6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 5) presented by Mr. Charlton, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
The following paper was presented : -
Strategic Railway from Brisbane to Port Augusta via Hay - Report on, by Mr. Combes.
Ordered to be printed.
– In connexion with the speech delivered in this House last night by the honorable the Postmaster-General, referring to matters of administration of the Department of Home Affairs, the Government propose to arrange for the appointment of a Royal Commission. If possible the Commission will consist of a Judge, and the Acting Prime Minister will arrange for same. The Commission will be asked to take the Hansard reports of the speech above referred to, and the speeches delivered since the reassembling of Parliament by Mr. W. O. Archibald, M.P., dealing with administrative matters in the Home Affairs Department, and also statements and answers to questions dealing with the same matters made by the Minister of Home Affairs in the House of Representatives, as the basis for such inquiry.
– Are the Government prepared to give the House an opportunity of discussing the. advisability of appointing a Royal Commission to investigate ordinary matters of departmental and administrative work? No charges of corruption have been made, and this proposed inquiry, by an outside authority, introduces a new principle which’ may be carried very far.
– Last night, I understood that it was practically the unanimous desire of the House that the statements made by the Postmaster-General should be inquired into immediately. The
Government promptly took the matter into consideration, and they were of opinion that an independent inquiry would give the greatest satisfaction to the House and to the public.
– Will the Leader of the House say whether the statement, appearing in both morning papers, is correct, that the PostmasterGeneral was instructed by Cabinet to discuss this question, and to express the other views to which he gave utterance last night ? It is stated in both newspapers that the Minister’s speech was the result of Cabinet consideration.
– The statement in the newspapers is not correct.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence inform the House why a number of Bulgarians were released from internment, and sent to Broken Hill under military escort?
– The honorable member was good enough to advise the Minister of Defence of his intention to ask this question, and the Minister has supplied the following answer: -
On the 2nd March, 1916, the Secretary of State for the Colonies cabled to the Commonwealth Government intimating that an arrangement had been made with the Bulgarian Government, on the basis of reciprocity, not to detain in the United Kingdom or the British Empire, or in His Majesty’s Overseas Dominions, Bulgarian subjects who were under seventeen or over fifty-five years of age on the date of the declaration of war between Great Britain and Bulgaria, nor to intern Bulgarian subjects of any age so long as they are able to provide for themselves, unless there are special reasons of a military character which would render internment desirable.
The Secretary of State expressed the hope that the Commonwealth Government would concur in this policy.
The Minister for Defence issued instructions to the Commandant of each Military District in accordance with this notification from the Secretary of State, and instructed each Commandant to go through the lists of Bulgarians interned from his district”, to ascertain which” on these lists conformed with the notification of the Secretary of State, and to communicate with the Commandant, Concentration Camp (where the Bulgarians were interned), who had been instructed to liberate those recommended by the Commandants. Commandants were also informed that in considering future cases of internment they should be guided by the above arrangements.
In the 4th Military District (South Australia) forty-seven Bulgarians were affected by the arrangements set out, and the Commandant,
Concentration Camp, was instructed that they were to be released on condition that they reported to the police of the place to which they were proceeding. He was further instructed to provide railway warrants for their return to Adelaide. If a large batch of them desired to travel together, the Commandant was informed that it would be wise to defer their release until he had an escort going to the State in question.
No instructions were issued from HeadQuarters that any of these Bulgarians were to be sent to Broken Hill, or for any military guard to be sent to Broken Hill in connexion therewith, and up to the present the Department has no information as to how it came about that they were sent there. Inquiries are, however, being made.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been called to the exposure by a French newspaper, the L’CEuvre, of advertisements recently inserted in German newspapers within Germany by Nestle and the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, in which the company, according to the translation furnished to me, boast of their German sympathies and connexions during the war. Seeing that the company have connexions within Australia, will the Minister have the matter investigated ?
– It is my misfortune that I have never before heard of the newspaper, but if the honorable member will hand the copy to me I shall have the matter investigated.
– In the Argus of this morning I am reported as having said yesterday -
Another hindrance to recruiting among Good Templars was the administration of the War Precautions Act, particularly in regard to the limitation of freedom of speech and restrictions on the freedom of the press.
As that paragraph may cause some inconvenience and misunderstanding amongst a reputable section- of the community, I desire to point out that the sentence is wrong and misleading in two particulars. I did not refer to recruiting amongst Good Templars, and I made no reference to Good Templars having any connexion with the administration of the War Precautions Act. I do not complain of the misleading criticism by the Argus in its leading article, but it . might, at least, keep lies out of the reports.
– Last week I drew the attention of the representativeof the Minister of Defence to some cases in which members of the Public Servicehad been allowed to enlist, and afterwards called upon to return to their positions in the Service. I also stated that these public servants were not being allowed the difference between their earnings in the Service and their earnings inthe ranks, nor were they being repaid any of the expense to which they had been put. The Minister promised to answer the questions I then asked.
– I gave a promise to the honorable member, but I have not yet received an answer to the request for information that I sent to the Department. As soon as I get the answer I shall inform the House.
Contribution of Australian Troops
– A Ministerial statement has been issued regarding the contribution of Australian troops for active service abroad, and in that document certain correspondence with the Imperial authorities is summarized. Will the Minister for the Navy lay the correspondence on the table of the House?
– I do not know whether the correspondence is of a confidential nature, but I shall confer with the Minister of Defence, and, if he has no objection, lay it on the table.
– Having regard to what has appeared in recent press cables, is the Minister representing the Prime Minister yet prepared to make a statement as to when the Prime Minister mav be expected back in Australia?
– I understand that the Prime Minister is expected back in the Commonwealth about the third week in . July.
Embargo on Coal Exportation.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Hunter that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz.: - “The embargo placed upon the export of coal to foreign ports.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I take this course reluctantly, because I realize the great difficulties that the Government have to contend with at the present juncture in view of the European situation. If the embargo complained of were in any way assisting the Allies’ cause I should be the last man in the world to raise my voice against it. It is only because the embargo is serving no useful purpose so far as the export of wheat is concerned, and, at the same time, is doing considerable injury to the coal trade, that I desire to ventilate the matter. It will be admitted at once that, whilst we must do everything possible to achieve success in the war, we, at the same time, must not unnecessarily do anything that may be detrimental to one of the greatest industries in Australia. I shall endeavour to show that the action of the Government is detrimental to the coal interests, and is in no way helping in the European situation. In order that honorable members may have a clear grasp of the subject, it may be as well for me to briefly review the position. After the war broke out, when enemy boats were in the Pacific, the Admiralty, or the Government at the request of the Admiralty, decided to put an embargo on the export of coal to certain ports in the Pacific. The result was to interfere considerably with the coal trade, but of those engaged in that trade not one complained. They were quite prepared to accept the position, realizing that it was absolutely necessary at that period in the interests of the Allies’ cause. When the Pacific had been cleared of enemy ships, the position became somewhat different, and we agitated for a modification of the embargo. After representations had been made by the Government the Admiralty agreed to modify the embargo so as to permit of coal being exported to the south coast of America, the Philippine Islands, Java, and elsewhere, and thus enabled the collieries to be kept fairly constantly employed. Of course, we are not now exporting the quantity of coal that we exported prior to the war. When we reflect that between 2,000 and 3,000 members of the Coal
Miners Federation have enlisted, it becomes at once apparent that the output must have considerably declined. I recognise just as much as does anybody the vital necessity which exists for securing the transference of our wheat crop to the markets of the world. I know that it is imperative that we should supply the Allied nations “with the wheat which they require. But after the recent harvest was gathered we increased the severity of the embargowhich previously obtained by declining to permit any vessel to take coal from Australia to a foreign port without a special permit. This action has not resulted in any assistance being rendered to the wheat trade, but rather the reverse, because if we refuse to permit any vessel in Australian waters to load coal, or any other cargo, ship-owners in other parts of the world will at once determine that their vessels shall not visit Australia. In the case of ships belonging to neutral countries, the Commonwealth cannot compel them to carry wheat. We have also to recollect that most of these vessels make the round trip. They bring a load of cargo to Australia, and then load coal, or whatever other cargo is offering at the different ports. If we stipulate that they shall not carry coal from our ports, it is obvious that their owners will not send them here. The result of this embargo has been that at least half-a-dozen vessels have left our shores in ballast. It is reported in the press that three or four more are about to do the same thing, because they cannot obtain permission from the Government to carry coal. The consequence is that our coal trade with foreign ports is being destroyed. In that trade we have to compete with countries like Japan and America, and if we once allow our coal to be diverted from its accustomed markets we shall inflict injury upon an important industry without in any way assisting the wheat industry. When the war is over we shall have thousands of men in search of employment, and if we have crippled our coal trade, how shall we provide them with that employment? As a matter of fact, notwithstanding that so many men have enlisted for service at the front, there are in Newcastle to-day, consequent upon the operation of this embargo, perhaps 2,000 men unemployed. For the quarter ended March of the present year we exported only 777,359 tons of coal, as against 1,013,000 tons for the corresponding quarter of last year. Both these quarters fall within the period covered by the war, and it will he noticed that there has been a drop of 236,642 tons in the brief space of three months. The figures are positively startling. By pursuing this policy we are deriving no benefit, and why, therefore, should we continue it? Yesterday I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs -
Whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that three or four ships are about to leave Australia in ballast, because the owners have been unable to obtain from his Department permits to load coal? If it is a- fact, will the Minister give further consideration to the matter, in order to preserve the coal industry?
The Minister, in reply, said -
I have not had the opportunity of verifying the accuracy of the statement in the press. Our difficulty lies in the fact that if we compel British or Allied vessels to carry wheat, and allow neutral vessels to carry coal, which is a much more profitable cargo, we are penalizing our own people. If we allow ship-owners to carry coal, it will be good-bye to our export of wheat.
– We cannot force any vessel to carry wheat.
– We cannot force a neutral vessel to take any cargo, except what its owners choose to carry. The owners of neutral vessels probably find” greater profit in leaving Australia in ballast, and picking up nitrates at a South American port, or timber at Puget Sound, than in carrying wheat from Australia.
– But is not the Minister preventing them from carrying coal?
– If we allow them to carry coal, we shall not get any boats to carry our wheat.
If the Minister’s statements were correct, I would not complain, but the position is exactly the opposite. The very fact that we refuse to allow vessels to load coal when they come here is the means of preventing ship-owners from sending their vessels to Australia. Should the war continue for another couple of years, and this embargo be persisted in, we shall have the next wheat crop on top of us before the last crop has been sent abroad; we shall have entirely dislocated the coal trade, and we shall have prevented vessels from bringing necessary merchandise to our shores. In other words, we shall find ourselves short of other commodities.
– That is the effect of the present policy. The freight from New York is £10 per ton.
– If the Minister takes up the position that because vessels will not load wheat they must not carry coal, we shall get no neutral tonnage at all.
– Surely the Minister is being guided by expert advice?
– I do not know. But if ships come here from neutral countries and decline to load coal, ought they to be allowed to go away with empty bottoms ?
– Has that been the result?
– Most certainly. I know, too, that very considerable delay occurs in dealing with applications from vessels desirous of loading coal, because in some cases the Government have granted the necessary permission. As a matter of fact, vessels have been tied up in Newcastle for weeks awaiting the Ministerial decision as to whether they will be permitted to carry coal from Australia. The result has been that four or five collieries have closed down, and many men have been thrown out of employment.
– I suppose that the Minister cannot control the destination of neutral ships ?
– I have already explained that, immediately the Pacific was clear of enemy vessels, the Admiralty took certain precautions. As a result, the Consuls of various neutral countries guaranteed that the coal exported from Australia would not find its way into the hands of the enemy. The Government are amply safeguarded in that respect.
– But the Consuls cannot guarantee the destination of the coal. They can merely express an opinion in the light of their knowledge.
– Just so. But they have made an arrangement by which vessels can be traced to their destinations, and the Admiralty is perfectly satisfied with that arrangement. The only point we have to consider is whether we shall expedite the removal of our wheat overseas by preventing vessels about to leave our shores from loading coal. I say that we shall not, but that by so acting we shall cripple a very important industry.
– If we paid the normal freights, we could get all our wheat away.
– I understand that the British Government requested the people of Australia to put a greater area under cultivation. The result has been that we have a greater yield than in other years. I understand, further, that the allied countries have bought some of our wheat and that our difficulty is to get the wheat carried to them. In my opinion, at this time of national crisis, when it is necessary to get wheat for the troops of the Allies and the people of the allied nations, the responsibility of taking action in order to see that the wheat reaches them, rests with the British Government and the allied nations. If we have not the boats, the allied nations should take concerted action in order to provide them. I have ventilated this matter for the purpose of giving the Minister an opportunity of explaining the position. If he can show that this embargo on the export of coal is absolutely necessary, I shall be satisfied, but if I find that it is not assisting the cause of the Allies, while at the same time it is detrimental to the coal industry of Australia, then I think we should consider very deeply whether the Government are justified in preventing boats from taking coal when they are not in a position to compel those boats to carry any other class of cargo.
– One of the many difficult questions confronting the Government has been the provision of ships to take away the commodities which we have to send from Australia. The hardships suffered by the coal miners have been great owing to the difficulties of obtaining freight, and they have been very considerate and forbearing. I have told the honorable member for Hunter this repeatedly, and I have also said it in reply to deputations. “We all know that shipping is very scarce all over the world, owing to the fact that many vessels are hung up in neutral ports while others are being sent to the bottom . The Government have been anxious to have wheat exported, not only from a financial point of view, because wheat is worth about £10 or more per ton free on board at Melbourne, as compared with coal, which is worth only 12s. per ton free on board at Newcastle, but also because it is a commodity which is produced year after year, whereas coal is on an entirely different footing. But while the Government have been anxious to get the wheat away, they have been equally anxious to do it at the best possible advantage. If we accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty, and paid the normal freight, we could certainly get our wheat away, but it would be good-bye to the advance of 3s. to the farmers. Honorable members know the position. Freights have risen enormously all over the world. For instance, the prewar freight from Argentine to Europe was less than 12s. a ton for wheat. That rate even existed in the early stages of the war. It is now £7 10s. per ton. We pay £4 15s. per ton for about double the distance, and whereas on our coastal trade the increase in freight has been but a small percentage, in other parts of the world the increase has been as much as 1,200 per cent. ; in the case of Argentine it has been 1,000 per cent. Let me deal with the freight on kerosene, a subject which I investigated about six weeks ago. Prior to the war, and even since the war began, the rate of freight from New York to Australia on kerosene was 6d. per case by sailer, and ls. per case by steamer. Six weeks ago the freight was 5s. 8d. per case by sailer, and 8s. 4d. per case by steamer. I suppose the rates are even higher now. Senator Russell is the representative of the Government on the Wheat Board. It has done its best to get away as much wheat as possible, but it is not correct to say that the Government have secured all the vessels available for wheat. I have a list of those which have left Australia from the 1st January last until the present time. I need not put that list in Hansard; but I can say that the Government have approved of the shipment of 120,000 tons of coal from Australia, and this quantity does not include bunker coal to the extent of 45,000 tons for mail steamers and other vessels trading regularly to the South Sea Islands. The refusals amount to 48,000 tons.
– What would be the effect of establishing a parity between’ coal and wheat?
– Whereas the shipowners receive up to £4 15s. a ton for conveying wheat from Australia to Great Britain, out of which, I presume, they must pay the war risk, they can obtain £3 5s. per ton to take wheat from here to South America, half the distance, and through waters which’ are not dangerous. By putting the wheat and coal freights on a parity, we should probably have to pay £6 or £7 a ton for carrying wheat.
– Taking the round trip?
– Yes, basing the calculation on a rate of freight of £3 5s. per ton to South America, at which point the ships could pick up freight for the north, or for Europe, at a very high rate. As a matter of fact, shipowners declare that they can get £20 or more per ton for the round trip from London to London, whereas two or three years ago their return would be below £2 or £3 per ton.
– I merely asked what would be the effect of establishing that parity?
– I doubt whether it would pay to grow wheat in Australia if we had to pay the enormous freights ruling in other parts of the world to-day. A very generous interpretation has been placed on the question of the suitability of vessels for carrying wheat, and those that have been classed as unsuitable for that purpose have been permitted to carry coal. Tonnage to the extent of 48,000 has been refused. Quoting from the list of vessels which have been refused coal, and what ultimately became of them, I find that one vessel took wheat, another left in ballast, a third was requisitioned by the Wheat Board. A fourth vessel has noted against it the fact that the proposed consignee was on the black list. This will answer the honorable member who asked whether we can guarantee where the coal will go. The next two boats were requisitioned. The next two left in ballast. Another loaded general cargo. The next left in ballast. The next was chartered for wheat. The next left in ballast. There is no note in regard to the next two. Two others left in ballast, and the last was not granted a licence to leave the Commonwealth.
– I suppose that the boats which leave in ballast are those which you could not requisition ?
– That is so; they are neutral vessels. I assure the honorable member that I have placed the position of the coal-miners before the Wheat Board in as favorable a light as possible. The members of the Board realize their responsibility to do their best to get wheat away from Australia.- We must see that our industries are kept going. We have no right to say that the coal trade shall suffer for the benefit of the wheat trade, but it must be remembered that we had 4,000,000 tons of wheat to ship to the other side of the world at the end of last season, and it is far better that vessels should be requisitioned to carry overseas wheat which is required by our Allies. It is also better from a Commonwealth point of view, for wheat is a commodity which can be reproduced in Australia.
– There will not be so much reproduced unless better freights are offered.
– The Government have done nothing to prevent freights coming here. On the contrary, we have sent cable after cable to London in the endeavour to get freights. We have represented to the British Government that if Britain and her Allies require wheat, we have it in Australia, and we have asked that special efforts be made by them to get it shifted to Europe.
– We even import goods that should be made locally in order to get bottoms to carry wheat away.
– I do not know that we have done that purposely, but commodities have been imported in vessels which it is proposed shall take wheat away. I have quoted statistics regarding the vessels that have been taking coal, the quantity sent away in bunkers, and the quantity refused. There are under consideration applications of six vessels, totalling 18,000 tons, and I have asked that the matter shall be dealt with promptly. In trade one cannot afford to hang up business. People would prefer a prompt decision, even though it be adverse.
– The British Government are responsible for our large production of wheat, and they should take the responsibility of seeing that we get bottoms, instead of ruining our other industries.
– That has been pointed out, but if we are to judge from the cable messages the British Government have their hands fairly full with their own troubles. There is another aspect of the wheat question. Particulars are published from time to time regarding the advances to farmers. I am not sure as to the relations between the Commonwealth and the States in this regard, but I know that £11,237,000 has been advanced to farmers, and I believe the Commonwealth is one of the joint guarantors.
– I am not sure that the Commonwealth is not involved. We owe responsibility to the whole people of the Commonwealth to see that a commodity which has been produced is marketed, and which., according to questions asked in the House the other day, is likely to deteriorate. At une same time, I assure the House that the coal-miners will not be overlooked. I will bring the representations of the honorable member for Hunter under the notice of the Wheat Board as quickly as possible in order to see if arrangements cannot be made for either more tonnage or a fairer apportionment of that which we can get.
.- I have had various communications with the Minister of Trade and Customs regarding the shortage of freight and other difficulties which have arisen in connexion with the transport of wheat. I look at the position from the stand-point of the ordinary business man. The Government expect neutral vessels which come to Australia to carry wheat at freights below the market rate. The honorable member for Indi, who knows nothing about the subject, interjects something about patriotism. What patriotism can we expect from neutral powers? Their only object is to get as much money as possible for the services they perform.
– I was not talking about that.
– Then the honorable member does not know what he is talking about, because that is what the House was discussing. The Minister of Customs says ships can get freight from Australia to South America for £3 5s., and that it pays them a good deal better to do that than to make the longer voyage from Australia to the United Kingdom through waters that are dangerous for £4 15s. If that be so, how can we expect vessels, particularly those of neutral powers, to come to Australia and carry our wheat away ? They are not interested in Australian wheat. They are interested only in getting the best freights to make their vessels pay. British ships are as fully occupied as they can be, and I see little or no hope of increasing our tonnage from British sources for the removal of Australian wheat. Goods imported from the United States of America, particularly from New York, are costing in freight about £10 per ton. That freight has been rapidly mounting up, and one reason is that we do not allow the vessels to get back loading. Many would take coal from Newcastle to the west coast of America, and then go round to New York, via the Panama Canal, but if they are sent back in ballast they have lost so much earning power. The consequence is that if they come back to Australia at all they will take fine care that they get as much freight on the voyage to Australia as will pay them for the time in which they are returning to America empty. In other words, the loading from New York to Melbourne or Sydney has to pay, not only the cost of coming here, but also the cost of the ship’s return voyage. That is why freight is £10 a ton to-day. The honorable member for Hunter suggests that those ships will not voyage to Australia if they are not allowed back loading. It is safe to say that they will continue to come to Australia only if they can get sufficient freight for the single voyage to pay them for the return voyage. If they can get regular freight back to America, they are more likely to return, and we shall have a chance of a reduction in the freights from New- York. Having some knowledge of the coal trade, I know the difficulty which the Newcastle people experience in retaining their overseas trade owing to the competition of the Philippines and Japan. If we are to shut out the foreign coal trade completely it may happen that when our men return after the war and seek employment, the coal trade will be in the hands of the Japanese, and we shall have great difficulty in recovering it. I - would suggest that where it is evident to the Minister that a ship will not take wheat to Europe it is clearly his duty to allow the vessel to load coal, so long as its destination is such that the coal is not likely to find its way into enemy hands. There may be enemy “ships interned on the west coast of North, and South America, but I presume that British Consuls at the different ports would know whether those ships were receiving Australian coal. If they were, they would be getting it only for the purpose of escaping and becoming commerce raiders. But I take it that it would be the duty of Consuls to ascertain whether interned enemy ships are armed or not. If there is no danger of our coal finding its way into the hands of the enemy, there is always a good market for it in San Francisco, because American coal to reach that city has to be carried across the Rocky Mountains. That is why Australia has the benefit of the trade, with San Francisco. No better illustration of the effect of Government interference in trade could be furnished than the increase in the freight on kerosene, which has risen from 6d. to 5s. 8d. by sailing ships, and from ls. to 8s. 4d. by steamers. The Government, by interfering and telling the shipping companies that they shall carry wheat at a rate fixed by them, are causing an increase of freights on other commodities, and the people who use kerosene are being compelled to pay higher prices.
– Do not those increased rates apply to other countries where the Government are not interfering?
– But those other countries get the open competition rates. While the Government are trying to do what appears best for the farming community by getting our wheat shifted at the lowest cost, we are in reality merely shifting the burden on to other shoulders. It seems to me that the proper policy in the present crisis is for the Government to secure tonnage of their own.
– Why not commandeer the coasting vessels ?
– The majority of them cannot carry freight overseas. They would require so much bunker coal to carry them for any distance that there would be practically no space accommodation for cargo, and some of them cannot carry more than sufficient fresh water for a run of about eight days. Cargo tramp steamers are the vessels we want for this business ; and if the Government were to take seriously into consideration the purchasing of some of the neutral vessels they would probably do much better business for the country than by trying to induce people to take a lower freight than they can get elsewhere. The latter policy would gradually drive ships out of Australian waters altogether.
– You call yourselves Socialists over there.
– I have no “ist” or ism” about me when I am faced with a difficult proposition. I wriggle, crawl, or squeeze through or over the difficulty, or, I suppose, I must collapse; and I do not want to see the Government collapse, but rather to help them. I feel quite certain that the Government could get a number of neutral ships which would be useful at the present time, and enable us to get over what may prove to be a great calamity for Australia, if vessels will not otherwise come here and another season’s crop has to be stacked throughout Australia. I suppose that honorable members interested in wheat know that it does not last an indefinite time without going weevily.
– We cannot get steamers, which are three times the cost they were twelve months ago.
– It is no matter if they are thirty times the cost. If we paid 6d. on a gallon of kerosene twelve months ago, and the charge is now 5s. 8d., we must either pay the latter amount or go without kerosene. The position to-day is that which has to be considered. If we require wheat taken to England we have to pay the ruling rate or have our -wheat left stacked at the railway stations. There is no sentiment in this business at all; it is a pure business proposition, and to talk about patriotism is absolute twaddle.
