably accommodate our engineering staff, and, if so, expense would be much less than at present. “ Young and I both strongly urge Commonwealth Buildings unsuitable, being without separate entrances would destroy distinctive identity of the States.Rooms arc also dark and inconvenient, and site too far east and on wrong side of Strand. “ Will send particulars by next mail, but to secure reduced prices co-operation with South Australia should be secured. Will, of course, commit you to nothing without your approval.”
The Premier added that the further particulars promised by Mr. Wise have not been received, and that he has communicated with the Premier of South Australia requesting a statement of his views on the question generally, leaving the matter to be discussed in detail at a later date if necessary, and that he has informed the Premiers of the other States of the action taken.
The Agents-General of New South Wales and South Australia, it would seem, are prepared to add to the cost of Australian representation in London by hiring fresh offices and refusing to avail themselves of accommodation provided by the Commonwealth in Australia House.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will present to the House a return stating full particulars re : -
Whether the Government propose to make the captured enemy ships, now being utilized, the nucleus of a permanent Commonwealth line of steamers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Report of the Administration for the year 1914.
War Precautions - Returns of Food Stocks.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Military Forces -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 212. (Financial and Allowance) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 200, 211.
Military College - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 208.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 209, 210.
Enemy Trading Act - Prosecutions - Return to an Order of the House dated 10th September, 1915.
Public Service Act - Promotion of H. Howqua, as Clerk, 4th Class, Accounts Branch (Telephone Accounts), Victoria.
The War - Austrian and German Papers found in possession of Mr. James F. J. Archibald, Falmouth, 30th August, 1915 - Paper presented to British Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the withdrawal of writs issued by the Governor-General for the submission of certain proposed laws to the electors and for matters incidental thereto.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I ask leave to proceed with the second reading of this Bill.
– I move-
That this Bill he now read a second time.
It is introduced for the purpose of giving effect to the agreement arrived at between the representatives of the States and the
Government for the postponement ofthe referendum, and provides for the recall of the writs issued by the GovernorGeneral for the submission of the proposed laws tothe people, as provided in the Constitution, on the 11th December next. The Bill does no more than that. It leaves matters in the same position as they were before the writs were issued.
– The Prime Minister, in his opening sentence, said that the agreement which is supposed to be represented by this Bill, and which is before us in no way, was one arrived at between his Government and the Governments of the States; and, so far as I am aware, that statement is literally true. The Oppositions in the various States were not consulted in any way, and the Opposition in this Parliament was not called into consultation in any way in connexion with the arrangement that has been made; but, as that arrangement, I understand, is not before us to-day, and as the only matter for our consideration is the repeal of the writsfor the referendum-
– That is not so. The Bill deals with the agreement.
– The preamble sets out the whole matter; in fact, the Bill is selfexplanatory.
– Owing to the difficulty of dealing with a Bill the terms of which one has not had the opportunity of reading, I should like to have the debate postponed until honorable members can peruse the measure; therefore, I ask leave to continue my speech at a later hour.
Leave given; debate adjourned.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal) .
Arsenal and Small Arms Factory - Textile Workers - Fitting of Transport: Case of Mr. Stacey - Defence Administration - Sickness among Forces at the Front - Age of Enlistment - Duration of Training - Naval Base Expenditure - Military and Naval Works - Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis - Base Hospital - Importation of Defence Experts - Federal Capital: City Design: National Monument to Fallen Soldiers: Naming of Streets - Letter-carriers’ Life Insurance.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - proposed .
– I desire to offer a few words of protest against the proposal to erect an arsenal and small arms factory at Canberra. I was glad to note the answer given by the Minister of Home Affairs to a question put by another honorable member in relation to the selection of the site for this proposed factory, the reply being that the site agreed upon had been turned down.
– The honorable member’s remarks anticipate the discussion of Order of the Day, No. 7.
– I understand that that Order of the Day is not to be proceeded with.
– I have no knowledge of that. The Order of the Day stands on the notice-paper.
– I shall not anticipate the discussion of that motion. There is another matter to which I wish to refer very briefly, and that is the friction which has arisen in connexion with the work of certain textile factories. ‘ A great deal of trouble has occurred because of the dissatisfaction that exists with the conditions, hours of labour, and payment for services now prevailing. I understand that an arrangement has been arrived at with the Government of New South Wales whereby, in consideration of certain concessions, the interests of employees in the textile factories will be properly conserved under what is practically the control of the factories by the Federal Government.
– Does not the honorable member think that the rates of wages should be uniform throughout Australia ?
– I do hot know that the rates of wages should be uniform, because conditions may differ. The cost of living is higher in some parts of Australia than it is in others, and rents are higher in some parts than in others. These factors have a bearing on rates of remuneration, and were uniform rates to be paid all over Australia, inequalities and hardships might arise which would form a new basis of complaint. While on the face of things it seems reasonable that rates of wages should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth, I do not know that it would be practicable to make them so. Rates of remuneration must depend very largely upon the conditions and circumstances of an industry, and its situation. But due regard should be paid to the conditions under which work is done. I understand that the contractors for the supply of textiles to the Defence Department are making enhanced profits. If that is so, it is reasonable and fair that their workers, who are asked to put forward their best efforts to expedite an increased output, should receive some recognition in the form of higher remuneration. In the short space of time which has elapsed since the complaints that I am voicing were brought before me, I have not been able to make a personal investigation of the facts, but the source of my information leaves me no reason to doubt its bona fides. . I understand that the employees in the textile factories are not being fairly treated in the matter of remuneration. ‘ These complaints should receive investigation by the Commonwealth Government, which, although not in all cases the direct employer, is the indirect employer, because it” has practically con.mandeered these factories by taking the whole of their output, to the exclusion of private consumers. It appears that, in some cases, bonuses have been paid, but the complaint is that these bonuses have gone only to selected individuals, holding more or less responsible positions, and that while liberal sums have been paid to them, the claims of others whose efforts are no less worthy of recognition have been entirely ignored. So far as the delivery of goods is concerned, the result may be a great slackening of effort on the part of those who are dissatisfied, and in some instances there have been strikes, and, in consequence, stoppage of work. This is a very serious matter at the present time, when every ounce of energy and material should be used to get the best results in the interests of those who are fighting our battles at the front. I have mentioned these matters very briefly, not with any desire to take up the time of the House, but in the hope that an immediate investigation will be made into the causes of complaint), with a view to removing’ the dissatisfaction which exists, so that work may proceed smoothly, and that the best results may be obtained for the prosecution of the war.
– I rise to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Lang. Like him, I have no desire to see industrial trouble arise in the textile factories. We have to clothe and supply blankets to the troops that are doing such great and noble work at the front, and a body of good artisans are working in our mills with that end in view. In Tasmania these artisans are being paid a poor, miserable, sweating rate of wage, which is a disgrace to the business with which they are connected. If I have been correctly informed - and my informant is the president of the Textile Workers Union in Hobart, who recently came all the way to Melbourne to place the case before me, and to ask me to do something in the interests of the employees, who are largely women - very poor wages are being paid. The president was most anxious that no trouble should arise at this particular time. None of us wishes for trouble at the present juncture. But in Tasmania employees have no means of getting redress. They cannot get Wages Boards, and they cannot go before an Arbitration Court. The Commonwealth Government is paying a huge sum of money to the factories for the work they are doing, but, speaking generally, the unfortunate employees in the factories have not benefited by any increases in their wages. How can an employer claim to be a loyal subject of the Empire if he is making huge profits by sweating employees, whose loyalty to the Empire keeps them at work? In Tasmania they would go out on strike to-morrow if it were not that they desire to serve the country in its time of need. Every employee in Australia, by doing his work well, is helping those who are at the front. I appeal to the textile employers of Australia to rise to the occasion, and to show their loyalty to the Empire by paying their employees, male and female, a fair and reasonable living wage. The cost of living in Australia has increased by leaps and bounds of late years. We were told the other day by the AttorneyGeneral that the purchasing value of the sovereign is now something like 14s. 6d. If that is so, how can these employees live on the small rate of wages that they were getting before the war broke out? When they appeal to the employers their appeal, falls on deaf ears. It is time that the Minister of Defence, or some one else in power, took up this matter, and insisted on the so-called loyal sub jects of the Empire - the employers - paying those who are serving the Empire so faithfully and well a just wage for what they are doing. Mention has been made in Great Britain of the Australian blankets. They say that at the front nothing to equal them has been seen. These blankets are made by loyal workers, who suffer under terrible conditions, which they endure only because of their loyalty. I appeal to the employers, in justice to themselves and to their workers, and to the Empire to which we are so proud to belong, to rise to the occasion, and not to compel us to come here to make these complaints. If, when Parliament meets again, I am forced to repeat these complaints, I shall certainly use much stronger language, and shall name the firms to which they apply, so that their names may be published throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I am of opinion that that being known, the employers will do more than merely wave flags and proclaim their loyalty in public places. I hope that they will prove their loyalty in a practical way.
– I ask the Government to take steps to refer to the Public Works Committee, or the Public Accounts Committee, the works and expenditure going on at the Henderson Naval Base. There has been much adverse criticism as to the way in which the work there has been done. The Base is a very important one, and an enormous expenditure will have to be incurred in connexion with it. My desire is that the money shall be spent as economically and as efficiently as possible. I have no observations to make from personal knowledge, but as adverse reports have been made public, I think that, in the interests of the country, the Works Committee should report on the work. If the Minister can see his way to bring that about I shall be much obliged to him.
– I think under the Act they must report-
– No; not unless they are asked to do so.
.- I desire for a moment to draw attention to a matter that is affecting a large body of the members of the Letter Carriers’ Association in a very serious manner. A short time ago this association applied to the. Arbitration Court to have their wages and conditions of work fixed. An award was made granting, amongst other things, an increase of wages of £6 per annum, under which, of course, a salary of £156 per annum was increased to £162 per annum. These men were all insured for £150, and since the publication of this award, the Department has called upon each of them to take out an additional insurance of £50. That sounds very nice, but I want to show honorable members how this order affects the men concerned. I have a letter received by one of them from the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited, which states -
We are in receipt of advice from the Deputy Postmaster-General that you are requested to effect a further insurance of £50 upon your life in accordance with the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations.
The annual premium for an insurance of £50 in the case of a man who is fiftythree years of age next birthday - and I want honorable members to take particular notice of this - is £9 3s. The premium for a man whose age is fifty-four next birthday, is £10 10s. lid.; so that, in order to effect this extra insurance, the particular man to whom I refer, who will be fiftyfour years of age next birthday, will have to pay an additional premium of £10 10s. lid. per year. Whilst he has got from the Arbitration Court an increase of £6 per annum in his wages, he is actually left £4 10s. Hd. per annum worse off than he was prior to the receipt of his wages increment. I believe it is only necessary to bring the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General for him to stop what seems to be a grossly unjust thing ; because, by the action that has been taken, the men concerned are being robbed in a left-handed manner of the benefit of the award they have obtained.
.- I am sorry the Minister for the Navy is not in the House, because I want to bring before his notice a matter that arises out of an inquiry held in Brisbane regarding the fitting of a transport. As time is pressing, I can only deal with the case very briefly to-day. I notified him last week of my intention to bring the matter forward, and asked that the papers should be brought up in order that I might see them. I understand that they have been here on a previous occasion, though I have not seen them, and I have delayed bringing the matter forward until now, in order that they might be again laid upon the Library table. They are not there, however, although I am informed the Minister promised them, and that the officers of the Library have tried to get them. I only mention the matter, therefore, now because the adjournment is near, and in order that an officer who has been unjustly treated may have his case fairly dealt with. I ask, therefore, that the Acting Minister will bring the whole of the facts before the Minister for the Navy for reconsideration. An inquiry was held recently at Brisbane into certain matters arising out of the fitting of transport AS7. Two officers were involved. I do not desire to mention the name of one, but the other, whose name is Mr. Stacey, is seriously involved in the subsequent proceedings. The Minister made a report as the outcome of his inquiry, and after it had been circulated through Australia, Mr. Stacey wrote to the Minister asking, in very courteous language, that the whole position should be reconsidered, and an injustice upon him removed, and furnished most convincing proofs against the findings of the Minister. I admit that, at this juncture, I am only speaking from an ex parte point of view. I have only Mr. Stacey’s case before me, but it does appear to me, on the face of it, and upon the evidence supplied, that this man is entitled to more consideration than he has received. On the 24th November, Mr. Stacey, who was then in Brisbane, received a telegram from the Naval Board as follows: -
In view of labour troubles, Sydney, Minister has decided fit A87 at Brisbane. Transport officer, Sydney, has been instructed Bend you plans first mail, and you are to obtain quotations and submit same by telegraph as early as_ possible. Agents have been instructed detain steamer yours meantime.
In his report, the Minister finds that Stacey did nothing to carry out this instruction, and that Commander Burford arrived almost immediately afterwards and took over the control. It is further stated in the Minister’s report that, on the arrival of Commander Burford at Brisbane, Mr. Stacey had workmen on the AS7 drilling holes for bolts, and that these workmen were the employees cf Brown and Broad. It is definitely found against Mr. Stacey, amongst other things, that he received instructions by telegram, and that he did not carry those instruc tiona out. On these points, a letter was written by Mr. Stacey to the Minister, and documentary evidence was given to him showing why his finding should be reconsidered. In the first place, Mr. Stacey produced written evidence that, on the receipt of the telegram, he had communicated with three different firms asking for tenders for the fitting out of transport A37, and he also produced to the Minister the replies that he received from these firms,showing distinctly that, in this respect, he did not commit any breach of duty. He produced specifications signed by several firms. One of these letters, signed by H. Peters, states -
Yours of even date, 30th July, asking for replies to the following questions: -
Were you notified by me that transport A37 was to fit at this port, and that tenders were invited?
If so, when and how?
Were you afforded facilities to tender, and what information was supplied you to tender on?
Have you any means of verifying the fact that you were tendering for this work?
Did you sigh uie following specifications on 28th November, 1914?
Re questions (1) and (2) we were notified by you by telephone on Friday, the 27th November, I believe, and invited to tender.
I called at the Naval Office on Saturday morning, the 28th, but as there were three or four gentlemen, amongst whom I saw Mr. Forsyth (Brown and Broad’s foreman) discussing the plans, I said I would call after lunch. This I did, and was introduced to Commander Burford by you. You supplied me with the general plan, and about seven detailed plans, also blue-book of transport regulations, with pages that applied indicated.
Our letter-book will show that on Monday, 30th November, we wrote a letter to fit out transport A37.
I have read only part of the letter, as I desire to be brief; but Mr. Peters says in this letter that, on Monday, 30th November, he had the tender with him. In another letter, Messrs. Wildridge and Sinclair Limited, Brisbane, wrote -
We were notified by you that transport A37 was to fit at this port, and that tenders were invited. We received the above information on Thursday, 26th November, 1914.
We were afforded facilities for tendering, including the inspection of a number of plans, specifications, &c.
Our letter-book and telegrams in this office support the above statements.
A letter was also produced from Hancock and Gore Limited, stating that, on 26th November, they were informed by telephone. These show clearly that the Minister’s finding that Mr. Stacey disobeyed his instructions was absolutely without foundation, and that he did the very things that the Minister says he did not do. These letters I have quoted were put before the Minister to induce him to reconsider his findings.
– What Minister was that?
– Mr. Jensen, the then Acting Minister for the Navy. The next point is this : The Minister states in his report that Commander Burford stated that, on his arrival at Brisbane, Mr. Stacey had workmen on board the A 37 drilling holes for bolts. Included in the letter Mr. Stacey wrote to the Minister was a number of sworn statements signed by men, in which they declared that no drilling had at that time been done by anybody at all. Here is one signed by James P. Bell -
I was foreman of drillers for Messrs. Smith, Faulkner, and Company on the work on board transport A37 while fitting at Brisbane in December, 1914. I commenced work on board that vessel on Tuesday, 1st December, 1914, and prior to that date no drilling for horsestalls or troop fittings of any kind had been done on that vessel by my employers or any other firm or men.
Similar sworn statements are made by Archibald Campbell, and others also from Brown and Broad. Again, the Minister states in his finding that Mr. Stacey disobeyed instructions, in that he caused Messrs Brown and Broad to put workmen on the transport. As a matter of fact, Mr. Stacey did nothing of the sort, and a letter signed by Messrs. Brown and Broad was tendered to the Minister, in which they show that their contract was not made with Mr. Stacey at all, but with Commander Burford, who was his superior officer at the time. The letter reads as follows : - 2nd December, 1914.
Messrs Brown & Broad, - I have to inform you that your tender for painting and carpentering work on transport A37 has been accepted, and you are directed to proceed with the work immediately.
G Burford, Commander R.N.R.,
Superintending Transport Officer.
It will thus be seen that this contract was made, not with Stacey, but with Commander Burford, the Naval Officer at Brisbane. Clear and specific evidence on the point was given to the Minister, who was asked to reconsider his decision, and to withdraw his finding against this man. He declined, however, to do so, and Stacey has left the country with this stigma resting upon him. It is unjust that, in public documents, such findings should stand on record against him, when they are shown to be contrary to evidence. I have no interest in this matter other than the desire that justice should be done, and I have no personal knowledge of Stacey. It was represented to me that he had been treated unjustly, and, on the facts put before me, it seemed to me that his case needed to be ventilated. I come now to another extraordinary point of this matter. The Minister for the Navy reported -
I find that, from the evidence taken, large quantities of timber, amounting to over £2,000, in the A37 were supplied by Brown and Broad. It was Mr. Stacey’s duty to keep a sharp lookout, and see that all the timber required was of the quality it represented to be. I And, as a fact, that he did not. I refer to pages 24 and 25 of the evidence. Mr. Campbell, in giving evidence on page 24, states that he had looked through the accounts, which do not show second class timber, and yet he is prepared to swear that 50 per cent, of the timber was second class.
That report was dated 21st April, and on 31st May last Mr. Macandie, the Naval Secretary, wrote to Messrs. Brown and Broad Limited^ as follows -
As regards the accounts for fitting up AST, I am to invite your attention to the statement of your Mr. Brown at the recent inquiry held regarding this ship, that a quantity of second class timber had been placed on board, and also to the evidence generally regarding the supply of second class timber to the ship.
As your accounts for A 37 contain charges only in respect of first class timber, the Department is not prepared to pay them as rendered.
Subsequently the Department looked into the whole matter, with the result that, on 11th June, 1915, the following letter was addressed by the Naval Secretary to Messrs. Brown and Broad -
With reference to my letter of 31st May, I very much regret that an error has occurred in connexion with the scrutiny of accounts for AST, and it is found that second class timber has been charged for in the accounts - .
Here was a complete reversal of the whole position of the Department -
I therefore request that you will consider the above-mentioned letter as cancelled, as it is quite plain that second class timber was included in the account, not first-class timber alone, as my letter stated. . . .
And yet Mr. Stacey was dismissed. I am not going fully into this case now. There are other facts which could be brought out. A third point involved was as to whether or not Mr. Stacey had disobeyed the instruction with reference to preference to unionists. On that question a great deal of evidence was taken, and I should have liked to have seen the papers bearing upon it, in order to satisfy myself. Mr. Stacey denies the charge, and there is no doubt a conflict of evidence on the point. It is contended by him that the allegations that he wilfully disobeyed the instructions of the Minister by employing non-unionists, and that he allowed second class timber to be charged as first class, are without foundation. The latter point, I think, is clearly shown. In the circumstances, therefore, the Minister might fairly have reconsidered this man’s case, and where it had been shown that the charges made against him were not in accordance with fact, he should have been prepared to admit it. A Minister suffers no loss of dignity in admitting that a mistake has been made. If a Minister finds that a report is wrong, he should not hesitate to admit it. After all, it is more important that justice should be done than that any mere question of dignity should be considered. I have not heard the Minister’s explanation, but it seems to me that he might well have acceded to this man’s request “that the inquiry should be re-opened. Notwithstanding the facts contained in the documents to which I have referred, the Minister for the Navy replied to this request, “I do not intend to re-open this inquiry, and my decision given must stand.” That was his attitude, although there were on the Departmental files papers showing that his findings were contrary to fact, and that, while those findings remained on record, a permanent injustice was being done to the man concerned. As the Minister for the Navy is not present, I shall not deal at this stage with other facts relating to this case. I have availed myself of the first opportunity to bring the matter before the House and the country. I admit that I am putting it, at the present stage, only from the point of view of the man against whom these charges were made, and I recognise that both sides of a case must be looked into, in order that justice may be done. But it seems to me that the documents on the file are such that a judicial tribunal would declare that a prima facie case had been made out for further investigation. The
Minister might very well have said, “ I will reconsider the facts, and if I find on record anything against this man which ought not to stand, I will withdraw it.” Even if he considered that his findings regarding the employment of nonunionists should stand, he should have withdrawn the other finding in regard to the use of second class timber and the failure to see that it was not charged for as first class timber. I urge the Treasurer to put it to his colleague- that he will not suffer any loss of dignity or prestige by taking prompt steps to remedy any wrong that has been done this man. Some people consider that never to admit a mistake is an evidence of strength. I regard it as only a sign of stubbornness. A Minister who is prepared to admit that a decision given by him was based on incomplete evidence, and that upon a review of the facts he finds it necessary to take further action in order that justice may be done, will stand higher in the public estimation than he would if in such circumstances he declined to take any action. This question will be raised again. I have mentioned it now because we are about to adjourn over Christmas, and I thought that if it were held over until we re-assembled it might be said that it should have been brought forward when the facts were fresh in the mind of the Minister. I have put only part of the case, and that as briefly as possible. I nope that the Minister for the Navy will review the facts, and, as far as in his capacity lies, do justice to Mr. Stacey.
