6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs lay on the table a statement showing the cost of the East- West Railway to date, the quantity of rolling stock on hand and requisitioned, and the traffic results ?
– I now lay on the table the return asked for.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, with a view of preventing the spread of erroneous and misleading statements concerning compulsory military service, he will have a statement published, and widely circulated in pamphlet form, setting out the procedure that will be followed, the rates of pay, the arrangements for exemption, &c. ? Will he also see that all who desire to speak in support of the Government proposals are supplied with the fullest information regarding them?
– I propose to deal in my speech in Sydney on Monday next with the matter to which the honorable member alludes. It is essential that the people of this country shall have an opportunity of understanding precisely what they are asked to do. So far as possible, the misapprehensions which now fill the minds of a certain section will he removed by a true presentation of the case.
– Will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of restoring the provisions of the postal voting section of the electoral law in connexion with the proposed referendum on the subject of conscription ?
– I am not in favour of doing that. The machinery which was considered sufficient for the election of this Parliament must be allowed to stand for the referendum.
– Has the right honorable gentleman noticed in this morning’s Argus the statement that at a public meeting held last night at Albury a strong committee was appointed “to support Mr. Hughes in the referendum campaign,” and that a Mr. G. W. Daniel stated that he had been authorized by the Prime Minister to organize a proconscription campaign in Riverina, and had the authority of the Government to pay the cost of advertising the meeting, &c. ? I ask the Prime Minister if the facts stated in the newspaper are correct?
– The Government cannot incur expense in connexion with the campaign, and no one has authority to do that on its behalf. Therefore the statement is inaccurate. There is no truth is it.
-I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the attitude of the mayor of Brunswick towards the forthcoming conscription campaign. He has refused to permit anti-conscription meetings to be held in the streets of the important city over which He presides. Will the right honorable gentleman appeal to the mayors of the different municipalities throughout Australia to give to those who are opposed to conscription the same facilities for expressing their opinions in public halls and in the streets that are given to those who favour conscription ?
– I have appealed to every citizen of the country to do his duty in this great crisis. I ask for myself what I am- prepared to extend to all other men, a fair hearing and the fullest freedom of speech. As for the rest, let every man and every authority in the country do as is thought best.
– Has the Government yet decided to print the report of Judge Eagleson ? I understand that the matter has teen under the consideration of the Attorney- General .
– The Printing Committee can order the printing of the report.
– Is it not usual for the Government to move for the printing of documents of this kind ? Why should an exception be made in this case ?
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the report of the Royal Commission on the Gilchrist charges be printed.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there has been any change in the policy of the Government announced last year to prevent the use and perpetuation in Australia of German trade names and trade descriptions? If there has not been any such change, why is a licensee permitted to manufacture for Australian consumption a well-known drug under the German trade name of Aspirin ?
– I do not know whether that is being done, but as the question has been asked, I shall have the matter looked into.
– Can the Minister for the Navy state when the regulations for the government’ of the Naval Dockyard «re likely to be put into operation ?
– They are in print now, and should be ready for circulation in about fourteen days’ time.
– Will the Minister say when the Brisbane is likely to be ready ?
– Very shortly, I hope.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he is prepared with the statement which he promised yesterday in reference to the leave granted to married men brought from the other States to serve with the machine gun section at the Seymour Camp?
– Yes ; the following statement has been furnished by the Minister for Defence : -
Prior to mcn leaving the district in which they were enlisted for the appointed place of concentration, they are granted final leave and railway warrants to enable them to travel to their homes and return free. The period dur ing which troops may be required to remainin the place of concentration is always uncertain, depending largely as it does on movements of transports. That soldiers are thus detained in camp on some occasions for longer periods than others is not considered to entitle them to further leave and additional railway warrants for free travelling.
– I have received several complaints from the parents of sons fighting in France about the defective delivery of letters addressed to members of the Expeditionary Force. I have submitted two of these complaints to the Minister for Defence, and I now ask if representations cannot be made to the proper authority with a view to securing some improvement in the methods of delivery ?
– I have done everything that it is possible for a man to do in order to make expedition one of the features of the service dealing with the delivery of mails to our soldiers abroad. Some months ago over fifty special men were sent from the Commonwealth to relieve the conditions then existing at the front, but it must be understood that all postal services in Egypt and in Europe aro under military control, with which we cannot interfere. All we can do is to endeavour to impress on the military authorities the necessity for co-ordinating the postal service, so far as the soldiers are concerned, in order to give the very best results.
– I have been making inquiries about the rifles manufactured in Australia, but the answers received have not been very conclusive. I now ask, therefore, whether the Government will institute an investigation in order to ascertain whether the rifles which we manufacture in Australia are actually used at the front, or whether, because the new service cartridge would blow their breech action to pieces, they are being scrapped just as fast as we send them away.
– I shall make an inquiry, and supply the House and tha honorable member with the information asked for.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the following resolution adopted by the Grocers’ Assistants’ Union, on the 14th September, 1916, was refused publication by the Censor in defiance of the Prime Minister’s assurance that that would not be done -
That this union enters its emphatic protest against the introduction of conscription, and pledges itself to resist by every means in its power any attempt to introduce this iniquitous principle in any shape or form.
Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have his promise carried into effect ?
– I am not aware of the facts in this case. Any resolution for or against the Government’s proposals, or for or against conscription, may be published freely; but no resolution inciting open or passive resistance other than what may be legal may be published.
– Some time ago I received a communication from my electorate asking whether allied subjects would be permitted to join the Australian Expeditionary Force. I understand that the Italian Government has declined to permit its subjects to do so ?
– The Russian Government allows it.
– I have now been asked - and the question is a pressing one in part of my electorate where there are many Italians - what action will be taken in regard to allied subjects if the conscription proposals of the Government are put into force. Will naturalized subjects who have come from allied countries be compelled to serve in our Forces, or will they be exempt?
– Any person, not a British-born subject, who has lost his own national rights, whatever they were, becomes, in assuming the national rights of this country, de jure and de facto a citizen of this country, and may exercise all the rights of our citizenship. On the other hand he must bear all the obligations and duties of that citizenship. That is a general principle which has direct application to the honorable member’s question. I will look more closely into the matter later, but, broadly, I may say that every person who is a citizen of this country, and has, at the same time, divested himself of citizenship of the country of his origin, is liable to military service under any law of the Commonwealth. I hope that the honorable member will notice the distinction that I draw. Under the German law, the man who becomes a naturalized citizen of this country does not thereby lose his national rights of. the country of his origin, and, of course, Germany’s right over such persons remains unaffected. There- are thus two conflictingobligations or duties which now arise in the case of such a person - his own country may claim him for military service against us, and we may claim him for military service against the country of his origin; but as that, country has a prior claim, which indeed it asserts most positively it never surrendered, it follows that every naturalized citizen so circumstanced is to all intents and purposes not a citizen of Australia in the ordinary sense of the term. If the same circumstances applied to persons of Italian origin they might not be liable to military service on our behalf; if they do not apply, then they would be liable ; but to what extent, if any, we are to exercise our rights in regard to them is a matteryet to be decided.
– If compulsory military service abroad is adopted, will the sons of German residents born in Australia be liable?
– Any British naturalborn subject, as a man born of naturalized German parentage will be, would be liablefor military service.
– The parents may not be naturalized.
– Then the question must be considered in relation to the law on the point - as to whether such a person is a naturalized citizen. If he is not ar naturalized citizen he is not liable.
– Whatever the legal effect of the conscription proposals of the Government may be, am I right in assuming that the Government will retain a discretion to be exercised with regard to all these matters as prudence may dictate from time to time?
– The honorable member is correct. First of all, we must have regard to the rights of the thing, and then, having ascertained the extent’ of our authority, we shall use our discretion as to how far it will be utilized.
– As Australian-born children of. German parentage will be entitled to vote for or against conscription,, will they be subject to compulsory military service if they are of the requisiteage and physically fit?
– As the matter is of such considerable importance, affecting a reasonably large number of persons, it would be well if the honorable member submitted his question in writing, so that I may answer it after having had time to consider it.
– If the sons of a naturalized British subject of enemy origin are to be compelled to serve in our forces, will opportunity be given to them to volunteer ? I have received communications asking this question. My information is that some of them have already volunteered, but have for various reasons been turned down.
– There is a principle of considerable importance involved in the question asked by the honorable member. We should not exercise compulsion upon any one whom we are not prepared to allow to volunteer. * I will see how far the practice in this matter has gone, and to what extent it has excluded from our forces such men as may hereafter be liable, with a view to giving public notification to such persons that they may volunteer if they so choose.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that many miners were brought to the Seymour Camp for the purpose of concentration and additional training, which it was said could not be given in New South Wales; that these men have been at Seymour for about ten or eleven weeks, and have not yet embarked ; that with the exception of the bayonet exercises they have received no additional training other than could have been given in New South Wales; and that the taking of these men to Seymour has considerably impeded recruiting so far as New South Wales is concerned ? I further ask the Minister whether he will see that these men are granted final leave before embarking, in order that they may visit their relatives?
– I shall bring the question of the honorable member under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and endeavour to furnish an answer on Wednesday next.
– When the Prime Minister was in Great Britain, did he have brought under his notice the case of Australians temporarily residing in England who desired to join the Australian Forces in training there? Is the Prime Minister aware that such volunteers were told that they could only do so by returning to Australia?
– I do not know to what extent the honorable member’s statement is borne out by the facts, but I shall refer thematter to my colleague the Minister for Defence, and see if the practice, as the honorable member has stated it, is sound and ought to be continued.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that some time ago an Australian residing in England was brought before a Court there and asked to give an account of himself as an absentee, and he informed the magistrate that’ he had sought permission to join the Australian Forces training in Great Britain, but had been told to return to Australia in order to do so ? Is the Prime Minister aware that the magistrate Said that it was an outrage that such conditions should obtain at the present time? If the Prime Minister finds that this bar exists, will he see that it is removed?
– I will note what the honorable member has said, and put the matter before my colleague, the Minister for Defence.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When is it intended to proceed with the erection of the post office so long promised for Wynnum?
– This matter will receive consideration when the present financial stress, caused by the war, has been relieved. I desire honorable members to forbear in their demands as much as possible during the heavy financial strain imposed on the Postal service by the prevailing war conditions.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What action does he intend taking to deal with Mr. W. L. Gilchrist, who has been adjudged by a Justice of the Court guilty of “ wilful and corrupt perjury of a very flagrant character “ ?
– I have terminated Mr. Gilchrist’s employment by the Department of Home Affairs. The question of taking any further action is under the consideration of the AttorneyGeneral.
The following papers were presented : -
Designs Act, and Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act - Regulation Amended (ProvisionalStatutory Rules 1916, No. 65.
Patents Act - Regulations Amended - (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1916, No. 45; Statutory Rules 1916, No. 162.
Patents Act, and Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act - Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 66.
Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 220, 221, 222.
Trade Marks Act, and. Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act - Regulation Amended - (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1916, No. 64.
War Census Act - Regulations Amended - (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 14,131.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 8608), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I desire to express my sentiments towards the proposal now before the House. I recognise that to-day many men and women who have previously held very strong opinions on the question of the conscription of life for active service abroad have changed their views, and have departed for the time being from what with them has been a life-long cherished principle. The majority of honorable members on this side of the House are opposed to conscription of life, but are not opposed to the submission of this question, in the form of a referendum, to the people. Several members of our party in this House yesterday gave expression to their opinions against the conscription of life, and also against the question being submitted to the people by way of referendum, and because they dared to do so, they were told by the honorable member for Robertson, the honor able member for Perth, and other members of the Opposition, that they were disloyal, that they were seditious, and that they were traitors, and ought to be interned.
– We did not all say those things.
– Such statements were made by different members of the honorable member’s party. The honorable member himself objected to the mode of procedure adopted by the Government.
– Surely I had a right to do that.
– The honorable member certainly had a right to register his objection; but he went further when he said that it was only a fool or a traitor who would adopt this method of appealing to the people, instead of taking the bold action of bringing conscription into operation by proclamation.
– I applied the expression to a totally different matter. I said that no one but a fool or a traitor would bother about precedent in this case.
– And, according to the honorable member, it is the Prime Minister and his Government who have bothered about precedent. The honorable member said conscription should have been brought into operation by a proclamation issued under the War Precautions Act. That is the course he would have followed probably had he been the leader of a party strong enough to enable him to do so. He went on to criticise the honorable member for Brisbane, and asked what distinction there was between the conscripts of Europe and the volunteers of Australia. He asserted that the European conscript was just as good as the Australian volunteer - that he was fighting just as well. We all admit that. I am prepared at once to concede that the conscripts of France and Germany during this war have shown just as much bravery and as much valour as the volunteers who are there, and whose numbers are few compared with the total number of men participating in the fight. But a distinction can certainly be drawn between the voluntary movement in Australia and the conscription of France, Germany, and other European countries. Conscription was not the law of the land in Australia prior to the war, whereas it had been the law of several
European nations for many years before the outbreak. It is admitted that conscription is not only the curse of Europe, but that it was practically responsible for the war of to-day. It was a great factor in bringing about the war.
