6th Parliament · 1st Session
Customs Taxation 7761
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented a petition, signed by 15,000 women citizens of Australia, praying the House to provide for conscription.
Petition received and read.
– It would be wise if, before presenting petitions, honorable members were to allow me to see them. Under the present practice, as in this case, an honorable member moves that a petition be read, and the House orders the reading of it, and that reading sometimes discloses the fact that the petition is not strictly in order. The petition which has just been read contains a slight technical informality, which, perhaps, can be overlooked; but Ishall be glad if, in future, honorable members will submit petitions to me before presenting them.
– The petition which has been read reached me only just as the House met. I noticed that it did not conclude with the usual prayer, but it contains a prayer in its last clause.
– Yesterday, the Treasurer, in the course of his excellent Budget speech, said that the Government have no wish to continue to receive so large a sum as ?13,200,000 by way of Customs revenue. I wish to know from the honorable gentleman if the Prime Minister is not at present in England endeavouring to get ships to come to Australia to take away the surplus of our magnificent wheat harvest, and if the Government desire that these vessels shall come out in ballast instead of bringing goods ?
– As the question deals with Customs duties, I suggest that it be put to the Minister of Trade and Customs.
Report of the Public Works Committee on the manufacture of cement for use at Canberra., and for other Commonwealth purposes, presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for the Navy consider the advisability of establishing a superannuation fund for the benefit of the employees of the Commonwealth dockyard at Cockatoo Island ?
– The question affects a matter of policy. I shall bring it before the Cabinet.
– Will the Minister for the Navy consider the advisability of introducing a system whereby employees at Cockatoo Island, who have given long and satisfactory service, may be appointed permanently ?
– The Government have decided not to create any permanent positions during the war, where that can be avoided, because of the large number of men who are absent in the fighting line. I quite appreciate the honorable member’s question, which applies to many employees who have served at Cockatoo Island for many years, having been taken over by the Commonwealth from the New South Wales service. I shall be pleased to comply with the honorable member’s request at the first opportunity.
Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts upon the expenditure incurred in repairing, at the Fitzroy Dock, the Aurora, used in the Shackleton expedition, presented by Mr. Charlton, and ordered to be printed.
– I ask the attention of the Minister for the Navy to the case of the wife of a member of the Australian Imperial Force, to whom the Defence Department will not grant a separation allowance because she is temporarily in England, although she intends later to return to Australia. I understand that there are dozens of these cases, and I ask that where husbands are domiciled in A ustralia the allowance may be given to their wives, though out of Australia.
– Questions on this subject have been put to me privately during the last day or two. I promise the honorable gentleman that I shall confer with the Minister of Defence about his question, and let the House know the Minister’s answer.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to the recent judgment of the High Court in the case of Foggitt, Jones & Co. v. The Attorney-General of New South Wales, whereby freedom of Inter-State trade has been established in regard to the export of pigs from New South Wales to Queensland ? Will the Minister takesteps to insure that in regard to other commodities the law of the Commonwealth is not broken, and make representations to the States with a view to removing immediately any embargo on cattle, sheep, and other stock and produce passing between States?
– I shall be pleased to bring the question under the notice of the Attorney-General. I may add that I agree with the honorable member that the intention of the Federal Constitution should be given effect to.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state what has been done to provide dredgers for the Naval Base in Western Australia?
– The Government have placed an order with a British firm for the building of a suction dredger of the most modern type, and of about 2,000 tons register, at a cost of £145,000. We called for tenders in Australia as well as in the United Kingdom, but no tender was received from within the Commonwealth, the vessel being of such huge dimensions that no firm in Australia would undertake the building of it. We have also been in communication with the Government of India in regard to the purchase of a bucket dredger which was built in England under the supervision of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice about two years ago. That dredger is of 2,500 tons displacement, and we are negotiating for the acquisition of it at a cost of £95,000.
– Do the Government intend to proceed with the dredging of Western port Bay?
– Yes. We are having a dredger constructed by Thompson, of Castlemaine, at a cost of £22,000.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral issued any general instructions to the heads of his Department in regard to the restriction of further extensions of the mail service in country districts during the war?
– The whole matter of mail services is governed by the cost of a proposed extension, and the justification behind the application.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House of the progress of the construction of lighthouses on the Queensland coast ?
– I cannot answer the question off-hand, but I know the work is proceeding. I shall have a report prepared, and laid on the table of the House, and when the Estimates are under consideration, I shall be pleased to let honorable members know in detail the progress of lighthouse construction throughout Australia.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that Returning Officers are prosecuting certain people under the compulsory enrolment provisions of the Electoral Act without giving them notice? If sio, will the Minister take into favorable consideration an amendment of the Act to provide that notice should be served on people, who in some cases through no great fault of their own, have not placed their names on the roll prior to the summonses being issued?
– This is a matter under the supervision of Senator Russell, and I shall call that gentleman’s attention to it.
– Is it the intention of the Government during the currency of the war not to grant any extension of postal facilities in country districts unless the undertakings will pay ?
– Such a thing would be impossible in a continent like Australia. We are doing all we can, not only to extend, but to maintain the privileges that have been hitherto enjoyed by the people in spars”ely-populated districts. Owing, however, to the enormous in- crease in the cost of carrying mails that’ has arisen for various reasons, there have been occasions when, with regret, we have had to restrict services in the interests of economy.
– As clergymen of all denominations are doing excellent work in the various Camps, will ‘the Defence Department .consider the advisability of placing them on the same basis as are other officers, so that their pay may start from their going into Camp, and not only, as at present, on their going on board ship?
– I shall be pleased to brins; the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence and give the honorable member an answer.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister consider the advisability of allowing more time for the submission of tenders so as to afford traders in distant parts a better opportunity to obtain Government contracts?
– I agree that, within limits, every trader should, in this respect, enjoy the same rights as far as possible. If the honorable member will bring under my notice any specific cases I shall see that that end is attained -where practicable.
– Is it not a fact that before conscription could be brought into operation within the Commonwealth to operate beyond the 3-mile limit, it would be necessary to receive the consent of the British Government?
– I shall place the matter before the Attorney-General if the honorable member will place a question on the paper.
– I observe that just now the Postmaster-General gave notice of his intention to introduce a Bill dealing with the Public Service Act as affecting- the Public. Service Commissioner. Has the Postmaster-General taken over the control of the Public Service Commissioner’s Office? This office was first of all under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, and, subsequently, under that of the Prime Minister’s Department. Has this Bill something to do with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, or is he merely introducing the measure in the absence of the Prime Minister ?
– During my absence in Sydney, I find that the Acting Prime Minister gave notice of a similar measure in the Senate. It is a measure dealing with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, making it possible to secure subsequent amendments of the Act in regard to postal affairs. The Bill deals with a mere matter of administration, with the object of co-ordinating geographical considerations, so that we may administer the Department from the most convenient centre, instead of, as at present, from inconvenient centres, at great expense.
– Under the Federal Income Tax Act exemption is allowed in respect of gifts in cash to partriotic funds. Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister take into immediate and serious consideration the allowing of exemptions in respect to gifts in kind, such as stock or produce, which are becoming very substantial ?
– That is a matter, I think, for the Treasurer.
– But the Treasurer requires notice of all questions, and I thought that you might answer this one.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, seeing that some of the States have failed to carry out their part of the agreement regarding the postponement of the Referendum, he will consider the necessity of increasing the powers of the Board appointed to fix the price of wheat, flour, and bread by extending its scope so as to include other food products and wearing apparel ?
– This matter is new under consideration.
asked the Min ister for the Navy, upon notice -
Liverpool, capable of carrying 12,000 tons of cargo, arrived practicallyin ballast, having only about 100 tons of cargo for the Defence Department, whereby the Commonwealth lost the freight, estimated at about £50,000, which she could have earned had she been loaded with cargo ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does he indorse the statement attributed to the Acting Prime Minister that soldiers should not take part either for or against conscription ?
– I am informed by the Acting Prime Minister that his reply to a deputation from a conference of the Australian Peace Alliance was in reference to a statement by a member of the deputation that soldiers were being paid 8s. per day by the Universal Service League for the purpose of acting as advocates of conscription, and his remarks were intended to mean that he did not approve of a soldier being used in that way either for or against conscription whilst drawing military pay.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to when it is the intention of the Government to bring on Tariff revision?
– The Tariff will be dealt with this session.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the system of censorship in Australia is based on advice received from the Imperial authorities?
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that many old-age and invalid pensioners are suffering great privations and hardships owing to the increased cost of living and the failure of the Government to carry out the promise to increase the pension?
– The claims of the pensioners are receiving the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the definite agreement made with the farmers by the Prime Minister before leaving for Britain, that they shall receive the London parity for their wheat, is the Government justified in reducing the price of wheat to 4£d. per bushel below that parity?
– The price of wheat for local consumption was fixed at 4s. 9d. per bushel by the Australian Wheat Board.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The metals question is dealt with by the Department of the Attorney-General. That Department will furnish a return to-morrow if the honorable member will repeat his question then.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What is the approximate amount expended on each Naval Base to date?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government policy on the question of preference to unionists remains the same as when the House adjourned.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year1914-15- Dated12th April, 1916.
Census and Statistics Act - Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue, 1914-15.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under at - Narrabri, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Royal Australian Naval Reserve - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 74, 75.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the appointment, temporarily, of an Acting Public Service Commissioner.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin-
Minister of Home Affairs) [3.5]. - I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works having reported to the House the result of their inquiries into the proposed alterations and additions to the Customs House, Sydney, and the Minister having obtained estimates of cost, £51,481 7s.11d., tabled herewith, more closely calculated than those upon which the Committee reported, involving virtually double the Committee’s estimate of cost, £29,000, the House resolves that their report be remitted to the Committee for further consideration, and report as to the expediency of the work.
The Public Works Committee based their inquiry and furnished their report upon an estimate of £29,000 framed by the officers of the Department of Home Affairs, but subsequently I convened a conference between the officers of the Department and Mr. Griffin, in order that we might secure every possible advantage offered by modern civilization. Mr. Griffin informed me that the estimate of £29,000 was much too low, and, on his advice, I directed that quantities and specifications should be prepared with absolute accuracy. This has been done, and I have them with me now, but as I understand that once a work has been passed by the Public Works Committee the Minister has no power to increase the expenditure upon it, I wish to re-submit the matter to the Committee. The quantities are taken out by Mr. Evan Smith, a departmental officer in Sydney, and the revised estimate is £51,481. The officers of the Department explain that the estimate of £29,000 was two years old.
– It is as close as we can possibly get it.
– Is the estimate based on day-labour work or upon public tenders ?
– That element would not make the slightest difference. All that I wish to do is to resubmit the matter to the Public Works Committee, so that they may consider the advisability of going on with the work.
– Who prepared the other estimate?
– When I wanted to know why the Works Committee had been supplied with incorrect information, officers said that the information was not incorrect at the time, but that it was based on a state of affairs two years old, and that everything has changed since then. We shall be ready to go on with the work as soon as the Committee has reported in favour of it. I was taught that one should never spend more than 25 per cent. of the value of a property on renewals or extensions of it. I look as closely into public concerns as I do into my own private concerns. There have been squibs in the newspapers to the effect that I ought to have rushed this work through, but I do not intend to act in that way. While I hold office, I shall take the responsibility for my proposals, and as soon as I have got the quantities worked out, I shall submit them to the Committee.
– Will the Minister call for tenders?
– No. The work is to be constructed with day labour.
– This is such an extraordinary proposal that one cannot help having doubts as to the advisability of the course which the Minister asks us to take. Not only have the officers of the Department blundered in estimating the cost of the proposed work, but the members of the Works Committee have also blundered in accepting that estimate. I understand that the estimate of cost originally submitted to the Committee was £29,000, and that the Committee reported that the work could be carried out for £25,000.
– It was a departmental Committee that cut down the estimate to
– Does the present proposal differ from the proposal referred to the Committee?
– No; it is the same proposal.
– Then why is a work which the Committee reported could be carried out for £25,000, now estimated at £51,000?
– The original estimate was made two years ago, when prices were lower.
-But I understand that the departmental officers reported, and the Works Committee recommended, that the work could be carried out for £25,000. Is the new estimate from a different set of officers?
– It comes from Mr. Oakeshott, Colonel Owen, Mr. Murdoch, and Mr. Evan Smith.
– It is certain that the cost of building has not doubled within the last two years. Who has put forward this new proposal ?
– The proposal is put forward by the same officers as made the first proposal. I hand the honorable member the report of Mr. Evan Smith. The plans are the same, except for improvements, which are to be carried out at a lower cost.
– As late as November last the Works Committee reported that the work could be carried out for about £25,000, and now the Minister says that his officers’ estimate of the cost is £51,000, and, apparently, it is thought that if the proposal is referred to the Works Committee again the Committee will indorse the new estimate. Evidently the Minister regards the Committee in the light of a rubber stamp. If the Committee is going to indorse every estimate submitted by the Department, and estimates are proved to be entirely at fault, what check have we on the expenditure of public money? The Committee was created as a check on the spending of the Departments, but the Minister proposes that he and his officers shall check the Committee. If the Committee intends to report again exactly as it reported in November, it is not worth making the reference to it. The fact is outstanding that the Committee made a huge mistake in adopting an estimate that was 100 per cent. too low. Why, then, refer the proposal to it again? I suggest that the motion shall be allowed to stand over until more information is available. The arrangement made yesterday was that the first business this afternoon would be the discussion of the Ministerial statement regarding the Commonwealth’s contribution of troops. I ask that I may have permission to continue my speech on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Contribution of Australian Troops
Debate resumed from 9th May(vide page 7688) on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That the paper (containing the Ministerial statement of 9th May) be printed.