.- It is true, as the honorable member for Henty says, that this is a matter of pure business, and not patriotism - that patriotism is pure twaddle.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member told us that this is a matter of business; and that is quite true. It is also true that the ship-owners desire to make money. The whole trouble throughout the world is a shortage of shipping, and that shortage is brought about because this is a matter of pure business and not patriotism. The reason is that so many vessels have scuttled away from beneath the British flag since the outbreak of the war.
– Some 600,000 tons.
– That is a mere frac tion.
– There is a multiplicity of causes.
– Let us speak of some of the causes. It is true, as the honorable member for Werriwa says, some 600,000 tons left for other countries.
– In the first seventeen months.
– It is true that during that time hundreds of British ships, owned by Britishers who had for long years enjoyed the protection of the flag and of the services of men who are now fighting, scuttled away and, nominally in many cases, sold their vessels in neutral countries in order that they might be free from the troubles of the British Government - in order that they might escape commandeering and have no restrictions placed on profits. Further, a large number of British ships went over to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or America, and were there chartered, and are now enjoying the ruling high profits. This departure of 600,000 tons meant the possibility of making twelve trips across the Atlantic, or four trips to Australia; and it is evident that the carrying capacity is not to be measured by 600,000 tons, but by the number of voyages that can be made. In this way, the ability of the British Government to carry men and munitions of war is lessened to the extent of millions of tons in shipping; and this by men to whom the matter is not one of ‘‘patriotism,” but one of “pure business.” Again, hundreds of ships scuttled to Dutch Batavia, Manila, Argentine, Callao and other ports in South America, and entered into charter contracts, to escape the operation of the British law. It is safe to say that there are hundreds of British ships, flying the British flag, under nominal charters, who never go near British ports, although they are enjoying the protection of the British flag. The Financial Review of Reviews has published a statement of what is going on in South America. There enormous contracts have been entered into with German firms; and of 500,000 tons of maize that left San Nicholas, ninetenths went to Germany through Scandinavian ports. One ship which left that port had wheat in the lower holds for the German Government, and horses up above for the British Government; and, after the horses had been landed in Scotland, the wheat was taken to Gothenburg, and there discharged directly into a ship for Lubeck, in Germany. The same sort of thing is going on in other cases. Talk of patriotism! While men die on the battle-fields, we have those ship-owners engaging in what the honorable member called a “ pure matter of business.”
– You are totally misrepresenting what I said, and I think you are doing so deliberately.
– What did you say? Are you in the same position as the honorable member for Indi?
– No; I am totally against that.
– The honorable member for Henty has said that this is a pure matter of business; and, of course, it is.
– The honorable member for Henty said that to neutral ship-owners it was a pure matter of busi- ness.
– And not only with them, but also with British ship-owners. It is well known that there are many ships flying the British flag which have never seen a British port since the war broke out for fear of being commandeered. In Dutch Batavia old ships, which previously flew the British flag, are doing the costal business under charter, thus releasing many vessels of Dutch companies for neutral traffic. These are the causes of the trouble in the transport of munitions and other war materiel.
– We can deal with British ship-owners, but not ‘with neutral shipowners.
– That is quite true. But surely it ought to be regarded as an act of treason against the nation, when, in time of war, British ship-owners register any of their ships and charter them in neutral countries, as is done in scores of cases. We all know what was done in connexion with the Innamincka, and the port of Melbourne is no exception. These ships have been sold to other countries.
– The Innamincka has not been sold, but is in Australia, because I would not let her go.
– What about the Grantala?
– In any case, the Innamincka was sold to a British citizen.
– What is the use of doing that in Eastern waters, when we require transports to England ?
– The Innamincka could not transport anything to England.
– One of the excuses made is that these ships are so old that it is good business to get rid of them. It may be good business, but it is not good nationalism or patriotism. If these ships are not good enough for oversea business, they could at least do our coastal business, leaving better ships for overseas.
– If that is so, why did the Government not use the Innamincka here?
– You know what my answer would be to that.
– What would it ‘be* - without decoration ?
– -I am not in the mood to deal with that matter now, but will reserve it for a better occasion. I agree that, so far as neutral shipping is concerned, it would be better to give the vessels coal and let them go away with a full cargo, rather than tie up a great industry in Australia. As to what the honorable member for Henty said in regard to kerosene, I do not see that we should get that commodity cheaper if we sent coal back, because the limit of the freight charges is the limit to what can be extracted; this business is not measured by any spirit of generosity. It is true that if vessels cannot carry coal back they must make the single voyage pay them; and if they do get coal that means so much more profit. In order to get our internal products away, we ought to give these neutral ships all and every facility for loading from our ports. It is far better to have men employed than to have them idle; and we cannot cope with the wheat difficulty by simply tying up neutral shipping.
– Hear, hear!
– You agree with me at last, then.
– I have agreed with you two or three times.
– Even if we doubled or trebled the price we are willing to pay for transport to British ports, I venture to say that those neutral ships would not take our wheat. Again it is a question of business; and the reason is that it is far better to bring products to Australia and remain in neutral waters, irrespective of the price. It is far better to make these high profits voyage after voyage than to take a full cargo from here to Great Britain and run the risk of being torpedoed or commandeered. The Fortnightly Review has given a list of the shipping sold, and all the prices paid ; and the Age has shown how vessels have made as much on one voyage as paid for their purchase. Of course, to a ship-owner this is a pure matter of business. The ship-owner says to himself: “It may be true that the British Empire is in need of wheat, and is desirous of transporting troops. But the transport of its troops, or munitions of war, or its food supplies must not be regarded by me. I am here, as a business man, to make all that I can.” Unless he is compelled, therefore, he will not send his ships into dangerous waters where he will incur a risk of losing them, especially when he is in a position to make tremendous profits so long as the war lasts.
– That remark applies to very few ship-owners.
– The White Star Shipping Company makes 200 per cent, profit, gives half to the Government, puts 35 per cent, to reserve, and pays 65 per cent, to its shareholders. It is not concerned with whether its shops go down or not - the Government pays the insurance - save so far as it is difficult to replace them. It is just the same with the Cunard Company, which recorded a profit of £2,000,000 the other day. That company put away £500,000 for depreciation, £250,000 for repairs, £250,000 for insurance, and then declared a dividend of 30 per cent. That is what happens in a country which boasts of its sacrifices. While thousands of men are losing their lives, these parasites are extracting blood-money out of those who fight for them.
– We are expected to do our best for the Empire in the great struggle in which we are now engaged. By some means or other the British Government informed Australia last year that it would be wise for her to grow more cereals than she was accustomed to grow. Our farmers acted upon that advice, and as a result reaped an abnormal harvest. The Imperial authorities knew that we could not consume those cereals locally. In order to keep faith with the Imperial authorities, the Commonwealth Government have sacrificed every industry for the wheat industry. But the British Government, on their part, have not endeavoured to help themselves or the overseas Dominions to overcome the shortage which exists in the matter of freight. The cases quoted by the honorable member for Bourke convincingly prove that. I suppose that British capital dominates the largest portion of the shipping world. The way in which the British Government could have solved this problem was by preventing ship-owners from making enormous profits, and by compelling them to transport foodstuffs from Australia whenever they were wanted. The arrangement of the Commonwealth Government to export only wheat, or as much wheat as possible, has had the effect of disrupting every other branch of industry. Instead of seizing only 50 per cent, of the war profits made by ship-owners, the Imperial Government should have commandeered the whole of those profits. Surely British politicians are capable of devising a scheme which would effectually prevent ship-owners from transferring their vessels to neutral flags, and thus continuing to make abnormal profits. Of course, there are a lot of things that we cannot talk about now, but we do know that a sufficient quantity of wheat is not being exported to materially ease the situation.
– Is there a demand for it?
– Undoubtedly. The British Government, by their action, have thrown our industries into disorder. It is not a fair thing that the interests of the Australian mining industry should be entirely subordinated to the wheat industry. Our Government should immediately communicate with the British Government, requesting them to supply the necessary ships to carry out their share of the compact into which they entered. If they say that it cannot be done, they should be given a gentle hint that the way to secure cheaper bottoms is to prevent ship-owners from making enormous profits during this time of stress and struggle by commandeering the whole of their profits.
– It is very interesting to listen to these diatribes against foreign shippers, and to suggestions made at this distance as to what the British Government should do in the circumstances existing to-day.
– They should keep their compact.
– No doubt they do their best to act as honorable men, as we do here. At this distance, it is so easy to tell them what they ought to do there. Whenever we know least about a subject we always express the most definite and intelligent opinion about it.
– That remark is not new.
– But is it not so ? My honorable friend knows nothing whatever about what is taking place on the other side of the world. Honorable members opposite sent their Prime Minister Home to deal with this question, and it is not an easy problem to solve, since he has not been able to solve it after many weeks of earnest and anxious negotiation. But whilst he is endeavouring to grapple with this intricate and difficult question, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports stands up and says, “ All that the British Government have to do is to commandeer the profits of the ship-owners, and the necessary freight will be forthcoming.”
– The British Government did not want Mr. Hughes. They would be glad to pack him back here.
– I do not know. I have quite enough to do to mind my own business here. When we discharge our duty we should let the British Government alone with all the colossal difficulties that are heaped upon their shoulders in time of war.
– It is a good job that Mr. Hughes went Home. He saved the Empire, anyhow.
– Then my honorable friend launched a very fiery and very enjoyable denunciation of neutral ship-owners. I wonder what those shipowners care about all these tons of rhetoric.
– Does the honorable member know that some of the most Conservative journals in England have declared that there is only one solution of the freight problem, namely, Government intervention ?
– And because Conservative journals have said so, the honorable member backs their opinion. Here is the case of the Newcastle miner. The poor fellow is in trouble. There are five collieries closed down, and hundreds of men out of work. Their little children, I suppose, are suffering as a consequence. Really, this is a matter of some importance and seriousness; but I do not know that rhetoric just now is going to help them. There is only one suggestion that I desire to make to the Government, namely, that they should induce the wheat pool to let those vessels which they cannot control carry coal so long as they do so under safe conditions. If the wheat pool could commandeer all ships coming here, and compel them to enter into the work of transporting our wheat, I could understand their action; but, in the circumstances, why cannot the pool discriminate between those vessels which they can commandeer and those which they cannot? The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that if these neutral vessels were authorized to carry coal, they would not carry wheat. The fact is that they are not carrying wheat.
– That applies only to about six vessels out of 100.
– I do not care. I say that we should allow vessels which will not carry wheat to carry coal. Some discrimination should be exercised in these cases. It is not yet clear to me why these ships on their round trips should be able to get so much more freight than they would get if they loaded wheat. We all know that the coal freight is comparatively a moderate one. The coal trade will not permit of the payment of big freights. It could not compete successfully with other countries if it paid big freights. It has to compete in these war days with the Japanese coal and the coal on the Pacific coast. So that the coal which leaves our shores does not pay big freights, otherwise it would be impossible for business to be done.
– It is paying a freight of £3 5s. per ton to-day.
– Prom Newcastle to South Africa. Coal worth only 12s. per ton is paying that freight.
– If that be so, and these ships are prepared to sacrifice coal, clearly they must be making extraordinary profits on other sections of the voyage.
– They will get £4 per ton for carrying nitrates from the south to the north, and £12 per ton for carrying timber to Europe. We are paying £4 15s. per ton for the carriage of wheat.
– What is the price of wheat in London ?
– About 64s. per quarter, or 8s. per bushel.
– And we are paying a freight of 2s. 6d. per bushel out of that.
– That leaves a margin of 5s. Id.
– In that case every effort should be made to get away the balance of our wheat, for there is a sufficient margin to give the farmer a fair return, and this would be preferable to having his wheat on his hands.
– There would not be any margin if we had to pay the shipping companies the price they ask.
– Is there not a margin under 5s. Id. ? The farmers have only 3s. now. I venture to say that there is a margin which would, if necessary, stand a little more freight rather than lose the market. In fact, I have felt all along that there has been just a little too much anxiety to fix the freight low instead of making sure of a market. However, I am not here to criticise the Wheat Board. I want it to succeed, and therefore I refrain from criticising any of its actions. It will justify itself, I hope, in the long run, and there is too much involved just now for us to interfere in its operations by any unnecessary criticism. What ever opinions I may” hold, I hold to myself. I simply express the very earnest hope and wish that the Wheat Board, now that it has been appointed, may succeed in what it has set out to do in the interests of the country and the Government, as well as in the interests of the farmers. We are driven back to this one point: That the only possibility the Newcastle, miner has is the hope of inducing the Wheat Board to allow these vessels to carry coal that it has no power to compel to carry wheat. It seems to me that that ought to be done. It must be sheer perversity which prevents it from being done. The Wheat Board does not benefit itself. Has the Minister any explanation ?
– If we allow these vessels to carry coal they will secure superior freights to those earned by our own people who are carrying wheat. The point is whether we are prepared to give the outsider better terms than we are prepared to give to our own people.
– I am prepared to give the outsider better terras if I must, and it pays me to do so. How can our own people be hurt if the outsiders get better freights? It does not affect our own people. Do they get better freights by reason of the fact that these other ships go away empty? No. It does not affect our people at all. If it did, one could understand the attitude taken up by the Government. No doubt our own people would look with envious eyes on neutrals securing higher freights, but I am sure that they would be largehearted enough to recognise the position as it is, and if they saw the Newcastle miner getting his coal carried away by neutral vessels who were getting a little more freight than they themselves were being paid, they would simply say, “ It is hard luck, but, in the circumstances, the best is being done.”
– Would the White Star Company say that?
– Why talk of the White Star Line ?
– I look at their profits.
– Does it do the Newcastle miner any good to gird at the White Star Line ? That company cannot affect his position. Let us leave that matter to another occasion. The only question we are considering this afternoon is whether we can help the Newcastle miner to get his coal away. I do not mind telling the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that I am not in favour of the White Star Company making 65 per cent, profit. It is a monstrous thing to earn and keep such a profit in war time. No one has sympathay with that kind of thing. No one will defend it. But I do not know that our saying so will get us one whit nearer to a solution of the difficulty in which my friend the honorable member for Hunter is so much concerned. I sympathize with that honorable member. I know his difficulties, and those of the men whom he represents in this Chamber so intelligently and well, and I shall do all I can to help him. The only practical solution of which I can think is that the Minister should lose no time in inducing the Wheat Board to let these ships carry coal when and so long as they are unable to carry wheat.
.- The Minister has said that permission to carry coal has been refused to about six steamers.
– About six steamers have left in ballast, as against about 100 which have taken wheat.
– But those six vessels that left in ballast came here, no doubt, for the specific purpose of obtaining cargoes of coal. When some months ago the Government placed an embargo on the first tramp steamer that came here with an inward cargo with the intention of picking up an outward cargo of coal, the news became world-wide, and as soon as it became known that an embargo was placed on the export of coal from Australia, dozens of other vessels that would have come here would not make the voyage. If, as a result of the representations made here to-day, the Government decide to remove that embargo, many other vessels will be put into the Australian coal trade, and the hardship at present suffered by the Newcastle miners will be considerably reduced. The Minister should take into most serious consideration the matter of announcing the intention of the Government to remove the embargo. I believe that as a result the news will go to the shipping companies in all parts of the world, and the assistance sought by the honorable member for Hunter will be at once forthcoming.
.- As one directly interested in the wheat pool, and as a grower of wheat, I express my sympathy with the honorable member for Hunter in regard to the case he has made out to-day. The wheat-growers have no desire to have their product carried at the expense of any other industry, and I urge the Minister to take into very serious consideration the removal of the embargo on coal, in order that ships may find that they cannot take wheat may take coal to the relief of many honest men who are now out of employment at Newcastle, and in the coal-mining districts generally. I am quite satisfied that the Minister will look very carefully into all the necessary safeguards. I believe, with the honorable member who preceded me, that when the shipping companies learn that there is coal to take away from Australia, other ships may be induced to come here, and any increase in the number of ships coming to Australia may possibly release a greater number of vessels for the conveyance of wheat., If serious trouble arises in regard to- the removal of not only the wheat now in stacks along the railway lines throughout Australia, but also that which will be yielded at the forthcoming harvest, there will be very little inducement to farmers to put in a wheat crop in the following season; because if we had a superabundance of wheat on our hands, wheat-growing would be an absolutely unprofitable occupation, and farmers would not get anything like a living wage for their toil and trouble. It is to the interests of all concerned to attract as many ships as possible to Australia for the purpose of taking away our products, and the wheat-growers do not desire that their product shall be carried at the expense of any other industry. I am voicing the views of the farmers when I say that they do not wish to see any unemployment in the coalmining industry, and that if by their advocacy and efforts they can do anything to help to restore employment now shut off in so many mining districts, they will be only too pleased to do it.
.- I commend the motion. I am only sorry that the Government have not seen fit to exercise a greater control over freights in regard to shipping during this war. While I believe that we can have too much Government interference in regard to commerce, and production, and utilities in peace times, I think that during a period of war the Government should take control of all means of transport in order to help forward the production of the nation which is necessary for carrying on the war, and also for the very purpose of conducting the war as it should be carried on. The control of shipping is one of the biggest matters any Government could undertake. Great Britain owns about half the shipping of the world. When war was declared the British Government were bold enough to take over the railways, and utilize them in every way that they thought necessary for the proper prosecution of the war, and for the regulation of all traffic upon them, but it was a great misfortune that a similar action was not taken by that Government, in conjunction with the Dominion Governments, in regard to the whole of our shipping. It is variously estimated that from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of our available shipping, including interned vessels, was requisitioned by the British Government and the Dominion Governments, but no real control has been exercised over the balance. As far as I can ascertain, the Government has allowed freights on these particular vessels to be regulated by private individuals, and companies are earning from 65 per cent, to 100 per cent, profit, and in many instances many hundreds per cent, on the cargoes they are taking. The shipping should be utilized by the Government to carry the primary products, whether coal or wheat, to the greatest advantage of the nation. It is not a question of putting one industry against another. The production of coal or wheat or any other staple commodity is absolutely essential if we are to do our duty in this war, and the Government as the only supreme authority should regulate the shipping of it, its disposal, and all freightage, and it should exercise a restraining influence as to the price to be paid for transport by all consignees. I do not know how far the Government have dealt with this question - whether they have dealt with it comprehensively, or have undertaken to deal with it only in piecemeal fashion - but it is not yet too late for the Government to tackle it with a view to exercising control over all vessels and regulating the cargoes to be carried in their bottoms. I hope this discussion will have the effect of causing the Government to look into the matter, with the view, not of exercising a certain haphazard control over the vessels which they have in hand, and allowing freights to be fixed by companies which are making colossal profits, but, if necessary, of entering into negotiations with the Imperial Government, or stimulating the present negotiations by the Prime Minister in England. Just as it is necessary that the Government should have complete control over transport within our borders, so is it necessary that the control of shipping should be in the hands of the governmental authorities in the various selfgoverning Dominions in association with the Imperial Government. The honorable member for Hunter is to be commended for bringing the matter forward, and I hope that before the House adjourns we shall be afforded a further opportunity of expressing our opinion, unless the Government are prepared, in the meantime, to assure the House that arrangements for the carrying of Australia’s primary products have been placed on a more business-like footing, and that they will exercise a greater control over both freights and cargoes.
.- I believe this discussion has enabled honorable members to get a better knowledge of the exact position in regard to the shipment of wheat and coal. The Minister’s assurance that he will place my representations before the Government and the Wheat Board with a view to the consideration of some modification of the embargo on coal export, is satisfactory in the circumstances. The Minister was generous enough, also, to say that the miners at Newcastle have been long suffering. I assure the House that there are no more loyal men in the Empire than the coal-miners of Newcastle and Maitland. They are prepared to suffer, if that be necessary, in the interests of the Empire, but if the Empire is not benefiting by their suffering they expect to be given- a fair deal. The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members asked why neutral ships, which cannot be compelled to carry wheat, should be forced to depart in ballast. That is the crux of the question. If they will not take wheat, and they cannot be commandeered, it will be better to allow them to carry something, and so give employment to our coal miners, and keep our coal trade connexion alive until the war is over. The Minister stated that only seven boats had departed in ballast, and that applications relating to six others were under consideration at the present time. As the honorable member for Fawkner pointed out, the point is not so much in the number of vessels which have gone away in ballast . as it is in the effect upon owners in other parts of the world of their ships being obliged to depart from Australian shores empty. Shipowners would naturally, as business men, refuse to enter into arrangements to send ships to Australia for coal cargoes, because they would be afraid that the Government would not allow them to load, If the Minister will be good enough to place both the points I have mentioned before the Wheat Board and the Government, I believe that something can. be done to relieve the coal trade without detriment to the cause of the Allies.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to increase the postage rate for newspapers from 20 ozs. for1d. to 10 ozs. for1d.?
– The matter of recasting the conditions and charges governing the postage of newspapers is still under review.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Seeing that King’s Accession Day and Bight Hours Day are holidays in the State of South Australia, and such holidays were Customs holidays hitherto, what is the reason these holidays have been abolished?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Eight Hours Day has been observed as a public holiday by this Department in South Australia, and it is not intended to alter the practice in relation thereto, so far as the Customs Department is concerned.
In view of the pressure of public business, and the shortage of staff owing to enlistments, instructions were recently issued that the Customs Offices were to be kept open on such public holidays as the King’s Accession Day, which are not observed in all States, and are not among the holidays prescribed in the Public Service Act.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The papers will be laid upon the table of the House when the matter is finalized.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 17th May, vide page 7971), on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- In common with a large number of honorable members of the Committee who have addressed themselves to this item, I feel that very little good is to be obtained by discussing the national finances when approximately nine-tenths of the money has been spent and commitments for the balance have already been entered into. It is particularly unfortunate, however, that this should have been permitted by the Government in the year of our record expenditure, and I would remind the Treasurer that a very vital principle is at stake in connexion with this matter. That principle was alluded to in passing by the Leader of the Opposition, and it is the control by the people’s representatives ‘ of taxation and the disbursements of public revenues. I am aware that the Treasurer has stated that the excuse for his belated production of the Budget was his late assumption of office. But he only needs to be reminded that the Estimates with which we are now asked to deal were produced in draft by his predecessor many months ago. So far as one is able to judge from a perusal of them, they have not been altered at all; therefore, within a week or two of the present Treasurer’s acceptance of office he could have produced his Budget, the whole figures for which were appar ently in the Treasury, and had been produced in draft for the consideration of the Committee before we adjourned at Christmas. We ought to remember that, although in this bewildering period many of our preconceived ideas have to be put aside, and many established practices and time-honoured traditions have to be abrogated by the tacit consent of both parties, parliamentary control of the finances is not one of them. Tbe production of the financial statement does not necessarily’ involve a departure from any of the conditions of former years. So clearly is this evident that the Chancellor of the British Exchequer produced his Budget in normal time this year. Though his pre-war Budget amounted to less than £200,000,000, and his last Budget involved expenditure to the amount of no less than £1,500,000,000, the figures Avere laid on the table of the Committee of Supply in the British House of Commons within ordinary time. I hope, therefore, that in view of this fact, and the danger which the laying aside of these potential safeguards will necessarily involve, the Government will take care that there is no recurrence of this procedure next year. Whether we are at war or not, the figures should be produced for members to scan, so that they may truthfully and intelligently perform their duty to their constituents. I did not rise to deal particularly with the question of finance, but rather to discuss a matter which has claimed so much attention in this debate, namely, the present and future strength of the Australian Army in the field. I do not wish, and I hope nothing will be said to tempt me, to discuss this subject other than as a non-party question. This issue ought never to be permitted to drift into the realm of party politics. It is not a question on which the Opposition should seek to secure a Pyrrhic victory over the Government by forcing its views on the House, but one which, as the honorable member for Gippsland has said, is a broad, impersonal, national issue, in which all parties have an equal concern. Ever since I had the honour to be appointed a member of the War Committee, and more particularly since Australian troops reached the battle zone, I have abstained from criticising the Government in regard to either war questions or ordinary acts of peace, and I hope to continue that attitude until the end of the war. In former years I have tried to fight as vigorously as my enthusiasm for the cause I represent has permitted, but, like many other honorable members on both sides of the House, I have laid aside all such fighting during this period of chaos and turmoil. I hope we shall continue to do so. It is in that spirit that I desire to discuss the allimportant question of Australia’s part in the war. Comparisons have been made in this debate, and in recent statements by the Government in this chamber, of the relative strength of the contributions by Australia and other Dominions, and I am bound to confess that, so far as I am able . to judge by the information in the press, Australia stands very well in the comparison. I am in complete agreement with honorable gentlemen opposite in that view. If we are to judge ourselves only by the number of men that have pro ratâ departed from the shores of New Zealand or Canada, or have been called upon in or outside South Africa, under the colours of that country, Australia has no reason to be ashamed. But the question arises how far we are to allow this kind of comparison to determine our efforts. I am sure that honorable members opposite would not suggest that, even, if the other Dominions had been neglectful of their responsibility, this should form an argument for Australia not extending herself to the fullest. No logical extension of that argument should deter us from doing what we believe to be our bounden duty to the Empire, our Allies, and our own people in Australia. I remind honorable members also that in any comparison we make with Canada, there are two factors to which, I think, enough publicity has not been given. We are happily free from the threat of foreign molestation or invasion because of the fact that the British Navy still commands the waters of the world ; and Canada, on her eastern and western coast lines, is similarly protected. But Canada has a mighty frontier to the south, beyond which reside 13,000,000 Germans under the Stars and Stripes. From the figures available, we see that in Canada there is a large number of enlisted men who have not yet departed for the front, but who are regarded as an army for home defence. This is, I think, a safeguard that the Canadian authorities do well to provide.