– The honorable member would not be standing where he is to-day but for conscription. Conscription has saved the situation.
– So far as France is concerned, conscription did save the situation; but France was called upon to make that awful sacrifice only because of. the blow struck at her by the greatest conscript nation in the world. I repeat that conscription was not the law of the land in either Australia or in the United Kingdom before the war began. It is the law of the United Kingdom to-day; but only because of the war operating in Europe and brought about, as I have said, bywhat is known as the pernicious system of conscription. Because conscription is in operation in France and Germany to-day that is no reason why such a system should be adopted in Australia.
– We are not adopting it. It has been on the statute-book for years.
– Only for the purpose of home defence.
– This is home defence.
– No. If it is to be admitted here and now that the defence of Australia is being fought on the plains of Europe to-day, and that therefore we must adopt conscription, then we shall be practically adopting conscription for active service for all time.
– Does not the honorable member think that our men are fighting for home defence?
– I deny that it is home defence in the sense that we understand the term, or as it is understood in Europe. I believe that the people and the Parliament of Australia are prepared to go quite as far as any European people in carrying out a system of home defence. They are prepared, if necessary, to make the greatest sacrifice that man can make for home defence; but there is a distinction between what is referred to as home defence in the Defence Act and the home defence that we are told is being fought on the battlefields of Europe to-day. We are asked to adopt conscription because the defence of our homes is being fought on the battlefields of Europe, and the man who dares to offer the slightest objection to that contention is branded as disloyal.
– Not at all.
– I candidly admit that all members of the Opposition do not speak in that way; but it must be recognised that public opinion is not always created by the Opposition or by members of the Government party in the Federal Parliament. While the views expressed by an honorable member in this House may reach the ears of only a few hundred people, there are in circulation in this country great daily newspapers that are read by hundreds of thousands of people, and it is those newspapers which create a public opinion. They are trying to-day to press upon the people of the Commonwealth the view that the public or private individual who dares to utter a word against conscription is not true to the country of which he has the honour to be a citizen.
– Is not the whole question, “ How can we get 16,500 reinforcements a month?”
– How are we going to get them under a system of conscription ?
– How would the honorable member obtain them?
– I am not going to assist the right honorable member to secure them by means of conscription.
– Then by what other means?
– If the men of this country desire to volunteer their services, let the Government accept them. But I am opposed to the Government compelling any man to go out of the country, against his will, in order to participate in the present world struggle.
– Would the honorable member abandon the men who have already gone to the front ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner has more “pals” at the front than the honorable member for Wilmot has.
– I dare say that I have. By giving the Australian troops a certain front to hold, the military authorities at Home could create such a situation that even under conscription we could not make goodthe wastage. It is not because I desire to desert or abandon our men there that I am opposed to this proposal. Every one who went from Australia to the front went as a free and true man, and of his own free will. To a mother who came along and said, ‘ ‘ My son has gone; why does not your son go ?” my reply would be, “ Your son had the right of saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ and that same right must be given to other sons.”
– That would be deadly in some other relations of your life. You do not apply that argument in your political leagues.
– Then we are told that the soldiers themselves desire conscription. But do they? We are told that every mother who has sent a son to the front desires conscription. But does she? We shall get our answer on the 28th October; and, in my opinion, they do not desire conscription - a fact which, I think, the majority of honorable members recognise to-day. I approve of the proposal of the honorable member for Perth, only from another point of view. That honorable member said that conscription should have been put into operation by proclamation. The Labour party all its life has been opposed to conscription. Reference has been made to the manifesto issued during the last elections by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Newcastle, in which they appealed to the people of Australia, and told them that everything necessary to bring the war to- a successful issue, so far as the United Kingdom and the Allies were concerned, would be done by this Government.
– And by every means possible.
– And by every means possible. Doe3 the right honorable member mean to infer that Mr. Fisher, and the honorable member for Newcastle, when they issued that manifesto, for one moment conceived the idea of giving effect to conscription?
– What does the “last man and the last shilling” mean? That was a solemn pledge from the Prime Minister of Australia. What does it mean ?
– It meant many things ; but I can say that, as far as the man who was responsible for that phrase is concerned, it did not mean conscription of life.
– What did it mean?
– It meant that at that particular time, when the phrase was used on the floor of this House, the United Kingdom was under the voluntary system, as was also Australia, and Mr. Fisher was speaking then as a Britisher, in accordance with the traditions of the race to which he belongs. When he used the phrase, “ the last man and the last shilling,” he meant the greatest effort that could be made, and that, as the United Kingdom and her Dominions had made efforts in the past, they would again make them under the voluntary system. There was no idea whatever of conscription of life.
– You mean that he was making a phrase, and not making a promise !
– He made a promise that the last man that could be raised under the voluntary system would be sent to the front, and that the last shilling, if necessary, would be expended in maintaining a volunteer force. Some months later, when a deputation waited upon him. Mr. Fisher said there would be no conscription .
– Without legislation.
– He said there would be no conscription - that was the promise he made to the people of Australia.
– Yes, unfortunately.
– That was Mr. Fisher’s attitude.
– But the manifesto is what he wrote to the people of Australia.
– Quite so; and the right honorable member knows perfectly well that when Mr. Fisher wrote what he did in the Labour manifesto, he referred, and referred only, to what the Government and the country were prepared to do under the voluntary system.
– I know no such thing. “ Every means “ means “ every means.”
– The right honorable member is reading into the manifesto something that he has no justification whatever for reading into it.
– It is a matter of opinion.
– It has been stated here that this country will be humiliated, and will for all time be disgraced, if we fail to carry the referendum and supply the necessary reinforcements to our soldiers at the front.
– Hear, hear !
– Will that refer to Canada? Is the Prime Minister of Canada, or the Leader of the Opposition there, any less loyal than the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Australia? Are the people of Canada uny less loyal than the people of Australia in connexion with this great war?
– It appears that Quebec is.
– The fact remains that the Canadian Parliament has clearly and definitely said that under no circumstances during this war will Canada give effect to conscription.
– The honorable member seems to be obsessed with the notion that he has to defend his loyalty. Why does he not come to the facts of the situation and discuss them? The question is - arewe going to send reinforcements ?
– It would appear that any member of the Opposition, during this debate, is perfectly justified in making any statement he chooses - in questioning the loyalty of others, and, indeed, in going so far, as was done last night by the honorable member for Robertson, as to say that members on the Government side should be interned.
– No - only some of them.
– The honorable member for Robertson admits that he made the suggestion, but applied it to only some honorable members.
– I will say the same thing again here or anywhere else.
– There are some places where the honorable member might not be able to say it. The Leader of the Opposition says that we seem to be desirous to protect ourselves against the charges of disloyalty.
– No; but I say that you are taking up too much of your time in doing so - that is all.
– Are we not justified in doing so?
– I do not think it is at all necessary.
– Is the right honorable member of opinion that any man or woman in the community who is opposed to the referendum and to conscription is disloyal ?
– The honorable member knows what I said, and he must judge me accordingly.
– I believe that there are tens of thousands of men and women in the country to-day, who have sons and husbands at the front, and who will vote against this proposal, on no grounds of disloyalty, just as there are honorable members on this side who will vote in the same way as a matter of principle.
– If it will do the honorable member any good, I tell him that I believe he is thoroughly honest in his views.
– I do not adopt the attitude that if the ship-owners had been taxed I should vote for the conscription of life because of the conscription of wealth. I do not wish to say that if war profits are taxed that would justify me in voting for conscription of life. But I do wish to say that if the Government had made a request to the manhood of Australia, and only 5,000 had responded, I should still have objection to 10,000, or 15,000, or 20,000, or 200,000, going out of the country under compulsion. I am opposed to compulsion. I support what our movement has stood for since its inception in Australia - compulsory military service for home defence - and I am prepared to continue supporting that system.
– You put your movement before the Empire, do you ?
– Put my movement before the Empire? What I say is that, if the Government had applied for volunteers, and their appeal had been an absolute failure, I should not compel one man to leave this country against his will. But the appeal for volunteers has not been a failure. Further, if we carried conscription to-morrow and put it into operation, it would not do what many of its advocates try to lead the people of the country to believe it would. In the press, and on the public platform, people are talking as if conscription in Australia meant the ultimate victory of the Allies. Notwithstanding all the credit that is due to our men, what are the facts ? So far as the armies of Europe are concerned to-day, and so far as the ultimate result of the war is concerned, what we have done, or what we can do, is only as a drop in the ocean. This is a war of millions, and not of thousands of men. Of the participants, Germany, Austria, Servia, and Russia are perhaps equally responsible for this war being in operation to-day. In Russia there are 16,000,000 or 17,000,000 men of military age, while in the United Kingdom it is a matter of 5,000,000 men. The other countries I have mentioned can also reckon their eligible men in millions. We speak of France being “ bled white,” and of the great losses that other countries are sustaining; but I say that no country on the face of God’s earth, in any war in the past, or even in this war, has done more tuan Australia has done in proportion to her power. If there were 5,000,000 French people situated geographically as we are, and an appeal. were made to them under the Voluntary system, I dare say that, with ali their love of country, there would not be such a response from them as we have got from our young Australians up to date. The honorable member for Perth says that the geographical position means nothing.
– Hear, hear ! Not to honorable and patriotic men.
– There is the old “ honorable and patriotic “ cry again ! As a matter of fact, geographical position makes a great deal of difference; and it certainly means a great deal to England to-day. Her geographical position has been of such value to her that, while she is a great and active participant in the war, 3he is the only country on which the foot of the German invader has not been placed. Yet we are told that the geographical position means nothing. I am quite satisfied that, in the raising and despatching of ‘rr en to the front by the voluntary system, our country has done equally as well as many other countries have done under their systems of conscription. The set of facts that leads one person to believe that every available man should be sent from this country leads other men to conclude that there is a limit to the number of men who can be sent from Australia. But to-day we are practically debarred from expressing our opinions upon that important phase of the question. I feel that we, as the Parliament, have a duty to perform to our own country, just as we have tried to perform our duty to the Mother Country. If we were confronted with a crisis to-morrow, we could not do justice to ourselves; from a defence point of view we are the weakest country on the face of the earth. As a member ofthis Parliament, I would be prepared togo to the absolute limit to-morrow in trying to do for our country in the matter of defence what should be done for it. In not doing that we are failing in our duty to the people who sent us here. The Labour movement officially differs from the Government of the day. The leaders of the movement are told that they have adopted the wrong attitude. They have been told the same thing on hundreds of other occasions, but in ninetynine cases out of a hundred the event proved that the sound reason and common sense which controls the movement had directed it to the adoption of the wisest course. I am confident that, in the matter now under discussion also, the Labour movement will be found to be in the right. In conclusion, let me repeat that I am opposed, without qualification, to conscription. Let the Government do what they like in the taxation of wealth, but that will, under no circumstances, influence me to vote for the conscription of human life. If the young men respond in the future to the voluntary appeal, as they responded in the early stages of the war, the position of the Government will no doubt be relieved ; but even if the future voluntary appeal should be an absolute failure, it will not alter my opinion in regard to the compulsory sending of men out of the country. At every opportunity I shall speak publicly against the conscription of human life, and I feel as certain as I stand here that, by the ultimate verdict of the people, the Government and honorable members of this House will learn that in trying to foist this system upon the people they are doing something that does not meet with popular approval.
– Then God pity Australia !
– Even that verdict will be no indication that Australia has failed. The people will give their decision according to their sound judgment. In the minds of the ma jority of the Australian people, there is a feeling that the Commonwealth has done well, and they will resent any endeavour to force the compulsory system upon them at this stage. Therefore, I say openly that I trust the electors will reject the referendum, and, in doing so, they will be only doing justice to themselves and the, country of which they have the honour to be citizens.