– The questions raised in the memorandum read yesterday by the Minister of Trade and Customs are of supreme importance to the Commonwealth, and I make no apology for the attitude which I have assumed towards them. It was at my request that the discussion of this subject was separated from the general Budget debate. If there is one subject which, more than another, should be considered by itself, it is the military preparations of the Commonwealth. I propose to devote a few moments to an examination of the memorandum, in which our military preparations are reviewed and commented on by the Government. I regard the document as evidencing either the inability of Ministers to understand the actual position of affairs, or some motive other than the desire to present a plain and straightforward statement to the House. I place on the telegrams which have passed between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth an interpretation entirely different from that contained in the memorandum. At no time has the Imperial Government suggested a modification in the number of troops to be sent by the Commonwealth. That fact is patent. We have been told that the scheme has been modified by the Imperial Government, I hope to show in a moment that it has never been so modified ; that all that has been suggested by the Imperial Government is a re-arrangement and readjustment of the scheme, but not with the object of suggesting that a lesser number of men should be sent. What is the language used in this memorandum?
On the 17th February, 1916, the War Office cabled, advising that the percentage of reinforcements required was substantially reduced.
That has nothing to do with the total results or with recruiting, mobilization, or organization; it means only that our Forces having left Gallipoli, that scene of heroism and bravery, which will endure for all time as a monument to our Australian armies, the reinforcements might henceforth be used in a different form. In consequence of the evacuation of the Peninsula, thousands of those reinforcements aggregated in Egypt, and were floating about that country. General Birdwood suggested that, in the interest of the men themselves, as well as of the efficiency of the Forces as a whole, it was not wise to keep those myriads of men in Egypt, and that they should be used elsewhere under War Office ‘ organization. Therefore, he advised that the reinforcements which were attached to a definite organization in Gallipoli should be reorganized into divisions of troops to be sent elsewhere, and placed at the disposition of the Imperial Government. That is the meaning of this communication from overseas, and it does not modify in any way the total number of troops which should be sent from Australia, and to which this country has been solemnly pledged.
I can only conclude that the Minister of Defence has misinterpreted the whole situation. The promise of the Government was clear and unmistakable. They said that they hoped to be able by the end of June of this year to send 300,000 troops to the front, and the latest figures show that, unless we can recruit 40,000 additional troops this month and next month, we shall not be able to keep that promise. With recruits coming in at the rate of 6,000 or 7,000 per month, those 40,000 men appear to be a long way distant, and it does not seem as if the promise made by the Prime Minister before leaving for England, -a promise which brought him such tremendous applause throughout Australia, is to be honoured. That is a serious position. The Minister says, “We do not need to keep the promise. We have been practically told by the Imperial Government that we need not keep it.” That is where I join issue with this memorandum. The cable communications that passed between the War Office and the Defence Department indicate nothing but that the reinforcements which had been definitely allocated for the troops in Gallipoli should be used to make up new divisions for service elsewhere in the war theatre. In addition, the Minister says -
These communications had an important effect on the numbers which it was contemplated would have been required, and also on the period over which they would have to be raised, as they meant that to comply with the promise of the Government, as modified at the request of the War Office-
I say the War Office has never modified their request in the slightest degree, but merely modified the allocation of the men as reinforcements; it has interfered in no way with the number we solemnly promised we would send - 209,000 troops would be required to be dispatched by the end of June, 1916. It will be seen that these modifications were made at the request and on the suggestion of the War Office, and were not proposed by the Commonwealth Government.
I have already dealt with the fallacy of that paragraph. Moreover, the Minister in the next paragraph proceeds to answer his own contention -
At the same time, the Government does not take the view that its offer of the 26th November exhausts the possibilities of Australia, so far as the contribution of fighting troops are concerned, and the Acting Prime Minister, in statements made, has endeavoured to make this point clear, and has appealed to the various recruiting organizations throughout the
Commonwealth to continue their efforts to gain recruits.
The Minister evidently does not regard it as sufficient to send 209,000 men, which, he says, the War Office modifications have made a proper contribution in the circumstances. He says that we should send more men., and continue sending more than even the original offer of 300,000 men. Clearly the two statements are irreconcilable. The Minister definitely says that the offer of 300,000 men is not. enough, and instructs the various Recruiting Committees throughout Australia to proceed to recruit still more men. Then, in this memorandum to Parliament, he tells us that there is no need for the 300,000 men, and that the War Office does not require them, and has suggested that they are not necessary by the end of June.
In regard to the other statement by the Minister regarding what has been done by the “War Committee, I should like to say that that Committee occupies a rather peculiar position. It has done its best within the limitations severely prescribed for it by the Government. Judging by the correspondence which I receive sometimes from people outside Parliament, there is a general opinion that this War Committee is an omnipotent junta sitting in secret with full knowledge of the military situation, and expressing with the Government a final opinion on matters relating to our fighting preparations. Nothing further from the fact could be imagined. The War Committee does nothing but what the Government ask and permit it to do.
– What more power does the Committee want ?
– I do not think the War Committee desires any power at all; but I imagine that the House when it appointed the Committee, and also the people, expected it - constituted as it was on a non-party basis and composed of picked members from both Houses with instructions to apply themselves to these peculiar and particular problems - to have a big say regarding the preparations for war, as well as some of the problems arising incidentally out of the war. But i: is truth, to say that for the most part of its history, so far, the Committee has been occupied in dealing with schemes for the amelioration of the effects of the war. We have had little whatever to do with the active preparations for war. I am making no complaint on that score, but 5n justice to the Committee these facts should be made public throughout Australia. The reference of this proposal by the Government, and the Committee’s reply thereto, will, I think, in view of the statement I have made, be quite plain and understanded of the people.
The Government first of all declined to submit to the Committee the question of principle as between voluntary and compulsory enlistment. It told the Committee in plain language that it was not required to deal with that question at all, and that the Government would take full responsibility in that matter. The Committee was invited, however, to report if anything further could be done to facilitate recruiting on the voluntary basis. The reply of the Committee is very clear -
The Committee notes that the Government floes not submit to it the question of voluntary service as compared with universal compulsory service. The Committee, without expressing any views on the comparative contributions of other dominions, is of opinion that Australia is not adequately represented at the front.
Senator Pearce, on his own responsibility, has made public the names of those members of the Committee who voted for and against that reply.
– Why was that publication made!
– I do not know, and I am not taking any exception to it. I am simply mentioning the fact that Senator Pearce published those names. The Committee was practically unanimous ; only one member present at the meeting voted against the proposition that Australia was not adequately represented at the front. That, in itself, is an answer to the statement of the Government in the remainder of the memorandum. The Committee further decided, again practically unanimously, to recommend the Government to assign a definite time for the enlistment of a given number of recruits; and, failing that number being reached by the present methods, those methods should be reviewed.
– That was the furthest point to which we were permitted to go.
– Quite so. The Committee agreed to this definite proposal that at the end of whatever period was fixed the whole question should be reviewed. That would carry with it a consideration of the present method of recruiting versus some other method to be devised. The Government refused to accept the Committee’s recommendation, and have alleged in this memorandum two reasons for that refusal.
The Government say, in the first place, that they cannot fix any definite period, because” the probable duration of the war is indefinite. If, as that statement implies, no one can foresee the end of this world struggle, if its continuance is indefinite and therefore is not calculable, is that not an argument for haste in recruiting? Is it not the most powerful of all arguments why we should betake ourselves to any means which will give us greater defensive strength and an earlier termination of this war, which, I believe, can end only in victory for the Allies. The reason alleged by the Minister is, to my mind, the worst of all reasons for him, and the best of all reasons for the Committee’s view. It is the one reason which justified the Committee in desiring to have more recruiting, and to adopt some more scientific method for the purpose of applying additional offensive strength in the various theatres of war.
– A referendum would settle the question.
– I, for one, would welcome a referendum, for my own profound conviction is that a referendum would have only one result - a triumphant vote for the application of the principle of compulsion.
– Would the right honorable member also, at the same time, put the questions for alteration of the Constitution ?
– May I suggest that that is not a question I should be asked ? I cannot determine the matter, and any opinion of mine would be of no value just now on the particular point. It would rest, I apprehend, with William the Great, when he returns home covered with honor and glory. However, I should belie the purpose of the remarks I have to make if I said anything which would stir into activity what are, I hope, the smouldering or dead embers of party strife on this supremest of all questions - the question of the country’s safety. I know that my friends opposite are in very great difficulties, seeing that their masters outside - and I use the term in no opprobrious sense - have declared against the principle of compulsion, To suggest the referen dum raises the whole question of democratic control and democratic government. The defence of our country ought not to be in any sense a party question; there ought to be no party opinions recorded on it either here or elsewhere. As Mr. Lloyd George said the other day, when speaking on the same platform with our Prime Minister, this is a question, not of party, but of the entire nation.
– So long as the right honorable member gets his own way, there is no need to make it a party question !
– My way! It is only the application of rigid party government to this question that prevents compulsion being adopted to-day - it is purely party considerations that prevent the application of the principle. This House is in favour of compulsion; and no one knows that better than the Treasurer.
– I know nothing of the sort.
– Test the question and see whether that is so.
– The honorable member for South Sydney is now endeavouring to raise the very question 1 wish to avoid. I do not desire to see the matter put to a party vote in the House, because we know beforehand how such a vote would go. There are honorable members opposite in favour of what I am suggesting now - who are as heartily in favour of compulsion as I am - and they would be compelled to either leave the House or vote against their convictions if there were a division of the kind in the present circumstances. There is an honorable way out for my friends over there who believe as I do. Let the people settle this, the supremest of all questions, and I have no doubt in my own mind as to what the settlement would be.
It is an unfortunate interjection on the part of the Treasurer when he suggests that I desire to have my own way- in this matter. I want my own way, because, much against my will, I have been forced by the logic of circumstances into the attitude I assume to-day; and my duty is to voice the convictions at which I have arrived. I have kept my opinions to myself for a very long time. The Prime Minister is in London, and I have felt some delicacy in discussing the question on the public platform during his absence. However, I no longer feel any delicacy upon the point. If the Prime Minister himself is not advocating con- scription in the Old Country, then I should like to know what his argumentation is. There were some utterances by both Mr. Lloyd George and our Prime Minister on the same platform at a meeting called for the specific purpose of enabling Mr. Lloyd George to defend himself as a conscriptionist. The meeting was ‘organized in order that Mr. Lloyd George might reply to critics, who, because of his attitude on the question, had accused him of faithless conduct and disloyalty to some of his colleagues. At that meeting Mr. Lloyd George said: -
The nation’s achievement in raising huge voluntary armies is something of which” we might well be proud -
One may say the same of our Australian army -
It is almost without parallel in history -
Ours is without parallel in our historyBut the numbers diminished at the end of the summer -
Just as our numbers are diminishing now - and it became clear that we must resort to other methods. There is no indignity in compulsion, which simply means that the nation has organized itself for war in orderly, consistent, and resolute fashion. We cannot run a war like a Sunday school treat. Our business was to shorten the time in which to bring our maximum strength to bear on the enemy. Then would come victory and the reckoning.
Our Prime Minister, who followed, and “was introduced as an old friend of Mr. Lloyd Georgei - one whose words are ringing through Europe just now - and as one of two “Welshmen who were working for the same cause of freedom, said -
But victory is dependent on organization. We must make the final blow quickly, or the tide will turn -
That is our own Prime Minister - not Mr. Lloyd George -
There is no hope for the world while the Prussian machine stands untrammelled. It must be destroyed utterly. If we fail now to make the maximum effort -
And no one will say that the maximum effort is being made by voluntaryism - its greatest friends will not contend for that. It cannot be said that the greatest maximum effort is being made here, when we have 120,000 single eligible young men, who have written down that they will not go to the war. Our Prime Minister said -
If we fail now to make the maximum effort, then, as surely as the Saviour lives, we will go down to hell.
As I say, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is no longer any need for de licacy when our own Prime Minister is talking in that way from the housetops. It appears to me that any delicacy or delay is not required in the circumstances, and, therefore, I prODose to state my own position in view of the fact that our recruiting is falling away. The numbers are not coming forward to enable us to make what our Prime Minister calls our maximum effort quickly in the theatre of war.