– These men are included in the total Canadian figures.
– That is so in the case of one comparison. My point is that if we go by embarkations we are judging unfairly. The conditions of the countries are not quite similar. We have no occasion to keep any substantial army, whereas Canada must, because there are opportunities for bands of men to cross the southern frontier and inflict great damage on the people of the Dominion. If honorable members analyze the recent Canadian Budget they will see there a much wider ambition sketched than we have in Australia. Apart altogether from the enrolled men who have embarked and fought, Canada this year has made financial provision for 500,000 men; and that means by March, for I fancy that the financial year of Canada, as in Britain, ends on the last day of that month. If that be so, it will be seen that the Canadian objective vastly outstrips anything we have done; and, by voluntary or conscriptive enlistment, the Dominion contribution will eventually exceed that of the . Australian Commonwealth.
– It has been announced by both political parties in Canada that this force is to be raised by the voluntary system .
– I have not seen th.it announcement. I have, however, read that there is a movement towards conscription in Canada ; but we in public life know how easily rumours are manufactured, and that rumour I do not credit. Certain it is that in Canada during the present financial year provision is made for 500,000 men. I agree with honorable members opposite who complain somewhat of the criticism in certain quarters against the voluntary system. Its friends say that that system has done wonderfully well; and so it has. Speaking as a voluntaryist until about eight months ago, I say that the voluntary system exceeded the expectations of its most ardent advocates in Australia. It does not follow, because some of us feel that that system has not the strength it formerly had, that we should decry it, in view of the vast response during the early and critical period of the war. One might as well say, when a great racehorse has broken down, that it had never been able to run at all; and that is not the view I take of the voluntary system. I think that throughout the Empire the response has been marvellous. Particularly may this be said of South Africa, although comparative figures might not disclose the fact. South Africa appeared to be honeycombed with small sectional disaffections that amounted to revolt, and eventually broke into open rebellion. It was much more difficult for the South African Union to deal with its local troubles than it was for Australia to organize and send men to the front. “We ought, therefore, to give credit to the Dominions generally for a unanimity in spirit, if not in actual numbers, with ourselves. But I cannot help thinking that all present signs indicate that our praise of the voluntary system cannot be indefinitely continued. Looking backward, we must give it all the encomiums it deserves, but, looking forward from our present stand-point, it causes a great deal of misgiving to those who believe that the efforts in this war must be maintained and extended on a greater scale than ever. The Australian Government made an offer, in November, I think, of fresh brigades and reinforcements to the Imperial authorities. Later, there arose a cry in some quarters that the Australian Government had not fulfilled its pledge in regard to the number. I do not take the view that the Government have broken their pledge in spirit or letter, and I have openly said so. I do not believe that when we made the offer it was intended, either by the Cabinet or by the War Committee, to definitely pledge ourselves to supply 300, COO men within the time stipulated. What was thought was that, so long as the losses continued on the then scale at Gallipoli, that number would be necessary, and it was unfortunately stated that, as a result of our offer, our contribution would amount to 300,000. That was never intended to be part of the offer, but, unfortunately, the Dominions and the British people generally began to say that Australia would have 300,000 men in the field by the 30th June. Thus Australia, inferentially, became committed to that number.
– Did not the Prime Minister himself definitely say that that was the number?
– The Prime Minister, to judge by the scrappy cable reports, afterwards repeated that figure in “England.
– And the High Commissioner raised it to about 350,000.
– The High Commissioner has a habit of doing that sort of thing; but he is now an official out of politics, and he has his “ boss “ in England looking after him.
– The impression in England is that the contribution will be 300,000 or 350,000.
– There is a general impression that the figure is 300,000, and it is for the Government to say whether, unwittingly and unintentionally or not, Australia’s fame and name have been pledged to such an offer. I, for one, would not insist upon it, because, if we furnish the brigades we promised, and the number of men which the British War authorities considered necessary as reinforcements, we shall keep our definite compact with the Empire.
– That is what the Minister of Defence says.
– And I thoroughly agree with the view, although many of the supporters of my party in the press and in the country take a totally different view. We are, however, at liberty to voice our individual views for what they are worth.
– You are expressing your view from the advantage point of a member of the War Committee and a man in the inner councils.
– I do not know how that may be, but I am beginning to think that the duties of a member of the War Committee are vastly mysterious, as I think some other members of that Committee would agree. However, based on that offer, we started a new system - not the old system of meetings to encourage enlistment only, although that was part of the campaign which was started at the beginning of the year, and which all honorable members. who have addressed such meetings will agree have proved comparative failures. I am speaking now particularly of the State in which I reside.
– And it is so in other States as well.
– Quite so. In the first big movement in the middle of last year, when we had declared that we would have to raise our Army up to the full strength of which the nation is capable, the meetings were wonderfully inspiring. Men, young and old, and women and children, came, not to applaud, but to hear the story of the war; and the enlistment which came from that great evangel, carried over the country by the press and by public leaders, was far more remarkable in actual effect than was anticipated.
Again, I am speaking more particularly of Victoria; but later we did not get any men of military age at the meetings. It does not follow, however, that we have not indirectly reached the people to whom we made appeal, because they were, no doubt, influenced through their fathers, their mothers and women-folk generally. Although we have not been able to pour our message direct into the ear, we have secured great results, even compared with those formerly obtained, but still nothing like those necessary in order to maintain the meetings as a driving force of the campaign. We had, in addition, the new card and recruiting sergeant system, elaborated with great care by expert organizers within the Departments of the Commonwealth and State. The system has cost a lot of money - I do not know how much - but we have not got anything like the result that was expected.
– The cost represents about £150,000.
– With the cost of printing, classifying, and circulating the cards, and so forth, the expense means something like £200,000 or £300,000 for the brief period of some seven months. Although, aided by this machinery, the Committees - again I speak for this part of the Commonwealth - are disbanding everywhere. Why? Because those who take part feel the futility of continuing, although aided by all the forces placed at their disposal. They realize how much harder it is to comb the nation a second time. The first combing was comparatively easy, and as soon as the message had been understood the response was magnificent, and worthy of the Australian people. The second combing, however, was extremely hard, although the machinery was of double strength. Notwithstanding all this assistance, the result now - as possibly the honorable member for Cook, speaking with greater authority, will agree - is that the whole mechanism is tumbling to pieces. If that is so, we must take the view, either that Australia has reached her* maximum contribution, or that, whether we like it or not, another system must be adopted. As to the contribution of Australia, I should like to remind honorable members where we stand with regard to the commitments in brigades that were sent, or are being sent, and how our camps will be situated at the end of three months’ time, unless we secure something more effective than the present voluntary enlistment. The figures I have, which are up to the second or third month in the year, show that there were then 60,000 men in camp in Australia. This means that the book strength was 60,000, but assuming a 10 per cent, leakage - which, from former experience, is not too large, and probably about right - the effective embarkation strength was 54,000. There is to leave some time in May this 3rd Division, which consists, all told, of 23,500 troops, plus the general reinforcements of 9,500, which are to go during the same month. This will take from the 54,000 troops in camp at the beginning of the present month some 33,000 men, leaving only 21,000 in camp. The enlistments up to the end of April were, broadly speaking, at the rate of 6,000 per month. That rate is falling rapidly. Assuming that it gets down to 5,000, and I think it will fall vastly below that number unless the movement receives a great stimulus in some way, it is obvious that our reinforcements will last only another three or four months. This calculation, however, is based on the assumption that our troops suffer losses only on the level of those sustained on the western front. Should their losses exceed that level, our reinforcements will need to be correspondingly strengthened. As far as we can tell, our boys are not having too rosy a time just now. If it be true that 300 wounded Australians landed in England last week, and that this week another 500 have been invalided to hospitals there, we shall find that our reinforcements will have to be rapidly re-gauged and correspondingly increased. Consequently, the Forces in camp will probably suffice to meet requirements, not for three months, but only for two months. This is a position which no man can gainsay, and I think that it throws on the shoulders of thoughtful individuals on both sides of the movement the responsibility of saying how we are to meet that difficulty. I am not one of those who think that Australia has put forth her maximum effort even under the voluntary system; but I am certain that she has not given her fullest strength to the Empire when she is maintaining only about 130,000 men in the fighting line, which is all we shall have on the western front. It was said by one writer on this war that the holy Roman Empire which figures so conspicuously in history was not holy, was not Roman, and was not an Empire. In the same way, the voluntary military system upon which we are dependent to-day is not voluntary, is not military, and is not a system. It is not voluntary, because there is a good deal oE ‘ conscription by hunger, ‘ ‘ as Lord Roberts termed it in his great agitation, going on, perhaps not conspicuously in Australia, but certainly in other parts of the Empire. Men have enlisted because they were out of work. They found themselves right up against the stomach of their families, and were compelled by the strongest circumstance that can govern a man, to take a job, and wishing well of their country they took the fighting job. There are lots of other men who have enlisted as the result of persecution. Many men have been hunted into the ranks by shame. So that whatever effects - advantageous or deleterious - this system has shown, it may be said that the men who have gone to the front are those who have heard the message and heeded it, whilst those who have not, either did not hear the message, or did not appreciate its gravity. I do not believe that all the men of military age who have stayed at home are, in the full meaning of that term of opprobrium, “ cold-footed.” Many of those who have remained in Australia, and who perhaps will have to enlist before the end of the war, will fight just as well when their turn comes as did those who first landed in Gallipoli. The trouble is that they have not had the message carried to them ; and so long as the voluntary system is operative, we shall have to depend on the accident of circumstance enlisting a number of men whom popular judgment generally would describe as being necessary for the fighting line. That is probably why the Minister of Defence very wisely said, some time ago, that the voluntary system was unfair and ineffective. There is only one remedy for this state of things. The opponents of conscription have suggested no remedy, and upon them, of course, the onus of such a suggestion must eventually fall. On the other hand, those who believe in compulsory service have suggested the adoption of that system on highly national grounds. They suggest it first of all because of its origin. I have been rather amused - and I say this with the utmost good temper, and with no desire to give offence to honorable members opposite - at the ‘ kind of criticism that has fallen from the lips of some of the opponents of compulsory service, who have urged that it is undemocratic, foreign to the tastes of our people, and of those who love liberty. If they will refresh their minds with the origin of this great movement, they will learn that it was inaugurated by probably the most unqualified Democrats the world has ever known. I speak now of modern times, because the theory of raw levies in Grecian and Roman times, and how they were conducted, is not written clearly enough for us to understand. We know, too, that bondsmen as well as freemen fought in those days to preserve the Republics and Empires of the ancient world. But the system of compulsory service was introduced in modern times by the Committee of Public Safety at the time of the French Revolution. It was eventually developed by the Assemblys of France - the most democratic Assemblys in the world. The year 1793 was the date of its introduction. For 500 years previously, Europe had given over its defensive and warlike operations to professional soldiers - hirelings who in many cases sold their swords to the Government which paid them best. Along came this great uprising of the French, seeking liberty, equality, and fraternity. They smashed down the ancient military system, and the only men who resisted its destruction were the doctrinaire Tories of that time and the military class who had built up their caste, not on their military prowess, but on long, enduring privilege. The Prussians who had operated very indifferent systems of a similar kind in bygone years borrowed this compulsory system from liberty-loving Frenchmen, and perfected it along their own lines. But it was borrowed from France-
– Nor is there universal service in Germany.
– Exactly. I would ask my honorable friends opposite to remember that names like Robespierre, Danton, and Marat - men quoted in the great political treatises on which they have been reared - are those with which the principle of conscription is associated. It was first used by these very men and their lineal descendants in 1793.
– There were sterner measures taken by the same people of which I do not think the honorable member would approve.
– It does not follow that because that movement swung to extremes, and because the people chopped off the heads of some aristocrats, that the system of conscription which they inaugurated was attended with unusual dif-Acuities. As a matter of fact, so strongly have the French people - the developers of the liberty we Britishers enjoy to-day - kept to that system that, although Monarchy returned to their land, and there were various periods of alternating Republicism, they have adhered to it, because they felt that it was equitable and effective. But it was not the military class who established military conscription, nor was it the Tory. It was the most revolutionaryminded lovers of liberty and_ fraternity whose names are recorded in history.
– The first Minister of Defence of the United States of America was the man who gave it to the world
– In a modified way. The remark of the Minister of Home Affairs reminds me that there are many kinds of conscription. Conscription in its etymological derivation merely means the writing of names together - “ Con-script.” Names may be drawn by lot from those written on the list, or they may be drawn from a class. But the general theory underlying the system is that all men within a certain statutory age shall be eligible for service, and it rests with’ constituted authority to say in what order they shall be called into the fighting line.
– Does the honorable member believe only in conscription of manhood?
– I am giving what occurs to me as the origin of tin’s system, namely, the uprise of the French Revolution.
– Is there not a great difference between the German method of conscription and the French method ?
– In some respects the German method is the less rigid.
– It is not conscription at all.
– It is compulsory service of a kind.
– And of a very limited kind.
– It is limited in that when the war broke out only about half the men who were capable of bearing arms in Germany had been trained under it. Before that time family exemptions were granted. If, for example, there were five sons in a family, three of them were called to the colours.
– The reason all are not trained is because of the cost of the system .
– Quite so. But it does not matter whether the Prussian system of conscription is like the French system or not. The French people originated the system, and the Germans copied it. Now the adoption of conscription necessarily involves a long preparation. It cannot be called into being in a short time. It took long enough, in all conscience, for us to inaugurate the canvass system in Australia. Conscription will take much longer than that before it can be brought into operation. So far is this clear that even the British system, which has recently been adopted, has already revealed a number of administrative blunders which exemplify the great care with which conscription should be introduced. If we believe that our voluntary system is incapable of that elastic expansion which is necessary, it is obvious that we cannot launch a system of conscription within the brief period of a few months. We must get ready for its introduction early, and those who say that we must wait, take upon themselves a great responsibility. They say, “Let us wait.” I remind them that the policy of “Let us wait” lost us 100,000 men at Mons. The policy of “ Wait a bit, and see what happens “ lost us Mesopotamia, or the great prestige in the East which was ours up to the capitulation of Kut-el-Amara. It lost us Gallipoli, and in that one little fight, so small in this great war, our Australian soldiers suffered far more in killed than the British suffered in the great military struggle on the Crimea and in the great naval battle of Trafalgar. We lost Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, and now we are hanging on to a fringe _ of coast with its centre at Salonika, which the Grecian authorities have permitted us to occupy. Although the name of Britain may eventually be triumphant in this war, we do not want to repeat that doctrine which has lost it so much prestige in the past - that is, the doctrine of “ too late.” I wish honorable members would take some time to read the last book that G. W. Stevens wrote before he died in
Ladysmith. He was a war correspondent on many campaigns. He went with Kitchener during the last of the fourteen years’ fight for Omdurman, and eventually, when the South African rebellion occurred, he was incarcerated in Ladysmith. In his book he tells us of the fights of Elandslaagte, Glencoe, and Dundee, and how the British were forced back from the north and from the Tugela River in the south into the city of Ladysmith, where they were surrounded by the Boer forces, and of how General Buller battled his way over the river in several frontal conflicts, which cost him so much; and at every pause he uses the phrase, “And the Army corps have not yet left England.” Through that book ever there sings that refrain of tragedy, where the British suffered loss or met with defeat, “ And the Army corps have notyet left England.” It is, unfortunately - and we say it quite openly - a tradition of the British family generally that it does not win the first battle, that itsuffers unheard-of reverses, and only mobilizes its full strength for the final stroke, and finally gets there, or, as some people say, finally “muddles through.” If we are wiser men, we children of the younger breed of Britishers, we should see the folly of that method - if we are trying to found a national policy anew - and should try to be prepared at every stage before launching any movement. Those who say, “Wait until we have done a few more months’ thinking “ are taking a grave risk of being too late, not in the final overthrow of the German Forces, but in many of the critical features of the war which will have to be fought this year or ‘early next year. I have looked at all the arguments I have read, or been able to hunt up, against compulsory service, and I wish to deal with a few of them - I trust, fairly. The first argument we had in this chamber was, “ After what we heard at that secret sitting of both Houses, meeting jointly, how does any man dare to advocate conscription?” I know the responsibility surrounding every honorable member -of either House who attended that secret meeting, and I do not intend to violate any of the confidences there entrusted to me; but after many days’ thought, and with a full knowledge of many months’ work, I say that I heard nothing at that secret session that I did not already know as a member of the War Committee or, if I had not been told it, I could not have legitimately inferred. Honorable members will admit that my remarks are not an improper exposure.
– Even those who are not on the War Committee knew it.
– If that is so, the whole thing should have been made public.
– No. It was wise to hold the sitting, because it meant giving to honorable members, just as responsible as the twelve men on the War Committee, the information which the Government had to give, trusting in the individual and corporate honour of the Houses; but honorable members cannot have their minds sealed or prevented from working because, for the first or second time, they heard certain important arguments. And I am bound to add that I heard nothing that, in my judgment, prevented any man from advocating the immediate introduction of compulsory service abroad. Surely I am justified in saying that without transcending the limits of fair criticism. Therefore, the first argument put forward fails to such a man as myself.
– No man can answer the honorable member without divulging the facts.
– I do not ask for an answer. The honorable member will not do me the injustice of suggesting that I am using an argument to which no one can reply. I am making an assertion of a mental condition of my own. Honorable members on the other side who are on the War Committee may differ from me.
– Then the Government might as well make the whole of the facts public.
– That is not a legitimate inference.
– In the minds of some people the information disclosed would furnish an argument against conscription.
– I am coming to that part of my argument. I think I shall be able to show what conscription aims at. In advocating conscription I would not be influenced by the argument which the honorable member doubtless infers ought to have been obtained from that secret session, and so I am bound to say that I know of nothing which was said there that influences one jot the consideration of the question with which we are now dealing. Having said so much, I pass on. I was rather amused at the speech of the honorable member for Brisbane. He dealt very strongly with the question of conscription from his point of view. He said that there were many, things which honorable members would give up at the present time for the sake of national safety and security, but he could’ not give up his feelings on conscription, because it was a principle with him. He took his stand upon that, and against him, apparently, the gates of hell could not prevail. The answer came swiftly and sharply from this side of the chamber. He was asked whether he was in favour of conscription for home defence, and I do not think that he answered the question. If it is a question of principle, conscription is equally obnoxious whether it is applied to the men who fight here or to the men who fight in Samoa. In the early stages of this now somewhat historic session, the honorable member for Bourke alluded to the Defence Act. He said, ‘ If you cut a few words out of this Defence Act conscription isi operative.” There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent conscription, but there is something in the Defence Act which prevents a man from being taken by any system of conscription and forced to fight outside the territorial limits of Australia. If we cut out those words from the Defence Act, then, in the language of the Constitution, if the Ministry determine that they have power to make laws for the defence of Australia, and if they determine that the defence of Australia is being conducted in France or Salonika, they have a perfect right to send men away. The honorable member for Brisbane did not answer the question as to whether he believed in the compulsory provisions relating to home defence. But where is the difference between taking a class of men from their homes to dig in beside their picket fences and fight for the protection of their homes, or, if the strategic conditions of war compel it, taking them outside the territorial limits to some island to fightthere for the safety of Australia ? Surely there is no difference in principle? We can send men to one portion of New Guinea and not to the other. If conscription had been in force at the beginning of the war, our troops could not legally have crossed the border between Papua and German New Guinea. Surely that is an absurdity? Do we not realize now that the old doctrine of home defence must give place to that of defence overseas, to the Nelsonic doctrine that advocates entering the enemy’s waters, or, in the language of Lord Jack Fisher, the doctrine that the frontiers of England are the coasts of the enemy? When we conceive what modern warfare implies, we have to rip out of our minds the fallacious distinction between home defence and defence overseas, calling home defence so because it is conducted on our shore line, when it is equally home defence when the fight is fought in any other part of the world. The men who fought in the Levant and east of the Suez Canal, and who are now fighting in the north-west of France, risk their lives for the protection of Australia that they have left behind them. We should be military lunatics if, defying the high traditions of modern military science, we stayed in Australia and waited for the enemy to come to us; yet that is what is suggested by the creation of a false distinction between home defence and defence overseas. Another objection to compulsion is that it creates a military class and leads to military domination. I do not charge any honorable member of this Committee with having espoused that view ; but daily and weekly I read of certain resolutions having been passed, and I say that many industrialists who fear conscription hold that view and attempt to persuade the Australian people that we are in danger of having the Australian system Prussianized. This belief on their part is not unnatural, but they do not understand the position.
– They think it because those who advocate conscription have in the past been their bitter enemies.
– No, not at all. Many people belonging to the < honorable member’s party, men who have been in it all their lives, advocate conscription ; and, although I am not qualified to decide, I venture to say that if they were individually free to express their opinions still more of them would do so. However, I cannot hide from myself the fact that there has been in the organizations with which the honorable member is identified a movement by which they have built up what looks like a spiked wall against conscription, but which, I think, will be found to be built of gelatine when the heat of national anger that will arise from their ranks plays on it.
I do not believe that the industrial organizations at heart have ever taken a deliberate stand against compulsory service in this great war. If I did, I should say, “ It is all up with Australia’s expansion movement; the boys who have gone will have to be supported, and that is the end of it.” I believe that the men in the trade union ranks are just as good as the men who speak in our constituencies, and send us to Parliament, and will take, in the long run, the same practical view. If we were told to-day, as apparently Great Britain has been told, that it was a question of defeat or compulsion, I am convinced that we should find as large a percentage of the ranks of honorable gentlemen opposite voting for compulsion as we should of our own supporters. I am paying no compliment to honorable members opposite in saving that, because it is my fervid conviction. I believe that the Labour Conference which recently met was a fake, very cleverly worked, and did not represent the settled convictions of the workers of Australia. I shall deal later, if permitted, with the English position; but I cannot forget, at this point, the threat issued by one or two injudicious Labour representatives in the House of Commons - Mr. Thomas, M.P., secretary of the great railway organizations, for one - that they would not, in any circumstances, permit compulsion in Great Britain. What happened? They met, and heard the facts of the war, and said, “ Our objections must vanish like snow before a fire.” The Labour party then stepped up behind the Liberal Government, and voted for compulsion. Labour representatives still keep their positions in the Cabinet that inaugurated the movement new operating, and there is not much difference between the Labour man in the British Isles and the Labour man in Australia. When all is said and done, he is just as good a Britisher as one who does not wear moleskins, or works at a genteeler avocation. The idea of the domination of a military class is surely nonsense; and the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out the corrective to its rise if it took place in this, the freest country in the world. I do not believe that the people who live in the vaunted United States of America enjoy half the individual or collective freedom that we do in Australia. I do not believe that the people in the Old Country, with the dirt and excrescences of centuries that have to be shovelled away before reform is possible, enjoy half our liberty. The corrective in this free country is. as the honorable member for Gippsland appropriately said, the franchise. . With every person not tainted with lunacy or crime, and above a certain age, casting a secret vote as he or she is inclined, can we have any Zabern incidents such as that which occurred in Alsace three years ago? In a country like this, the people would hurl incontinently from power any Government that permitted an autocracy of that kind. France has had nothing of the kind within the memory of living man.