– A very serious complaint against the Department of Defence has just been made by the honorable member for Darling Downs. I propose to deal with what, no doubt, will be regarded as a laughable matter. There will be great hilarity, no doubt, when the House hears the story I am about to tell. In the Seymour Camp there were two officers bearing the same surname, and the initials of whose Christian names were similar. One man - and this story comes to me from men in the Camp- discharged his duties in the most efficient manner. He was sober and reliable; his company was well looked after, and it was believed that he was giving entire satisfaction. The other man, however, would sometimes go on the rampage. I understand that he was once absent from Camp for nine days, and that during his absence he was not a teetotaller. Everything connected with his company was in a state of chaos. As time went on both these officers were transferred; one to Royal Park and the other to Broadmeadows. Then, to the surprise of all who knew them, the officer who had done his work faithfully and well received a month’s notice of the intention of the Department to relieve him from duty. He knew that a mistake had been made, and asked for an inquiry. No inquiry was granted, and at the end of the month he was relieved. He has not been discharged, but has simply been told that for the present his services are not required. He has now been away from the Camp for a month, and can obtain no satisfaction, but his namesake, who should have been discharged, is still going on in the same old way.
– Has he not been promoted ?
– No. Is it not surprising! Altogether, it is a very laughable occurrence, and it could take place only in connexion with the Defence Department. In no other Department of the Commonwealth’ could such a thing occur. The similarity of names must have caused the trouble.
– It should have been a simple matter to identify the two men.
– One would think so; but, as the honorable member has said, the Defence Department will never admit a mistake.
– Who brought about this officer’s dismissal or retirement?
– It came out from Head-quarters as part of a General Order.
– Is it not known that the wrong man has been relieved ?
– The Defence authorities pretend not to know anything of the kind. The general opinion is that the wrong man has been removed. The whole incident is a very laughable one from the point of view of all save the man who has suffered.” We can well understand how the man who has not been “ sacked “ is enjoying the joke. No doubt, he is carrying on as before, quite satisfied that no harm can come to him. I ask the Treasurer to see that action is taken to do justice to this officer.
– The honorable member will supply the Minister privately with this man’s name?
– The Department knows all about the case. As a matter of fact, I do not even know what the man’s name is. The matter was not brought under my notice by officers, but was mentioned to me on four occasions by different men, a corporal and three privates. The incident is a standing joke amongst the men, and they are all wondering whether it would not be just as well for them to go on the loose and neglect their duty whilst “ the wowsers,” who stay in Camp and attend to duty get the sack. I ask the Treasurer to inquire if this trouble cannot be settled in twenty-four hours. By so doing he will oblige me very much, and will do justice to the man concerned.
.- I desire to say a few words upon a matter connected with the Expeditionary Forces which has been causing myself and others a good deal of concern. I refer to the great amount of sickness amongst the troops at the front. Even allowing for the somewhat unusual hardships which the men are undergoing, the .amount of sickness is altogether out of reason, and the nature of that sickness provides cause for serious thought. I have heard replies to inquiries in this House which I have no hesitation in saying are altogether misleading. Honorable members have been told that no cases of typhoid have occurred at the front. I have good reason to believe that, in spite of the use of different serums, there have been many cases of typhoid and other diseases, of which the injection of serum was supposed to be an absolute preventive. I have reason to believe also that there are in the medical branch of the service experts who condemn the general application of these serums to our soldiers. I have not sufficient details to permit me to elaborate the subject at length, but it is a fact that many of our troops who were almost entirely healthy until the injection of the serum collapsed in wholesale numbers soon afterwards. It is said by those who favour inoculation that the illhealth is only temporary, but, having regard to the formidable lists of sick men, I am afraid that the ill-health is more serious than the military authorities would have us believe. I desire the Government to endeavour to ascertain the real opinion of medical men associated with the Expeditionary Forces regarding the efficacy of inoculation. Some of the medical men condemn the methods that have been adopted, and I think the subject is of sufficient importance to justify searching inquiries that will get past the inevitable and insurmountable blocking of members who seek the truth in these matters. There is too much throwing of dust in the eyes of the public and members of Parliament by the responsible men at the head of affairs in the Defence Department, and I am getting very tired of such treatment. I much regret that the Minister of Defence is not a member of this House, which is directly responsible for the management of defence matters. It is undoubtedly very difficult to get anything like directness of dealing, owing to the Minister of Defence being a member of another place. However, I ask the Treasurer to get into communication with the Minister, point out the inordinate amount of sickness amongst the troops, and ask him to have inquiry of a confidential character among the various medical men associated with the Forces in regard to inoculation as a preventive of disease. I do not wish to express my personal opinion on that method of treatment, but I believe that some of the medical authorities regard it as being open te very serious objection. I only ask that the Department shall ask for the opinion of those who are qualified to give it, and to ask for that opinion in such a way that medical officers shall not be placed at a disadvantage with their superior officers. The importance of the matter will justify the Government giving it immediate attention.
.- Some time ago the honorable member for Flinders spoke very feelingly on the system of sending lads of from eighteen to twenty years of age into the firing line. Yesterday the honorable member for Barrier dealt with the same vital subject, and I feel that I, too, must add my protest. Honorable members who have visited the various Camps must have noticed the large number of lads of immature ago.
– Many of them are, to all appearances, under eighteen years of age.
– Yes; and I have known of lads who have purposely misled the authorities in order to get to the front. We admire the magnificent spirit which the lads are displaying, but the Government are not doing the right thing in permitting them to go They are not fully grown in body and their minds are certainly undeveloped, and they are being sent to face a task which will try the hardiest of troops. It is noteworthy, also, that the lads furnish the largest number of sick soldiers in the hospitals.
– Yet the men who have been invalided from the front are not the youngest.
– It is admitted m the Camps that the larger proportion of recruits in the hospitals are lads of tender years. Their constitutions are not strong enough to stand the strain imposed when they get in the trenches. These young men are also being sent to the front without sufficient training. The artillery branch is one of the most technical and intricate in the service; but an officer informed me recently that at least 20 per cent, of recruits in the artillery section were between, the ages of eighteen and twenty years. I maintain that these lads are not physically capable of enduring the strenuous work of a campaign. Many of them are not receiving proper preparation for the task they will have to perform. I know of a. lad of eighteen years and five months who presented himself at Victoria Barracks as a recruit for the artillery section. He was passed by the medical officer on a Tuesday, and having been sent to Camp he received an intimation on the following Friday to hold himself in readiness to go to the front on the succeeding Tuesday. He was without previous military training or experience. Fortunately, he was wise enough to telegraph to his parents, who came to the city post haste and succeeded in preventing his departure. When attention was drawn, some time ago, to the system of sending inadequately-trained troops to the front, a good deal was promised by the Minister of Defence, but I regret to say that the complaint of insufficient training of the troops before their departure for the front still has foundation, and it is largely in connexion with reinforcements. But the system of accepting lads of from eighteen to twenty years of age is one of the most serious phases of our recruiting. It is not fair to send boys to do men’s work. The apprenticeship phase of this question should appeal to honorable members opposite. Many of these lads are in the last years of their apprenticeship, and they are called upon to break off their industrial training and go to the front. Notwithstanding that there are laws in existence to protect the lads by the limitation of working hours, the safeguarding of them against exploitation, of preventive accidents, and against entering into unconscionable contracts, the Government have no hesitation in sending them to the most dangerous, the most demoralizing of all occupations, that of the battlefield. The lads should not be permitted to go to the war Many of these lads under twenty-one years of age have put up a splendid record; but , the fact remains that if they are allowed, at this stage of their apprenticeship, to go to the front, we shall find their industrial efficiency very much reduced on their return; they will not be worth as much to the community as they otherwise would have been.
– Do you not think that these lads are of very much more value at the front than they would be in finishing their apprenticeship?
– Not lads of eighteen or nineteen. My opinion is that all under twenty-one should be put into a separate camp, where, under special instructors, they could be trained as engineers, artillerymen, and in other ways made specialists.
– And ask that the war shall be postponed in the meantime !
– No; but I think that they ought to have twelve cr eighteen months’ training.
– The honorable member for Swan took part in exploration expeditions when he was in his teens.
– I think that a man of eighteen or nineteen years of age is as good as ever he will be, and just as strong.
– Every one has not the exceptional physique of the right honorable gentleman. Lord Kitchener will not allow even the men of the Territorials to go to the front under nine or twelve months’ training; and yet we send lads after three or four months.
– Many Territorials go long) “before they have bad twelve months’ training.
– I doubt it. If our present voluntary system has not proved a success, we ought to introduce some other and better system.
– The trouble is not the age of the boys, but the fact that reinforcements are made up of men with far less training than was given to the original units; volunteers are called for the reinforcements, and in many cases they are sent without training.
– In many cases they receive .their training behind the trenches, as is shown by letters that have been received from the front.
– I think there are very few cases of that kind.
– “Unfortunately we have records to show that what I say is correct. I hope that the Government will go into this matter, and exercise more discretion. While there are able-bodied men in our midst, we should build up our youths physically and mentally before they are asked to face the strenuous work of the trenches.
. In some of - bis statements the honorable member for Nepean is quite correct, but I think it is the experience of every honorable member that we have many youths whom no restraint will keep from going to the front. According to the law, every volunteer under 21 years of age must have the consent of his parents before enlisting; but lads who have made up their minds are prepared to run away to some other State, and there swear before the recruiting officer that they have attained their majority. The number of young fellows who seem to have caught the war fever is amazing, and it is a difficult matter to deal with them.
– They could be traced and stopped.
– That is impossible, as I think the honorable member will see on reflection. In the great majority of cases a father, rather than have his son run away, reluctantly gives his consent. At the same time, these youths have acquitted themselves magnificently. One of the first to return to Australia was a mere stripling, apparently about sixteen years of age, and yet he had carried some of the most important despatches on the French front. Twice he had his motor bicycle shot from under him, but, by walking, running, borrowing bicycles, and so forth, he managed to convey his despatches to their destination. We all recognise the adaptability of the Australian youth, and I think it may safely be said that a lad here of eighteen years of age could, in that respect, beat another of twenty-one or twenty-three years of age British born.
– I think that is generally admitted.
– And this ought to he taken into account.
– If the Australian lad is just as good as the British lad, he will not do badly.
– I think it is a pity to make these comparisons.
– I am not doing it in any offensive way, or with any desire to derogate from the qualities of the British youth.
I should now like to refer to the admirable address on finance delivered yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. Even in normal peace times our Military and Naval Departments require the closest scrutiny, and such scrutiny is a thousand times more necessary in time of war. Without saying anything disrespectful of our naval and military officers, I may suggest that, in many respects, they have not had the training of others, and are apt, with a grandiloquent sweep of the hand, to say, “ I require so and so,” without displaying a proper appreciation of the value of money. We are imposing taxation, and calling upon the people generally to make many sacrifices; and, if the money so raised is wasted, it will be sufficient to cool the ardour of the most enthusiastic.
– Do you know anything about the works at Westernport?
– I know something of them, and there are works there other than those which the Public Works Committee went down to inspect. My complaint is that at every one of the Naval Bases work is being carried out under a system that is altogether wrong, and likely to lead to considerable leakage.
– Have you looked up the credentials of the man in charge of the works ?
– I am not speaking of any particular person, nor am I objecting to expenditure on Naval Bases and defence generally; but I do urge that we ought to have a fair return for our money. This war is going to raise more problems than it will settle, and I believe that, in the future, Australia will be called upon to give even closer attention to Defence matters than she has in the past. Our Defence expenditure for many years to come will be very great, even after the terms of peace have been signed. On Naval Bases alone we shall spend millions of money, and this expenditure must be carefully scrutinized in order that we may get the best value. I am a member of the Public Works Committee, but I claim the right to express my opinion on such matters as these on the floor of the House. Some Ministers, and perhaps some honorable members, seem to think that they have arrived at a happy solution of the difficulties of supervision in connexion with Defence expenditure when they have imported from another part of the world & man who is called an expert. We have seen some of those experts, and I would much prefer a practical man if he has proper lines upon which he can work. No doubt, with sufficient money, these experts would carry out any scheme, but I submit that a practical man could carry it out much more effectively and expeditiously and at less cost. I hope that the Minister for the Navy will be most careful in his importation of men to supervise the Naval Bases, because it is absolutely essential that we should, have the very best.
– The last man was not imported.
– I do not know to whom the honorable member refers. I am not referring to the distinguished soldier or the distinguished Naval man whom we have had out here; but there are others who were said to come with most wonderful credentials.
– I think the honorable member is on a false scent, because the man he probably has in his mind did not come out as an expert.
– I fancy we know all about the matter, and I am speaking with knowledge obtained from official sources.
– Where is ho situated i
– All over Australia; he has to inspect practically all the Bases. I understand that the new importation is supposed to do something that has not been done before in Naval matters, and to exercise most strict expert supervision. Several Naval Bases will have to be constructed in various parts of Australia; and I should like here to say that I disagree with that section of the Public Works Committee Act by virtue of which, under an Order in Council, the Executive or the Government may exempt any work from inquiry. The Naval expert that it has been announced it is intended to import will be, presumably, a man with engineering qualifications. I hope that hewill be I8-carat so far as those qualifications are concerned. I do not say thatAustralians know everything in regard to naval or military matters, but I do maintain that there are men in Australia who> can carry ou£ most of the requirements of a military or naval expert more effectively than imported men. There are hintsabroad that the services of some of tha experts already imported are likely to be retained for an indefinite period in oneof the Departments, but I hope that the. Minister will pause before giving any permanence to their appointments.
– There will be noharm in doing so, if they are competent, men.
– We have competent, men in Australia who are qualified tocarry out work equally as well as the best, men in other parts of the world. My experience of imported experts is that they enjoy very fine salaries, and the prominence that is given to their offices, and. often when they have worked themselvesup to cheese-paring methods at the expense of the Commonwealth, they are only too ready to leave our service, and accept appointments in other parts of the world’, leaving their successors to clean up themess which they have created.
– The honorable member is generalizing too much. Such general statements are of no value.
– The right honorable gentleman spoke in a general way. He merely said that the work carried on at the Naval Bases needed to be inquired into. In the same way, I am making a general statement. I think that we might ask the Treasurer, who has warned honorable members not to listen to the persuasions of their constituents to urge the expenditure of public money, to keep his eye on his own colleagues, . and see that they do not overshoot the mark. The list of men receiving very high salaries in the Military and Naval branches published at the request of the honorable member for Melbourne was astonishing.. It shows that there are quite sufficient high-salaried men already in the Commonwealth without importing any more. Men who have been brought here already to report on various matters have outlined schemes of work, and I believe that we have in our service sufficient professional men to bring those schemes to their fullest fruition. In conclusion, I hope that there will be the strictest inquiry into the Naval Bases, and that we shall see that the money is wisely spent upon them. At this time of stress, when we are asking people to pay’ taxes and make sacrifices, we must be careful in regard to our expenditure. I hope also that Ministers will proceed cautiously in regard to the retention of some of the experts already in the Commonwealth, and in regard to the importation of others.
– I join with those who have urged the Government to pause before either pulling down the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow and removing the plant to Canberra, or embarking on a very much larger proposition of building an enormous establishment with the necessarily complicated plant that will be required, and the certainty of having no output from it within eighteen months from the present time. I could understand the attitude of the Government if there was any reasonable possibility of these works being constructed in time to give us the output in need of which we so sadly stand; but we have only to consider how long Ministers took, to realize their responsibilities in regard to working a second shift at the Lithgow Factory to see how hollow their protestations are in this regard. Having been associated for the greater part of my life with a district in which the mining industry is carried on, it was always a matter of wonder to me why they should have taken so long to come to a decision in the matter. I had an opportunity of visiting Lithgow a little while ago, and of seeing the marvellous machinery there, and I must say that the work that is being done is of a very high character. We have had no complaints from the front in regard to the quality of the output. To my mind, the only trouble is the remarkable slowness with which results are produced.
– And the cost.
– If we are to do what we desire to do in the present war, the question of cost need not be considered so much as speed of production. That is the point which is of vital interest, and which justifies the cost, or proves the downfall of those who fail to take advan tage of their opportunities. Something has been said with regard to the manner in which the Defence Department has treated those who have suffered, are suffering, or are liable to suffer, from cerebro-spinal meningitis. I am astounded at the ignorance among some professional men as to the prevalence of this disease and its existence amongst us for so long a period, because a leading Collins-street practitioner has informed me that for two years before the war broke out he was never without a case of cerebro-spinal meningitis on his list.
– If that be so, there has been a very grave suppression of information.
– It was not a notifiable disease. Medical practitioners cannot be blamed in the matter. They are not expected to notify a disease, even though it be contagious, so long as it is not on the list of notifiable diseases.
– Why was it not made a notifiable disease if it was so prevalent as the statement of that medical practitioner would indicate?
– I hope that the honorable member will not read into my remarks a construction which they were not intended to convey. I did not say that cerebro-spinal meningitis was prevalent. I said that it was existent for two years before the outbreak of the war. Cases were occurring in Melbourne and its suburbs constantly. Honorable members seem to lose sight of the fact that it is really not a disease so much as it is a complication or sequel of other diseases. In many cases where the primary cause of death was certified as pneumonia, the real cause of death was cerebro-spinal meningitis supervening on pneumonia. Thus we can realize how the existence of the disease escaped public notice, although it was known to medical practitioners of the standing of the gentleman to whom I have just referred. I am glad to note that the State Government of Victoria are awakening to a proper sense of their responsibilities in this regard, because the State Department of Public Health, on the recommendation of the departmental Medical Committee, has issued a very terse and significant leaflet, copies of which I should be pleased to see sent broadcast throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, the Government might secure a sufficient number to insure that each newspaper would have the opportunity of pub- lishing the text of it as the Age did a little while ago. In this leaflet the whole matter is brought up to date, technical terms are avoided, and the language is so simple that it can be easily understood. A proper consideration of it would set the public mind at rest. My main point is that this is not primarily a disease. It is often the sequel to, or complication upon, another disease. People may be carrying the germs for days, weeks or months, and not contract the disease, but may convey it to others whose conditions are more favorable for its reception. That this statement is true is proved by the fact that, though a large number of cases were being treated in Melbourne in general hospitals - isolated, of course, from ordinary cases - in no case was it communicated to any of the nurses. Certainly, in one case, it was communicated to a medical man at the Base Hospital, who sacrificed his life in the interests of science, and who, through overwork, anxiety, and responsibility, was so run down that ho became a suitable subject for it. This medical man, Captain Wright, was a distinguished member of his profession. A young man, full of promise, he laid down his life with just as much devotion and heroism as has been displayed on the field of battle. Reference to the Base Hospital brings me to my own connexion with it, and a few words of explanation may not be out of place from me. Of course, during the time I was in charge of the institution I was prevented bv the military regulations from communicating anything to the press, or even to Parliament, except through the recognised official channel. My appointment was not a matter of favour. It was not, as was suggested in another place, because of some social influence that I possessed, or some outside position which I hold, that I was dragged out of the ordinary citizen occupation and given a position of great trust and grave responsibility. As a matter of fact, the reason for my appointment was that which was stated by the honorable member for Ballarat the other night. I was appointed because I was next on the list for such an appointment. For more than twenty years 1 had been a member of the Defence Forces of Australia, having joined under the old volunteer system. 1 was not paid for my services in the early part of my military career,. but I felt that I would be doing my duty by that means in preparing myself for any military work that might be required at some future time. For over twenty years I was an effective member of the Force, keeping my attendances and doing my work. I attended camps, where, more than once, I was in complete and sole medical control, and I was second in command of the largest light horse camp ever held in Victoria, if not in Australia. In addition. I had to pass examinations to secure promotion. -“I am not going to give the marks obtained at those examinations, both written and oral, but on presenting myself for examination for Major, and subsequently the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, I obtained sufficient marks to entitle me to be recorded as “ highly distinguished “ in both courses. This explanation should dispose once and for all of any suspicion that may have been engendered by the statement that my selection was unfair or improper. But there is something more that I would urge. It is that I am the product of the military system of Australia, the product of the citizen soldier system. I am not, and never desired to be, a professional soldier, but, as a citizen, I have recognised, and endeavoured to do, my military duty. I have done this in an unobtrusive fashion, never appearing in uniform except when on duty, and never using my military title except when doing my military work. The Clerk of the House can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that many years ago he asked me if I desired my name to be recorded in the proceedings of this House with the military rank to which I was entitled, and I said, “ Certainly not.” That is the attitude that I have always adopted, and I suppose it is why some persons were surprised ‘to learn that I had any military status, knowledge, or training. I wish to impress it on honorable members that if there were any want of knowledge, training, or capacity, it would be the system, not the individual, that should be blamed. I do not wish to blow my own trumpet, but in my life there has not been a thing that I have taken in hand in which I have failed, and it is not likely that the word “ failure” would be written over this particular work. I resigned my position, not because of ill-health, but because my constituents desired me to place mv services at their disposal in the referendum campaign. I had reluctantly to choose between two duties, and
I felt that my duty to my country was higher than my duty to the military authorities. Therefore, most unwillingly, I asked to be relieved of work with which I considered it to be a high privilege to be associated. I leave it to those who have succeeded me to say whether it was or was not properly carried out. I ask honorable members to try to realize what they are doing before they indulge in criticism based largely on ignorance. They may see an opportunity to tilt at one who is not a member of the party to which thev belong, but they should consider whether they may not thus injure a principle which some of them hold very dear. I have been astounded at the remarks about some of those who have qualified by sacrifice and service for military employment. When the War Committee was being appointed, I heard a distinguished member of this House say that, in his opinion, no man of military experience should be a member of it. He was a candidate for election to the Committee, and seemed to think it of importance to disclaim military experience.
– It seems to be a maxim with some persons that the less you know about a matter the more competent you are to discuss it.
– The distinguished member to whom I am referring would be the last who would support such a dictum. We are at a crucial period of our national and of our military history, and Ijoin with the honorable member for Maribyrnong in asking that more confidence be placed in our own men ; in those who have been trained here, and know what Australian conditions are. We should not adopt a “stinking fish” policy - running down everything and everybody that happens to be familiar to us. Why should there be an overmastering desire to send abroad for everything that we require of special excellence?
-Our War Department turns down Australian inventions, which the British War Office accepts.