The first argument which it seems to me ought to weigh with the Dominions is that Great Britain has just adopted the principle of conscription, and has done so after the enlistment of 4,000,000 men by the voluntary method. After enrolling by the voluntary method sixteen times as many men as we have enlisted, the Mother Country feels the necessity for compulsion, and proceeds to place the principle of compulsion amongst her Statutes. If Great Britain, with, primarily, all the weight and responsibility for the conduct of the war on her shoulders, feels that, with an army of 4,000,000 men, it is necessary for the safety of the Empire that she should conscript the remainder who do not offer, I submit that a grave and great case is made out for the adoption by Australia of a like policy. Indeed, I go further. It is probable, as I look at the war, that before we are through with it we may have conscription of the whole Empire - lock, stock, and barrel ; with all men pressed into the maximum effort we can make for the safety of the Empire and our common civilization. Great Britain has not only conscripted her single men, but finds it necessary to conscript also married men. If that be so, I submit that the time has arrived for us to seriously consider whether we should not put the obligation at least on our single men.
Look at the position. Germany is still strong enough to wage the offensive and to struggle for the initiative. I believe - or, perhaps, it would be better to say I hope - that we are now entering on a decisive phase of the struggle. I Sti believe that the application of sufficient weight at the proper moment, or, in other words, the exertion of our maximum strength, is the only factor that will determine decisively how long the war will last. I think that it is beyond question now that the war will not be concluded by any startling stroke of strategic genius. It is not a war of that kind. It is a war that will be decided ultimately by weight of numbers. Therefore it behoves us to put all our weight on the rope, and not have so many of us looking on while the few pull. Every one knows now - it is a matter of public property - that if there had been another division at the landing in Gallipoli, Constantinople would probably be in British hands to-day, the Narrows would have been forced, our troops would have been across the Peninsula the first day; because those who were there say that they had the Turke on the run and thoroughly disorganized, and only lack of numbers prevented our forces from going right across, and completing the operation at once. What lives would have been saved; what misery and suffering would have been avoided if that could have been achieved at that particular time ! There are other instances where vital blows have been struck, and we have failed, and had to go back for want of steady pressure at the right moment. To me the present position of the war is that we must apply this pressure, or bleed white in a struggle of endurance which will beggar the world, and, perhaps, beggar our civilization for ages to come. I sometimes ask myself what is going to happen when the war is over. I a?n not one of those who believe that we can have all sorts of prearrangements at this stage determining our attitude when the war is ended. I am not so sure that there is not something in a statement of General Botha when he says that ‘ 1 we wish to sell the skin of the lion before we have killed the brute.” There is a great deal of philosophy in that remark. But we all try at some time or another to imagine what will happen after the war is over. To me it it would seem that the world will be divided into two great aggregations of humanity, and that the section which is beaten is going to be a mass of men penetrated, permeated, saturated with hate and envy. Let there be no mistake about that.
– I do not think so. I believe that if Germany is given a different system of government the Germans w.ill be a different people.
– Forty years of the most democratic government in
Europe have not wiped out the sore of Alsace and Lorraine. I do not think that another fifty years of the same kind of government will wipe it out. Theseracial feelings exist, and we must reckon with the fact that they will exist at theend of the war. Feelings will be very bitter and very revengeful, and so wemust make preparations for the period; after the war as well as for the conclusion of the war. Germany has been preparing to beat us for forty years, and if shefails, as I believe she will, there will be a very bitter taste left in the mouths of her people. Then the settling “up will be very risky. After the military decisions have been reached the diplomatic battles will begin, and it is just possible that arising out of this war there will be a series of other wars before the final settling down takes place. I am firmly of opinion that General Knox, when dealing with the subject the other day, was right when he said that Great Britain would not feel safe unless at the termination of the war she had a million armed trained men with which to enforce the fruits of victory. Remember also tEat Great Britain to-day is Ihe financial nerve centre of the world. We have to maintain our financial supremacy, but if we are to be bled white in the process of a long-drawn-out war that supremacy bids fair to pass to the United States of America. No honorable member wishes to see that state of affairs come about. If our finances are depleted, our man power destroyed, and our general productive resources weakened and crippled, what about the maintenance of our unchallengable Navy after the end of the war, for it will be required just the same then as now ? My point in making these observations is this: That we need to hasten the end cf the war at the earliest possible moment, to strike a decisive blow as soon as may be in order to save ourselves and our future prosperity and prestige.
What is the remedy ? How are we to do it ? I am here to say that, in my judgment, we need to make a machine equal to the German war machine - I hope that it will be infused with a quite different motive and purpose and spirit ; but our military organization must be there in order to meet the military organization of the German machine. It is the only test we can apply in the prosecution of this war to a finish. The enemy’s motive at pre- sent suffusing his machine and organization is the destruction of civilization. Ours, I hope, will be no such motive, and no such spirit, but rather a spirit of safety and preservation.No one realizes this more than our Prime Minister, and again I quote a statement that he made the other day to the Imperial Council of Commerce. It is eloquent of what should be our attitude. While I do not wish to have the Prime Minister back here so long as he feels it his duty to remain abroad - if he feels it imperative for him to stay, by all means let him stay - I should like him to come back, because I cannot conceive his attitude to be that of many of his friends here just now - relying absolutely on the present slip-shod methods. I feel that he must come back to inaugurate a new campaign when he lands on these shores. This is what he said to the Imperial Council of Commerce -
There are many, too, who conceive that this war can be fought and won without resorting to such heroic measures. They are patriotic, but not unreasonably so. They wish that England may win, but they do not wish it so much that all else - not only life, but their wealth, their business - is dross. But, believe me, it is not in such spirit that victory in this great struggle can be achieved. Victory will crown our arms only when we bend every energy to this supreme purpose, subordinating all other interests, sweeping aside all things that hinder us.
I subscribe entirely to those sentiments. The sooner the Prime Minister is able to give effect totheprinciples enunciated there, and the heroic sentiments contained in that eloquent passage, the better it will be for Australia and the quicker the end of this war will come.
By the way, the Prime Minister is indulging in some very picturesque language in Great Britain. He is having a good time. Really, some of his language reminds one of the trombone player who was playing a little too hard for the conductor, and who, when the conductor urged “Pianissimo, pianissimo, pianissimo,” said, “Pianissimo, be blowed! I am out to enjoy myself.” I fancy the Prime Minister is enjoying himself in Great Britain just now. Nothing could be more rascal, nothing more uncompromising, and nothing more square against the enemy and in favour of every ounce of effort on our part to defeat him than is contained in the speeches uttered by the Prime Minister. There is, for in stance, the phrase about “cutting out the German cancer.” I do not know exactly what he means by the words, but I see some comment on it in this morning’s cables. Discussing a question before the British Sugar Commission, Mr. Hughes warmly directed attention to the fact that the British Sugar Commission employs a purchasing agent bearing a German name. “ Surely,” he declares, “ it is possible to find a man of our own race. There are naturalized Germans who have a better right to stand against the wall than Sinn Fein leaders.” He objects to a man with a German name.
– Do you take any exception to that attitude?
– All I can say is that the Acting Prime Minister, the other day, when asked about German influence, replied tauntingly by asking if the Germans who were among the casualty lists were meant. He struck a totally different attitude from that of the Prime Minister, who objects to even a German name. I have never touched this question before, but I tell the honorable member that I understand there is some feeling concerning this very matter among some of the men in the trenches. I have heard of a case concerning a German sergeant, a thoroughly good man, but the men do not trust him. They have no apparent reason for their distrust. Apparently, he has been doing his duty, and doing it thoroughly, but the men were nervous. One can well understand, in the psychology begotten of their conditions and surroundings, that this would happen. The greatest care should be taken, in the interests of our men and also in the interests of those of German descent themselves.
Then Mr. Hughes is preaching organization at Home. He wants to know what the people of Great Britain are going to do about organizing the Empire, organizing the war, and putting it upon a proper basis. May I point out that the people who have taken Mr. Hughes into their arms - I mean theNorthcliffe press - are a conscript press. They have made Mr. Hughes their hero ; they say he is the man to save the Empire. Clearly, therefore, Mr. Hughes is on an uncompromising platform in regard to this question of compulsion.
– You are not jealous of him, are you?
– Far be it from me to be jealous of any one going Home. I have turned down three trips at the expense of the country; my ambitions do not run that way; bu’t when Mr. Hughes challenges Mr. Asquith, as he has done repeatedly on the question of the organization of the Empire, I sometimes wonder why Mr. Asquith has not turned round and said to Mr. Hughes, “We have organized 10 per cent, of our men here while you in Australia so far have organized 5 per cent.”
There they have organized their married men, conscripted them; here we refuse to conscript our single men. There they have 300,000 women making munitions; how many men, even, have we making munitions after two years of war? The men folk of these women have gone overseas to fight for us as well as for them. Whatever comparison you choose to make you find that Australia must go a long way before she has done her best. But I hope that in the very near future she will do it. Our destiny is linked with that of Great Britain in this war, and the more nearly we can approximate her ideals and objectives in this war, the sooner will the war be over and the Empire free.
Compulsion is necessary to win the war. Other Governments, unlimited and untrammelled, are able to put their hands on all the resources of their countries, and on all the men of their nation, and it goes without saying that they are at a tremendous advantage compared with those who treat the matter in tho way in which we are treating it. The Minister of Defence has said that this is a war of life and death, not merely to the Empire, but to the Labour movement. Never was a truer statement made. Our Democratic ideals are in the crucible, and if we lose the war, civilization will get a set-back such_ as history has never yet known. Justice to our Allies seems to me to require compulsion from us. Why should they conscript all their available manhood to fight for the freedom of Australia, and we do nothing ? Let us not for a moment forget that the offensive strength of the Allies is being put forward as much for the safety of Australia as for the safety of their own Dominions. Why should they be compel l.<*d to conscript all their available manhood, while we trust alone to the voluntary method? Compulsion is just to the soldiers themselves. It gives them a better guarantee of thorough and efficient training. I very much fear that our men are being sent away with far too little training. Luckily they get more at the other end, and I hope that that may continue. But, whereas in the Old Country recruits receive training for from nine to twelve months before being sent overseas, our men are often sent away with less than three months’ training. If we laid military duty fairly on the whole population, our authorities could provide adequate training, and prevent the troubles that are created by the present disorganization.
– A training of six months is sufficient to teach an Australian as much as it would take an Englishman twelve months to learn.
– We like to think that. But I am of opinion that our men should get as much training as the English recruits receive.
– They do not need so long a period of training.
– I think that perhaps that is so; but they should get more than they do. Training cannot hurt them. Another reason, and not a trifling one, why compulsion should be adopted is that it would mean the saving of life and money. When the great attack on Lone Pine was made, our men were worn with sixteen weeks of trench fighting, and the want of proper food. The food supplied to them they often could not eat, not because it was not wholesome, but because the diet was intolerably monotonous. They were therefore not at their best when they were called upon to enter into that death struggle. I make no complaint whatever against their leaders, who did all that was possible. Compulsion is necessary to give our soldiers needed rest and opportunity to recuperate, so that they may be at their best when called upon for the fearful efforts which are required of them. I am running through these considerations briefly and hurriedly, but they are all weighty, and tell overwhelmingly as an argument in favour of compulsory .training for defence. Mr. Redmond said the other day that he thought that Irish reinforcements should be used to complete the Irish regiments, and I think that Australian regiments should be reinforced, so far as possible, with Australians. Then, again, every day that the war lasts we incur an expenditure of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. We have got into the habit of talking of millions of pounds as if we were speaking of shillings, and, I am afraid, often fail to realize the tremendous waste that is going on throughout the world. There is the fear amongst honorable members opposite, and those whom they particularly and directly represent, that military compulsion necessarily leads to industrial conscription. I do not pretend to follow that curious piece of reasoning. To my mind, there is no necessary connexion between the two. For that matter, have we not already industrial conscription ? As I view compulsion, it does not mean a system merely for taking armies of men away from Australia, but rather a system for the proper determination of who should go and who should stay. Men would be conscripted for home service as well as for foreign service, and those who stayed would stay with honour; their self-respect would be preserved. They would be remaining to do their duty here just as their fellows would go to do their duty abroad. A short while ago 80,000 British soldiers were brought back to be employed in munition making.
– Bad organization in France under conscription has had the same effect. In France men have had to be brought back from the army and put into munition-making shops.
– Not to the same extent as in Great Britain. In France most of the munition making is being done by women. In war time a nation should be able to lay its hand on the men that should be sent away and on these who should be kept at home. Why should some farms be entirely depleted of labour while others have plenty to spare ? Why should some districts send all their young men to the war, and others send scarcely any? Did my honorable friends opposite see in the Herald the other day the photograph of a man and six sons, all of whom were at the war? Why should thar complete family have to go while from other families not one member is sent? When some families are being broken up and scattered in order that the country may be saved, and other families are not sending any of their members, is it to be wondered at that soldiers should sometimes forget themselves? In my opinion, if the soldiers at the front, and those who are here, could be polled, they would vote almost unanimously for compulsion. They know what is needed in some ways better than we do. They have been through the fighting, and come back convinced that it is for those who have not yet gone to go as early as they can. The simple fundamental arguments that lie on the surface show the real reason and justice of compulsion, and point the way more unmistakably than perhaps those that are abstruse.