Mr. WATT (Balaclava) fi 1.34]. - I intend to vote for this Bill. In saying that, I do not want honorable members to. understand that I thoroughly approve of the procedure adopted, or the principles embodied in the measure. I should have preferred another course - direct action, honorable members opposite term it - which, for reasons I may have the opportunity of explaining later, could, I think, have been followed decisively by the Government. But the Government, having selected this particular form of procedure. I, like other honorable gentlemen -on this side- of the House, am placed in the position of having to support or oppose it. Opposing it means possibly the closing of the only road through the forest that seems open or openable, and the prevention of the only course by which we can establish universal compulsory military service. I, for one, am not prepared to take the responsibility of refusing adhesion to the procedure and policy of the Government in this grave emergency. Several honorable members, when speaking on this issue, have expressed the belief that the Government have no mandate from the people to introduce such a proposal as the referendum, or to endeavour to establish a compulsory form of levy. The honorable member for Batman was the first to use that argument. He treated us to a remarkable elecutionary effort, and I think it would have carried a great deal of conviction in this Chamber if the logic of the speech had been equal to its muzzle velocity. But it failed to convince one honorable member on either side of anything else but that the honorable member had clouded his brain and his eyes with passion and prejudice, and could not, or would not. see the inevitable destiny ahead of us if his advice were adopted. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition convinced most reasonable men here that the Government of the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher told this country in July and August of 1914 that they proposed to proceed by any means, and to any extremes, in order to support our
Empire and our Allies in this war. The honorable member for Fawkner, who has just spoken with characteristic earnestness, and with, I believe, genuine sincerity, tells us that he does not interpret those historic words of Andrew Fisher as we always have interpreted them in the light of our English dictionaries and our knowledge of the English language. The honorable member has told us that in our language “last” does not mean “last,” but means something else. What it does mean, in the honorable member’s mind, God only knows ! I can imagine our kinsmen in Great Britain, our colleagues in this great struggle across the channel in France, and the intellectual classes of Russia, who are doing so much to lift that historic despotism up on to the steps of freedom, looking with grim doubt at this off-spring nation when they hear of utterances of this kind. We speak the English tongue, and with us “last” means last or it means nothing at all. However honorable members opposite sincerely or insincerely voice their views, the fact remains that the last man and the last shilling were pledged to the other Dominions of the Empire, to the Mother Country, and to all the Allies with whom she is identified in this war. The people of Australia gave the Fisher Government that mandate. I am unable to understand the point of view of a man who, like the honorable member for Batman, objects to that position, and then declines to allow the present Government to ask for a mandate. If the honorable member’s argument be provisionally regarded as true, surely the right honorable the Prime Minister is adopting the only course which, to a democratic mind like his own, seems possible. He comes back from the Mother Country laden with honour and renown, and bearing also in his mind knowledge that no other man in this country has. He tells us that he believes certain things should be done. If two years ago he thought differently, all the more honour to him when he comes back to face a militant and powerful conspiracy of organizations outside in the country doing their best to intimidate honorable members opposite. He comes to the people of Australia, and first of all, appropriately, to those of his own party, he says, “ I want to ask the people of Australia now if, in this emergency, they desire to give me a re-direction. I wish to give them the fullest opportunity of doing so by asking them for their mandate.”
– Does the honorable member think that the reference to a “ conspiracy ‘ ‘ is fair ?
– Yes. As applied to the unions, it is certainly nothing else but a conspiracy. I have no wish to break swords with the honorable member, whose friendship I value, but I said here, when discussing conscription six months ago, in the absence of the Prime Minister, that I regarded the Labour Conference that met in Melbourne as faked, and that it did not speak for the rank and file of unionism. I say that it is a great compliment to the Prime Minister that the unions dared not trust him with an unfettered party and an unfettered country, and so they prepared their conspiracy beforehand. I am glad to say that a number of honorable members opposite are sufficiently strong in their patriotic desire and sentiment to disregard the threats and coercion held out to them by these bands of unions. My objection to the referendum - and I have an objection to it in this matter, and that is why I would prefer the direct cut through the woods - is that it is bound to lead, whatever selfrepression the rival advocates exercise in this House and the country, to one of the most acrimonious struggles Australia has ever seen. We cannot help it, I am afraid. It will be the bounden duty of men on both sides to control their tongues and refrain from the use of words of abuse or vituperation calculated to excite the passions of the multitude. However well we may restrain ourselves there are deep seated feelings on both sides, and I venture to say that during the currency of the struggle, and at the end of it, very bad blood will be shown and left, and it does not bid fair for the harmonious co-operation of all’ forces for the purpose of eventually triumphing in the war struggle.
– Let the honorable gentleman advise his friends.
– I shall help all I can, but if the honorable member for Brisbane is as resolute on the platform as he has been in this House the struggle will only be the more intense. He knows what the feeling is amongst his own compatriots in Queensland, fie knows how intensely they feel about this matter. I speak for another class of thought, and I know that deep down in the hearts of a number of men and women in this country there is an intense desire to see Australia’s name honoured and Australian efforts continued to the end of the struggle.
– I did no£ indulge in any insulting personal remarks.
– I read remarks made by the honorable member in Queensland, and I do not think they were calculated to incite peaceful broodings at home. I think they were more likely to send a man down to the ammunition works to see what cartridges they had on hand. One objection I have to the proposed referendum is that a feverish acrimony will be spread abroad in this community. I hope that honorable members on both sides - and I for one will do so although as unaccustomed to the habit of self-restraint as is the honorable member for Brisbane - will put a bridle on their tongues in discussing this question. Another aspect of the proposed referendum is infinitely more tragic. I refer to the possible defeat of conscription as the result of the referendum. The honorable member for Fawkner has predicted this defeat. I have another view, I admit; but assuming that the view expressed by the honorable member is correct, how will Australia stand then ? She will, after all her loud promises and vapourings, have to go out of business as a. partner in the firm of John Bull and Co., of historic fame and world-wide celebrity. She will have no business name to put on a brass plate because her name will be “ Mud!” and honorable men will sniff at it in the streets. That is what will happen to us should the referendum be defeated. However honorable members may regard the means proposed by the Government to ascertain the people’s view, and however they may feel on the question whether conscription for the war is wise or unwise, I hope they will do nothing during the campaign to prevent the free interchange of views and a true registration of the sober convictions of the Australian people. I do not know how I, born in this country, should feel about its honour if the people turned down our men at the front, but I shall allude to that more fully later on. The honorable member for Fawkner has indulged in very interesting reflections. His chief concern apparently was that he and men like him should be accused of disloyalty. I do not feel that men like the honorable member are disloyal because they hold views which differ from mine as to policy or procedure. I think the honorable member for Fawkner is just as loyal as is any man on this side. There are numbers of men in this House and outside from whom I differ diametrically, but to whom I must make that acknowledgment. There should be a certain amount of consideration in referring to men who honestly helped the recruiting movement, but could not see their way to go further. But there are men who would not help in this war, who would not help recruiting, and are against conscription, and I say that such men are evidently against Australian participation in the struggle. There are men, some of them in this House, and certainly many in the country, who have negatively taken up that attitude, and have been ashamed or afraid to positively declare it. I wonder that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, allows such creatures to crawl about the surface of civilized society. Honorable members opposite generally do not take that view. They regard the war as Australia’s war quite as much as it is the Mother Country’s war, and they are agreed that Australia should do her last bit of work as ably as she can. I can respect honorable members who hold that view, but I have the profoundest contempt for those who believe in neither recruiting nor conscription, and at the same time are afraid to say that they are against the war. Perhaps the most remarkable admission that the honorable member for Fawkner made was that in his opinion this is not a war of home defence. His argument led me to the view that, although we have on our statute-book compulsion for home defence, he could not agree to conscription - “under any circumstances” to use his own terms - and he therefore must proclaim that this war is a war of foreign aggression, and not of home defence. No other honorable member has dared to put that view before this House, and if it were uttered from a platform in the coming campaign it would be scouted by all reasonable people. There is no person in this deliberative assembly who does not realize deep down in his heart that our men when, fighting at Gallipoli, on the frontier of Egypt, and in the country towards Mesopotamia, at Salonica, at the Western front, or flying from the Persian
Gulf to help our British and Indian soldiers there, is fighting for the protection of the hearths and homes of Australia. I feel almost ashamed to make a statement which is such a truism. Yet this honorable member here, even at this late hour of the day, affects to believe, and would induce the people of the country to believe, that this war is something different front a war of home defence. It is a mere accident that we do not have to wage this war in our own country.
– A very fortunate accident for us.
– I am not so sure that it is. I remember that the Prime Minister, in one of his speeches mentioned that if the Scharnhorst or the Gneisnau had put a few shots into Sydney across the harbor, or had sailed up to the Outer Harbor of Adelaide, or had visited this city through Port Phillip, there would be no occasion to talk compulsion. The people would have rushed to the colours, and would have demanded absolute and universal compulsion. We have walked freely about this continent for 100 years, and have seemed to think that the normal condition of mankind is one of peace and contentment. But we know from the history of the world, which has an unfortunate habit of recurring, that thereare alternating periods of struggle and peace. We have enjoyed, as no other people in the world have done in the last 1,000 years, a career of peace unexampled in history. The Prime Minister has said that we have been “eating lotus in the land of slumber,” but we have to fight at some time or other, and the fact that we are fighting now under alien or other skies is a mere accident of conditions that will last throughout this war. I ask the honorable members for Fawkner and Batman what alternative they offer to the Government and people of this country to get the nation to do its duty. I do not see that they have offered any. The honorable member for Fawkner was questioned by the Leader of the Opposition about it, and was compelled to assume a defensive or negative position. Honorable members who are opposed to theGovernment’s proposals have a right totell us what the position of the Government will be if their wishes are turned down in this House, in another place, or in the country?
– Does the honorable member say definitely that Australia has not done her duty?
Mr.WATT. - I shall tell the honorable member precisely what I think about that. I was a voluntarist up till October of last year. I would be a voluntarist now if I believed that the volunteer system would do the work which has to be done. I think that the volunteer system has performed marvels ; but the three combings which have been taken in this land has exhausted its power. Honorable members know very well that we cannot, under the voluntary system, get the recruits we require, even though we should double the pay and pensions of our soldiers. There are crowds of men who, because of the inequity of the voluntary system, are refraining from enlisting until the nation tells the other members of the community what their duties are.
– The army that the honorable member proposes to recruit under that system will consist of persons to whom neither a sense of duty nor the offer of money will appeal.
– Not at all. There are numbers of willing persons in the community who see other men more eligible for service, and with less responsibility, and who desire that they, too, shall take their due place with the colours. Thousands of these men are not shirkers. They have no cold feet. But they are waiting - as one of the great ecclesiastics of England said the people of the Horn© Land were waiting before conscription was adopted there - for the nation to summon them to their post of duty, knowing that thev would march in due order and time to the task assigned to them. We will not get from this system only unwilling and reluctant men. We will get, it is true, a few recalcitrants; but when once the national conscience has been awakened, they will march quite cheerfully with their brethren in arms. I say that voluntarism is failing. That, I think, is beyond the shadow of a doubt. One honorable member has told us that it is failing because it has not had a fair show. But what better show could the Government and the municipalities of the Commonwealth have given it? For two years now we have been working it in a country which did not possess any direct military traditions, which did not know from actual experience what either voluntarism or conscription meant. We have had wonderful results, due to the patriotism of our people. But the voluntary system has absolutely broken down, and no attempt to revive it could succeed. The most convincing proof of this is already before us. No better illustration could be provided or called for. The Government have put forward the threat to exercise compulsion on the 1st October. If voluntarism had a kick left in it, that incentive would yard scores of thousands of additional men this month. But it is not doing that, and it will not do it. We were told by two honorable members who spoke yesterday, that there is a way out of the present difficulty - that we must narrow our front. That was the phrase used by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I do not know what you, sir, think of it. Let us take the conception of a soldier . of ours who is fighting at the front at the present time. What will the Anza’c man, who has gone through the struggle at Gallipoli, and is now facing, in this awful push, the bullets and cannon of the enemy, what will he think when he is told that he must fight on a smaller front because our five divisions cannot be reinforced ? He will remember the cheers that sang to him as he went down the Bay, or left the harbors of Australia, the promises of the politicians that rang in his ears to provide adequate reinforcements, and a liberal pension for him if he should become incapacitated in the struggle. He will recollect, if he went through the struggle at the Dardanelles, his bitter experience when- the ranks of his comrades were thinned and no reinforcements were coming to them, and he will think that there is going, to be a second downfall of the same kind. In such circumstances, how can these men fight with any zest? Will they not be so disgusted as almost to be justified in throwing down their arms and requesting the British authorities to remove them from the front? Then how will the English people view our inaction? They will say, “After raising 5,000,000 of men, we have adopted conscription. Why should the children of the Empire, whose interests are even more in jeopardy than our own, refuse to support the struggling mother at this time?” They have already, by recruiting methods, produced an army relatively twice the size of that which Australia has produced
– Yet it is suggested that we should engage mercenaries to fight for us.
– It was left to the eccentric brain of the honorable member for Melbourne to suggest that cheap labour should be found to fight our battles. Ho said that 18,000,000 men stood ready for service in Russia, and that the wealth of Australia should bc poured out to equip them and send them as hirelings to fight our battlers as medieval princes fought their wars. The honorable member fc] Fawkner would probably espouse the same view. According to these gentlemen, if the wealth can be found, we should buy soldiers and send them into the firing zone. I say “ No.” The position opened up to us by the opponents of this Bill is an absolutely hopeless one. It means that wo must fight only so long as the remnants of our men will last - that the heroes who have made the heart of the nation thrill with pride are to be left alone as things unworthy of support. I refuse to believe that Australians want that. I believe that, irrespective of whether a man is Liberal or Labourite, he will vote upon tins question regardless of philippics from the platform. The womanhood of Australia, and 300,000 families which have sent their boys to the front, are going to insist that those boys, shall be supported, and that Australia’s last ounce of pressure shall bo exerted until the war is over. I do not know whether some honorable members take the view that this is not our war particularly. The cry that we have done enough and that England should do the balance was incautiously uttered here by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He said : “ Let Great Britain do her share.” Let us suppose for a moment that this war was, in reality, Great Britain’s war. I say that it would still be up to us to put our last man in the field to aid her because of the debt that we owe her. Is not Australia the only country in the world that has never had to spill an ounce of blood to preserve its liberties?
