6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the Minister for the Navy stated that certain factories, among which were woollen mills, were to be permitted to recommence work on Monday next, and others, I think,this day week. Are knitting mills included in the permission? Can knitting mills, which depend on electric power, as well as those which generate their own power, start on the dates named?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works if he will lay on the table all papers concerning the superseding of private boardinghouses by Government boardinghouses on the East- West railway, and all matters pertaining thereto.
– The honorable member having been good enough to givethe Minister notice of his question, I have been authorized to lay the papers on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Interim Financial Statement delivered by the Honorable AlexanderPoynton, Treasurer of the Commonwealth, on the 6th December, 1916.
Death and Invalidity in the Commonwealth - Committee concerning Causes of - Report on Tuberculosis.
Ordered to be printed.
The War - Submarines- Memorandum respecting the Treatment of Belligerent Submarines in Neutral Waters communicated by the Allied Governments to the Governments of certain Neutral Maritime States. - (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
War Precautions Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 299.
Expenditure - Administration
– Has the Prime Min ister seen an article headed “ How the money goes,” which appears in to-day’s Age, referring to the excessive expenditure in the Northern Territory ? Has the matter been taken into consideration by the Government; and, if so, what is to be done?
– There are two paragraphs in the newspaper referred to. One is headed “ How the money goes,” and in the other there is a reference to the position of the Administrator. As to the subjectmatter of the first paragraph, I may say that the whole question of the administration of the Northern Territory is now under the consideration of the Government. In the second paragraph there are statements which are wholly unwarranted. Last night a representative of the press put two or three questions to me on the subject, but the whole conversationdid not comprise, I suppose, more than two or three sentences. The press representative askedme whether anything had been done during the day with regard to the Northern Territory. I replied “ No.” Then he asked whether anything had been done with reference to Dr. Gil ruth I answered, “ Nothing.” I was then asked “When will anything be done?” and my answer was that something might possibly be done on the- following day. That is all that occurred, and out of that brief interview this paragraph has been manufactured. There is absolutely no warrant for saying that I have expressed to the press any dissatisfaction with regard to the administration of the Northern Territory. That being so, there is no justification for the paragraph as it stands.
– Will the Minister in charge of Northern Territory affairs ask the Government to- defer the consideration of the re-appointment of the Administrator of the Territory until the House has had an opportunity to discuss the Northern Territory expenditure on the Supply Bill?
– The matter will be submitted to the Government.
– Seeing that the English Labour Leader has not been suppressed in Great Britain, I ask the PostmasterGeneral who is responsible for preventing copies of that newspaper from coming to Australia ?
– The question should be addressed to the Minister for Defence.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he is aware that the State Government House advertised in the Argus of 1st November last, page 15, column 8, for two parlour maids at 20s. a> week, forbidding all persons except those of one religion to apply. Does not the right honorable gentleman consider this to be an interference with religious tolerance and freedom, and, if so, will he suggest to the proper authority its withdrawal” or correction ?
– I have not seen the advertisement, but, clearly, if there should be any interference in this matter it must be by the State authorities.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the sale of Australian wheat to the Imperial Government has been concluded, and, if so, whether he can give us details concerning it?
– I regret that I cannot give the honorable member any information, the reason for delay being sufficiently obvious. Those who from the outbreak of the war have been charged with tremendous responsibilities, and have recently been plunged into the vortex of a great crisis, can hardly be criticised if they do not promptly discharge all the multifarious duties pertaining to their office. I hope that ‘we may get the information in the course of a day or so.
– A number of those who were recently called into camp under proclamation were compelled to relinquish private employment, but were promised re-employment on their return. Many of them, however, have now found their places filled. Is the Commonwealth prepared to do something for those who have lost positions through obeying the proclamation ?
– I said the other day, in referring to a general statement on this subject, that I thought that it was the duty of every employer to respect the law and to share the responsibilities under it with those to whom the proclamation directly applies. My view is that every employer should reinstate his employee in the position which he filled when called out to perform military duty. No’ general statement can be made as to what the Government will do when an employer fails to do this; but if the honorable member will supply me with definite, concrete cases, I will endeavour to deal with each one on its merits. I cannot deal with such cases generally. I should have to issue an order at large directed to no particular person. If the honorable member will give me particulars of individual cases, I will deal with them.
– Under the proclamation hundreds of men in business were required to enroll, and while they were in camp their businesses were completely ruined. The majority of these men were not physically fit to enlist. Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the possibility of reimbursing these men the monetary loss they suffered as the result of going into camp ?
– Here, again, it would be of little use to make a general statement. Let the honorable member furnish the Department with specific cases, and I promise him and those who are interested that they shall be fairly considered on their merits.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the State Commissioners for price-fixing have been authorized or instructed to fix the price of butter or other produce intended for export abroad?
– I shall ascertain the scope of the authority of the Commissioners, and what they have done in this regard, and will acquaint the honorable member to-morrow with the result of my inquiry.
– Will the Treasurer be good enough to lay on the table of the House further copies of the financial statement which he delivered yesterday ? No copies appear to be available for the use of honorable members.
– In many out-back country districts the mail services have been wholly discontinued, on the ground that the revenue derived from them is insufficient to maintain them. I’ ask the Postmaster-General whether, remembering specially that many people in these country districts are keenly interested in the fate of their relatives at the front, he will review the action of his Department, with a view to reducing some of the services in the residential city areas so as to allow of the restoration of these country services ?
– The pruning-knife has already been freely applied to postal services in the metropolitan areas of Australia. As to the question of postal facilities for country districts, I have called for reports from the Deputy PostmastersGeneral indicating what changes have been made through their instrumentality, and upon receipt of their reports I shall endeavour to do what I believe to be right in the matter.
– I understood the PostmasterGeneral, as a member of the late Administration, to give the House a hint one day as to the possibility of a reversion to the twopenny postage. May I ask the Postmaster-General whether, having regard to the shortage in the finances, the present Administration has given any instruction for the reimposition of the twopenny postage in Australia?
– The matter will bp brought under the notice of the Government later on, when the needs of the Commonwealth and of the postal service will be the determining factor.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following replies : -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following replies : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Forsome years past, owing to improved methods of manufacture and of distribution and the production of a superior article, also by efforts towards the elimination of middlemen, the vignerons have been able to secure better prices for their wines. The failure of the vintage last season led to high prices, but they have been steadied by the prospect of a splendid vintage this season.
The Government will consider the question of the Excise duty upon Australian wines.
The question of the rate of duty on Excise spirits will be considered.
asked the Minister for theNavy, upon notice -
– As this is a question of policy, I ask the honorable member to postpone it until Wednesday next.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– I have asked my honorable colleague, the Minister for Defence, to look into this matter.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following replies : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Brisbane recently, and informed the secretary that the association was to abstain from taking any part in politics, and must, both as an organization and individually, confine activities to the social side of life, and that the association was to be prohibited from donating any funds to any organization or object?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following replies : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he submit approximately in detail the items constituting economies in public works expenditure referred to in the financial statement?
– I may be able to later in the day give the information required. In the meantime, I ask the honorable member to postpone the question until to-morrow.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the revelations disclosed at the trial of members of the Industrial Workers of the World at Sydney recently, and the comments of Mr. Justice Pring when delivering judgment, will the Government take action by regulation under the War Precautions Act to make this association an illegal organization in Australia ?
– The matter will be considered.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 9484), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That there he granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending the 30th day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, a sum not exceeding £3,293,290.
.- When progress was reported last night, I was endeavouring, as far as my ability would permit, to refute certain statements made during the recent referendum campaign as to the Labour party’s attitude towards, or in connexion with, another organization, the adoption of the slowingdown process, and the practice of sabotage, and to place before honorable members the position of the official Labour movement, industrially and politically, in regard thereto. I stated that, personally, I had never yet heard any recognised official or member of our party, industrially or politically, advocate the principle of sabotage. I repeat that sabotage, while it may be new to this country, is not a new practice. My reading’ on the evolution of the system of production has shown me that sabotage was practised in the Old Land so long ago as 135 years. The men who were then responsible for the practice might to-day be justified on the ground of their ignorance.When machinery was introduced into the mills at Home, the men and women connected with the industries came to the conclusion that it would mean the throwing of many of them out of employment for all time; and, in their wrath at the new methods, they entered factories and destroyed the plant. Honorable members had impressed on them the other day by the Prime Minister the fact that this Government intends, if possible, to stop the advocacy and practice of any system of sabotage. I only wish to say that if sabotage has been practised, we who are connected with the recognised Labour movement accept no responsibility for those practices or for the advocacy of them. As a party, we say clearly and emphatically, that in this country there is no necessity for resort to sabotage, or for- those who do not believe in certain laws to go to the extreme steps of taking human life and destroying public property. If the object of giving such prominence to the Industrial Workers of the World to-day is to do injury to the Labour movement, the people who wish to achieve that purpose will have a very difficult task indeed in convincing the people of the Commonwealth that the recognised Labour movement indorses such doctrines.
– Has the honorable member read the resolutions of the Labour Conference, published in the Argus this morning, with reference to the Industrial Workers of the World ?
– I have not. We are told that the Industrial Workers of the World are attaining to considerable power in America, and that those who have taken control of the branch in New South Wales, where the organization has its head-quarters, are new arrivals from other parts of the world. I repeat that whilst there may have been in the past justification for certain people putting into practice the principles advocated by a section of the Industrial Workers of the World, I am certain that there is no justification for such practices to-day.
– Is there more than one section of the Industrial Workers of the World?
– They have one organization throughout the world, with branches in every portion of the British Empire and in America, Germany, and France. There is, however, a large section of people connected with the organization who do not believe in the taking of human life and the destruction of property. Those whom I have heard advocating the principles of the Industrial Workers of the World have only urged the use of the one weapon, and that was the general strike. I have never heard any of their number advocate on the public platform the destruction of property or resort to violence.
– Did you read the evidence in the Sydney trial in B regard to what was said on the public platform?
– I am quite aware of what was done in Sydney, and I am cer tain that the action of those men in destroying public property and murdering a constable meets with the strongest condemnation of the tens of thousands of people who support the Labour movement, politically and industrially.
– Were those ten men guilty?
– I leave that question to the Judge and jury.
– But what do you think personally ?
– As I did not hear the evidence,’ I could only express my own opinion.
– It is a pity some of the Labour officials did not do that.
– The only point I have raised in connexion with the trial is that when men are standing in the shadow of death, as every man is who is on trial for an offence the penalty for which is death, I object to any man, and particularly the Prime Minister, going upon the public platform and prejudging the accused. I will adopt that attitude in regard to even the meanest cur on earth, for it is a recognised principle of British justice that a man who is on trial shall not be prejudged in public by any individual or the press.
– What was said by public men could not influence the Judge. -
– No ; but it is taken for granted that such comment may influence a jury. The Prime Minister stated also that he and his Government will no longer allow themselves to be dictated to by irresponsible outside bodies, and that the basic principle of democratic government was in danger in the Commonwealth when irresponsible bodies dictated to the representatives of the people in this Parliament as to how they should record their vote’s. In making that statement, the Prime Minister was referring to the governing bodies of the Labour movement, the organizations which created him and his supporters. Let me draw attention to the work which those socalled irresponsible bodies have done in the past for the Labour party and the people of Australia. We boast on the public platform of our White Australia policy, a principle which was debated and placed on the platform of the Labour party long before it was adopted by members of Parliament. I have with me the records of the Labour movement, industrially and politically, practically from its inception in Australia, and I find that, in regard to the proposals for a White Australia, for the establishment of industrial laws, State and Commonwealth, for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, for the Commonwealth note issue, for a tax on unimproved land values, and for the defence scheme, the proposals emanated, not from Labour politicians, but from the rank and file of those irresponsible bodies referred to by the Prime Minister.
– Chiefly from the men that you have now expelled.
– No; not from men who have come into Parliament, but from men, many of whom have never had the honour conferred on them of being elected to a seat in a Parliament, State or Federal. If there should be a reward for services to any movement, industrial or political, and if the highest reward that can be given is election to a seat in Parliament, then I say there are many men in our movement who have not graced the legislative chamber with greater claims to election than many who are in Parliament to-day.
– In those days, members of Parliament were not boycotted out of the Conference or the Executive.
– The right honorable member for Parramatta was a member of our party, but it did not take him more than a couple of years to decide that he would not pledge himself as far as a written pledge was concerned - that, so far as he was concerned, such a pledge would be degrading to’ him, and that his liberty and freedom would be at stake.
– It did not take me two hours.
– But what of the gentlemen who so contemptuously and indignantly refer to irresponsible bodies which would seek to “control them ? It has taken some of them from fifteen to twenty-two years to find out that it is an indignity to them to allow themselves to be pledged to an outside political organization. To-day they feel more independent of the great Labour movement than they did in the past.
– We are pledged, but we object to being pledged without our consent.-
– The organizations to which I have referred have won a place in the hearts and minds of the Democracy of Australia. If a number of men, who may consider themselves the brains of a movement, suddenly decide to cut themselves adrift from it, their action will not stop that movement; it will still go on, stronger than ever, and certainly stronger in its determination to prove to those gentlemen that they were not the movement.
– Would the honorable member regard as a runaway a man who was tossed overboard?
– I saw the “runaway.” It was a case of “Those who believe in me follow me;’ those who believe in the Labour movement can stop where they are,” and they got out.
– And the honorable member for Maribyrnong did follow, did he not?
– According to the press report.
– You expelled them; yet you claim that they cleared out.
– No; we did that afterwards. In regard to the recruiting proposals of the Prime Minister, we are told by those who took the platform in favour of conscription that they supported compulsion because of the failure of the voluntary system. But they cannot justify their action on those ground’s, because it was the magnificent success1 of the voluntary system that made possible their support of conscription. When the Prime Minister returned to Australia, he said, “ We want 11,500 men per month.”
– Was it not 16,500?
– The Prime Minister told us in a certain place that he required 11,500 per month; but, twenty -four hours later, he said that he required 16,500 per month. He told us that the number of recruits forthcoming was not as numerous as the number that came forward earlier in the year. The number of men that Australia can supply is limited. Out of the available medically fit men, practically 300,000 had already volunteered, and been accepted. Yet, after that great drain on the young manhood of the country, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence were of opinion that the number of recruits forthcoming should be as great as the number that volunteered at the earlier stages of the war. The falling off in the number of men actually offering their services was only proportionate to the great number that had already been taken into camp at the inception of the war.. During the referendum campaign, figures were quoted from public platforms for the information of tie electors, but they ‘ were never permitted to appear in the press. The campaign was conducted on lines consistent with the statement made by the Prime Minister on the floor of the House just prior to the adjournment, in reply to a question submitted by the honorable member for Batman. The honorable member for Batman asked the Prime Minister if it was his intention to issue a statement of the case for and against the referendum, but to that the right honorable gentleman replied, “ No. There is only one side, and that is not yours.” In accordance with that view, the people were denied, during the referendum campaign, information which as citizens was due to them, having in mind the importance of the issue that they were being asked to decide.
– Many were misled by gross misrepresentations of all sorts.”
– In the newspapers, morning after morning, we read of the call from the boys in the trenches. In on© column we were told that our men were falling from exhaustion due to the lack of reinforcements; that they were kept weeks in the trenches without a spell, and were, therefore, not in a condition to do justice to themselves. In other columns of the same papers, however, were descriptions of engagements in which Australian soldiers had taken part, and statements of the admiration of eye witnesses including experienced military men, who said, “The Australians do not fight like ordinary soldiers. Every man of them goes into an engagement like a trained athlete.” One set of statements was in complete contradiction to the other set. The Prime Minister has stated in a veiled sort of way that he accepts the decision of the people, but in another place it is suggested that there is a possibility of a further appeal to the people on the question of compulsory military service. But, to-day, the people are in possession of the true facts, which have come to them, not through the newspapers, but in the letters sent from overseas. Every mail brings letters from men in France, on. Salisbury Plain, and in the hospitals in London, and the statements therein contained are in complete contradiction of those which have been made, on the floor of this House, and in the press, regarding the attitude of our troops towards conscript tion. We were told that to win the fight we should have to get a clear majority of from 150,000 to 160,000 in Australia to counteract the tremendous “ Yes “ vote that would come from abroad. It was said that every soldier in France and in England would* vote ““Yes,” and many of the people here believed it. On the morning of the referendum, a. vessel carrying the first consignment of wounded sent from France arrived at Port Mel. bourne. The men heard of the conscription referendum when coming up the bay, and recorded their votes when between Queenscliff and Port Melbourne. Their votes were given openly, and when they got to the pier they made another demonstration of their feeling of bitter hostility towards the Government proposal. The vote of the Anzacs and of the men on Salisbury Plain indicated the same feeling. We were led to believe that our men abroad were suffering untold hardships because others in Australia were not volunteering, but the evidence that has come from the front gives the lie direct to that statement. The letters that are coming daily from the front make it more than certain that if the question were again referred to the people conscription would be defeated, by a majority not of 60,000, but of 250,000. The number of men who had volunteered between the date of the outbreak of the war and the end of September, 1915, was 147,000. In October, 1915, 10,789 men volunteered; in November, 9,674; and in December, 9,307. In January, 1916, 22,688 volunteered; in February, 18,665; in March, 15,862; in April, 9,908; in May, 10,656; in June, 6,592; in July, 6,170; in August, 6,161; in September, 9,072; and in October, 11,522; a total of 147,066. Notwithstanding those figures, we have been told that the voluntary system has failed in Australia. We were told that to provide necessary reinforcements conscription was absolutely essential. Therefore, it was the stupendous success of the voluntary system that justified the advocacy of conscription. The Prime Minister had told his party, the
House, and the country, that under no circumstances would he agree to compulsory military service abroad. But because of the magnificent response to his appeal for 50,000 more men-
– His promise has never been fulfilled. There were to have been 300,000 men sent.