– I believe that that has happened. I do not except any one from my criticism. It is a trite saying that distant fields appear greenest. No doubt they do. But we should not belittle what is of our own manufacture or production. When we read of the magnificent heroism, the unmatched bravery, and, above all, the marvellous initiative displayed by our men on the field of battle, we should take heart, and acknowledge that, under proper conditions, we may produce here those who can be looked to, in the future, to uphold the best traditions of our magnificent Empire.
– I am pleased that the Minister of Home Affairs is here, because I wish to have his attention for what I am about to say, and, as a business man, he is likely to do things. Much has been spoken in this chamber concerning defence matters. We have heard eulogy of our troops, and many complaints have been voiced. I suggest that, in addition to everything that we may do now for those who are fighting, we might also, in the near future, take into consideration the advisability of reserving at the Federal Capita] a site for a national monument to those who have fallen.
– That is a good suggestion. It will be carried out.
– Recently I stayed a few days at the Federal Capital, enjoying its beautiful scenery and magnificent climate. On a hill, not far from Mount Ainsley, looking south and west towards the mountains, is the site reserved for a town hall, and one of the best in the Territory. If my suggestion is entertained, I think that we might well erect on this site a national monument after the fashion of the Arch of Victory erected by the Germans after their war with France in 1870 and 1871, or like the Statue of Liberty at New York, which will stand for all time. The work could be paid for out of the public funds, or raised by a public subscription, and the monument could face the mountains, or look towards the heart of Australia. At all events, we should perpetuate for all time the memory of the events that are now happening, and erect a memorial to last through the ages in recognition of the bravery of the Australians who have fought and died for their country. I think, too, that in the naming of the streets of the Federal Capital we might well remember the pioneers of the Federal movement.
– I intend to call the streets after the members of the Federal House.
– I do not suggest that. In Sydney there are Pitt-street and Castlereagh-street; in Melbourne, Bourke-street, Elizabeth-street, and others. Why not associate with the Fede ral Capital the names of pioneers of the federal movement, following the example of what was done at Washington? There are men like the Chief Justice of the High Court, and the late Sir Henry Parkes, whose names, I think, should be associated with the Federal Capital. We should not take names from other countries when we can recognise in this way the services of our own people. I trust that my suggestions will be considered worthy of consideration.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo regarding the naming of the streets of the Federal Capital is a good one, but it seems to me that we should do better to choose well-sounding native names, and thus perpetuate the memory and the ideas of the Australian aboriginals whom we have displaced. We are doing well in Queensland in adopting, for new railway stations, wherever possible, local aboriginal names, and as we cannot be proud of our treatment of the original inhabitants of Australia, the least we can do is to perpetuate their memory and their ideas. Some of the aboriginal names are very expressive, and could well be made to serve for the streets of the Federal Capital. Some of the members of this Parliament may consider that their names should be immortalized, but future generations may not have the exalted idea of either the ability or honour of these gentlemen that they have themselves. Names are likely to be forgotten. Reputations are very ephemeral. It is very easy for a man to be popular for one day and shortly afterwards to be so badly forgotten that, unless his name is attached to his portrait, nobody recognises it. Some time ago, visitors wandering round the Queen’s Hall admiring certain productions, artistic and otherwise, were heard to ask who the various protraits were supposed to represent. Now that the names are attached, it is easy to pick the various individuals out. But every time I look at that portrait gallery I am reminded of an old piece of poetry -
Dante we know because he’s tab-eared,
Virgil we know by his wreath;
Old Homer we know by his wide, shaggy beard,
And the rest by the names underneath.
And that is about the only claim to fame many politicians have. In any case, the present’ generation of Federal members is not likely to be in danger of having such honours as those suggested by the honorable member thrust upon it, unless the Minister of Home Affairs is going to put more go into the actual building of the Capital than has been put into it during the past two or three years.
– Can the honorable member say what feature of the city the Minister is likely to call “ Archibald.”
– Perhaps it is more than likely that the Archibald Avenue will bisect the O ‘Malley Circus. But we are muddling along in the building of the Capital city. Honorable members are very comfortable in Melbourne, and many reasons, particularly the scarcity of money, might be urged in favour of suspending work there. But I suggest to the Minister that it is time something was done to push along, and the first step is for the Department, or the Parliament, or the Government, to arrive at some definite, clear, and final position with regard to the city design. Up to the present time, no decision that gives a final approval to any particular city design has been come to. Although Mr. Griffin’s design received the first prize, and has been subsequently altered to meet local conditions, the best that we have arrived at so far is that one modification of the original design is generally accepted as the basic plan for the Capital city. It seems to me that the time has arrived when we should know definitely, distinctly, and finally, which plan contains the design that is to be the basis of the city. When that has been done, I would suggest that the building be entirely removed from Ministerial control. I have such a profound conviction that the Federal Capital will be a satisfactory centre of political and social activity, that I am convinced, if a scheme is properly organized, that the area is capable not only of making itself pay, but of providing money for its own completion and extension. If a board consisting of three capable men, with full local powers of construction and expansion, were appointed to work out the city design, and given an advance loan of £2,000,000, in annual instalments of £500,000, within a very short period, the revenues from the Territory would be sufficient to meet the future needs of the city. A good deal of money has been spent there already. More will have to be spent. I, for one,am quite ready, at any time and at all times, to give the Government the utmost they desire in order to satisfactorily settle the Federal Parliament at Canberra. The sooner we get there the better. I regret this Parliament is not there now. I believe we could carry on our business much more satisfactorily at Canberra than at Melbourne.
– Yet they have stopped the designs for the Parliament buildings.
– There is not much harm in that. I do not think anything will be lost by stopping the competition for the design for Parliament House. As I believe the streets of the new city should bear Australian names, I believe also that the buildings should be erected by Australian architects. We have architects in Australia of sufficient experience, knowledge, and ability, to give us the buildings we need, quite as well as they could be given by men from any other part of the world. I have already expressed my objection to the conditions of the competitions that have previously been arranged in regard to the building of Parliament House.
– But no steps are being taken to provide any kind of building.
– One does not quite know that. What we do know is that, for financial reasons, the competition for the design of Parliament House has been withdrawn. I hope that it has been permanently withdrawn, and that before leng the architects of Australia will be given the opportunity of showing what they can do. The Government have at their disposal the services of a man who is equal to the best in the world. I refer to Mr. Murdoch, the Commonwealth architect, who has already proved his ability. The experience and knowledge he has gained in the erection of the Commonwealth Offices in London have put him in the very front rank of the world’s architects, and I am quite certain that if he and Mr. Griffin were allowed to collaborate they would produce a design equal to anything wo could get from any architect in the world.
– Why not let them get to work at once?
– I am expressing the hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will get an American hustle on. The Minister of Home Affairs who will transfer the Federal Parliament to Can berra will be the Minister who will probably live longest in history, and best deserve that his name shall be perpetuated in the streets of tho new Capital.
Question resolved in the negative.
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means.
Debate resumed from page 7475.
– When I asked leave to continue my speech at a later hour it was because my attention had been drawn to words in the preamble that practically pledged any one voting for it to accept the terms and conditions of the agreement that has been reached between the Government and the Governments of the States. I suggest to the Prime Minister that these words be withdrawn.
– May I be permitted to say a word or two at this juncture ?
– The right honorable gentleman has not finished yet.
– The right honorable gentleman has really asked a question which it will be disorderly for me to answer without the leave of the House. Perhaps that leave may be given.
– I must say that we are developing an extraordinary method of debate.
– It is an extraordinary debate
– Sooner or later we shall get into a serious tangle if such procedure be followed. Is it the desire of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to make a statement ?
– The right honorable gentleman has drawn my attention to a paragraph in the preamble which, in his view, if the Bill be accepted, would also involve the approval of the terms of the agreement that has been entered into between the Governments concerned by the right honorable gentleman and his friends. That, of course, is not necessary. Honorable members opposite were not consulted in regard to the matter, and they may fairly ask that, by voting for this Bill, they shall not be held to thereby approve the terms of an agreement not before the House. Therefore, I am agreeable to the striking out of all the words after the word “ whereas “, in line 9, down to the words “ several States “, in Une 11, so that that section of the preamble shall read -
That whereas it is expedient that the writ for the submission of the said proposed laws to the electors be withdrawn-
This, I think will avoid all controversy. I have studiously refrained from saying anything good, bad, or indifferent- about the agreement. All that I am doing here is to give effect to the Federal Government’s part of the agreement. With that, our whole responsibility ceases. It is for the other parties to carry out their part of the agreement. I have no doubt whatever that they will do so. In order to avoid debate, I make no reference, good, bad, or indifferent, to the merits of the agreement.
– The Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear that the only matter now before the House is the repeal of the writs for the referenda. That is the only question with which we are concerned, and I imagine that every honorable member, no matter on what side of the House he sits, will give the Bill his most cordial and hearty concurrence. In my judgment, it will save this country from what undoubtedly would have been, in this time of war, a national scandal.
.- I am very glad that the proposal for the referenda has been withdrawn. I have no intention of discussing the merits of the questions that were involved in the remission which was to be made to the people on the occasion of the referenda. But since the power to initiate proposed amendments of the Constitution is by the Constitution itself vested in this Parliament, I think it is due to the public that one should enter some protest against the use of sub-section xxxvii. of section 51, instead of the popular provisions of the Constitution, contained in section 128, for the purpose of the transfer of general powers. I emphatically draw a distinction between general powers, which are exceedingly comprehensive, and the transfer of a specific matter from the States to the Commonwealth under sub-section XXXVI I. of section 51 of the Constitution. I claim the right to speak to this question, because, in the Federal Convention,
I drew attention to the possibility of sub-clause XXXVII. of clause 51 being abused, and used for purposes for which it was not intended. Honorable members are aware that, prior to Federation, we had a Federal Council of Australia. It was formed, I think, about 1884 or 1885. I remember writing on the subject when I was waiting for admission to the Bar. A proclamation by Queensland, making New Guinea a British protectorate, or sphere of influence for me Commonwealth, had not been altogether adopted by the Imperial Government, and about 1883 or 1884, a meeting of State Premiers was called, out of which the Federal Council grew. It was established by delegations from the Parliaments of the States. Specific powers were to be given to this Federal Council, which was a body without executive and without finance. It had power only to pass laws that the States, which had delegated these powers to the Council, were expected to put into force. The provisions for the delegations from the State Parliaments, which were contained in the Federal Council Act, were inapplicable, in my opinion, to a Constitution such as ours. When the Convention was sitting in Melbourne in February, 1898, attention was drawn to this somewhat incongruous sub-clause of clause 51. Mr. Deakin, while dealing principally with the question of finance, incidentally pointed out that it seemed inconsistent with clause 121 - now section 128 of the Constitution - which deals with the amendment of the Constitution. I interjected, “ Strike the sub-section out.” Then the official report proceeds -
Mr. Symon. That is the best solution of the difficulty.
– That may be so.
– We may have a conflict of laws under the sub-section.
Doctor - now Sir John - Quick spoke as follows : -
Now, either when the State Parliaments have referred these matters to the Federal Parliament, and the Federal Parliament has dealt with such matters, that becomes a Federal law, and cannot afterwards be repealed or revoked by the State Parliaments - that is one position; and in that case, of course, the reference once made is a reference for all time, and cannot be revoked, so that, to that extent, it becomes an amendment of the States’ Constitution incorporated in and ingrafted on the Federal Constitution without the consent of the people of the various States.
That is the point. Following up that line of argument, he went on to say -
My principal objection to the provision is that it affords a free and easy method of amending the Federal Constitution without such amendments being carried into effect in the manner provided by this Constitution.
Mr. Barton. I cannot understand how it gives an opportunity of amending the Federal Constitution.
As a matter of fact, I think it will be regarded as not being a method of amendment in the ordinary sense, because it was never dreamt for a moment that we could ask the States, or that the States would ask us; - whatever has occurred in this case, I do not know - to transfer powers to us without any mandate on the part of the electors to the State Parliaments. Surely, where the States are divesting themselves of general powers, there should be a mandate from the electors to the State Parliaments to take that course. It was never, for a moment, contemplated that technical advantage would be taken of sub-section XXXVII. of section 51 for the purpose of a transfer of general powers. General powers can be transferred only by an amendment of the Constitution, initiated by us - ve are the trustees of the people in this matter - and indorsed by a double referendum of the people. I took that view in the Convention, and all the members of the Drafting Committee, which consisted of Sir Edmund Barton, Sir John Downer, and the late Mr. R. E. O’Connor, drew attention to what they considered to be the significance of this sub-section in asking that it might be retained. They stated that it might be used in such a case as the settling of disputed territories, or, as Sir John Downer, I think, said, as a quasi-arbitration clause. He suggested that the States might submit to us something which they themselves could not determine and ask us to act somewhat in the capacity of arbitrators to assist them. I do not say that the provision is so confined’. Technically, what is proposed to be done can be done. But, as a member of the Convention, I am entitled to make this trespass upon honorable members’ time to show that sub-section XXXVII. was never intended to be used for the essential purpose of section 128, which deals with the transfer from the States to the Commonwealth of general powers of legislation. The commerce power, of course, is a general power, comprising, as it is said, in
America, practically two-thirds of the activities engaging the attention of the Legislatures. You may, of course, transfer a specific matter or inquiry under the sub-section. If that were done, I would not object; but it is dangerous to introduce this precedent for going behind the backs of the people. I do not say that that was deliberately intended. The occasion is a very exceptional one; but it is dangerous to introduce a precedent for what seems to me to be very like getting behind the popular method of amendment by resorting to such a sub-section, which, although technically capable of being used for any purpose, was intended’ to have the limited application for which I have endeavoured to show it should only be used.
– Does the honorable member say that no transfer can properly be made under sub-section XXXVII., even with the consent of the States?
– I say at once that I believe that what is proposed can technically be done. We have to remember, in the first place, however, that we are a National Parliament, and as such are the custodians of everything within the national sense. I hope that in a Democratic community, the first of all things to be considered, not as a matter of technical right, but as of constitutional importance, using the word in the larger sense, is this: That things which are right, and moral, are relevant to the spirit of our Constitution. As the National Parliament we seem to be custodians of the principle of division, and the popular rights expressed, that we find in the Constitution. I made my protest in the Convention in a very few words. I said -
In connexion with the point raised by Dr. Quick, that this provision might lead to an amendment of the Constitution, otherwise than under clause 121 - which, as I have said, is now section 128 -
I would like to suggest that the reference would be as to a specific point. It might be to settle a particular matter of legislation, but not a general power. . . . The State might, by referring the matter to the State Parliament, deprive itself of the right of repeal, and thus take away the general power of legislation from the State Parliaments. As I understand, a State Parliament cannot at present abrogate its own powers. It might pass a particular Act, or it might repeal an Act; but here the Parliament of the State is giving away some power without the consent of the people of the State. We are giving power to the State Parliaments to give away their sovereign powers without the consent of their people.
– To commit political suicide.
– That is really what it amounts to. It certainly requires serious consideration.
However, accepting for the sake of expedition and finality the limited interpretation that the draftsmen sought to assign to the subclause which was incongruous with other provisions of the Constitution, the clause was adopted. I desire to say now that, personally, I would far sooner have had the matter go, even without explanatory speeches by any of us, to the electors for their decision one way or the other than that we should resort to the methods of technical amendment - to a technical transfer of general powers at the instance of the States. Above all things we must view the fact that our institutions have been reared on the will of the people. In this matter the will of the people is not expressed by the methods of election to the State Parliaments. The will of the people is based upon the massed referendum and a dual referendum. What constitutional right, apart from the technical one, have the State Parliaments to ignore the provisions of section 128, and to help the transfer of general powers?
– Why say a dual referendum ?
– Because of the provisions of section 1’28. The will expressed by the members of this Parliament is that of aggregations of electors which are not those of the States or of the State divisions. The popular referendum gives an expression of opinion based upon aggregations of the people which is not expressed by the electors of the State. Whilst I do not believe that there is any deliberate intention to ignore the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution, and whilst I recognise the stress of the great emergency which actuated the Prime Minister in initiating or accepting the suggested Agreement, I do think that we ought to keep within the provisions of that section. I do not say. that some amendment of the Constitution may not be desirable. I have my own opinion on that point, and I hor>e that a more favorable opportunity may be given to bring into line the by no means fundamentally divergent views of honorable members on both sides of the House on some points for an amendment of the Con- stitution, which has failed in some, though not fundamental, respects to keep pace with the march of opinion, and to give effect to whatever may hereafter be the expressed desires of the Imperial Govern-! ment, so far as we are able to accept them. We know that after this war there may be a large recasting of our Imperial conditions, and it is possible that, as part of such revision, we may think it well to look through our Constitution and see in what respects we can make it approximate more closely to that perfection which was our ideal in 1900. In those circumstances I say there is no acknowledged necessity for precipitating referenda proposals now. We are not entitled to ask the Government to withdraw them by taking such an extraordinary step as securing a delegation of power from the State Parliaments.
– You say that the delegation of power by the State Parliaments is illegal ?
– I am not going into the question of legality. The course, as I said, may be technically correct, though the effect is not certain as to withdrawing unconditionally the proposed laws for. amendment. I would, not give twopence for Ministers who would not take a risk when there was an element of doubt. My contention is, that when there is another alternative to this expedient - postponement - we should adopt it and apply all our energies to preserving our integrity and our record as a portion of the British Empire. We should address the whole faculties of the nation to the one supreme end : the success of the cause of the Empire and our Allies. But another way of doing that would have been to postpone the referenda proposals until there is a more fitting opportunity of testing the popular will by the ordinary means provided in section 128. I have already stated that these delegated powers go practically as far as the ones we are shelving for the time being. The railway power is modified, but it is not at all clear that the trade and commerce power, without some express mention of the railway power, did give power to fix freights. It certainly did not give power to control internal management. Practically, the amendment proposed in 1913 represents the power that will be gained by the Commonwealth if the arrangement with the Premiers is carried into effect. In all other respects the States have transferred, for the time being - which means for ever, as a matter of probability, until modified, by Constitutional amendments - these very big powers, which have been the subject of two referenda, neither of which was successful, and of honest differences of opinion on the part of both members of this Parliament and the electors throughout the country. I do not think that one can be blamed for statin^ his views on what has been done in regard to this matter, because the people look to us as the initiators of any amendments. As to the war power, if I could honestly see that these amendments were necessary to give the Government power which may not be exercised now, I would not for a moment oppose them, but I cannot for the life of me see where the lack of power exists. Under the Constitution of America, with less comprehensive power than is possessed by the. Commonwealth, President Lincoln stepped in and did what was necessary, and was able to carry a long war to a successful issue. They are able in Britain, without the exercise of powers other than -those we possess, to conduct war, and in an extraordinary emergency we, as they, could apply the conditions of martial law, and afterwards by a retrospective Imperial Act obtain an indemnity for what has been done. Such a necessity does not exist in Australia. We have never had martial law. and we do not want it. I would much prefer the amendments to have gone to the people, even without further argument or elucidation, thus respecting the real intention of the Constitution, than that we should resort, even in the stress of a great war emergency, to the method of transferring powers which are utterly incongruous with sub-section xxxvii. of section 51 of the Constitution.
.- I was never very much enamoured of this proposal, and after the proposal to withdraw portion of the Bill, and having listened to the speech of the honorable member for Angas, I feel very insecure in regard to the attitude which is being adopted, and more than ever dissatisfied with the trend of events. I understand from the honorable member for Angas that it is possible for the States to temporarily transfer these powers. In another portion of his remarks he said that a transfer of the general powers could only be done technically, and that what was necessary to give proper weight and effect to the transference was a massed referendum, in order to ascertain the will of the people. I agree with the contention that the only way to ascertain the will of the people is by means of a massed referendum; but I suppose very few honorable members would advocate that course as a proper method of altering the Constitution, In fact, such a procedure is impossible under the Constitution, and the smaller States would take exception to such a method of settling these questions. The honorable member for Angas expressed the fear that this method of bargaining with the States is equivalent to going behind the backs of the people. That is exactly what I feel. The honorable member has said that for the life of him he cannot see that the Government cannot do everything under the War Precautions Act that they will be able to do by the proposed grant of powers. If that be so, the powers which we are supposed to get from the States really mean nothing to us.
– He is speaking only with regard to the war.
– That is the point upon which difference of opinion is likely to arise, and in regard to which the States are likely to make some alteration. What is the agreement ? We in this House know nothing of it. I have not the slightest doubt that honorable members opposite will say that the powers proposed to be transferred to the Commonwealth will apply to war purposes only.
– That is what the public understand.
– Will these temporary powers put into the hands of the Commonwealth an authority to be exercised in all avenues and activities, whether they are relative to the war or not?
– The Commonwealth gets those powers, but under false pre- tenc63
– We ought to be clear as to whether the proposed temporary grant of powers will confer on the Commonwealth wider powers than it possesses at the present time. I notice that the honorable member for Wentworth stated, in a letter published in the press, that if any of these powers were used by the Commonwealth for other than war purposes the Commonwealth would be committing a breach of agreement. I have not the slightest doubt that when this agreement is discussed in the State Parliaments, they will endeavour to insert conditions that will limit the use of these powers to war purposes only. If the States, or some of them, do not carry out their part of this agreement, which we are told will grant full powers to the Commonwealth apart from war purposes, in what position will the Commonwealth be? If the scheme miscarries so far as the State Parliaments are concerned, we shall ‘have postponed the reference of these questions to the people for twelve months at least I should say that what is desired by the majority of honorable members on this side, and by the .Labour party generally, is that we should get these powers permanently, and as the referenda proposals are hot to be submitted in December, I think that a clear understanding with the States should have been arrived at, and announced to Parliament so that there could be no ambiguity and no mistake in future as to our attitude on the question. The further the proposal goes the less I like it.
– I have no intention of offering any opposition to the measure; indeed, the measure is so obviously necessary, in view of the agreement that has been arrived at, that opposition to it would be altogether ridiculous. But I desire to express my regret that the Prime Minister has agreed to eliminate paragraph 3 of the preamble.