– Has the honorable member forgotten Eureka?
– That was a rebellion which, doubtless, commends itself to my honorable friend, but, in comparison with a world-wide struggle like that which is now in progress, it must be regarded as a mere pimple. It was an argument against taxation on the mining fields, and, as a result, a few guns went off at Ballarat. To-day men can afford to laugh at it, and to admire the heroism of those . who undertook it in the old muzzleloading days. There is no people in the world who have had the advantages that we have enjoyed, by gift. I believe, with the Leader of the Opposition, that now is our testing time, not the time when Labourites and Liberals united in saying : ‘ ‘ This is a world war fax freedom and civilization, and we must go into it.” Our testing time was not when our first 100,000 men out of pure patriotism volunteered for service at the front. It is now, when the nation has taken a halt, when it knows how slow will be the march that the Allies have to undertake, and when it sees at least twelve months more of bloody warfare ahead. This is the time to test the metal of which Australians are made. If they are truly British - and I think they are - they will behave just as did the people 100 years ago when the European campaigns which terminated at Waterloo had drained Great Britain of the flower of her manhood. When we realize that this land is worth striving for, and that not to strive for it will be to place it in jeopardy, we shall. I think, prove as true Britishers as were the men who won the liberties upon which we have battened ever since we were children. Many persons tell us that their objection to this proposal is that it will lead to compulsion, and that compulsion is antagonistic to Democracy. But if one left the political arena for a moment and entered the philosopher’s study, and if he there attempted to write down the characteristic features of Democracy, the very first he would pick would be that of compulsion - compulsion with regard to acts that have to be done, and compulsion with regard to acts which must be abstained from. Democracy connotes a well ordered community in which recreant members have to be restrained from doing some things, and made to do other things.
– All of which is suspended under militarism.
– It was this Democracy which established compulsion for home defence, and there hae never been a complaint made in regard to that Statute. Never at any election have we heard a murmur that our Defence Act was wrong in principle.
– Compulsory service was in force in some States before Federation.
– Yes ; in a way that unfortunately was not effective for Australian purposes. But with the apparently unanimous consent of the electors we have adopted the most definite form of compulsion that any British community ever adopted. The people surely were aware of what they were doing at the time, and although the Act contains certain negative provisos, I venture to say that when the full facts are placed before the people they will recognise that compulsion is inherent in our defence system when we are operating against conscript armies, and is not alien and antagonistic to Democracy. In ancient days, when men were ordered to fight wars of territorial aggrandisement or dynastic fame, and were pressed into service, they had a perfect right to rebel. But to-day the men who are asked to fight our battles will be fighting for their own homes, for their own liberties, not at the voice of a monarch flushed with victory or desirous of conquest, but defensively to protect the civilization and freedom of the world. There can be no objection to this particular form of service from a democratic standpoint. In fact it seems to me that with a well-spread franchise such as we have, in a war of this kind compulsory service is the highest form of democratic duty. I could not help thinking when the honorable member for Fawkner spoke of the vigour and tenacity with which men hold to long cherished convictions. The poet pictures some of these gentlemen when he says -
Faith, fanatic faith, once wedded fast
To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last.
That is the position of a number of honorable members opposite who speak with their tongues in their cheeks, and who really do not utter their true sentiments when they say that this form of compulsory service is alien to Democracy. I hold that it ill becomes us, whatever our personal views may be, to talk about conscript nations and conscript armies. I do believe that Prussianism, not conscription, with all its attendant junkerism, had led to this war. Of course, the Kaiser blames the English people for it, and the English people are probably responsible for it in the sense conveyed by the old Spanish proverb that he begins a struggle who strikes the second blow. There would have been no war if the British people had merely said to Germany, “ We will get out of your road.” The Kaiser would then have marched his legions north and south, and spread his Prussian eagles over the whole of Europe. But we entered this war because we saw that Prussianism meant death to all that has made life worth living to us as a British people for 500 years, and particularly to us in Australia, which has developed a form of constitutional and economic liberty that is new even to the nations of the Northern Hemisphere. We ought to be thankful for conscription as apart from Prussianism, because it saved the situation. If volunteer armies had had to spring out of the ground to meet the German Emperor at Liege, Louvain, and Brussels, and to bar the way to Calais, Paris, or Warsaw, the German legions would have taken every one of those points of vantage, and held them till now. But the tocsin rang throughout France, and instantly 4,000,000 men sprang to the colours in one night, and even faster than the railways could carry them, pressed to their points of preorganized destination. Those are the forces who, together with our own little bunch of men that faced von Kluck’s army, saved Europe, and gave Kitchener his chance of creating a volunteer army. We ought to thank God on our knees every night that conscription, in the country where it took its rise, La Belle France, was ready to meet the most despotic and military monarch that modern times have seen.
– Your argument is an argument for neighbours stocking their houses well with gunpowder.
– That is the kind of fallacious argument that I would expect from the honorable member. If we had not fought, of course there would have been no fight; but is the honorable member prepared to lie down if anybody attempts to take this country and all that he holds dear in it? I think he would fight here. After all, it is only a difference of point of view on this very issue. If a German foot landed on Australian soil the honorable member would fight just as eagerly for his wife and kindred as any man here. We are in that position just as really as if geographically it had happened. What, then, is the good of sneering at the men who say, “For
God’s sake, get the nation thoroughlyawake and make it do its duty.” The compulsion argument may he put this way: It is a choice of compulsion from within or from without. If we lose this war - and I speak for the British and allied families - compulsion, repression, and despotism will come from without. Is it not better for a sane people, with a legislative mechanism responsive to their wishes, to quietly so order their life that the compulsion deemed to be necessary and inevitable is slowly and gently applied by men who understand the genius of their own race, instead of having the steel casket and helmet fastened on us by a repressive Junkerism? I believe the union we want to establish in this country is not typified by the great unions conspiring against honorable members at the present time, but a union, to be created here for the first time, of liberty and discipline. We have enjoyed, as all young children and all young communities do, long licence and freedom to talk and play; but the time has come for play to ki put aside, and for hard, strenuous thinking and acting to take its place. That is all that the Prime Minister wants to-day if the Australian people are willing to support him. I hope honorable’ members will not lose sight of the fact, in deliberating on the Bill and talking to their constituents about it, that the war is a long way from finishing. We all thought, when the offensive opened in June, after the four months’ battering at Verdun, and we took the first and second lines of the German , defences in Flanders, that Ave were going to see a stampede of the Teutonic soldiers. But it is not coming, and all the great experts whose views Ave read in the columns of the daily press or the magazines of Europe, seem to indicate that for twelve months the fighting will go on at deadly cost to the party taking the offensive. It is a long and bloody road to Berlin. Let us therefore keep in mind the casualties to our own men during the last fortnight or three weeks. A list of 1,500 appeared in the earlier portion of the week. another of 900 last night. These are much higher than the Prime Minister based his calculations on when speaking of reinforcements. I guarantee that the British Government are looking with grave anxiety to the length of front the Anzacs are holding. They will not continue as they are now, notwithstanding all our reinforcements going forward till January, unless the casualties cease, and they can cease only by the push in which our boys are engaged being stopped. It is trench by trench, road by road, village by village, now. The casualties of Gallipoli will probably be equalled, if not exceeded in the next two or three months. How, then, can a Government worth its salt look these stern facts in the face and not try to wake the nation to a sense of its peril and its duty ? I honour the Prime Minister, although I disagree with his methods, for facing his own reluctant or militant followers and endeavouring,
Avith or without their consent, to lead the nation in the path of duty and honour. I trust the Bill will be carried here, and in another place, and that we shall fight fairly on the platform. I shall do so. The pre-requisites of a referendum campaign are a free platform and a free press. The Prime Minister has promised us a free press, and T trust we shall do our best to keep the platform fair and free. Upon the people themselves will rest the responsibility ; and I venture to think that, fighting fairly and well over the whole of this Commonwealth, the people will return a magnificent majority for universal compulsion in this dread hour of the nation’s need.
T12.231. - I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without putting on record my views on the grave peril confronting the nation to-day. In the early stages of the war. I realized the great conflict ahead of the Allies, and predicted, even before Kitchener spoke, that we would be faced Avith a three years’ struggle. In the early part of the conflict, I offered my services in any capacity in which the Minister of Defence could use them, even volunteering to take my part on active service. I was not eligible to go to the front, however. because I Avas over the stipulated age, but I became a member of the War Committee. In that capacity, I did not spare myself in an effort ‘to organize voluntary recruiting in New South Wales, and I may say that, as the result of my efforts, I had begun to put voluntary recruiting in that State on something like a systematic basis. I took my part on the platform, organized the whole State, and took one section of it under my control. I appealed to the men to stand to their guns for the sake of all that is most dear to us. I told them that, unless volunteers were forthcoming, the inevitable result would be compulsion of men to go to the front in order to retain the liberties handed down to us, and held by us in trust for those who will follow us. I have, therefore, no compunction in saying that voluntarism has reached the end of its possibilities. I do not say that we could not rake in a few more, but the day has gone by when the few more are of any use for the purpose for which they are wanted. When, therefore, the Prime Minister came back from England, I was quite prepared, after hearing his account of the struggle in Europe, for his announcement that he would take the course that he has so manfully taken and so skilfully handled, in order to bring about the mobilization of the men of this country who are eligible to take their places in the firing line. Having gone so far, I do not want to say anything to hurt the feelings of any man. Like the honorable member for Balaclava, I delight in a fair fight. I believe in debating a big issue on its merits and not on personalities. I deeply regret the position that has arisen on this question in certain quarters. It is one of those mistakes that some day or other will be regretted. The men who are to-day trying to direct the destinies of a certain party, and who may unwittingly, if they have their way, bring about the destruction of the country, will, in later years, when they grow older and more sane, and have more knowledge and experience - for most of them are young men - look back with very little pleasure upon their present action in connexion with the organization to which I have belonged for the best part of my life. They issue their instructions to us to do- this, that, or the other. I came to this country nearly forty years ago, not because I could not live in the country I left, but because I felt that it. was crowded, and that I would like to have a part, with others of the British race, in building up in this empty continent another outpost of the Empire.
– I suppose you are sorry for some of the remarks you made when you came out here first?
– Most of us have said silly things at times. I do not profess to be any more perfect than the average man, and no doubt, in the callow days of my youth, I did say some things which perhaps would not fit in with my views at the present time; but that, I take it, has been the experience of many others in this House. However, what I want to say is this : I came to this country because I believed I could do something to assist in its development as one of the outposts of the British Empire. It has been said that men have left conscript countries to escape junkerism and the iron rule of military despots; but the men who left England for Australia came to their own country, in the hope, no doubt, that they would be able to enjoy here privileges which were denied to them at Home owing to the crowded conditions prevailing there. How many of us would be in the enjoyment of all our privileges to-day if we had been left alone to develop and maintain this great country? Is there a man amongst us who can say that we would have been able to develop our White’ Australia policy if we had not been under the British flag, which has ever been ready to protect us while we did our duty, as we saw it, to this new outpost of Empire ? And is there a man here who can say, if this war goes against us, how long we should be privileged to assemble here, or anywhere else in this country, as the Parliament of a part of the British Empire ? That is the point we have to consider. What right have we to expect the continued protection of the British Navy in the days to come, when other enemies loom in the distance, if, in this hour of the nation’s peril, we are not prepared to follow the flag and to fight for the liberties that we have enjoyed so long ? We have enemies other than Germany. A country like this is the envy of a number of nations, for here we have a vast territory, rich in production and potential wealth, but sparsely populated, and naturally it is the cynosure of many nations. What can we say to the boys who have gone to the front if we do not respond to the present appeal ? What can I say to those men from my own electorate, those men to whom I appealed to take their part in this great conflict, if by our decision w’ith regard to this referendum we say to them, in effect, that while they answered the call, we intend to leave them to bear the brunt of the battle without relief at a time of their greatest peril ? Gallipoli might be regarded as a grand blunder, for it gave to Australia a name that will live for ever in the annals of history, although that glorious achievement did nothing practically so far as winning the war is concerned. “Up to the present the Empire has been marshalling its resources, gathering all its men and bringing together a vast army of munition workers to increase the output and prepare for a great offensive. That great offensive has begun, and this is the time when we want our men to be there to force home the advantage and secure that victory without which we cannot live with any degree of comfort in this country in the days to come. I feel very keenly in this matter. What can my position here as a Minister of the Crown mean to me if I cannot hold it with honour to myself and credit to those who placed me here? What is my position in the party to which I have had the honour to belong for thirty-six years if I cannot hold it with credit to myself and with credit to the children to follow me ? What indeed can my position in Parliament, or anywhere else, mean to me in such circumstances ? I would sacrifice everything rather than have the escutcheon of my reputation besmirched by any suggestion of disloyalty to the men I have urged to go to the war, to those men who have fought like heroes in the defence of their country, and who are now appealing to us to send them further assistance. Some people say that we have only a small number of men to send ; that we are a mere handful ; but I venture to say that, though a mere handful, no other country in the world has sent to battle men who have achieved such brilliant results as did the Australians at Gallipoli. Though a mere handful, their going to the war and their achievements have been an inspiration, and, in that respect”, have been more valuable than their mere intrinsic numerical strength. It may be that we cannot send many men in comparison with the vast number already at the front, but we have a right to do all we can, and I intend, on the public platform, to speak as I am speaking here, because I believe it is my duty to urge the people to carry this referendum. The referdum is in accordance with our platform, and with all the modern usages of a democratic people, because it is the instrument by which they may express their wishes in vital matters. It will not take long, comparatively speaking, to secure that expression of opinion. If this course is objected to successfully, we shall be striking at the very keystone of our democratic arch. All we are asking is that our men may be allowed to take up the same obligation in respect of service abroad which they are bound to take up under the law in Australia itself. I am not speaking in any bitterness or anger, but with the deepest sympathy for those who are trying to drive a wedge into the party to which I belong, and to split it asunder. I am sorry that colleagues of mine with whom I have worked for many years have spoken as they have to-day. They may be right, but I do not think so’; and feeling as I do on this matter it gives me no pleasure to stand at this table and declare that, as far as I am concerned, I will leave* nothing undone to bring about a successful issue with regard to the referendum. I trust that my friends who differ from me will treat me as I will try to treat them, with all that fairness and consideration duo to an honest man having honest opinions. I believe that if I do that, I shall do my duty, and if I no longer appear here, but disappear altogether from public life, I feel I shall be a happier man than those who differ from me when the day of reckoning comes.