– Since the Prime Minister promised to send another 50,000, Australia has sent away probably 115,000 men.
– The real question is, “Have we done enough?” All the rest is leather and prunella.
– I have always maintained there is a limit to the number of men that can be sent from this country, and I state fearlessly that Australia has almost reached that limit.
– In other words, the honorable member says that we have done enough ?
– The right honorable member may speak for himself, not for me. I say that there is a limit, and that Australia has almost reached it. If further support of my statement is wanted, I refer to a recent speech of the Prime Minister in which he said that men were necessary, but that wool, meat, and wheat must also be produced for our own supplies, and were as essential as the supply of men to the success of our Allies.
– That is not all that the Prime Minister said.
– That is the kernel of his speech. He said, referring to the war, that the outlook was never more black than it is to-day. He pointed out what Australia had done, and what still remained for her to do. Men were essential, he said, for the success of the British and their Allies in this war; but the production _of meat, wool, and wheat in Australia was equally essential. In proportion to her population, Australia, situated practically 13,000 miles from the seat of war, has already raised the greatest and the most expensive volunteer army ever put on a battlefield. Having regard to the great drain that has already been made upon our manhood, and to the importance of maintaining our industries, I am forced to the conclusion that Australia has - practically come to her limit so far as the supply of men is concerned.
– How is it then that there are in Australia to-day so manyyoung men who are doing nothing?
– The honorable member cannot point to many. The majority of these young men are out of work as the result of the coal strike, and a great proportion of them already have one or two brothers at the front. The majority of these men, in fact, are representatives of big families.
– There are hundreds of cases where not one member of a family has volunteered.
– There are sections of this community who do not have big families. It is not fashionable to have them. An elderly gentleman, who resides in the electorate of Henty, recently came to the House to complain of certain regulations that had been put into operation in connexion with the referendum. He is a native of Collingwood, and his father was born in Edinburgh, while his mother is an Englishwoman. When he went to record his vote he was objected to and told to see the chief presiding officer. There was only one reason for this action. It appears that a prominent lady worker who was canvassing the electorate in support of the “Yes” campaign had called at his house, and had been told by him that he intended to vote “ No.” He explained that he had seven sons, three of whom were already at the front, and that under the Government proposals a fourth son would be taken from him. It had been a struggle for himself and his wife to rear these boys, and there were other people of whom he knew, whose boys were being exempted because ‘ they were “ only sons.” He added, “ These people have only one son each, because they have been selfish all their lives. My wife and I, on the other hand, have not been selfish, and although we have three boys at’ the front, we are told that a fourth must go.” As a result of this conversation, this man’s right to vote was queried on the ground that he was disloyal, or on some other pretext. His name is Daniel Charles Collins - a name that is British enough for any one. Returning to the important question of the supply of nien, I repeat that many of the young men now available in Australia are members of families who are already well represented at the front. The parents of these young men objected to their going to the front in the circumstances. There are few families that have not made some sacrifice. In some streets we may find homes in which there are two or three young men who have not offered their services, but these are exceptional cases. An overwhelming majority of Australian and British families here are represented at the front to-day. The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, instead of going through the country and crying “ stinking fish,” should be proud, as representatives of the people in the National Parliament, of what Australia has done in the way of supplying men and the expenditure of public wealth in prosecuting the war.
– What is the honorable member’ going to do in regard to voluntary recruiting ?
– He ought to do nothing; he says we have done enough.
– I am expressing my own opinion. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer, and it is one that has apparently escaped the memory of the Prime Minister, who has made no reference to it since his return from the Old Country. Some time prior to his leaving for England, the Labour party proposed that there should be a referendum of the people in regard to certain amendments of the Constitution. The necessary Bills were passed through both Houses, and the case for and against the referendum was printed for distribution, an expenditure of £30,000 or £40,000 being incurred in connexion with it. At that stage the present Prime Minister came forward with a clear and definite promise from the Premiers of Australia that, if we would agree to the withdrawal of the referendum, they would pass through their State Parliaments the necessary enabling Bills to give this Parliament the powers we desired it should have.
– How could they -make that promise ?
– The promise was made, but it has never been fulfilled. The Prime Minister must know that if he was not tricked his party at least was tricked into, that arrangement, and, while he has plenty of time to spend in condemning those who have done so much for him in the roast, he has no time, apparently, to utter a word of protest against the Premiers of Australia who played this trick Upon him and his supporters. I enter my protest against the failure of the prime Minister to take action in regard to this matter. As to the attitude of our party, I hold it to be our duty to fight the Government at every stage of its existence. There is only one Opposition in this Parliament to-day, and it consists of the official Labour party. We are in opposition, and we should go on continuously fighting the Government at every stage of its existence. We should be increasing in our hostility to it, until it has been put out of power, or until there has been an appeal to the people. If such an appeal be made, I believe the people will once again say that they have every confidence in the great and recognised Labour movement of Australia.
.- We have listened for an hour and thirty-five minutes to the thunderings of this son of war from Fawkner, and I am sure the Government will appreciate his concluding declaration that it is the duty of his party to fight the Ministry step by step until their political death shall have been accomplished.
– Hear, hear !
– Very well. I am not very much concerned with that fight between the two parties, but there should surely be some concern for the country which my honorable friend represents, in common with the rest of us, in these dire days. Not one expression of anxiety concerning the country in its relation to the war has escaped the honorable member’s lips during the hour and thirty-five minutes that he has occupied our attention. Not once has he expressed the hope even that we shall win the war. Not once has he expressed any intention on his part to lift a finger to help to bring the war to a successful conclusion. From first to last his speech was a diatribe against the Government for what they have, and what they have not, done. Never once has a sentence escaped his lips any more than a sentence escaped the lips of his Leader yesterday as to what was necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion. On the contrary, he says that the country has done enough, and that we have no more men to spare. In plain words, speaking for his colleagues, he says, “ We are out of the business, so far as the war is concerned.” That is the attitude which the official Labour party is taking up.
– No; the honorable member does not speak for me.
– I am glad to have this belated repudiation.
– It is not belated.
– I heard no word of protest from the honorable member while his colleague was uttering these sentiments.
– Interjections are disorderly.
– At any rate, here we have the statement uttered, not only by the honorable member for Fawkner, but by many members of his party, that we have sent enough men to the front. These honorable members ought not to engage further in the recruiting movement. It would be an act of hypocrisy on their part to do so.
– I can tell the honorable member-
– My honorable friend said almost the same thing on Friday last.
– Will the right honorable member quote what I did say?
– I am going to give details which the honorable member carefully and studiously omitted to give the House when quoting from a speech made by one of the biggest men in the Empire. He quoted, for instance, from a statement of the Chief of General Stall at Home. Here is the statement that he read -
From whatever point of view you look at the situation to-day, you can do so without anxiety.
– I did not quote that.
– If the honorable member did not, thenone of his party did. My honorable friend quoted at length from the Chief of the General Staff.
– Here is the quotation I made.
– The honorable member for Bendigo said -
I shall refuse to take part in the campaign with men who have stood on the platform and offered all the insults possible to others who were endeavouring to do their best.
– Hear, hear ! and so I shall: I refuse to go on the platform with them.
– Then the question is, will the honorable member go on the platform himself - will he go on the platform at all ? Is the honorable member out for any more recruits ?
– I shall tell you.
– Does the honorable member take up the attitude of the honorable member for Fawkner, and say that Australia has done enough?
– I know where I stand.
– If so, it amounts to a declaration that we ought to get out of the war as early as possible. I cannot find the reference the honorable member has mentioned, but, in the meantime, I shall quote the Chief of the General Staff at Home, as follows: -
Not only have we got men - I do not say enough - but, thanks to the men and women of this country, we have got artillery and ammunition. The army thanks the men and women of this country for what they have done in this respect. We have got guns and ammunition, plenty of the big ammunition that is known at the front as “Lloyd George’s specials.” . . .
We must be prepared to go on for a period of time which it is impossible to estimate. “ Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best “ - that is a good motto. We have yet a long way to go, and we must be ready to go all the way. “ Fight to a finish “ is the order. Therefore, there must be no slackening off. On the contrary, there must be tightening up.
– Has there been any slackening off in Australia ?
– Does the honorable member not know that the camps are practically empty to-day - that we cannot send any more reinforcements until we have recruited the men ? The Chief of the General Staff goes on to say -
More men are wanted, and in due course we shall want all men who can be spared. How are they to be obtained is a question which Sir Wm. Robertson leaves to the consideration of the Government.
It would be improper for me to discuss it, but I am entitled to say that we are not justified in expecting to win this war unless the services of every man and woman in this country are utilized to the fullest possible extent. A full day’s work is demanded from every man and woman, old and young - on the farm, in the factory, wherever you like - in order to liberate as many men as possible to go out and support those gallant fellows at the front.
There is the statement of a man who knows what this war is like - who knows; the necessities of the situation far better than does the honorable member, whose opinion is as a puff of wind alongside this expert scientific opinion. Here we have an authority against which the honorable member puts his own uninformed - I shall useno stronger term - opinion.
– Put your own opinion.
– My own opinion ! I shall follow the opinion of the Chief of Staff; and I say to the honorable member that every man we can spare from Australia ought to be got ready to go. We ought to begin to organize the nation, as the Chief of Staff suggests - a thing we have not yet begun to do here.
When my honorable friend says that we have done enough, and cannot afford to send any more men, I say that he has an imperfect apprehension of the gravity of the situation overseas. He has an entirely erroneous view concerning the duration of the war, and the demands it is likely to make on the manhood of our Allies and of the Empire before we see it through to a successful conclusion. Let me read the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo last week -
No one was more enthusiastic on this score than the French generals; and Sir William Robertson, himself, said that we had enough men to win the war, and that what was required was enough men to win peace.
– That is what he did say.
– I have quoted the words of the Chief of Staff, who says that we have not enough men. I find the honorable member did not quote him.
– Yes, I did.
– There is no quotation at all in the honorable member’s words, which are his own statement.
– I heard him say it.
– I shall take the honorable member’s words for what they are worth, and put them on record. The Chief of Staff has told us that we cannot win this war unless we get a great many more men.
– And women, too!
– He asks that every man and every woman, young and old, shall be pressed into the war service. That is the statement of the Chief of the General Staff at Home, who, I think, knows quite as much of what is going on as even the honorable member for Bendigo, though he has been fortunate enough to go to the front.
I regret extremely to hear the statements of my honorable friend. They indicate at once a change which must be made in the recruiting organization sketched by the Prime Minister.
– Political organization.
– I am talking of the organization for recruiting, and I take it that the honorable member for Fawkner will not set himself at the head of any recruiting organization in his electorate after his statement here to-day. He ought not to do any more recruiting, because he does not believe in it - because he says we have done enough, and have recruited all the men we can spare. I am very sorry to hear these expressions fall so glibly from my honorable friend. This war will not be won until we get a very much greater appreciation of the real difficulties in front of us than that which pervades the speech and mind of the honorable member.
This bears some relation to, and throws a lurid light oh, a resolution which was passed yesterday by my honorable friends’ masters outside - the Inter-State Labour Conference. I do not know, but I suppose that the following resolution was carried unanimously : -
That this conference is of opinion that in the interests of humanity-
Good old “Humanity”!
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing at all when we are at peace, but when we are at war we are concerned only with this little section of humanity to which we particularly belong; the other section of humanity opposed to us we are out to destroy if we can. That is war - the organized violence of one section of humanity against another. What is the use of blinking the fact?
– Lovely Christianity !
– After that gibe and jeer I may go on to quote the resolution -
That this conference is of opinion that, in the interests of humanity, Great Britain and her Allies should formulate their joint demands upon the Central European Powers, and publish them to the world, and thus pave the way for an early and honorable peace.
I should like to ask my honorable friends if they agree with those sentiments. Do they believe in that resolution?
– What is wrong with it? .
– I say that any man who begins prattling about peace at this time of day has a complete misapprehension of the condition of affairs at the war. This is not the time to talk of peace. Let us talk war until the war is over - until the victory is won. We are asked to talk of peace and publish our proposals for peace. We are asked to make those proposals public, and to let the Germans see them, so that “ in the interests of humanity” we may have an “ early and honorable peace.” People who talk in that strain are out of the war business altogether.
– Already 5,000,000 have been killed - let us go on killing !
– These interjections are very instructive. They indicate the attitude of mind of the honorable member and others with him. They indicate clearly that they think that the war ought to cease at the earliest possible moment, and that we ought to get the best terms that we can. Perish sentiments of that kind ! That is not the way of peace, but the way of further war and bloodshed. I am surprised to see my honorable, friend, the ex-Treasurer, laughing.
– I am laughing because I heard the honorable member for Lang say that we ought to sing “ God Save the King.”
– And it is time, when we have sentiments of this kind uttered !
– As I read its resolution, it simply means that the Inter-State Labour Conference is of opinion that “ in the interests of humanity “ - that is to say, in the interests of Germany, Austria, Turkey, Bulgaria-
– It is nothing of the sort!
– The term “humanity” includes all those enemy countries.
– That is your interpretation
– It is not only my interpretation, but the interpretation of” any intelligent man who can read. Humanity includes all nations, and therefore this resolution means that it is as much in the interests of Germany, Austria, and the rest of our bitter and brutal enemies as in the interests of ourselves - that it is as much in their interests as our own to have an early and honorable peace.
– Do you want to kill them all?
– I want to kill the men ‘who are trying to kill us. This is war, and nothing else will suffice in a great international struggle such as is now plaguing the world.
The honorable member for Fawkner spoke of the Government and its misdeeds; and we have seen how a heresy hunt has been set up in recent days on the one question of the nation’s safety, or otherwise. This causes me to wonder, and to ask that honorable member and his friends a question. The honorable member took about an hour to prove that he and his fellows, and their organization, have no relation whatever to the Industrial Workers of the World - that they have nothing to do with them. While those honorable members and their friends were conducting this heresy hunt against the Government - whose only crime was that they took their own view as to what the requirements of the nation were, and what the safety of the nation demanded - did they ever conduct, or have they ever conducted, a heresy hunt of a similar kind against the Industrial Workers of the World in their unions? I should like my honorable friends to answer that question. Have they ever conducted a similar heresy hunt against those men who set out to burn cities and destroy properties? Have they ever conducted against them such a hunt as they are conducting against the Government of the day on the one question of the safety of the nation ?
– The statement that these men are in the unions, and run the unions, was made by the Prime Minister. Ask him the question. I say “ No.”
– I do not know what the Prime Minister said, or what he did, but I do know that some of these men are in the unions. Have my honorable friends ever tried to hunt them out as they are trying to hunt the members of the present Government out’ of political life? Have my honorable friends ever declared war to the death against them, in round set terms, as they have declared war against the Prime Minister and his Government? It is time we asked these questions, when we hear honorable members declaring that their one duty is to fight the present Government step by step to the bitter end, encompassing their political death, if that be at all possible, for the one reason that they believed that, their country required them to compulsorily recruit men in order to secure its safety and future peace.
– Do you believe that ?
– Of course I do; and I have heard no better argument in favour of conscription than the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner this afternoon.
– I would like you to mention one union that includes Industrial Workers of the World.
– One union that has Industrial Workers of the World amongst its members is the Railway Union of New South Wales.
– Do you mean to say that those men were accepted into the Railway Union as members ‘of the Industrial Workers of the World, and advocaters of the principles of that organization 1
– Let us have none of that trickery. The honorable member for Indi asked whether these men axe in any union, and I have answered by referring to one notorious case, in which 180 Industrial Workers of the World were proved to have been in the New South Wales Government employ.
– The point is that they were not in any other union.
– They are in two unions, and you know it.
– There have been forgers, swindlers, and men convicted of all sorts of crimes in the Liberal party, but they never joined the party as such.
– Order! If honorable members do not obey the Chair, I shall take harsh measures, and name the first honorable member who disobeys.
– The only question I am asking is whether honorable members who are now opposed to the Government ever tried to dissociate themselves from the Industrial Workers of the World, and to accord them the same drastic treatment in the unions as they propose to mete out to the Government and its supporters. Have they tried to drive those men out of the unions ?