I would not lift my finger in support of any proposal which I thought would do irreparable damage to the working man of Australia. However, honorable members may taunt me, I think too much of our progress and democratic ideals to be willing to sacrifice them for a mere whim or theory. But to apply compulsion to the present struggle is merely to stand up squarely to our democratic responsibilities. Privilege is the measure of responsibility always and everywhere, and our democratic privileges here are beyond those almost of any other country. Here all are equal at the ballot-box. Jack is as good as his master, and, judging by what goes on at some of the Labour conferences, a little better. At any rate, equality of opportunity and privilege prevail throughout Australia, and their existence points unmistakably to the need for the preservation of Democracy by the standing up to the responsibilities which it entails. We must defend our country, and, as every man has an equal voice in its government, every man has an equal obligation to defend it. If a man will not accept that responsibility, the State should firmly lay it upon his shoulders. I have stated the case as briefly and succinctly as I could. I have felt that the time is come for making my position clear. It has been clear to me almost since the beginning of the war. My first recruiting experiences indicated the existence of something radically wrong in the present system, of something unequal and unsatisfactory in our defence organization.
Our fundamental democratic principles are brought to issue in this great struggle, and the sooner as a nation, irrespective of party and of political considerations, we stand up to our responsibilities, the better it will be for us and our children. We all desire that the heritage that we have received may pass to our children unimpaired, and that they may be better because we have lived. We owe them a debt of responsibility just as we owe responsibility to those who gave us the good land in which we dwell. We are fighting the most barbarous nation that ever existed, a nation from which we can expect no chivalry. It has proved itself possessed of the spirit of demons, and from it we can hope for no quarter. The task before us is to beat that nation. It is a tremendous task, and the sooner we rise to the full height of our opportunities and responsibilities the better.
– What is the definite thing that the honorable member suggests should be done?
– I have tried to indicate what should be done. The voluntary principle, as applied to recruiting, is insufficient for the requirements of this war.
– Does the right honorable member say that, after what he heard last night?
– I should prefer not to reply to that interjection. I do not think it ought to have been made. I am speaking after having fully considered the whole question, and I believe in my heart that the view I am expressing is not only proper, having regard to the obligations immediately in front of us, but is also the opinion of the public of Australia. It is the view of the nation itself. Above all and beyond all, I say that, in my judgment, compulsion is necessary to save this country. That is why I advocate it, and I am prepared to continue to advocate it to the end of this war.
– I do not intend to say much in reply to the Leader of the Opposition. The best reply to the right honorable member is to point to the fact that there are only six honorable members of the Opposition in their seats to support him in the action he has taken this afternoon. On the Opposition main benches there is only the Government Whip, who, I suppose, deems it his duty to remain in his place. I admire the ability of the Leader of the Opposition, and I have very frequently marvelled at his persistence. But I have never seen the honorable member, during his whole career, occupy such an unenviable, not to say despicable, position as he occupies this afternoon. The honorable member has endeavoured to show that his action does not partake of party politics. I say that, in all speeches which the right honorable gentleman has made since the commencement of the war, he has lost no opportunity of attacking the Government.
– That is a wicked thing to say.
– It is the truth.
– I say it is not the truth, but a perfect untruth.
– The remark of the right honorable member for Parramatta is not in order, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I say, and reference to the honorable member’s speeches will show, that nothing which this Government can do will please him.
– Do not you think it would be better to drop that line of talk ?
– Not after the exhibition we have had this afternoon, and I invite the honorable member for Flinders, if he approves of the action of his colleague after what was disclosed to honorable members last night, to rise and say that the Government are not doing what they ought to do. At the very commencement of the war, when it was first proposed to send 20,000 men, the right honorable member for Parramatta urged that we should send 40,000. The Government said, “Very good; we will send 40,000.” The right honorable member still said, “ That is not sufficient; we want 50,000.” The Government sent 50,000, and then 100,000, but still the honorable member was not satisfied. If we had it in our power to despatch half-a-million men to the front, he would not even then be content. The right honorable gentleman does not realize that this afternoon he has placed himself in an unchivalrous position. He is fighting a Government and’ a party whose hands are tied behind their backs. The Government, being in possession of information which could not be given to the general public, because to do so would be to help the enemy, have given that information to honorable members on both sides of the House, and , I can well believe that the honorable members supporting the Government feel disinclined to reply to the right honorable gentleman for fear that in their anger they might be tempted to disclose some of the confidential information which might be used in defence of the Government. Bather than run the risk of helping the enemy by such disclosures, honorable members on this side are obliged to be silent. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that of a tired political gladiator, and, to my mind, it disclosed very careful preparation. It had been made ready long before the honorable member obtained any information from the secret meeting. It was a speech, it seemed to me, which had been prepared with a view to moving a motion of no confidence in the Government.
– Do make a correct statement for once. Those notes were written out this morning.
– In my opinion the right honorable gentleman is one of a very few honorable members on the opposite side who would be so carried away by antipathy to the Government as to rise and make such an attack after what was told in confidence last night. The honorable member suggests that we might ascertain public opinion by a vote. I venture to say that if the honorable member’s speech, in conjunction with the information given to honorable members last night, were placed before any tribunal, there would be a unanimous condemnation of the attack he has made on the Government. The honorable member has queer notions of helping the Empire.
– What have I said against the Government?
– The right honorable gentleman has continuously said that Australia is not properly represented at the front, and he repeated the assertion today in spite of the information given him last night. I do not intend to press the argument further. The Leader of the Opposition has done wrong, and when he sees his speech in print, and calmly considers the whole question, and when he discovers what little support he will receive from honorable members on his own side, he will come to the conclusion that his attack to-day was a mistake.
– I cannot congratulate the honorable member who occupies the high position of Treasurer on the utterance he has just made. A more temperate speech than that delivered by the Leader of the Opposition on a question which at every point might have provoked party rancour I have never heard. Yet no sooner was the right honorable gentleman’s speech concluded than a Minister of the Crown rose and entirely travestied the statements made, and accused the Leader of the Opposition of doing that very thing which he, above all other honorable members, was most careful to avoid. The Treasurer made frequent reference to what was said to honorable members at a secret meeting last night. That reference was singularly unfortunate. His own commonsense and sense of honour ought to have made him refrain from any reference to the statement that was made last night. I am not going to speak at great length on this motion, which is not one with any political significance. It is a motion which, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, the Acting Leader of the House, presumably with the concurrence of the Acting Prime Minister, allowed to be placed on the notice-paper in order to give honorable members on both sides of the House an opportunity of expressing their opinion on that question, which, above all others, is most vitally important at this juncture, in such a way that the discussion could not be taken as a political attack. I intend to avail myself briefly of that opportunity. After all I have heard, both in this House and elsewhere, and after the most mature thought to which I have been able to subject the question, and speaking with a full sense of the responsibility which I, together with every other honorable member of the House must feel on this most vital issue, I say that the safety of Australia calls for immediate compulsion - not compulsion in the future or at some other time to which we might all desire the question to be deferred, but now. I recognise that, with the concurrence of all of us. the Prime Minister is absent, representing Australia at the other side of the world, and for my own part I am proud of the figure he has cut in the Mother Country. I see nothing in his action or his words which has not operated to enhance the reputation of not only himself, but also the country h’e represents, and had the times been normal I should have been the first to admit the cogency of the argument_ that this great and drastic question should stand over for consideration until the Prime Minister returns; but I say that we cannot allow it to stand over; the safety of this country will not permit delay. I wish to place before the House as briefly as possible my views on the situation, and, if I can, to divest the discussion of any party significance. I hope honorable members opposite will help me to do so. I do not think I have allowed a thought of party to pass through my mind during many months past. My mind has been filled with little else than those tremendous issues which confront the Empire, and particularly this country of ours. When interjections are made such as that which came from the honorable member for Maribyrnong a few minutes ago, that there would be no need to fear something or other in Germany under the proper kind of Government which we would give that country, do not such utterances signify a most unfortunate ignorance of the actual condition of affairs at the present moment? I do not make that remark in dispraise of the honorable member; he merely voices a kind of self-satisfaction which, even after all that has happened, still exists amongst a large proportion of our people, and which is almost inconceivable by those of us who have really- studied the question. There is, in those quarters, a feeling of confidence and security that we are absolutely sure to win, if not now, in the long run, and that our country is in no danger. I can attribute that to nothing but the fact that neither in Great Britain nor in any part of the Empire, during the whole of the war, have we been properly taught the whole truth. I do not blame the censorship, which there must be in any great military undertaking. All that refers to the organization or conduct of military affairs must be under strict censorship, though in many cases that censorship may have been carried too far, or exercised in some absurd fashion. I do not now refer to the censorship, but there is that feeling of which I have spoken, and which may arise partly from the desire which exists in the journalistic sphere, amongst others, as well as on the part of some public men, to put forward that aspect most likely to please their readers or hearers. However that may be, we have not yet risen here to a full recognition of what the problem really is. Let me say that I believe that the people of Australia, as well as the people in the Old Country, have the nerve to hear the whole facts; I do not think they would wince at the bare recital of the truth; and the truth which can be given them is the one thing that will raise the people of this or any other country to the best effort of which they are capable. I desire in as few words as possible to place before the House and the Government my reasons for contending that it is absolutely essential that we should immediately adopt conscription in order to put the whole available strength of Australia into the contest. The campaign on which we have already entered will last, I suppose, in full strength and activity until the end of October or November; and, in my opinion, that campaign will determine the war. Let me say that I do not for a moment believe that the war will be ended by this campaign; that is a totally different question. But the campaign on which the Allies are now entering will determine whether they will win the war in the only way in which victory can bring us safety. I do not fear defeat, nor have I ever feared it since the initial stages of the war; but the danger that is every day and every week getting nearer and nearer to us - which every sane man, who looks at the matter squarely, must see - is the danger of a premature peace of exhaustion. This can be overcome only by such a supreme effort on the part, not of only Australia, but of every part of the Empire, as will bring the matter to an issue during the present campaign. Let me ask honorable members for a moment to consider what is the meaning of a “ peace of exhaustion,” as I have called it. By that I mean that kind of truce or peace to which warring nations may be driven without materially altering their present military or political position - the exhaustion of the means of carrying on the war, or the exhaustion of the men who are fighting. We must remember that in every country at war there are always elements fighting strongly to bring an end to the hostilities on any terms; and those elements grow stronger and stronger as the resources and manhood of each country are exhausted or approach the period of exhaustion. If there were such a peace, Great Britain and the British Empire would be to a very large extent shorn of their power, and of the means of recovering their power. If we had a peace uti possidetis - standing where you are - without indemnities of any kind, Great Britain and the British
Empire would labour under a huge accumulation of debt which would so entirely cripple their resources that for generations it would be impossible to recover anything like financial strength for the purposes of war. I need not go into figures but, I think I am right in saying that on the figures as we have them now, Great Britain would annually have to pay in interest on its war expenditure as much money as would have maintained ‘the whole Fleet of the British Navy and the whole army existing before the war, without a single ship or man to show for it. In short, the Empire would be crippled financially. That, however, is not the main difficulty in regard to us, except in so far as it shows that our power of recovering or retaining complete naval supremacy would be to a very considerable extent checked and hampered. The real danger would be that we should then have the two great Germanic Powers welded into one - weakened, it is true, for the time being by exhaustion, but welded into one co-acting and still immensely powerful nation, with the control of countries like Poland and Belgium. Already in these countries Germany, with her excellent systematization, has begun to make efforts in the direction of financial and industrial strength; and under such circumstances as I have suggested, this dual nation would possess a new coast-line in the North Sea, with a considerable coastline in the Mediterranean, and would dominate the whole of the Balkan Peninsula. We cannot consider Bulgaria or Turkey as an ally of Germany, but merely as a tool of that country. Then, again, the enemy would be in possession of what has always been considered the key of empire in the East - Constantinople - and our prestige in the East would be shattered and broken. What is our power in India and Egypt? What is it that enables a few hundred, or a few thousands, of white men, soldiers and civilian officers, to control the destinies of hundreds of millions of black people? Is it the sword that we wield? No. It is the prestige of our Empire, and that alone - our prestige coupled with our continued control of the ocean. It is thus that we are enabled to maintain the whole of our Eastern Empire, which is one of the greatest sources of the financial *power of
Great Britain. If by any chance we did not succeed in achieving that kind of victory which alone can give us security in the future, how long would Great Britain be able to retain supremacy of the ocean? I venture to say not only that within very few years of such a peace we would no longer control the ocean, but that our possession of this continent of Australia would last no longer than that control. This every one knows who has studied the question. Our whole existence in Australia - our right to own and manage the country - depends on whether we can carry through this war in such a way as to utterly vanquish and destroy the German military autocracy. To my friends opposite I say that we are all in one box; and if we do not put our whole strength into the war this year, then I say that not only will there be a good chance of our never achieving victory, but that we do not deserve to achieve it. There is a time in the history of every great nation, especially every old nation which has enjoyed growing prosperity, when the forces that govern this universe seem to impose a test on it - to apply the touchstone and see whether it is dross or true metal. That test has been applied to every great nation in the world - to the Romans, and, before them, to the Carthaginians and the Egyptians - and in modern times to the great world monarchy of Spain. It is now being applied to us - this test of our manhood and of our right to the liberty we have so long enjoyed. Shall we, then, put our whole force into this war now? That is the question.
– We are doing so, and the honorable member knows it.