– I hope the honorable gentleman who has resumed his seat will permit me to tender to him the congratulations of a political opponent on the very manly declaration which he has just made. Whatever views we may hold on this momentous question, we all recognise the immense difficulties which assail honorable members who have been long associated together, and who find themselves in differing camps upon a question of this kind. It is not for me to- go into that matter at all. My object in offering a few remarks now is to do what I can to mitigate and, if possible, prevent any excess of political feeling with regard to this issue. I do not think I ought to say very much. The Prime Minister has intimated already that this Bill should pass through this House this week, and it is the duty of all of us to help him to give effect to that wish. After the very powerful, logical, and patriotic speech made by the honorable member for Balaclava a short time ago, very little remains for me to say. But I do want to remark that I deplore the circumstances which make it necessary to have a referendum at all on this question.-
Two reasons against this course are paramount in my mind. The first is that the referendum is an appeal from those whose duty it is to know, and who do know, to those who cannot know. I do not suppose that any of US, no matter how strong may be our feelings in this matter, no matter how strongly we may approve of the principle of universal service, would for a moment contend for the application of that principle in a time of war but for one reason - that of necessity. If the necessity did not exist, I for one would not, here or elsewhere, contend in favour of conscription. The question is purely one of necessity, and in this referendum we intend to ask the people whether the circumstances of this war, as they now exist, require the immediate adoption of conscription or not. The facts on which that question must be answered are known to the Government, and so far as they have been able to let us know, are known to us; but they cannot be well known to the people who are to be asked to give a decision.
– That is the cru* of the whole position.
– The other reason for which I deplore the necessity of this course is the possibility of its failing. For my own part, I entertain the most sanguine hopes that it will not fail j but other honorable members entertain other views, and I cannot find words to express my feeling3 when I think of the dishonour and humiliation that will await Australia if we fail on this occasion. There is a time when, according to the lessons of history, one great question is put to every community. We have never yet been asked that question. It is now put to us - the question whether we are prepared to take a course which a free people, once and once only, is given the opportunity to take - to show whether we are really worthy of the freedom we have enjoyed. It is becoming the fashion, almost, in the newer mode of thought, to throw aside, disregard or belittle the lesson.” of history, in the belief that in the newer developments of our social and political life we are making new forms of history, and that therefore we can afford to disregard the lessons of the past. I am not of that mode of thinking. I believe there is no safer guide to what a people ought to do in a period of great emergency than that to be found by looking at what has happened in similar great emergencies in the history of the world. I believe that, at this moment, Australia is at the parting of the ways. If we take the higher path, the path that common sense and patriotism urge us to take; if we determine to put forth our whole strength so as to take our full share in the struggle now going on, then we shall find that there will be awaiting us at the end of this war, a heritage of power and responsibility the like of which has never yet fallen to the lot of a people so insignificant in numbers as we are. But if we fail to rise to this occasion, unless all the lessons of history are false, then, when the time comes - and it will be no time for sentimental negotiation; it will be a time for the settlement of great matters, with great conflicting interests, and in great heat - we shall be cast aside as a community of politicians and braggarts. Do not for one moment think that the sacrifices some of our people have made, and are making, will save us from that fate. History is full of examples of brave deeds done by the people of nations that were perishing. No braver actions were ever done than those performed by the soldiers of Rome, when the nation was sinking into a condition of indolent sloth, apathy, and destruction. It is no effort by proxy that can save us. The whole nation, all its resources of every kind must be made available. I care not what the effect. I care not what form compulsion may take, or what interests it may attack. Even if it attacks the dearest interests we have, the plans we have made for our future effort or our future life - all must be sacrificed if necessary, in order that Australia may take her part in this struggle. The immediate question before us is a simple one. Shall that promise made to our men now fighting for us in the trenches, that they shall be supported and reinforced, be broken? That is the one question, and I venture to say that, if the people of Australia are only made to thoroughly realize the momentous importance of their answer, if they are only able to grasp what the real issue is, all other considerations will give way to their desire to say that at this vital juncture Australians will show themselves really worthy of the stock from which they sprung, and worthy to continue in the enjoyment of all the privileges that have hitherto been theirs.
– I do not intend to give a silent vote on this question, as I believe it is the duty of every honorable member to explain his position. May I say, in regard to this debate - and I think the sooner we get this Bill through the better - that I am rather surprised at the attitude taken up by some honorable members towards the proposed method of dealing with this Question. Some advocate that there should have been direct action. Had that course been adopted, it might not have met with the success many honorable members suggest. Probably, its effects would have been very unsatisfactory. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand why honorable members who have advocated the referendum as the most democratic method of ascertaining the people’s will on any question, should be against a referendum on a subject so grave as that now before the Chamber. There is a time in the life of nations, just as there is a time in the lives of men, when the national position should be paramount over every other consideration ; and, if we take the national view regarding the crisis in Europe, I do not see that any exception can be taken to referring this matter to the people in order to ascertain from the people themselves whether they are prepared to do their best to prosecute this war until we meet with success. I rise in order to make it clear to those I represent, and to the country, that I am going to support the proposed Referendum Bill, on the ground that I have been in favour of the referendum all my life. I believe it is a democratic proposal, and I believe that such a national question as this should be dealt with by the people as a nation without the introduction of any party spirit. But though I have listened carefully to the debate. I have not heard one speaker on either side of the House say anything regarding the financial position. Yet the subject of finance will play a very important part in what it is Proposed to do. There are thousands of people who would be prepared to support, the referendum provided they knew where the money was coming from to pay the expense.
– Of the referendum ?
– No. There is something beyond the referendum. We have heard much to-day, just as we heard much last night, of the last man and the last shilling; but how many honorable members have said a single word about finding the last shilling? The position is one that has to be faced. My own view is that, in a time of national crisis like the present, everything should be done in the interests of the nation, and if it is necessary to conscript life - to call upon a man to make the greatest sacrifice a man can be called upon to make - it ought not to be thought an unfair thing to take the means of meeting the cost from those who have it. There should be sacrifices on the part of those who are in receipt of salaries over and above what will keep them. No man and no woman should be able to save money during a time of national crisis. Everybody should be satisfied with sufficient to keep them and their families as they should be kept, and anything over and above that should go to the National Exchequer for the purpose of financing the war.
– Of course, you will all agree to a reduction of salary to £200 a a year !
– Well, that is the position that will have to be explained to the people. It is no use talking about the last man and the last shilling if we do not put the precept into practice. If the war lasts for another couple of years, we shall all be fortunate men if we are able to pay our way without anything to save. This war does not depend altogether upon men. It is admitted by some of the greatest authorities that it depends upon finance, and I think that aspect of the question should be dealt with here. Personally. I have come to the conclusion, after serious consideration, that I am not justified, in advocating that men should go to the front without being also prepared to advocate that those who remain at home shall bear the cost.
Sitting suspended from 1 to2.15 p.m.
– It will be wise for us to consider what is likely to be the cost of the proposals which this Bill is intended to put into effect, and the manner in which the obligation that is to be imposed on the community can be met. The present cost of maintaining 280,000 men is £1,000,000 a week, which is £4,333,333 a month, or £52,000,000 per annum, the cost per man per month being £15 9s. 6d. Taking these figures as a basis, let me estimate the cost of the reinforcements which it is proposed to raise. This is shown by the following table: -
At the end of a year we should have the present force of 280,000 and 214,000 reinforcements, to be raised between now and August next, and the annual cost of maintaining this army will be £74,887,486. Those figures speak for themselves, and make it necessary that we should devise means for raising the money which we shall be called on to expend. We have borrowed freely, but we cannot hope to raise by borrowing a sum sufficient to finance our share in the war. We cannot expect to borrow from the Old Country, which has enough to do in finding resources to support its own efforts. Experts tell us that the result of the war must depend as much on finance as on men. Germany was so thoroughly organized before the war began and has such a body of conscripts to call upon, that she will, unfortunately, take a lot of beating. I am afraid that the war will not be finished for another year or two. If we are ready to send the last man and the last shilling, let us set about looking for the last shilling as well as for the last man.
– The Prime Minister has said that he will find the money, and we are willing to support him in what he proposes to that end.
– The country desires him to say how he will find the money.
– What does the honorable member suggest ?
– It is useless for public men to speak vaguely of taxing wealth in order to finance the war, if they will not put forward any definite proposals. A knowledge of what is intended in this direction will influence thousands of votes on the referendum. The poorer members of the community are already saying, “ It is all very well to tell us that the position of the Empire makes it necessary to send more men, but what is to be done to pay these men? What sacrifice is wealth going to make to meet the requirements of the nation?” Are we who remain at home ready to give everything that we possess, over and above what is absolutely necessary for our living expenses, to assist the Empire and its Allies to win the victory ? That is the question. Although the right honorable member for Swan has been Treasurer in several Administrations, he would not attempt to answer off-hand a question like that he has put to me. He would ask for time to consider the matter aud to consult financial experts. But I have already given this subject serious consideration. I have heard it suggested that the wealth of the country might be taken to meet the cost of the war, the wealth being estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician at a certain figure. I think, however, that if we laid hands on all private wealth, it would interfere with industry and commerce so seriously that the poorer clasess would suffer severely. Having turned the Question over in my mind, I am of opinion that, at a time like this, all income in excess of necessary living expenditure should go into the public exchequer for financing the war. Every man and woman should have sufficient to keep the wolf from the door, but over and above what is necessary to provide each household with the necessaries of life, all private income should be paid to the Government during the progress of the war. If that were done there would be something like equality of sacrifice. I put the suggestion forward publicly at the inception of the war, and I still maintain it. There may be other ways of levying taxation, but my proposal has this merit, that it would prevent the increasing of prices to the detriment of the public, because no one would have any inducement to increase his income beyond the amount of his necessary living expenditure.
– What does the honorable member suggest that members of Parliament should do?
– I suggest that we -should all come down to a living wage.
– What would the honorable member call a living wage ?
– That can be decided later.
– Would the honorable member insist on. every man getting rid of his private establishment?
– No. There are persons engaged in business who make an income of £10,000 or £20,000 a year, and I propose that such persons, as well as all other persons earning incomes, should be compelled to pay anything in excess of their necessary living expenditure into the coffers of the Government. Under this proposal private businesses would continue to be conducted as at present, because those in charge of them would be afraid to close them, for fear of losing trade to their competitors which they could not regain after the war. I would apply my proposal to every one, making it so that none could escape. At the present time if we put a tax on the income of a man who is making £2,000 a year out of a business, lie merely increases the price of the commodities that he sells, and passes the tax on to the public. That is not fair. The general public cannot bear additional taxation. Many families are hard put -to it to live on what they get, and we must do everything possible to prevent the raising of prices. If those in charge of businesses objected to carry them on under my scheme, the Government would have the power under the War Precautions Act to take over their businesses and manage them for them. Once let it be known that those who remain must make sacrifices just as much as those who go to the front, and that the burden of the war must be shared equally, you will have no difficulty in getting our young men to do their part. In this matter I find myself in company with one of the most Conservative men in New South Wales, probably in Australia, Mr. W. E. Abbott. He says apropos of a controversy with the Messrs. White, of Belltrees, about the giving of aeroplanes by the wealthy families of the Commonwealth -
T hold that no British subject, whether he ho sin employer or a workman, lias a right to make money out of the war, and no contribution in money can condone for failure to send men. If he ho an employer unfit for service, his whole income, less wages, maintenance, and taxes, should he devoted to war purposes, and if he ho a workman unfit for service, his whole energy, less maintenance, should be used the same way. The end of the war will come from financial collapse, and if we adopt this standard we need have no fear for our side.