Thi9 is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament when a Bill has been introduced to recall writs issued legally and properly for , an election or referendum. It is an unusual precedent, and people, particularly in the future, will naturally be anxious to know the reason why this method of procedure was adopted. The reason and justification for the Bill appears in this paragraph, which contains a plain statement of fact. It has no party colour, and no objectionable features, and yet the Prime Minister has agreed to withdraw it. We are all thoroughly well aware that the only reason for the introduction of the Bill is contained in the words it is proposed to delete. The objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition may be very satisfactory from his own point of view. I quite concur in the disappointment felt by honorable members opposite at not being consulted in regard to the agreement, but that was not the fault of the Prime Minister, or of the Government, or of honorable members on this side. The Premiers of the States, who are responsible governing authorities, collaborated with the responsible governing authorities here, and arrived at a legitimate, proper, and reasonable method of procedure. If the Opposition here, and the Opposition parties in the State Houses, were not consulted, it may be regrettable, but I do not think that that is a sufficient justification for the elimination of the reason for this unusual measure. I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the virtues or vices of the agreement. I believe that the agreement is a very honorable and satisfactory method of arriving at a common understanding at this particular juncture, and I cannot see why any exception should be taken to a plain statement of facts. I regret very seriously that the Prime Minister has agreed to the elimination of the words.
.- I regret that the Prime Minister, on the spur of the moment, should have agreed to strike out these words; and when it comes to a division in Committee I shall vote for their retention.
– I question whether the words are in order, because, in my opinion, they are not relevant to the Bill.
– The words express the only reason for the introduction of the Bill. In the measure that is to be submitted to the various State Parliaments there is a re-statement of the whole of the proposals that were to have gone before the electors, the only exceptions being some deletions in regard to industrial powers, and some additions in regard to the freights and fares on State railways. With these exceptions the whole of the proposals go before each of the State Parliaments for their acceptance or rejection. This, in my opinion, represents absolutely the irreducible minimum, so far as the members of the Labour party are concerned. If the measures are passed by the State Parliaments then the compact will have been kept; but if the measures are amended or rejected it will be competent for this Parliament to simply take up the proposals where they were left, and, as soon as possible, whether the war be over or not, to submit them to the people. That, I contend, might be done, not in twelve months, as the honorable member for Bendigo said, but, possibly, in six months. Personally, I believe that if every Upper House in Australia “ turns down “ the proposals, the people of Australia will, by an overwhelming majority, turn the proposals up. The Leader of the Opposition as a reason, or, perhaps, I may say, as an excuse for the deletion of certain words of the preamble, said that it might commit the Opposition in this Parliament to the indorsement of practically all the proposals. I point out, however, that, if, when we reach the Committee stage, honorable members opposite are desirous of deleting words, they may move for their deletion - they will have that opportunity. As I have said, the words, in my opinion, are absolutely essential as showing the reason why the Bill is introduced. In each of the measures to be introduced in the several State Parliaments there will be a preamble, and, if not in exactly the same language, it will, as this preamble does, show, the reason for the legislation. I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane that this is a great and momentous proposition - a proposition that would never have been made but for the exceptional times in which we live - and I regard the attitude of the Opposition as unreasonable. The whole progress of the referenda has been stopped for certain reasons, and those reasons are expressed in the very words it is proposed to delete.
– You have not stated in the Bill that you “drew out” because you knew you would be “ licked.”
– That comes very well from the honorable member. He is like a good many other prophets that I read about prior to the referenda in 1913. One honorable member of this House, then in a prominent position in a State, prophesied that these proposals, which had been rejected by an overwhelming majority in 1911, would, if he judged the temper of the people aright, be rejected by a still greater majority in 1913; but they were lost only by a very narrow majority. I see nothing in the Bill to justify the suggested alteration, and, as I have already said, I shall, in Committee, vote for the preamble as I find it, believing that many honorable members on this side of the chamber will do the same.
– I am sorry that objection has been taken to the suggestion to strike out certain words in the preamble. No lawyer would say for one moment that the preamble of the Bill can have any legal effect. It may be looked at, but it cannot affect the position; at any rate, the preamble to this Bill cannot. Now, I wish to state the position in the light in which, as it appears to me, honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber regard it. They have been, as is well known, opposed to the amendment of the Constitution as submitted by us - some of them were in favour of certain of these proposed amendments of the Constitution, some of them were opposed to any amendment, and all of them were opposed to the submission of the proposed laws to the people at the present time. The Agreement which has been arrived at by myself, on behalf of the Government, and the States, whereby the States agree to hand over to the Commonwealth the powers asked for with such limitations as are set out in the Agreement is completely removed from this arena. For this Agreement honorable members opposite are not responsible - the majority of them do not believe in it. The Government have entered into this Agreement, and is now doing that which is necessary to give effect to their part of it, by postponing the referendum, provided the States would give the Commonwealth the powers agreed upon. In order to do this it is necessary to withdraw the writs; otherwise a poll must be taken. I give the honorable member for Maribyrnong my assurance in a most positive way - and it will be indorsed by every lawyer in the House - that the excision of the words suggested can have no bearing whatever on the Agreement between this Government and the States. If it did, I should not agree to the proposed amendment. The preamble to the Bill which is to be introduced into the State Legislatures to give effect to the States’ part of the Agreement recites a number of facts which have been agreed upon, and the Bills to be introduced are in a form which has been agreed upon. But this Bill was not agreed upon ; its form was not determined; the Commonwealth Government was merely to carry out the intention of the Agreement - which was, on our side, not to go on with the referenda campaign, which implied that we should take such legal steps as would prevent a poll from being held; because, if we did not go on with the campaign, and did not introduce this Bill, the booths would still have to be opened, Returning Officers appointed, and a poll taken. The Opposition take no responsibility for the Agreement. The Government and the States take all the responsibility for it, and they must each carry put their part of the bargain. I am carrying out our part now, and I assure my friends that the Bill with these words out will do it as effectively as if the words are retained. The preamble could have stated the facts included in the preamble to the measures to be submitted to the State Legislatives, or it could have abstained from reciting any facts. Clauses 1 and 2 would have served equally well without more. Therefore, I hope that my friends will rid their minds of any idea that the Agreement depends upon any form of words in this Bill. It is not material. I purposely abstain from discussing the merits of the Agreement, or the necessity for amending the Constitution. At the proper time I dis-. cussed the necessity for amending the Constitution under section 128, and at the proper time I discussed with those who were competent to discuss it the advisableness of a grant of powers from the States to the Commonwealth, when the representatives of the States approached me with the request that I should so discuss it. The Agreement has been arrived at. Two State Parliaments, have already taken steps to carry out their part of it. The others will shortly follow.
The honorable and learned member for Angas has expressed doubt as to what subsection xxxvii. of section 51 was intended to do. In his view the Convention never intended that such a use should be made of the provision ; but every, lawyer knows perfectly well that the benevolent intentions of the framers of legislation are quite immaterial; what is material is what the actual section or sub-section says. In this case the sub-section is perfectly clear. The States are clothed with ample power to do what they have agreed to do. While I agree with my honorable and learned friend as to the methods contemplated by the framers of the Constitution to be pursued in amending the Constitution, nevertheless sub-section XXXVII of section 51 does provide ample and suffi cient means by which the States can clothe the Commonwealth with any powers they please.
– Without any amendment of the Constitution ?
– Of course; and every one knows also that there is another method, namely, an amendment of the Constitution Act by the British Parliament. However, I leave the matter there. I am satisfied that there is no other way by which a temporary alteration to the Constitution could be made than by the one proposed. The Constitution does not contemplate it, nor provide for it, except in this way. It is the only way by which we can get a temporary grant of these powers during the war and for twelve months afterwards. I do not propose to discuss the matter any further, except to say to those who have taken exception to the suggestion to amend the preamble that such an alteration will in no way affect the validity of the measure or the Agreement arrived at between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the several States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Whereas seven proposed laws for the alteration of the Constitution were passed by both Houses of the Parliament during the session held in the year 1915:
And whereas in pursuance of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1900-1915 the Governor-General did on the second day of November, 1915, issue writs for the submission of the said proposed laws to the electors:
And whereas in pursuance of an agreement made between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the several States it is expedient that the writs for the submission of the said proposed laws to the electors be withdrawn, and that no further proceedings bc taken in relation to such submission……
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the words “ in pursuance of an agreement made between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the several States “ be left out.
.- I am not particular whether the amendment is agreed to or not, because the result will be the same whether the words are retained or omitted, but I was interested in hearing the Attorney-General tell us how much that is contained in Bills and receives the assent of Parliament means so little. I understand that objection has been raised to the statement of the fact that a certain arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth and the States. I am quite satisfied with the explanation that has been given, as I am also satisfied with the proposal to supend the taking of the referenda poll; because, as the honorable member for Perth has interjected, there were some doubts as to what the result would be if we submitted these alterations to the Constitution to the vote of the people, but now there is no doubt as to the result. We are about to remit these matters, by agreement, to the Legislative Councils of the States, and, of course, we may be quite sure they will give us all the powers that we desire. Why refer these measures to the mass of the people when we do not know how they are likely to vote on them, or what we are going to get, when we can be sure as to what we are going to get from the Tory Legislative Councils of the States? We should always withdraw proposals from the decision of the party of which we are not sure and intrust the decision to a party of which we are sure. For that reason we, as good Democrats, are withdrawing the referenda writs in. order that we may refer these matters to people who will not give us the powers we seek. Of course, we shall still be in the same, old, happy position of being able to blame some one else, and of resting the responsibility on some one other than ourselves. I am perfectly satisfied that there could not be any better arrangement, because every honorable member opposite is agreeable to it. When I see the Leader of the Opposition agreeable to this proposal, I feel that I must be on good, safe Democratic ground. When I read in the newspapers that the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Balaclava have been conferring with the Prime Minister and settling this matter, and are supporting the agreement arrived at, I know that we must be quite right in accepting it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Preamble, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Debate resumed from 10th November (vide page 7416), on motion by Mr. King O’Malley -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
When the debate was adjourned last night, I was endeavouring to give the reasons why I thought this railway should not be constructed at the present time. The honorable member for Corangamite had stated definitely his intention of voting against the proposal, and I tried to show why I, as well as other honorable members, should support him. I have already mentioned that there is no definite information before the House to show how the railway will be made to pay. This is only one objection to the proposal. The Minister told us that, on account of the large amount of money involved, itwould be quite possible that a low-level bridge would have to be constructed over the Katherine River. Under any conditions, a low-level bridge is a mistake. A low-level bridge crossing a coastal river where the flow is great lasts till the first flood. On inland rivers, where the fall is small, the bridge is under water often for days, sometimes for weeks. So that, in one case, a low-level bridge is useless for a long period, and in the other case it is an absolute danger. I do not know what kind of river the Katherine is. but, from its geographical position, I should assume it to be a slow-running flood river like those so common in the inland of Australia.
– There is a tremendous flood sometimes.
– I have seen low-level bridges over both classes of rivers, and in both they were dismal failures. I hope the Government will not for a moment consider the establishment of such a bridge over the Katherine. We were also told last night that wooden sleepers cannot be used because of white ants, and the Minister stated that he would advocate steel sleepers. But, he added, owing to war conditions, the cost of such sleepers would be twice as much as in normal times. It is not likely that this line will carry other than a very light traffic for many years to come, so that there will be great difficulty in making it pay under any circumstances, even if erected in the cheapest manner possible; and that argument seems to me to be sufficient to justify the postponement of the line. The chief reason advanced for the continuation of this work just now, however, was that there are 400 or 500 immigrants working on this line, for whom further employment must be found. The argument that we must construct this railway because there are several hundred immigrants from Patagonia, very few of whom can even speak English, strikes me as being very weak. They may be good men or not, but it is a very wrong principle that, at the present time, we should spend money that might be used for the defence of Australia, in keeping 400 or 500 polyglot immigrants from South America working in the Northern Territory.
– Unfortunately, we have the responsibility of having brought them here.
– Suppose we have that responsibility, there should be any amount of occupations calling for men where they will be of use in meeting the great crisis before us. No more weak argument could be brought forward than that, because of the existence of these immigrants there, we must spend money that could be better spent in other directions.
– Does the honorable member assume that the ‘ ‘ polyglot immigrants “ he is talking about are only employed on the railway?
– We were told so last night.
– It is not correct.
– I am only dealing with the statements that have been made during the debate on the Bill, and of all the arguments in its favour the one which I have just referred to is the weakest - that we should do this work at the expense of the safety of Australia. That argument alone should be sufficient to warrant the postponement of the measure. So much money is required for other things which, under present conditions, are more urgent than this, that I intend to vote against this Bill bv way of protest against misdirected expenditure.
.- It is admitted that the real purpose of this Bill is to enable this work to be carried on, although under a strict interpretation of the law the proposal ought first to be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– It is not a question of “ strictly.” It is the clear order of the Act.
– If the point of order is raised-
– Is not the point necessarily taken if the matter is referred to as being improperly before the House ?
– I am not taking the point, and Mr. Speaker has not taken my reference in that way. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat made reference to the Katherine River, but, unfortunately, he has no data at his disposal upon which he can state the position correctly.
– Nor has the House.
– Nor has the House; but the Works Committee have had the satisfaction of hearing two important witnesses with regard to this proposal - the Commonwealth EngineerinChief for Railways and Mr. Atlee Hunt, who has just returned from an official visit to the Territory. According to the information given to the Committee, the Katherine River in a dry season is a very slow-moving stream that can be very easily crossed dryshod by the use of stepping-stones.
– I should like to know the season when that is possible.
– That is the information given to the Committee. During the rainy season, however, it is a raging torrent. At the point where the railway is surveyed to cross the river the banks are between 80 and, 90 feet high, and about a quarter of a mile apart; and in the rainy season, and for some time afterwards, the river is quite full. The EngineerinChief, therefore, proposes to make a slight detour on the northern bank, and to cross by means of a* low-level bridge that will be quite submerged in flood time. Such a proceeding is not uncommon in railway construction.
– How long do the floods last?
– They may last for three or four days; they may last for a week.
– What does that matter if there is only one train a fortnight?
– It is proposed to run two trains per week, with special trains as occasion demands. But I would point out to honorable members that the bridge across the Katherine River, originally estimated to cost £100,000, will be replaced by this low-level bridge, which is to cost only £1,900, so that a very considerable saving of the public funds will be effected, and a bridge constructed that will be quite sufficient for ordinary purposes. During flood time, not only will this particular crossing be useless, but other parts of the railway line will also be useless on account of the flooded nature of the country.
– Does not the honorable member mean £19,000?
– No, £1,900. There is a bridge across the King River to be constructed of cement-concrete pillars and steel girders. That bridge is estimated to cost £11,000.
– It will cost more than £11,000.
– No. It is only a short bridge of three spans, each of 40 feet. I would also point out to honorable members that the cost of constructing the low-level bridge is not included in the estimate for this section, and is no part of this particular scheme.
– Still it is rather an important feature, since the location of the bridge will determine the route of the line.
– Section 3 of the Act passed in 1913 authorizing the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River stated that “ the Minister may, subject to this Act, construct a railway in the Northern Territory from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.” That might mean until the railway reached the Katherine River. I understand, however, that the Railway Department have interpreted that clause to mean “ across “ the Katherine River, because obviously a railway would be of little use if it stopped on the northern bank.
– We were told it was intended to stop there because there was no money to carry the bridge across.
– In view of the fact that it has been decided to carry the railway across on a low-level bridge, it is now proposed to include the cost of constructing the bridge in the Pine Creek to Katherine River section. Therefore, the bridge is no feature of the Bill now before the House. It is not included in the estimate, and is not, therefore, properly a subject for discussion now. If this section - from the Katherine River to Bitter Springs - were to be judged upon its financial merits alone, and upon the estimates that have been submitted as to the possibility of its providing revenue or of opening up country, I question if any honorable member could honestly give a vote in its favour. But if this line has any virtue, it is that it will be a link in the chain of railway from north to south, to which this Parliament stands committed, and which we are in honour bound some day to construct. As part of the north-south railway, this section is necessarily required. Whether we should now proceed with its construction is open to argument; but there can be no question that, sooner or later, for strategic reasons, as well as for developmental purposes, the line from north to south will have to be built. We should build this line, not only from the north, but also from the southern end. Instead of this section alone being referred to the Public Works Committee for report, the Minister of Home Affairs should be expected, when the House meets next year, to table a proposal to refer to the Committee, or to a committee of experts, the whole question of railway connexion from north to south, so that we may have an understanding clear and distinct as to what is to be done between Oodnadatta and Bitter Springs. Such a line would involve an expenditure that would not be justifiable at present. But if gradually and steadily, rather than spasmodically and erratically as at present, we build this line, continuing each year, section by section, in an orderly and systematic manner, the construction of the north-south railway, the whole question will be settled satisfactorily a few years hence, and we shall be sure of protection as far as such a railway is able to afford it. As to the particular section immediately under consideration, honorable members might be advised that the line, as far as it has been built, is not of much use. It is clearly stated in the reports that from Darwin to the Katherine River, and particularly from Pine Creek to the Katherine, the country is rather poor. Pine Creek is the present terminus, and, although I have not been there, I, like other honorable members, am sufficiently well acquainted with the literature on the subject to be able to say that from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is the poorest part of the Territory between Darwin and Bitter Springs. In the immediate vicinity of the Katherine, and thence on to Bitter Springs, there is splendid pastoral and mining country.
– What is its carrying capacity ?
– North of the Katherine, it is one beast to the square mile.
– That is nothing to be proud of; yet the estimated revenue - derivable principally, if not entirely, from cattle traffic - from this section of the line is about £12,000 per annum. The best pastoral country is south and south-west of the Katherine River. It is well understood that the cattle traffic over the section between Bitter Springs and th? Katherine River, and along to Port Darwin, to supply the new meat works now nearly completed, will provide by far the major portion .of the revenue.
– It will not pay by long way.
– Certainly not.
– Then why construct it now, when things are so dear?
– One reason advanced is that it will provide work for the men already there. That is why the Bill has been brought forward by the Minister without waiting for a report from the Public Works Committee. On that phase of the question I expressed my views last week. If this expenditure is to be incurred only to provide employment, it is had business. Unless there is some better purpose to be served, and greater good to be achieved, then the expenditure of £320,000 on the line just now is not warranted. But the point to be remembered is that the proposal is to extend the present line into country offering some prospect of revenue, whereas if the line stops at the Katherine there will be no such prospect.
– Cannot the cattle walk the additional 65 miles?
– Certainly; but here is business lying open to the railway. The extension towards the south will open up fresh country and induce new settlement. Some two years ago the Government bought a number of sheep, and, by way of experiment, took them from Avon Downs to Bitter Springs. The reports received show that the experiment has proved very satisfactory. The sheep have been there now for nearly two years. They seem to be becoming acclimatized very well indeed, so that if the line is extended there is a prospect of encouragement being offered to sheep farming in this particular locality. The water supply and grasses are good, and there is good open-timbered country. There are no engineering difficulties, so that there is everything to induce us to extend the line. The estimated ordinary running expend:ture is about £11,800, and the estimated revenue about £12,000. That does not allow a very big margin. The estimate of expenditure does not include interest on the capital cost of construction. The Commonwealth Government, however, can well afford to pay interest on the cost of constructing lines in these far-distant parts of the Territory, to which settlement has almost to be dragged.
– That is to say that if you wipe out all the charges you make Mie line pay.
– No. I have a very strong feeling that it would be wise in the early stages of the development of the Northern Territory to make the railways free, in order to induce settlers to go there. If we expect people to be prepared to suffer the disadvantages which are bound to attach for many years to settlement up there, we should endeavour to offer them some inducement that will counterbalance those disadvantages. I am hopeful that we may take the wider view in regard to this railway, and consider, not only the possible connexions between north and south, but the possibility of making connexions east and west. The war is opening our eyes to the danger that may possibly beset Australia in the near future. We shall have to link up our centres of population by better means than we have at present if we are to maintain our prestige in the Pacific. I am somewhat pessimistic regarding our future as a self-contained Commonwealth, and as a white-settled country, if we are not going to secure some quick and ready means of concentrating at any point on the seaboard. In that connexion I must express my appreciation of the particularly statesmanlike proposal which was put forward by the right honorable member for Swan in 1913. The right honorable member, when Treasurer, made to the Queensland Government of that day an offer so magnificent and well conceived that it was a surprise to most people that it should have been almost disdainfully turned down.
– By the then Liberal Government of Queensland.
– The rejection of the offer had its effect on that Government at the State elections in the early part of this year. The linking up of Townsville and the northern parts of Queensland by a connexion from Cloncurry to Camooweal, and on to Port Darwin, vid Daly Waters or Bitter Springs, is a project that is going to make Australia somewhat safe in the future. I believe that this north-south railway, with its connexion not only with Queensland at that point, but at other points, on its way south, with New South Wales, and ultimately with Victoria, through South Australia, and then with Western Australia, vid Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, will be one of the most satisfactory means which we shall have of settling this country, and that it will offer one of the best opportunities for successfully repelling any invasion.
– That is one of the main reasons for the railway.
– Yes. It is not the chief reason, but it should be sufficient to commend the project to honorable members, particularly at this juncture. If this line were for purely developmental purposes many objections might be offered ; but when we link to its other advantages those from a defence point of view, we have practically an unanswerable argument. In the very near future we shall have to consider some grand Federal scheme of railway construction for this continent. We shall have to depend upon military and .railway experts to advise us as to how we may best link up, by the quickest and easiest route, the big centres of population, so as to afford the best means of concentration at any given point at any given time. For this reason alone I am in favour of building at any time any section of the north-south railway, and of providing connexions east and west so as to link up the other States. Coming to another point, I think something should be done to limit the power of the Minister to go on with this work at the present time. It has been said that it is to keep men in employment, but that position has been overstated. It is not correct to state that it is necessary to start at once in order to provide work for about 600 men. I understand that, at the outside, not more than 100 men will require to be accommodated in this way. It is expected that by the end of this year the earth and surface works of the section now being constructed will have been completed, and it is to keep these 100 men going in continuing the earthworks to Bitter Springs that it is urged that this line should be started at once.