– It is of no use the honorable member saying that “ we are “ and that I “ know it.” I am now expressing views that have not been arrived at without considerable study. Of course, the honorable member is entitled to differ, but I do urge on the Government to remember that in this war they do not represent one party only, but that they represent th’e people of Australia. Honorable members opposite were elected to power in August, 1914, and given the supreme trust of conducting the affairs of this country in the greatest crisis through which a country can pass. I am not going to criticise one act of the
Government, but they have to decide the great question before us; and all we can do is to urge them to decide it aright. Strongly as I feel, I shall, for my own part, in this as in every other matter, accept their conclusion, but I sincerely hope that they will call on all of us to strengthen their hands in adopting the only course which, in my opinion, will enable Australia not only to save her pledged honour, but to save ourselves in the struggle which is before us.
Mr.CARR (Macquarie) [4.55]. - I have always held that the troops sent from Australia to the war should be raised on the basis of compulsion, and I am still firmly of that opinion. Whether we require large numbers immediately or not is beside the question, though I understood the Leader of the Opposition to urge that we do require them. To my mind, that is not the point. My point is that, whether men enlist from the highest motives that can actuate them, or from mere venturous spirit, we are not getting from the community anything like that adequate service which might be rendered. There is no business system possible as things are; there is no analysis of what is at hand. Men who should not go into the firing line are allowed to go, and men who ought to go, cannot go.
– The honorable member should have been at last night’s meeting.
– I was not at the meeting last night, but I know what happened there, and I take the full responsibility of what I am saying. I am not reflecting on the Government. The question of whether we require men immediately or not is immaterial. My point is that the method of selecting them should be on common-sense lines, and in the best interests of the whole community. It should not be left merely to the good intentions of the community. As for the Salvation Army appeals from thousands of platforms, they are a reflection on the manhood of Australia. I have made no appeal. I am not going to make appeals. If we are to place our house in order, we, as the Parliament of Australia, should say who should go and who should not go. If I should have to go I would take my place in the ranks every time. Every man in Australia would do so. But it is a reflection on the whole manhood of Australia that, in order to get an army to go abroad, men have to be beseeched and prayed to come forward and go. I cannot see how any evil results of conscription can come in. When we established universal military service in Australia, we argued that so long as the men who had the guns also had votes, we were devising no menace to the country. That argument still holds good. And if it comes to a question of deciding between running a risk from our own people or running a risk from a foreign nation, then let us take the risk from our own people. I have not the slightest hesitation in urging this view, and I hope that it will be the distinction of the Labour Government to inaugurate a system of compulsory service so that we may know what we are doing and where we are going, and so that our men may be placed to the best advantage, not only in the firing line, but also in the manufacture of the requirements of the war. If Australia has lacked anything in this conflict it has been in the matter of supplies, particularly munitions and arms. I have said a good deal on that subject, and I could say a good deal more. In the matter of men we have done excellently well, but in the matter of the selection of those men we have not done well.
– Have they not done well?
– They have. That is just my point. Need I explain to the honorable member forIllawarra that I mean that men should be appointed to those posts for which they are best fitted. Surely I need not address myself to such lack of intelligence in that respect. But this selection should be backed up by compulsion. It would remove many of what, in my opinion, have been insults thrown at men who cannot get away for obvious business, social, or economic reasons. If the country needs us, and the law says that we must go, it is up to us to go; we cannot avoid it. Many a pathetic appeal that one’s family might make is also met by the fact that compulsion is the law of the land. The responsibility of individual choice would be removed.. It would be a great relief to many if it were removed. That is my view, and I believe that it is the view of the country. I believe that the country has come tothis view, and I hope that it will be to the distinction of the present Government to adopt the system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 9th May, vide page 7714, of motion by Mr. Higgs) : -
J.’hat the first item in the Estimates under division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.2 to 7.^.5 p.m.
Mr. PALMER (Echuca [7.45]. - I rise with some diffidence to speak on the important question now under consideration. The responsibilities of Parliament, which are always great, are at the present time extreme. We have to provide for the financing of Australia’s part in the world’s war, as well as for the carrying on of the ordinary functions of government. This necessitates the imposition of taxation, and it is not surprising that the Treasurer proposes to increase the burden on the taxpayers in order to balance his ledger. We are also responsible for the general conduct of public affairs, and I tremble for the welfare of the Commonwealth when I think of the conditions which are being fostered by Ministers in the interests of a section of the community, and at the peril of constitutional government. Recent occurrences in New South Wales show how far certain bodies are prepared to go in usurpation of the functions of the Government of the State. There, Ministers had been subjected to the dictation of a small and noisy coterie. The circumstances are of great gravity. I asked this afternoon whether the policy of our Ministers was still to force Government employees into Labour unions, and the reply which I received was that the Ministerial policy is what it was. It surprises me that Ministers should maintain a policy which will create a scourge for themselves and ultimately make constitutional government, as we have known it, impossible. A Labour Conference in New South Wales required the Premier of the
State to resign his position as head of the Government, but it had later to beg him to resume his position. The whys and wherefores of what occurred are not fully known; there must have been many underground transactions of which the public can have no knowledge ; but no man in Australia to-day has been more humiliated than Mr. Holman. The whole question is this : Can Ministers exercise their functions in the interests of the people as a whole while they are liable to be interfered with and called to account by bodies representing mere sections of the population? The more Commonwealth Ministers force Commonwealth employees into unions, the weaker will their position become. The number of the strikes that are taking place for trivial reasons, when the nation is perplexed with the great problems of the war, is deplorable. Honorable members opposite say that they will never consent to give up the right to strike. Nevertheless, the influence of Ministers should be exercised in preventing, rather than in fostering, the conditions which cause strikes, and it is the bounden duty of this Parliament to force on the Government a line of policy which will again give freedom to the people of Australia, instead of allowing them to be bound by the restrictions imposed by the Labour unions. Dealing more closely with the Budget statement, I wish to point out that, although we have had a prosperous financial year, what is revenue to the Government is taxation to the people, and the aim of Governments should be to leave in the hands of the people for investment and the carrying on of the trade and business of the country as much money as possible. It has been tersely said, “You cannot tax yourselves rich.” No person in the community has raised a voice against the taxation necessary to meet the calls of the war. The people generally are loyally behind the Government in connexion with all proposals for dealing with the war, and it is the duty of Parliament to assist Ministers in their efforts in this direction. I feel proud of the way in which the moneyed interests of Australia have accepted the position. But, although the demands of the war are so large, our Ministers are not hesitating to increase the expenditure on the ordinary services of government. In my opinion, if we were loyal to our Empire responsibilities we would strenuously oppose any increase of expenditure on the ordinary services of government. Ministers, however, believe in expenditure which, though it may create a fictitious prosperity, will bring a day of reckoning, when the pinch will be felt most by their supporters. According te the Treasurer, the revenue of the Commonwealth this year from all sources will amount to about £89,000,000. He told us that there has been a large increase in the revenue from Customs, and on page 3 of the Budget-papers twenty lines of importation are enumerated as being chiefly responsible for this increase. Of these, seventeen comprise articles of manufacture. Our Tariff is designed on Protectionist principles, its object being to foster local production and manufacture. It is, therefore, disconcerting to be told that the flood of imports is not being appreciably stemmed by local manufactures. A number of persons contend that the duties are not high enough, and would go bald-headedly for prohibition. The inevitable result of that would be that the cost of living, under which the people are now groaning, would become even heavier than it is. It is stated in the Budget-papers that, although on the establishment of Federation our factories numbered only 11,000 and our factory employees 197,000, the factories now, according to the latest returns available, number 15,000 and the employees about 329,000. The increase in the number of factories and the number of hands employed should have been, and would have been, greater in the years of prosperity which we have enjoyed had not artificial conditions been created and fostered by the Labour party. I am not an advocate of low wages. Every man should receive from his labour enough to enable him to live respectably. The President of our Arbitration Court, however, has decided that each worker must receive what is termed a living wage, and that, because the cost of living has increased so much, the wages in certain industries must be increased proportionately. The lamentable result of these decisions is that costs of production increase with the increase of wages, and the cost of living is continually mounting higher. Under this system, we have the authority of the Commonwealth Statistician for saying that, although the wages of the working classes have advanced materially of late years, their condition has not improved. So far from having improved, it is, to a fractional extent, worse than it was. Honorable members opposite seem to ignore the fact that there is an inexorable law of supply and demand in operation, and, legislate as they will, they will find it impossible to get away from those conditions. Where there is a Government established in nearly every State of the Commonwealth, as well as in the Federal sphere, which is encouraging men to continually make increased demands, the more those demands are pressed, and the more the men succeed in securing them, the greater must be the cost of living.
– That is so. The purchasing value of money is so far reduced that they are worse off than they were. I advise the Treasurer to consider that fact. He, and the honorable members on this side of the House no less, stand for the welfare of the masses.
– Shipping freights are to blame.
– I do not know that the cost of freights differs from the cost of any other form of production. The more labour we have engaged in an industry the more the industry suffers, and the more the direct charge is increased. The public have to pay the increases, and they are paying through the higher cost of the various sea-borne articles of food and apparel.
– Is it a fact that freights have risen 2,000 per cent, since the war?
– I know the honorable member is sufficiently keen to be able to separate the excessive rates due to the war from the conditions which would obtain if there were no war. But, even under normal conditions, owing to the state of affairs that is being gradually brought about, the cost of freights and necessaries must advance. It is futile to tell the public that there is a. reasonable hope of reducing the cost of living. Every householder in the community knows that he has to dip his hand deeper into his pocket in order to pay for household needs. No doubt it flatters the vanity of people to be able to handle a larger sum of money than they have been accustomed to handle in the past, but if that larger sum will not purchase as much as the smaller sum did, are such people any better off?
– We will alter that when we regulate prices.
– The honorable member knows that the conditions which axe being established are untenable. Reverting to the matter of Customs revenue, I would remind honorable members that the wants of the community must be met. If local production does not meet the demand, goods must be imported from abroad, and they will be imported, no matter what the cost is. By reason of a good deal of legislation which has passed through this Chamber, as well as that enacted in various State Parliaments, conditions have been evolved which are discouraging men of enterprise and money from investing their capital, particularly in large labour-giving concerns.
– You will frighten all capital away if you talk like that.
– I wish to frighten the honorable member’s constituents away from him, so that he will not be in this House to assist in continuing a policy which, by discouraging the employment of capital, is making it more difficult for the workers to obtain a livelihood, and attain to the ideal conditions to which they aspire. In regard to the taxation of Crown leaseholds, I have always said that the effort of the Government to tax the property of the State is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. However, we have adopted a method of taxing Crown leaseholds, and, as we predicted, honorable members have been disappointed in the results. There is practically no revenue to be derived from Crown leaseholds in this way. I do not refer to Crown leaseholds in the richer portions of any State, but to large leaseholds in the outback portions cAustralia, particularly South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. The hope of collecting land tax from those estates as a means of largely supplementing the revenue, must prove futile. The States have fixed a ridiculously low rental for those lands, but on no other conditions would they be occupied, and it is surely better that the great woolproducing industry in the far-back country should be fostered by allowing people to use the leaseholds at a nominal rental, and thus produce a large amount of wealth and give employment, than that they should be allowed to remain idle. The inevitable effect of any determination on the part of the Government to make the tax on leasehold effective as a revenueproducer will be the abandonment of the leases. When the Government deliberately propose to increase their revenue from thi3 source they are aiming a direct blow at a great wealth-producing and labour-giving enterprise, and have no hope whatever of adding materially to the income of the Commonwealth. Therefore I urge the Government to be discreet in this matter. I congratulate them on having recognised the drought conditions which existed last year, for I understand from the Budget-papers that instructions were given that the collection of this tax was not to be unduly pressed. There seems to be an inference, however, that with the passing of drought conditions and the return of prosperity, the Government will endeavour to extract to the last farthing all the revenue that can be obtained from that industry and its pioneers. That policy is unsound, and might deter people from entering upon an enterprise which is particularly incidental to the development of the Northern Territory, because that is the only class of settlement possible if we are to make that Territory a success. If Crown leaseholds are to be taxed the problem of getting that Territory settled will be made more difficult. Amongst a number of other interesting facts presented to our imagination, the Treasurer has given us a table showing the incomes of different people, and he has incidentally told us that there are 248,000 people over the age of eighteen years who receive no incomes whatever. I can hardly credit that statement, but the total must include a large number of the daughters of families. I dare say many of them are receiving a good deal of money from their parents, but it is not a regular income which would figure in any return of income submitted to the Government. Such money is simply an expense which a parent willingly undertakes in order that his family may be happy and live under congenial conditions. The same table shows that there are 274,000 people who receive under £50 per annum. In all probability they are in the same category as those who are receiving no income. I do not know whether the Treasurer wishes to suggest a policy which would make it imperative on every parent to give to every daughter or son in his home a salary, whether engaged in work or not. But if the Government are proposing to interfere with businesses, it will be most unwise to interfere with family concerns. Yet that seems to be the suggestion contained in those figures. I am glad to find that the Government have shown a little backbone in regard to the gold reserve. Legislation was passed which made it illegal to reduce the gold reserve below 25 per cent., but I am pleased that in spite of the clamour of some persons inside and outside this Parliament .who suggested that as much paper money as possible should be placed on the market, the ‘Government have resisted that proposal and have maintained the reserve at 36.16. In regard to expenditure, I find that the expenditure during 1914-15 was £40,000,000, and the estimated expenditure for 1915-16, not including £4,000,000 to be advanced to the States, is £72,000,000. There we have an increased expenditure of £37,000,000. We have heard something about unauthorized expenditure by the Government. The Government appear determined to enter upon public works not authorized in a proper legal way, and to contemplate the expenditure of a large sum on the establishment of a Small Arms Factory at the Federal Capital. The procedure to be observed was to submit the contemplated works to the Public Works Committee for their report as ‘a guidance for the Government. But what we are now told is that the Government have decided on this expenditure without any such reference. In view of the fact that the war is the all-important question to-day, any increase of accommodation at the Small Arms Factory should have been such as to insure an increased output, while we are engaged in hostilities, and we had hopes of that being done. With additions to the present factory the output might have been doubled, with the result that we should have been able to produce rifles for the men of our reinforcements. However, the Government seem determined to bolster up the Federal Capital, though, in my opinion, it is simply sinful at the present time to enter on enterprises which cannot prove of any utility during the war, unless it be prolonged over a number of years. Our responsibilities are so great, and the taxation we have to enforce is so high, that it is altogether out of place to begin public works that might very judiciously be postponed.