– Have honorable members tried to expel those Industrial Workers of the World from the unions as they have expelled the supporters of die Prime Minister from the Labour party? That is a question that ought to be susceptible of a plain and straight “answer. I should not have raised this matter but that the honorable member for Fawkner occupied about an hour in discussing it.
– It is a good old bogy, like the Socialistic tiger.
– Order !
– May I call attention to what is taking place every day? During the referendum campaign, Senator Ferricks was speaking at a meeting in the Protestant Hall, Sydney, on the 11th October, and* a voice called for “ three cheers for the Industrial Workers of the World,” which were given solidly. Never a word of protest came from Senator Ferricks. He did not say to the Industrial Workers of the World, We will drive you out of the unions, and fight you to the death/ ‘ He said not a word against them. Now I turn to a report of a meeting held in the Melbourne Town Hall the other night, and which we were told nearly filled the hall. I find this statement from a good unionist, Mr. Frank Hyett-
They looked to the Senate for the repeal of the War Precautions Act Regulations. (Applause.) They were face to face with economic compulsion if a house to house canvass was to he made on the Derby lines under the new recruiting scheme. Recruiting in any democratic country deserved to fail ‘when a war was being fought for the profit of the capitalistic class.
Does the honorable member for Fawkner believe that this war is being fought for the profit of the capitalistic class?
– Why should he be held responsible for what somebody else says ?
– Far be it from me to hold anybody responsible for these utterances but the man who made them. The report continues -
Referring to the “ I.W.W.” cases, the speaker said that the men had not been fairly tried. (Applause.) Any one knowing the facts that preceded the trial could not fail to feel the deepest indignation at the “ judicial murder.’’ (Applause.) “Judicial murder,” Mr. Hyett calls the trial of those men. The same meeting passed this resolution, with only three dissentients -
That this meeting, speaking in the interests of Democracy, demands the immediate withdrawal of the clauses in the War Precautions Act which prevent a free press and free speech, and further demands the immediate release of the prominent anti-conscriptionists who were gaoled by a class-biased Judge, and whose cases were further prejudiced by W. M. Hughes long before the date of the trial. “A class-biased Judge”, committed “ judicial murder “ in sentencing those
Industrial Workers of the World, according to the statement of one of the union officials in Melbourne, I suppose, the trusted official of perhaps the largest union in Victoria. Then may I direct the attention of honorable members to this report -
The following motion was unanimously agreed to at a meeting of theRedfern Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners: - “That we emphatically protest against the brutal sentences passed upon members of the Industrial Workers of the World, as we consider that no evidence was submitted which incriminated them in any way with the charges preferred against them, and we consider that the Judge, jury, witnesses, and police were biased on account of the statements of politicians, the press, and the pulpit whilst the case was still sub-judice, and we further demand the release of these men.
The East Woollahra Labour League went even further, for it protested against the proposed hanging of the Tottenham murderers, and against the sentences imposed on the twelve Industrial Workers of the World men, and urged the Political Labour League Executive and all unions to take immediate action to express their opposition to such severity.
– Have you any objection to these men expressing their opinions in this way? If they had not done so, it would have been impossible for you to make a speech to-day.
– Does the honorable member mean that, in order to preserve liberty of speech, a man is to be allowed to say anything he likes, and no exception may be taken to it? That is a strange doctrine. I know of a whole pile of Statutes which say that a man may not express any opinion he chooses to hold, and under which he is sent to gaol if he does so. He is only permitted to act and speak within the laws of the country. However, my object is to point out that I have heard no protest from the honorable member against the sort of thing disclosed by the extracts I have read. The honorable member has not declared that he will fight this kind of thing to the death.
I should be sorry to believe that the great body of unionists in Australia had any sympathy with doctrines of that kind.
– You do not believe that they have any sympathy with those doctrines ?
– I do not. I should be. sorry to think they had.
– Then why try to connect them with these cases ?
– I say that the honorable member ought, in the interests of the unionists he represents, torepudiate this kind of thing as much as he possibly can.
– Nobody can get a chance with you.
– It seems to me quite inconsistent that, in connexion with the safety of- the nation, a set of men who express their opinions and take a certain course should receive from honorable members, who formerly supported them, the severest condemnation possible, and threats of political death, in all the embittered terms in which they are able to express them, while the same honorable members utter no word of any sort concerning these expressions of opinion by outside bodies in regard to the dispensation of justice in the recent trials.
I have here some even stronger statements which were published in the Labour Call, which is an organ of very great influence amongst the industrial classes in this city. In one of the articles published in that journal we are told that the only crime which those men who were sentenced in Sydney committed was that they expressed unpopular working class opinions. Are these” working class opinions” that the Industrial Workers of the World men have been expressing? Do honorable’ members agree to that statement of the case?
– Give notice of all these questions; they are absurd.
– I shall not pursue the matter any further. I should not have referred to it at all but for the bitter statements hurled across the chamber this afternoon concerning the Government, whose only crime, after all, was that they believed that their country needed a certain course of action to be taken, and they had the courage and conscience to try to lead it in the direction they thought right. Whilst the honorable member for Fawkner asks me to grant these Industrial Workers of the World liberty to express their opinions in any way they choose, he will not allow his fellow members to hold any opinion concerning a question of national importance. He says to them, “ If you dare to express an opinion of any kind on conscription, you are anathema, and all your previous services to the cause of humanity, the unions, and the working man shall count for nothing. We shall bring about your political death at the earliest possible moment.” That seems to me to be strangely inconsistent.
Concerning the industrial question in general, the Commonwealth has a record in this respect of which it has no cause to be proud. There nave been 824 strikes during the two years of war, notwithstanding that every possible effort was made to prevent trouble and’ adjust disputes on a peaceful basis. Notwithstanding all the laws that have been made at the request of the men themselves for the settlement of industrial trouble, the fact remains that they have set the laws aside, flouted the tribunals, and engaged in 824 strikes while the country has been at war. In my judgment, this is all traceable to . the one thing I have been fighting for the last twenty years - the politicising of the unions. It is the political poison in them which is doing all the mischief. Behind their fair, legitimate and justifiable objectives there are these political objectives which are tincturing the whole environment in which they live, and which are leading to all this trouble and unrest. Take the miners’ strike, for instance. Who does not know that the eight-hours questionis but an incident inconnexion with their general objective, which is to do away with wage slavery, as they call it, and as an ex-Prime Minister described it, and bring about the owning of the mines and the operating of them by the operatives themselves, or, rather, shall I say, by the State for them ?
– It was such a large incident that the men went back to work as soon as it was granted, and the strike stopped.
– All I have to say is that I hope the trouble is over.
In reference to the remarks of Sir William Robertson, referred to by the honorable member for Bendigo the other day, the honorable member for Wentworth has called my attention to the Times of the 30th August, in which the following passage appears : -
General Sir William Robertson, in proposing “ The Commonwealth of Australia,” said the part which the Australian contingent had played in the war was second to none of the oversea Dominions. The Australians had done unprecedented work on the Western front and in Egypt. In a letter the Commander-in-Chief said the great achievements at Pozieres had never been surpassed. The Australians had never relinquished the ground they had won.
They had established a very fine record, which he was sure they would sustain. We wanted all the men we could get, not only £o win the war, which with God’s help we should, but to win a lasting peace such as was demanded by the great sacrifices we had made.
– That report shows the twisting that has been given to the remarks of Sir William Robertson.
– I heard him say what I attributed to him.
– In my judgment there must be some change in the constitution and administration of industrial equity and arbitration.
– Howdo you propose to bring it about?
– I shall tell the honorable member how I would bring a little peace into the mining districts. I have put it to the House many times before, but it has been turned down and flouted. Perhaps I may put it again. In the Newcastle district there could be, with great advantage, a Board at every mine, so that when disputes occur they can be settled instantly by men on the spot who know all the ramifications of the industry. I do not believe that any Judge, situated far away from the environment of these cases, is able to appreciate exactly all the details of the situation. Furthermore, these things come upon the men so suddenly. Like mushrooms they spring up in the night. A man may fire a shot over night, and in the morning find the spot a deficient place. When such a thing occurs we want a Board at the mine td settle the trouble, and allow matters to go on peace- Mly.
– Are not the men agreeable to such a system?
– No; the men insist on the Arbitration Court. They have always done so until lately, but now they are turning right round and saying, “ Arbitration is no good.” They are like the proverbial man who said, “Call this arbitration? Why, it has been given against me.”
– The right honorable gentleman knows a great deal about coal mines.
– I do, and it is out of the fullness of my knowledge that I am making this suggestion, which, if the honorable member and his friends had heeded years ago, would have saved a good deal of the trouble that now prevails in the mining districts. I made the suggestion when we were discussing the last amendment to the Arbitration Act, but I regret to say it was turned down, and ever since these troubles have multiplied indefinitely and continuously. It is an easy way of bringing about peace as to many of these troubles which irritate the men and cause these .constantlyrecurring strikes.
Sir, this record of 824 strikes in two years of war time is a record of shame. The real fundamental trouble in these days is the growing sense of disrespect for law and authority. It is useless to blink the fact. When the decisions of the Court are flouted, how can there be any respect for the laws that govern and control us? That is the root of the trouble in connexion with our industrial productivities. If our Democracy, particularly on the industrial side, is to develop as it ought to develop, there must be social, as well as. military, discipline, the laws must :be obeyed when they are made, and the decisions of the Courts must be obeyed, and there must be continuity of employment in this country. If we are to proceed on the lines of arbitration and the :settlement of disputes by law, there must be a reasonably complete acceptation of awards when they are made. The trouble nowadays is that when an award is made “it is regarded as a jumping-off point for another, and there is no end to the matter. lt never ceases. Therefore, there is no -order or security in the evolution of industry, and there is constant trouble, -which hits the man as hard as it hits the proprietor. No employer can make contracts for two or three years ahead, as he should be able to do. This kind of thing goes on. To-day both sides are suffering. I am not speaking for the one more than the other. I am pointing out that we must get at the fundamental principles of this question before we can get back to industrial and -social peace in this country.
Just now there is necessity for the nation producing more and more - that is the great outstanding requirement - just when the nation needs every ounce of its energy and strength pressed into its productive industrial enterprises, when the call is on the whole nation, it is brought up standing because of a dispute which could «nd should have been settled long ago in the mining districts themselves. Our war debts are increasing. Our perpetual obligations are increased. Therefore, increased production is the requirement of the moment, and that just at the time when there are less “men to do the producing. It may be that when our men come back from the war they will be better men for having gone, better disciplined, and more efficient. Let us hope that that will be one of the results of the terrible struggle through which they are passing, and of the discipline which they must necessarily endure while they are away from our shores ; let us hope that it will send them back better and more efficient citizens, for assuredly they will be needed when they come back to help us to bear the staggering burdens of the war. More men and more resources are needed, and the sooner we get down to these bed-rock principles the better it will be for us.
I have been, led aside somewhat because, in order that trouble might be avoided in the future, I felt that I had to answer the points that the last speaker stressed in his speech of an hour and a half. The position in this House is very peculiar. A Government is in power with less than a third of the members of the House whom it can call direct supporters.
– The position is a bit anomalous.
– It is a little anomalous, thanks to the efforts of my friends, and thanks to the political mess they have made of things. Just when we need a National Government-
– Where is the National Government now ?
– The honorable member may sneer at the idea of a National Government, but never was there greater need for the whole of the members of this House, and every other House, to concentrate every ounce of energy on the war problems confronting us, and never was there a greater crime than the declarations that have come from the Corner benches that honorable members will fight the men on the Ministerial benches politically down-and-out for no other than a political reason.
I am glad to see, once and for all, in the forefront of the statement of the Prime Minister that responsible government does count for something in this country. In the immediate past, one has been led to wonder many times as to what had become of responsible government, but, at any rate, in the forefront of the statement of die Prime Minister, there is his declaration of freedom. Whatever has occurred in the past, no more will he permit outside organizations to dog his footsteps in the House on matters which concern no pledge or platform, but he will preserve the freedom that ought to belong to free men, and in facing the. great national responsibilities that confront him he will decline to take the dictation of any outside body or junta.
– “ Tes, Mr. Cook.”
– During the absence of the honorable member for Tarra, I read a resolution which was passed yesterday declaring that in the interests of humanity, which includes all our enemies, it was necessary to formulate conditions of peace at the earliest possible moment. I should like to ask the honorable member whether he concurs with that resolution?
– Put that question on th* notice-paper.
– That is exactly the answer that I expected to get from the honorable member, but he either agrees with the resolution or does not agree with it. If he does not agree with it, I should hope to hear that he has the courage to say he does not. ‘ If he does agree with it, then we shall know exactly where he stands in his new responsibility in relation to this world-wide war. The Prime Minister has said -
The Government, considering that such methods are not only inconsistent with responsible government, but incompatible with the basic principle of democratic representative government - rule by the majority of the electors through their duly elected representatives in the Parliament - sets its face steadfastly against them.
I quote that statement with great (pleasure. To me it is like an echo from past years. The manifesto reminds me of one which I issued twenty-five years ago, couched in much the same terms, though framed under different circumstances. I then emphasized the point that a representative should be a representative, and not a mere delegate or the mouth-piece of outside organizations. This is not a mere technicality or matter of political prudery; it is a basic, fundamental, democratic principle. A member should keep in touch with those who send him to Parliament. He owes his allegiance first to the nation as a whole, and, secondly, to his constituents. I congratulate the Prime Minister on the assertion of this principle after his troubled experiences. No Government can rightly discharge its duties to the country if hampered and hamstrung by outside organizations. No Government can do what it should do if on the floor of the House Ministers . cannot answer “Yes” or “No” to a question such as that which I have just put to the Leader of the Australian Labour party. I am one of those old-fashioned people who believe with Edmund Burke that a man’s electors have as much right to know his opinions when he is against them as when he is for them. But there is something incomplete about the statement of the Prime Minister. Responsible government, for its proper and efficient working, requires not only the freedom of the Administration from outside influences, coteries, and. juntas, particularly in relation to national matters, but also the existence o’f a party in the House, working, framing, shaping, and adjusting its proposals, and carrying them into effect by means of the strength inherent in those who follow them.
As to the referendum. I deeply regret, what has taken place, and the position in which we find ourselves. However, it is useless to cry over spilt milk. The vote has been taken, and the result is that the camps are now nearly empty. That is the tragic fact that we have to face. Those who advocated a “ No “ vote cannot explain it away. There are no men for reinforcements. What are they going to do about that now ? They killed every proposal that the Government put forward. What is their constructive policy ?
There were many incidents which militated against the success of the “ Yes “ vote, and I am bound tosay, militate also against recruiting. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others set out to shorten the line, and they have shortened it. They have shortened it from five divisions to four. That is the result of their efforts. What has taken place is very unfortunate. My honorable friends are enthusiastic over their win. They have won; but some wins are equivalent to failures. This is a win which injuriously affects the nation. I leave to my honorable friends what glory they can get out of the present military situation.
– The “No “ vote was the best thing that ever happened in Australia.
– The vote enables us to see how we stand. My honorable friend and others of his party say, in effect, that they are out of the war altogether, that Australia has sent all the men who should go.
– No one has said that.
– The honorable member- for Fawkner has said that there is a limit to the number that we can send, and that we have reached that limit. What does that mean in plain English but that Australia should send no more men, that we are out of the war altogether ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner did not say that we were up to the limit.
– The honorable member did say so.
The one thing for us to do is “to fill the gaps that are being made daily in the ranks of our men overseas, and I know of no other method than the sending of more men. Important as :it is to send supplies of wheat and meat and wool to feed and clothe those on the other side, we must also send soldiers. It is only men who can fill the gaps in the fighting, line. I should like to see the Government set about in earnest the procuring of reinforcements.
There ‘are some things which I should like to have altered at the earliest possible moment. I am a member of the Repatriation. Committee, which is not doing very much at present.. It is time that a. definite scheme of repatriation was. put before the- country, into which the soldiers;., when they come back, may be- fitted. The sooner that is done the ^better.
Not long’ ago a regulation was issued to the effect that no volunteer should be given more than a week’s leave to settle his affairs. That seems to me a stupid regulation. There are men who could not settle their- affairs in a week, or even in a month. What condition are we in when we cannot allow volunteers a little- time In which to straighten out th- ‘ affairs I
– Hear, hear.
– Now that the honorable member is out of office, he says “Hear, hear” to every condemnation of dilatory and inefficient methods for which the Government of which he was a member was responsible. I wish to remedy grievances so as to facilitate recruiting. The fatal defect in our war organization is that long views are not taken. We have lived from hand to mouth ever since the war began. Irritating regulations are issued from time to time which militate against recruiting, and create infinite trouble and friction. They were promised “during the campaign, as I understand it, an increase of the separation allowance to wives and families. I do not know whether anything has been done in that respect, or whether I wrongly interpreted what was stated during the campaign. Then there is- the question of suspending the liabilities of men who have enlisted, and of those who are already at the front. I hope the moratorium has been completed, and that it will be applied all round as perfectly and as fairly as we can make it.