– We were told that 500 or 600 men would be thrown out of work unless this line was approved.
– That impression was created by an unfortunate interierction by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, who stated last week, while the Minister was moving that the work be referred to the Public Works Committee, that while the honorable gentleman was fooling about with the business 600 men would be thrown out of work. The ex-Minister ought to have known, and must have known, that only 100 men would require accommodation in the form of employment at the end of this year. The remainder of the men are engaged in plate-laying and ballasting, which will not be finished before the middle or end of next year.
– You are showing good reasons for further inquiry.
– There are abundant reasons for inquiry, and that is why I have notified the Minister of Home Affairs of my intention to move an amendment to clause 3 by inserting a proviso that the building of the railway shall be subject to the Public Works Committee reporting that it is expedient to carry out such work. Whilst I am opposed to any limitation being placed on the Minister in regard to keeping the 100 men employed to some extent, I think he should be limited in his power to carry on the construction of the railway until the Works Committee has had an opportunity of making inquiries into the matter. Knowing the circumstances, the Works Committee is anxious to prosecute inquiry quickly. We hope to present a report, if not at the end of this year, at any rate early next year; meanwhile there can be no serious objection to the Minister continuing with the unimportant works which would require to be done later in any case. The extent to which his powers should be restricted may be open to argument. For instance, there is the matter of rails. The railway is estimated to cost £320,000, of which £140,989 is for rails, fastenings, and sleepers. It will be the business of the Works Committee to inquire into the price of rails. Prices must have risen considerably during the past few months. Steel sleepers have increased to 19s. each, and, therefore, the Department proposes to use timber sleepers. I do not see any very serious objection to the use of timber sleepers in that country. Queensland has timber sleepers in country just as bad.
– The Queensland country is not as bad as the Northern Territory.
– I do not know but what Queensland has to face just as serious difficulties in connexion with the railway from Townsville to Cloncurry. We have timbers that can offer serious obstacles to the appetite of even the white ants of the Northern Territory.
– South Australian engineers experimented for thirty years in the Northern Territory.
– They have experimented successfully with steel sleepers, which on the Darwin-Pine Creek line have given very great satisfaction. It is intended that steel sleepers shall be used, as far as possible, in the Territory. However, as I understand that the House is anxious to proceed with other business, I shall conclude my remarks.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Higgs) adjourned.
.- I move-
That a sum not exceeding £16,245,608 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
Honorable members may recollect that in the financial statement I delivered a few days ago the sum of £45,749,450 was set down for special war expenditure, viz., Naval, £7,289,450; Military, £38,460,000. When the House has made the further grant for which I am now asking, weshall have voted about £35,000,000 of that total. Of the £16,000,000 to be voted, £14,229,260 is for the Department of Defence; the balance is for the services of other Departments.
– Did you separate the amount of loan expenditure from the ordinary expenditure ?
– I am unable to do that.
– I understand that this further grant of Supply is intended to finance the Government till the end of April, when ten months of the financial year will have expired. So far, the House has not had a full estimate of what the total outgoing for the year is likely to be.
Mr.Kelly. - That indicates a certain amount of prudence on the Treasurer’s part,
– It may indicate political prudence on his part; but when such huge sums are being asked for, the highest prudence is perfect candour to the House and the country. As the sums which Parliament is being asked to vote are so huge, and the commitments so extensive, involving as they do nearly the whole year’s transactions, the Treasurer might inform the House of the aggregate amount which will have been voted for the year when this further grant has been made. We are voting away money by the million; but in all the financial statements that have been made, and on all the Supply Bills that have been introduced to the House, no indication has been given of the total amount already voted for the year. In the House of Commons a statement is presented showing the total outgoings for the year of loan expenditure and on ordinary services. We have had neither a complete statement as to loans, a complete statement as to the ordinary expenditure on the civil administration, nor a statement combining both. I shall not press for the detailed statement, but the House ought to have a statement showing the total amount which we shall have voted for the ten months of the year if this further £16,000,000 is granted. If that were done, we should know exactly how we stood. A grant of £16,000,000 for two months’ Supply is at the rate of £8,000,000 per month, or £96,000,000 per annum. I should like the Treasurer to say whether this Supply represents two ordinary months’ expenditure, and whether we may safely multiply that amount by six, and so roughly ascertain the aggregate expenditure for the year. If so, honorable members will seethat our out-goings for the year are well in the region Of £100,000,000. Under all the circumstances, I think the Treasurer ought to tell us exactly what the position is. No doubt we shall all cordially acquiesce in voting this Supply, but the Committee and the country are entitled to know what we are spending, and what is therate of the expenditure.
.- I think the Treasurer might well have risen to reply tothe questionasked by the Leader of the Opposition. In view of an early adjournment, the House ought to be furnished with some information as to the intentions of the Government during the long recess. We have been fifteen months at war, and up to the present we have been told very little as to what has been done in the way of turning out shells, heavy guns, and so forth, so that we might do our proper share in the prosecution of the war. We have it from the Minister of Home Affairs that it is intended to establish an arsenal on Federal Territory; but we have also been made aware that there is no reasonable probability of that arsenal being available during the present crisis unless the war proves to be one of inordinate length. We have no evidence of any serious endeavour on the part of the Government to get into communication with the various factories all over Australia, with a view to the turning out of munitions. Our expenditure, as already pointed out, is very nearly £2,000,000 a week, and considerably over £1,000,000 a week is devoted to the war. It is probable that £1,000,000 diverted to the assistance and organization of the factories already in existence would mean the production of large quantities of shells. What we have failed to do is to show our adaptability in this great national crisis - to devote the existing machinery actively to the manufacture of munitions of war. In the Allied and enemy countries, this production hasbeen multiplied many times over, not because of new machinery, but because of the utilization of the existing machinery ; and, in this regard, we have been woefully lacking in Australia. It is the duty of the Government to get into communication with those interested in the great factories here, and arrange, if necessary, to indemnify them against loss after the war, so that there may be sufficient inducement to turn out the required material. It is, as I have already said, a great reflection on Australia that steps in this direction have not been taken already. There is no possibility of the proprietors of these factories coming together and adapting themselves to the business unless there is that directing force which, at a time like this, can only be exercised bv the Government. We are raising and spending millions in the equipment of men and so forth, and out of the £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 disbursed annually, £2,000,000, or even less, might be found to do all that is necessary in the way of organizing the present factories. I sincerely hope that, before we separate, some statement will be made on behalf of the Government, showing what is proposed in this regard.
We are proud of our young men, who, reared in an atmosphere of peace, have set an example of bravery and self-reliance to the whole world. But, as stated over and over again, the men in the workshops engaged in the manufacture of munitions are just as much at war as are those on the battle-field. It is in this latter respect that we have failed, because the necessary initiative in organization has not been shown by the Government. I am not criticising generally the work of the Defence Department, which has undertaken a huge task, and, under all the circumstances is carrying out a great work. Of our population of 5,000,000, there is one branch of industry of which we are proud - the manufacturing branch ; and yet we have failed to take advantage of the opportunity to meet the one essential need of the day. In my opinion, greater power ought to be vested in the War Committee, it ought to have the power of initiative, as well as the power of suggestion; and it might very well be utilized in the organization of the factories all over Australia. It would thus become a link between the Government and our great manufacturing forces ; and more especially should it have added power, in view of the longer recess than was previously thought necessary. I hope that, before the Prime Minister leaves on his visit to England, which we believe and hope will be productive of great advantage to the whole of the Empire, steps will be taken to give the War Committee greater power in the work of defence preparation. As to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, the Public Works Committee long since recommended that new machinery should be purchased in order to double the output. It has been pointed out that, by purchasing possibly half the machinery that would be required for a complete additional factory, the existing Factory at Lithgow could easily be rendered capable of achieving the desired end. If the necessary energy were thrown into the work of providing additions to the building, and so forth, it is quite possible that, within twelve months after the ordering of machinery, the requisite number of rifles could be turned out. Time is the essence of the contract; and we must, as speedily as possible, increase our production of munitions of war. It is estimated that, with a complete new Factory at Canberra, we are not likely to get additional rifles under two years; so that there is considerable advantage on the side of manufacture at the present Factory at Lithgow. There seems to be some doubt as to whether there is to -be an immediate start made with the Factory at Canberra; but even’ if there were, about two years must elapse before it could be in operation. These are matters of such importance that, before we separate, we ought to be told what the intentions of the Government are.
.- On the first night on which I sat in the State Parliament of Victoria a Supply Bill for £800,000 was passed through very hurriedly, and I thought it was an extraordinary way of doing the business of the country. We demand efficient and businesslike management and good organization in all matters connected with the Government, yet to-night we are asked to vote £16,000,000, and no detailed information is given as to why this money is required. I know that when we meet again next year, after the money has been spent, the items of expenditure will be laid before us, but of what value will it be to criticise them then? No doubt it is perfectly true that the Government must accept the responsibility for the manner in which this expenditure is carried out,” but, at the same time, I cannot help thinking it is an unbusiness-like procedure to ask Parliament to vote £16,000,000 and give no information concerning that expenditure. Though Great Britain is spending in eight minutes as much as we spend in one month, I should not imagine the British Parliament is asked to vote money in an unbusiness-like way, that is, without being supplied with details. I ask the new Treasurer, whom I shall always be pleased to help, whether provision is made in this Bill for a lump sum to be paid to Lady Bridges?
– That grant will come forward later.
– We are asked to consent to expenditure, and we do not know how the money is to be spent.
– Will the honorable member give me the opportunity of explaining?
– I have a great deal to be thankful for in regard to the consideration that has been extended to me by honorable members. The criticisms that have been offered, on the whole, have not been very adverse. In fact, they have been full of complimentary references, which have been a little embarrassing at times, especially when the honorable member for Bourke has been in the chamber. When I moved the motion, I did not give much information, partly because I had not had time to prepare it, and partly because I was under the impression that honorable members wished to get nearly all the business done this evening. Until 1 o’clock to-day I did not know that the Prime Minister was going to the Old Country, and at that hour I had to ask the Treasury officers to prepare two Supply Bills, one covering sixteen pages, dealing with the ordinary expenditure ; the other covering about five pages, dealing with the expenditure on new works and buildings. The Leader of the Opposition has asked how much money has been voted for the current financial year. We voted, in the first Supply Bill, £8,281,581 for ordinary services and war expenditure. In the next Supply Bill we voted £15,745,469. In the next Bill we voted £6,901,735, and now we are asking for £15,545,608, and if this amount is voted we shall have agreed to an expenditure of £46,474,393 for ordinary services and war expenditure. For the information of the honorable member for Bendigo, I shall read the abstract of the schedule in the Bill. This information could have been supplied later. It was intended, in the Committee stage on the Bill, to give honorable members the opportunity of obtaining it; but, since it has been asked for now, and in order to save time, I wish to say that £7,900 is set down for Parliament, including the salaries in connexion with the Senate and House of Representatives, Library, gardens, &c. A sum of £82,240 is set down for the Department of the Treasury, covering the salaries for two months and embracing the cost of the administration of invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions, maternity allowance, and taxation offices. This vote, also includes the Government Printing Office and the office of the GovernorGeneral. For the Department of the AttorneyGeneral, the sum of £12,570 is set down. I could take up the time of honorable members for an hour by dealing with the various items, but I do not think the honorable member for Bendigo will ask me to do that. When he gets the Bill he will see what the Government propose to do. In the meantime, it will be sufficient if I quote the abstract to the schedule. It reads as follows: -
The honorable member for Bendigo has said that it is not a business-like method of doing business to pass Supply Bills of this kind and have no opportunity for criticism of the finances until the end of the financial year, when the money has nearly all been spent; but ever since I have been in Parliament the same exception has been taken to the method adopted by the Government in office in presenting Estimates to Parliament. I suppose that all Governments are alike. They bring in their Estimates as soon possible in order that there shall be the greatest opportunity for talk. It is perfectly legitimate for those who are outside the Government to offer as strong criticism as they can offer, but it has very little effect upon the Government : and the only thing for honorable members who are supporting the Government to do is to trust it. I suppose they know what to do if they find that Ministers do not do their will. My friend the Minister of Home Affairs suggests that I should not give any hints to honorable members to have a recon- struction so soon after the formation of the new Ministry. I shall not. I ask that the new Ministry shall be given a fair chance. It is only a fortnight, or thereabouts, since I was sworn in. I do not know that I can give further information. Upon the passage of this Bill we shall have voted £35,330,000 on Expeditionary Forces, Naval and Military, out of an estimated expenditure for the year of £45,749,450. Besides this, we shall have voted for ordinary purposes £11,144,393 out of an estimated expenditure for the year of £12,628,405. It is impossible to give any detailed and definite items at this stage, partly because I have not had the time to obtain them, but more particularly because at this stage it is impossible to accurately estimate what our Naval and Military expenditure for the year will be. I stated the other evening that the British War Office is at present bearing the expense of maintaining our soldiers at Gallipoli, Alexandria, and in the hospitals on the Mediterranean, and will make a claim for reimbursement later. Of course, we do not know what that claim will amount to. I trust that honorable members will allow the Bill to pass without much discussion. T promise them that they shall have the Estimates at the earliest possible date, and in time for the fullest consideration. Without doubt, the Prime Minister will afford them several days for a discussion of the various items.
.- The Treasurer commenced his remarks by thanking honorable members on both sides for the many kind things that they have said of him. But, having listened to this debate since its initiation, I have been disappointed by the absolute silence on the part of Ministerialists regarding the honorable gentleman’s undoubted merits.
– The honorable member has not been here.
– I have been here; I have not been travelling about the country with my qualifications painted on my bag. I deplore the change that is coming over the Treasurer. When in Opposition he could occupy time more happily, at greater length, and to the more intense enjoyment of the House, in endeavouring to extract information than he can now in imparting it. But old habits are difficult to put aside, and to-night, when invited by the honorable member for Bendigo to say something about his Esti mates, he seemed to slide back into the practices of long ago, and said a good deal without explaining anything. He has read to us the headings of the Estimates, as supplied by his secretary; but, regarding the financial situation generally, I am left with the feeling that he is as ignorant as I am. I would remind the honorable member for Bendigo that, it is not fair to ask a Treasurer to explain the finances of the country out of his own head. To any explanation of that kind an informal Board of permanent officers is necessary, and the preparation of documents, to be read in due course. I ask honorable members if it is not a fact that when the other evening the Treasurer was able to read his speech he was profoundly more interesting and illuminating than he has been to-night when extemporizing ? I do not wish the honorable gentleman to take that remark as a reflection upon his capacity. He is the only Treasurer since I have been a member of this House who has endeavoured to make a statement about the finances out of his own head, and it has been such a lamentable failure that I do not think it will ever be attempted again.
As it is intended to adjourn early to-morrow, I shall not occupy much time now. I am prepared to trust the Government and the Treasurer. To the latter I am thankful for the promise that at the end of the financial year, when the money has all been spent, he will not introduce a Bill to prevent us from criticising what has been done. We are to have an opportunity of discussing the damage after it is over. No doubt, the honorable gentleman commences his Ministerial career with the best of intentions and supported with the best advice. I trust that he may not be too extravagant in regard to the ordinary expenditure of the Departments, because I feel it in my bones that the financial troubles of this community will commence when the war nears its conclusion, and after it is over.
– We are on velvet now.
– Not quite; though we ought to be. Australia, of all the countries that are at war. is not providing employment for its citizens in the manufacture of war munitions, and thus is not providing wages to help its people to face the issue. This fact cannot be overlooked. We are eating up our substance, and are buying munitions and equipment abroad.
– Look at what Canada is doing.
– In Canada, according to a recent estimate, £70,000,000 worth of munitions is being made.
– Work is being done there in branches of Yankee-land factories.
– According to the statistics, Australia is at least as advanced as Canada in the matter of factories. What is lacking is the co-ordination of our in- dustrial energies.
– The Free Trade opinions of the honorable member are responsible for that.
– And, in that case, the Free Trade opinions of the Prime Minister, too.
– The responsibility rests on the Labour Government, of which the Treasurer was not then a Minister, but only trying to become one. I do not wish to discuss these matters ; but, since my honorable friend has challenged me, I must draw attention to the little that Australia is doing in the manufacture of munitions.
– Did the honorable member think that I would be content to listen to him for a long while without a retort of some kind?
– Mv whole sympathy is with the Treasurer. It must be intensely difficult for him to have to listen to another member, especially after the training he has been going through to obtain his present office.
– The Treasurer retorted, not on the honorable member, but on his own leader.
– I do not mind Eis firing off at his leader, because that honorable and learned gentleman is able to look after himself. Our present difficulty in regard to munitions is due to the fact that it was not until the war had been proceeding for nine months that the Government became interested in the question. Until there was a public outcry, the only shells that it was proposed to manufacture in Australia were to be made at a Government Factory whose weekly output was to be, I think, 200 shells. This Factory was turning out in a week as many shells as a French .75 sun would fire off in ten minutes ! The Minister ascribes this state of affairs to my
Free Trade views! I suggest to the honorable gentleman, and to the Government, that they should seriously consider the question of providing munitions, not only with a view to assisting in the prosecution of the war, but also with a view to improving our immediate industrial condition. The vast sum of money that is being expended in Canada on the manufacture of munitions is paying wages to Canadian workmen. We have here machinery that can be adapted to the making of munitions, and workmen who are looking for the opportunity of employment. By doing this work, we shall be helping to end the war. Therefore I hope that Ministers will deal with the problem in earnest. However, I shall not occupy time longer now, and would not have spoken but for the fact that the Treasurer seemed to attribute to his supporters praise which, though deserved, has not come from those honorable members who, so far as I can make out, are in a conspiracy of silence regarding his merits !
Mr. CARR (Macquarie) T9.24].- Like the honorable member for Wentworth, I do not wish to occupy the time of honorable members, but I shall not allow to pass any opportunity of impressing on the Government the need for getting busy in the production of munitions,, particularly shells. For some time my voice on this matter was like that of one crying in the wilderness, and I am glad that honorable members generally are now inclined to regard the matter as urgent. We have been told by the Minister of Defence that something is doing. As I said yesterday, he has given the pious direction to private firms that they are expected to do something. I know a good deal of the movement to facilitate the output of shells in Australia. The Defence Department did not take the initiative as it should have done. Private persons had to nag at the Department to induce it to move, and when the Government of New South Wales asked to be supplied with drawings necessary to make the type of gun that was needed, and for a model, they were told that there was only one gun in Australia, and that could not be spared. Eventually, when it was explained that th© gun would be borrowed only, so that measurements and drawings of it could be made, and that this work would be done within twenty-four hours, the gun was handed over, whereupon a whole office staff was put on the job, and the drawings were made within twenty-four hours. I am glad that the Government of New South Wales has shown a sense of responsibility and practical patriotism in this matter. We are not doing much in the manufacture of munitions, because the price offered for shell bodies is not high enough. Ithas been demonstrated to me that they cannot be made for the money. As was well said to-night by the honorable member for Wimmera, the Government might well divert a great part of the money that is being voted, to encourage a number of private firms to undertake this work. Nothing is more important than that the war shall be brought to a successful issue, and that speedily. I strongly advocate special effort in this direction. But the Government, Instead of helping in the process of annihilating the enemy, has emissaries abroad who are malting foolish suggestions, and are thus retarding progress. The proposal to remove the Small Arms Factory to Canberra, with which I have had to deal ad nauseam, has interfered with the only manufacturing centre which is contributing to the supply of munitions.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter, as it is set down on the business paper to be dealt with.
– I am merely mentioning it in support of my statement that the Government, instead of facilitating the output of arms and ammunition, has thwarted effort in that direction, and to show that Ministers are not alive to the necessity for the manufacture of deathdealing weapons. When folly stalks abroad in the land, honorable members should, with one voice, reprove it.
– The Government will not even use machinery that is lying idle, and could be adapted for the making of munitions.
– I have dealt with this matter time and again. Ministers will stand disgraced if some of the money that has been voted is not applied to the production of arms and munitions.
– One is always glad to hear the honorable member for Macquarie castigating the Government as he does so frequently.
– I do not do it for the right honorable member’s delectation.
– I am quite sure of that. But I would like to remind the honorable member that one vote is worth a ton of it.
– If the honorable member moves that some of this money be spent on munitions I will support him.
– I fancy my honorable friend would make several calculations before he did. We know him quite well by this time. The Treasurer has told us that for the ten months our total estimated outgoing is £46,000,000. At that rate the total expenditure for the year will be a little over £55,000,000 for all purposes, excluding special appropriations, which amount to £12,000,000. If £12,000,000 is deducted from a total expenditure of £74,000,000 there will be a balance of £62,000,000. The Treasurer has just stated that our outgoing for the ten months is at the rate of £55,000,000 a year, so that there is a discrepancy somewhere. I have no doubt the figures can be put right on analysis, but they do not appear to be correct as they were given in the carefully-prepared statement by the Treasurer the other day, and as given in the total amount of the Supply Bills now submitted. What the explanation isI do not know. In the meantime I call attention to the item in the Supply Bill for defence, which amounts to £14,250.000. That is at the rate of £7,000,000 a month, or £84,000,000 a year.
– The honorable member cannot multiply £14,000,000 for the two months by six in order to get the year’s total. We spent only £5.000,000 during the quarter commencing July and ending September.
– That is what I wanted to know, because Supply at the rate of £14,000,000 for two months represents a total expenditure of £84,000,000. The explanation the Treasurer now gives puts the matter right. It means that the item includes a number of deferred payments.
– Hear, hear!