– The honorable member voted for this Capital site.
– The absurdity of the interjection is evident. It is not a question of whether I did or did not vote for any particular site; the point is that at a time when we are stressing people by means of taxation we are also taking money out of their pockets to carry on works which might well be deferred, and I shall be astonished if such expenditure can be justified. What is the position in regard to the transcontinental railway ? When the Bill was before us we had an estimate that the work was to cost somewhere about £3,500,000; and up to the present we have expended somewhere in the neighbourhood of that sum, while the railway is not two-thirds completed.
– That is not correct; it is more than two- thirds completed.
– I admit that that is correct so far as the length of line is concerned, but none of the permanent features have yet been constructed. Just in the same way as the cost of living has been raised to the public, so has the cost of the construction of this railway been increased by the advanced wages paid to the men employed upon it. When the Bill was before Parliament honorable members opposite talked about a minimum wage of 10s. a day; but by the luring of the working men into the belief that they could improve their position by demanding extra pay we find that the cost of the railway will be so many millions more than the original estimate.
– What are the wages now ?
– The honorable mem- . ber knows more about the wages than I do, but I think that the men on the railway are paid about 14s. per day. I do not say that that is outrageous in view of the existing cost of provisions, but I submit that the men would be better paid at 10s. per day with a reduced cost of living. The efforts of honorable members opposite to bolster up the position of these men have been an absolute failure; and an increasing number outside the ranks of labour are beginning to recognise the. fact. In my opinion, the sooner we all recognise the fact the sooner we shall return to saner and sounder conditions. We are quite justified in joining the Government in congratulating the country on our present military position. I feel proud of what the Australians have done in the fighting line, thereby benefiting Australia, both directly and indirectly. I was pleased to see that the Acting Prime Minister told a peace deputation fairly and squarely that we should not continue to have liberty of speech, or any other liberty, unless we won this war. That is only the truth, and I commend it to my friends of the Peace Society. There is not a soul from Australia to-day who is fighting for the love of fight ; ‘what they are fighting for is the maintenance of righteousness, and because we know that if we do not light we shall be brought under a military despotism, and lose all those liberties and privileges which”, amongst other things, have allowed my friends opposite to establish their labourunions. The Labour party, of all men, ought to be keen to carry on the war, and I believe they are beginning to recognise the fact, and that we shall find them behind the Acting Prime Minister in his determination that Australia shall do its level best, as the Prime Minister said at Home we must do, if we are to be victorious. This, of course, means enormous expenditure and increased taxation; and here I must congratulate the Treasurer on his proposal to tax war profits.
– It ought to be more than 50 per cent.
– I do not Enow about that, but a considerable number of people are deriving largely increased returns because of the war, and we have here offered a fair field for taxation. In this proposal I am behind the Government. Up to within the last few months I had always been of the opinion that the voluntary system, was the best for Britons. I believe in freedom, but there is a good deal of coercion in life. Every taxation measure contains an element of coercion, and the joining of a labour union involves the same pressure. Under the” circumstances, I am beginning to alter my views with regard to conscription. When we find some families sending from one to four or more sons to the front while other families refuse to send any, the conditions are unfair and inequitable. There is another and a financial reason for conscription. Under the voluntary system a number of married men with children go to the front.
– Is it a fact that you told the people in your electorate that they were better engaged in production?
– I am not casting any innuendoes on honorable members opposite; and what I say here I am quite prepared to say on any platform in my constituency. For economic reasons the Government should know what will be the responsibilities upon the States in regard to the families of the men who are killed. It would be unwise to send away men with families of five or six children, when those children might become a charge upon the State. The Government should know who the men are who volunteer.
– Why did you not advocate that at the beginning ?
– Nowhere in my constituency have I said anything contrary to what I am saying now. The Government should be in a position to send the men who are wanted at the front, particularly those it would be of advantage to the State to send instead of others. To that extent conscription or some measure of compulsion should be adopted. Under the voluntary system no person is justified in pointing the finger at any other, and
Buying, “ Why do you not go ? “ Armed with information as to the family relationship of every man in Australia, the Government would be in a position to lay their hands on the men it would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth to send to the front. I quite agree with the repatriation scheme. It will be the pride and glory of future generations of Australia, I hope, to say that Australian soldiers, when they returned, were treated handsomely and better than returned soldiers were treated in any other part of the world. These men, above all, should be treated most handsomely. I have put a few pertinent facts before honorable members for their consideration. I hope that it will be remembered that the amount of money the working man passes through his fingers does not mean a better condition for him, and I hope that honorable members will believe that by a judicious system of compulsion the Government can bring about a better position in regard to the despatch of soldiers to the front.
.- When the Prime Minister made his announcement, in November last, of a further contribution to the fighting resources of the Empire, the citizen organization had provided 226,041 men. That was to the 30th November, 1915. From the 1st December, 1915, to 29th April last, a week ago last Saturday, a further 75,150 men had been enlisted and accepted: Thus the citizen organization in Australia has provided 301,191 men, who, upon examination, have been found it, and, so far as we know, have passed into camp for training.
-You are making no allowance for the wastage.
– I am not referring to the wastage nor to numbers which, from various causes, have slipped through the fingers of the military administration. My total is the total of acceptances. For a considerable time past I have known of the reason for the reduction of the figures in regard to the men who have gone away to the front, but, as we know, this is a matter which cannot be discussed profitably at the present time.
– The actual figures we were given yesterday were 251,000. Why use other figures ?
– I am looking at the matter from the stand-point of the citizen organization. We have had some figures and information from the standpoint of the military organization, but the citizen organization has done great work, and it is right that we should know what that work has been. Up to 29th April the totals are as follow : - New South Wales, 111,717; Victoria, 101,805; Queensland, 35,768; Western
Australia, 20,351 ; South Australia, 22,881; Tasmania, 8,669.
– Is the honorable member speaking of States or military districts?
– These figures are given on the basis of what are known as military districts. As a matter of fact, New South Wales has contributed equal to the recruiting in one battalion in other States. Men from Broken Hill are included in the South Australian figures. Certain New South Wales areas on the border of New South Wales and Victoria are included inVictoria for military purposes, and until quite recently the northern coast of New South Wales was almost wholly included in the Queensland military district. Even now, although that area has been placed under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales military organization, the recruits have the option of going to Queensland. Therefore, the figures, from the stand-point of States, may need a little re-adjustment, giving credit to New South Wales for about 4,000 or 5,000 more.
– Nearly 4,000 have gone from the northern rivers of New South Wales to Queensland.
– I believe that is the case. There have certainly been disputes about this matter, but I think that the number is in the vicinity of 4,000. I have a table which it would be interesting to place on record. It gives the figures for Australia from the commencement of the appeal for the new army of 50,000 men - that is, from 1st December to the 29 th Aprillast - and is as follows : -
It has not been possible to obtain precise information from the military authorities, but the figures published in the daily press of the State capitals as official have been accepted, and used in the preparation of the tables I have read. Within the last two or three months I have been in five of the States, and have been able to make tests which’ show that the information is approximately correct.
– Does the Defence Department accept those figures?
– I do not know.
– It has not seen them ?
– It has seen tables calculated in this manner from time to time, and the accuracy of such tables has been disputed. As an illustration of the manner in which the figures that I have given have been checked, let me say that the Melbourne Age stated this morning that since the 1st of January 21,000 men have enlisted and been accepted in Victoria. To check that statement I should take a similar statement made perhaps a month ago, and add to it the figures for the intervening period. I believe that the figures which I have given are accurate, and they have been obtained from the only source of information available, it being impossible to get the information which is in the possession of the military authorities. Had I the opportunity to compare the figures of the Defence Department with those that I have given, I think that I could show that there is no substantial difference between them.
– Those figures do not correspond with the Defence Department’s figures.
– The Department prefers to rely on the numbers going into the depots.
– If I were able to make public information that has been in my possession for some considerable time, I would explain any difference, but explanations of this kind cannot always be made.
– Prom the figures that the honorable member has given certain inferences are inescapable.
– Is the shortage of 41.600 the difference between the actual enlistments and the quota plus the reinforcements, or the difference between the enlistments and the number required for reinforcements alone?
– It covers all requirements, and is based on calculations made on 26th November last. Of course the position has now changed considerably. It was expected that reinforcements would be required at a certain rate, and because our troops have not been fighting of late, the requirements have been less; but, to show what has been done by the citizen organizations, I have based the figures as to our requirements given in the calculation made on the 26th November last. I wish now to place on record the enlistment figures for New South Wales. The enlistments in the State up to the 30th November last totalled 86,418, and the weekly enlistments since, from the first week in December until the week ending 29th April last, have been as follows: -
Unsatisfactory as some of these figures may be regarded, the position has been made even worse by the press of this and other capital cities. In New South Wales a policy of decentralization has been followed-in regard to enrolment. The examination of recruits in the suburban areas has been taking place nightly in the various suburban centres, and in consequence two of the three main city depots have been closed, the only one now open being at the Victoria Barracks. In the country districts the examination of recruits proceeds daily wherever there is a Government medical officer to undertake the work. In outlying districts an itinerant medical man and an enrolling officer are on circuit to deal with such recruits as may be offering. But the figures published in the press relate only to the enlistments at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, no regard being paid to the enrolments in the suburbs, or in the country. Thus when it is stated in the Melbourne Age that only five men enlisted in New South Wales on a certain date, it must be understood that the day ia question was a slack one at the Victoria Barracks only, and that the information does not cover the whole State.
We are in some confusion as to the next step to be taken immediately to provide cur contribution of men for the war. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that it would be well to await the return of the Prime Minister before altering the present system, but if we have to stay our hand for, say, two or three months, some difficulty will arise. War Service Committees, based upon the organization of local governing areas, such as shire and municipal councils, have been established throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and recruiting sergeants have been appointed to the various districts. The reports coming to hand show that the work of the various committees, so far as the replies to the Prime Minister’s appeal are concerned, is almost completed. The recruiting sergeants are still being paid, but they have about exhausted the work laid down for them on the definite plan adopted. Something is still being done on such lines as may occur to the men themselves, but the work of dealing with replies to the Prime Minister’s appeal is practically finished. I fear, however, that if we have to stay our hand for two or three months the organization which has been brought into existence by great effort may fall to pieces. Tn some cases motions for the disbandment of committees have been carried, in other places notice has been given of such motions, and many committees have been awaiting the reassembling of Parliament to learn what should be their next step.
It would be a great mistake indeed to allow those local organizations to be disbanded. In them we have the nucleus of a great military machine already in existence. If the Government had required under ordinary circumstances to bring such a machine into existence, the work would have entailed much agitation and governmental activity and huge expense.
Mr. J. H. Catts.
But, because of the war and the pressure of national necessity, these organizations have been .created with a minimum of effort and expense. We have them to-day, but what is to be done with them ? There is valuable work for them, for the Government, and for all of us to do immediately, and no matter what our future policy in regard to the fighting forces for Europe may be, the work of this organization could be fitted into it.
So far as I am personally concerned, it does not matter whether compulsion is introduced, because when my country is fighting for its existence I am prepared to go wherever I am ordered. But I have to be guided by considerations other than personal likes and dislikes. I do say, however, that there is a measure of compulsion, for which the country and every party throughout the Commonwealth is prepared, and that is the compulsory training of our manhood for the defence of Australia.
– Senator Pearce says that the proper place to defend Australia is on the enemy’s coast.
– In any case, it is a proper policy for us to have in training an army to defend Australia on Australian soil.
– There ought to be compulsion on every man up to sixty years of age to receive military training.
– That is the law of the land now.