It has been said that the calling up of our men stimulated recruiting. The fact is hardly borne out. Not 5 per cent, of the men called into camp volunteered to go to the war. One could multiply a lot of these mistakes did it boot to do so. The fact remains that our camps are nearly empty. That is the point I wish to drive home. I appeal to my honorable friends in the Opposition corner to give up this squalid squabble, and ‘ help us to try to fill the camps again. Our main object should be bo fill the gaps, and the sooner we do so the better it will be for our brave boys at the front;.
To win this war, many things will still be needed. I shall indicate one or two of them as they bear upon, the administration of the Government. As I conceive it, we shall have to rely upon ourselves if this war is to be won. We shall not win it by relying on other people, as some of my friends in the Labour party have suggested before to-day. We shall not win it by relying- upon the Germans running short of copper, or upon bread riots in Berlin. We shall not win it by relying upon revolutions in Berlin, or upon the breaking up of the Austrian Empire. We shall win it only when we concentrate upon it every ounce of our strength and all the unity and determination of the nation. We shall break the German lines when we have broken the German spirit - then, and not till then.
And so I want to indicate that the war is resolving itself into a question as to which side can stay the longest. The nation with the greatest reserves is going to win in the long run - the nation with the greatest staying power - and, therefore, we ought to address ourselves particularly to the question of how best to maintain, expand, and develop the staying power of this country.
One thing we ought to do at once, that is to increase our efficiency . in every respect, and to insist upon economy in the various spending Departments of the Government. Saving money is the equivalent of making money, so long as it is done wisely and with due regard for efficiency. Unity in the nation is the great pre-requisite of all. But, if the nation is to be united, what an example the previous Government was setting the nation when in every Department there was constant turmoil, trouble, and friction, week after week, month after month, , and year after year. Every Department is being inquired into. In the Department of Home Affairs there have been two or three Commissions sailing merrily ahead. It is a scandal to this Parliament that such a thing should be going on. The sooner it is ended the better for all concerned. We have seen one member of a Government indicting another member of it, and a Royal Commission being appointed to inquire into the matter, while the Government themselves have remained intact. Such a spectacle has never been witnessed in recent years in any responsible Government. The sooner this is ended, the better. It is hurting the Government outside; it is interfering with the prosecution of the war, and is fatal to economy in the service.
– That is not correct.
– I say it is. This friction in the Department of Home Affairs alone has led to an infinite waste of money.
– The right honorable member knows all about it !
– I know as much about the Department of Home Affairs as my honorable friend does - perhaps a . little more - and a stop should be put to this kind of thing at the earliest possible moment.
During the last recess we also had a Royal Commission inquiring into another squabble in the Northern Territory. Here it was a dispute between two officials - the one making charges against the other. I do not think that Gilbert and Sullivan ever conceived anything so ludicrous as we have beheld here in recent days in connexion with this squabbling in the Departments.
– It is the necessary result of an elective Ministry.
– There is no doubt about it. This strife has resulted in greatly increased cost in the government of the Northern Territory, the Federal Capital, the Defence Department, in our Small Arms Factory, and in connexion with the building of the cruiser Brisbane. Throughout the whole ramifications of the service there has been this constant friction, turmoil, and want of harmony, with resulting cost to all the services. This madness ought lo cease.
On the cessation of this strife and friction, there ought to be a vigorous pruning of the expenditure of all the Departments. Any expenditure that can stand over until the war is over ought to do so. That’ is the principle I lay down. I do not care where this expenditure is going on, if it can wait reasonably till the war is over, it should be firmly made to do so. I hope soon to see something done in that direction. Honorable members ask me where I would begin. I would begin on all our public works. Let anything at the Federal Capital, if you like, wait till the war is over, if it can reasonably be allowed to wait. Take the East-West railway. I speak with bated breath and whispering humbleness of this work, iti the presence of the right honorable member for Swan; but even there anything that can wait should be firmly set aside until the fight is over. In the Northern Territory - I do not know what to say about it, I was going to describe it as a sink of public money - some drastic reforms should be made. Our experimentation has been far too costly. It has been carried on upon too great and lavish a scale.
Since we know, from bitter experience and at great public cost, some of the things we cannot yet do up there, the whole scheme of its government should be shorn down conformably with the work that is left us to do, and to do with some prospect of efficiency and success.
One undertaking that I would not cur.tail is the Murray waters scheme. Every penny devoted to that work will be money wisely spent. I see no more promising repatriation scheme in the whole of Australia. The sooner the Government get to work upon it in a practical way, and develop it, the sooner we shall be able to make homes, comfortable, happy, and smiling, I hope, for many of the brave boys who are now doing their bit at the front. That is an expenditure that cannot wait. It is doubly urgent in view of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Whilst we. ourselves are setting this example, I hope we shall force economy upon the States. I say that deliberately. It is high time we did. If we ourselves are going to save - if we are going to administer the physic to ourselves - then we must see that the States receive an equal dose. We must stop the nonsense that is going on in Queensland, where, with our money, which ought to be devoted to the war, the State Premier is buying stations, opening butchers’ shops, and pushing on with .his Socialistic enterprises. That ought instantly to stop, and there should be no repetition of it. The situation, as I see it, is not an easy one. On the contrary, I take it to be somewhat confused. But if we only address ourselves to the task as we ought to do, and stand up to it with firmness, determination, and sagacity, it ought not to be beyond our compass to control it in a way that will suit the requirements of the war.
For some time past proposals have been pouring out from this Government and its predecessors for inceased taxation. No one objects to taxation if it is needed; but I object to the multiplication of taxes unless it can be shown that the proceeds are to be specifically devoted to war purposes. I object to piling those burdens on the people to keep our ordinary civic administration going. Do honorable members realize the extent of the taxation’ we are paying? Last year our Commonwealth direct taxation, all told, was £6,500,000. This year, if the Govern ment realize all they anticipate, we shall impose direct taxation to the extent of £10,500,000, ostensibly for war purposes, and made up as follows: - Land tax, £2,000,000; probate duties, a little over £500,000; income tax, about £4,500,000; war-time profits taxation, £1,500,000; entertainments tax, £350,000; .and onefifth of the wealth levy, £1,835,000. That gives us a total of £10,500,000 sterling.
– What proportion of that is war taxation ?
– Owing to the accounting system adopted in the Treasury and other Departments, there is no possibility of finding that out. Although for two years there has been a demand from this side of the House for the separation of these accounts, a beginning has not been made in that direction. And so it comes about that at the end of the year we are still without Estimates, and without a proper Budget statement. Here is an increased taxation of over £4,000,000 sterling in one year alone. All the facts - and I regret that they are the facts - indicate that our spendings will not be as much as we anticipated on the war. The Treasurer himself says he anticipates spending on the war £6,000,000 less than was forecasted by his predecessor a few weeks ago. If we are going to spend less and less on the war, why should we multiply these taxes? We* should remember that the money which these taxes represent, left in the people’s pockets, can be put to reproductive use. Until we actually need them for war purposes it is far better, therefore, to leave them in reserve. Itseems to me that they will be needed before we are through with the war. Above all else, we ought not to attempt to waste our reserves as we go along. Rather should we conserve them, holding them for the days of stress and strain, when we can call upon them appropriately to fulfil the nation’s need’s, and to perform the nation’s tasks-
Taking the balance-sheet by and large. I candidly do not see that there is need for all this increased taxation. As to the proposed wealth levy, I have always preferred to regard it as a war charge, and to have it put on the same basis as other war expenditure; or, if something special is to be done, I see no reason why we should not raise a war loan for this purpose, and ear-mark a portion of the direct taxation to pay it off in a very much shorter time. This levying on the wealth of the community is a thing to he done with the greatest possible delicacy and care. If you destroy or diminish the wealth of the community, you destroy its source of income ; and we may not do that to any extent with« impunity.
Just one set of further figures before I conclude. In the three years of war - for I am confining myself to the war period - the Commonwealth has increased its administrative expenses from £23,000,000 to .£32,586,000, an addition in. the war years on ordinary administration of £9,500,000. In my judgment, that is not justifiable. In the States, in the same period, there has been an increase from £4-6,500,000 to £52,750,000. In the year 1913-14, the total expenditure in Australia was £69,560,000, and it is estimated that we shall require this year £85,366,000. The receipts from taxation during the same period in the Commonwealth have risen from £16,588,000 to £22,450,000, while in the States the increase has been from £6,304,000 to £9,150,000, an addition in these war days, from taxation alone, of from £22,S92.000 to £31,600,000. These figures -show to me a condition of swollen extravagant expenditure which is not compatible with the strenuous times through which we are passing. Every effort ought to be made to avoid taxation and save or.r financial resources for the prosecution of the war, preventing the piling up of the enormous staggering load wa shall be called upon to carry; but we have been spending our resources on ordinary administration. We ought to remember the differences between Great Britain and our own country. Our war-time profits tax is down to 75 per cent. - for which relief, I have no doubt, there will be much thanks - but it is still 15 per cent, over and above the tax in Great Britain. Why that should, be so, I do not know. There are, as I say, great differences between Great Britain and Australia. We have no reservoir of vested wealth into which we may dip with, impunity without making the nation poorer. Our wealth here is our working capital, and to take that is, to a large extent, to cripple our enterprises, and make the nation poorer. In Great Britain, as pointed out by a writer the other day, the industrial plant and equip ment is already purchased ; there the railways are built, the ports and public buildings practically provided, endowments for charitable,” educational, and religious purposes have gone ahead - in a word, the industrial equipment is pretty complete at the present time. Here, on the other hand, we have had to provide all that kind of thing, so far as it has been provided, in two or three generations. We need much further capital expenditures to make our industrial equipment complete, and to develop this great, rich, and prosperous territory. In Great Britain, private wealth is largely inherited or invested, or at any rate, it is so to a greater degree than here. As a writer to whom I referred has said, Great Britain is like a household with an income drawn largely from inherited property and investment, whereas here it is drawn from our yearly earnings. In Great Britain, again, the bigger incomes are largely unearned, while here they are, for the most part, earned from day to day and year to year. I press the figures, which I have felt it my duty to quote, on the serious notice of the Treasurer, and suggest that the sooner he sets himself to cut down the swollen extravagance pf all our Departments the better for himself and the country at large. This is unpleasant and unpopular work, but it har to be done, for the nation requires it. As was said yesterday, the nation will net tolerate much longer this double-banking taxation ; something will have to move if it goes on as it has been going on in recent years. We have a spectacle which amounts to a public scandal. Every State has been rushing in to jump our legitimate sources of taxation for war purposes. Every State has rushed the entertainment tax, and increased its income tax. Every State has raked up every tax it could get hold of ; and, being more mobile, because less in scope and. character, the States have been able to get ahead of us. We thus find ourselves coming after them in this double-banking taxation of the people. This is not fair to the nation, and it must end very speedily, or the people, in my judgment, will end it in a way that, perhaps, some of us would not like. I appeal to the Treasurer to take the position seriously to heart, and let us see some real economy, consistent with real efficiency, pressed into the ordinary civil administration of the
Government, and also into the conduct of this war.
Notwithstanding all that which seems to us at the moment to be more or less in the nature of cloud and fog, and notwithstanding the momentary pessimism that may come to us, we are all conscious of a better feeling in regard to the grand final strategy of the war. Shall I say that we are beginning to realize a new, a better, and a different war consciousness? We have not the thrill we used to have, a year ago, for instance, in the pain caused by retreat on the western front - the thrill which comes from being pushed back by superior forces, superior organization, and superior preparation - the thrill that is the result of desultory and unco-ordinated fighting - the thrill which comes from a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, such as arose when the Zeppelins were dropping death and disaster on undefended villages.
– They are doing it still!
– Yes, but only to a slight extent compared with what used to go on. We are conscious of a new strategy to-day, despite all the untoward incidents of the moment. We are conscious of more co-ordination and planning along the whole line of front. We are conscious of the nations overseas bet.ter organized for war, and becoming better organized every day, despite political troubles and untoward political circumstances. We are confident also in our generals to-day. We believe they are “ fit for their jobs,” and will see us through if we support them. The pride of race is revived if anything; and whenever we are in danger of falling into pessimism and doubt, we can always fall back on the unconquerable qualities of the British nation. I see no cause for doubt as to the final . result. We shall win this war, but when, and how, and at what time, depends on the energy with which we prosecute it - depends on our recruiting performances, on our administration, and on the training- and discipline of our troops - depends oh all those things, which mean efficient warfare. Thank God, we have seen enough of war to know that the Empire is not what it was alleged to be a little while ago, a “ fen of stagnant waters,” but that the spirit of the Old Country is revivified, and she is the unconquerable Britain of old.
.- I have no doubt that I shall be able to make the few remarks I desire free from interruption. If the spirit with which the Leader of the Liberal party concluded his remarks were prominent and dominant throughout the whole of his party, the spirit outside, perhaps, would be much better than it is to-day. Statements have been made here to which, it is just as well to apply the test of fact. The Leader of the Liberal party to-day said that at the present moment the camps are empty. But that statement will not stand investigation. ‘
– I said practically empty.
– The honorable member repeated more than once that the camps are empty.
– I said practically empty, and I repeat it.
– The camps are not empty, as the figures I have here from the Defence Department will show. In September, 9,072 men enlisted, and in October the number was 11,522 - more than for any similar period in the previous six months.
– The referendum is responsible for that.
– But do the figures not disprove the statement that the cam,ps are practically empty ?
– Give us the average for the last six months.
– I shall give the whole of the figures.
– How many men are there in camp ? That is the point.
– The Leader of tha Liberal party has made a statement which I say is not correct, as the figures from the Defence Department will prove.
– Before the honorable member goes further, I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Those who are so anxious that conscription should be introduced, have stated repeatedly that the voluntary system has broken down. But the honorable member for Fawkner showed that, during the last thirteen months, there had been 147,066 enlistments in Australia. I have obtained from the Defence Department particulars of the monthly wastage for the same period, and the figures show that in only two months of the thirteen did the total wastage from all causes exceed the voluntary enlistments. The wastage for the whole period was 84,885, leaving a surplus of recruits under the voluntary system of 47,729. It must be remembered also that practically 30,000 of the slightly wounded and ill returned to the ranks, so that the net wastage would be not more than about 50,0’0fl. These figures show that the statement of the right honorable member for Parramatta that the camps are practically empty is not correct.
– It is; how many men are now in camp?
– The figures show that in September and October more recruits enlisted than in any month during the last half-year.
– They have closed 75 per cent, of the principal camps in New South Wales.
– I have no doubt that the reason why the right honorable member for Parramatta made his statement was that of the men who were ordered into camp under the proclamation all but those who have joined the Expeditionary Forces have since been released. On those grounds he argued that the camps are practically empty.
– I made the statement because it is true.
– I repeat that the figures furnished by the Defence Department disprove the statement. No doubt the honorable member’s desire is to show that the men at the front lack reinforcements because those who oppose conscription have refused to send them.
– If you recruit 9,000 men in a month, and send away 9,000 men, how many have you left ?
– The Canadian figures practically correspond with those of Australia for the same reason, namely, that the severe fighting on the western front depleted our ranks for the time being, but with diminished hostilities during the winter, I have not the slightest doubt that voluntary enlistments will mora than counterbalance any losses.
– What about the sickness in winter ?
– Perhaps I had better read the letter which I received from the Defence Department -
In answer to your letter of the 29th lilt., I append herewith the number of casualties re ported each month from and including October, 1915, to end of October, 1916. The totals given include the following casualties : - Deceased, wounded, missing, sick, prisoner of war, nature of casualty unknown, .for officers and other ranks : -
The heavy casualties shown in the latter months mentioned are the result of the fierce fighting on the western front, particulars of the losses during which are only now coming to hand.
– Does that letter state how many troops are engaged?
– It does not, but we know that there are approximately 100,000 men in the fighting line, distributed over a distance of about 90 miles. The Australian troops are not, as some people believe, grouped on the one sector. Some are at Ypres, and others at Armenti’eres, Pozieres, and om the Somme. If the public of Australia are told the exact position, they will be in a better position to judge what is desired of them. Questions have been asked as to what is the war policy of the party with which I am associated. I should like to ask the Liberal party and the Government what their war policy is. The Government say that they want every man that they can possibly get. That bald statement is of no use. The public should be told what, in the opinion of the Government, is Australia’s duty, and. the number of men that we should send to the front. Can the Australian people be expected to accept the opinion of a War Council in Great Britain that we should send 16,500 men per month 1 It is for the Australian people to say what they can do, and what they will do. It is for them to determine what is Australia’s duty.
– Did not the honorable member publicly state that we should send fewer men from Australia, and then the officers would take greater care of them.