– I am not going to criticise the honorable member in any unfriendly spirit, because he has not had time to make himself conversant with all the details of his widely-ramified Department, and I only refer to the matter now so that the House may be informed exactly what the country’s obligations are. If we are voting Supply at more than the ordinary rate of expenditure for the year, we may find ourselves under the necessity of having to deal with heavy supplementary Estimates at the end of the year. What members want to know is whether the expenditure is within the year’s estimates, or whether the estimates are being exceeded. Had the late Treasurer been here we should have expected him to tell the country what effort he was making to economize on the ordinary expenditure. We cannot expect a statement from the honorable member on that score, though I trust he will look closely into the Estimates when he gets into his stride. There is nothing more subtle or insidious than the way departmental expenditures are piled up, unless strict and careful watch is kept over them. I never knew a Department that did not want a million or two more than it gets. As I have already said, the test is not so much what we can do with as what we can do without, while the war lasts. I should like the honorable member to reconcile the figures quoted in his recent statement with those presented to the House as covering the requirements of the year. His statement that £46,000,000 is required for ten months would indicate a yearly expenditure at the rate of £53,750.000, whereas the outgo should be £74,000,000, less the special appropriations. There will then be some £5,000,000 or £6.000,000 to be accounted for. I suppose, however, we can get no more out of the honorable member. We have done our best, and we shall have to leave him at that. As a last word I hope the Treasurer will devote himself to seeing whether this money is really required for the ordinary purposes of government, and whether it is not possible to greatly restrict the ordinary outgo in order that some of the special taxation imposed for war purposes may be appropriated to the relief of the burden shortly to be imposed upon the people of the country, and the obligations they will have to meet in days to come.
– A few days ago members had the opportunity of discussing the financial situation upon the statement by the Treasurer which was supplementary to the statement made by the ex-Treasurer on 13th August last. I do not think it is necessary for me to deal with the general financial position to-night because of that. Under the present Bill the Trea surer is asking for £15,000,000, £13,000,000 of which is for the Expeditionary Forces, and the balance for other purposes. It is stated that this sum will carry our defence obligations to the end of the year. If it does, I think we may be satisfied. My own opinion is that the future expenditure on the war will be very much larger than it has been in the past. The number of men in the Army is increasing, and is considerably greater than it was when the estimate of £45,000,000- that is £38,000,000 for the Military and £7,000,000 for the Navyas the year’s expenditure, was drawn up in August last. Many more men have enlisted. Men are being enlisted daily, and instead of £45,000,000 being sufficient to cover the obligations of the Expeditionary Forces, I am inclined to think the sum will have to be doubled next year if the war continues. This is the fourth provision we have made for the Expeditionary Forces during the present financial year. Tn the first Supply Bill for 1915-16, £5,000,000 was provided for them; in the second, £12,000,000; and in the third, £5,080,000; while in this case we are asked to vote £13,250,000- making a total of £35,330,000. It was estimated, on 12th August last, that the expenditure on the Expeditionary Forces - including the Navy - for the year would be £46,000,000. If that estimate proves correct, we shall thus need to provide nearly £11,000,000 more to carry us through to the end of the financial year; but, if we are fortunate, the £13,250,000 which we are passing to-night may prove sufficient. In addition to the amount provided for the Expeditionary Forces - including the Navy, and excluding statutory appropriations and new works - a sum of £11,144,393 - including the amount set apart in this Bill - has been voted for other purposes in connexion with the current accounts of the year. We have thus provided for the Expeditionary Forces- - including the Navy - and for other expenditures, including the local expenditure on Defence, a total of £46,474,393. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the figures do not balance, but I think that they will. The statutory payments, which are very large, as well as the provision for new works, must be added.
– Even then there is a difference of £6,000,000.
– The right honorable member must not forget the £6,000,000 that we return to the States.
– I have included those figures.
– But they are not included in the total of £46,474,393 to which I have referred. In respect of new works during the current financial year, we shall have provided for an expenditure of £3,629,686. In discussing this Bill, we have not cast upon us the duty of reviewing the financial position of Australia. We did that only a few days ago; and, seeing that of the expenditure for which this Bill provides £13,250,000 is for the Expeditionary Forces, and £2,295,000 for other purposes of ordinary expenditure, our duty to-night is a very simple one. The Government must have this money in order to keep the Forces at the front properly supplied.
– A good deal has been said regarding the enormous amount which the Treasurer is asking the Committee to grant, and, as one who was in the first Federal Parliament, I feel inclined to rub my eyes and to wonder where I am when I look at these figures. We there dealt, in fear and trepidation, with an annual expenditure of some hundreds of thousands, whereas to-day honorable members seem to deal with an expenditure of many millions as airily as if they had no responsibility in the matter of where the money is to come from, and where it is to go. With the exception of the few words uttered by the Leader of the Opposition, nothing has been said as to the necessity for economy. I am not going to suggest that the people of Australia will expect us to be parsimonious in the expenditure of money for the successful prosecution of the war. They will be prepared, as the ex-Prime Minister said, to give their last shilling in order that the war may be brought to a successful termination ; but they will be prone to ask. and justified in asking, that there shall be some proper supervision over this expenditure. I desire to tell the Treasurer something which, perhaps, he knows already, but which I trust he will keep well in mind, and that is that the system we have adopted is a bad one. While doing our duty by those who are going away to defend us and to maintain the integrity of the Empire, T am most anxious that we should remember also our duty to those who are providing the ways and means which we are at present discussing.
– Can the honorable member point out any method by which we might exercise better supervision?
– Yes. The point is that the means we have adopted for securing our supplies in times of peace are bad enough, but in time of war are absolutely ruinous. The process of requisition and of supply from either the Ordnance or Supply Department is radically wrong, and should not be allowed to continue. An ordinary business man would never think of following the methods that are being perpetuated by the Defence Department. ‘ The method of absolving from responsibility those on whom, undoubtedly, is cast the responsibility of the expenditure on stores, by enabling them to shelter themselves behind the excuse that they have nothing whatever to do with the securing of those stores, can result only in wicked extravagance, ruinous loss, and very great danger of interference with efficiency. I do not know whether the Treasurer wants anything more than that : but I think I have said sufficient to indicate to him that he has among his many heavy duties one that will require all his energy, tact, and judgment to adequately discharge. The method to which I have referred is obsolete and extravagant. It is full of circumlocution and red-tape. There is no short-cut for those anxious to do the work. In many cases the system has become so intolerable to men who desire to have supplies tha! t ley are paying out of their own pockets for the things they urgently require rather than wait until the various branches of the Department satisfy the demands made upon them. That is the position which a cursory examination of the Defence Department discloses, and it exists to a much greater extent than I have indicated. I am sure that the Treasurer, with his zeal and his desire to do his duty to the people of Australia, will do his best to put an end to a system which, although it might have advantages in time of peace, when a leisurely course is possible, and with proper scrutiny is absolutely necessary, yet in such a time as this is opposed to all ordinary business procedure, and will involve us in a terrible amount of expenditure, which, with proper precautions, could undoubtedly be avoided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1915-16, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £419,150.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I am loth to interpose again in this debate, but wish to call attention to what I regard as a very serious matter. I refer to the dilatoriness shown in the construction of rifle ranges and in the provision made for rifle shooting generally. If there be one thing which is urgent more than another in this time of war, it is the provision of facilities for rifle practice. Yet very little, if any, additional facilities are being offered for this important arm of defence. To-day, the Minister of Defence has an opportunity that, perhaps, will not occur again in a life-time. Always the amount of money available for expenditure on the construction of rifle ranges and the provision of facilities for rifle practice in ordinary times of peace is limited. But to-day our men are going to the front without having had sufficient practice with their rifles.
– Some have not had any.
– I am afraid that statement is only too true. If the war in Flanders has taught us one thing more than another it is the need that still exists for expert rifle shooting, as nothing prevented the Germans from breaking through to the coast in the early stages of the war but the fifteen rounds of rapid fire from the rifles of the British Army. That is made very clear in the little book called. The Battles of Flanders, by Edmund Dane, in which he says that 5,000 British troops kept at bay for several days 100,000 of the flower of the German Army. That was done mainly by the expert rifle shooting of the British soldiers.
– They had good machine guns.
– Indeed they had not. Machine guns were what they lacked. It was the expert rifle shooting that kept the Germans back, and whatever may be done with machine guns - and I admit their worth - the time is not yet when we can dispense with the individual rifle shots. But what are we doing in Australia ? Let me state a concrete case, which I believe to be typical. In front of my residence, near Sydney, there is a rifle range, which, being in a deep gully, is very safe. I think it is equipped with two targets.
– Have the members of the club any rifles?
– They have some rifles, but there are only two targets to supply the men of the whole district with practice. The result is that the members of the club have a chance to shoot once in three months. Men are being sent to the front without practice. There, at a convenient place, is a range on which to erect targets, but I cannot induce the Department to put the targets there. There is no excuse for that neglect. The construction of targets is work which any ordinary man can do, but it is not being done. The trouble is becoming very serious. A little money spent in this way, and a little effort by the Defence Department, would increase immensely the efficiency of the Forces that are being sent to the front, I am afraid, all too sadly inefficient in the use of a most important arm of our Defence system. I should like to know from the Minister of Home Affairs - for his Department is responsible - why we cannot double and treble the facilities for rifle shooting throughout Australia. There is no lack of money in these days. The House is prepared to vote the Government any number of millions of pounds, if necessary, for that very important service. Why do these works hang fire from year to year, when all that is necessary to make the required provision is the work of a few extra men. For the last three years I have been trying to increase the capacity of the range to which I refer, and I sup pose my trouble is that of almost every member in the House. There stands a range requiring only the erection of targets, but year after year, in this war time, men cannot get rifle shooting practice, because the Department is so sadly lacking in this regard.
– The trouble is with the Home Affairs Department rather than the Department of Defence.
– Somewhere between the two Departments this fatal deficiency inheres. If steps are not taken soon to correct this state of affairs the matter will become a public scandal.
– We will get a hustle on.
– If there were any difficulties connected with the construction of targets, I could understand the delay, but there are not. Yet year after year the Government refuse to do anything.If the Department has not sufficient inspectors or workmen it should engage more. There is all this imperatively vital work to be done, yet we cannot get any of it put in hand, no matter how hard we try. This is a matter affecting no particular district, nor does it relate to ordinary rifle practice in time of peace. This accommodation has become doubly urgent and all-important, and I should like to hear from the Minister a definite statement that he intends to do something to remedy a national neglect.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has complained that there is a rifle range in his electorate which has not been fitted up. A much more serious grievance exists. There are properly equipped rifle ranges, and men anxious to practise on them, but they have no rifles. Is it not a farce to ask men te practise with rifles that are entirely out of date ? About a week ago I was present at the opening of a rifle range where a number of men were anxious to practise, but there were only available three modern rifles, and they were privately owned. All the other rifles had been called in by the Defence Department. That was a perfectly proper thing to do if the Department wanted those rifles for the troops, in order to give them an opportunity of practising before going to the front. But on the Estimates Parliament voted a Considerable amount of money for thecontrol of rifle clubs and the provision of ammunition,yet the members of clubs have no rifles with which to practise. I admit that ammunition is issued to the clubs now, although it was not before. The bungle that took place in regard to the ammunition was about the worst ever made by any military authority in the world. There were men crying out for ammunition, and the Department was replying that it had no ammunition. The rifle club at Camperdown had no ammunition, although eight or ten cases were lying in the local drill hall. After a considerable amount of delay, the Department decided that the ammunition belonged to the Light Horse, but, owing to most of its members having enlisted, that corps had practically ceased to exist. Ultimately, after doing the rounds of the Department, I succeeded in getting four cases out nf the ten made available for use by the rifle club. It is useless to spend money on rifle ranges, and in distributing ammunition, when the rifle club members are without rifles. Another matter to which I desire to refer is the resumption of land which, I admit, is absolutely necessary for Defence purposes, and so forth, and the failure of the Department to make any attempt to settle for the land. Liabilities in respect of land acquired for rifle ranges were left by the last Labour Government as a legacy to their successors. The Labour Government were anxious to produce a good balancesheet and say that they had paid for everything, although there were a number of these outstanding accounts. I know that the acquisition of land is very difficult to arrange, but cannot the Minister take the matter in hand, and ascertain if some of the outstanding accounts cannot be settled ? I do not say that the price some of the owners are asking is fair, but why should not the Department attempt to balance its ledger, and settle all accounts promptly? When the honorable member for Darwin was in office on the last occasion, it was even then the practice to resume land and make no attempt to settle for it.
– I was always ready to settle, but I could not getthe owners to meet me and talk business.
-I know rifle ranges in respect of which the Department absolutely refusedto make any settlement, although the owners were asking a fair price. The accounts were allowed to be carried on into the nextyear, with the result that the succeeding Government had to settle them.
– A man can settle with me at any hour of the day if the deal is square.
– It is much better for the Department to settle its accounts as it proceeds. When people are asking too much for the land, they are not likely to come to the Minister to have a settlement effected.
– Then it is a question of compulsory acquisition.
-The land is there, and owned by the Defence Department, but the Department makes no attempt to pay for it.
– A certain time must be allowed to elapse before the compulsory sections of the Act are put into effect.
– The necessary time has elapsed, but there is not likely to be any settlement in these cases, because the difference between the ideas of the owners and the Department respectively in regard to the price of the land is considerable. In those circumstances the owner is not likely to approach the Department. Unless the Home Affairs Department takes steps to arrive at a settlement, the account will remain open until a new Government comes into office, and the owner will wait for a good opportunity to settle at a price satisfactory to himself. I am now referring to a case in which, in my opinion, the land is worth about one-third of what was asked for it; and I think there ought to be some way of bringing the owner and the Minister together, so that a reasonable price might be arrived at. However, rifle clubs are most important to us at the present time, representing, as they do, an arm of defence that costs the least of all. Wherever possible, such clubs ought to be established, and the members supplied with rifles. It is no good putting up more ranges if there are no rifles; and I hope that the Department will do its best to send at least half-a-dozen to each of the clubs. I am not suggesting for one moment that the equipment of the Forces going to the front should be curtailed, for these men ought to have every opportunity for practice, and should he able to take their rifles away with them. I do not know whether or not it is a fact, but I have been told that many troops are leaving for the front without rifles.
– That is so.
– Then the position is a serious one; but the difficulty could be overcome if the Small Arms Factory were put on a business footing, so as to enable it to increase its output.
– I should like to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Corangamite. As to the rifle clubs in my own district, it would seem that the Departments are trying to put every obstacle in the way of the members getting the rifle practice they desire. When the new rifle was introduced, the longer range made it necessary to have some alteration in the ranges in the interests of the safety of the public, and for this further land was required. This gave the excuse - I use the term advisedly - for further delays, which have continued ever since. I know of a case in which a permissive occupancy is sought of Crown lands in order to enable a range to be opened for practice; but for months and months there has been a game of battledore and shuttlecock between the Defence Department and the Department of Home Affairs, with the latter of which, I think, the matter now rests. I can assure the Minister of Home Affairs that the members of the particular club to which I refer are sick and tired of going once a week for ordinary drill, which is all they have to do, in view of the fact that for over twelve months they have not been allowed to go on the range. In my opinion this is a scandal, for these men have their own rifles, and are anxious to use them. Many members of this club have gone to the front, and I am sure that they are less effective because of the inaction of the Department. The Government cannot absolve themselves from responsibility, and the State Government are also implicated. The State member for the district, who belongs to the Labour party, has been indefatigable in his efforts to have the matter dealt with by the State; and I am assured that when the case does reach the Lands Department it will be settled in five minutes. So long, however, as the matter remains with the Department of Home Affairs nothing can be done. I hope that the reproach, which is only too well deserved, will be removed from the Commonwealth Department, because rifle clubs represent the cheapest and most effective way of training soldiers.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (DarwinMinister of Home Affairs) r 10.201. - I ask honorable members who have any such troubles as those presented to-night to either send a wire or a letter to me direct, at the Department of Home Affairs. At present I am there at my table like a muzzled dummy in the absence of my digest. I do not know anything that is going on, and I shall not know unless honorable members complain. I may say that when I was previously Minister of Home Affairs I saved Australia £197,000 in the purchase of land. In this connexion I had a savings book, but I find that it has also gone. Always, as Minister of Home Affairs, I have been prepared to give every man a square deal. I settled for Duntroon in twenty minutes when there was a probability of a lawsuit. I got Mr. Campbell to come from England, and the day after the formal inauguration of the Federal Territory we settled the matter.
– You gave him too much, perhaps.
– Wo were both satisfied at £35,000 less than the price asked. Is it the idea of honorable members that a public trustee for the Commonwealth should pay more than would a private individual? I can only say that, as trustee for this country, I shall not pay more than I would pay privately as King O’Malley. I shall make the same kind of bargain for the State that I would for myself. I stepped into office only last week, and I at once endeavoured to know what was going on.
– Surely the Minister does not suggest that his predecessor did not leave the place in tip-top order?
– I- do not make any charge against either the honorable member or my predecessor. I only know that the Minister’s digest, of which I was so proud, is gone. I repeat that if honorable. members know of any citizens who are not getting a square deal, they ought to quietly write to me, when I shall see that all the necessary business is done at once.
– I desire to know from the Treasurer whether, included in either of the Bills before ns, there is any provision made for an extension of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, and whether any part of the proposed expenditure is to be on the construction of an arsenal at Canberra? I should further like to know whether any provision is being made in these Estimates for the manufacture of machine-guns, shells, and other munitions? We hear much about the necessity for economy at the present time, and we all recognise that we are going through a period of great financial stringency. We are ready to give any money that is necessary for the production of munitions, or to help in the prosecution of the war in any way, but if we think that there is an expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds, which is not required for war purposes, there ought to be the closest scrutiny.
– Is it the intention of the Government to continue spending large sums of money on the ordinary compulsory training of our boys? I observe that there is an item of £80,000 for this purpose; and I think that the money could be much better spent in drilling recruits for the war. At the present time we want to train men, and not boys.
.- In the Bill before us there is no provision made for the Small Arms Factory, and, in the second Bill, we do not deal with any Home Affairs Estimates for new works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4’agreed to.
.- The Government have issued instructions to the Deputy Postmasters-General to curtail expenditure wherever possible, and, in many country places, this curtailment has taken the shape of closing receiving offices. According to the financial statement made by the Prime Minister some time ago, the total expenditure is to be increased by something like £9,000,000, and yet we find a paltry saving of this kind suggested, at the expense of country post-offices. However, I hope that the people of the country will be afforded nil the postal futilities that they undoubtedly deserve. Up to’ the inception of the war we were making provision for a permanent Defence Force, and I think we had a standing Army of about 40,000 men, supposed to be equipped and ready for war in case of invasion; but I am now given to understand that our equipment is not nearly adequate to supply that force, and that munitions also are very scarce. I have been informed that but a small percentage of these men, on whose training we have spent a large amount of money, has gone to the front, and as I know that many officers who are willing to go to fight for the Empire were prevented from doing so, I hope that Ministers will defend our Permanent Forces, who have volunteered for active service, from the charge of having cold feet.
.- I submitted a question to the Prime Minister to-day in regard to British subjects resident in the Commonwealth having been deprived of their electoral rights. I was speaking of Sikhs and Gurkhas. The Constitution provides that where these subjects were entitled at the inauguration of Federation to vote under a State law they became automatically eligible to be on the Commonwealth electoral roll. The Prime Minister asked me to cite some special cases in which these British subjects have been deprived of their electoral privileges. I have two cases - those of Sutchait Singh and Lucca Singh. The former has resided twenty-five years in Australia; he is a property-owner, he served five years in the Indian Army at Singapore, and only recently his nephew, Suntoke Singh, fell fighting for the Empire on the western front. I draw a distinction between those subjects of the Empire not of a white race who are coming into the Commonwealth and those who are at present resident in Australia ; but I consider that, in view of recent happenings, it is due to us, in a spirit of fair play, to review our electoral legislation in regard to these people. To-day the Prime Minister turned the subject, and said that, at the termination of the war, he would see that all naturalized citizens would be required to re-declare their fealty to the Empire; but that issue is beside the question I raised. I was speaking of British-born subjects, and I ask the Cabinet to give earnest consideration to people who have done a great deal more for the Empire by risking their lives for it than any one in this chamber.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.I suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs that he might very well extend the scope of the Commission appointed to inquire into questions affecting arsenals, in order to enable it to proceed beyond India and inquire into the management of British and French arsenals. Probably the finest field-guns in the world are produced in France. It would be a pity to send away officers on a Commission of this kind unless their investigations are to be very thorough.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– Much has been said during the sitting as to the small amount of work being done in Australia in regard to the supply of munitions of war, but sometimes we are inclined to overlook the very fine work that is being performed. I refer particularly to the supply of small arms ammunition, in the manufacture of which in the Maribyrnong district there are 2,000 people employed. This Factory has supplied more than the British authorities lay down as necessary for the troops who have left our shores, and they have also supplied the requirements of the Botha Government in its campaign against the Germans in South Africa. Great improvements have been effected. Quite recently a cap factory has been established, and I understand that the complete cartridge is now being manufactured in Australia.
.I wish to draw the attention of Ministers to the necessity for taking steps to commence the building of submarines, which seems to me to represent a branch of naval work that must be developed very soon, particularly as not a great deal of machinery will be required, as compared with what is necessary for the building of cruisers.
.- In view of the announced decision to congregate certain types of work at Canberra, I suggest that the Minister of Home Affairs should look into the question of the increased cost of output which will be occasioned by the necessarily high cost of fuel. At Lithgow, 5 cwt. of coal is consumed in turning out one rifle, and as the price of coal at Lithgow is about 6s. 6d. a ton, compared with £1 2s. 6d. at Canberra, 4s. will be added to the cost of each rifle through the removal of the Small Arms Factory to the Federal Territory. This difficulty will be increased enormously in the matter of ordinary factory output. I ask the Minister to look into this matter particularly, because I do not think it was a phase that received sufficient consideration from his predecessor in the office.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and money be made for the purpose of a Bill for an Act to provide for compensation to be paid to the widow of Major-General Sir William Throsby Bridges, K.C.B., C.M.G.
The Government wishes it to be distinctly understood that the Bill which it is proposed to introduce is not to be considered a precedent, and’ that every similar case will be dealt with on its merits. The late Major-General Bridges commenced his association with the Australian Military Forces in 1888, when he received a commission in the New South Wales Artillery. His career is summed up in the Army Officers’ List for 1914 in these words -
Bridges, W. T. (Brigadier-General, InspectorGeneral). South African War, 1899-1900. Operations in Cape Colony, south of Orange River, 1899-1900, including action at Colesberg. Relief of Kimberley. Operations in the Orange Free State, February to May, 1900, including operations at Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Dreifontein, and Karee Siding. Queen’s Medal, with three clasps.