– Not in the time of the Dreyfus case?
– That was not a parallel. Dreyfus was alleged to have sold the secrets of his country to its hereditary enemy. What he had to meet was, if anything, a military conspiracy; but the public re-tried the case; and .eventually all the men concerned in conspiracies are brought to justice. Every community is liable to conspiracies, as we see by the report published this morning of the finding of the Judge in New South Wales, in consequence of which one man has already been arrested on a charge ofattempting to defraud the Government. The inherent, inevitable tendency to corruption that comes into all Governments is no argument against the military system. The French people have had no occasion to complain of military autocracy. The Socialistic representation in the House of Deputies and the Senate Chamber is probably stronger than in any other country. They have not quite as wide a distribution of power as we have in Australia, but it is coming to them, and they are erecting a system of government largely parallel to our own. Any difference in the conditions is due only to the difference in the temperament of the French people. For 100 years they have had this system without military tyranny, and the only time they had any suspicion of it was when the illustrious Corsican gathered up the Grand Army, and began to fight for the extension of the principles of the French Revolution to the adjoining nations of Europe, and there was for a time a load of debt and suffering, as well as a great pinnacle of glory, built up for the French people. Since then, however, they have gone about their own business in their own way, altering the three years’ training to two, and at another time increasing it again to three, and voting on this, as on every other question, as a sane and sober people. A military autocracy, therefore, has not shown itself in that Republic. There are men who ask, as the interjection of the honorable member for Indi suggests, “ Do you advocate only the conscription of manhood?” I have incurred misunderstanding and, I think, political opposition, by saying plainly some months ago on the platform that. I was in favour of the conscription of wealth. I said it at Collingwood, where the mistaken members of that Yarra constituency were giving the Acting Leader of the House such a bad time when he talked about volunteerism. I told them a few home truths, and got home alive. I told them I did not admire their manners or their treatment of their own member who had risen to such eminence in the party and in the councils of the State, when he told them the true story of the war. What do we mean by conscription of wealth? Unfortunately, we have never got down to a straight talk about it in a deliberative assembly like this. It has been the subject of resolutions galore, and of inflammatory, flamboyant speeches ad infinitum but we have reached no understanding about it. There are but two ways in which conscription of wealth can be made operative. One is to say, “ The whole of the accumulated wealth or capital of a country is leviable, and the Government or Parliament of the time will take it as it needs it.” In a time of stress like that, if the nation got right up against the proposition of needing the money, it would be justified in doing anything, and its action should not be called confiscation. If you can benefit your country by saying to the man who has £100,000, “ Give us £50,000; we must have it for the purposes of the war,” take it, for the safety of the public is the supreme law. But the trouble about propositions of that kind is that you cannot very well operate them in that way without injuring the country you are endeavouring to advance. If you said, “ Every man with £10,000 worth of land values must give half of it to the State,” how would they do it? Only by selling or getting loans on their property. If you advance such an order to a community, and compel men to put large quantities of land on the market, you are preventing the sale of land, glutting the market, reducing values, and destroying titles. Incidentally, whether you like it or not, you are dealing a trenchant blow at the stability of the foundations of society. I do not urge this, because by so doing you are expropriating. Expropriation would be completely justified if the nation in its hour of trial demanded it, but the probable effects of any movement must always be studied. If you took such a course with regard to land values the effect generally would be to destroy securities for moneys already lent. You would get down to a value where there was no margin. All the owners of capital lent on real estate would say, “ I made a contract, and the margin on the property was so much. As soon as my mortgage is up I shall not renew the loan, but will call the money in. Otherwise my security will be gone, and my assets have vanished.” So they would begin to call m their money. The honorable member for Bourke will agree that that is quite probable, although he would undoubtedly lash with his barb-wired tongue the men responsible for those operations. If you say, “ We dare not do that with land, because we should be destroying land values, on which so many other margins are based, but will do it with Government stock,” you will simply follow the same process in another way. If you tell men with a certain quantity of stock, “ We want some of that money; it is only a paper document, and you must lend it to the Government,” the only way in which the Government can make it a medium of exchange for their war requirements is to raise money on it. They must, therefore, compel the holder to sell or raise an advance on it, and, just as with land, the forced sale of securities will glut the market with’ public bonds, and reduce values almost to zero. You wilL-not get, as the result of all these operations, any money worth talking about, but in practice you will lower the whole of the realizable assets of the country by hurling them in a panic on the market, for the man who has a little spare cash’ to buy. It is the same with stock-in-trade, and with plants and implements, as I am sure the eminent economists on the other side will realize.
– You are multiplying securities.
– But you are not adding to the wealth of the country or increasing the revenues of the Government during the war. That is why Parliaments have, on all occasions, except in the hour of their nation’s deepest distress, asked themselves, “ How shall we get money for a war?” and have decided, as the present Government have done, to levy their taxation where they thought fit on the incomes of the people. And that is quite a wise course. If you adopt it you can take all the income, except a bare living wage, if the nation needs it. That will not destroy values or promote high prices for goods, or throw out of employment large numbers of men, or render the occupations of others precarious. The Government are pursuing the only wise course in saying that the produce of wealth of this year must be at their disposal. They say, “ This year we take 50 per cent..” but next year they may say, “ We must take all above £300 per annum.” If they do, while many men will squeal, I for one shall not oppose any levy that will not break down the foundations of employment and security. In that sense, if you analyze conscription of wealth, you have it already.
– Do you mean to say that we always did have it?
– Technically and constitutionally you always ‘ had it, but it was impossible to exercise it in times of peace, because the Government that tried it would have been thrown off the Treasury bench. In a time of war they have a perfect constitutional and moral right to say, ‘ ‘ We are not going to conscript manhood unless we have the permission of the men who own the wealth of this country, and produce the income, to take it also.” And they can pass their legislation, and do it concurrently with the other.
– As you have advanced so many excellent reasons against the conscription of wealth, do you mind explaining what you meant when you said you were in favour of it?
– I told them so at the meeting at Collingwood.
– Would you mind telling us?
– What I meant was the exercise, within the discretion of this Parliament, of all necessary levies on the incomes of the people.
– Over and above a living wage! But the Age said that anybody who advocated that was a madman.
– I am not a friend of the Age. What the Age says now does not worry me, although it did in my young and callow days. I remember that when the honorable member first entered the Victorian Parliament it took him to task once or twice, until finally he chewed it up and spat it out on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Those of us who have gone through the fiery furnace of the Age criticism no longer fear it.
– Not if you come out of it profitably.
– I am able to defy it, because I have a thousand pounds of its money, which it will never get back. I have never bought one copy of the Age since, for that reason.
– Will you deal with the A ge’s argument that the appropriation by the Government of all income above the minimum necessary for existence would destroy production, because if no margin was permitted the farmer or merchant would refuse to carry on business ?
– My idea is that in an undeveloped country like this there are certain other things that you have to provide for besides a living wage. If a man is in an ordinary business, and has no recurring or maturing obligations, he has in a minimum living wage all he wants during a period of stress; but if he is buying a farm, and has payments falling due on a mortgage or other form of advance, he must have sufficient to provide, in addidition, for his interest and repayments. We have to study the individual circumstances of men in fixing our taxation if we desire to be fair, and if we wish to prevent men destroying their assets. Suppose a man is undertaking to pay off a business in ten instalments?
– That is an obligation of the business.
– It is, but no allowance is made for it in the income tax. Nevertheless it is a factor which has to be kept in sight, in addition to the mere cost of living. I am talking in terms of the nation’s dire extremity. We are at war, and the Government feel themselves justified in asking for 50 per cent, of war-time profits. I am not disposed to oppose such a tax.
– Hear, hear! No Tory would.
Mr.WATT. - That is a term of opprobrium that is offensive to me. I think we can very easily arrive at an agreement in regard to the conscription of wealth, Viewing the matter as I have stated it, and I do not think there is any honorable gentleman opposite who would object to a full exercise of the kind of conscription I have referred to. Neither would he advocate the other kind, because it would be destructive of the highest national interests which we are in duty bound to preserve. Therefore, I say to the Government, ‘ ‘ If we are to have the conscription of manhood, exercise as you think wise the conscription of incomes.” Take the other view, which is held largely by men who work at craft occupations. There is undoubtedly amongst them a fear that conscription, for military service particularly, will mean also industrial conscription. Again, I say that industrial conscription would be justified in the hour of the nation’s direst peril. The Government might say to certain men, “You are earning £4 a week; you can live on £3, and you will have to work for that wage because we want all the profit there is in the industry in order to enable us to carry on our military preparations.” If we got to that position, new conditions to be established by the Government in connexion with all industrial occupations would be justified, but I do not think we have reached, nor are likely to reach, anywhere near that position in this war. I am viewing the question of conscription as if it were not necessary to alter by one jot the industrial conditions under which organized labour works and lives. I do not see why it should be necessary so long as the work of the community goes on to the satisfaction of the Government. The Government are entitled, however, to say with respect to a certain class of work that men have no right to strike during war. Suppose it were determined by the Government that the production of metals from Broken Hill was absolutely essential to the success of the Allied Forces. In such circumstances they might well say to the men, “You must work. If you have grievances, bring them before the Arbitration Court or some other tribunal we shall provide, but you must not strike, because the production of those metals must go on contimiously.” But in all other occupations it would be ridiculous for the Government to intervene during a period of conscription to upset conditions which have been erected slowly from decade to decade by the Parliaments of Australia. There is, perhaps, a more serious objection in the minds of some men who do not necessarily belong to craft unions. It is the historic objection to compulsion, the desire to have their freedom uninterrupted and unimpaired. That was a sound view when men were conscripted by the press gangs of England for naval and military work to forward the aims of wars involving dynastic advantages or territorial acquisition. When the making of wars was decided by monarchs it was right for men to say, “ I do not believe in this war, and to force me to take part in it takes away my most cherished right.” But to-day the conditions are different. Every man who fights anywhere, certainly every man who fights on the side of the Allies, fights for what he considers his individual possession, as well as the collective liberties of the nation to which he belongs, and in that way a man is not doing anything derogatory to Democracy by fighting, but is giving expression to the highest form of democratic duty, because we are all of opinion that we are in this war righteously, and we have to see it through or our liberties are not secure. And those liberties are just as much to the man earning £2 a week as to the man with £10,000 a year. In that sense, all men and all classes have mingled in the Armies of Australia, and every man feels, as he would feel whether he was fighting compulsorily or voluntarily, that he is fighting for what he considers to be his dearest possessions, not for the selfish aims of ambitious princes or unscrupulous diplomats, but for what he has been brought up to regard as the priceless heritage of himself and his children. There are some honorable members who believe that those who argue for conscription do so only because thoy desire a few more men to be sent to the front. There are lots of different objects for which conscription could be advocated. The need for more men is one of them. If we want more men I do not think we shall get them unless in the near future we adopt some form of conscription, but, even if we do not want more men, we should have for the raising of our reinforcements a more orderly gathering of the men of- the country to fight for the rights of the country. Honorable members know of cases all over the country at the present time of individuals, families, and districts which compare unfavorably with other individuals, families and districts. I know of districts in Victoria where the enlistment has been mighty poor, and other districts where the men have gone almost to the extent of 90 per cent, of the effectives. The same may be said of all the States. I know of one family of nine men, of whom not one has gone; I know of another family of four men, all of whom have gone. Surely such contrasts are not equitable. Let us first decide whether we are to call first married men or single men, or young or old, and then let them be marched to the colours as the nation requires them, and in the order in which it is thought they should go. In that way we shall not only secure more men, but we shall organize the community for home defence. I was particularly struck with what was said by the honorable member for Cook the other night in that regard.’ He said, in effect, “ All our soldiers have gone, and to-day we are without an Army at home.” Such a condition of affairs is not right. Even our rifle clubs, unfortunately, have not been able to get sufficient stimulus and activity to keep them going as the nucleus of a force for home defence. But we should have, particularly during this war, and immediately afterwards, in. case there should be a recrudescence of trouble, as frequently happens at peace councils, men in training and ordered so- that we may know exactly what our resources are, and where they are callable. A policy of conscription is applicable also to production, which is so vitally essential to all of us. We do not know whether we are injuring the agricultural industry to-day by saying, “ All men come who care to come at the call of the nation.” I believe that in some cases we are injuring industries. It might be advisable to take more men from the cities, and the nation should have the power to take men as and when they should go, regardless of a man’s personal conviction or views. . A writer has recently said that the great difference between Germany and England before the war, and particularly during the war, is that in Germany the welfare of the nation is placed before the pleasure and convenience of the individual. That people will win in the long run of life which adopts the welfare of the nation in the truest sense of the word as its highest objective, and I think we shall best study the interests of this country if we adopt that better classification and ordering of our resources which a proper form of conscription will involve. There are some men who. though not actually opposed to conscription, would sooner defer the issue until the Prime Minister returns. I am not one of those who wish to embarrass the Prime Minister. I believe in his mission to the Mother Country. I consider that he has done wonderfully well. It would be ridiculous to think that I should agree with everything he said, but we can all give him unstinted praise for the way in which he has endeavoured to put the Australian case to the Mother Country. I do not wish to say a word which would embarrass him or his colleagues during his absence. But those who favour delay will have to take the responsibility if delay should prove to be the wrong counsel, and if the conscription policy should be too late to operate effectively because of that delay. If our armies are again confronted on the Western front, as they were at Gallipoli, with the problem of insufficient support, of not having enough men to throw into the firing line at critical moments, the losses being heavier in consequence, the responsibility will be on those who say, “Let us. wait until the Prime Minister returns.” There is a great number of men and women fighting in a solid army for a reasonable and proper form of conscription. There is hardly a representative of a soldier, whether alive or dead, who is not a conscriptionist. Honorable members may say that that fact is no argument. Whether it be logical or not, we have to recognise that potent force of sentiment which wells in a nation’s heart, and surely the relatives of 300,000 men who form the backbone of a great army fighting for conscription are entitled to be heard. The honorable member for Batman, with whom I disagree, and whose last speech I read with considerable displeasure, although I did not attempt to combat it, cannot stop this tide with a mop any more than could the old lady of whom history records an unfortunate example. This tide of public opinion on the subject of conscription is rolling all over us. This matter ought to be taken in hand with the general concurrence of both parties, and an early start made on the great change in an absolutely fair and equitable manner. The example of our Allies has been quoted. Every nation worth talking about, which is with us in this struggle, has conscription. Why should we now, in our solemn or insular way, say that conscription is wrong? Is Australia to bo the obstinate juryman? Surely not. France is not wrong, neither is Russia, nor Italy, nor Belgium, nor Servia, nor Montenegro. Surely we cannot say that all these nations, lined up with us, are wrong, and that we only are right. Is England wrong? No. England, apparently after the most careful thought and gradual fermentation in party beliefs, has adopted, by the almost unanimous consent of Parliament in both Houses, the policy of compulsion. In a House of Commons of over 600 members, fewer than fifty were found to vote against conscription in the final stages of the measure. What does that mean? Does it mean. that, even if we wish/we can any longer argue this question purely on its .local political merits? We cannot do so. Are Englishmen to be compelled to step into the ranks and Australians to be free? Is the man who lives in Liverpool, in Glasgow, or in Sheffield to be under military order, and the man who lives in Sydney or Melbourne, in this most bountiful country in the world, to be free? Do we not realize that we lived here for seventy or eighty years, and had not to spend a penny on the protection of our interests? Why was this? Because those very men in Liverpool or Glasgow, or their fathers, built the British Navy at their own cost. We had no need to make any levies, because the workmen of Great Britain paid heavy taxes during at least two generations, thus giving us our start in development. Are Ave still going to allow those workmen to carry the butt end of the log? I do not think so. I do not think there is any man, with the heart of a true Britisher which, I believe, we all have if we are sounded deep enough, who would say, Let the Englishman, the Welshman, the Scotchman, and the Irishman be called upon to obey orders, while the men of Australia are free.” It seems to me that we have done so well - have been so endowed by British statecraft, and by our own forbears, who began the development of Australia - that we dare not play such an ungrateful part during this war. We must recognise, now the Mother Country has decided to conscript all her available manhood, that the Dominions of the Empire, whether they like it or not, will have to follow her great example. Is there One argument against that? With great respect I say that we must not take too much comfort from the war - and here I repeat some of the language of the honorable member for Flinders, to whose speech I listened with the deepest interest. The war is not over, and it probably will not be over before next winter, according to those critics whose opinions we are privileged to learn in scraps. It does appear to me that much of the crucial work that will predetermine the final issue of the war must be done before the close of October or November. Germany is shut in, and, judging by her apparent lack of desire to force the situation, she is content to sit behind the barbed-wire fence formed by the bayonets of the Allied Forces. But’ that will not win the war. When the war started, it was the German game to “play and win,” as in a chess problem. The onus of victory was on her; but, once we stopped her, and dug in, and re-formed the lines after the great turning process of early 1915, the onus of victory gradually began to shift from the shoulders of the Germans to the shoulders of the Allies. In other words, if we cannot definitely and positively v/in, we have lost. This is no story told for children in a kindergarten, but is the consensus of opinion of the competent critics of the world, neutral and belligerent. How are we to do this? Surely by adding all the weight and influence we can to the settlement of this question in Great Britain and the Dominions. France has put all her energy and devotion into this war, and what her men and women have done will Jive to the end of time. It is said that there is not a man working with an implement in the fields of France, or a man driving a vehicle, or doing any other kind of work which a woman can manage, and which was formerly exclusively done by men. The women of France have stepped from their homes, where, outside Paris, they still lived sheltered lives, and ho-vn taken, their share of great obligations. Every nation engaged in the war would appear to be extended to its fullest capacity. In Russia, the problem is not, perhaps, so much one of men as one of mobility, armaments, and ammunition; and it is probable that 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 more soldiers could be got from that country if transport and equipment were available. The only nation that has not done her best is Britain, but she has started, and I hope that she will go on to the end, and that Australia will do the same and keep undimmed the lustre of the name gained for her by the boys who went so cheerfully with the colours and fought those historic fights at the Dardanelles.
– I hardly know how to give adequate expression to my views, after listening to the speech of the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman, in the course of his remarks in reference to loans without interest, said -
An appreciation of these simple facts will prevent much confusion of thought and the spreading of foolish notions.
When I hear that forced loans without interest mean confiscation, I cannot help realizing that the nostrums of yesterday are, in many cases, the actualities of to-day, that many reforms advocated in the past, and since adopted, were originally spoken of in similar language. But now this sort of language, which formerly caine from our enemies, is coming from our most intimate friends. We have heard of Orpheus, whose music was so beautiful as to tame wild beasts; and it is equally remarkable how tame to-day are the wild beasts of the past. This party has no argument against conscription. It cannot have ‘ any. It was the first party to make it a party battlecry to have conscription of men for the defence of our country. I quite agree with the honorable member for Balaclava when he says that once we admit the fact and accept the principle of conscription, it is a matter of indifference where the men shall be called upon to fight. It may be a policy of discretion that, rather than have the fight around our own doors, we should carry it as far as possible away from our doors. I am not going to trouble very much about that. The honorable gentleman drew harrowing pictures of one family giving all its sons to the cause of the Empire, and another family giving none at all. It is very harrowing, very wrong, and very improper. But the honorable gentleman does not describe the only inequalities in this war. There is the spectacle of one man who sacrifices a job worth £500 a year for the defence of his country and his flag. He gives up an excellent position, carrying with it security for his wife and family, for a miserable 6s. a day, and against his sacrifice we have the picture of another man who stops at home to reap profits and make money out of the war. That particular spectacle has not so far been presented to the country. If it be true that the nation is fighting for its life, and we should organize all the resources and energies of . the country for its defence, why stop short at the conscription of men ? Why not organize all the necessary resources and energies of the country? Why permit one class . to make enormous profits out of the war and another to make only sacrifices ? The Treasurer told us that the man who invests £100 in a war loan is surely as much entitled to his interest as another individual who invests the same sum in industries. Of course he is. But has he as much right to draw that interest from the country when another man is giving his blood and his job for the country? This is the comparison which should be instituted: One man gives up all he has and lays down his life for the country, and the other stops at home and invests his miserable £100. I shall not occupy your time for long, but I wish to make a quotation from an article appearing under the title “ Your Money or your Life,” in The Nation, a newspaper published in England. It lays down a principle, and states an unmistakable fact which has never been disputed, that for thousands of years England fought her battles by land and sea in all parts of the world, in Flanders, France, her civil wars, wars with the Armadas, wars against Napoleon, and the Spanish wars, and no man came out of them richer than he entered them. We find that two years before the Napoleonic wars closed, if a man dared to increase the price of goods, if he cornered a product to enhance the price to the individuals of the nation struggling, he was given long years of imprisonment. In the year 1812, one merchant in the city of London got fourteen years for cornering a product and enhancing the price to his customers. That was in accordance with the principles upon which the nation emerged from savagery, and was built up. That principle was that “ your money or your life “ should be given. One or the other had to go. That is not the principle applied to-day. That one section should give its life and another make enormous profits out of the war is a new system. The crowd that make profits out of the war will become the new emperors of the world. They will be the conquerors, no matter what nations perish or how many millions of men are lost. I say that in this country, under a Labour Government, the Government of the workers should propound principles and a policy clear and distinct from anything of that kind.
– Any man who corners food stuff in peace or in war is a criminal.
– Here is a Liberal newspaper, The Nation, and let honorable members listen to what a writer in it says -
The demand for the conscription of wealth will be urged with irresistible force. Here we are told that it is an absurdity.
Let us see how an intelligent workman will view the situation. It will seem to him a just, patriotic, and feasible expedient. He sees that the nearest approach to equality of sacrifice is obtained by placing at the disposal of the State the whole available property and income of the non-fighting citizens….. Every sacrifice of wealth means more or betterequipped fighting forces. Indeed, so far as the conscription of soldiers is a means of increasing the total number of our armies, it may be a dangerous process unless it is accompanied by a corresponding conscription of wealth. For any enlargement of out national forces involves taking men from productive employments, where they earn upon an average not less than £100 per annum, and putting them into an unproductive occupation, where they cost some £300. The necessity of war finance evidently requires that for every man so transferred a levy should be made upon the income of the nation. Only in this way do we approach equality of sacrifice. Nay, without such a provision conscription carries a serious inequality.
Here it is proposed to continue the inequality of sacrifice by men taken from their occupations. One man is taken from a little shop and put forward, another is taken from some other occupation, and yet another is taken from an occupation by which he earns £300, £400, or £500 a year. At the country’s call they are hurled into the battle-field, whilst another section remains to make profits. Against that we have no proposition put forward by any man, or any party, in this country. The writer in The Nation, from whom I have quoted, goes on to quote the following from a letter in the Westminster Review : -
To the man under forty, with a comfortable income and responsibilities, national service does actually mean an almost complete conscription of his wealth. I have enlisted, and I shall have to leave my wife and two children with less than a fourth of the income I now earn. Should I be a casualty my family’s future will almost certainly be a struggle with sheer penury. It has taken me nearly twenty years of hard’ business life to get to my present position, and now three-fourths of my wealth, as well as my personal service, are at stake.
That is the condition in other countries; and I say that it lies with us, with our majority and our power, to reverse that condition here. This writer goes on to say-
We cannot put more men upon the field without putting more money into the national exchequer. Adequate loans at high and everrising interest are no proper equivalent either for the forced or the free sacrifice of life taken from the young men of the nation.