Mr. Abbott is one of the richest men in Australia, he has been always opposed to Labour principles, he is one of the strongest Conservatives that can be. found; yet he tells the Commonwealth that there should be equal sacrifice, and that everything should be put into the pool beyond what is sufficient to maintain the requirements of every household. Is it fair that we should force men to go to the war, and at the same time build up a very big national debt, without making any attempt to minimize or reduce it by levying on ourselves? We should be saddling a huge interest bill on those who are fortunate enough to come back from the front.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the Bill ?
– I have explained that I am in favour of sending this question to the people; but I am pointing out, in addition, that it is time we declared to the people what we propose to do in regard to wealth.
– The party of the honorable member is always increasing wages.
– It is quite evident that my proposal does not meet with the wish of the right honorable gentleman, and that it would affect him.
– It would not affect me.
– I did not rise to speak at length. My desire is simply to make my position clear. The proposal of the Government to submit this question to the people is the only democratic way in which they could act. The principle of the referendum is one that I have supported for a lifetime. But I wish to know what attitude the Government assume in regard to wealth. We cannot have equality of sacrifice, because there can be nothing equal to the sacrifice of life; but if we get as near to it as possible, and let the people know what is proposed in that direction, then the appeal to the people will meet with a better response than if we simply ask them to send men away, without taking any steps to compel those who remain at home in affluent circumstances, and in receipt of big incomes, to contribute, towards the cost of the war. So far, we have heard nothing in regard to- the financial side.
There has been a lot of talk about Mr. Fisher’s “ last man and the last shilling,” and we have heard much about sending the “last man,” but nothing about taking the “ last shilling.” If we carry out the programme laid before us, there will not be many eligible men in Australia in twelve months’ time. If it be fair to send away all our manhood, it is equally fair that we should do all w© possibly can during the war in order to assist in prosecuting it to a successful issue.
.- I do not think that any honorable member can take exception to a great deal of what has been said by the speaker who has just sat down. We do not intend to send away troops to represent us at the front unless we can make provision for them. But I do not think that the occasion to which the honorable member has referred has arisen. I know that when it does arise every man in the community will respond to the call for money. We have recruited 286,000 men, but have any of those troops lacked anything ? Has it not been our proud boast that no troops in the world have been better equipped or better paid? There may be a few complaints owing to errors in administration, but have not our soldiers been paid to the last shilling all that has been due to them ? The honorable member seems to think that Australia has not done its part financially. Has he forgotten that about £57.000,000 has been contributed to the war loans at the small rate of 4^ per cent, interest? As a matter of fact, there is now in the Treasury more than sufficient to meet the demands pressing on the Government: and I feel sure that, in the future, the people will respond just as well as they have responded in the past. The £74,000,000 mentioned by the honorable member represents only 7 per cent, of the capital of Australia. Surely the people will respond to a request from the Treasurer to meet that small amount. Let us examine the taxation that has been imposed. The wealth of the people of Australia has already been taxed fairly heavily. First we had an increase in the land tax. Then death duties, amounting to 15 per cent, maximum, were imposed in addition to the State death duties, which are as high as 15 per cent, in New South Wales, and 22 per cent, in Queensland. If a citizen of Queensland dies, his heirs may be called upon to pay 37 per cent. In other words, over a third of the wealth of the estate may be conscripted and put into the pool to meet war necessities. Then we had an income tax - a new tax to the people of the Commonwealth - imposed side by side with the income taxation of the various States; while, in addition, the State of New South Wales has a super tax, which was put on ostensibly for war purposes, although the Federal Government are charged with the responsibility of carrying on the war. On top of all this taxation, we have had increases in the Customs duties, a system of taxation which cuts across the grain of every person in the community, more particularly the poor man; and, in the next fortnight, this House will be called upon to give consideration to a war-time profits tax. It is a fairly good list of taxation, showing that ample provision is being made by the Government to meet contingencies. The people of Australia, by their magnificent contributions to the war loan, compare well with the people of Canada, for, whereas that Dominion is borrowing from America at 5 J per cent., we receive the money from our own people and spend it here, and pay the interest to our own people. I am proud of the way in which Australia has responded to the Treasurer’s appeals for money. I have nothing more to say on the point, except to remark that money is not the essential at the present moment. We want the men. We must have both money and men to bring the war to a successful issue. We have the money if only we can get the men. Every one agrees with the honorable member for Hunter as to the necessity for sacrifice. I do not think that there is any honorable member or loyal citizen who is not prepared to make the necessary sacrifice when the time comes. In common with other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I do not consider that a referendum is the best medium Tor bringing about the result we desire. I would rather have had the issue decided by this Parliament; but, as we have not been able to get our way in that regard, we are prepared to accept the alternative and achieve our end indirectly - that of helping to win the war by compulsory military service. When travelling out of Sydney the other day, I listened to an argument in the train. One person claimed that compulsory military service should not be adopted because there are so many young fellows in Aus- tralia who are supporting widowed mothers, sisters, and so forth. I did not interpose until this person was getting the better of the argument, and then I pointed out that we needed conscription in order to prevent those young fellows from going to the front, and compel them to remain here to discharge their duty to their blood relations. That has been the effect of compulsory service in Great Britain. As many as 70,000 men have been withdrawn from the front and brought back to carry out their various avocations at home. The same will occur here. Those we can spare must go, and if they will not do their duty and volunteer, we must compel them to go. Honorable members on the Government side have claimed that there is .no occasion for Australia to fight the Empire’s battles, because we are not so close to the seat of action as England is; but I claim that it is not a question of distance; it is a question of principle. If a principle is at stake, loyal Britishers, no matter where they are, whether 12,000 miles from the scene or 100 miles away, feel it their duty to defend that principle. With other honorable members of the House. I wish to voice my thankful appreciation of what the Mother Country has done for us. If we study the pages of history, we can find no nation that has occupied such a unique position as that of Australia. Since Governor Phillip landed here 135 years ago, wc have been allowed to develop peaceably. Our pioneers who have gone into the bush have not had to do their work with a sword in one hand and an axe in the other; but, unmolested, have been able to use both their hands in the task of cutting the timber, clearing the land, and cultivating the soil. This has been going on for the last 135 years, and we, as a people, during the whole of that time, have never been called upon to fire a shot by way of self-defence. Just as a mother throws a mantle of protection over her child, so Great Britain, the mother of the Empire, has thrown her flag about Australia, and has defended us during every moment of our existence. For that reason, if for no other, we ought to respond ungrudgingly, unselfishly, to her call, and do our best in defence of the rights and privileges we have inherited from her. I do not think that one member of this House really believes in conscription. Our honorable friends opposite profess to believe that we favour the principle. The honorable member for EdenMonaro, who is a member of our party, has two sons at the front, but he says that he hates the word “ conscription “ as he hates poison. But necessity compels him to vote for it. We have to adopt the principle, not permanently, but as a purely temporary expedient. We are proposing to adopt it only because we feel that the needs of the Empire demand it. Conscription was introduced by the Confederates in Virginia during the awful struggle between the North and the South. There was a great principle resting upon the issue of that war - the determination of whether or not slavery should continue in America. Those who favoured slavery adopted the principle of conscription in Virginia, and they were getting the better of their opponents when Lincoln, to his everlasting credit, met the conscription of the South with conscription from the North, and so was able to win liberty, for all time, for the black slaves of America. Conscription, therefore, so far as America was concerned, had much to do with the progress of the country. It is proposed in much the same way to apply conscription in this case. The German tyrant with his autocratic methods is being met by the autocratic methods of Russia, which is going through Europe, as has been said, like a huge steam roller. We have to fight the German tyrant with his own weapons, and to do that we must do as Great Britain has done, and meet conscription with conscription. In that way alone can we hope to win. Our honorable friends of the Labour party who pose as anticonscriptionists are forced to do so by the application of conscription to them. The various Trades Hall unions which dominate their freedom of speech and action, have compelled them to adopt their present attitude, so that they are really conscripts advocating voluntarism.
– That is not correct.
– I cannot think that the honorable member would have adopted his present attitude but for some great compelling force behind him.
– Is that why we are so divided V
– I give credit to those n. embers of the Labour party who put the call of the Empire before the demand of their unions. The honorable member for Fawkner said this morning that for very many years he had belonged to certain organizations which had always opposed conscription, and that he was not going back on the principles that be had cherished for a lifetime, to which those organizations subscribed. The position of the honorable member is that he puts his Trades Hall principles before the needs of the Empire. He has regard first of all to the Trades Hall organization to which he belongs rather than to the safety of our Empire.
– If the honorable member had a flag and could wave it every time he used the word “ Empire,” he would do well.
– The difference between the Opposition and honorable members opposite is that whereas we wave the flag and volunteer, they wave the flag but do not go to the front. The honorable member for Brisbane quoted from observations made By Dr. Clifford, an English divine. If ever a man gave expression to disloyal sentiments in England, Dr. Clifford did so during the Boer war. He supported the Boers right up to the hilt, so that the honorable member for Brisbane was wise in his selection. There were more loyal subjects whom the honorable member might Have more appropriately quoted.
– The honorable member is skating on thin ice.
– It was once asked, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” I was going to ask “ Can any good come out of Adelaide?” As a matter of fact good things have come from that city, and I propose to quote from a sermon on “ National Service and Democracy,” delivered by the Rev. Henry Howard, of Adelaide, who is no doubt well known to the honorable member who has just interjected
– I have never heard him. I do not go “ nap “ on wowsers.
– I do not know that I do; but since the outbreak of the war very few of the so-called wowsers have been left in Australia. They have all gone to the front. I know that many so-called wowsers in my electorate have done so, and only a day or two ago one of the best of them laid down his life for his country. In reply to the quotation made by the honorable member for Brisbane, I propose to quote the Australian divine to whom I have referred - a man every inch of him -
If our Democracy means that there shall be rights without responsibilities, privileges without obligations, facilities for making gain, but none for making sacrifice, opportunities for getting, but none for giving, openings for social self-advancement, but none for special service, then it is a system selective of all the most selfish and unworthy elements in national life, and is the sure precursor of national decay.
A Democracy that is not prepared to defend the free institutions which the struggles of centuries have placed within its hands, deserves to lose them, and lose them it will except it repents. This is no time to sit back and take our ease. The end is not yet. The front is calling for reinforcements: the voluntary system is exhausted. It is now up to our Government to put the compulsory system into operation.
– That is the same old stuff that we have all used.
– I hope that the honorable member will use it, and with good effect, at the next recruiting meeting in his own electorate. What is the position today? We have 100,000 troops in Flanders and must send reinforcements from time to time to maintain our strength there. We have been told in this House that the wastage is 10 per cent, per month, so that in order to maintain an army of 100,000 in Flanders, we must send away 120,000 reinforcements a year. The Prime Minister told us that recruiting had fallen off to 6,000 a month, whereas in order to keep up the requisite supply of reinforcements we must send away at least 10,000 a month. These figures show that under the present condition of affairs, instead of sending 120,000 a year, we would be able to despatch 72,000 a year, so that our army of 100,000 men would soon be reduced by half, and would ultimately be absorbed by the British. The position is very serious. A martial spirit prevails throughout the length and breadth of the world. Other countries, we know, have designs on Australia. The Mother Country at the present time is in need of help, and in helping her we shall be helping ourselves. This surely is as much our war as it is that “of the Mother Country. If we slacken our efforts to assist the Motherland, what will be our position if, when we become involved in similar trouble, she is slow in coming to our assistance? We know, however, that we shall never look to her in vain. Should the Mother Country ever see us in trouble, she will pour in her troops and help us to maintain that which we have won, and which we have a right to enjoy. It is therefore our solemn duty to put our last shilling, and our last man into this engagement, and to do our utmost to bring the war to a successful issue.