Major-General Bridges was responsible for the organization and training of the First Australian Division, the largest body of troops ever despatched from these shores on active service. He received his death at the front on his way to visit the firing line. The report of the occurrence states that at one point the path was close in the rear of the line, and rather exposed to the fire of enemy sharpshooters. General Bridges, it says, was usually careless of his personal safety almost to the point of recklessness, and from the first day when he made hia daily inspection of the Australian line utterly ignored personal danger, and would stand up in full view of the enemy’s position.
– The Treasurer has not mentioned the most important feature of Major-General Bridges’ career, his connexion with the Military College at Duntroon, which is one of the greatest assets Australia possesses at the present time.
– The Australian Military Journal says of the late General -
He was regarded by General Sir Ian Hamilton and Lieut.-General Sir W. R. Birdwood, commanding the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, as a leader of conspicuous genius. Second, perhaps, only to his pride in his division was his pride in the Royal Military College at Duntroon. Its first Commandant, he set lofty ideals, both by example and precept, to the cadets. That those ideals were attained is abundantly proved by the gallant behaviour of those cadets who were granted commissions in the Force, a number of whom have already met a soldier’s death. The name of the first Commandant is indissolubly linked with that of the Royal Military College. General Bridges died as he would wish to, leaving behind him a brilliant example of devotion to duty.
It is proposed that the widow of MajorGeneral Bridges shall receive, in lieu of a pension of £156 and £13 for one child, the sum of £4,500. Had Major-General Bridges not gone to the front, and had he been killed in Australia by, say, a fall from a horse, his widow would have been entitled, under the regulations, to three times the amount of his salary of £1,500 a year, namely, £4,500, which is the amount that it is proposed to give to her. The Minister of Defence has informed me that no other officer or soldier is in receipt of a payment so large that it would be profitable to his widow to accept a lump sum equal to three years’ pay in lieu of the pension provided for.
.- I am sorry that the Ministry has made what I regard as an unfair proposition.
– It. might well have been more generous.
– I contend for equality of treatment. I should not object to the proposition if the relatives of all members of the Military Forces were to be treated alike. Doctors have given up practices worth £2,000 and £3,000 a year to go to the war, and if they are killed on active service their widows will receive only the pensions provided for by the Act, no consideration being paid to their earning power prior to enlisting. Many privates have given up positions worth £4 and £5 a week to serve in the Army at 5s. a day.
– A doctor earning £2,000 or £3,000 a year should be able to make some provision for his family.
– That remark applies to the case under discussion.
– In this case, the high salary came to the officer only a short time before his death.
– The Pensions Act takes away all rights to compensation possessed prior to enlistment. MajorGeneral Bridges volunteered for active service knowing that if he fell his widow would receive a pension of only £156 a year.
– No. He had left Australia before the Pensions Bill was introduced.
– The right honorable member promised at the outbreak of the war to bring in a Pensions Bill, and I suppose that the Bill which was brought in was framed on lines which he would have followed.
– Would the honorable member make a man’s widow lose because he went to the war ?
– No. I am going to move an amendment which will not prevent this payment being made, but will cause others to be dealt with similarly.
– Other widows would be better off under the pensions scheme.
– Then they will not avail themselves of my proposal, and the Minister will be able to support it. We should give every widow the opportunity to accept a lump sum.
– This money is to be invested in the war loan.
– The Bill does not say so; and I do not know how the widow of Major-General Bridges can be compelled to so invest it. Ministers have had no time to deal with other hard cases arising out of the war. A Ballarat doctor was ordered by the military authorities to look after cases of meningitis, and thus contracted the disease himself, and died of it ; but because he had not enlisted for active service his widow and children cannot get a pension, although had he failed to obey the order to go into Camp he would have been tried by court martial for disobedience of orders.
– That is wrong.
– Ministers have known of the case for weeks, but have done nothing. A sergeant-major who wished to go to the front was ordered to go into one of the Camps to train recruits. This brought about his death, but because he was not on active service his widow and children cannot get pensions.
– Such cases should be remedied.
– They are not being . remedied. The Government cannot find time to bring in a Bill to deal with them. Another case that I might mention is that of a young Flight-Lieutenant, whose parents spent every shilling they had to educate him for the medical profession. Just when he had gained his medical diploma he enlisted, and was sent to the Persian Gulf, where he is believed to have been killed. Jb.is parents are badly in need of assistance, and at the time of his death he had just gained a position in which he could assist them. They can get no compensation from the Defence Department. We have before us an outrageous proposal.
– Why is it outrageous ?
– This widow is entitled only to a pension of £156 a year.
– Had MajorGeneral Bridges been killed in Australia his widow would have been entitled to the sum it is proposed to give to her.
– Others besides Major-General Bridges have made sacrifices for their country. We should not treat favoured individuals in the manner in which we are not prepared to treat all. I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “the widow of
Sir William Throsby Bridges is already provided for under the War Pensions Act, and as such Act makes provision for the dependants of soldiers according to rank this Committee cannot agree with any appropriation that nullifies the existing law and makes unfair discriminations in order to give exceptional grants to favoured individuals.”
– Is this amendment in order ? I would point out, for one thing, that its terms are quite inaccurate. The Bill does not nullify the present Act. It does not interfere with it in the slightest degree, and I submit, on that account, that the amendment is out of order. There may be some relevancy in the amendment elsewhere, but it submits no alternative proposition. I should like your ruling, Mr. Chairman, before we proceed further.
– The Standing Orders make provision that in Committee an amendment may be made by the omission of certain words with a view of inserting other words. The point the honorable gentleman has taken is that portion of the words proposed to be inserted makes the declaration that the Bill will nullify certain Acts already in existence. I am not in a position to give any interpretation as to whether the Bill does or does not nullify these particular Acts. They are not stated here, and, under the circumstances, I shall rule the amendment in order.
– Have you considered that the amendment is a purely negative proposal?
– The amendment is in order.
– As the honorable member for Bourke appears to be so much disturbed over the point, I will waive it for the time being, I have listened to the speech by the honorable member for Ballarat, and it seems to me that his grievance is not that General Bridges’ widow is not entitled to this sum, but that other people are as much entitled to payments of this description
– And the honorable member, rightly, has been pressing for them.
– The honorable member’s point is not that this proposal is unjust, but that other cases are not put upon the same footing.
– Put them all on one footing.
– It does not matter at all to the honorable member how unjust the whole thing might be.
– I do not care a rap, so long as they are all on one footing.
– Put them all together, and then the honorable member will not care how the Treasury is emptied. He does not care how unjust his amendment is. So long as he can get something of what is going for his constituents, then all will be right.
– The equality of justice, or mercy, or crookery, whichever you are going for !
– May I suggest that the honorable member could begin in many other directions if he is going in for “ equality of justice,” as he calls it, in the abstract?
– How about taking a little of the quality of mercy ?
– That would be fair, so long as there is an equality.
– Where is the standard that the honorable member would set up? Equality, of course, would put General Bridges’ widow on a pension of £52 a year. Is that what the honorable member means?
– I would give a pension of £156. Apply the principle contained in the Compensation Act.
– Then there is justice in differentiating between the amounts to be paid in this case. The justice is not in equality, but in a fair differentiation. On the honorable member’s own showing, his objection is purely one of degree. The proposition before us is to give General Bridges’ widow and children about £56 a year more than they are getting to-day. Reduced to a nutshell, that is the proposition. If the honorable member will figure it out. the income from the sum of £4,500 will give this lady and her family £50 or £60 more than they would get under the Pensions Act.
– What is unfair, then, in allowing other widows to take a lump sum ?
– If they were given three years’ salary, they would soon be badly off.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that he has given his whole case away by suggesting that there should be a basis similar to that contained in the Workmen’s Compensation Act for payment of war pensions.
– The Pensions Act was based on the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– The Workmen’s Compensation Act provides for tha payment of three years’ wages to a widow in case her husband is killed. That is less than we are doing here - giving the widow of this distinguished man less than a three-years’ salary.
– No; we are not. We are giving his widow three years’ pay based on what he earned prior to the war. We are not giving that to anybody else.
– My own impression is that we are giving less than three years’ salary based on what he received after the war.
– We are- giving him a lot more.
– No; not so much.
– We are basing the payment on what he got prior to the war.
– When the honorable member is knocked off one point, he immediately hops on to another. Really, his whole point is that somebody in Ballarat is not getting quite what he thinks they ought.
– They are not getting anything.
– Therefore, General -Bridges ought to get nothing. I would suggest to the honorable member that, if he wants to begin the practice of that kind of equal justice, he need not go outside his own party. May I remind him that he is just going to pay £5,000 a year to a man in his own party for services to this country that at least are not superior to those of the late General Bridges. The honorable member should let that kind of argument alone.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to the High Commissioner ?
– His salary was already fixed.
– I am not saying he is getting one farthing too much. I am talking about equal justice; that is the thing we are challenged about now. In the case of General Bridges, we are doing but a modicum of justice to the widow of a man who has served his country well, rendering it more distinguished service, perhaps, than any other man now living. If equal justice is to be done, the honorable member should consider this matter in the light of the services the late General Bridges gave to his country. If the honorable member bears that in mind, he will remember that General Bridges was not permitted to earn thousands a year. Until a year or two ago, his salary was £800 a year, and he had to maintain himself in London; he had to attend manoeuvres on the Continent on that salary, with an additional allowance of £150 a year, doing exactly the same as British Generals who were being paid about three times that amount. The result of that is, I believe, that now his family is suffering financially. Those are the plain facts.
I should like also to stress the point that this action is not likely to be applied to anybody else in the Army. It is not a matter that can be construed into a precedent, as the Minister has said. Honorable members know quite well, notwithstanding much more liberal pension schemes in the armies of the world, that the leader is always specially treated by every democratic Parliament. Parliaments as democratic as this always make large grants to the people who render them signal and special service.
– Democratic Parliaments! Where are they?
– Grants similar to this are made by nearly every Parliament in the world.
– Everywhere. The honorable member will fail to find a Parliament that does not make them.
– He will fail to find one that is democratic.
– Does the honorable member think this the only democratic Parliament in the world 1
– It is not too good.
– I am beginning to agree with the honorable member. The position, however, is a very simple one. We are proposing to give this distinguished man’s widow an amount not quite equivalent to three years of her late husband’s salary for the loss of his life, just as is done in every other walk of life. Under your Workmen’s Compensation Acts you give the widow of a man who is killed while following his ordinary occupation a sum equal to three years’ salary. MajorGeneral Bridges, when he went to the war, was entitled, in addition to a pension, to twelve months’ leave of absence on full pay. Another soldier went out for the service of his country in the full possession of all his faculties, and my honorable friends opposite did not demur to voting him twelve months’ pay. The widow of Major-General Hoad received a sum similar to this. Major-General Hoad was simply doing his duty in peace time, and my honorable friends opposite did not object to that grant. They thought it was a fair thing. They viewed in the same light the grant to BrigadierGeneral Gordon. Here we have the case of a man who gave his life to his country. He rendered distinguished service above that of the ordinary military man, and yet some honorable members opposite decline to put his widow on the same footing as these others. That is the way in which the honorable member for Ballarat’s ideas of equal justice will receive their best illustration. Nothing that we can do for these people is too much, so far as we can afford it; but we shall do no injustice to the widow of any soldier in the ranks by voting Major-General Bridges’ widow this sum. The honorable member, I venture to say, will not find a soldier who has been at Gallipoli that will say the Parliament did wrong in voting this money.
– How does the right honorable member know that?
– Is this the Minister of External Affairs interjecting in this way?
– I am asking only a simple question.
– And the honorable member asks it, as he generally does, in a very simple way. Is he, or is he not, in favour of this grant? One does not expect such interjections from a responsible Minister. Major-General Bridges was not an ordinary man in any sense of the word, and should not, and cannot, be treated, on any lines of justice, as an ordinary man. He was responsible for the efficiency of those Forces that have won for Australia renown throughout the length and breadth of the whole world. He devoted his life to the service of the Australian soldier; and, in my judgment, if we could poll to-day, the whole of our soldiers, and the whole of the service, we should find them voting, to a man, for this grant and very much more. This case stands by itself. We are treating this man’s widow far more illiberally than the widow of any man of similar rank, who happens to lose his life in the British Army, will be treated. Let us treat General Bridges’ widow as the widows of other distinguished generals who lose their lives will be treated. Here was a man distinguished amongst the many distinguished generals who have fallen, and there is not one of them whose widows and families will not be treated more generously than we are proposing to treat his family. I hope that my honorable friends who have opposed this grant will be satisfied with what they have done. They can do no good for the soldiers in whose interests they speak by persisting in the course they are taking. They may injure this case, but they will not better their own. I, therefore, beg of them to let this case stand on its merits. I speak warmly on this question, because I was in intimate association with MajorGeneral Bridges at the onset of his career in the new Australian Army. I had the honour and privilege of appointing him to his command of the Military College. If those who are objecting to this proposal knew as much as I do of his selfsacrificing devotion to duty they would not hesitate to vote this sum. Let it be said to his credit that he never valued money. When I offered him that position, at an increase of 50 per cent, in his salary, he was not anxious to take it. He had not been long in London, and although he was receiving there only £800 a year he was not at all anxious to accept the tempting offer that I made him. He did not value the monetary side of the position, and never did throughout his life. The result is that his widow and family are in greater need than they would have been had he looked after their interests from this mercenary point of view. I am most anxious that we should not develop a wrangle over this matter, or make invidious comparisons. This case stands by itself. I hope it will be so regarded, and that we shall mete out this small modicum of justice to the widow and family of one of the most distinguished soldiers who has fallen on any of the fronts in connexion with the operations now proceeding in various parts of Europe. He stands side by side, and will compare favorably, with the best generals, and we are not treating his widow and family liberally in any sense of the word in the amount we are proposing to vote.
.- The right honorable member for Parramatta has said that the High Commissioner receives a salary of £3,000, and an allowance of £2,000 for expenses ; but I can see no analogy between that and the case now before us. One is a question of salary; the other a question of compensation. I am not insensible to the very high merits of the late Major-General Bridges, and I should be quite willing to support this grant provided the Minister was prepared to do equal justice to all others. The pension rates under the War Pensions Act, in many directions, are inadequate, and the provision which has been made for the widow of the late Major-General Bridges is anything but sufficient to provide her with the necessaries of life. While I realize that, I would remind honorable members that the provision made for the mothers and widows of privates in the ranks, who have been killed at the front, is also wholly inadequate. In many centres, mothers, who were practically dependent on their sons who have been killed at the front, are receiving a pension as low as 5s. a week. The Minister paid a very high eulogy to the late MajorGeneral Bridges; but there are other heroes - sons of Australia whose bones are bleaching to-day on Gallipoli - who are equally worthy of the same eulogium. Are not the wives and mothers of those men worthy of equal consideration? I am quite willing to vote for this grant, but I want the Ministry to agree that the widows and mothers of all other fighters for the Empire shall receive equal consideration.
– The honorable member asks that each shall be given a sum equal to three years’ pay.
– No; in this case the compensation is equal to a pension for thirty years.
– Does the honorable member think it is possible to do that?
– If it is done for one it should be done for all.
– The honorable member wants the widow of a private who is killed at the front to get £450 instead of a pension.
– I desire that she shall receive sufficient to maintain her and her children. Women, who have been patriotic enough to allow their sons and their husbands to go to the front, should not be permitted to starve. How is a woman to live on a paltry pension of 5s. or 7s. 6d. per week ?
– Surely where such a pension is granted the recipient has some other income.
– Very little. The war pension conditions are too drastic. We should be more considerate in our treatment of these people. The son of a working man, who went into Camp, contracted meningitis, was taken home, and was sent to the hospital at Geelong, where he. died. The father, who was living in the country, had to hire a conveyance to bring home the dead body of his son, and the Defence Department would not even assist him to pay the burial expenses. As a matter of fact, the Department even owes him to-day a portion of the dead man’s salary. Cases of that kind are not brought up in the House, although a man who enlists and dies in Camp gives up his life to his country just as does the man who is killed at the front. There is no proposal to help the mothers or widows of men who have died in thi» way; but special consideration is to be given to the relatives of some one who has been in receipt of a very big salary. I repeat that I am willing to vote for this grant to Lady Bridges, but I demand equal consideration for the widow and mother of every other soldier - be he private or an officer of high rank - who has lost his life in the service of his country.
– I desire briefly to give reasons for the vote I intend to cast. I am certainly going to vote for the proposal of the Government, and if anything was required to convince me of the wisdom of my decision it was supplied by the argument just addressed to the House by the honorable member for Corio. I take it that there can be no equality of payment, as he has advocated, unless there is equality of service. Everything connected with our Government factories today is in entire contradistinction to the view advocated by the honorable member. Honorable members never argue that the workers in those factories should receive the same salaries as the managers who are guiding them. The honorable member for Corio has stated that he is not opposed to voting this sum of money to Lady Bridges, but he wishes the same treatment to be meted out all round - that the widow of the private shall be placed upon an equivalent footing. I guarantee that there is not a widow of any private who will thank him for such an advocacy. A private is in receipt of 6s. a day, equivalent to, approximately, £106 per annum. If his widow were to be given in a lump sum the equivalent of her late husband’s pay for three years she would receive £318.
– You are missing the point that Lady Bridges is to be paid the equivalent of the statutory pension for thirty years.
– I understand that General Bridges was in receipt of a salary of £1,500, and it is proposed to vote to his widow three times that amount. My contention is that the widow of a private would not thank the honorable member for advocating that she should receive three times her husband’s pay in lieu of the pension which Parliament has agreed to pay her. The widow of General Bridges is to be given what I consider a fair amount, having regard to the services he rendered to this country. The honorable member for Corio and the honorable member for Ballarat have argued that the widow of a private should be placed on an equal footing.
– Yes, on the basis of the private’s pension multiplied by thirty.
– Lady Bridges is to receive thirty times £156, which was the pension voted by Parliament.
– If the widow of the private were to be paid £318 in a lump sum, and that amount were invested, she would have an income of £15 per annum instead of a pension of £52 a year.
– The honorable member does not understand the proposal.
– I repeat that it is impossible to have equality of payment when there has not been equality of service. If the honorable member for Corio were ever lucky enough to occupy a seat on the Treasury bench, I venture to say he would not be prepared to do the increased work, and accept the increased responsibility, for the salary he receives as a private member. Honorable members are asking the Committee to do an impossible thing. The late General was responsible for practically the whole military system of this country. He built up the Military College, and bore the entire responsibility of the initial work of the Australian troops in Egypt and at Gallipoli.
– You voted to give him a pension of £156, and we are not objecting to that.
– In the interests of the widows of privates, I am opposing the honorable member’s proposal for equality of treatment, inasmuch as the widows would be the losers by the adoption of it.
.- I hope I shall be always found voting with the side that attempts to treat fairly those on the bottom rung of the social ladder. The Leader of the Opposition put up a good case for his class, but had he been speaking for the privates his speech would have been very different. I recognise the class from which I sprang, and which I represent in this House, and my endeavour will always be to secure justice to them. The argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi is not tenable. The honorable member for Wannon has said that the pension of £156 is a shabby amount to pay to the widow of General Bridges, and the Government have brought down this Bill to give her a measure of extra justice or generosity. I do not intend to say a word against the amount proposed to be paid to Lady Bridges. The honorable member for Indi and the Minister of Customs, however, will persist in speaking of the amount as representing three years’ salary of the late General; they will not realize that it represents also his pension for about thirty years. Would honorable members be prepared to pay to all widows a pension equivalent to three times the amount their husbands had been earning prior to enlisting? Would those honorable members pay three years’ salary to the widow of a man who prior to going ‘to the front, had been earning £900 a year as a bank manager? We have no desire to be shabby towards those who have given up their lives, but merely wish to do what is fair to all.
– It is the honorable member’s own Government who make this proposal.
– The Government are doing what they conceive to be the fair thing, and the object of the amendment is to extend the same generosity to the lowest in the ranks.
– No one knows better than the honorable member that what is proposed by the amendment cannot be done.
– Nevertheless, it sets before the country our idea of the way in which the pensions should be granted. The honorable member for Indi is only clouding the issue when he speaks about the salary basis. A private only becomes a member of the Forces when he enlists at 6s. a day, but that does not represent the salary he was receiving when he decided to sacrifice his position in life for the sake of his country. We all know men who have given up affluent positions in order to go to the war.
– One of my boys in London gave up a good position to take ls. a day.
– Then would it be unfair to suggest that the same enactment should be applied to that boy as to Lady Bridges? We are not asking that the private shall receive the pension of a general, but merely that his pension shall be calculated in the same way if it be thought necessary to be just. We shall not prevent this vote being granted to Lady Bridges, but only submit that justice should be done to the rank and file.
– You never took any steps to increase the salary of the rank and file.
– The honorable member for Henty knows well that the matter was debated on this side, and that there was no stronger advocate on behalf of the widows and mothers than the honorable member for Fawkner. The case made out by the honorable member for Ballarat is a fair one, and I shall vote for the amendment.
.- When this matter was brought up the other evening, I supported a proposal to make this grant to Lady Bridges. At the time I expressed a wish that the Treasurer would, as soon as possible, give some information to honorable members as to the probable cost of our war pensions system. I was of opinion that the wives and mothers of the soldiers who had gone to the front were not being treated fairly, and I am positive that the mothers of the young fellows are not receiving that consideration that honorable members intended. While I desire an amendment of the present Act, and to see that Act more liberally administered, I think there is no justification for opposing the grant to the widow of our late distinguished General. I see no analogy whatever between this case and the cases referred to by the honorable members for Ballarat and Adelaide. Some time ago I brought before the House the case of a private in my constituency who lost his life, and who left behind him a widow and five or six young children. Under the present scale of pensions, by the time the youngest child attains the age of sixteen years the Department will have paid to the widow, in the shape of pensions to herself and children, no less than £2,600.