– I said nothing of the sort. Combating the Prime Minister’s statement that the more men we send the more will we get back, I said that the more men we send the more will be used.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The Government and those who keep them in power should tell the people of Australia clearly what they consider to be the Commonwealth’s duty in this war. It is of no use to be indefinite, and say that we must ‘send every man. Not long ago, the Minister for Defence said that the men raised under the voluntary system taxed the whole of the shipping accommodation available. The Leader of the Liberal party has been very severe in his references to the party to which I belong, and has asked us what we intend to do in regard to the recruiting scheme. I reply candidly that the conscriptionists have spoilt Australia so far as recruiting at the present juncture is concerned. They have been so vituperative and insulting in their references to those who voted, against conscription - and they have been especially insulting to the working classes - that, in my opinion, voluntary recruiting is spoilt for the time being.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– To the right honorable gentleman and his party, and the Prime Minister, who is one of the worst offenders. To try to throw on honorable members of my party the onus of making a success of the recruiting scheme, which the right honorable gentleman and his party have practically spoiled, is useless.
– The honorable member is against all recruiting schemes.
– That statement is untrue. I shall tell the honorable member what scheme I favour. Australia is being started on a fresh recruiting scheme, just after one of the most bitter contests the country has ever passed through. Honorable members will admit that the time is bad. In the next place, it is proposed to appoint the honorable member for Balaclava chairman of the Recruiting Committee for the State of Victoria. No more unfortunate selection could be made. It is thought that the public of Victoria are so short in memory that they forget the incidents that took place when the honorable member for Balaclava referred to the honorable member for Batman as being pigeon-livered and white-blooded, and he was challenged to go to the war himself, seeing that he was of military age and physically fit? What did he do ? He went to Armadale, and addressed a crowded meeting, and said that he would volunteer on the following day. He got tremendous cheers; but, after making that bold pronouncement, he sought to impose the condition that the honorable member for Batman should go with him. What was the result ? The honorable member for Balaclava went to the Prime Minister, and asked him whether, in his judgment, he should go? Speaking at Armadale, he said -
For five and a half years I held the position of Treasurer of the State, during which time my business went down to nothing, because I devoted the whole of my time to that office. My circumstances, therefore, are not prosperous.
This is the man whom it is proposed to appoint as chairman of the Recruiting Committee of Victoria - the man who will ask others to enlist, others who have not been Treasurer of a State at a salary of £1,200 a year. Yet we expect the recruiting scheme to be a success. It would seem that the selection of the honorable member for Balaclava has been made in order to spoil the whole scheme from the beginning. It will soon be ascertained that he is not the man to fill the position. I am asked what Australia should do, or whether Australia has done sufficient.
– Before the honorable member proceeds, will he say how far his figures axe made up ?
– The figures I have quoted are up to the end of October, and, as the document is dated the 6th December, I take it that these are the latest available figures with which the Defence Department could supply me. There is too much secrecy connected with the Defence Department. In a free Democracy a policy of hush creates suspicion. The Department should publish each month the casualties and wastage^ side by side with the enlistments. Then the manhood of Australia would clearly understand whether they were adequately supporting the men at the front or not. When we get first one set of figures, and then another, they are confusing to the public. In fact, it is very difficult for honorable members to get at the true state of affairs so far as the war is concerned. With regard to Australia’s position in the war, and with regard to what she has done, seeing that we have already enlisted 300,000 men, if the further enlistments keep up the wastage with regard to that number, Australia will have done her duty in this war.
– Does the honorable member say that Australia should do no more than that ?
– Yes. Some people seem to think that if we get every available man, and push him into the war, we are going to win. The contest may be longer than they expect. In addition to sending 300,000 men from Australia - more men than Britain put into the Boer war - it must be remembered that they have had to be sent so far away, Australia’s position being quite different from that of Canada. It costsus twice as much to put our men into the field. Canada’s deaths to August last were 9,000, as against 14,000 deaths amongst the Australian Forces; yet Canada has a population of 8,000,000, as against a population of 5,000,000 in Australia.
– Half the population of Canada are aliens.
– The French Canadians cannot be called aliens in this war. Ifwe compare Australia with Canada in any respect, we see that Australia has done better than Canada.
– Has Australia done better than the number Canada has recruited from her British-born population?
– Why make a distinction in that regard? Is it not as well for the French Canadians to go across the Atlantic to help their beloved France as it is for Australians or those of British descent in Canada to serve in the war?
– I was not talking of French Canadians, but of the other aliens in Canada.
– The right honorable gentleman sneered at a resolution which has been carried by what he calls the “ junta “ of the Labour movement ; but is there anything in that resolution but an expression of opinion that we should like to seethis dreadful struggle ended?
– Yes. It is a formulation of peace proposals.
– Does it not strike all with horror to think that 5,000,000 of men have been killed in this awful struggle? Does not the resolution say that nothing but an honorable peace must be accepted? Did not the Argus say this morning that Mr. Asquith or Viscount Grey laid down terms, so far as Great Britain and her Allies are concerned? Surely there is nothing in the resolution but an expression of the view that we desire to see this struggle ended if we possibly can. The. right honorable gentleman* talked a lot about the stupendous debt that was coming upon Australia. If conscription had been adopted, what would have happened? It would simply have meant adding to that load of debt. Then why does the right honorable gentleman complain on the score of expense? The honorable member for Lang has handedme a newspaper stating that messages from Toronto announce that the country has been deeply impressed by the publication of the Canadian list of casualties, which number more than 65,000. But Australia has had 84,000 casualties, bearing out what I say, that Canada has not suffered in the war as Australia has; and Canada is reaping more benefit than any other Dominion, and will do so in the future. There is another phase to which I would like to draw the attention of the Treasurer.
– I thought that the honorable member was about to offer some suggestions in regard to the conduct of the war.
– For the last threequarters of an hour the honorable member has been giving reasons why he claims that Australia has done enough.
– I have not been speaking for that length of time. Twelve months ago I made the suggestion to the Minister for Defence that recruiting should be based on the Federal electorates, and the Minister admitted that the idea was a good one. Had it been brought into force, instead of the system of running around with lists and census cards, which caused a lot of irritation, there would have been greater success in recruiting. The point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer is the item of £10,500,000 for deferred pay which appeared in the financial statement submitted by his predecessor. Great dissatisfaction is being caused by the delay in making those payments. I have received several letters on the subject. Private J. S. B. Thomas, who is in dire straits for want of his pay, has £57 17s. 6d. owing to him by the Defence Department. In another case a man who has served 405 effective days cannot get his money.
– These cases are not the fault of the Treasury. If there is any blame, it must attach to the Defence Department.
– It is useless to try to evade responsibility in that way. I can mention these cases only in this House.
– If the honorable member will send the particulars to me, I shall deal with the cases at once. I am dealing with similar cases daily.
– There is one case in which I cannot get satisfaction, although I have been pressing it for months. In another case, that of a man who went down in the Southland, it is impossible to get the deferred ,pay. What is the use of requesting papers and further evidence in a case of that kind? Why should money be kept back ? A system should be devised for the settling of these cases more quickly. The present arrangements are very unsatisfactory, and hinder recruiting.
When in France I made special inquiry as to how Australian-made boots were standing the test of hard wear in warfare. The reports coming from Australian officers are that our leather is unsuitable, because it absorbs water too readily. They say that the boots need a stub toe, because now, when they get -wet and hard, the toe sags and cripples “the men. I understand that we pay from 13s. to 14s. per pair for these boots, but that the English-made boots cost £1 per pair. The secretary to the Federated Tanners and Leather Dressers Employees Union of Australia has written to say that the reports that I have mentioned bear out the contention made by members of his council to the Minister for Defence, and to his predecessor, Senator Millen, that the defects are due to the chrome process of tanning. If the English method of tanning were followed, the “boots would cost more, but they would be tis good as the British -made boots. I have drawn attention to the matter because it is of importance. In Australia we should be able to produce leather as good as any in the world, and should be able to pay a higher price, if necessary, to adopt a better method of tanning than that now followed. As to recruiting generally, I hope that the Minister for Defence will consent to publish, monthly, side by side, the casualty list and the number of recruits. The manhood of Australia will then be able to see at a glance whether the men in the trenches are being properly supported. The gibe against the opponents of conscription that they are unwilling to support the men at the front does not help the prosecution of the war. Every man in this country wishes to see Great Britain and the Allies succeed. There can be no question of my attitude in that matter at any time. But I am not going to be bluffed, bullied, and insulted into standing on the same platforms with men who have not the decency to treat properly those who differ from them. The appeal issued in Canada by Sir Robert Borden should be a lesson to this Government.
– How were we treated because we differed from the honorable member and those with him?
– The honorable gentleman was treated as he deserved to be, because he left the party that made him.
– How were we treated before that happened ?
– The honorable member was in a minority, and, refusing to acknowledge the rule of the majority, left the party room. In the game of politics there are only two bosses, the Laborites and the Liberals, and a man must range himself on one side or the other. When a gentleman like the Treasurer leaves one party, he is certain to be received with open arms by the other, but -he should not complain of his treatment by those whom he leaves. He must know that the fastening of conscription upon Australia, seeing that we are fighting Germany because of our opposition to its military spirit and military domination based on conscription, would be illogical. Because of his advocacy of conscription, he and others got completely out of touch with the workers of this country, and they have no reason to complain of the treatment that they have received.
.- My main reason for rising is to make some remarks on the financial statement, but I am tempted also to say something about the policy of the Government set forth in the manifesto of the Prime Minister. What is most distressing in the present supreme crisis is the condition of things hi this House. There is a vicious warfare between two parties, those sitting on the Corner benches launching most malignant personal attacks on the Prime Minister and his supporters. This is in striking contrast to the condition of affairs existing when the Corner party members were behind the late Ministry. The Opposition, at the outbreak of the war, told the Government that it was determined to put aside party politics, in order that the efforts of Parliament might be concentrated in assisting the Government in the conduct of the war. The members of the Liberal Opposition consistently supported the last Government, and have indicated that they will give the same support to the present Government, which, I venture to think, will prosecute the war with enhanced vigour. Party politics are too insignificant for serious consideration at a juncture like this. My honorable friends in the Corner, as well as we of the Opposition, have a national duty to perform, and that is to give the Government their patriotic support.
– There should be a quorum. - [Quorum formed.]
– Our efforts should be concentrated upon the one object - the winning of the war. I ask my honorable friends on the Corner benches to follow the lead of the Liberal party in this matter, and, setting aside their present personal animus towards the Prime Minister, to join us in encouraging and assisting the Government to carry out the vigorous war policy that it has promised. There is no man in Australia who is more capable than the Prime Minister of guiding our destinies at the present time. He is qualified not only by . his native ability, but also by reason of the advantages he has enjoyed in consulting with the Imperial authorities, who are responsible for the conduct of the war. It is therefore due to him that we should pay the utmost deference to the advice which he is giving Australia. The right honorable gentleman has done a great Imperial service - a service which commands the admiration of overwhelming numbers throughout Australia, as well as in the rest of the Empire. It behoves us in these circumstances to set aside all the other issues to which I have referred, and to concentrate our energies in the effort to bring the war to a successful issue. We should encourage and assist the Government in the great burden they are carrying on behalf of Australia. Some of my honorable friends of the official Labour party have utterly amazed me by their attitude. They have forgotten the all-important fact that this is Australia’s war as well as the war of all other parts of the Empire. The enemy would be only toe glad of an opportunity to defeat and capture Australia. My honorable friends in” the Opposition corner forget altogether the danger to which Australia has hitherto been exposed. They overlook the efforts that have been made by the barbarian enemy we are fighting to secure strategic positions in the Pacific, to make provision for a naval base in New Guinea itself, and to lay out other plans for the capture of this rich prize. Germany has long had designs upon Australia, and so surely as the Mother Country goes down-»-so surely as the British Navy is defeated - so surely will Australia become a German possession. That is what my honorable friends are ignoring when they say that Australia has done enough. I want them to realize that Australia never can do enough until she has reached the very limit of her power and resources. While we have done well, we have done nothing like what the Mother Country has.
– We have done better.
– The statistics conclusively prove that we have not done anything like what the Mother Country has. I invite my honorable friend to consider what would be the position if the Mother Country and her Allies had said that they had done enough. If such an attitude is to be assumed, then it means that we must cravenly lie down and permit the enemy to walk over us. Honorable members of the official Labour party cannot blink the fact that we are actually and definitely in the war, and that there are only two alternatives open to us. We have either to cravenly submit to the enemy and permit her to crush us, or we must fight the war to a finish. We can fight it to a victorious finish only by organizing, not merely our man power, but our resources. In this respect we have not yet attempted to face the critical situation with a full appreciation of its gravity. Australia has been carrying on business as usual, and we have never seriously undertaken our duties in this direction. I am not going to discount for one moment the splendid service that Australia has already rendered, and the glorious achievements of our brave boys at the front. But while a number of Australians are at the front I regret that Australia herself is not. Australia can only do what she ought to do by adopting a proper and efficient system of organization, such as the Government now invite us to approve. The result of the recent referendum caused me the deepest disappointment and humiliation. I recognise in it a failure on the part of Australia to perform its duty in the present supreme crisis. We must, however, accept the position as we find it. I admit that a great deal was asked of the people by this referendum. They were practically called upon to conscript themselves, which presupposed a high and exalted patriotism, a high and exalted spirit of unselfishness. I am glad to know that upwards of a million Australians conformed to that high standard.
– And you will get your recruits from them.
– Let me remind the honorable member that this is not a war affecting only one section of Australia. It is a war affecting Australia as a whole, and which appeals to the patriotism . of Australians as a body, none of whom should be permitted to evade national responsibility. It is a struggle in which the honour and safety of Australia and the whole Empire are immediately involved. That being so, the Corner party is doing itself a grave discredit in seeking to discourage the efforts of the Government. The Government occupy a difficult position, since there is denied to them a means of recruiting on which they had hoped to rely, and which was resorted to by every belligerent nation engaged in this war. Conscription being’ denied to them, they have no alternative but to revive the. voluntary effort. In the making of that effort the responsibility peculiarly rests upon honorable members in the Labour corner, because they opposed conscription, and throughout the campaign insisted, on various platforms, that voluntarism had never had a fair chance.
– And it has not had a fair chance.
-I invite the honorable member to join with the Government in giving it a fair chance on this occasion. The recruiting scheme that has been put before us calls for a wholehearted earnest effort on the part of every honorable member of this Parliament to bring it to a successful issue. I am not prepared to say whether or not it can be made successful, having regard to the discouraging conditions resulting from the recent campaign. But the existence of those conditions does not release us from the grave responsibility of doing all that we can to assist the Mother Country and her Allies. I was utterly amazed to hear the honorable member for Bendigo say that neither the Government nor the Liberal party had given any indication of what Australia’s duty is to-day. If he was sincere in that statement, then his ears must have been closed and sealed; but I take it that it was mere pretence on his part. He knows that it is the duty of Australia to stand side by side with the Mother Country, and to assist her to win the war. He should realize that it is our war as well as that of the Mother Country. The obligation cast upon us to stand by the Mother Country at the present time is practically unlimited.
– What about Japan’s services ?
– I am not depreciating the services which Japan has rendered, nor the splendid service of any of our noble Allies. I am merely referring to the duty of Australia. It devolves upon us to put forward our maximum effort. In that effort, every member of Parliament is invited to assist. This is our obvious duty, and one that we dare not shirk. To suggest that Australia has already done enough is to do a great injustice to Australia itself.
– Who has said that she has done enough?
– My honorable friend himself has practically said so, and so has the honorable member for Bendigo.
– I have not.
– I shall be very glad if my honorable friend’s future’ efforts belie the statement I have made concerning him.- I hope we shall be prepared in every way to assist the Government in prosecuting the war. There is only one other matter to which. I desire to refer, and that is the deplorable industrial unrest that has characterized the community of Australia ever since the war began. I had intended to make a somewhat fuller reference to this subject, but it has been dealt with so amply by the Leader of the Liberal party that I shall do no more than say that nothing could be more humiliating to Australia than this disruption of her internal affairs at a time when mighty national interests are at stake. A united effort is called for at the present time, and when we realize that something like 800 industrial disputes and strikes have occurred during the last two years, we must feel that Australia cannot he in dead earnest or fully alive to its duty in the present vital struggle with the enemy. This state of affairs is in marked contrast with that prevailing in the Mother Country. The most recent returns from Home show that there has been there a most substantial reduction in the number of industrial disputes. The contrast offered by Prance is still more pronounced. The spirit of France commands the admiration of the world. From the inception of the war not one industrial dispute has occurred there. This record is due to the fact that the people of France realize that the struggle which is going on is a life and death one; they are imbued with the national duty cast upon them to prosecute the war with all their might. That is the spirit which should animate this community. It is the spirit that will enable us to join with the Mother Country in delivering the knockout blow which, I am convinced, is going to be administered to the enemy. The Empire is wakening up. The Mother Country is rendering great and powerful service at the present time, and I am fully persuaded that she is going to deal the final knock-out blow in this titanic struggle. In this, however, Australia has a proportionate duty - the duty to assist in developing our man service and our resources. It is man power that is going to win this war.
– Where are we going to get the men?
– In “Australia there are thousands on thousands of nien of military age fitted for service, and their duty is to render that service. The recent proclamation showed conclusively that there were many thousands of men. of military age available.
– That is not correct
– You have only to go down the street in Melbourne or Sydney at lunch-time in order to see!
– I can only judge by what was published at the various recruiting places when the recent proclamation was issued; I understand that there are about 190,000 men of military age.