.- AsI understand that there is a general desire that this Bill shall be passed through all stages before we adjourn this afternoon, I shall abbreviate my remarks as much as possible. Dealing first of all with the point to which reference was made by the honorable member for Hunter, I think that on the question of finance he will not find any disagreement so far as our party is concerned. We are faced now with a question of paramount importance, and, in dealing with it, it behoves this House to form itself into one united party. We ought to brash aside any thoughts as to whether or not we are going to have opposition to any particular measure. I am perfectly prepared to trust the statement, made openly and boldly by the Prime Minister, that he will call on the wealth of Australia to sustain the manhood of Australia at the front. I, for one, shall help him in every possible way; and I hope that the whole House will support him, as I believe it is prepared to do. The time is not opportune now to deal with the financial question. Every honorable member knows certain facts which are not in the possession of the public, and cannot be ; and on those facts they have arrived at the conclusion that our first duty is to keep the men at the front up to their absolute strength. How is that to be done ? We all recognise that, whatever the Prime Minister may think, or whatever any of us may think on this question, there is a probability that the adoption of the ordinary governmental or constitutional course would have meant a delay of at least five or six months. Such a delay, in view of the serious position of the Empire, is not’ to be contemplated; and I think the majority of us agree that the present proposals of the Prime Minister are the most reasonable and the most likely to lead to speedy action in tha circumstances. What is the necessity for this Bill ? The necessity, as the Prime Minister has said - and I fully share his opinion - is that, whether we like to admit it or not, the voluntary system has broken down. There was no one more anxious than myself to see the voluntary system maintained, and I did my part in appealing to the young manhood of Australia to do their duty without compulsion; but I have been forced to the conclusion that the system has failed. I owe a duty, not only to this House and to the country, but to those boys at the front, who must be sustained and strengthened in every possible way; and there is no other course but to compel men to do the duty which they will not do voluntarily. By this Bill the Prime Minister is throwing the responsibility on the shoulders of the people ; and that is the true democratic action to take. I have always trusted the people in the past, and I am prepared to trust them at any time. The only thing I deplore, and I deplore it deeply, is that, when this Bill passes through Parliament, as I hope and believe it will, the people will not be left to themselves to decide the question without interference from honorable members on either side, from the press, or any other quarter. I believe that the heart of Australia is true, and that the people will act in the spirit which animated our forefathers. I shall not occupy time in any undue criticism of what has already been said regarding the measure. I thoroughly appreciate, though I deplore, the peculiar position taken up by the honorable member for Batman, who, no doubt, only says what he conceives it to be his duty to say. The honorable member is against war of any kind. But so are we ail. I do not love war by any means, and I do not think that anybody loves war for its own sake. This conflict was not of our seeking; we are in the war whether we like it or not, and that is the problem with which we have to deal. I should also like to refer to the utterances of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Only last night the honorable member addressed a public meeting and appealed for recruits.
– And to-night he has to do the same.
– But what result can the honorable member expect from his appeals if he accompanies them with such statements as he made in the House last night? He urged that, because the British Government has not taken action in regard to ship-owners and others who are making undue profits, we ought to stand still in regard to the war. Truly, I cannot understand such a position. As to the opinions expressed regarding the action of these ship-owners and others, I am with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, . as I believe every other honorable member is, no matter on which side of the House he sits. Any man who makes money in that way out of the war ought to be compelled to return it in order that it may be applied to defraying the expenses of the war. But to make the existence of such men, and the inaction in regard to them of the British, the Canadian, or the Australian Parliament an excuse for not doing everything we possibly can to aid the Empire and the Allies, seems to me a most illogical position to assume; at any rate, it is an attitude that will render the honorable member’s recruiting efforts absolutely futile. Then, again, the honorable member for Brisbane takes a most strange view of the situation, though it is a view that I am afraid is taken by a great many others. The honorable member said that the Allies are doing well, and do not require any more men; and I only wish that I could believe a statement of the kind. I shall never believe that the Allies are doing well until they have driven the German monster out of France, Belgium, Poland, and other places on which it has planted its heel. Then, and only then, could I begin to think we are doing well. But what is our duty now ? Are we to strengthen ourselves, or are we to weaken ourselves, at the front?
– The honorable member for Brisbane was making a comparison between the present time, and the time when the Prime Minister said that under no circumstances would men be compulsorily sent out of the country. Then we were losing men on all sides.
– I do not wish to do the honorable member for Brisbane an injustice, but, so far as I have been able to follow his actions in relation to the war, not only in this House, but on the platform, he has not given any aid to our men at the front, or to the Empire, through the voluntary or any other system.
– I have been on the platform with the honorable member for Brisbane at recruiting meetings.
– If the honorable member for Maribyrnong assures me that I am wrong, I am only too glad to be corrected .
– The speech the honorable member made here last night will counteract anything he said on the platform.
– The speeches he made here are the same sort of speeches he has made on the platform.
– He has made some very good speeches on the platform.
– Then, apparently, they have had no effect. However, I wonder whether the honorable member for Melbourne realized what he was saying when he spoke on this question yester.day. Did he think that what he said would find an echo in the breast of any man. whether Australian-born or not ? I refer to his suggestion that we should not fight our own battles.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member said we should not shed our own blood, but should employ Russians to do our work..
– No, no !
– I hope the honorable member will read the Hansard report of his speech.
– I have read it this morning. This suggestion is only worthy of the honorable member.
– And the honorable member advanced as a reason that Russian soldiers could be equipped and kept much more cheaply than can Australian soldiers.
– I did not advocate buying Russian soldiers. I should never wish to buy human life. A renegade like you would do anything.
– The honorable member for Melbourne must withdraw that remark and apologize.
– I certainly withdraw the remark.
– The honorable member must do more than that; he must express some regret for having made it
– The honorable member for Riverina has misquoted me, and I desire to correct him. At your request, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark I made, but I ask the honorable member to quote me properly.
– If the honorable member is misrepresented in any way, there is a proper course to follow in order to insure a correction. When the honorable member for Riverina has finished his speech the honorable member for Melbourne may make a personal explanation.
The honorable member knows as well as I do that it is distinctly disorderly to interrupt another honorable member when he is speaking.
– I withdraw the remark that I made.
– The occasion is too serious for me to allow my own personal feelings to have any influence, or otherwise I should resent in a much stronger tone the remark just made by the honorable member for Melbourne. If any one is a renegade it certainly is not myself, and I have no desire or intention to occupy such a position. I have no wish to misquote or misrepresent any honorable member, and if the honorable member for Melbourne did not in his address advocate, as an alternative to conscription, the employment of Russians, and tell us that their cost would bs less than that of our own men, I shall be prepared to make an ample apology to him.
– That is a different thing from* what you said just now.
– It is absolutely the same. The effect would be exactly the same whether we employed Russians or any other people; they would be employed to do our work. But I hope to God the manhood of Australia is not prepared to call on others to sacrifice their blood in our interests. The honorable member for Melbourne also objected to the removal of the names of Germans from the electoral rolls.
– The names of sons of Germans born here.
– The sons of Germans born here are British subjects, and I take it that, unless they are in a proclaimed district, the Bill will not affect them.
– Will not the whole of Australia be proclaimed if there be conscription ?
– I should say not. We all know that in various centres there are German communities; and it is these which will probably be proclaimed. To argue that the whole of Australia will be proclaimed is altogether beyond my comprehension.
– The questions will be asked in every polling booth.
– And why not?
– Quite right! I do not say they should not.
– We have heard a good deal about pledges; but all of us are pledged, and those on this side of the House doubly so. What are we all pledged to in the first place? Did we not sign a pledge, every plank of which was detailed, and which we undertook to carry out to the best of our ability? One of those planks was the referendum, a reference to the people. The whole of Democracy is founded on trust of the people. Then, standing behind the ex-Prime Minister of the country, we pledged ourselves again to the people. The honorable member for Kooyong dealt briefly last night with the meaning of a manifesto. A manifesto is a. declaration from the head of a party on behalf of the whole party and submitted to the whole of the people that the party stands upon certain principles. When the present Government came into existence war had been declared, and looking into the future, no one could say what might be required in the prosecution of the war. Therefore, the party’s pronouncement in that regard was made as clear n.s it was possible for any one to make it. This was the statement made by Mr. Fisher and subscribed to by myself and every member who sits on the Government side of the House -
As regards the attitude of Labour towards war, that is easily stated. War is one of the greatest realities of life, and it must be faced. Our interests and our very existence aru hound up with those of the Empire. Tn time of war half measures are worse than none. If returned with a, majority-
Here is the pledge ; we on this side of the
House constitute a majority - we shall pursue with the utmost vigour and determination every course- not one course, but every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency.
How. then, can any honorable member honestly declaim against the present Prime Minister because he could not foresee at that particular time the contingency that, has now arisen, and said he would not send one man out of Australia to fight against his will. Such a contingency has now arisen that men must be sent out of Australia if they will not go of their own accord. And the Prime Minister calls upon the people to give him power to carry out that policy.
– And members are pledged solemnly to their constituents to do what the pledge promises.
– That is what I am saying. By that manifesto Mr. Fisher, on behalf of the whole party, gave a pledge to the people of the Commonwealth. I, individually, gave them that pledge, and, whatever the consequences may be to me politically, I am going to keep the pledge, and not, in German fashion, treat it as “ a scrap of paper.” I and the party to which I belong are doubly pledged in this matter; firstly, to our organization; and, secondly, to the people. In addition, every member, before he could take his seat in this House, had to approach the table, and, with the Word of God in his hands, solemnly swear allegiance to His Majesty the King, his heirs, and successors. What is allegiance to the Kang? Does not the King represent the British people? Does not our oath of allegiance mean that when, the enemy is at the throat of the British people we are sworn to go to their assistance? What other interpretation can be placed upon it? I can understand persons outside Parliament, who have a perfectly free hand and are without responsibilities, looking at this question from a different point of view, but we in Parliament, regardless of our political differences, are solemnly pledged before our’ God that we will stand up in true allegiance against the enemies of the people of the Empire. To-day, when the enemy is at the throats of the British people, are we to quibble and say that because certain things have not been done we should not fulfil our duties and keep our oath of allegiance? God forbid that any member should allow himself to be led astray in that way ! The reference of this matter to the people merely involves telling the people the seriousness of the situation. The Prime Minister has already told Parliament and the country what the position is, and I believe that he intends to issue a manifesto on Monday next which will set the whole of the facts before the people for their consideration. Then why not trust the people ? . I am glad that the honorable member for Batman is in his place. I do not believe that he meant what he said last night, but his words can bear no other construction than that he was inciting those men who may be called upon for service to rebel against the will of the Australian people. I am satisfied that when the honorable member reads his remarks calmly and deliberately he will realize that he went beyond the attitude which he desires to adopt. What would be the use of a referendum on any matter if the minority of the people were going; to rebel against the wishes of the majority? Our Democracy and our institutions would be in chaos. I trust that will never happen in Australia. We have a duty to perform, and I believe the people will rise to it; certainly it shall be performed on my part. We had no right to allow any man to go outside Australia with a promise ringing in his ears that he would be supported at the front, if we did not. intend to keep that promise. Our men are at the front. They were not sent there; they went voluntarily, with a promise that they would be sustained in every way. For the first timein the history of the British Empire, the old Mother Land has made a call on her children for assistance. Our earlier efforts were spontaneous ; we offered aid and the Home authorities accepted our offer. But now the Mother Country says, “ My grandchildren are at the front. I have put them in the place of honour. They haveproved their worth, and I wish to keepthem there. I can only keep them at the front as an Australian unit by your helping to send more of their brothers to keep up their strength. Send them along - 32,500 this month and 16,500 in each succeeding month.” An appeal has been made throughout Australia for those men to come forward under the voluntary system, and it has met with a meagre response. A request made in that way by the Mother Country must be responded to, and although no one feels more deeply than I do the degradation that will be put upon the manhood of Australia by reason of there being any necessity for. compulsion, I recognise that compulsion must be adopted. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggested as an alternative that we can narrow our front.
– If we have bitten off more than we can chew, this is a way out of the difficulty.
– If wo narrow our front on one section we have to narrow it on all other sections, and that means that the enemy is extending his front. If he be allowed to do that, God help the Empire! The honorable member said that he desires to win the war, and I believe him. That is the desire of all of lis, but we shall win the war not by narrowing our front, but by extending it. For the first time during this war the Allies are acting on the offensive. During an offensive the slaughter must be greater, and any contraction of our front must be disastrous to our boys and to the other soldiers of the Empire who are fighting side by side with the Australians.
– “Will the enemy shorten his front if we shorten ours?
– No. If we could play the war as a game of chess that advice would be all right, but it is a game of manhood against manhood, strategy against strategy, munitions against munitions.
– There can be a play upon words.
– There is no play of words in the trenches, but only a play of deeds. It is the play of deeds that has won for Australia a name that is imperishable. Those deeds will be continued if we do our duty and reinforce our representatives who are already there. Only by deeds on an occasion like this can an Empire be held together. I wish that I had time to review this war from the beginning, in order to show what is meant by deeds. We have signed a scrap of paper - are we going to tear it up ? We promised our brave Australians at the front that we would support them; we promised the Motherland, when she requested us to sustain and support our representatives, that we would do so. And, moreover, we promised allegiance to the British people. I believe Australia will keep those promises.
– The “ last shilling “ is still being held.
– I have already dealt with that phase of the question. The issue now is not the last shilling, but the first man and last man, and the means of getting them to the front as quickly as possible. This Parliament and the people of Australia will not be so recreant to their duty as to neglect any means necessary to get the money required for the prosecution of the war.