– We have authority for that policy, and the people of the Commonwealth are ready for it. I doubt if any of us understand the full extent to which the people are prepared to go if the situation is placed before them. In a great many respects they have been asked nothing in comparison with what they are really willing to do. The manhood of Australia ought to be trained, and if that be done, no matter what system may be adopted for the future fighting in Europe, we shall derive benefit. If the voluntary system be continued, we shall get better results from it if, meantime, the manhood of Australia is being trained for local defence. And so, too, if later we adopt the compulsory system, that training will have been a valuable preparation for it, and will have saved much time. So that, no matter what policy this nation may elect to adopt, the thorough, training and equipment of our manhood would help materially.
Then there is the scheme for the repatriation of Australian soldiers. That scheme cannot be successfully administered from the capital centres; the detailed work must be dealt with locally. A Board of Trustees has been created, and that Board must bring into being some machinery in the local centres. Is it proposed that they shall create a new organization, or that they shall use the War Service Committees which are already in operation throughout the Commonwealth?
– That is what it is proposed to do.
– I am glad to hear that. All these functions should be amalgamated in one policy. An Act ought to be passed through Parliament quickly to place the War Committees on a statutory basis, by providing for a regular method of election, and giving them some standing in the scheme of government. It will be found that they are willing to accept the responsibility, and if the system is properly managed it need not entail much expense.
In New South Wales, through the good offices of the State Government, an intimation was sent to the local authorities that, although the Statutes under which they operate do not permit of them legally spending money on recruiting, if they did vote moneys for that purpose not exceeding £100 each the Government would introduce legislation to protect them. Two of the wealthiest municipalities in the State did not see their way clear to incur any such expenditure; but the whole of the others, numbering 318, contributed amounts up to £100, which meant a total help of about £33,000, for the carrying on of the recruiting campaign by the local committees. That fact shows that the local bodies and their ratepayers are prepared to provide money to be expended under the control of local committees for the carrying on of local recruiting work.
Use might also be made of the services of many of the returned soldiers. Naturally, they will return to their own districts. Everywhere Citizen Forces are being trained, and rifle clubs are in existence. There we have the nucleus of a home defence scheme, which would allow of training up to a cer tain point, and we should quickly develop the necessary officers. Many of the wounded soldiers who are not fit to return to the trenches for the time being are competent to give their fellow-citizens preliminary military training. They could be allocated to different local areas, and would be able to release other good men. And we know that if we determinedly set ourselves to the task we could provide very considerable arms and equipment for our total male population.
We ought not to allow our local organizations to be disbanded, but that may easily happen within the next two or three months if they are not given work to do, and then we shall have to start the whole system over again.
We do not know when the war will end. It may be our difficulties will really only commence with the peace conference. The Balkan States went to war against each other by tearing up the Berlin Treaty, and then, when considering the terms of peace, those nations which were fighting together quarrelled amongst themselves, and there followed another war just as violent as the first. How can we be sure that when the settlement of this war is being discussed those nations which are at present fighting side by side will not have a serious disagreement amongst themselves? There will be problems to be settled which never presented themselves at the conclusion of any previous war. The allocation of conquered territories, the burdens to be borne by the vanquished, or the gains to be secured by the victors, and the widespread interests of the many peoples concerned, will constitute such a problem as may conceivably lead to serious dispute.
The best contribution which Australia could make to a peace conference would be to have half-a-million trained men in Australia at the time. We do not know that we may not yet have to fight for our existence on Australian soil. Treaties are in existence; but, after all, of what value are treaties if it suits the interests of nations to break them. The Balkan States tore up the Berlin Treaty ; and in the present war the Treaty of London, by which the integrity of Belgium was guaranteed, was treated as “a scrap of paper “ by one of the most highly civilized nations of the world. How can we be assured that any treaty will save us if we are not in a position to save ourselves?
Experts in discussing the position of America with its population of 100,000,000, have declared that with halfamillion trained men in the United States it would be impossible for any nation te land an invading army on American soil. Australia can train and equip halfamillion men; and with such an army any nation that undertook to transport troops overseas for the invasion of Australia would receive a very warm reception. By the way, if ever Australians have to fight on their own soil in defence of their native land, something new in warfare will be seen. The fighting of Australians on the hills of Gallipoli will be nothing compared with what we shall see then. No man can say what the next few months may produce; and with all these possible dangers before us the National Government ought to give to every man in the country an opportunity of training to fight for the defence of his home and family.
– Has the honorable member gone into the recent figures regarding the universal training?
– Yes; but if we are to fight on Australian soil I hope we shall do something more than allow our trainees, most of whom are boys, to fight for us. Many of us would like to take an active part in the struggle.
– Is it not a fact that the ordinary citizen training under the Act is not going on at present?
– It was suspended, and I do not think that anything very effective is now being done. But there is something more than that to consider. There are probably 400,000 or 500,000 men in Australia, apart from those at present covered by any training, and they could be trained to make a very effective resistance in Australia if necessary. I have some information at my disposal, and I only wish the House had some opportunity to discuss it. Under present circumstances, however, it would, perhaps, be the worst thing I could do to further refer to it; but we all know there are many subjects we should like to be able to discuss here. As I said six or eight months ago, there ought to be a secret session, or some opportunity of the kind, afforded for a thorough discussion of the position by both sides in the most frank and cordial manner. While we have to speak in public, where our re marks are available to friends and enemies alike, there can never be that candour and proper exchange of views that is most desirable. As I stated a considerable time ago, there is, in my opinion, great work to be done at the present time in the organization of the resources of the country; and I should like to see every member of the House given an opportunity to take part in that work, using his brains and ability in order to insure a state of efficiency from one end of the continent to the other. As we are circumstanced, there can be no proper discussion of the situation. Six months ago, I asked whether the Department of External Affairs had some very important information which should have been at its disposal, and I was told that it had not. I may say that I have at my disposal some information which I believe to be authentic, and which I should like an opportunity to place before honorable members for discussion.
– Does the honorable member feel at liberty to mention what that information refers to without going into it in detail ?
– It relates to the defence of Australia on Australian shores and to alterations that have taken place quite recently in the relationships of various nations. I am surprised to find that there is so little information on the subject. However, as it appears such matters cannot be discussed, the less one says about them the better. I am quite certain that there is not one, but several matters of first-rate importance which cannot be dealt with because there is a muzzle on the mouths of honorable members on both sides. We ought, at any rate, to have some meeting of a preliminary kind to ascertain whether it is worth while having secret sessions. I did believe, when the Federal Parliamentary War Committee was first established, that some such opportunity would be provided ; but, as a matter of fact, the Committee cannot discuss anything but what is referred to them by the Government.
– We ought to have a National Government on the model of the Old Country.
– I doubt that; at any rate, there is much dispute as to whether what is called a coalition Government would meet the situation. If the suggestion I have made cannot be carried out, there are other courses that ought certainly to be adopted. The War Committee is kept within the four corners of the references by the Government, and every member of that Committee feels that he is under a pledge of honour not to violate the conditions under which the body was established. I should like to see the Committee placed on such a basis as to enable honorable members to send in notices of motion for frank discussion, with the object of preserving the integrity of Australia, and securing the effective prosecution of the war.
– That would supersede the Government.
– That, I suppose, is one of the considerations which weighed with the Government in placing limitations upon the Committee. The appointment of members of the Ministry, with four members from each side of the House, does not meet the object I have in view. It seems remarkable that, with two Houses of Parliament, numbering 110 members, with men of undoubted ability on both sides, and time at their disposal - and who are paid by the country to do the work - we should find many going about in idleness while the bulk of the work is thrown on the few. There ought to be some way of giving the whole of the members of Parliament work to do under the direction of the Government. I do not wish to deal with the matter further, but simply submit that I have made a practical suggestion. I am satisfied that the people of this country are ready, without any question whatever, for the training of the manhood of the country for the defence of Australia. If we had our manhood trained and equipped, and then proposed to carry on the voluntary system for service abroad, we should have a set of conditions under which the maximum numbers could be obtained. The minds of the manhood of the country would be turned in a military direction, and citizens would begin to think seriously about military problems. No matter what system it was proposed to follow later on, time would thus be saved and more preparation and greater efficiency achieved. I should certainly like to see some definite work placed in the hands of the local War Committees, otherwise I am afraid we shall lose some valuable services, and may have to start all over again at great cost.
– The honorable member for Cook is to be congratulated on the very careful investigation he has made into the subject with which he has dealt, and thanked for the care he has taken in submitting the information to honorable members. It hardly seems to me, however, that he followed to its logical conclusion the result of his investigation. He showed that there has been, roughly speaking, a shortage of 40,000 in the requirements, and’ there he leaves the matter without explaining how it is to be made up.
– That is not the present shortage.
– That was the shortage up to the time mentioned. The honorable member suggests that if the whole of the nation were put under compulsory training it would create, possibly, a sense of duty that would result in no shortage occurring. I do not think that that plan would be found satisfactory. The figures show that there has been a shortage, and, in spite of all that we can do by means of recruiting meetings and sergeants, that shortage has not been made up. The only effective way, apparently, is to have compulsory service.
– The requirements altered after the arrangement was made.
– There was a temporary suspension of the requirements, but immediately after the fighting is resumed casualties will arise. I am speaking of the whole of the war. The mere suggestion to train the manhood of Australia, and keep the troops in the country, would not meet the requirements of the situation. The defence of Australia does not necessarily mean battles in Australia.
– It might.
– We have to face the present conditions. Australians are more effectively defending Australia in France and Egypt at the present time than they would by remaining here. However, I do not desire to go into the merits or demerits of the suggestions made at this stage, beyond observing that, after doing recruiting work during the last six or seven months in Queensland, I cannot help feeling that the system of voluntary service is not leading to equality of sacrifice throughout the Commonwealth. Wherever we go, we are asked, “ Why should I send my sons to perish for the Commonwealth in order to defend that family of several sons over there, not one of whom will go?” Every ship-load of invalided men which comes from Gallipoli is the strongest possible argument for equality of service. I do not desire to reflect on the cities of Australia, but, in going through the country districts of Queensland, I found places which have been pretty well depopulated of young men who would otherwise have been engaged in production, and who would probably have here rendered services of the greatest value to Australia. At the same time, we know that those men who did volunteer from the west of the State were, perhaps, the best for the work to be done.
– Does the honorable member say that the country has done ever so much better than the towns have?
– I do not say “ ever so much better,” but in Melbourne I have seen football matches attended by thousands of young men, while the numbers who have left certain of the country districts for the front is exceedingly large.
– I guarantee that my district has sent 1,000 more men than has the district of the honorable member !
– I am glad that the honorable member’s district has done so well. I do not desire to pit the country against the town; but it is a fact that certain districts have done remarkably well as compared with others. My only desire is to secure, as far as possible, equality of service throughout the Commonwealth, and in addition .1 desire to secure a proper organization of the resources of Australia, which I think iis the strongest plea of all. There are matters of administration which are putting difficulties in the way of men who wish to enlist. Sometimes they arise from the manner in which the conditions of enlistment are put forward. Let me mention one matter by way of illustration. The wife of a man who has enlisted as a private receives 5s. a week for minding a railway gate. This man enlisted under the belief that his wife would get a separation allowance, but as soon as he reached Brisbane he was informed that the fact that his wife was drawing this 5s. a week would exclude her altogether from receiving a separation allowance, which, according to the advertisements inducing men to enlist, is paid to those who do not earn more than 8s. a day. This man has written to me enclosing the paragraph which induced him to enlist. His wife has now to sustain herself and his aged mother, who is dependent on him, on 3s. a day which he has allotted her, and the 5s. a week she receives for minding a railway gate. Many similar cases show the difficulty confronting men who come forward to enlist. There is also trouble in regard to pension claims. Men who saw the maximum pension advertised find on returning from the front to claim those pensions that what, is actually paid is much less. I know that Ministers are only carrying out what the law provides, but the trouble is that the conditions are not completely stated, and misunderstanding has arisen. However, as the Minister is about to bring in a Bill dealing with pensions, I shall not refer to the matter further. I wish now to call attention to something concerning the Trade and Customs Department. Under section 92 of the Constitution trade and commercebetween the States was supposed to be absolutely free, but recently several of the States have set up a series of harassing restrictions which have had the result of taking away the effect of that section to a great extent. I have brought this fact under the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and he has referred it to his legal advisers, but last January the honorable member for Richmond and I brought under notice a very strong case in which a resident of Tamworth gave several examples of the way in which the right of freedom of trade between States was concerned. This gentleman said -
First of all, I may mention that I have a farm at Greenmount, Queensland, with horses and cattle starving on it, and I have lucerne here (Tamworth) to feed them with, but the State Government have prohibited the Railway Department from supplying me with trucks to take the lucerne to Queensland on account of an alleged shortage of lucerne in Sydney.
He had starving stock in the adjoining State of Queensland when the drought was at its greatest intensity there, but the New South Wales Railway Department, acting, presumably, under Ministerial direction, actually refused to allow him to send his own fodder to his own stock on his own farm across the border. He further wrote -
Secondly, I may mention that I purchased three trucks of mixed chaff here for Queensland before the 1st November. The Railway Department could not supply trucks to take it to Queensland up to the date of the prohibition of the export of lucerne (3rd December), and after that date they refused to supply trucks for it, because it contained a little lucerne.