These loans are simply borrowed on the bonds and stocks previously issued. We make these the basis of a new loan. At the beginning of the war we were greatly troubled when we proposed a loan of £10,000,000. Then we raised the figure of the next loan to £20,000,000, and now we are going for £50,000,000. What are we to raise this loan upon? Upon the paper issues previously made, and upon interest and non-interest bearing stock. One loan is made the basis for another. One piece of robbery is made the basis for another piece of robbery; and the outcome of the war will be that Australia will have to bear an enormous burden of taxation to meet these loans. The article from which I am quoting continues -
There is something inherently demoralizing in the fact that financiers and the well-to-do classes in general are getting a handsome 5 per cent, for their “ patriotism,” besides fastening a heavy burden on the necks of the nation during the long years of impoverishment which must follow the war.
Where do we find in our Government today men who will utter language of thai description ? Why do they not speak of the impoverishment that will fall on the country at the end of the war? On the one side we have the patriotism of the crowd who will draw enormous profits from the war, and on the other side we have men perishing. This writer further says -
The immense harm obviously done by this timidity will certainly enforce the popular case for this new conscription of war finance.
But I have had enough of that.
– Who wrote that article? Is it signed ?
– It is not signed. It is a leading article in one of the papers in which the signature of the writer has not to be attached to such articles.
– What is the date of it?
– January 22nd, 1916. I shall come back to this article now that the honorable gentleman has started me. I want to finish before half-past 6 o’clock, and I want to get this into Hansard. This writer says -
The first condition of the application of this policy would be the recognition by the Government that their financing of the war by borrowing must stop, or be greatly modified.
That is their proposal. We do not say that. The article continues -
Why should the country in its need and poverty pay so much for what it has the power and the right to take without payment? There is no source of wealth in this country available for voluntary loans that is not likewise available for the war levy here proposed, provided that rigorous means of financial compulsion are devised.
I ask honorable members to listen to that.
The unreality of these war loans we have frequently exposed. Two hundred millions of hist summer loan, and a larger proportion of the first war loan, consisted of bankers’ money, that did not represent real saving, but was in effect inflation of credit, which, when extended by the Government, raised prices, and cast a burden of the sacrifice upon the poorer classes of the community, who suffer most from the rise of prices.
As it is in England, so it is here.
Conscription of wealth, somewhat along the lines we have suggested, must sooner or later be applied. If it is not applied soon it may be too late.
Representatives of the Australian Natives Association and other men in this country talk of its need, but they know quite well that the problem is not to arm a quarter or half-a-million men. The real question is, can we transport them overseas? That is the problem. If we cannot transport them, and if we go on adding to the numbers of men in camp, we shall simply be piling up expenditure without being able to get the men into the fighting area, where their services could be utilized. Now, we are carrying on this campaign by raising sums of money, and the honorable member for Balaclava says that he is favorable to the conscription of wealth. Others say it also - that there must be conscription of money, of material, and conscription of men. But all this talk about the conscription of money and material is merely so much piffle, so much public dope. They do not mean it. All they want is the actual conscription of men. Taxation is not conscription of wealth, any more than taxing a man represents the conscription of that man. You are not conscripting a man if “ you put a charge on him of, say, £1, £2, £10, or £20. To conscript a man means to take him, to put a brand of national ownership on him, order him to fight and, if need be, to die for his country. When conscripted, a man becomes national property; he is an instrument of the nation ; he has lost his ownership of himself. And yet in this country there are men who tell us that wealth is being conscripted. The other night Mr. Frank Clarke got on the platform, and said the wealthy classes have contributed generously to this war; they have, so he told us, contributed £35,000,000 to the war loans. But have they lost that wealth ? No ; of course they have not, for it will come back to them after many days, well gilded by the blood of sacrifice, loaded with 4 per cent, interest against the nation that is struggling for its existence. Their share ‘ of the war burden will be 4J per cent, and freedom from Federal and State taxation. We have raised loans, I understand, to the extent of £37,000,000, also £25,000,000 from the British Government, and £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 on the credit of the note issue. If this war goes on much longer we shall be loaded to the extent of £200,000,000.
– A million or two to you is nothing just now.
– Of course, it is nothing when men are losing their lives. The wealth of Australia is about £1,000,000,000, and as the result of this war we are going to have a load of debt of about £200,000,000, representing an interest burden of £9,000,000 a year. There is no conscription of wealth here. To conscript wealth means to take it.
– Twenty-five per cent, is a fair amount; do you not think so?
– To put 25 per cent, on a man is not to conscript his wealth. If you conscript a man, you put him in the battle-line to fight or die, as the case may be. Wealth is not conscripted if only the income of wealth is taken. Conscription of wealth is a rational and a reasonable proposition. All this talk about the taxation of wealth in the Commonwealth as being equivalent to conscription of wealth is mere bluff. There was a Labour Conference the other day, and I notice that the honorable member for Balaclava said it was largely a fake.
– Yes; it waa.
– Well, the honorable member is entitled to his opinion. In any case, the conference was as fairly constituted as any other conference has been - though the Treasurer has suggested that it was dominated by persons with foolish notions - and at that gathering; several propositions were adopted, including one for the conscription of wealth, and for the “ confiscation “ - horrible wor.d - of all incomes, interest, and rent, over and above the minimum of £300 a year. That resolution makes the honorable member for Darwin shiver. No wonder he said “ Hallelujah!” If, however, effect were given to the resolution., he would not say “Hallelujah!” but he would groan with horror and dismay.
– Because he would suffer. Now, the resolution adopted by this absurd and nonsensical conference, as some people would regard it, is exactly the proposition that is supported by the honorable member for Balaclava. But what did he say? He said that men who advocated things of that kind were extremists; that if we conscript the interest and rent on properties over £300 per year, there will be no incentive for a man to work - no incentive to collect his rents - to earn £300. What does the Age say about this matter ?
– When do you read the Age? In the morning?
– I read it when my brain is clear, and that is in the early morning. The argument of the Age against the proposition is just about as valid as the argument of the honorable member for Balaclava. If we accept the proposition that wealth can be conscripted, it is essential that the brand of national ownership be placed upon it. Well, suppose we say, here is £1,000,000,000 of wealth. If we put a mortgage of one-fifth or one-tenth upon it, and give a lien to the Government, what then? To the extent of the mortgage, a property upon which there is a lien to the Government becomes the property of the nation, upon which it would be possible to issue a national currency for the purpose of carrying on this war
– Does the honorable member mean to say that we could issue £1,000,000,000 worth of currency or credit in addition to what has already been issued?
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said there was £1,000,000,000 represented by property upon which we could establish a first lien. The £50,000,000 worth of credit which the Treasurer is going to obtain, and for which we shall’ have to pay 4-J per cent, interest, is merely a bank credit that is issued upon certain securities deposited with the banks.
– Mobilized credit.
– Mobilized credit, if you like. What I suggest is that, instead of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, with their £1,000,000 worth of property, putting £100,000 into the war loan and drawing 4£ per cent, interest upon it from the nation for ever, the Commonwealth should conscript one-tenth of that wealth, so that the obligation of that firm in connexion with this war would be £100,000. Since we cannot take land, or property or other assets, and throw them upon the market for sale without creating chaos, it becomes the duty of the national agency - the Commonwealth Bank - to issue whatever credit may be necessary against property upon which the Government holds the first lien. Thus, instead of our obligation to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company of £100,000, their share of our war debt would amount to that sum. Instead of the Commonwealth paying them 4^ per cent, interest on that amount, they would have to pay the Commonwealth 4£ per cent, for the amount of their unpaid obligation. The nation would have a credit balance on the conscripted properties. The Government would thus be able to buy whatever commodities may be required with the bank credit established for their disposal. In proportion as Burns, Philp, and
Company paid their war obligations the currency or credits would be redeemed. I have now outlined a definite means by which the property of the nation can be made to render the nation as much service in this time of crisis as can men. If we can conscript men we can also conscript wealth. A principle which is sound is capable of being utilized in detail. Let us say to the owners of wealth, “Your money or your life. One or the other you must give.” If men must give their lives in battle, so individuals who now draw large sums by way of interest for money invested in our war loans should be compelled to give of their substance. Otherwise, how can we hope to recover from the effects of this devastating war when the conflict is terminated ? How can we hope to recover if we are burdened, not merely with the taxation and indebtedness that have already been imposed upon us, but with a daily increasing burden of millions sterling which will be an incubus on our industries.’ Conscript properties, issue a bank credit against them, instead of eternally paying interest upon war loans.
– That would be confiscation.
– But it is not the confiscation of human life. It would be far better for us to disappear from existence than to tread in the footsteps of all other Governments. The policy of Governments all over the world has ever been to conscript human life for the purpose of enabling them to conduct battles, but while they have done that they have always secured loans for war purposes, thereby permitting individuals to make a profit out of war. The policy of the Labour party to-day should be the reverse of that. Its policy should be to conscript wealth so that the nation shall not hereafter be burdened with an enormous load of interest. The burden which we shall feel most is that with which we will be faced . when the war is over - the enormous burden of interest. The honorable member for Balaclava spoke of the Napoleonic wars. We know how men jumped to arms in France when the nations of the world endeavoured to crush her liberties. Then came Napoleon. He fought the world. Napoleon engaged in twenty long years of war against all the nations of Europe, and left France without a penny of debt.
Are. we not capable of doing that to-day ? During the Napoleonic wars, when England had to provide the gold for the subsidy of her Prussian Allies, she conducted a campaign for twenty years on a purely paper currency. There were two currencies in use at that time, because the private banks had the privilege of issuing notes just as had the Government. There was no restriction imposed on private bank currency. When the fortunes of England seemed to be fading, the currency of the private banks depreciated, but that of the Government did not. So it was in the case of the Civil War in America. The trouble experienced there was not due to the issue of green-backs, but to the fact that the private banks flooded the country with their own paper currency. Today we can maintain our liberty and independence by the adoption of improved methods - methods which are the outcome of long years of experience. Private bankers are financing this war by means of bank credit, and not by the issue of gold. For what do we pay interest] Credit from the banks. For what? To enable us to obtain food, clothing, arms, and munitions. To whom will the 4$ per cent. interest go ? To the men who make the guns or who manufacture the clothes? No. The interest goes in the main to the private corporations holding the monopoly of issuing a circulating medium, and who during this war have so augmented their assets by £15,000,000.
Our liberties and everything we hold dear must disappear into oblivion simply because we have not the courage and audacity to dare things. For the first time in’ the history of the world the working classes have been endowed with the power of government, and if we fail to do and dare, a blasting and everlasting shame will be upon us.
. - The honorable member is always interesting, and certainly he has given us this afternoon an enunciation of doctrines which do not err on the side of modesty. To carry them out would probably involve disasters almost equal to the disaster of war itself. The conscription of wealth has occupied some prominent attention. Nothing is clearer than the fact that wealth must bear its share of responsibility, and must at all times be available to the Government of the day for the purpose of financing the war and seeing it through. That wealth has not attempted to shirk its responsibility, I hope; but, whether it has or not, by the acclamation of both sides of this House it has been made available for the purpose of the war, and of securing the safety of Australia. Even if the owners of wealth were disposed to ..attenmt to shirk their responsibility, Parliament has in its own hands the remedy of taxation according to the necessities and exigencies of the situation. What more do we desire ? We cannot wish to bring about the destruction of the whole economic fabric. My friend forgets that the wealth of the community is distributed widely, and that those who would suffer most by the carrying into operation of his drastic proposition would be the general masses of the community, to say nothing of the incidental effect on economic production. If, wherever a man has two houses, one was conscripted, as is suggested by the honorable member for Bourke, it would precipitate a crash in values, destroy credit, and produce but little cash, whereas the owners would be so much the poorer. On the other hand, that same house is now available for the purpose of taxation. The very aim of taxation is that there shall be, as far as possible, equality of sacrifice. I hop that it will always be the guiding principle of our taxation, and that we shall not in this time of war, with all its surrounding disasters, attempt anything so outrageous or unjust as what has been suggested by the honorable member for Bourke. I am glad that the immediate contents of the Budget have been overlooked in this debate, and subordinated to the discussion of an infinitely more important national subject, namely, that of conscription. We, on this side, urge the adoption of conscription in order to enable Australia to put forward her utmost efforts at the present juncture. The War Committee has already indicated that we are not sufficiently represented at the front. Our obligation as an outlying Dominion of the Empire is to put forward our maximum effort, and to do that we must adopt the experience of the nations of the world. We are fighting a conscript nation; our Allies are also conscript nations. These nations do not resort to conscription merely for the purpose of satisfying some fad, but because it means organized effort, gives greater justice to the people, and is more effective than the voluntary system, with which, hitherto, we have been satisfied. Are we justified in ignoring the experience of the world in this respect? In fairness to our Allies, who have adopted conscription because it is the most effective system, arewe in Australia justified in standing by and saying that we do not propose to give them the benefit of our best efforts in the prosecution of the war? Because that is what it means; and that is what we have to realize. I have been pleased to note the breadth of view of some honorable members in discussing this question. I emphasize, with a number of honorable members who have preceded me, what a calamity it would be if we permitted this matter to be debated from a party stand-point. Having regard to the magnitude of the great issue which is involved, we on this side have endeavoured to cast aside any idea of party.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– The extent to which this debate possesses the mind of Parliament indicates the urgency of the issue, and the strength of feeling in the country concerning it. The various questions raised by the Budget have paled before the greater importance of the national issue of conscription. The fervour which possesses the country is indicative of the true loyalty of the people, and their determination to do the right thing. I regret the speeches made in this debate by the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Brisbane. Those two gentlemen seemed to be completely out of touch with the strength of the fervour of which I have spoken. They seemed also to ignore the fact that we were now in the presence of a supreme crisis - practically at death grips with a vile and unscrupulous enemy, and that the world stands aghast at the hideous atrocities which have formed part and parcel of the methods of warfare of our barbarian foe. These facts are exercising our minds very deeply, and rousing us to the character of the dangers and perils which assail us; but the honorable member for Batman lightly brushes these aside when he says they are only moonshine and nonsense. His attitude of mind can best be realized by his expression of the gravest doubt whether defeat was worse than conscription. Such an attitude is completely out of touch with the present feeling of the community. Not satisfied even with that, he hurled all sorts of taunts at members on this side of the House, who, I venture to say, have discussed this matter without passion, and in the most temperate manner possible. The honorable member charged us with enmity to all the fundamental ideas of Democracy, forgetting that many of us have been identified during the last twenty-five or thirty years with all the democratic measures of this or other States of the Commonwealth. These cheap sneers have a humorous aspect when he charges us with coercion and compulsion, which he declares are the very breath of our nostrils. He had only to appeal to his own leader, who the other day declared that compulsion was their weapon, not ours. This has been well illustrated within the- last few weeks by the degrading dragooning of the Government of New South Wales by an irresponsible outside body; but it is not necessary or desirable to dwell at undue length at present on these regrettable incidents. We have in Victoria, as, no doubt, the other States have, an insignificant babbling peace party, who claim, with extraordinary effrontery, to be greater lovers of peace than those of us who advocate conscription. As a matter of fact, the only peace they know, and would inevitably get, is a peace tainted with servility and German vassalage. The peace we aim at is an exalted peace, redolent of liberty and freedom, a permanent peace, the peace of the world itself. That is what we are fighting for. I need not say that those of us on this side of the House who advocate conscription regard war as abominable, pestilential, and hateful, quite as much as any of those who so strongly profess their anxiety for peace at the present time. The only alternatives are to surrender all our freedom and liberty and cherished institutions, and become practically German vassals, or to fight the war through to a finish and win. I have no doubt whatever of what the determination of this community will be when these alternatives are presented to
Sir Robert Best. them. We are fighting for the safety and honour of the Empire. Without dwelling on the question of safety, let me ask honorable members to realize that the honour of the Empire involves the restoration to Prance, Belgium, Servia, and Poland of their lost territories, which are at present in the possession and under the control of the enemy.
– If that could be secured by negotiation, would it not be an honorable peace?
– The only moment at which that could be secured by negotiation would be when the enemy was beaten to his knees. Everybody knows the arrogance of that enemy, and what he set out to do. Everybody knows that the war was his deliberate creation, and that we were dragged into it most reluctantly. The whole- of the traditions of the Empire show that we have fought for peace, and we would gladly have adhered to those traditions by securing peace if it had been at all possible. We all remember the splendid efforts of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, at the outset of the war, to secure peace. Indeed, the great complaint made at the time was that he had gone far beyond reasonable efforts in that direction. We must not forget that we are fighting against the infamous doctrine of might versus right - a doctrine, condemned in one portion of his speech by the honorable member for Batman, which stands in the forefront of the policy and shibboleths of the enemy we are fighting. We are fighting to crush that militarism which i8 so fearful to some of my honorable friends opposite, and to uphold all those great Christian principles of liberty, and honour, and righteousness which are so dear to our race.
– And European civilization itself.
– And, as my honorable friend so well reminds me, all that is embraced in European civilization as opposed to barbarism. In the circumstances, we can whole-heartedly claim to be engaged in a righteous war, and that surely involves the putting forth of our maximum effort. I am fully persuaded that this war is only to be won by the exercise of the full power and strength of the British Empire. It is this Empire which is going to deal the knock-out blow, and I am proud to know that John Bull has indeed wakened up. We must remember what has been done in getting together an Army which reaches a total of something like 5,000,000 men at the present time. With the exception, perhaps, of the small Army from Australia, it is the best-equipped Army in the world, and makes the Mother Country a great military Power, as well as the greatest naval Power. Turning to the industrial aspect, we find that there are upwards of 3,000 munition factories under the immediate and direct control of the. Imperial Government. What the Mother Country has done in finance, also, is something ever to be remembered. Not only is she prepared to finance herself in order to fight the war to a successful issue, but to the extent of a large number of millions of pounds is giving assistance to the Allies. These facts fill us with pride and joy that we should belong to such an Empire, and they should stimulate us to put forth our best efforts. The War Committee has’ already informed us, after full investigation, that Australia has not yet put forth her best effort. That fact is only too patent to all of us. We are under an obligation to supply by the end of next month 300,000 men. I am aware that, after a process of calculation, the Minister of Defence stated that our honorable obligation does not exceed 209,000 men. Strictly and technically this is probably so, and I do not dispute that fact, but I urge that Australia thought she had promised 300,000 men; the Mother Country thought that she had been promised 300,000 men, and, most important of all, the war demands that we shall supply upwards of that number. It is fairly obvious now that our anticipations are not to be realized, and, therefore, we have to resort to such a method as will bring about better and more effective results in Australia. I have nothing to say against the operation of voluntaryism in the past. Voluntaryism I look upon as the purest patriotism, and we are proud of the early response that was- made when the men of this community so willingly offered their services. The answer reflected the greatest credit upon the Commonwealth, and was the subject of much congratulation; but whilst I appreciate the earlier efforts of voluntaryism, I am not in full accord with the latest methods. This system of flaring advertisements, of resort to the publicity artists, of attempting by abuse to dragoon men into enlisting, does not meet with my approval. That cam paign, however, has demonstrated conclusively that the voluntary effort has completely failed, and has indicated with equal conclusiveness that conscription should have taken its place at an earlier period. There is hardly a man who can doubt that voluntaryism has had a fair trial, and no one can completely refute the suggestion that it has failed. When we are searching for a more effective system, we look for guidance and aid to other parts of the world. The whole teaching of nations which have been at war, and of those now fighting, is that the maximum effort can be secured only by a system of conscription. We cannot avoid that object lesson. That being so, and having regard to the example of the Mother Country itself, there is an obligation on this community to resort to conscription with the least possible delay. The obstacles to conscription in the Mother Country appeared to be almost insuperable; and, compared with them, our difficulties in Australia are of a most trifling character. In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister declared, upon the introduction of the Compulsory Service Bill,” that its operation was to be general and immediate. It was to be immediate because of the exigencies of the war and the demand that a greater effort should be put forward at once. It is essential that its operation in Australia should be immediate, because, as has been emphasized by many speakers, conscription cannot be brought into force in a day. It has to be prepared for, and worked up to, and it is necessary that we should at once engage in the necessary preparations in order to gain the best results a few months hence. The Minister of Defence a little time ago strongly urged that voluntaryism was unfair and ineffective. The fact of its being unfair is demonstrated to each one of us every day; and it is the experience of every public man that there is a vast section of this community prepared to go to the front, but the unfairness of the operation of voluntaryism has been brought home to them, and they refuse to go until conscription is enacted. We cannot ignore those people, and they look to the Government for light and leading. It is well known that there are something like 120,000 fit single men who should be called upon. Those men, for the most part, would do us justice equally with those adventurous spirits who have already gone to the front; but they cannot ignore the fact that there are shirkers in our midst, and that they must be made to realize their responsibility. I can quite understand that large section saying that they will not come forward voluntarily under such an unfair system, but will readily yield as soon as conscription is introduced. The honorable member for Bourke failed to realize the fundamental fact that the conscription of the manhood of the community would apply to the men of wealth as well as to the poorer classes. It might be claimed by men of wealth, although I am not prepared to sympathize with the view, that they are liable to the double burden of immediate service and conscription of wealth. It cannot be fairly urged that conscription of manhood must be deferred until we are prepared to bring about conscription of wealth; also, I claim each branch has its undoubted obligations, and each must be enforced as the welfare of the nation demands. Heavy taxation has already been imposed, which is, in itself, a conscription of wealth. We are looking around for object-lessons, and there is one that appeals to me very strongly. Within twelve months of the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Southern States, which sought to break away from the Union, had inaugurated a system of conscription. The Northern States, wealthier and with larger supplies of manhood, were at first reluctant to accept anything of the kind, but that great leader, Abraham Lincoln, saw the fearful crisis arising, and realized that safety could only be secured, and the war shortened, by conscription. In the face of almost insuperable, difficulties, he was within a few months able ‘to introduce the system. It must be remembered that the difficulties were increased by the fact that this was a civil war, in which brothers fought against brothers, relatives against relatives, and friends against friends, whereas in Australia we are engaged in a war which, on the part of the enemy, has for its object the destruction of the British Empire. In the present case we have an enemy who hates us, and whom we despise; and, therefore, the same compunctions do not arise as in the case of the war in America. I have no desire to be unreasonable or unfair. We are firmly convinced that the circumstances demand the introduction of con scription at once. There are others, and some amongst honorable members opposite, who take a different view, and under the circumstances I urge that, on a national issue such as this, the people might well be consulted in the way suggested by the honorable member for Grey. What is there unreasonable or unfair in such a suggestion ? Surely the people themselves, seeing that their own safety is involved, are the best able to judge whether conscription is required. In justice to the community generally - in justice to honorable members who are opposed to conscription - I think that the people might be trusted to decide this allimportant issue, and thus assist the Mother Country in bringing about an early conclusion of the war.
– Voting could be by post, and expense be thus saved.
– There is no doubt that a referendum could be expeditiously taken. I have refrained from using any harsh language, but I am convinced that the position demands the immediate introduction of conscription. Further, I am fully persuaded that the members of the Government themselves realize the necessity, and in ordinary circumstances their desire to wait until the return of the Prime Minister would be reasonable. But the enemy will not wait until the Prime Minister returns, and if it is felt by the community that it is our duty to put forth a greater effort than hitherto - in view of the fact that the War Council has decided that Australia ought to be more adequately represented at the front - the Government ought to take immediate steps, and introduce a conscription measure. If, however, the Government are afraid to do this, they should at least resort to the referendum for the purpose of getting the guidance and decision of the people. I do not desire to deal further with this matter, orwith the various questions raised by the Budget; but there is one feature of the situation that I most deeply deplore. When we see the example set by France - the splendid effort she is making for her own safety - and contrast that with the complacency of this community, we are driven to the conclusion that we are failing in our duty. Only the other day I was reading of the character of the French organizations and of what has taken place in France industrially and otherwise. It is stated with pride that from the beginning of the war there has not been a solitary strike in France - a fact over which this community ought to ponder.
– What about Canada?
– Canada is practically in the same position, and it indicates that we have not realized sufficiently the peril of the war when we are wasting our strength, as we are doing, in industrial strife. It indicates that this community is wanting in that wholehearted determination to win the war that has characterized some of our Allies and, lately, the Mother Country. We are proud of what has already been done by Australia, but we cannot rest on our laurels. It is the duty of each of us to consider what more we can do, and there ought to be the maximum effort with the utmost expedition in order to secure the best results.