– They are not physically fit.
– I know that a vast proportion of them are physically fit. However, that is a question of fact, the truth of which there should be no difficulty in ascertaining. I am satisfied myself that what I say is true ; and no effort should be spared to secure the services of these men. I” noted with much pleasure the splendid effort being made by the Government to secure our wool, meat, and ‘ wheat for the Mother Country. I. say, moreover, that we should bend our energies towards supplying our primary productions for the Empire’s use. I should be very glad if a committee were appointed with a view to rendering help in this direction. One point I should like to emphasize is that our farmers should be encouraged to turn their milk into cheese rather than into butter, after satisfying all local requirements. Butter is a luxury, whereas cheese is a food.
– Is not butter a food ?
– I should be only too glad if it were possible to supply both to the Mother Country, which has indicated great anxiety to secure as much cheese as possible for the purpose o? supplying the soldiers and the general population. Turning now to the financial statement, I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Treasurer thereon and on the spirit of reasonableness which characterizes it from beginning to end. The honorablemember has, of course, said a great many things- which must be a source of satisfaction, but he has left unsaid a great many other things that, no doubt, he will take his own opportunity to disclose, for I gather from the statement that these are under his consideration. One encouraging feature is that the Treasurer is determined to exercise every economy at his command.
This is in accordance with the people’s desires, and nothing should be left undone to satisfy the people in this connexion. Our war bill is, indeed, a heavy one; and we dare not attempt to curtail it in so far as the money is efficiently used. I am quite certain that no attempt will be made on this side to hamper the Treasurer in the financial prosecution of the war; but there are various matters which he ought to take into serious consideration. While I do not render my adherence to every measure proposed, it would be foolish and disloyal to do anything to embarrass the Government on the present occasion. The Treasurer has indicated his intention of, to some extent, modifying the recent proposals for the taxation of war profits. The all-important consideration to be borne in mind by the Treasurer and by honorable members is that, under vastly different conditions, we are attempting to introduce a measure similar to that which obtains in the Mother Country. The main object of the war profits legislation at Home was to discourage enterprise in all other directions except that of making munitions; but here, as I have said, the conditions are different. We are anxious that every form of production and profitable employment should be encouraged; and it would be deplorable if any measure we introduced had the effect of restraining or discouraging the expansion of industries, and thereby creating unemployment. There is much attraction in the idea of securing a substantial share of war profits if these can be differentiated; but any one who has given close study to the question must see that the measure before the House goes much farther, and if not radically altered, will seriously hamper industrial enterprise, and work disastrously so far as our production is concerned.
Sitting suspended from. 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Before the honorable member continues his speech we should have a quorum. Seven honorable members is not a fair audience. [Quorum formed.]
SirROBERT BEST. - There is something very attractive in the idea of a tax on war-time profits, but if that tax is to be imposed at the expense of our industries, and at the risk of a limitation of production, we should hesitate, and consider well, the terms in which it should be operated. The Prime Minister, when interviewed by a deputation in London some months ago, laid down certain fundamental principles to be observed, and this was the view he expressed when dealing with the subject of double taxation -
Whilst substantial taxation can never be made very acceptable to the taxpayer, it must at any rate be just. The object must be obtained with as little friction as possible, and all persons affected must be treated alike.
I think the Treasurer has realized, to a certain extent, that the Bill in its present form proposes some very striking inequalities, and will act disastrously if permitted to come into operation without radical alteration. In his statement he admitted as much when he said: “ The operation of such a tax in an old and established country where businesses, generally speaking, are of long standing, is not a reliable guide to us in a new country.” I cordially agree with that statement. He said also that the Department had investigated some 300 balance-sheets of companies, and they disclosed the fact that old and established businesses are not affected by war-time profits legislation to the same extent as businesses of recent formation. Those words are essentially correct, although I am not sure that the Treasurer realizes the extent of their accuracy in the proposal he is making. Every professional man is aware of many vast concerns earning incomes of as much as £80,000 per annum - old and established firms and individuals who will not be touched by the war-time profits legislation. A striking anomaly under the present Bill is that an old-established business may have been making 20 per cent. or 100 per cent., or any percentage you like, for years past, and if a new or less prosperous business in the same trade makes during the war 8 or 9 per cent., that is, anything above the statutory percentage of 6 or 7 per cent., the latter is taxed, and the former escapes. I do not protest against the former escaping, but I use the example to show the inequalities created, and the folly of the measure. It is the little man and the new businesses which will suffer under these proposals.
– What does it matter who suffers so long as the Government get the “ boodle”?
SirROBERT BEST.- If the Government are seeking revenue they can get better results in- a much more equitable way. There are many cases, some of which have been brought under the notice of the Treasurer, of new businesses which have had a struggling existence for the past four or five years, and only now are beginning to reap any substantial result. To such businesses the present Bill spells absolute disaster. I could quote many cases of the kind which have come under my individual notice. The Treasurer admits that businesses of this character must be specially dealt with, and I do impress upon him that, perhaps to a greater extent than he realizes, this legislation will work disaster if some comprehensive alteration in it is not made.
– The amendments which I have in view will give relief in that direction.
– I ‘am glad to hear that. I would also remind the Treasurer that the war has brought into existence many new businesses and partnerships, through businesses being turned into companies, or partners being taken in, to enable the principals to go to the war, or for some like reason. There ought to be some provision whereby the profits originally made by such a business should be taken into account in ascertaining the pre-war standard of profits. The pre-war standard is to be ascertained by either taking two out of the three prewar years and arriving at the general average, or by fixing a statutory percentage, 6 per cent, in the case of companies, and 7 per cent, in the case of individuals. That provision is absolutely inadequate, and I would urge the Treasurer, when considering this matter, to remember that the special risks of trade at the present time make it -absolutely essential that the margin should be at least 12 or 15 per cent. If the Treasurer can see his way clear to increase the statutory percentage a very substantial means of relief will be afforded.
– Money is worth 6 per cent, without the application of any energy at all.
– That is so; and in these times of dear money it is not fair that 6 per cent, should be statutorily fixed as a reasonable remuneration. The Treasurer proposes to take for the year ended 30th June last 50 per cent, of profits.
Having regard to the heavy taxation which exists, I think that percentage should represent the limit of the Commonwealth’s claim. Let us consider the cases of the men in businesses which are conducted in Australia and the Old Country. Suppose such a business, after deducting the £200 to be allowed by the Bill, shows a profit of £1,000. According to the present terms of the Bill, £600 of that sum would be paid to the Mother Country in taxation. I understand that the Mother Country’s tax of 60 per cent, on war profits has lately been increased to 77 per cent.
– Are you sure of- that?
– According to . the press, that is so. At any rate, I believe that the taxation has been substantially increased. But I will argue on the basis of 60 per cent., which until recently was the tax in the Mother Country. Thus, £600 of the £1,000 would go directly to Great Britain in taxation. The Bill provides that of the balance of £400, 50 per cent., or £200, should be paid to the Commonwealth, leaving only £200 for the trader or manufacturer. In other words, assuming that the Imperial impost of 60 per cent, has not been increased, the Bill at present before the House will mean that 16s. in the £1 must be surrendered by the taxpayer.
– Does not the English Act allow of some deduction?
– Yes, a deduction of the colonial war profits tax from profits, and; further, according to the terms of the English Act, the income tax is 5s. in the £1, and a Bill was introduced into the Imperial Parliament a few months ago to make the limit of taxation of incomes 3s. 6d. in the £1 where such income was earned in both the Old Country and any outlying portion of the Empire. Thus it was sought to give the taxpayer relief to the extent of ls. 6d. in the £1 in respect of any taxation paid in the dominions.
– But is there no provision in the English Act like our proposed margin of £200?
– The English Act permits allowance to be made for payments made in connexion with excess profits in the outlying portions of the Empire. Even on the basis of 50 per cent, the manufacturer would only enjoy an excess profit of ‘20 per cent., out of which he would have to pay all the numerous imposts of taxation and bear a1’, the risks of trade, which in a war time are very considerable. Many merchants and manufacturers are holding very small stocks because they are afraid that at the end of the war values will decrease considerably. They dare not hold large stocks, and dare not carry on in the ordinary way, or indulge in any large production, because of the risks. I wish to point out how the 50 per cent, rate will actually operate in the case of one company that has come under my notice which is registered in Great Britain, and carries on a large business here and also in London. For every £1 of war-time profits there will be payable -
That is, a total of 21s. for each £1 of excess profit must be paid in actual taxation. As I have mentioned, the British tax has been increased to 77 per cent., but I believe some concessions have been made, and 60 per cent, will be found to be substantially correct. I shall gladly supply the full particulars of this case to the Treasurer, whose officers -may check the books of the company; but, by reason of the 50 per cent, war tax and the various other imposts that have to be met, over 20s. in the £1 is absorbed, allowing nothing whatever for war risks.
– There is not much left.
– Not much.
– Can we legislate to meet cases of hardship?
– But this is not a solitary case ; this is one of a large number. I am merely pointing out that this form of taxation is another screw on industry that will result in limiting the expansion of our trade. The calculations that I have given are based on a war-time profits tax of 50 per cent. If the tax isto be increased to 75 per cent., the manufacturer or trader is to suffer a heavy penalty for the privilege of being, allowed to carry on his business. I am sure the Treasurer never had such an intention. He looks forward to getting some substantial revenue from this sourcein 1917, but I tell him that the result of the taxation will be that it will defeat itself, as the excess profits will not be made. The Treasurer or Parliament should not dare to penalize industriesin Australia as is proposed to be donein this measure, and thus to bring, disaster to our industries. I ask the Treasurer to reconsider tho position from that stand-point. The proposed taxation of 75 per cent, on profits will penalize the most enterprising of our citizens.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that profits will bebrought down by a slowing-down process, and that the people will not makeprofits ?
– If the taxation is to be of the overwhelming character proposed, there will be no encouragement to manufacture and make excess profits.
– But is there not some patriotism left even in those men ?
– They are prepared to pay inequitable taxation. Thehonorable member was not in the chamberwhen I pointed out the anomalies under this measure, and that there are vast concerns in Australia that have been producing for years incomes of from £30,000- to £100,000 per annum, which will not be touched. It is mainly the new and small businesses that will be touched. I have also pointed out that the circumstances justifying the introduction of war-time profits taxation in Great Britain are totally different from those in Australia. It was introduced in Great Britain for the purpose of limiting enterprise and preventing the expansion of trade, in order to divert it into the manufacture of munitions.
– As Great Britain received £80,000,000 from revenue front that source, the firms there must necessarily be making profits.
– Of course; but what I have mentioned was the outstanding reason for the introduction of the legislation. In Australia, on the other hand, we dare not limit enterprise. It is our task to encourage production in every way. I hope that I have said sufficient to indicate that this is a phase of the matter that cannot be too lightly considered. The proposed measure also introduces the undesirable principle of double taxation, which this Parliament and various Governments in Australia have protested against from time to time, so far as the Mother Country is concerned. When the Prime Minister was in Great Britain, a deputation which waited on him stressed two points. One was that income should be subjected to one taxation only.
– The honorable member must not forget that his references are to a measure to impose a war-time profits tax.
– I am aware of it, but the statutory percentage of 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, which is provided for is ridiculous.
– The honorable member understands that companies which were making big profits before the war would escape this taxation if they are not making larger profits since the war started.
– Undoubtedly they will escape.
– But they are not making war profits.
– Exactly, and I am not complaining of this; they are old-established firms, whose profits do not arise out of the war, and whose businesses go on now just the same as before the war. The deputation which waited on the Prime Minister in Great Britain also pointed out that the taxation of incomes should only be within the jurisdiction of the country in which they are earned. That is a sound principle, and I am. glad to see that the British Government, which has hitherto been a little obstructive in that direction, is now prepared to deal with the matter and avoid double taxation. It is most desirable that each country should tax only the income earned within its jurisdiction, but our WaT-time Profits Bill provides for the continuation of double taxation. Not only . will the Mother Country tax the profits made here, but we in our turn will set to work and say that in certain contingencies we will tax incomes earned abroad. The process of double taxation is a mistake. The Canadian Businesses Profits War Tax Act specially exempts all payments made to tlie Mother Country, or to any outlying Dominion, or to any of the allied nations. In a specific manner they have avoided the unfair and iniquitous double taxation which is included in our Bill. I am not justified in enlarging on the matter further, but there are one or two other tilings to which I wish to refer. In regard to the repatriation scheme, I notice that the Treasurer has proposed a modification by extending the payments of the 1 per cent, over five years instead of the three years previously proposed, but I wish to ask him to make further inquiries upon that point. The War Councils of the various States have done splendid work, and although their experience so far is perhaps limited, what they have had has shown the absolute impossibility of spending legitimately as much as one-fifth of the 1£ per cent, of the wealth of the community each year. The Treasurer has indicated that he will probably be able to extend the earlier payments further. I ask him to take into consideration the view that payments should extend over a period of ten years. If that is done, the Treasurer will get as much money as will be required for the repatriation of soldiers, at any rate in the earlier years and the tax will be practically an income tax.
– The only objection to that course is that money might ho needed more quickly than it could be provided.
– I do not think that that is at all likely. The inquiries that I have made show that the amount which will be provided under the arrangement of the Treasurer will be more thin will .be required. At a time when the community is overburdened with taxation, I hope that the Treasurer will se. his way not to ask for more revenue than is actually demanded by the requirements in view.
– I assure the honorable member that that will be done.
– I do not wish to. discuss tlie repatriation scheme at this juncture. The problems to be solved art great and complicated. There must be a plan conceived on a broader and ‘more comprehensive scale than any that has y.?t been submitted. The only other matte” with which I wish to’ deal is one affecting the imposition of income tax. Section 15 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915 reads as follows: -
That provision was discussed at length ir this chamber, and I took part in the dis cussion. As the result of the representations then made, the Prime Minister gave the Committee his positive assurance that honorable members would have an opportunity of reconsidering this matter when we were considering the tax next year. We have now had a year’ experience of this provision, and its operation has been disastrous to those affected by it. Our policy should be, first, to do all that we can to assist Australian industries, by giving them every encouragement possible. Our next duty is to encourage trade with the Mother Country by giving preference, and in other ways. There are on the statute-book various preferential arrangements instituted with that object. The section that I have read, however, is injuring our trade with the Mother Country very seriously. It has the effect, in the first instance, of differentiating between the British manufacturer who is represented here by an agent and his fellows who carry on their Australian business either by employing travellers or by sending out circulars, or by means of a buying house in the Old Country. Secondly, the provision gives a direct preference to foreign traders. The Americans, for example, do most of their trade with Australia either by sending travellers here or by means of circulars and catalogues. Consequently they pay no income tax. On the other hand, British manufacturers who have agents here are taxed. That is a gross injustice. The effect has been that many British manufacturers have withdrawn their Australian agencies, to the distinct loss of this country, because every agent who is doing business here is giving employment, consuming Australian productions, and paying income tax. The section makes agents individually liable, which is most unfair. The British manufacturer says “ I object to paying double taxation. If Australia is going to tax agents, they must pay the tax themselves.” As the Prime Minister promised to give an opportunity for the reconsideration of this matter, I ask the Treasurer to pay attention to the remarks that I have made. I do not desire that he should lose revenue.
– Would the honorable member approve of Australia having the same taxes as Great Britain imposes within her own boundaries?
– Great Britain is bearing the burden of the war and financing her Allies and other parts of the Empire. Consequently, she has to tax her people to an enormous extent. What she has done shows the wealth of her resources. My honorable friend seeks to make a comparison where no comparison is possible. As I do not wish the Treasurer to lose revenue, I suggest that he should levy a flat rate of 10s., or, if necessary, £1, per cent, at the Customs on the value of goods imported, to take the place of the unjust and inequitable taxation provided for in the section that I have read. This would give more revenue, and would remove an injustice.
– Can that be done without an alteration of the Customs Tariff?
– Perhaps not. But what I propose would remove the difficulties and inequalities of which I have spoken.
– I was considering the matter the night before last.
– I hope that the Treasurer will give it further attention, and that he will sympathetically consider the other matters to which I have referred as having come under my individual notice.
.- I move -
That the sum be reduced by £1,000,000. I move this amendment because I object to the Government - which ought to cease to be a Government, as it does not govern - getting into recess.
– It is doing very well.
– Only because the honorable member and other Liberals support it.
– Will not the honorable member let representatives of Western Australia go home for Christmas? I ask him to remember that we have to get the Recruiting Committees going.
– There is no objection to the representatives of Western Australia returning to their homes for Christmas; but I object to the Prime Minister going into recess for three months. He ought to be satisfied with Supply for two months. That would make it unnecessary to meet before the middle of February.
– The honorable member, when Treasurer, asked for three months’ Supply without a blush.
– We wished to provide for the Prime Minister going to the Old Country .
– What about the advances to the Treasurer when the honorable member was in office?