– The widow’s pension will continue after that event.
– It will.
– Unless she marries again.
– Yes; and if she becomes a widow again the pension will be revived. Seeing that the widow of General Bridges forfeits her claim to the pension provided in the Act, I consider that, in all the circumstances, the action of the Government in making the proposed grant to her is only a reasonable one.
.- I have no objection to a grant of £4,500 to the widow of General Bridges. I should not have the slightest objection if it were made £10,000, or £40,000, or £60,000; but I object to preferential treatment. I object to differential treatment. The Leader of the Opposition has said that Sir William Bridges was a brave and gallant soldier. I do not deny the statement; but is he the only Australian soldier that has fallen on the field of battle in the defence of his country who was brave and gallant? If he was, I quite admit that exceptional treatment should be meted out to the relatives of an exceptional man. But the Treasurer said that the proposed grant to Lady Bridges is not to be taken as a precedent. Is this a matter of injustice or justice? If it is a matter of justice being meted out to the relatives whom General Bridges left behind after giving up his life in the service of his country, why is it not to be taken as a precedent in the case of all persons who may be similarly situated ? Is there any answer to that proposition ? The honorable member for Indi was cleverly led away by members of the Government. The Minister of Trade and Customs,’ who is very astute, said that the amount of, the grant is based on the salary of General Bridges for three years. But what is the motion before the Committee? It is that it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a Bill for an Act” to provide so-and-so. The resolution does not refer to a basis of three years’ salary, but it suspends in connexion with the relatives of this man an Act of Parliament. What does that Act say? It lays down in clear and definite language what pension shall be paid to the relatives of not only the highest soldier in our Forces, but the humblest privates who fall in fighting the battles of their country. That is the law which we carried unanimously twelve months ago. What situation has arisen which should induce honorable members to nullify the Act and say that to the relatives of a particular individual its provisions shall not apply ? The law which the Treasurer proposes to annul says that the pension to the dependants of General Bridges shall be a certain amount per annum, and it is now proposed to provide them with an amount equal to their pension for a term of twenty-nine years. I do not object to honorable members giving the family that amount as a lump sum, or £100. All that I contend is that the right should be extended to the widow or the mother of a private soldier, or a lieutenant, or .a captain, or a colonel. But my honorable friends say that the widow of a private soldier who fell on the field of battle shall not have that privilege. The Treasurer says that the proposed grant to Lady Bridges is not to be taken as a precedent, and other honorable members say that there shall be a distinction between the widow of a general and the widow of a private soldier. The Government propose that, so far as the vast majority of the soldiers who fall on the battlefield are concerned, the pension system which is formulated and enacted, shall apply, but that it shall be made null and void on behalf of the widow of a particular individual. All that I ask is equality of treatment.
– Does not the Pensions Act provide for preferential treatment between a general and a private soldier?
– No. It provides that if a man is a private, or a lieutenant, or a captain, or a colonel, or a general, he shall receive a certain amount as pension; and the Government are now asking the Com- mittee to make the Act a dead letter in one case. If it is intended to commute the pension for the relatives of a particular soldier, let honorable members give an equal privilege to the widow of every soldier. ‘ I can imagine what little heart the Treasurer had for the work which was put before him. He said that, had not General Bridges gone to the war, and had he fallen from a horse here and died, something would have happened. He was so hard up for an argument that he had to imagine a case. Plenty of ‘doctors, lawyers, and men who earned hundreds of pounds a year prior to the war enlisted as private soldiers, and gave up their lives on the field of battle. Why not say that, as regards the compensation to their relatives, the Pensions Act shall he null and void, and that they shall receive a grant based on the annual income of their husbands prior to the war? That would be equity and justice. Take the case of a lawyer, or a doctor, or an architect, who earned an income of £300 or £500 a year before he threw away his chances in life and shouldered arms in the defence of his country. His pay as a private soldier was only 5s. or 6s. a day, and the pension provided for his widow under the Act is a miserable pittance. For such widows there is to be no consideration shown.’ The Minister of Trade and Customs and the Treasurer sit cheek-by-jowl with the members of the Opposition who are trying, not to do an act of justice, but to secure a special privilege to a particular person. Why do they desire to commute a pension of £160 a year into a lump sum of £4,500, based on a life of twenty-nine years? Simply because it will be better for the widow to take £4,500 in a lump sum instead of twelve or fourteen years’ pension at £160 a year. The Minister of Trade and Customs has interjected that the widow of a deceased soldier would lose by commuting her pension to a twenty-nine years’ life. She would if she were a young woman, but if she were between forty and fifty years of age she would gain by accepting a lump sum of £1,500. It is claimed that General Bridges had three clasps. Are those he left behind nim to have this money on that ground? If so, how much would they receive if he had worn five clasps? How much would the dependants of the soldier who had earned the Victoria Cross receive? Will the soldier who has been decorated by his King with the highest award of his country receive greater consideration than those who have not received the Victoria Cross? No; because the .law lays down a system, and formulates a principle, that judges all men on the same basis, and designates the amounts that they shall receive.
– Does the honorable member think that all men who earn the Victoria Cross get it?
– No. I heard a story of one man at the Dardanelles who told another that he was wounded in the ankle by shrapnel; whereupon the other said, Crawl on my back, and I will carry you out of the danger zone.” But the wounded man said, “No; I know all about that game. You will get the Victoria Cross, and I will get shot behind.” But taking things by and large, in nine cases out of ten the man who gets the Victoria Cross richly deserves it. The Treasurer could not defend this proposal on the grounds of justice. He could not reconcile his own conscience to it. In my opinion, social influences have been brought to bear to give to one man that which cannot be given to other individuals.
– The honorable member cannot get over the argument that he was a representative man.
– I do not deny it. When the honorable member for Corio was pointing out that some widows of deceased soldiers received comparatively little in the way of pension, the Minister of Trade and Customs interjected that, in those cases, the widows must have other incomes. Have not the dependants of General Bridges some other source of income? He was not like many men who went to the war and died, leaving behind them destitute wives and children, who, when they go to the Defence Department, are asked all sorts of questions - for example, as to whether they were wholly and solely dependent on the deceased soldier.
– It is the Old-age Pensions Office that deals with these people, and not the Defence Department.
– At any rate, they are subjected to all sorts of interrogations. I ask the Treasurer what special reasons there are for introducing this Bill ? Is it bought forward because of the promptings of honorable members of the Opposition? I notice that, in this matter, Ministers have the unanimous support of honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition has said that General Bridges never valued money. Neither do I, but that is no reason why my children and my grand-children should have money after I die. The deceased general was a most economical man. He did not waste his substance in riotous living. While he’ was at the Military College, he even carted his own firewood. He had £1,200 a year while here, and the Government supplied him with a residence. I am aware that there is some impropriety in introducing the subject into this debate, but it has been introduced, and it is remarkable that the strongest advocates of this measure are to be found among honorable members on the other side of the House. I strongly object to the proposition of the Government.
– I just want to make the position clear, because the honorable member for Indi, after I had launched my motion, cleverly and cunningly stated the position in an incorrect manner.
– That is quite incorrect. I am as much interested in the working man as you are.
– I said we were allowing Lady Bridges to get her pension multiplied by twenty-nine.
– Did you say that in your first speech ?
– That was delivered a long while ago, but I remember it;. and, though while the honorable member was speaking I corrected him in his statement, he persisted in making it again and again, despite the correction. There can be no mistake about the effect of my amendment, which is in the following form: - “ That as the widow of Sir William Throsby Bridges is already provided for under the War Pensions Act, and as such Act makes provision for the dependants of soldiers according to rank, this House cannot agree with any appropriation that nullifies the existing law, and makes unfair discrimination in order to give exceptional grants to favoured individuals.”
We are prepared to vote for the Ministerial proposal, provided similar concessions are extended to dependants of all others who have been or may be killed during this war. I wish, however, first to have the Pensions Act amended. It is a matter of surprise to me that the Govern- ment, so early in their history, should have brought forward a proposition to invalidate an Act of which the Ministry were rightly proud at the time it was passed, believing, as they did, that they were dealing justly by everybody, lt appears now, however, that, because a General happens to be killed, the provisions regarding the widow are found to be too stringent, and they wish to deal more generously with the widow than is provided for in the Pensions Act. I see no valid reason why we should deal with her in a more generous manner than with the dependants of any soldiers who fall on the battlefield. They are all valiant men. The private who volunteers gives his all for his country, and we should not make any class distinctions in our treatment of those whom they may leave behind. In spite of this, however, this supposedly democratic Government come along with their proposition for an amendment of the Act in the direction I have indicated.
– Why the qualification “ this supposedly democratic Government “ ?
– When I see a proposition like this, which I never thought would be one of the first amendments of the Pensions Act, I feel impelled to make some qualification with regard to the democratic tendencies of the Government. In many cases men, while doing useful work in the prosecution of this war, though not at the front, have lost their lives. I think the Treasurer will admit an amendment of the Act should be made to deal with such cases; but we can get no satisfaction from the Minister. Take the case of Dr. Langley, who was ordered by the military authorities to take charge of the Ballarat Camp. He had no option but to go, and he did his duty. He went willingly and gladly, but, unfortunately, a case of meningitis broke out. He did not shirk his duty, but acted as I think all members of that noble profession would act at any time - he risked his life in his efforts to cope with it.
– The medical profession is the best of the lot.
– Yes; if there is one profession that stands above another in the cause of humanity I think it is the medical profession. If any discovery likely to alleviate human suffering is made, we never hear of a patent being taken out for it. It is given to the world at large for the benefit of those who suffer.
So it was with Dr. Langley. He did not hesitate about his duty; but, unfortunately, ‘he contracted the disease, and in a few days he was buried. Now, because he had not enlisted, his widow was told that no pension could be paid to her. We should have a pronouncement from the Government regarding cases of the kind I have mentioned. If Ministers cannot introduce amending legislation, they should at least promise to make provision for these and similar cases. But I cannot get any reply to my representations. I have been told that the widow and children of a sergeant-major who died in one of the camps cannot get pensions. The sergeant-majors are being badly treated at the present time. They know the military business from A to Z. They have been the instructors of nearly all the officers, and have had the training of all the recruits. How well their work has been done has been shown by the splendid services performed by our troops at Gallipoli. Of course, being professional soldiers, a war offers them the natural chances of promotion. But, although they offer for active service, they are not permitted to go to the front. They are told by the Department that their services are needed here in Australia. Consequently they lose the opportunity of gaining promotion.
– The regular staff is not getting too good a deal.
– The sergeant-majors are being shamefully treated. These grievances should be remedied. Honorable members would offer no opposition to a measure introduced to remove them. Perhaps by talking all night I might impress upon the Treasurer the need for an amendment of the Pensions Act. I desire to deal fairly with Lady Bridges ; but the understanding was that all dependants should be treated alike. To be fair, the Bill should allow any widow to surrender her pension and accept a lump sum in lieu of it. As a rule, the privilege would not be made use of, because most of the widows will be very young women, with a long expectation of life, and it would be more profitable for them to draw the pensions provided for them. The Treasurer might give consideration to this view of the matter. I give him full credit for the strength of his arguments, and the charming manner with which they were presented; but I think that I have made out a stronger case for tha equal treatment of dependants than he made out for the special treatment of Lady Bridges. I ask him to promise that, if the Government cannot introduce an amending Bill, he will anticipate the authority of Parliament by making provision out of his Advance Account for cases such as I have mentioned.
– I want to vote for the Bill, and the one argument that would make me vote for it is that if General Bridges had been killed in Australia in the execution of his duty, Lady Bridges would have received an allowance of £4,500; but I shall not do so unless the same principle is applied to other men in the Public Service who have gone to the front. I know a young man who was receiving £280 per annum in the Federal Public Service, and who went to the war, leaving a wife and three children here. He has already been wounded. Under present conditions, if he loses his life there, his widow will receive only £1 per week, with 5s. for each of the children. If he had stayed in Australia and been killed in the execution of his duty, his widow would have received, under the Federal Workmen’s Compensation Act, a sum in proportion to his salary, the maximum amount payable being £500.
– She would get infinitely more from the pension.
– A lump sum might enable her to go into a business. Suppose Colonel Owen, whose salary is £1,000 a year, went to the war, and was killed there, what would be the position of his widow ? His widow would receive £150 a year, whereas if he had been killed here she would have been entitled to between £3,000 and £4,000.
– No; £500 is the maximum.
– How is it that in - this case the maximum is £4,500 ?
– Because this is not under the Defence Act. In the case of General Bridges, he was contracted out of the Act without being consulted.
– Did we not contract everybody else out without consulting them ?
– No; because the majority went away after the Act was passed.
– The point is not clear to me. If we legislated General
Bridges out of it, we must also have legislated many others out of it.
– General Bridges happened to be the only one whose salary was such that he would have received more than is provided by the War Pensions Act.
– In the case of everybody else, the pension is more liberal than the old statutory arrangement would have been.
– I will not vote for this proposition if we are going to make an exception in the case of the widow of General Bridges.
– Why not wait until any other cases arise, and treat each on its merits?
– The Minister says there is only one other man - Colonel Legge - in the same position as General Bridges was.
– How do these men get into this position?
– Because of.their salaries. They are the only two men in the Military Forces with salaries of £1,500 a year.
– I am afraid I shall have to give it up. I cannot understand the position.
– If the amount proposed was to be given as an honorarium in recognition of any special services by General Bridges, I should have opposed it. I listened to the manner in which the Treasurer described the services rendered by General Bridges, and if these are the qualifications, entitling Lady Bridges to this pension the case would fail, because there are other men, perhaps less known, who have been perhaps as equally heroic and gallant as he - and in saying that I do not de- 0 tract from the splendid work General Bridges did. But this is not a claim for special payment. Rather is it a proposal to pay a certain sum out of revenue in order to clear off a liability that this country is justly entitled to discharge. My difficulty in connexion with the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Ballarat and those who support him is that, while I agree with their arguments in regard to the persons they have referred to, and while I am prepared to support them in securing the utmost possible for the dependants of these men, the amendment they propose will not secure that. To defeat this payment to Lady Bridges will not secure any payment to somebody else. Their only method is to secure an amendment of the Pensions Act.
– Would you vote for it if we tried to do that?
– All right; we will give you a chance after this.
– But the honorable member cannot amend the Pensions Act by defeating this proposal.
– We can give an instruc- tion to the Treasurer to bring in a fresh Bill.
– But honorable members cannot thus secure the end they have in view. If they were really anxious to do what they suggest they would allow the payment to go through, and then initiate a movement for an extension of the pensions system, so as to make provision along more liberal lines for the dependants of others. If they did that, I could understand their attitude; but I cannot see how, if this amendment, or that foreshadowed, is carried, they will do other than prevent this sum of money being voted.
.I am going to vote for the amendment, although I know there is not much chance of its being carried. At the same time, I must enter my protest. I have no objection to this amount being paid, pro- vided we treat everybody alike, but we are not doing that. One case recently came under my notice of a widow who had two sons at the front. One has been killed, the other wounded; and the mother is to-day only receiving a pension of 10s. a week. By way of interjection a moment ago I said we could, by another amendment, give an instruction to the Treasurer to bring down an amending Bill. If the Government will guarantee that the dependants of other soldiers killed in the war will receive the same treatment as the widow of Major-General Bridges, I and others will be satisfied to allow this proposal to pass. We should not make fish of one and flesh of another. Other men holding the same rank as the late Major-General Bridges are offering their lives on the battle-field, and if they are killed their widows will receive only pensions of £156 a year. Two honorable members of this House are at the front, and, in view of the parliamentary salary they receive, the allowance they are receiving as officers and the private incomes they enjoy, no one can contend that, should they lose their lives on the field, a pension of £156 a year would be a sufficient compensation for their dependants? These men are doing just as good work as was done by Major-General Bridges. I do not say that that officer did not do good work. I believe that he did magnificent work at Gallipoli.
– We are not all leaders.
– I am well aware of that. I do not profess to be a leader, but when honorable members believe that an injustice is being done they have a right to raise their voices in protest. Personally, I do not believe that the pensions for which we have provided are large enough. The dependant of a private in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force receives something like 35s. a week as a pension, which is much higher than the provision we have made for the dependants of a private.
. -Does the Treasurer not think that it is advisable at this stage to report progress? The honorable member for Brisbane has said that this is a way of settling a just debt. That was very nicely put. What is the debt ? It is the pension as set forth in the Act. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that Major-General Bridges left for the front prior to the passing of the Pensions Act. We knew that when we passed the measure and fixed the pensions for the dependants of those killed in the war. This is not the first measure of the kind with which this Parliament has been called upon to deal. We passed an Officers’ Compensation Act last year, by which the widow of Mr. Dannevig, Director of’ Fisheries, received £1.1.00. and the dependants of other officers received other amounts. This Parliament made special provision in their case because there was no existing law under which they could be provided for. Thousands of men have gone to the front, and have sacrificed their lives. Sergeant Larkin gave up a position worth £500 a year, and was killed at the front. What provision, apart from that to which they were entitled under the ordinary Pensions Act, was made for the dependants of Sergeant Larkin ?
– A subscription list has to be taken round amongst their friends.
– Was not the late Ser geant Larkin a distinguished soldier? Did he not give up his life for his country? Why is there no fuss raised in the Labour corner on behalf of the widow of Sergeant Larkin? Why should special consideration be shown for the widow of Major-General Bridges? Was she more dependent upon the earnings of her husband than the widow of Sergeant Larkin was upon his earnings?
– The widow of Sergeant Larkin does not enjoy the best of health, and she has a young family to maintain.
– That is so, and the members of the late Major-General Bridges’ family are all well grown up. The real reason why it is proposed to substitute in this way, for a pension of £156 per annum, a lump sum of £4,500 is that, in all probability, the country would never have to pay that amount in the form of a pension. Perhaps the Treasurer is now prepared to report progress.
– I do not mind taking a vote on the amendment.
– I think it would be better to report progress, but I have no objection to a vote being taken upon the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.I desire to move a further amendment.
– As the honorable member has already spoken twice, he will not be able to do so.
.- I have spoken only once, and will therefore submit the amendment. I move -
That the following words be added: - “That all mothers and widows of deceased soldiers shall be granted the same privilege as is purposed to be granted to the widow of Sir William Throsby Bridges, and may, if they wish, commute their pension under the War Pensions Act for a lump sum, equal to twenty-nine years’ pension, as in the ease of the proposed grant to the widow of Sir William Throsby Bridges.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The amendment is out of order since it would increase the amount of the proposed grant.
– On a point of order, sir, I would remind you that we have no evidence that the amendment would have the effect stated by you. I ask you to reconsider your decision. If the widow was not likely to live for more than three or four years, she would take advantage of this proposal. Having accepted a lump sum, she would relieve the Commonwealth of taxation. I submit, therefore, that it cannot be held that the amendment which has been outlined would involve an increased burden on the people.
– I merely desire to point out that the honorable member can sustain his point of order only by arguing that the proposal which has been foreshadowed will involve a decreased charge on the Treasury.
Question - That the resolution be agreed to- put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) put -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
The House divided.
Majority … … 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have asked the Treasurer several times to give a promise to the House that the Government will make some provision for the other cases I mentioned. I. must ask the Treasurer to see that something is done for the wives of the doctor and the sergeant-major. I think that some announcement ought to be made in this regard, because, on the permanent staff, I know there is great discontent.
– I shall have the honorable member’s representations brought before the Government.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I do not think much of the promise that the Treasurer has just given. I thought he would have said that my case was so strong that he would recommend that something should be done. However, I understand the Minister of Home Affairs to say that he is in sympathy with my suggestion.
– We are all in sympathy with it.
– I can assure honorable members that there are cases of real hardship which require attention.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2, and preamble, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate, without request.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.I have received from a constituent a letter complaining of the delay with which the mails from Fiji are dealt with by the General Post Office, Adelaide. He speaks of the hindrance of the censorship in Adelaide, but the point he makes is that the letters have not been opened for some time, and that simply the word “ passed “ has been printed on them. It seems to be regarded as a real joke that the Fijian letters are held up until just prior to the departure of the outgoing mail, for no other apparent reason than to stamp them “ passed,” so that a person has no opportunity to reply by that mail to a correspondent. What the censors are doing at Adelaide is a matter for inquiry by the Minister of Defence. One day this week an honorable member asked if it was not possible for returned soldiers to be employed as censors in the different States. In Adelaide, a great number of the censors are civil servants; the whole of them are men in good positions, receiving good salaries, and the payment for the censor work is simply a perquisite. I know that in a great many instances the duties are so trivial that the position has become practically a sinecure. I feel positive that the men who have fought for the Empire, and returned with a knowledge of military affairs, would be able, under the guidance which the Department gives, to act as censors. I consider that the salary which is paid for the work is a disgrace to the Department. I hold that, if the statement of my constituent is correct, the censors are simply doing nothing for the money they receive. I hope that the Minister of Defence will ascertain who is responsible for the delay in dealing with the Fijian mail. This matter was brought by my constituent under the notice of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral at Adelaide, and, getting no satisfaction in that quarter, he asked a member of the State Parliament to ask a question, and he forwarded the communication to me. I have not asked a question here, but I have written to the Postmaster-General, and, as he has no jurisdiction over the censors, I ventilate the matter here. I think that the suggestion to employ returned soldiers is a good one. I have a list of the censors employed in South Australia showing their occupations, and also the salaries . they receive. It is a disgrace that in a State where a civil servant is not allowed to carry on other work, many of the more highly-paid officers should be allowed to act as censors while capable returned soldiers may be walking about looking for something to do.
– I shall certainly have the matter raised by the honorable member for Adelaide brought before the Minister of Defence. It is quite possible thatall the returned soldiers might not be able to do the censor work. It is a question of ability to interpret foreign languages, because all the letters are not in English.
– I happen to know that a lot of the censors over there cannot speak a foreign language unless it is AustralianFrench.
– I shall have the matter brought before the Minister of Defence, with the view to seeing if something cannot be done in the direction suggested by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.46 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 November 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19151111_reps_6_79/>.