.- I do not intend to detain the Committee for long. I wish, first, to congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava on the splendid oration he favoured the Committee with this afternoon. If he -came into contact with the section in Australia opposed to conscription, his method of speech and line of reasoning would go further to convince them that something in the direction of compulsion should be done than the utterances of any other speakers on the subject to whom I have listened. The masterly way in which he described our responsibilities, the fair manner in which he tried to approach the question, and the assurance he gave the Committee, which, I feel sure, was quite sincere, that he is prepared to put all into the scale if need be in the struggle which we are maintaining for our existence, in my opinion stand infinitely to the honorable member’s credit. I wish, also, to compliment the honorable member for Bourke on the attitude he adopted in the debate. In my opinion, honorable members on this side have not so far attempted to demonstrate what is the feeling on this question of those behind the movement that put them here.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the honorable member agrees with me, because I feel that that has not been done, and the only man whose speech made any approach to it is the honorable member for Bourke. The cry for conscription and the pressure into military service of all the available manhood of Australia comes incessantly from a particular section of the community. I have no wish to deal with the question of our responsibilities in any party spirit, though it may be that my utterances will be taken in that manner. I want to say that in the war in which the Empire is engaged there is something repugnant to the spirit which has animated the labour movement from its very inception. The honorable member for Balaclava said he tried to take his opponent’s view of the circumstances we have to consider, but it is impossible for any one to get the view of members of the Labour party until he puts human beings before wealth. We were never organized to destroy, but the elements responsible for the war were organized for that purpose. If they are not themselves destroyed as a result of the war, they will continue to destroy in the future. Let there be no mistake about that. Let the autocracy of Germany go through this war unscathed, or with the power that it has had heretofore, and in years to come we shall again be faced with the conditions against which we are struggling to-day. Let the autocracy of Great Britain have the same sway in the future that it has had heretofore, and the same state of muddle will then be found as exists to-day in Great Britain. We are accused of not standing up to the responsibilities of the war with the same zest as do other sections of the community. But what promise have we from those other sections that things will be any different after the war from what they were before war was declared ? What is the reason for the war? Who is responsible for it, and on whom should be laid the blame for “it? Honorable members can never lay the blame for the war on the shoulders of the working class of Great Britain. Their greatest leader has sacrificed his name, reputation and paper in order to tell the diplomats of Great Britain what should have been staring them in the face. They ridiculed him; but the secret diplomatic service of Great Britain allowed the Germans to arm themselves, to conserve all the forces necessary to bring about a world-wide war, to choose their own time to strike the blow, and to strike it in such, a fashion that the whole world, apparently, cannot stop them. Now the workers are asked to come in and do what those who are opposed to them did not do. They are asked to pull the Empire out of the hole which the plutocrats of Great Britain got it into.
– I do not think that is so.”
– Will the honorable member say what was the cause of the war ? It was not Tom Mann who allowed Germany to become the dominant military Power of Europe; it was not Ben Tillett, or any other of the Labour leaders. It was much more likely to have been Sir Edward Grey, Viscount Bryce, and other men of their class who should have known what Germany was doing.
– What about Ramsay Macdonald, and a lot of his kidney ?
– Did he ever hide anything from the nation that the nation should have known ?
– He should have known better than he talked.
– Were Ramsay Macdonald and his supporters inside the circle into which they have since been taken, of those who were in a position to know what was going on ? Our opponents are prepared to take every one of us to their bosoms now. One honorable member, in taunting the honorable member for Batman because he contended for freedom of speech in Australia, told him that freedom of speech was the castle of the coward. Yet there is not one individual on the other side, or in Australia, to-day who would not hail Karl Liebknecht, the German advocate of free speech, and the man who desires to bring the war to a termination if he possibly can. He is suffering imprisonment and persecution for telling the authorities what they are doing to the proletariat of Germany in this war. Every time the Socialists of Germany gain power, and vote in their National Parliament against war credits, we have cross-head lines in all the Liberal newspapers in Australia, and the Socialists of Germany are hailed for the time being as the saviours of the world. But so soon as we get back into the old rut again, we can go on fighting to secure some kind of justice through Wages Boards and the like, in the same manner as we have at all times had to do. We have been told that we have been conscripting men into the labour unions. That is a nice argument for our opponents to use when they know that we have never done so but with the desire to secure for them more wages, shorter hours, and better conditions for themselves, their wives, and families. We have never conscripted men into an army. I took the word of the newspapers for it when they said that people should go to see “ Britain Prepared “ at the picture theatre. I went to see it, and it was one of the saddest sights I ever looked upon in my life. If that was an incentive to people to enlist, let me ask my honorable friends opposite why top. rates were charged to see the pictures. I saw none of the widows’ of our fallen soldiers or their fatherless kiddies going to see that picture, but when I came out of the Adelaide Town Hall I saw seven motor cars outside the hall, and it was the people who owned them who were going to see the picture.
– What have we to do with them ?
– The honorable gentleman and his party stand for that section of the community.
– My honorable friends opposite should not deny the source from which they have sprung.
– Is the honorable member sure that the motor cars he refers to were not those of Labour Ministers?
– Labour Ministers do fairly well with motor cars in South Australia, but not better, I think, than Liberal Ministers. If they were the motor cars of Labour Ministers, that is only the more to their discredit.
– I thought this was not going to be a party speech. If so, why bring the Liberals into it in the way in which the honorable member is doing?
– I do so because I have not heard one honorable member on the other side pleading that these pictures should be shown free to all who ought to enlist.
– We want to conscript the capitalist class as well as the other class.
– I do like that statement.
– The honorable member will not give us credit for any good at all.
– There is very little that is good for which I can give the capitalist class credit.
– The honorable member surely does not place me in the capitalist class.
– I call the honorable member a representative of the capitalist class. Whether he is afraid to own it or not is not my concern, but I tell my friends opposite, without any hesitation, that I represent the working class.
– I am prepared to swop my banking account for that of the honorable member any day. I am prepared to swop it for King O’Malley’s account.
– That is beside the question. There may be one or two on our side who have managed to get in out of the wet, but I am not speaking for Mr. King O’Malley or for any capitalist in the Labour party, but for the unionists who have been condemned, especially by the honorable’ member for Kooyong. I intend in a moment to ask the Government to conscript wealth, and not to be concerned about the difficulties that may be in the way. They should leave that to the Treasury officials.
– Why should they conscript wealth ?
– Did not the honorable member hear the article which the honorable member for Bourke quoted from the Nation? The honorable member for Balaclava tried to put the position as he saw it, and this is the position from our point of view: We cannot see the utility of going into this war unless we can be assured of some result for it afterwards. That is my position in the matter, and that is the position of the movement. The honorable member for Balaclava also said that a military autocracy would not be set up; that conscription would not be the same in Australia as it is in other countries, because the franchise is in the hands of the people here. I ask honorable members on the other side of the House, and those who favour conscription, will they promise the franchise to every man in the trenches or to the wives that are left behind ? They will not, of course.
– They have it now.
– In South Australia, which loads the way in local government, women, unless properly qualified, cannot vote for the Legislative Council.
– What about the man who lias no wife?
– Well, he would have an inducement to find a wife if by so doing he could get more voting power. In the
Commonwealth, until we have unification, we shall not have realized the benefit of the movement. Will honorable members opposite give our soldiers and those who arc in the Labour movement an assurance that there is going to be no embargo on their liberties for the future? The workers produce wealth in greater ratio than any other section of the community, and they have had to fight from time immemorial for all the liberty they are enjoying to-day. God knows, they have had to spill blood for it before to-day; to fight inch by inch for all the privileges of which we boast so proudly to-day. Why is it that our troops are being paid at a higher rate than any others engaged in the conflict, and why is it that the wives and children of our soldiers are being succoured in a greater measure than those of any other country? It is because of the strength of the movement to which I belong, and this position stands to the credit of united labour in Australia.
– It stands to the credit of the whole Federal Parliament.
– No. Undoubtedly this is for the working man the best country on the face of the globe, thanks to the liberties which have been won for its people.
– Take care you do not lose the country, that is all.
– Well, if we do, we shall only go down with those on the other side. But we need have no fear of losing it. We in the Labour movement have not got cold feet. Let honorable members opposite, and the people whose political views they represent, give us assurance that things will be better in the future for the whole of Australia, and there will be no need to fear. Let the master bakers who are now engaged in a dispute with their workmen, recognise the justice of the claim for more humane conditions in the industry; let these gentlemen, as the representatives of those comprising the Employers Federation and the Liberal element in the community, give improved conditions, and there will be an inducement to all the people in the Labour movement to more enthusiastically join in the endeavour to safeguard those liberties.
– You would have them put the interests of the men before-the interests of the nation.
– That is his form of patriotism.
– Well, capitalists on the other side, for their patriotism, are getting 4½ per cent, interest from the war loan.
– They did not seek it.
– They are your terms.
– They are not my . terms.
– Well, the capitalists will have to pay taxation, and so help to pay for the loan.
– But where will the capitalist get the money from ? The capitalist does not create wealth. He may control the avenues whereby it is produced, but, as a rule, he finds some means of making the other fellow pay. The right honorable member for Swan urged that the war should be carried on by borrowed money, the interest upon which, together with the sinking fund, should be met out of current account. That, according to the right honorable member, is the way the war should be conducted from a financial point of view. But where does the capitalist get it?
– Yes; where does he get it ?
– Any capitalist’ among the honorable member’s friends will be able to tell him quite easily.
– But you tellus.
– From my point of view, he ought to seek a job from Smith and Timms, or from some other contractors, and get the money fairly and squarely with the business end of a pick and shovel. But the capitalist does not do that. His practice is to go to the office and ask his head clerk or accountant what are the takings of the day, and then leave with the remark, “ Oh, well, ring me up if there is anything happening. I shall be down at the seaside for the week-end.”
– Who produces the wealth?
– Who looks after the honorablemember’s farm? He does not. A nd who looks after his store at Quorn ? The honorable member for Wakefield does not, but I am pretty certain that his income tax return will show a little bit of the Quorn farm and the Quorn store receipts as the result of personal effort. The right honorable member for Swan, when talking of the financial side of the war, said that posterity should bear portion of the burden. If we take up the statement showing the public debt of Australia, we find that it has now reached extraordinary dimensions. We have always been told that this should be handed on to posterity, with the safeguard that the interest should be met and a sinking fund provided for. Well, I ask any potential Treasurer, or any Treasurer, to tell me how much of the public debt of Australia has been shifted from the backs of the babies during their life time ? We, who are here to-day, once represented that posterity, when the earlier loans were being negotiated in the interests of Australia, but posterity has never yet met one penny of the amount. When it comes to carrying the burden imposed by the war, posterity will be in the same boat.
– What has posterity done for us?
– The party to which I belong has always advocated the cessation of borrowing except for public works, which will return interest upon their capital outlay, and provide for the establishment of a sinking fund. But what will the war reproduce? Nothing. It will bring all who come within its baneful influence to penury. We are borrowing for the purposes of the war, but not a penny is being taken from the pockets of the capitalists. It is sometimes said that we cannot conscribe wealth. But what did the honorable member for Balaclava say? He affirmed that in the last analysis we could take from the community whatever wealth was required. Why not come to the last analysis now?
– Why should we do it?
– Because it would be more just to do so than to burden the workers of this country and their children with an overwhelming indebtedness. I doubt whether the honorable member has ever toiled hard himself.
– I have worked just as hard as has the honorable member. I will take on the pick and shovel against him at any time.
– Order! This debate is becoming altogether too personal. I must ask the honorable member for Calare not to interject, and I must request the honorable member for Adelaide to address the chair.
– I am sorry that I have been dragged off the point into an argument of a personal character. My re- cord as a worker will certainly bear comparison with that of the honorable member for Calare. The first seventeen years of my life were spent in a factory where I received a wage which commenced at 18s- and terminated at 39s. per week.
– I started work for a less wage than that.
– That was because the honorable member’s ability was not so great as mine. As the honorable member for Indi reminds me, whoever engaged the honorable member evidently knew his value, and paid him accordingly. We have been told that in this war we are fighting for the liberties of Australia. I am quite prepared to admit that Australia is in great danger, and that thu time may come when we shall have to engage in a greater fight than is being waged on the battlefields of Flanders. But when we are “up against it,” as the honorable member for Balaclava described it, will be the time when we should put everything into the melting pot, and when the sacrifices made should be of an equitable character. So far as conscription is concerned, I am absolutely opposed to it. I am not prepared to support it, notwithstanding that I believe in a thorough organization of this country for defence purposes. At times I have had to submit to hostile demonstrations in connexion with our Defence Act, but I am nevertheless prepared to stand by the principle of universal service for the defence of this country. I wish now to take exception to the items in the Budget relating to loans from the Imperial Government. We are to be asked to ratify a loan of £25,000,000 on behalf of the’ States, and to authorize the flotation of another loan of £50,000,000 for war purposes. That is a total of £75,000,000 in addition to the amount which has been already raised. I wish to know from our high financiers where this money is to come from? In the last issue of the Worker there is an article contributed by a banker of Great Britain, who tells us how that country has financed the war, and it appears to me that the Commonwealth is about to follow in its footsteps. For a long time the Worker has advocated the conscription of wealth, and has belted the Government in respect of its borrowing policy. If. the Treasurer would only realize the spirit of the movement to which honorable members upon this side of the chamber are wedded he would cudgel his brains with a view to discovering a more equitable method of financing the war. The article in the Worker reads -
Many a time has the Worker drawn the attention of its readers to the huge profits made annually by the various banking institutions of Australia, and shown at the same time how all those profits might, by the judicious and more general use of the Commonwealth Bank, be made to return to the people from whose pockets they come. The jugglers of finance rob the workers mercilessly from sunrise to sunset.
Nowhere, perhaps, is this amazing swindle more palpably exposed than in a recent article in Forward (Scotland), from the pen of Frederick Temple, himself a banker. The facts he gives are damning, and must make the worker feel very foolish indeed. Listen to this bank manager: - “ In August, when the war broke out, the Bank of England - which is the banker of all the other British banks, had only a reserve of £9,000,000 sterling, yet two months later we find the British Government applying to this bank for a loan of £350,000,000 (three hundred and fifty millions). Never in the history of Britain lias there been such a sum of money in the country.”
The Bank of England had not the money, yet the Government got the loan. How did the money-jugglers do it?
Mr. Temple tells the tale: “ The bank had not the money, so they made an issue to the public, knowing that the public had not got it either. A few subscriptions dribbled in, but not enough, so the bank was compelled to adopt a new expedient. Circulars were issued to business men, and one came to me. I was asked to fill in form of application, enclosed, for a portion of the war loan; the bank would lend me the money (knowing it had not got it ! ) . “Had I applied for, say, £20,000 of war loan stock, I should have had to put up no money, no margin, no securities, nothing’ but a penny stamp for the covering envelope. I would have been charged 3 per cent, for the accommodation; I should have received in return 4 per cent, from the Government, a profit of 1 per cent., or £200 for nothing. The taxpayer will pay this 4 per cent., this being the only real part in the transaction. “ Bookkeeping did the trick. On the debit side I owed the bank £20,000, on the other side I was credited with war stock to the same amount. Then the Treasury would draw cheques against the value of the war stock supplied (in above manner) to the bank. These cheques paid munition makers, contractors, and others, and in due course reach the clearing house.”
This clearing house is an effective device for carrying on banking without money. In the total of the banking transaction of to-day money is employed to the extent of about 2 per cent. “ In 1013 cheques were cleared, i.e., exchanges effected, without the employment of any money, to the extent of no less than £16,436,000,000.”
The whole thing is a matter of credit, not the bank’s credit, for it had not the money or wealth behind it; not the credit of the men who filled in the application forms, for they neither gave money nor security. “ The only credit employed was the credit of the taxpayer. So it follows that the taxpayer pays tho bookkeepers £14,000,000 in interest for the nae of his own credit.”
Mr. Temple’s article is one of the highest educational value at the present time.
I do not say that the statements of Mr. Temple are correct, but 1 a:n satisfied, from the fact that they have been printed by such a paper as the Worker, that there was sufficient verification as to his ability, and I commend the article to the Treasurer, and ask him how he will get his money in Australia.
– I am surprised that a man who can borrow £20,000 from a bank should write such an article for a Labour paper.
– There are some men who are foolish enough to give the show away, but I ask the Treasurer whether he can controvert the scheme that is being played on the British public.
– Does the honorable member believe that it is done?
– I do not say that the statement is true, but I hardly think that a man such as Mr. Temple would write in this way if it were not true. Can the honorable member for Richmond supply me with the information that the Treasurer does not feel inclined to give? Can he tell me where we are to raise this £50,000,000 in Australia? It is all a matter of interchange of credit, and the Treasurer knows that by the platform of the Labour party all honorable members on this side are pledged to nationalize the systems of banking and insurance. When the bank rates were raised in South Australia, an Adelaide banker who was interviewed by the Adelaide Register, stated that the banks were supplying the £13,000,000 required to finance the wheat pool, and the £45,000,000 required for the war, clearly proving that the whole of the Commonwealth is in the hands of the banks. How they do it heaven only knows. It is a matter of juggling with credits, as those who are in the inner circle of finance, the Treasury officials, should know.
– Does the honorable member know what the total capital of the Associated Banks is?
– I know what their stated capital is, but if it were boiled down to the amount it would realize on a forced sale should they fail, I question whether it would be a fourth of what their balance-sheets show. During the last general election the honorable member for Flinders said that finance was government and government was finance. If that be so, the whole of the government of Australia is in the hands of the banks. I ask the Treasurer to devise some means by which the banks of Australia may become the property of the nation. Let it be called confiscation, absorption, or conscription, I ‘do not care; so long as the people own the banks, then we shall very speedily arrive at an equitable distribution of the wealth of the community. 1 do not say that I am going to evolve a scheme whereby it can be done, but the Labour party are in power, and the Treasurer knows that he is instructed by the platform of that party to give the matter serious consideration. Instead of doing so we have set up a bank in competition with the other banks. Honorable members opposite fought its establishment for all they were worth. They know ite potentialities) if it is given the opportunity to expand that it should be given, and, when we have in office men brave enough to institute means whereby the banks and insurance companies of the Commonwealth may become the property of the nation, so soon shall we break down the capitalistic system which is throttling the community. And then we can say to the working community, “You have something to fight for; you have an interest in Australia.” My friends opposite know this better than I do, but they dare not say that what I have put forward is impracticable. It may be that it cannot be brought into operation at the present time, but our friends opposite know that the present financial system is merely a matter of juggling with credits, as Mr. Temple has pointed out. We are using our own money, and the working man provides it by his taxes year in and year out, taxes with which he will be saddled for all time.
– The honorable member’s system was tried 2,000 years ago and failed.
– It has not been tried in modern times. Christ was crucified, but the saviour who comes to save the country from the banks will not be crucified.
– The honorable member does not propose to sit down without telling us how we are to do all this?
– Before honorable members get my policy on the matter they must makeme Treasurer. On one occasion, when the late Mr. John Darling was soundly thrashing the late Hon. C. C. Kingston at an election meeting, I was foolish enough to ask him the same question as that which the right honorable member for Parramatta has asked me, and Mr. Darling replied, “ You do not think that I am silly enough to tell you what I am going to do ? That is up my sleeve.” I am merely following in the wake of a very astute Liberal of his day.
– The honorable member has it up his sleeve?
– Yes, and when it slips down out of the Labour sleeve it will hit with a very hard bump. I know who will do the squealing. There has never yet been a proposal from this party that has not been ridiculed by honorable members opposite. The “ little tin-pot navy “ was ridiculed; the system of universal training was ridiculed; the Commonwealth Bank was ridiculed, yet to-day it has saved the nation financially, because private enterprise might have broken down had it not been for the Commonwealth Bank. The wages which the working men enjoy - 10s.,11s., 12s., and -as high as 16s. a day in Broken Hill for a fortyfour hours week - were also ridiculed, but they have come to stay, and we have not reached the end yet. The banking proposals, crude as they may be, have come to stay; and in the years to come the finances of Australia will belong to the people of Australia.
– The note issue has come to stay.
– That also was ridiculed. I have been reading up the debates on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, and noticed that one member - I forget his name - made the silly statement that the Bank would be an institution by which members on this side would be able to get extended overdrafts and leave the Bank “ in the soup.”
– This is not a party speech at all, is it?
– It is a speech from my point of view on the present situation. It expresses my feelings on the matter, and I always say what is in my mind. However crude it is, it is a speech which those who sent me here expect me to make, and they know me better than honorable members opposite do. In preparing the Bill for the taxation of war profits, the Treasurer ought to have found the word “ taxation “ sticking in his throat. The word he should have used is “ absorption “ or “ confiscation “ if he likes that better, but from my point of view, the word used should have been “ grab “ - get it quickly with both hands. To show the necessity for such a measure, I read in the press that the balance-sheet of the White Star Oceanic Steam Navigation Company for the past year disclosed a credit at profit and loss of £1,068,285, and that after paying the tax of 50 per cent, on war profits, and a dividend of 65 per cent., huge amounts were set aside for depreciation and reserve funds.
– I wish I had some shares in it.
– Those are the profits after the War Profits Taxation Act have operated. Where, then, are the patriots of this community ?
– They are on your side.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Darwin, although he has been astute and shrewd in his private affairs, has tried to get any war profits, nor do I believe that he has . raised the rent on any of the soldiers’ wives while their husbands have been ‘ fighting at the front. The White Star Company have made the huge profits I have quoted only by increasing the freights on munitions and foodstuffs carried to the people of Great Britain. Every penny extra represents an extra profit wrung out of the people of the Mother Country.
– Are we on this side responsible for that?
-There is not a business firm in Australia which is not doing a little of the same thing on its own account. The honorable member represents that section of the community. I represent the section which is paying the profits. If I were in the honorable member’s place I should not try to get out of my responsibilities. He should stand up to his position like a blue-blooded
Liberal, and say he is proud of them, or get out and let the Liberals select some one who would do them more credit. I am not satisfied with our Government bringing down a measure to tax war profits to the extent proposed.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that measure.
– As the question was mentioned in the Budget, I thought I could debate it. How are we meeting our responsibilities and obligations in this war? All the different sections of the movement I represent have met throughout the Commonwealth, and all are dissatisfied with what has been done. The Government have realized that something must be done, and have intimated their intention to extend the scope of the Oldage Pensions and War Pensions Acts, but that will not be sufficient for the people of this country, when they come to realize what a splendid thing they are going to get out of this war. That brings me to the point emphasized by the Treasurer in his Budget speech in regard to the evasion of land taxation by land-holders, who, according to the honorable member for Calare, are paying their taxes. Are they? They pay them if they cannot dodge them. The Treasurer snowed in his Budget speech how the big landholder gets away from the burden of taxation if he possibly can. He said - “ The number of taxpayers does not reduce.” You cannot make them less. The big land-holder still squats on Australia whether the country is at war or peace, and he is going i;o squat on it even if the freedom of Australia be won by the efforts of our conscripts on the plains of Flanders. Even after the war is over people will still cry out with land hunger, and we shall still go on arguing that immigration is necessary. Notwithstanding all our efforts to break up land monopoly, and it stands to the everlasting credit of the Labour party that they imposed the land tax in spite of the ridicule of honorable members opposite, the Treasurer was forced to make this admission -
The number of taxpayers docs not reduce - in fact, there is, on the contrary, a tendency to increase.
The squattocracy is growing instead of getting less, in spite of the land tax -
But the average holding per taxpayer is lessening so materially that the revenue-pro ducing powers of the higher rates of tax are gradually being neutralized. In addition to sales of land by one person to another, arrangements have been made under * which parents have transferred parts of their estates to their children or other relatives.
The workman has no chance of doing that. He cannot say to one child, “ You can have the sitting room,” and to another, “ You can have the dining room,” for, in nine cases out of ten, the landlord has a lien on the lot. He cannot transfer even the fowls in the back yard. But these patriots know how to get out of their just responsibilities to the Commonwealth. The sting of the Treasurer’s indictment lies in these words -
In some cases these transfers are nominal, and deliberately made to avoid taxation.