– I shall deal with them later. I congratulate the present Treasurer on his elevation to office, though my congratulations are very much in the nature of the hand shaking that takes place before a boxing match in which the combatants intend to knock each other out at the first opportunity. I should have been glad to help the honorable gentleman a little had he supplied me, as he supplied the right honorable member for Parramatta, with an advance copy of his speech.
– The honorable member for Capricornia, when Treasurer, did not supply copies of his speech to every honorable member.
– Every honorable member was supplied with a copy of my financial statement directly I rose to deliver it.
– The same precedure was followed on this occasion.
– No. The Treasurer had a number of copies of his speech printed, and supplied the Leader of the Opposition ‘with two in advance, one for himself, and the other for the right honorable member for Swan.
– That is incorrect, as I have already told the honorable member.
– The Treasurer told me that, as was customary, he had supplied copies of his speech to certain honorable members. That was a week ago. I was careful not to allow any copies of my speech to leave my possession until I rose to address the Committee; but the Leader of the Opposition and a former Treasurer - the right honorable member for Swan - obtained copies of the present Treasurer’s financial statement a week ago.
– Copies were distributed within ten minutes of my entering the chamber.
– Why was I not supplied with a copy?
– No copy was supplied to ex-Treasurers. I followed what was the usual practice until the honorable member took office.
– It was not the practice followed by me. The honorable gentleman may not have intended to supply a copy of his statement to the right honorable member for Swan, but I saw a copy handed to him by the Leader of the Opposition, who retained a second copy for himself.
– Only one copy was supplied to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Treasurer will gain nothing by his failure to extend this courtesy to me. Had I been supplied with a copy of his financial statement at the same time as the Leader of the Opposition, I might have been able to assist him in the remarks I am about to make. The honorable gentleman has seen fit to reduce my estimate of revenue from the war-time profits tax. Instead of the 100 per cent. that we proposed to take, he intends to take only 75 per cent. of war profits. The present Prime Minister was in favour of the original proposal, and, as far as I know, the present Treasurer also approved of it. What is the reason for the alteration ?
– It is part of the price which the Government have to pay for the support of the Liberal party.
– Quite so, and I venture to say that when theBill is brought down the percentage of war-time profits proposed to be taken will be still further reduced as soon as members of the Liberal party enter a protest. The Treasurer, in fact; will be quite prepared to accept any reduction proposed by the Liberal party. In attempting to estimate the revenue to be derived from the War-time Profits Bill, one is merely groping in the dark.
I would invite the attention of financial companies to the speech made this evening by the honorable member for Kooyong, who complained that certain companies which had been in existence for twenty years, and were earning from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, per annum, were to escape the war-time profits tax.
– I did not complain. I merely stated the fact.
– The honorable member for Kooyong apparently is unable to understand why such companies have been exempted. The reason is that those who have been purchasing their shares during the last ten or fifteen years have been paying such a high price for them, that they only return 5 or 6 per cent, on the money invested, although they are paying dividends as high as 20 per cent. Why should the honorable member for Kooyong object to those companies escaping?
– I did not object.
– I invite the honorable member’s constituents to read his speech.
– I hope they will understand it. The honorable member does not seem to have done so.
– The Treasurer also intends to exempt gold-mining companies from this war-time profits taxation.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– I am quite in favour of the section in the Income Tax Act, which takes into consideration the life of a. mine, being applied to gold-mining companies under the war-time profits taxation scheme; but where a goldmining company, during war time, is making more than the usual profits, why should it not pay the war-time profits taxation the .same as any other company will have to do? I think we all approve of the exemption of the agricultural industry. The lot of the farmer should be made as happy as possible.
– By means of the land tax imposed by the Labour Government!
– The land tax does not affect the bond fide fanner. Those who have read the lecture recently delivered by a Director of Agriculture, in which he dwelt on the drift of population towards our big cities, will realize that the lot of the farmer cannot be as happy as it ought to be; otherwise, such a drift would not be setting in. We should make the lot of the farmer as pleasant and profitable as possible.
There are some honorable members, however, who would go further, and exempt the pastoral industry. While some pastoralists in the droughtstricken areas have been hit severely, there are many, particularly those who are shareholders in the big companies, who have been making huge profits on account of the increase in the price of wool since the outbreak of the war.
– Who suggested that they should be exempt? No such suggestion has been made in this House.
– Am I to understand, then, that the Leader of the Liberal party does not desire to exempt the pastoral industry ?
– I know nothing about it. Give notice of that question.
– I would exempt all primary industries.
– The Leader of the Liberal party was never in better ford as a mud-slinger than he was this afternoon. He did his utmost, with the very extensive vocabulary of objectionable epi«thet at his command, to associate the parliamentary Labour party with the Industrial Workers of the World.
– I did not.
– Then, what was the object of the right honorable member’s questions to the honorable member for Fawkner in regard to the Industrial Workers of the World? While that honorable member was speaking, a member of the Liberal party interjected that he had given three cheers for the Industrial Workers of the World. That interjection, which was reported in this morning’s issue of the Argus, was a vicious slander, and will do the honorable member for
Fawkner some harm until he is able to reach the ears of his constituents.
Was it fair for the honorable member for Richmond to make such an assertion? I am convinced that the honorable member for Fawkner has never approved of the methods of certain members of the Industrial Workers of the World, who, apparently, have been encouraging people to burn down buildings, while others have been convicted even of murder.
I read recently of a case in which a man in the Parramatta electorate was convicted of burglary, but I have not heard the Leader of the Liberal party denounce his crime. Why does he not denounce the various crimes of forgery and uttering which have been committed? Why does he not denounce Lucretia Borgia and other poisoners? He makes no reply, and I invite members of my party to treat in the same way the questions that he puts to them. 1
– Would I do any good by denouncing Lucretia Borgia?
– ‘No; but because the members of our party do not denounce every individual crime, the right honorable member would have the public believe that we fail in our duty as a public party. The Leader of the Liberal party knows that not one member of our party belongs to the Industrial Workers of the World, or desires to be associated in any way with those who have been suggesting to the workers outside that they should resort to sabotage, or the destruction of machinery and buildings. In my own electorate I have been subjected to attacks on the part of members of the Industrial Workers of the World. One member of that organization at Mount Chalmers, another at Mount Morgan, and still another at Many Peaks, did his level best to interrupt my meetings, and, as a matter of fact, to take away votes from me. The Industrial Workers of the World, of whom I do not suppose there were more than half-a-dozen in the whole electorate of Capricornia, objected to my representing the district because they do not believe in political methods, but in what they call “direct action.” The Labour party, on the other hand, believes in political methods; and I explained to these gentlemen that if we could not educate people to put a piece of paper into a ballot-box in favour of reform, we could not “hope to induce them to take up arms with that object.
However, it is time I got back to the question of Supply, although the honorable member for Parramatta spent nearly an hour in talking about the Industrial Workers of the World. The fact is that that honorable member was out with his paint pot, or tar brush, to try to blacken the party to which I belong.
– I merely wished to know why you do not go heresy hunting after the Industrial Workers of the World, as we’ll as here.
– If ever there was a time when the Leader of the Opposition should have fulfilled his proper function it was to-night in criticising the proposals of the Treasurer. .
– It is evident that you did not hear all I said.
– I heard something of what the honorable member said, but his criticism was of such a weak character - so well watered down - that I venture to say he will not avail himself of the power which he has not possessed for six years or thereabouts, but which he now possesses, of turning the Government out if it does not do as he tells it. What business is there in the programme of the Government? They propose, if they can, to go into recess until next Mardi, when they will have enough money to carry them on till April.- When will they introduce their programme of legislation ? In April we shall have to be preparing for a general election.”
– What prevented you from bringing in the Budget?
– And do not forget that you got three months’ Supply.
– As the honorable gentleman knows, we got three months’ Supply because the Prime Minister desired to go to the Old Country. The Prime Minister felt, and rightly, that he ought to be in his place here when we dealt with such measures as the War-time Profits Bill.
– That Government had some right to be in office, whereas the present one has not.
– Quite so. The Treasurer estimates that £400,000 will be received under the War-time Profits Bill in 1915-16, and £700,000 in the following year ; but by the time the Bill is through, if ever it is, two years will have elapsed.
– A good deal of that is your fault; you were a good while in office .
– We were awaiting the Prime Minister, who went to the° Old Country for four months, and was away, I think, seven months.
– Perhaps he wishes to go away again !
– Perhaps so, though I dare say some objection would be raised by the Leader of the Opposition, who has not had a trip for some years; and I believe we should be very glad to give him one.
The proposed levy for repatriation purposes met with a good deal of criticism outside; it was referred to as a hurried measure, as indeed it was. But who was responsible for the hurry? Not the ex-Treasurer. The Treasurer cannot be Prime Minister as well as Treasurer, and that Minister must have some say. The Prime Minister was in favour of this levy; in fact, I do not suppose he would deny that it was his proposal. Why is he now running away from it? Is it. because there are only thirteen members of his party in the House, and he fears the Opposition? As Treasurer, T said we would consider the proposal, which was .brought in in a hurry, because the Prime Minister, as he always is, was in a hurry. The proposal was not approved by the Government until half-an-hour before the House met on the day on which it was introduced; and the financial statement had to be delivered within two hours afterwards. In fact, about the time the House was meeting I was reading over the financial statement in type at the Government Printing Office, in order to expedite matters for the convenience of honorable members.
– A well-considered proposal !
– Nobody said the proposal was well considered; and as soon as it had been introduced we said that it would be considered after the referendum. Having now had time to consider, the proposal, I agree with the Treasurer that it is not necessary to raise such a large sun] of money. In another six months time there will be £10,500,000 due to soldiers in deferred pay, and that amongst 250,000 men means about £40 each.
– That will not have to be paid all at once.
– But if the whole of the men wanted the money that is what it would amount to. There is no doubt that all our soldiers will not require help, because many of them are men of means; and, therefore, I do not see any reason for anything like the levy that was proposed when we met on the last occasion.
– Do you not think that the repatriation will cost more than £10,000,000 ?
– It may, but it will not be required so speedily as, six months ago, we proposed it should be obtained.
– If we “pull out” of the war, will it not?
– I would rather not reply to any of the honorable gentleman’s interjections, because that might lead to some heat, and I have no desire to quarrel, with him. There is no doubt that the suggestion that we should levy on war bonds led to a depreciation in the value of the stock. My statement, as Treasurer, was delivered on 26th September, and the value of the stock dropped from £99 17s. 6d. to £99 5s. on the loth December. No doubt that drop was, to some extent, due to the proposed levy. I know that the honorable member for Parkes was very much concerned on this point, but I am not aware whether he put any of his own stock on the market in consequence.
– The quotations are no better to-day after the present Treasurer’s statement.
– But the bonds are at a much better price to-day than at the time ° I speak of. It is possible that the reduction in the value of the stock is to some extent due to the fact that a great many people, in response to appeals made, took up more than they could really afford, and may have been compelled to realize.
However, that may be, I wish now to express the opinion that the Repatriation Fund ought to be administered by the Government - that it ought to be a Government scheme throughout. We have in. the Service officers who are well trained in the distribution of assistance, seeing that there are war pensions and old-age pensions now paid. Under the circumstances, we ought to be able to get in the Government Departments trained officers capable of administering such a fund.
– Would - you not take the advice of local committees?
– The trustees of the fund are scattered throughout the Commonwealth, and in all probability they may never meet more than once a year, so that inevitably the fund must be administered by one or two men whose training, I venture to say, cannot be equal to those officers already in the Service. I do not wish to be hypercritical, but I should like to know what Mr. Gilbert knows of this kind of business. He is a very good newspaper man, but I am not satisfied that he knows much about the administration of a fund raised for such a purpose. I hope the Government will take the business in hand, so that if anything goes wrong we may be able to come, here and criticise the Minister and his- officers. As to the Treasurer’s appeal for economy, I have no doubt that he did as I did, and as I suppose, .every Treasurer does, asked the heads of Departments if anything could be done to cut down expenditure. But it is not so easy to cut down expenses; and the Treasurer may do a great deal of harm if he adopts the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in this regard. I believe one of the honorable gentleman’s brilliant suggestions was to abolish the Public Works Committee.
– You must have been dreaming !
-I shall withdraw the statement if that is not so. I understood the right honorable member “for Parramatta to propose that expenditure should be cut to the very bone. If that were done, what would happen ? Suppose the Postmaster-General agreed to stop postal works of every kind-
– I cannot get a post office that is badly needed in my district, although I have been trying for months.
– The constituents of the honorable member ought to remember that they get two mail deliveries a day, whereas many people outback do not get a mail more than, perhaps, once a month. If the Postmaster-General starts to cut down expenditure, as the Leader of the Liberal party has suggested, he will require to discharge a number of skilled workmen, and scatter them to the four winds of heaven. These men are accustomed to a special class of work, which cannot be done by men who have not had a certain training. The PostmasterGeneral might have a difficulty in getting those men back again when he required them. I ask the right honorable member for Parramatta if there would be any advantage in throwing such men upon the unemployed market ? Would that help to win the war? Everybody must admit that there has been an increase in ordinary expenditure in all Departments, but the public and critics must remember that the Government, as well as every private employer and individual, has had to suffer through the increased prices of all kinds of goods and services. In that way the ordinary expenditure is swelled. The activities of the Departments, too, have been increased. For example, to the Treasury has been added control of war pensions, and that work requires not only an increase in the expenditure for pensions, but also an increased payment for the wages of the staff. The income tax, also, is new, and a considerable number of officers is employed in the Taxation Department. The control of capital entails a little additional labour.
– A considerable increase of staff will be required in connexion with the taxation of war profits.
– That is so, although I doubt whether the proposed legislation will be passed. The interest bill has increased from £250,000 in 1914 to an estimated amount of £6,500,000 for the current financial year.
To the Prime Minister’s Department has been added the control of metals and the wheat transactions, not to mention the extra work which the Prime Minister has been doing in connexion with, the military service referendum.
Quite a number of new duties has been imposed upon the Customs Department, including the purchase of goods for other Governments and the employment of officers abroad in doing Customs, work. In the External Affairs Department there is a good deal of extra work, and the Department of the AttorneyGeneral has to cope with all the labour connected with the prevention of enemy trading and the prosecutions therefor.
There are fundamental difficulties in the way of economy in the public expenditure, both State and Federal, and to reach bedrock one must get down to the land question. When travelling through the country one sees alongside the railway lines thousands of acres of land unoccupied and producing nothing whatever, but held by the owners for the purpose of speculation. If ever the Federal and State Governments are obliged to curtail public expenditure, we shall have to adopt some form of taxation which will compel the owners of land abutting on railways to use their property or allow somebody else to do so.
– Can you give an instance of unused land along railways?
– It would take a book of 300 pages to contain the list of all the instances of ownership of unused land alongside the railway lines of Australia.
– I do. not know of 1 mile of land that is not properly used.
– The fact I have mentioned is so evident that I do not propose to take up time combating the honorable member’s statement. Not being willing to pay the high prices asked for land alongside the railways, intending selectors must go out 20 or 30 miles from the railhead. A few other settlers follow their example, and then there follows an agitation for a new railway line, and afterwards for a postal service and telegraph office. The unused lands alongside railways would accommodate thousands of farmers if the people could get access to them at a reasonable price. They are not allowed to use those areas, and the result is that the railways do not pay as they .should. There are thousands of miles of telephone and telegraph lines which would be unnecessary for years to come if selection had been possible on the unused, lands abutting upon railways. I suggest as a way out of our financial difficulties that there ought to be a super-tax on unused lands alongside railway lines, so as to compel the owners to put such lands to use.
– The system you are proposing is in operation in New South Wales.
– I am interested to hear that, but I understood that a Bill introduced by the Holman Government for that purpose was passed by the Legislative Assembly and rejected by the Tipper House.
The expenditure on the Federal Capital has been the subject of some criticism. When I was in charge of the Treasury, a proposal was made that we should spend £500,000 on the Federal Capital in the present financial year, but, with the consent of the Government, that item was cut down to £150,000. I am sure that the Leader of the Liberal party, who represents a New South Wales constituency, will not consent to the wholesale reduction of expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital.
– I am prepared to cut down expenditure all round.
– Including that on the Federal Capital?
– Hear, hear ! but it is too late.
– No doubt the honorable member for Henty is voicing the “Victorian sentiment, but I doubt, if the people of New South Wales will agree to the proposal of the right honorable member for Parramatta to cut down expenditure on the Federal Capital. Here let me ask : Why should not the -land of the Federal Territory be used for the purpose of settling our returned soldiers? Why not use some of the land there for the training farms, which ought to be established in connexion with any scheme for .the settlement of returned soldiers?
Another reform which, I submit, honorable members will have to adopt throughout the Commonwealth, in . both Federal and State spheres, is in connexion with the civil service.
– Are you going to turn men adrift on the unemployed mar- ket?
– I do not propose to do that, except to a very limited extent. My experience of public life has taught me that the system of having a Public Service Commissioner through whom all appointments are made, has a great deal to recommend it, but it also possesses a serious defect in the fact that no Government, either State or Federal, has any proper control over the civil service. I regard it as very important that the Government should be given effective control over the Public Service, and to that end I would insert in the Public Service Act a provision that notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Act, the Government of the Commonwealth should have power to suspend or dismiss any officer who, in their opinion, was incapable, or was discharging his duties in an unsatisfactory manner.