Thirdly, I accepted orders for trucks of lucerne hay and chaff from a number of farmers with starving stock in Queensland before any prohibition of export was thought of, and after purchasing the produce I was prevented from sending it to Queensland. The produce is now on my hands here, and the stock I purchased it for are dying in Queensland, and the owners (who were depending on the supplies from me) are blaming me for their losses.
We can Lave nothing stronger than these three- specific cases. They show a complete stoppage on the part of the Stat© Government of New South Wales of the right of a citizen of a State to send produce to feed his starving stock just across the border from his own State.
– When we did intervene the High Court said that the States could do as they liked.
– The question then raised before the High Court was whether a State had a right to acquire property for public purposes, and it was hela that the State of New South Wales under its sovereign power as a sovereign State had the right to acquire the individual’s properly within the State, though it was in transit to another State. But in this case the State stepped in and interfered, not by way of acquisition, but by preventing the free transport of goods from one State to another.
– Both New South Wales and Queensland are doing that.
– I am glad to say that the Crown did intervene in the case of New South Wales. The position was rather interesting. The New South Wales Government were threatening the State of Queensland with legal proceedings in order to test the legality of their action in preventing the export of stock from that State, when they were doing the very same thing to Queensland. In fact, a member of the New South Wales Cabinet went to Queensland, and when a deputation waited on him there he said that though he was rather inclined to think that New South Wales had done wrong, he had .gone to Queensland to induce the Government of that State to do the right thing, and allow the export of stock to New South Wales. On the 5th May a decision was given by the High Court in the case of Foggitt, Jones, and Company v. the State of New South Wales, the Attorney-General, and the Chief Commissioner of Railways. I understand that Mr. Jones is a Labour member of the Queensland Parliament.
He is supporting the Government which is doing the very act that he successfully challenged in New South’ Wales. It was desired to send pigs from New South Wales to Queensland, but New South Wales was anxious to save its own bacon. However, this gentleman “went the whole hog “ and took the matter to court. The Chief Justice said -
The point raised in the case was a very short one, but one of considerable importance. The plaintiffs were a joint stock company, carrying on their business in Queensland, and owned stock in New South Wales. The AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales and the Chief Commissioner for Railways, acting under the former’s instructions, were endeavouring to prevent the removal of stock from New South Wales across the border into Queensland. In the wheat case the Court had laid it down that an owner of stock or property had the right to remove it from one State to another without interference. The Meat for Imperial Purposes Act provided that all stock so required should be held for the purposes of His Majesty’s Imperial Government for the support of the Army in the war, but it did not say that all stock should be held by the Government. The same Act gave the Government of New South Wales the right to acquire all stocks of meat. The Government had taken no steps to acquire the pigs held by the plaintiff, but it in effect said, “You shall not be allowed to dispose of them to strangers, or to other subjects of His Majesty in Queensland.” One of the rights granted and guaranteed to an owner of property by the Constitution was to trade in such property. As far as the Meat for Imperial Purposes Act was concerned in this connexion it was ultra vires of section 92 of the Constitution, in so far as it was intended to prevent an owner dealing with his own stock.
The High Court held very clearly that citizens had complete right to trade, and that the States had no right to interfere; that the only right the States had was the right of acquisition for public purposes. It is a right which must be conceded. No State could carry on its function of government without the right of acquisition of land for public purposes, for its railways, its court houses, its schools, and so on; but it was never intended that the States would abuse their power in order to prevent the lawful flow of trade between the several States. The honorable member for Richmond and I communicated with the Department on the 11th January, and on the 27th April last the Acting Prime Minister, under whose notice we brought the particular case of fodder, said that if evidence were supplied giving the necessary facts he would challenge the legality of the State’s action; and according to the decision in the Sydney case to which I have just referred, there should be no doubt about the success of the action. The same thing is happening in Queensland at the present time, but there they proceed upon different lines. The legality of their action must be decided upon the different principles. They, apparently, do not purpose to exercise their power under the Act dealing with the supplies of meat for Imperial uses. If a drover wishes to send stock across the border to New South Wales he is told that he can do so provided he signs the following undertaking: -
– What has the Sugar Acquisition Act to do with meat?
– The Sugar Acquisition Act was passed for the purpose of acquiring sugar or any other goods. If a drover is driving starving stock from Queensland, he is stuck up at the border and practically told that if he does not abstain from sending them into New South Wales the Government will acquire his cattle under the Sugar Acquisition Act, but, if he prefers it, they will not do so on condition that he undertakes to return the cattle in six months time; and as a guarantee he must put down10s. per head.
– It is a sort of poll tax.
– It is in reality an export tax that is levied on goods. These unfortunate men cannot get any satisfaction from the Queensland Government. They ask, “ If we sell our cattle after they have crossed the border, will you be satisfied with the10s. per head levied under the bond?” But they cannot get a satisfactory reply. Assuming that the contract between them and the Government is a legal one, they are liable to the forfeiture of the10s., and may be sued for breach of contract for not bringing back their cattle. My hope is that this Government will make strong repre sentations to the Queensland Government with a view to putting an end to this serious hindrance to trade between Queensland and New South Wales. The legality of the regulation is extremely doubtful, but the losses of the stock-owners of Queensland have been so great that private individuals cannot afford to test the question in the High Court. After the State Customs barriers were removed, a number of persons holding land on one side of the border between the States bought land on the other side, and now such men are prevented from moving stock from a paddock on one side of the line to a paddock on the other. Over certain portions of the Darling Downs the recent rains have been fairly good, but in many parts of Queensland trying drought conditions still prevail, and this regulation is disastrous to stock-owners. It has been the subject of meetings of protest throughout the country, which is seething with discontent and a sense of injustice. At Goondiwindi a large meeting of stock-owners condemned the regulation very strongly, and last week at Toowoomba a large meeting of farmers from various parts of the district passed a strong resolution in protest against it. The regulation is obviously contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, as it prevents the free intercourse of trade between two States, and it is injuring the agricultural and pastoral interests of Queensland by putting an obstacle in the way of moving starving stock. I ask Ministers to represent strongly to the Queensland Government the injustice which is being suffered, particularly by the stock-owners in certain parts of Queensland, through the operation of this regulation. To refer for a moment to another matter, the Treasurer, in replying to a question which I asked this afternoon, seemed to be under a misapprehension; I did not desire the disclosure of confidential information. I understand that the Government has been paying £18 a ton for the raw sugar grown in Queensland.
– The Prime Minister, when in Bundaberg, told the people there the Government had bought thousands of tons of imported sugar at £17 10s. and £18 a ton. Now, the Queensland planters grow their sugar under white labour conditions. They were given a protection of £6 a ton to enable them to do this, but the present Government has, in effect, swept the Customs duty out of existence, and has paid for sugar grown in Java, with black labour, as much as it has paid for sugar grown in Queensland with white labour. The Treasurer himself represents a sugar-growing district, and I ask him and the Government, in future negotiations with the sugargrowers of Queensland, to remember that their sugar is grown with white labour, and that wages have gone up considerably, and to give them the most reasonable conditions that the circumstances will permit.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer on the clear statement of the finances of the Commonwealth which he placed before the Committee. It shows that the Government has been careful to exercise economy during the abnormal period through which we are passing. But I have risen chiefly to draw attention to the position of the Newcastle coal trade. “When the war commenced, an embargo was placed on the export of coal, which considerably interfered with the foreign trade of Newcastle, but when tEe Pacific Ocean had been cleared of enemy war vessels, the restrictions were considerably modified, and until the wheat export scheme came into operation, work at the mines in the district was fairly good. On the adoption of the wheat export scheme, the embargo on the coal trade was made more severe, with the result that the foreign coal trade of Newcastle has -almost disappeared. That coal trade took years to create, and must be maintained against the competition of Japan and America. We should therefore be very careful, even in abnormal times like the present, how we interfere with it. No honorable member desires that any industry should be jeopardized unnecessarily. The people in the district between Maitland and Newcastle have been prepared to accept any hardship which might be put upon them in the cause of the Allies. Although they have suffered keenly from unemployment, they have always declared that they are prepared to put un with what sufferings may be necessary in order that our Allies may be supplied with wheat. But, in my opinion, the action of the Government is not facilitating the export of wheat, and in making the embargo on coal stricter, the Government is discouraging ship-owners from sending vessels te Australia. Shipowners who can obtain freights elsewhere are not likely to send their vessels to Aus tralia at the risk of having them commandeered here to carry wheat to the United Kingdom. Many ship-owners load coal at Newcastle for the west coast of America or for Java, and at the port of discharge obtain cargo for Great Britain. Such ship-owners are not going to send their vessels here at the risk of being prevented from doing that. The present regulations are killing the coal trade of Australia. I would not say a word against what is being done if it were having the effect of facilitating the export of wheat. But, as a matter of fact, it is not doing that, and is crippling a trade which took years to build un, and which if lost cannot be recovered. So that the House may know the real position, let me quote the following statement as to the quarterly returns of the Newcastle coal trade which recently appeared in the Newcastle Herald: -
The quantity shipped here during the quarter ended March 31st Inst for Commonwealth, New Zealand, and foreign ports, totalled 777,359 tons, valued at £414.740, as against 1,013,001 tons, valued at £520,916 for the corresponding period of 1915. The decrease is principally in the foreign trade, there being only 25,099 tons less shipped last quarter to Commonwealth and New Zealand porta than during the same period last year. Among the more notable decreases in foreign shipments arc: 43,330 tons for Chili this quarter, as against 67,248 tons in the corresponding quarter of 1915, 12,S73 tons for the United States of America, as against 31,681 tons, 39,403 tons for India, as against 73,550 tons. In several instances countries which in the first quarter of last year took some shipments, have during the first quarter of this year taken no coal at all. These include the Philippine Islands. 32,402 tons; Ecuador, 17,474 tons: and the Argentine, 15,935 tons.
That statement shows that there was a considerable decrease in the export of coal during the first quarter of the present year as compared with the export in the corresponding quarter of last year, which was also a war year. It shows, too, that the action of the Government is having a detrimental effect on the coal trade, and that it is not making it easier to get ships for the export of wheat. To my own knowledge there were at least halfadozen ships in Newcastle which the Government decided should not be permitted to load coal. What was the result? They did not take wheat; the owners cabled to the captains instructing them to depart in ballast. The Government gained nothing by that restriction, whereas had the ships been permitted to load coal, more work would have been provided for the miners in the district. I could understand the policy of the Government if it resulted in the transport of wheat to other parts of the world, but it does not; it is merely driving the coal trade to other parts of the world, to the detriment of Australian interests. I am not voicing this complaint for the purpose of prejudicing in any way the carriage of wheat to the United Kingdom. I believe that Italy, and others of the allied countries, require wheat; but means ought to be devised by those Governments for the transport of their requirements. At the request of the Imperial Government, a record area was cropped with wheat throughout Australia, and in my opinion the responsibility now devolves upon those who require the grain to see that ships are made available to carry it. We should not assist wheat transport by placing restrictions on the coal trade and preventing shipping from coming to our shores. If that policy continues, and the ships are frightened from our ports, there will be a scarcity of some of the imported commodities, and an inflation of prices. Therefore, this matter is of very considerable importance. So far as the men whom I represent are concerned, no murmur will be heard from them at any suffering entailed by the policy of the Government, providing that policy is in the interests of the allied countries; but if it can be shown that the Allies are getting no benefit from these restrictions, why should the men suffer? Up to the end of last month, 2,150 members of the Coal Employees Federation had enlisted, otherwise the conditions at Newcastle must have been much worse. Altogether, 23 per cent. of the Miners’ Union have gone to the front, and others are joining the Expeditionary Forces every day. That is a very creditable performance, having regard to the fact that so many of the members are beyond the military age. I ask the Government to take this matter into earnest consideration, so that they may devise means of permitting ships which do not carry wheat to carry coal from Newcastle. There is no advantage in sending ships away in ballast, and in giving the country a bad name. When the war is over those 2,000 men who have enlisted will be returning to the district, and employment for them must be found. But if the foreign trade is destroyed, and the collieries are restricted to the Inter-State trade, employment must diminish. Even to-day, because of the policy of the Government, there are many men unemployed in the Newcastle district. Yet I wish to repeat that the men whom the honorable member for Newcastle and I represent have no fault to find with the endeavours of the Government to send wheat to the allied countries. They would be prepared to be thrown out of employment and seek work elsewhere rather than injure the cause of the Allies ; but if no assistance is rendered the Allies by cutting off the coal trade with foreign countries, it is fair to ask the Government to discontinue the interference with ships which would carrycoal only, and would in no circumstances carry wheat.
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.
.- The Treasurer, in the course of a speech this afternoon, drew attention to the fact that at that moment not many honorable members of the Opposition were in the House. His statement caused a good deal of annoyance to honorable members on this side, and perhaps the honorable gentleman was unintentionally ungenerous. The absence of a number of honorable members of the Opposition was accounted for by the fact that they were then saying “Good-bye” to the honorable member for Angas, who left this afternoon for Europe. Up till that time there had been a large attendance of honorable members on this side of the House. Now that the circumstances have been made known to him, I hope that the Treasurer will withdraw the statement he made.
– After hearing the explanation of the honorable member for Richmond, I desire to withdraw what I said this afternoon, and to express regret that I should have caused honorable members any pain or worry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160510_reps_6_79/>.