Yet the honorable member for Calare is proud in the knowledge that the landholders will have to meet the expenses of the war by taxation! The Treasurer’s words show that the landholder will pay if he cannot dodge the tax by transferring it to the other fellow.- The Treasurer suggests that “ an amendment of the law should provide for complete and unencumbered transfer.” The time is rapidly coming when we shall have to tax the land as the good old Single-taxers wanted us to tax it. We shall have to get back to first principles, as they call them, and, without any exemption, make the land bear the burden of those who live on it in proportion to what they hold. This brings me to the next move of the Government with regard to shouldering the responsibilities of the country. We are going to give the soldiers or their dependants a pension, but we all realize that it is a mere pittance. If a man forced to go to the war unfortunately never returns, his dependants are going to live in poverty and penury for the rest of their lives. The alternative is a scheme of repatriation, in connexion with which the people are asked by the State Premiers and the Prime Minister to voluntarily bear, according to their generosity, the responsibility of the nation. That is the manner in which wealth is being put in the balance as against life. The repatriation scheme represents the assistance to be given to the worker’s wife whose husband has been maimed or killed at the front. Whatever the responsibilities in connexion with this war may be, the nation should bear them, and the nation could bear them if the Treasurer would only handle the financial situation in a bold manner. We talk about the conscription of wealth, but how is that to be brought about? Let the Treasurer take charge of the banks, pay interest on the assets in excess of liabilities at a certain rate, but for the remainder of the war let the banking institutions belong to the Commonwealth. Dare the Government try that? In the movement to which I belong there is a strong feeling that the widow of a man killed at the war should be assured of as good a life as she would have had if her husband had lived. Let the Government give an undertaking in writing that that will be done, and the voluntary system will be a success. Give the men some assurance that their dependants will not be dependent on charity. This repatriation scheme is to be managed by six members of the War Committee and a number of other gentlemen, who, in turn, will appoint some of their number an executive. These men will not do the work for which they are appointed, because they are interested in other things. The honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Flinders have been appointed to that body, but neither has the time to attend to its work. Besides, the scheme is to be administered throughout the Commonwealth, and the Committee comprises only twelve members. They cannot do the work in person, and it will be found that when a soldier’s wife is left dependent she will be required to go before some unsympathetic body and tell them her case. She may say, “One child had the croup last week, another has the whooping cough,” and she will be told to bring a doctor’s certificate. Any assistance she may get will be doled out to her as charity. In Adelaide, women have been in the streets dressed in their best clothes, asking the people to buy a button because another ambulance is needed to save the soldiers’ lives. A nice thing for the Commonwealth ! We have a coterie of women doing this work in the streets as they do slumming in peace times. I do not say they are all like that - indeed, what the women have done stands to their everlasting credit - but the nation’s work is not being done as it should be done. If more ambulances are necessary to save the lives of our soldiers, let the Treasurer address himself to that £1,000.000,000 which he says is the private wealth of
Australia. Need we send women about the streets bedecked with colours to beg for money with which to buy ambulances ?
– It is unmanly for you to asperse the women in that way.
– I do not know that I asperse them. My remarks may not be true of all the women, but the system is repugnant to me whenever I come in contact with it.
– I have nothing but admiration for them.
– I would have greater admiration for the Government if they said that more ambulances were required, and then asked Parliament to vote the money.
– The ladies are doing what the Government have neglected to do.
– That is what the Government should have prevented. There is a strong feeling in the different States that the whole of these war funds should be under Government control. Is it to the credit of the Commonwealth that the responsibilities of the nation should be met in this slipshod manner?
– I do not say that, but it is to the credit of those ladies that they have undertaken the work.
– I grant the honorable member that they are to be admired for the work they have undertaken. I have not indicted the whole of the ladies who engage in patriotic collections, but I have in my mind reasons for the statement I have made. If the honorable member thinks I have done the lady folk generally an injustice, I apologize to them. It is the principle I am attacking. I am objecting to the policy of allowing ladies to be everlastingly going, cap in hand, to the people, and asking them to subscribe spasmodically. That state -of affairs reveals an absence of proper management in the government of the community. Another paragraph in the Treasurer’s speech reads, “ The Federal and State Governments have recognised the nation’s debt.” If it is the nation’s debt, why does not the nation pay it? Why ask people to voluntarily subscribe to a repatriation scheme? The Government propose to introduce a Bill for the inauguration of this fund. Can the Treasurer give us any idea whether that measure will be adequate to meet the requirements of the dependants of those who lose their lives at the front? He cannot.
It is not right to leave the dependants of our soldiers to the mercy of the generoushearted among the people in our midst. I object to the repatriation scheme, and I am sorry that the Cabinet has not thought out some better method of recognising and discharging the nation’s responsibility. “Unless the Labour Government can do better than is being done at the present time to meet the financial obligations of the nation, the voluntary recruiting will never be the success that we expect of it, and if conscription is introduced, I am sorry to say it will be due in a great measure to the manner in which the finances of the country have been handled during the war.
.- I have no intention of traversing the contentions of the honorable member for Adelaide, because I candidly admit that I could not follow them. If his speech was intended to represent the spirit of a nation engaged in the conduct of a war, and if it were read in the trenches by our Australian boys, I guarantee that the unionists amongst them would say, “ God save us from our friends in Australia.” The honorable member has advanced no argument that will help to lift the nation out of its difficulties or assist us in winning the war. The debates which have taken place on the Budget statement have convinced the House and the country that there is one great outstanding issue which obscures every other. The mind of Australia is focussed on the one great issue how to victoriously terminate the war and bring our men safely back. I look on the world as a huge contending system - nation against nation, individual against individual, race against race, and, too often, creed against creed; and my friends opposite have shown .us to-night that our own house is divided. Under such conditions, in face of the greatest upheaval the world has ever seen, our only duty is to make up our minds how we can best save the nation. It has never been possible to win a war except by fighting; and we must be prepared to take out a sufficiently large policy to insure the lives and homes of the people, and the safety of all that our forefathers have won for us on the battlefield. Very tardily did my mind move from the old traditions of the race - the voluntary spirit - under which we have “won out” in the past; but today, as the result of nine to twelve months’ hard thinking, I am a convinced conscriptionist. I believe that in time of war there is nothing that a nation has, even to the lives of its people, that should not be at its disposal in order to insure the national safety. I recognise, of course, that to advocate conscription in an Empire that has lived throughout the ages under the voluntary system, is quit© a reversal of form; but what is war but a reversal of form from the conditions of peace ? Changes in thought have taken place, not only in this country, but in every part of the Empire. To-day we see Australia’s Prime Minister abroad ; and he, who was in this country the arch advocate of the open door policy and the freedom of the world idea, is to-day the apostle of another doctrine. And why ? Because he recognises .that we far too long have been unreasonably magnanimous, even to finding a seat at our table for our vilest enemies. We have asked or allowed them to send their surplus goods and population into the Mother Country, and, as if that were not enough, to send them to Australia, where free institutions are enjoyed by all - allowed them to tap the very bowels of the earth in search of means to bring about the extinction of the Empire. Times like these are bound to bring about a change of thought: and there has been a most commendable change in the Leader of the present Government. He stands recognised in the councils of the Empire as one of the foremost statesmen of the world; and yet many of his followers here in the political organization behind him are most antagonistic towards the principles he advocates. It is to be hoped that he will be able to infuse sufficient statesmanship into them when he returns, that the scales may be removed from their eyes. I do not propose to advance all the arguments and reasons that have induced me to adopt the principle of conscription as the best war measure. I cannot even follow the minds of those who do not believe in conscription but, at the same time, do believe in national service in war time only. I have no intention of traversing all the arguments advanced, and commendably so, by the honorable member for Gippsland. I have not a bouquet large enough to throw at that honorable member; but I recognised his as the speech of a practical man, who sees the danger of the country, and is quite prepared to brush aside all those shibboleths which others, in a closely adjacent House, are adopting.
– lt will take more than that to catch the honorable member for Gippsland.
– The honorable member for Brisbane forgets that he himself, when the honorable member for Gippsland rose, and the honorable member for Perth, on a point of order, objected that he was speaking out of turn, claimed that the honorable member for Gippsland belonged to both sides. There is one Australian reason, if I may so put it, that makes me have no hesitation in saying that conscription is the right policy for this country. As the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out, we have established a system of compulsory training, introduced, not by the present Government, but, at any rate, by a Government which represented the Labour party. The natural corollary to compulsory training is compulsory service. Are we for years to train men for service, and when they are efficient tell them that they may go as they please ? Such a policy is not only not sensible, but wasteful. There are some honorable members who have not done themselves or their country credit in dealing with the question of the war. I refer in particular to the honorable member for Batman, at whom, personally, I am not at all anxious to have a tilt. That honorable member decried the voluntary system, and the methods adopted under it. He showed a keen hatred of, and opposition to, conscription, but he left us absolutely at a dead-end as to his own idea of what ought to be done. The only obvious conclusion is that he would hoist the white flag; but I think that we in this country have not yet reached the stage at which we are prepared to do a scuttle. Then there is the other aspect of conscription raised by the honorable member for Bourke to-night, namely, the conscription of wealth. I recognise that whatever and however wealth is thrown into the scales - whether by means of taxation or voluntarily by loans - there can be no comparison between a sacrifice of wealth and a sacrifice of life or limb. I am not one to assist a man of wealth to escape his proper responsibilities. Whatever the nation has, and whatever is required, if the Government are to be responsible for the success of the war, must be placed at their disposal. As to the means to be adopted to this end. I cannot go as far as does the honorable member for Bourke. I am unable to advocate the policy of the conscription of wealth, for I have never yet heard it outlined. So far, however, the honorable member for Bourke has brought us closer to the point than any one else; and I take it that he would “ collar,” as he said, the wealth.
– The honorable member did not say “ collar,” but “grab.”
– Let us take it that the honorable member said he would compulsorily take the wealth of the country and “float it out,” for the purposes of the war. Of course, we cannot discriminate between forms of wealth; and if we conscribe wealth we must conscribe every form of it. But as soon as we do that we are faced with the problem referred to by the Treasurer when he introduced his Budget. The Treasurer, with the Cabinet and their financial advisers, recognises the fact that for the immediate requirements of a- country there is only available the year’s earnings, plus such proportion of the nation’s surplus working capital as is not actively engaged in the carrying on of industry. That for the time being is the only available money that can be employed for waging the war and for carrying on the services of the country. The Government of the day imposed, first of all, an income tax. Then, recognising that there was a certain amount of ready cash available, they appealed to those who had it to put it into a war loan, and fixed the rate of interest at 4-J per cent. I would not have gone as far as the Government did in granting those who had £35,000,000 available in ready cash that rate of interest free from taxation. Let me put this view of the matter to. the Treasurer. Just prior to the making of these financial arrangements, the nation suffered an internal loss of at least £100.000,000. not of its income, but of its actual capital, as the result of a period of drought. During all that time there stood on a vantage ground the people who had liquid cash, and who, during the period of the drought, were earning income. When the necessity arose to find money for carrying on the war, the Treasurer said to these fortunate persons who were in possession of liquid cash, that if they loaned it to the Government they would get a good rate of interest, and in addition, immunity from taxation on the income they derived from the lending of that money. On the other hand, those who, during the period of drought, had to suffer the exhaustion of their capital, and were without any income at all, were called upon to pay increased taxation because of the war, and also a tax in addition to meet the interest on the £35,000,000 borrowed from the men who had put that money into the war loans. I did not approve of that policy; I do not think that a majority of the members of the Committee approve of it, and I do not think that the country needed the adoption of such a policy in order to find money with which to wage the war. Let us look at the question of the conscription of wealth fairly. Let us make a reasonable attempt to apply the principle of conscription to wealth. If it can be fairly and equitably applied, I am one prepared to assist the Government in applying it. I am, however, unable to see how it is to be applied. I followed as carefully as I could the speech made by the honorable member for Bourke. All he said was, “Take it and float it off.” One is not likely to be seduced into approval of a proposition of that kind. It is probable, however, that the honorable member did not mean that we should take the whole of the capital of the country, which has recently been assessed at £1,000,000,000, but that it would be possible to charge a proportion of the wealth of the country with the cost of the conduct of the war.
– Was the honorable member not referring to incomes rather than to wealth?
– I am glad of that interjection, because, when the honorable member for Bourke was speaking, I asked him whether he did not think 25 per cent, of income was a fair conscription of wealth, and his answer was, “ I am not touching income; I want the wealth of the country.” The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows that if the Government impose a tax to the extent of 25 per cent, of income, and that is coming in all the time, we shall soon have 25 per cent, of the capital of the country in the Treasury. We shall have rendered non-productive to the possessor 25 per cent, of his capital. The same thing applies to the operation of the land tax. That tax was levied for the purpose of reducing values, and it did reduce values. But the little nian found that, while he thought he was not paying the tax, the value of his land came down. He had, say, 200 acres on which he paid no tax, but he found that, as a result of the operation of the tax, the value of his land came down permanently.
– But it was still as productive as before.
– That is a poor argument from the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Let me remind the honorable gentleman that the production did not go into the pocket of the owner of the land, but permanently into the pocket of the Treasurer. What did it matter to the small holder of land if he got the same yield from the land, but had to pay it into the Treasury instead of into his own pocket ?
– The honorable member is talking of the small man, but the small man had not to pay the tax.
– The small man had to go round and settle with his mortgagee. He had to pay the tax indirectly. Let me give the honorable member an illustration. On one side of a road is the large man’s land, and on the other side a number of sections held by small men. A tax is imposed on the large man’s land, designed to burst up his estate. Honorable members opposite now freely admit that the tax has not burst up the large estates, though there have been changes of ownership. The world revolves on public credit, and it is not too much to say that 50 per cent, of the freeholders of the country are mortgaged to the tune of 50 per cent. The imposition of the land tax brings down the value of the big man’s laud, and at the same time down goes the value of the land held by the smaller men on the other side of the road. When one of these goes to renew his mortgage, the mortgagee reminds him that the equity has gone, and that he must pay off a portion of the mortgage. His income from his limited area does not enable the small man to do this, and he has to sell out, and then, in accordance with the law of the survival of the fittest, the big man gets the little man’s block.
– That is on the assumption, the honorable member has yet to prove, that the tax has decreased the value of the land.
– I cannot go into that to-night, as I am dealing with another proposition. Whatever the resources of the country are they must bear the burden of its defence. I do not care how this is done, and I shall be satisfied if we can discover an equitable application of the principle of conscription to wealth. If’ the nation’s income is not sufficient to wage the war, we must fall back on its cash reserves, its working capital, and such proportion of its assets as are necessary to wage the war successfully. I am here to say that I am prepared to support the Government in placing at their disposal all the resources of the country necessary to effectively wage the war. Let me now deal with a. matter that is much more congenial to me than the conscription of other people’s wealth, or other people’s lives, which are not easy matters for any mau to talk about. I deal now with those who are out to do the fighting of the nation’s battles, and with the repatriation of Australia’s soldiers. The very first day on which the Government asked a husband to leave his wife, a son to leave his aged mother, the very first day on which men were recruited was the day on which they should have attempted to put their house in order to make provision for these men on their return, or for the dependants of those who would never return. The war has been raging now for two years, and the first appeal made in Australia by the National - Parliament to do something for the men fighting the nation’s battles was made on the 19th April of the present year. The Government have been too tardy in this matter. They are hanging fire. I say to them here and now : Get a move on, and try and do something decent for the nien and the dependants of the men who are making supreme sacrifices for the country. I was very sorry to notice in to-day’s press a reference by the Acting Prime Minister to the returned soldiers’ repatriation scheme which we have launched in the electorates of Wannon and Corangamite. Referring to remarks of Councillor McDowall, at Camperdown, the Acting Prime Minister said -
The Commonwealth scheme was originated by the Federal War Committee, without any knowledge that the Rodgers scheme was proposed. The Commonwealth scheme was universal throughout the Commonwealth, and did provide for the strong financial district helping the weak. There was no Government control in the Commonwealth scheme, except that it was launched under the auspices of the Government. The control of the fund was in the hands of a board of trustees, and it was proposed to utilize the State War Councils and their affiliated organizations, such as recruiting committees, both as to collections and disbursements. The work was not done through a Government Department.
Just as the nation has voluntarily raised its Army, the Government are determined to raise the money necessary to repatriate those men and their dependants by a voluntary appeal to the people. I shall be grievously disappointed if that appeal is made in vain, but I feel that the very spirit of this nation is fighting the war, just as the French nation to-day is at the zenith of its power, because the whole spirit of that nation is fighting. The Government have set aside only £250,000 towards the repatriation of Australian soldiers who have taken up arms and gone 10,000 miles across the world to win the freedom of their country.
– You do not regard that as the final sum, do you ?
– If it were only to be regarded as a start, the Treasurer could have announced the fact. Personally, I would vote up to £2,000,000 in this House for the repatriation of our soldiers. I have paid some attention to this question, and have looked into its various aspects. Our objective is 300,000 men in khaki. At least 150,000 of those will require to have something done for them when they return. It should be done now. The scheme, if it is going to be a voluntary one and successful, must be put in hand at once and worked vigorously. The Government, I say, have been asleep on this question of repatriation. A drab, cold appeal was made through the daily papers, backed up at the time by very little effort. That is not the way to do it. If the repatriation scheme is going to have practical results for the soldiers, there must be a strong cooperation and an effective organization. We have attempted to do something in the two electorates I have referred to. There we have 2,000 men working in connexion with the scheme, giving their services free. They have also put up £60,000 in those constituencies, both of which have been organized, so that every man who comes back shall have some practical assistance rendered to him. by the noncombatants. When the Government scheme was launched, the Acting Leader of the
Government said they knew nothing about the scheme I have referred to, and in order to put myself right - because an attempt has been made to show that we have been working on a mere local’ scheme - I want to show that our scheme was planned on a territorial basis, and is national in its scope. On the 11th February, 1916, I interviewed Senator Pearce, and, having obtained his approval and permission to launch the scheme, I wrote him as follows the next day: -
I now hand you a copy of my proposed scheme for the repatriation of returned soldiers, which I have launched within the electorates of Wannon and Corangamite, for both of which, in Mr. Manifold’s absence, I am at present acting.
I am pleased to have had your approval in going ahead with the scheme, for, at present, a splendid public spirit is manifesting itself in both these electorates, and most generous offers of support have already been made. If the machinery of the scheme can in any way assist the War Council’s proposed land settlement scheme, I will be pleased to confer with yourself or the War Council in the matter.
The suggestion by the Acting Prime Minister that the scheme was merely a local one is not worthy of him, and I want to say, in conclusion on this matter, that, supposing only £100 each were made available for only half the returned soldiers - that is, 150,000 men - it would mean the allocation of a sum of £15,000,000. That money, of course, could not be raised by taxation, but I do say that money for repatriation ought to be raised, and it will be a disgrace to Australia if it is not obtained. I think, first of all, the Commonwealth Government should set a good example by voting £2,000,000 to start the fund with, and an effort should be made throughout the Commonwealth to highly organize all the non-combatants of Australia so that they may have an opportunity to contribute their quota for the repatriation of these men. Organization is necessary. Money is necessary, but organization is of greater value if this scheme is to be successful. Let me quote as an illustration the case of a farm hand. Under the scheme I am referring to, in each territorial division there will be a committee of thirty men who will know every soldier before he goes away. Immediately such a soldier is discharged they will see to it that he is brought back to his district and something done for him. If he were a farm hand before he left, the object will be to make him a freeholder in a small way as quickly as possible. Arrangements will be made to provide him with a team, a waggon, and implements, and to get the large land-holders of the district to allow him the use of a suitable area, at a small rent, for a probationary period of three years. He can thus undertake the cultivation of a couple of hundred acres of wheat to see if he can make good. He is helped in every way possible. As everybody knows, in land settlement the first year is always the dangerous period, and the local committee will, therefore, arrange with the farmers of the district to help the man to put his crop in and to take it off. Then an endeavour will also be made to secure for him small contracts in the shire, not on a competitive basis, but at schedule rates. Thus he will earn perhaps about £30, and probably before his first harvest a second contract will bring him in another £30, pre-harvest expenses. With three such years, that young fellow will have started to pay his way. Within that time he will be able to put down a substantial deposit for the purchase of a block of land. This is merely one line of action. The same conditions will apply to every soldier who returns to us. We propose to classify them. The best workers in the district are engaged upon this scheme. I say to the Government, “ Get a move on. The cold winter is upon us. Seven thousand of our men have already gone under. Our Forces have sustained nearly 40,000 casualties. These men are back here. Many of their wives and children have gone down, and it will be a disgrace to the Government if they do not do more for them than they have done up to the present.”
.- In discussing the question upon which our minds are chiefly concentrated, one should be guided by a good deal of prudence. To-day the nation is facing a position which is unparalleled in history. “A war is in progress the like of which we have never previously witnessed. Great nations have been steadily preparing for years for this gigantic conflict. Civilization is in extreme peril, and some of the liberties which Democrats prize most dearly axe in rather a precarious position. We, in Australia, as a part of the British Empire, have responded to the call to discharge our duty in the fight which is being waged on behalf of civilization. As a young country, Australia is doing magnificently. Can any honorable member point to a parallel case in the world’s history, in which a young nation like Australia, with a small and scattered population, has responded as nobly, and done as much, as we are doing in the prosecution of this war ? To-day we hear a good deal of talk about conscription. Now, the ideals of Democracy are very dear to me. I believe that Democracy and civilization are worth fighting for. I have no desire to make party capital out of this question. But will honorable members opposite say that, even if conscription of our manhood were adopted to-morrow - in the face of what they were told at the secret session the other evening - we could put one more man at the front than we are doing today?
– Let the honorable member answer the question himself.
– I am not going to do so. When it is urged that Australia should be sending more men to the war, I maintain that the Government should make known some of the facts that were disclosed to honorable members under the bond of secrecy the other night. After the statements which have been made by honorable members opposite, the Government ought at least to put the facts of the case before the country. If it be necessary to call up the whole of our manhood of eligible military age, the position, indeed, must be a desperate one for the Empire. And, if the position be so desperate, surely we are not going to stop at the conscription of our manhood. There are two things essential to win any war - men and money. If we are going to conscript the manhood of the country, we should also conscript the wealth of the country. If it is going to be a case of one thing in, let it be a case of all in. If the position is so desperate as some honorable members would have us believe, let it be a case of all in, and let the wealthy classes stand their share of compulsion as well as the working class.
– There is no shortage of money, but only of men.
– If there be no shortage of money, it seems peculiar that the Treasurer will presently be asking this Parliament to authorize the raising of another loan. The honorable member for Calare knows perfectly well that there is a crying need for money, and that there will be an even greater demand for it.
– We have never asked for money in vain.
– If the honorable member believes in winning the war, and if he believes that victory means so much to civilization, why does he fear the conscription of wealth ? Why is he afraid to put the whole of the resources of the country into the fight? I will certainly not agree to the conscription of our workers while we continue to pay the capitalist 4£ per cent, interest for the money which he subscribes to our war loans. After all, this talk of conscription seems to me to be something in the nature of a reflection upon Australia, especially when we consider that this country, with its small population, is doing better than Canada, with double its population. Yet we do not hear of any great cry being raised in Canada in favour of compulsion. As a matter of fact, we ought to recognise that in the prosecution of the war Australia is doing something phenomenal. She is doing what honorable members opposite in their highest flights of imagination never dreamed that she was capable of doing. What Australia has done in this struggle has been the greatest surprise packet of the age, and instead of honorable members insinuating that she has failed to discharge her duty, they ought to be sounding her praises, and those of our boys who did so nobly on the heights of Gallipoli. There has been some talk about patriots. The other day I asked the Treasurer a question about the amount of money subscribed to the war loan by the Australian Mutual Provident Society. I asked him what amount the company had subscribed directly to the Treasury, and what amount had been subscribed through the intervention of brokers; and the answer was that the amount subscribed directly to the Treasury was £700,000, while the amount suplied through the intervention of brokers was £550,000. The total brokerage paid was £3,125. If this was a case of patriotism, why did this great company subscribe £550’000 through the hands of brokers, compelling the Commonwealth Government to pay £3,125 in brokerage?