– You know that finance is involved in this question.
– Our parliamentary practice is to take one thing at a time, and the only question before Parliament and the country at this stage is. “ Will the people give power to this Parliament to take men compulsorily for service abroad ? “ If they do, the duty will devolve upon Parliament, as the representative of the whole people, to find what has been referred to as the “ last bob.”
– They have not found it yet. So far, those who have subscribed have found it a good investment.
– You are not in it.
– I want none of your 4£ per cent.
– If two honorable members desire to carry on a discussion across the chamber, they will, if they take my advice, go outside.
– I deplore the necessity for the representatives of the people to advise them at all on this question, because it will lead to a great deal of acrimony. I would prefer to see it left to the people altogether, but, as that cannot be done, I have arrived at this stage - that I know my “‘duty. I have done all I could to keep the fair name of Australia as high as possible by inducing its manhood to volunteer, but I cannot hide from myself the fact that the voluntary effort has failed, and will continue to fail under existing conditions. Some other effort must, therefore, be made. If the people say “Yes” to the referendum, I shall do my duty by keeping the pledges I have given to the people, irrespective of any party ties, regardless of any action taken against myself, and realizing only that I am a representative of the people who have trusted me, with others, to do the best we can for them. My duty is plain - to advise the people to give Parliament, the power to send men to help to win this war, and I shall readily give my vote accordingly.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. If the courteous statement of the honorable member for Riverina, that he did not wish to misquote me, had been made before, I would have withdrawn my remarks even before you, Mr. Speaker, called me to order. This is what I said with regard to Russia. -
It is known that every Russian soldier goes to the front simply in what he stands in; and this Russian officer said that if we made them clothing they would emulate Napoleon when lie crossed the Alps. The generals of that day described Napoleon as no general or soldier, or even a gentleman, but n savage, because lie fought in winter. Russia, however, desires to fight in winter, and the way pointed out is tho way in which we could help her. About fifty Russians can be landed at the front for the cost of one man from Australia.
That does not say that I want to buy Russians to fight for us. It only shows where we would be without the Russians. The other point to which exception was taken was my remark that Australian natives born of Germans who had been naturalized, and lived a good life here, were to be robbed of their vote I had in .my mind the fact that even the best king in the world - our present monarch - is half a German.
– The honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation, and making a second speech.
– Very well; my speech, as reported in Ilansard, will speak for itself.
.- On a subject of such importance, it is not wise to give a silent vote. I hope I shall not introduce any acrimony into the debate, but some of the speeches to which I have listened have pained me, and others have made me ashamed. It is well known that I have been an advocate of voluntary effort, and have followed up that attitude in the most practical way open to me, but, after looking at the matter from three or four points of view, it has come home to me that the voluntary effort has failed. T frankly admit that I am disappointed at the attitude that the Prime Minister has ultimately taken. I fervently hoped, fortified by the magnificent speeches lie made in other parts of the world, and also here on his return, that he would unhesitatingly ask Parliament for direct permission to do what he conceived to be his duty. I realize that he met difficulties that? he little thought of when he first landed, and that those difficulties have been great. I am confident that the Prime Minister thinks the course he has seen fit to adopt is the only one open to him, in view of the great obstacles that he has had already placed in his path, and I want to say frankly that, whilst I do not approve of the referendum, as the Prime Minister has told us that it is the only way to accomplish the end in view, I intend to support him for all I am worth. I am speaking as a representative of a division that can hold up its head well under the voluntary system, for I believe no other division in Australia has responded so loyally to the call of the Empire.
– There is the Darwin division.
– I admit that comparisons are odious, but I am proud to know that I represent a constituency which, under the voluntary system, has sent forward between 6,000 and 7,000 men.
– Darwin has sent half the quota from Tasmania.
– I am vitally interested in this matter, because, while I could not go myself to the front, my eldest son is there, and I know that I am looking at this matter in the same way as many hundreds and thousands of other parents in Australia. We have been feeling our sense of responsibility and affection very much during the past few weeks, because^, owing to the big forward movement now in progress, the casualty lists of Australian soldiers are becoming heavier and heavier from day to clay. This state of affairs demands that the reinforcements should be kept up, in order that our brave boys may be assisted. So much does this appeal to me as a parent, a legislator, and a citizen of this country, that I can hardly understand how any one can adopt any other attitude on a matter of such importance than to say he will support any means by which assistance may be given to our troops. Unfortunately, the voluntary system has failed, and it is necessary to have reinforcements ready for the front. When this proposal comes before the people, are we to assume that Australia will prove recreant to her trust, and dishonour herself in the eyes of the world, as well as break the contract which her elected representatives entered into with the Imperial Government? Such a suggestion is absolutely unthinkable. We cannot for a moment suggest that we should abandon our boys when they are bleeding and dying for our liberty. Is there a man in Australia bold enough to say that the people will adopt that attitude? I cannot and will not believe it. I do know, however, that the Mother Country will never abandon our boys, but will spread the mantle of her protection over them if our people fail to come to the rescue.
.- I do not desire to give a silent vote on this question; and I wish to say, at the outset, that I am opposed to this referendum. It has been stated that the Labour party’s platform contains the initiative and referendum. I quite admit that; but the two go side by side, and, under a law of that character, any person or number of persons could sign a petition to be presented to Parliament, with the object of giving effect to some principle which they believed in. In this matter, however, Parliament is initiating the action, and those who are supporting this proposal are doing so for the purpose of bringing about conscription. If, under the principle of the initiative and referendum, a petition is presented to Parliament, those whose views are enunciated in that petition are expected to support the referendum when it is submitted to them. If I were supporting this Bill, I could not go out on to the public platform of this country, as some men say they are going to do, and oppose the question at issue before the people. That is the stand I take.
– I think it is a right -stand, too.
– When I stood for a seat for New South Wales in this Parliament in 1910 I was asked if I was in favour of conscription, and I answered “No.” In 1913 the question was again put to me, and. again I answered in the negative. In 1914, after the war had started, the same question was once more put to me, and again I answered “No.” I have always believed in the voluntary system; and I say unhesitatingly, as I said to the Leader of the Opposition the other afternoon, when he declared that it had failed, that it had not had a fair deal. I say so now.
– Do you know what it costs to get recruits?
– I know that a large number of people in Australia do not believe in the compulsory system, and they will set their faces against this referendum. If it were answered in the negative, we should then have the worst form of advertisement we could get, and probably the news would be very welcome to Germany, urging the enemy to further efforts. The voluntary system has broken down for several reasons. In July of last year, as the honorable member for Balaclava mentioned to-day, the State of Victoria recruited no fewer than 30,000 men; and whilst that recruiting was going on, the honorable member for Nepean made a number of charges against the Liverpool Camp. So serious were they that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, agreed to the appointment of a Royal Commission; and, as the result of that inquiry, certain of the charges were proved to be true.
– All of them.
– Now that was not the right thing to do. One gentleman came to me and told me of things that were occurring at Liverpool, and wanted to make an exposure of the whole business. I replied, “ Don’t do that, because if you do you will kill the voluntary system. Let us see if we cannot make things better.”
– The voluntary system would have been killed if something had not been done there.
– What I suggested was that honorable members on both sides of the Chamber who knew of the evils that obtained at the Liverpool Cam,p, should form themselves into a committee and approach the Minister with a view to getting them remedied.
– The honorable member for Nepean asked the Minister to go with him to the camp.
– Yes. He did so on the floor of this House.
– What did Senator Gardiner say after he had visited the Liverpool Camp, and after the honorable member for Nepean had made his charges?
– I am not agreeing with the statements made by Senator Gardiner. I believe that some of the allegations made concerning that camp were true. At the same time, I think that we should have endeavoured to secure a rectification of those evils without any public exposure. We were up against it. Then it must be recollected that there are honorable members who day after day ask questions in this Chamber which ars detrimental to our military camps and detrimental to recruiting. When the honorable member for Cook, who was the secretary of the Recruiting Committee in Sydney, made an appeal to honorable, members in April last, and requested those who were prepared to do so to place their services at the disposal of that body, I was one of those who answered the call and who went out and did his bit. further, in December last year, I journeyed right through my own electorate in support” of recruiting. I marched with the body known as the “ Waratahs “ nearly from one end of my constituency to the other. I addressed meetings in every centre, and the tour was a most successful one, as was also that which I, with others, undertook on the north coast of New South Wales. During that tour of the South Coast, I had to pull men off the platform because of the statements they were making. When one is appealing to a body of men to volunteer for active service, he does not want to abuse them. He must appeal to their intelligence, and show them the urgency of the situation. He must not affirm that those who do not volunteer are cowards and slackers. We cannot expect men to volunteer when at the same time we are insulting them. I wish also to say that the Returned Soldiers Association in Sydney made statements from the public platform - I listened to several of them at a recruiting meeting which was held in Martin Place-
– I find that the honorable member himself asked questions in this Chamber in reference to the Liverpool Camp.
– I may have asked one question, I admit.
– And that was a slip.
– I say that honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber are to blame in this connexion. I attended a recruiting meeting which was held in Martin-place at the end of July or the beginning of August, and at which I heard a returned soldier say that our returned soldiers were not being fairly treated. He affirmed that many of the men who belonged to the Returned Soldiers Association had come into the office of that body, and had declared that they were unable to secure employment. He said that he had taken them round to several business houses, and also to establishments where they had been formerly employed, but that no work could be found for them.
– Perhaps they were not unionists ?
– That question did not arise. The fact is that prior to their departure for the front these men were promised by their employers that their positions would be kept open for them. I say that the employers who made that promise have a perfect right to ‘honour it, and the unionists of this country will see that it is honoured. The War Committee in Sydney, some time ago, forwarded a request to the Trades and Labour Council that men who had returned from the front should be taken on as slow workers. That meant that they were to be paid less than the award rates. I say that the man who goes to the front and does his bit of fighting ought, upon his return, to have the best that we can give him, and no employer has a right to suggest that he should be taken on as a slow worker at a reduced rate of pay. The War Committee exceeded its duty when it wrote to the Trades and Labour Council asking that returned soldiers should be taken on as slow workers. Members of the Returned Soldiers Association also declared that many men who had returned from the front, who had been discharged from the Military Forces, but who were not upon the pension list, and who had no work, were desirous of obtaining some money from the Patriotic Fund to enable them to carry on. One speaker asserted that he had the greatest difficulty in getting anything for these returned soldiers, and in many instances their claims had been absolutely turned down. Now, what did the public of Australia subscribe that money for? For the purpose of assisting the returned soldiers to tide over any little difficulties which they might experience consequent upon their inability to resume their ordinary occupations. We asked these men to volunteer, and I, for one, am prepared to again go out recruiting,’ and to give the voluntary system a fair deal.
– Let those of us who cannot go to the war do the recruiting. You go to the front.
– I will go with the honorable member. We ought to have given the voluntary system a fair trial. It has been urged in this chamber that we ought, in proportion to our population, to send as many men to the front as have the Motherland and France. But it must be recollected that Australia is a sparsely populated country. One honorable member, in speaking here this afternoon, stated that if France had only the same popu- lation as we have, and if she had to send her troops the same distance to the front, in all probability she would not have done as well as we have. I am not going to say that she would not- But when we recollect that we have to transport our troops 12,000 miles, the disabilities under which we labour will be at once apparent. We pay our soldiers the highest rates paid to any army in the world, and I have it on the authority of a military man that, if the. war were to terminate to-morrow, ft would be at least eighteen months before our last soldier would be returned to Australia. Our troops, therefore, will have to be paid during the whole of that time.
– An absurd statement.
– The statement was made, and I do not think that the estimate is too little. We shall have to pay our men during the whole of the time that they are away, and I hope that they will continue to be paid for a certain period of time after their return. No man should be discharged until work has been found for him. It has been urged by the honorable member for Brisbane that the men in our Permanent Forces ought to have been relieved. I have spoken to many such men, including men on the staff of the various military camps, who have told me that they have repeatedly, but in vain, urged the Defence Department to allow them to “ do their bit.” Another matter to which I wish to refer is the position of the Area Officers. In my district there are five or six Area Officers, against whom I have nothing to say. But many men doing this work are in fairly good positions, and independent of it. I heard it said before the war broke out that a gentleman in the vicinity of Sydney had boasted that he was making £1,000 a year in addition to his pay as Area Officer of £150 a year. I know a man who, as a sanitary inspector, gats £200 odd a year, and £1 ls. a day when acting as special constable, in addition to his pay as Area Officer. In my opinion, returned soldiers who have done their bit should have positions like this. They should not be held by men who are otherwise well off. It is because the public knows of things of this kind that recruiting has not been as brisk as it might have been, and the voluntary system has failed. I ask leave to continue my speech on Wednesday next. .
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from Hia Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of ibis Bill.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Prime
Minister and Attorney-General) [4.6]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
An understanding has been arrived at that the Military Service- Referendum Bill shall be passed through all its stages by 11 p.m. on Wednesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160915_reps_6_80/>.