– Why did your Government allow it?
– All I can say is that we have’ to face the facts as they are. We are always surprised by these gentlemen who wave flags and tell us that their hearts are bleeding for the Empire, and that their bosoms are swelling with patriotic ardour, but at the same time ask for their 4 J per cent, and their brokerage. There does not seem to be much patriotism about it. One honorable member spoke of business. To me, this seems to be business - “ shent per silent “ business. Speaking in the chamber the other day, the honorable member for Flinders said -
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 tost 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?
What the honorable member said in the first place was perfectly correct, but he did hot follow it up. He did not tell honorable members the cause; he did not tell us how the test was applied to those ancient nations and great civilizations which the world has seen ; he did not tell us why they faded away to decay; he did not tell us of the great social laws that govern these matters; and he did not think to tell us of the old theory so much loved by gentlemen whom he represents - the theory of the survival of the fittest. I listened intently to his remarks, thinking that he was going to expound all the beautiful phases of the theory of the survival of the fittest, of how the fit nation would survive and withstand all the ravages of time. The nations that have faded away did so because they neglected the very essentials that go to make up a strong and lasting nation. What were the conditions in most of those civilizations ? On the one side there were extreme riches - men living in idleness and affluence; and on the other side there was the bulk of the people - those who were producing the needs of the world - living in abject slavery. Those were the conditions that prevailed right throughout the older civilizations of the world. When we find the canker of poverty in the midst of the social system of any country, how can it make a strong and lasting nation ? Injury to any individual in the community is injury to the community itself. What is a community? It is merely a combination of units, a combination of individuals. If we can make the conditions of a unit good, so that the best that is in the individual may come out, are we not building up a strong nation - one that will have a better chance of surviving than if we follow the old lines regardless of the circumstances in which the people live so long as the old ideas and institutions are kept intact? To me the greatest thing in the world is seeing that the conditions of the units in the community are made good, for that policy means the building up of a good nation. Bad conditions for the units means a bad nation - one that must decay and fade away. How can we hope to have a nation that will stand the test of war if its units are reared in poverty and in slum conditions ? What physical strength is possessed by a man who has lived under bad sweating conditions, and has been housed in a slum ? If we seek to build a nation that will last and win its wars, we must cut out of it the canker of poverty. The other day, in Great Britain, our Prime Minister said that Britain must be born again. She must be born again if she is to live. She must take more interest in the welfare of the units of the community, and must see to it that there are not thousands of her people on the verge of starvation, while others are flying round in motor cars and living in the lap of luxury. These things must be seen to if we are to build up a nation that will stand the test of time and the test of which the honorable member for Flinders spoke. It will” be a nation in which the best that is in its units can come out. It is said that the capture of the trade of the Empire is a problem that must be tackled very seriously by the builders of our Empire; but one of the most remarkable things is that the very people who are loudest in their denunciations of German trade are those who assisted to build it up by the policy they advocated here and in Great Britain. The money we spent on German trade has been turned into the leaden bullet which the Germans are using to-day to shoot down our sons and relatives at the front. If “there is one thing more than another we should see to, it is that no Australian money shall assist the Germans again to build up a trade which will enable them to reconstruct their military system to be a menace to our nation. We are faced with the practical question: What are we going to do for our boys when they come back ? A good deal of praise has been given to them for their glorious deeds, and they deserve every word that has been said of them; but if it is true that civilization is in the melting pot, that we are fighting for our standard of living, and for our place in the sun as a nation, the very best we can do for those boys when they come back will not be too good for them. If we allow them to come back to the old conditions, which sapped the vitality of men, women, and children, then the blood spilled on the hills of Gallipoli will have been spilled in vain. If we are going to achieve a victory, let it be a victory, not only in Gallipoli and Flanders, but also in Australia. Let it be a victory of truth over untruth, of justice over injustice, and of right over wrong. Let us see that every man in our community is given the opportunity to earn a fair and honest living for himself. Let us see that when the boys come back we have no more of the old conditions, under which men and women had to live in slum areas and eke out an existence under sweating conditions. Let us make our conditions such that when these boys grow into the men of the future they will be able to look back and say with pride that, while they did their bit in Gallipoli or Flanders, those who had to stay behind also achieved a victory by making Australian conditions such as to promote health and strength and build up a nation fittest to survive. Let us so work here and now so that Australia’s name will be right at the top when the future history of the world comes to be written.
.- I am sorry that my investigations into matters of interest to us in this State precluded my attendance last week, and prevented me hearing the explanation of the Government of matters of importance at the secret session. As I do not know what took place there, I cannot be charged with divulging information disclosed there. As an Englishman born and bred, but an Australian by adoption, I have had, until quite recently, all an Englishman’s prejudice against anything in the shape of compulsion. I have been, during this war, an ardent advocate of the voluntary system, and was proud of the response made by our boys in the early stages of the struggle to the request to follow the colours. I am immensely proud of the achievements of the first Expeditionary Force, and am sorry that one or two rather ungenerous remarks have been made by honorable members of this chamber on the question of conscription. The honorable member for Brisbane was somewhat ungenerous in saying that those who had relatives or children at the front were the loudest in their demands for conscription. I have heard that statement before, and it has generally come from those who have no children, or who have children of military age, and want them to stay here and help in their businesses. There is no more ardent recruiter than I am. Among the very first to offer his services was my eldest son, and he went to the front with the first Expeditionary Force. My second son is to go into camp in June. My third was turned down on account of a deaf ear, and to-day I received a letter from my youngest, who is in the bank at Newcastle, notifying me that he has put in his application for extended leave of absence in order to join the Australian Imperial Forces. I speak, in no boastful spirit, on behalf of those who have children at the front, and who, I know, have not placed the slightest embargo on their sons’ wishes to join. I have taken part in recruiting campaigns in’ New South Wales, and can assure the Committee that when the first recruiting campaign took place, the response to the call to the colours was so good that those who held the same opinion as I did of the benefits of the voluntary system were delighted. The honorable member for Dalley, in making a comparison with Canada, was, however, hardly as frank as he might have been, because up to the present the recruits have answered the call in that country in such numbers that it has not been found necessary to have a single recruiting meeeting there.
– -.Things have been very bad in Canada for’ some time past.
– The condition of Canada was explained to-day by the honorable member for Balaclava, who pointed out that the Dominion has difficulties which the Commonwealth has not, and therefore it is not possible to make a comparison of the efforts of Canada with those of Australia. The significant fact remains that up to the present moment it has not been found necessary to hold a single recruiting meeting in Canada.
– There are thousands of immigrants who have responded out of mere loyalty to their country.
– And there are thousands in Australia who have responded to the call of their country from disinterested and patriotic motives. Those are the boys who have made a name for themselves that will be as imperishable as the name of Australia itself. The second recruiting campaign in New South Wales was productive of 15,000 troops, of whom 11,000 came from the country. I do not wish to raise any awkward issues on this subject, but I hold letters which I shall read to the Committee, not in a spirit of controversy, but for the information of some honorable members who appear to be obsessed with an idea that does not square with facts. A gentleman of Holbrook, one of the leading farming districts in the southern division of New South Wales, writes -
Permit me also to draw your attention to the fact that in this district there appears to be a likelihood of a big falling off in wheat production, duo to so many farmers’ sons and so many young farmers going to the war.
That is the experience of most of the recruiting sergeants and enthusiasts in New South Wales. In order to investigate first hand some of the difficulties that arose as a result of the second recruiting campaign, and being very loth to support the proposal that the voluntary system should be superseded by some other form of enrolment, I undertook a route march. The military authorities had spread abroad the statement that route marches were a. waste of time, and that recruits would be much better off training in camp: I wished to test that contention. The route march was from Wagga Wagga to Sydney with a column of young men, and I did the whole 320 miles on foot. T would not have it said by the young men in my division that they undertook a duty which their Federal member was afraid to tackle. I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is not in the chamber. I do not speak complainingly, but I desire him to realize some of the difficulties which I personally discovered when with that column, and to know that one great deterrent of voluntary recruiting is the unsympathetic attitude of the military authorities to the recruits coming forward per medium of route marches. I propose to place my experience on record in the hope that a remedy may be found by the Minister. We started from Wagga on 1st December of last year with eighty-eight recruits, and arrived in Sydney on 8th January with 222, and a finer column of boys I never expect to meet. They came from all sections of the community. The enthusiasm created by that route march was most encouraging. In the country districts the hospitality of the people was almost embarrassing.
– And the lavish kindness of the ladies.
– There is nothing to laugh at in what the ladies have done. Any criticism of the efforts of our womenfolk in connexion with the war is quite undeserved. If the men had shown the same zeal in the recruiting movement as our women have shown, we should have an army worthy of Australia serving at the front to-day. The womenfolk in the country districts in New South Wales wherever we went treated us magnificently.
– What about the reception inthe city?
– I shall later tell you about the reception in the city. We were marching through the wheat areas of New South Wales, where the womenfolk have a terrible lot to do at harvest time, as it was then - where they have to rise before the stars are out of the sky, and are never in bed until long after dark.
– How do you know?
– Because my wife happens to be the wife of a farmer and wheat-grower. Whenever it was known that we were going to stop for a midday ‘ lunch or a bivouac we received beforehand some communication insisting that the womenfolk at that place should be permitted to provide the meal, and that we were not to pass under any consideration.
– Why take exception to my remark about the kindness of the women ?
– I do not take exception to the remark, but to the smile which accompanied it.
– You object to both laughter and smiles!
– I object to the ironical smile with the sneer behind it - to the sort of smile which Oliver Wendel Holmes said “ causes wrinkles, not dimples.” As I have already said, the hospitality showered upon us by the women along the route was almost embarrassing.
– The women have been splendid everywhere.
– They have. When we arrived at Campbelltown, which is about 40 miles from Sydney, we received an intimation ‘from the military authorities that we would be allowed to remain’ in the city of Sydney for only a few hours. There were forty boys in the column who had never seen the metropolis, and there were eighty others whose friends had travelled by train to Sydney in order to spend the night with the boys before they went into camp. I took the extreme liberty of wiring to the Recruiting Committee in Sydney, and urging them to vary their order, so as to allow the boys to remain in Sydney for one night. I had no reply to that urgent telegram until we were marching into Sydney, opposite Grace Brothers’ place, where it had been arranged we should arrive about noon on the Friday. We marched through Sydney for spectacular purposes until we came to Macquarie-street, where we were met by the State officials. From there we were passed round to Sargent’s restaurant in Market-street for our midday meal, and we were there told that the military authorities declined to accede to my request, and that the column had to hold itself in readiness to proceed to camp by special train at a quarter to 3 o’clock that day. This meant that the boys would spend only two hours and three-quarters in the city, although so many of them had never been there before in their lives. I must say that, although the boys were very much annoyed, they agreed to “ play the game,” as Australian boys always can and do. Although the boys had been examined by the medical officers of the Army Medical Corps on the route, and 80 per cent, of them were on the pay-sheets of the Commonwealth, when we got into the brain we had placed in our hands a bill for 300 dinners at ls. 9d. each. That is the sort of treatment we received in Sydney.
– If the people had known you wanted lunches you could have had them.
– We had them, and we paid for them. The honorable member tried to make out that the hospitality in Sydney would exceed that in the country. That treatment of the boys has had such a far-reaching effect that to-day it is spoken of all over New South Wales, and forms one of ‘ the reasons why there is not the old vigorous response to the call to the colours. I have to say, with regret, that the nearer we got to Sydney the less response there was at the recruiting meetings. At the last meeting at which I spoke, in Petersham Town Hall, which holds about 3,000 people, and where there were at least 300 eligible young men, there was not one single recruit as the result of my earnest pleading. I was not satisfied even by this experience that the voluntary system was failing. During the recess I went to New Zealand, largely to ascertain their methods and the results. I found that things were not very much better there.
– Petersham has sent a large contingent.
– I have no doubt of that. There are certain little deterrents to recruiting that can be traced, I believe, to irritating want of sympathy on the part of the military authorities.
– And want of organization.
– Certainly, and these deterrents ought to be avoided. In New Zealand their method is to declare that a certain number of recruits are required from each district, and up to the present time, by argument and insistency, the necessary numbers have been forthcoming. However, my experience leads me to the conclusion that a new system will have to be introduced. I say that with some reluctance, because T have been a life-long supporter of the voluntary system. We have had many references to conscription in the speeches which have been made during this debate, and some honorable members have argued that conscription of men should be accompanied by conscription of wealth. But when they have been defining conscription of wealth, it has appeared to me that they simply mean the confiscation of money. Money is not wealth; it is merely the measure of wealth. When these honorable members propose that the Government should grab wealth, do they intend that the. Government should grab something which they can sell ? The great difficulties in the way of the sale of wealth have been pointed out by the honorable member for Balaclava. To unload wealth in overwhelming volume on the community would be merely to depreciate its value, and so defeat the object in view. I do not discuss this matter in any controversial spirit, and I say at once that I am prepared to grant to the Government all the powers they require for the successful prosecution of the war. If they come to the conclusion that they must conscript wealth I shall not oppose it if it is shown that we should be “all in,” and their proposals are reasonable. I do point out, however, that the first and main factor to win the war is not money, hut men. If we are to fulfil our obligations to the Imperial authorities we shall be obliged by some means to enlist some 20,000 men per month in Australia in order by reinforcements to keep up the number we are pledged by our contract with the Imperial authorities to send forward. I have been met with many arguments against enlistment, which have not been touched upon here, from young fellows whom I have asked to say why they did not respond to the call of the colours. There are quite a number of single men who have serious obligations and responsibilities which preclude them from coming forward voluntarily to undertake what in their hearts they would be only too pleased to undertake, that is, their share in the defence of their country. Some single men have greater responsibilities than have some married men, and there should be reasonable consideration for their special circumstances. I have been met by young men in whom the patriotic sentiment is not as fully developed as in men of riper years, with the argument that -they are out for material advantage, and that the inducements in that direction lead them to remain in Australia rather than to go to the war. I am not going to admit that the voluntary system has entirely broken down until it has been given a fair opportunity to prove its value. It has never had a fair and square deal in Australia. I am referring to Australia because it is our home and the country which I hope we are prepared, not merely to praise, but to shed our blood for.
– Will the honorable member explain in what respect the voluntary system has not been given a fair chance?
– I will. The material advantage in Australia at the present time is secured by those who remain here. Opportunities are afforded in the Commonwealth for young men to earn from 9s. to 12s. per day, whilst the young man willing to’ go to the front is offered 6s. per day. We must take that into consideration before we condemn the results of the voluntary system. Honorable members may ask what we are to do in the matter. I reply that the only thing we can do is to standardize the wage. I do not mind on what basis it is standardized. That is a matter for financiers, but I do say that we should standardize the wage, and so afford an opportunity for the voluntary system to be tested on its merits. If there is to be any preference in the matter of material advantage in cold cash, it should certainly be given the men who are going to the front and dying for us rather than to those who are staying here and loafing.
– What would the honorable member do for the man who has sacrificed £10 per week to go to the war?
– Such men have the inspiring knowledge that they are patriots of a very high order. I am speaking of the ordinary young man who has turned to me and asked why he should undergo all these difficulties for a paltry 6s. per day, when he might stay here in peace and comfort and earn 12s. per day. He says, ‘ ‘ My troubles about sentiment. I am here to do the best I can for myself. I am . a young man, rising in years, and I wish to make a home for myself and settle down.”
– What would be the good of his home if all talked in that way?
– Exactly ; but that does not appeal to these young men, because the seriousness of the position has not come home to them. I do not know what’ would bring it home to them unless it be an enemy shell dropped into the middle of the city in which they live. Whilst I have held by the voluntary system tenaciously for a great number of years, I am at the present moment prepared to admit reluctantly that I shall be ready, when the time comes, to vote for any system of compulsion which may be introduced by the Government. I hope that they will take the matter into serious consideration.
We know that Australia is being practically bled white of its best, most adventurous, and gritty males, of the young men who have not considered for a moment their material advantage, believing that their response to the call to the colours is necessary if we are to win. These are the men who have gone forth regardless of all loss, and have created a name for Australia which will be found in the imperishable annals of the world’s history for ever. It is of no use to cloud the issue. We need to realize that we are in this war, and, if honorable members please, “ all in.” That means that we have to put our all into it in order to win. The sooner we realize that that is the position the better. There is only one termination of this war that is possible for us, and that is- that we should win. After giving the matter some consideration, I say that the more men we can get to the front, the more speedily will the war be brought to an end. I have mentioned my experiences. I undertook them in no boastful spirit, but as a practical man. I have a lot of the doubting Thomas in my composition. I want to see with my eyes and feel with my hands, and get my information at first hand. I desire now to express my appreciation of the courtesy of the Minister of External Affairs in giving me an open letter of introduction to the authorities in New Zealand. That letter, which was quite unsolicited from the Minister, made my way very easy indeed, and I obtained very material assistance from Mr. Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It enabled me to get information that was very valuable, completely confirming me in my altered opinion that, sooner or later, we shall have to follow the lead of the British Government by bringing in some measure whereby recruiting will be placed on a more stimulating basis than at present. We shall have to see to it that those who remain here without any reasonable cause have some spur put into them to make them realize that all must shoulder some responsibility in this war. Whatever the conditions may be with regard to returned soldiers, the. initiative will have to come from the Government, and, probably, this Government will have to take a hand in the matter. We know perfectly well that when the war is over a large number of Imperial soldiers will not be satisfied with the old conditions, so that the over-seas Dominions will enter into competition with one another to secure the cream of those men. Australia has the reputation of being the working man’s paradise, and I hope, therefore, that some proposal will emanate from this Government which will act as an inducement for the cream of those soldiers to come to Australia, for we must not be satisfied with the “ skimmed milk.” The Prime Minister of South Africa has set us a very difficult task in this matter, for he has declared that he intends to hold the whole of the captured territory in German West Africa, to be cut up into blocks of 10,000 acres, and give a farm to every approved returned soldier, whether from the over -seas Dominions or from Great Britain itself. Every such soldier will get a farm in fee simple, and in addition to that the Union Government propose to keep him for five years, until he gets on his feet. That is a statesman-like and liberal offer, and if we want to come into competition with that part of the Empire, we shall have to make a better offer, or, at least, one equal to> it, or be satisfied with the “ skimmed milk “ of the returned soldiers.
– It must be admitted that South Africa is in a better position to make such an. offer, because the conquered territory is in the same Continent.
– I admit that,, but, nevertheless, General Botha has set a very high example to all the other over-seas Dominions. The country offering the best inducement will, undoubtedly,, get the best class of returned soldier, and the sooner we realize that the sooner shall we be prepared to offer some greater inducement. Above all, I do hope that the conditions after the war will be such that we shall be able to uphold the name that our boys have made for us at Anzac and the Gallipoli Peninsula, and the name which I feel sure they will earn for us on the western front in the European arena. Though I am loath to say so, I fear that in the fighting which will probably soon take place there, our casualty list will be a heavy one. Our enemies evidently know the reputation our boys gained iri Gallipoli, because they have been hoisting insulting placards in the trenches, and if they have the opportunity of putting a little extra vim into the fight where our boys are, they will, no doubt, do so, and our men will have to face it. But I have no hesitation in saying that the Australians will show the Germans, as they showed the Turks, what they can do, and that slaughter of a shocking character will be the result. But there will be the same glory surrounding the doings of our boys there, and I am sure they will uphold, and even add to, the imperishable name that they gained elsewhere.
Business of the Session.
– I desire to move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I understand that it is the general wish on the part of honorable members on both sides of the House that, instead of coming back next week to finish our business, they may be allowed to return to their constituencies on Wednesday next, Empire Day. If we sit late to-morrow night, and also on Monday and Tuesday, we can finish in time to allow them to do that. The matter, however, might be left in abeyance to-night, except that I want to say it is the intention of the Government that we shall go right through to-morrow night and finish the Estimates.
– That is a big order, is it not?
– I do not think so. The idea was that we should finish last week. As a matter of fact, the whole of the money has been expended, so whatever honorable members may have to say on the Estimates, their criticism can have no effect. There is a general desire on the part of honorable members, particularly honorable members on the other side of the House, to return to their constituencies for Empire Day, and that can be arranged if we sit on Monday and Tuesday to finish our business.
– It is true that there is some such desire as that expressed by the Minister, but his proposal does not seem to meet the case at all. The only thing definite in the Minister’s statement is that we shall sit late to-morrow night to finish the Estimates. That means that after sitting late to-morrow night honorable members from the other States must cool their heels in Melbourne during the weekend doing nothing.
– We will put the Estimates through for you to-morrow night.
– We- can settle this matter to-morrow.
– If we are to stay over the week end, there is no reason why we should not do some work on Saturday.
– I do not like the idea of sitting on Saturday.
– Nobody likes it. But it is strange that an objection of that sort should come from a representative who lives in this city, while other honorable members from other parts of the Continent are kept here, with nothing to do. If we are to stay in Melbourne over the week end, I think that we should occupy Saturday in doing work which requires to be done. It would be far better to let honorable members get away on Monday afternoon and to sit on Saturday with that end in view.
– That will not do.
– If we leave here on Tuesday afternoon a good many of the engagements which honorable members have made in their own constituencies for Empire Day will not be possible of realization.
– Why not sit through tomorrow night and finish on Saturday, so that we may catch the trains on Saturday afternoon ?
– I am afraid that there is no hope of doing that, because when the consideration of the Estimates has been completed we shall still have the War Pensions Bill, the Repatriation Bill, and a few Loan Bills relating to a little matter of £50,000,000 to deal with. I therefore suggest that if we are to remain in Melbourne for the week end we should do a day’s work on Saturday, so that we may leave for our homes on Monday instead of on Tuesday afternoon.
.- I understand that, amongst other measures to be dealt with between now and Wednesday next is an amendment of the War Pensions Act, which is likely to create some discussion. May I suggest that, in the meantime, the Treasurer should take into consideration the necessity which exists for providing in the amending Bill for the cases of single men who return from the war permanently incapacitated:
Prior to going to the front, quite a number of these young fellows had practically arranged to get married. They can now claim a pension of only £52 per annum.
– The honorable member is anticipating a Bill which appears on the notice-paper.
– I am not. To my knowledge, there is no measure coming before the House which provides for the cases I have mentioned. What I suggest is that a single man returning from the war totally blind who gets married ‘should foe entitled to the same pension as a soldier who was married prior to going to the front, and who returns to this country permanently incapacitated.
– Having heard what the honorable member for Fawkner has said, I shall ask the Clerk of the House to” be good enough to distribute copies of the War Pensions Bill to-morrow morning. The honorable member will be satisfied, I think, with the provisions it contains.
– As a resident of Melbourne, perhaps, what I have to say will be regarded as selfish; but I cannot see how it is possible to conclude the business which has to be transacted by next Tuesday. It is idle to urge that the Bills to be brought forward are of a non-contentious character. For many months private members have not had an opportunity of airing their grievances. There seems to he an impression here that only Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition are deserving of consideration. It seemsto be overlooked that private members have also their responsibilities. I knov that Ministers have been very busy, because I have not been able to interview a Minister on five occasions out of ten when I desired to do so.
– The honorable member has always seen me when he wished to do so.
– I admit that. I see no prospect of concluding the business that remains to be done between now and Tuesday. I have endeavoured to catch the eye of the Chairman a score of times during the past fortnight, but without success’; Upon every Bill which is to come before this Chamber I have a few pearls of wisdom to utter. This being the case, I fail to see whythe Ministry should endeavour to complete the business by Tuesday. It would be as well to follow the ordinary order of business and meet next week.
– I stated that the Whips would go round to-morrow and ascertain the views of honorable members on both sides. The Government are anxious to meet the convenience of honorable members.
– Of conrse, I know that numbers must rule, and if a majority are opposed to me I can say nothing; but I am not in accord with giving my support to everything the Government have put forward. Everything that has been before honorable members has been debatable, but I have not had an opportunity of placing my views before the House. I cannot see how we ran settle the matter to-night.
– It is not proposeJ to settle it to-night.
– Then I need say no more.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160518_reps_6_79/>.