Any one who has moved in the public life of Australia for any length of time must know that many civil servants have very little respect for members of Parliament, or even for Ministers of the Crown.
– That is so. They know that they are secure in their jobs.
– The honorable member has put his finger on the spot. The reason is that the Government, have not the power to interfere with them. The Government have the power to make a charge against an officer, but the officer must be tried by a board of his peers, really his own friends, and as they say “ It may be our turn next,” nothing can be done. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs has told me of the case of a man who was charged with passing goods through the Customs without paying duty. He was tried by a departmental Board.
– He was first tried by a Court, and convicted, but when a- departmental Board tried him, they found him not guilty,
– And the man is still in the Federal Public Service! That is a glaring instance of the fact that no Government has any power over the Civil Service. I have no desire to mention names ; my experience in the Treasury was rather happy, for I had the benefit of the assistance of some very able officers, but I know that there, are officers in the Civil Service who should be retired, because they are not carrying out their work properly. The Government cannot retire them because they cannot come down with a specific charge. I suppose that they could make the general charge of incompetency, and if they did so the Public Service Commissioner would appoint a Board. The Board, knowing the officer well, would hear his case, but it is not likely that they would bring him in as incompetent. Consequently he would still remain in the Service, and the Service, so far as his particular Department would be concerned would not be run properly, which would mean a waste of public money, and the rendering of inefficient service to the public.
– What happened before we appointed Public Service Commissioners ?
– We know that members of Parliament, at least those of them who were audacious enough, appointed a number of their own friends.
– The Labour party was not a force in politics then.
– No. That was the practice of the right honorable member for Swan.
– The Labour party has done a fair amount of it recently.
– No. I suppose that in the time of the right honorable member for Swan the practice of his political party was to placate opponents, and not supporters. On that subject, I remember seeing a cartoon in the Sydney newspapers many years ago. A man asked a Minister for a job, and said, “ I have supported your party for twenty years.” The Minister replied, “ We never run after a ‘bus we have already caught.” So the man did not get a job. There is no doubt that, prior to the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, opponents of political parties in office were concerned in getting into the Public Service many incompetent men. But I have not said that the system of Public Service Commissioners is bad. What I say is that it needs to be strengthened by a simple provision such as I have suggested. It would not mean that the Government would make appointments, though I think they should make the appointments of all heads of Departments.
– I know of the case of a Public Service Commissioner who refused point blank to allow the head of a Department to be shifted, although the Government wished to have him shifted.
– I hope that the honorable member’s interjection will be noted. The Government should have the power to dispense with any officer’s services. If they had that power, the inefficient men whom I have in mind, and whose names I do not care to mention to-night, would do their work properly, or retire from the Service.
I should be glad to get from the Treasurer the details of the reduction he proposes in tlie Home Affairs Department, No doubt there is plenty of room for the curtailment of expenditure in the Defence Department. It is absurd that the civilians who are doing clerical work, and are not going to the front, should be rigged up in war costumes. Why do they need to wear such costumes? Why do Canon Garland and other clergymen need to wear war costumes ? Some of them look absolutely ridiculous in them. It was nearly as amusing as Charlie Chaplin to see Canon Garland at Enoggera Camp walking about in his uniform. This is one direction in which there could be curtailment of expenditure. In the navy also there is plenty of room for curtailment of expenditure, but when I say that I am also confronted with the prospect that the Minister would have to throw a number of men out of work, and I hesitate to suggest any particular place where expenditure might be curtailed, because I know that on one occasion the Minister had certain work carried out at Port’ Stephens en order to give employment to some unemployed.
I am very much interested in the statement that the Treasurer proposes to establish a sinking fund of 1 per cent, to extinguish the war debt in thirtynine years. When I was in office I was in favour of a sinking fund of 10s. per cent., but the Prime Minister - that young man in a hurry - stipulated for 2 per cent. Why has he backed down ?
– Why did the honorable member give in to him ?
– Because I was not the Prime Minister. Is that not a fair answer ? To my mind a sinking fund of 10s. per cent, is quite enough. The nation is very much in the same position as parents who have children to bring up. Parents who work themselves to death in order to amass money to leave it to their children make a very great mistake, and posterity, who are going to have this huge country, as large as Europe, handed over to them should be -willing to bear a share of the heavy war expenditure that this country is now undertaking.
– Come over to our party.
– I am trying to assist the Treasurer.
– You are now stealing our policy.
– It is not the policy of the’ honorable member’s party. At one time the policy of the Liberal party was to have no sinking fund.
– Not in our time. It is the law now.-
– I believe that honorablemembers supported the Bill after consideration. A sinking fund of 10s. per cent, will extinguish the debt in about fifty-two years.
– Of what use is a sinking fund any how ?
– If the honorable member had his way he would play ducks and drakes with a sinking fund. That is the trouble. We may have a big sinking fund but it all depends upon the Government of the day what is done with it.
I wish to say a word or two about the Treasurer’s Advance, which has caused the Treasurer some trouble. He has discovered that the sum of £1,700,000 has been voted by the House as Treasurer’s Advance; and he thinks this* is too large a sum. If a Government is not going to meet Parliament it must have a Treasurer’s Advance of large dimensions. We cannot allow every Minister to please himself as to what he spends.- Some one must keep an eye on the expenditure and that individual should be the Treasurer. Among the items which I agreed should be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance during the month of September were £38,500 for the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway and £41,300 for the purchase of foodstuffs for the Government of India. There was nothing wrong in connexion with the expenditure of the Treasurer’s Advance.
– Was there anything paid on account of the ships that were purchased by the Prime Minister?
– We arranged to give the Prime Minister £2,068,000 for the purchase of those ships. It was my desire, and I hope it is the desire of the present Treasurer, that the Prime Minister or some other Minister should introduce a Bill to legalize that expenditure. It was a very large sum to intrust to one man, but it had to be done. If everybody in the community had been informed that the Prime Minister was about to purchase ships he would never have got them at the price at which he got them, if he got them at all. That was the reason for the Prime Minister keeping that matter more or less secret.
But it is now due to the House and the country that the Prime Minister or some other Minister should introduce a Bill at an early date to have the transaction legalized. Another reason why we should cut down Supply from three months to two months is in order that we may get the Government here and, if they do not pass this Bill, put them out and get another Government in office that will do so. It is not necessary to go through the long list of items paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance. If the Government is not going to meet Parliament it must have a large Treasurer’s Advance. The Treasurer is asking for three months’ supply. When he gets that Bill through he will reimburse his Treasurer’s Advance Account and have’ a million pounds to spare, which will enable him and his Government to stay in recess for four months instead of three months. I would not trust the Prime Minister to meet Parliament in March if he had sufficient money to enable him to wait until April.
– The honorable member said that the Prime Minister is always in a hurry.
– He is in a hurry to get into recess, but I do not think that, with his small following, he will be in a hurry to meet Parliament again. The Treasurer has drawn attention to the largeness of the Treasury balances, and has stated that they have averaged £20,000,000. I should like to mention that the Government balance at the Commonwealth Bank has been swollen mostly by war-loan money.
– That is quite true.
– On the 1st July, 1915, the cash balance at the Commonwealth Bank was £459,457. A month later it was only £391,161. On the 1st September it had grown to £1,816,719; on the 1st December, it was £6,979,201 ; on the 4th January, 1916, it was £5,935,573; at the beginning of February it was £6,907,006; on the 1st March, £9,391.089; at the beginning of April, £8,700,882; and at the beginning of May, £12,337,060. In addition, there were £2,000,000 held on fixed deposit. At the beginning of June, the balance was £15,922,866. It is admitted that these are large balances, and honorable members have said that we ought not to have such large sums earning little or no interest. T ask them how much they think the money can earn in Australia? If we can do without it in Australia, it may be well to send some of it to London.
– From inquiries that I made the other day, I find that it would cost about 10s. per centum to do that.
– We cannot get more than 1 per’ cent, for the money in Australia, but we might get 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, for it in London if at short call. It is impossible for the Commonwealth Bank to pay interest on £20,000,000. c
– The money will be heeded here ultimately.
– Yes. That is the answer to those’ who complain of the largeness of the balances held in the Commonwealth Bank. We should always be in a position to place our hands on £10,000,000 or £12,000,000.
– I understand that if you have over £50 on deposit in the Commonwealth Bank you receive interest on your money. Why cannot the Bank treat the Government as it treats private depositors?
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank thinks that he cannot afford to pay interest on these large sums.
– He will arrange to pay interest on some of the money.
– He may take some of it. I have been pondering over the matter, and considering whether we should leave all the money in the Comonwealth Bank, or distribute it among the private banks, which might be prepared to pay interest for it. We have to raise money in Australia for the war. Bank managers are very conservative. As the war has progressed, they have been careful to keep their reserves as strong as possible. They wish to take the least risk. Their training makes them more nervous than other persons. They see the collapse of the dreams of those who think that they can make a fortune if they can only borrow. Knowing the uncertainties of business, they are conservative. Naturally, when we deposit in the Commonwealth Bank a sum -like £20,000,000, most of which, but for the existence of the Commonwealth Bank, would be in the coffers of the private banks, the latter are not prepared to contribute to Commonwealth loans as freely as they would do if part of the money were allowed to remain with them until needed by the Government.
– What the honorable member speaks of is the solution of the difficulty, I think.
– That may be one way out of the difficulty. Another way may be, in arranging for the flotation of the next loan, to provide for ten or twelve instalments.
– Spread the instalments over twelve months.
– That would not provide a remedy, if interest had to be paid as has been arranged in the past.
– We have given very liberal terms, * for which the public did not ask, but which they have readily accepted. I have no doubt that the public and the banks will advance money more freely if deposits could be made in twelve instalments. That arrangement would suit the Government, because money would be coming in regularly every month with which it could meet its bills. This would leave less money lying idle in the Commonwealth Bank.
– To spread the instalments over twelve months would increase the popularity of the loans.
– Under ordinary circumstances, I should be very much obliged to tue honorable member for his assistance; but, after his malicious attack on me the other evening-
– I am assisting the Treasurer.
– The honorable member made a malicious attack on me, and I wish to say nothing to him, privately or publicly, except so far as I may be obliged to deal with him on public matters, in which case I shall address him only as the honorable member for Balaclava, trying to forget as far as I can that he is the creature that he is.
– The honorable member’s remark is surely unparliamentary.
– I ask the honorable member for Capricornia to withdraw that remark.
– I suppose that, as you ask me to withdraw it, sir, I must do so. I remember that the other evening the honorable member accused me- of theft. This person, who accuses me of purloining documents, objects to be called a creature. I say that he is a bully and a coward.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– If you insist on it, 1 withdraw them
I wish, in the few minutes remaining to me, to deal with the subject of recruiting. If there has been a falling-off in the number of volunteers, it is due to the fact that the Prime Minister and the honorable members for Flinders and Balaclava have discouraged recruiting by their speeches and conduct. To deal first with the honorable member for Flinders: This gallant Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George has appeared on several public platforms urging men to go to the front. He has told the public that there are thousands of persons who are hungering to do something in connexion with the war. Why has he not done more than make speeches? Is there no work - noncombatant work - that he could do at the front ?
– They would not allow him to go.
– Yes, they would. Other gentlemen with large incomes have gone. The honorable member for Flinders, who would compel the sons of the poor to go, makes no attempt to perform these services which he says others are hungering to perform. He prefers to stay here and rake in the guineas that he can make by his practice in the courts of law, returning to his well-feathered nest at nighttime. His conduct has discouraged recruiting.
But that of the honorable member for Balaclava has been very much worse. On the 2nd February, last year, speaking at an Australian Natives’ Association banquet, he said -
I hope I may be pardoned for giving expression to an opinion on a recent event, the telegram of President Wilson to the Kaiser wishing him luck on his birthday.
A Voice. - The mongrel.
– I think no more wanton, profligate outrage was ever perpetrated.
Mark the extravagance of the language. The mere sending of a birthday telegram is a “ wanton profligate outrage.” This gentleman is accustomed to use that sort of language. Apparently, he cannot find any other. Surely public men, in referring to the leading citizens of other nations, should at all times use the language of moderation. The honorable member was known abroad as the exPremier of Victoria, and naturally people there might attach more importance to his words than would those in this State who know him so well. He does not use the language of moderation; he prefers the language of vituperation, hoping, I suppose, that it will give to him the appearance of bravery which he does not in reality possess. He went on to say on this occasion -
It is not a birthday, but a death day, of William of Hohenzollern that we want, and I trust the day is not far distant when the Allies will say to him, in the scarlet words of Shakespeare, “Down, down to deepest hell, and say I sent thee.”
Mark the newspaper comment: “Loud and tumultuous applause which continued for some minutes.” Is it any wonder that his audience applauded ? The people were profoundly moved by these words. They said, no doubt, °” At last we have a man who is prepared, if need be, to do and die.” The honorable member for Balaclava at any time during the last two and a half years might have gone to Europe and have been within a few miles of the Kaiser. But no, he has preferred to stay in Australia and fight the Kaiser with his mouth.
– What about the honorable member for Capricornia?
– He would not take him on.
– I do not mind taking you on if you like. Let me deal one at a time with these brave gentlemen. Do not let us pay too much attention to the bovine representative of a bovine constituency such as the honorable member for Moreton. In an article headed, “The Unchained Tiger,” “Mr. Watt may fight,” the Argus of 8th July, 1915, stated that at a recruiting meeting held at Moonee Ponds, the honorable member for Balaclava said -
The position is about as desperate as it can be….. I am sometimes asked at meetings why I do not go myself. It is not intended as a question to embarrass me -
Imagine any question that could embarrass a gentleman with the colossal impudence of our honorable friend - but is a natural inquiry to understand how it is that men who pretend to be leaders of public thought are not offering to do their share, but are advising other people to go. I fully expect, at the right time, and before this war is over, to go with the men of my age and circumstances.
A Voice. - We will all go with you.
– Do not think I say that boastfully. I say that in order that you may see how grave the situation is to many of us.
That was on the 7th July, 1915. A year and five months have since elapsed and the honorable member is still here.
– Hear, hear ! That is what annoys the honorable member.
– Not at all. The honorable member does not annoy me. In a speech which the honorable member for Batman delivered at the Bijou Theatre, on 4th July, 1915, he explained, as reported in the Argus on the following day, that-
He was not a fighting man, nor had he ever pretended to be one, “I have been the man who looks to reason and conciliation to fix these great disputes,” he added with warmth. “ The men who should go to fill the gaps, and go hurriedly to the gaps, are those who are urging young men from the platforms. If these warlike people can do the business of war, we peaceful people can attend to other questions. Every man for his own job. If I were suddenly transported to Gallipoli, and if a loaded rifle were placed in my hands, and I saw a Turk in front of me, I would not pull the trigger.”
Because of this expression of opinion on the part of the honorable member for Batman, the honorable member for Balaclava said next day that he should be deprived of his seat. Speaking of him in what I regard as most objectionable terms, he said -
He wondered if Mr. Brennan could really be the man who had taken the oath of true allegiance to King George. …” This man,” said Mr. Watt, “ comes from a family with every member of which I am acquainted, and he is the only pigeon-livered member of it.”
Naturally, that criticism stung the honorable member for Batman. Speaking in this House on 8th July, 1915, he said -
I tell him (Mr. Watt) now is the time, and to-morrow morning at the recruiting office I challenge him to meet me, and I will go with him. . . . This is the time. I am not a fighting man, but I can bear stretchers, build barbed-wire entanglements, and carry my dead comrades off the field. … I never “said I feared death, and am prepared to prove it. I said what I feared, and could not do, was to take life. But if Mr. Watt wants a man to go into the danger zone with him I will go.
He invited the honorable member for Balaclava to go with him to the recruiting office at the Town Hall next morning at 10 o’clock. The honorable member for Balaclava did not go, but the honorable member for Batman was at the Town Hall ready to go.
– He did not go past the Town Hall, did he?
– That is the kind of interjection I should expect from a Jersey cow if it could speak. The honorable member for Balaclava, on 9th July, 1915, said -
I am sixteen months within the age limit of forty-five. I am a married man. . . . The circumstances of my business and finances are these: that if I went to the war to-morrow those children would be indifferently provided for.
The honorable member would have had his parliamentary salary as well as what he could earn at the front. This statement on the part of the honorable member, which was made in the course of a public meeting, greatly stirred his audience. The people thought he was replying to the honorable member for Batman’s challenge, and were expecting a certain word to come from him, just as great audiences in Melbourne were expecting the Prime Minister to use the word “conscription.” He worked them up to a great pitch of excitement by means of his eloquent periods, and went on to say -
I will go to-morrow morning (loud cheers) - at any time - (renewed cheers) -
The audience expected him to say that he would go to the recruiting office. Where was he to go? To the front? No; to Mr. Fisher! Greatly modified cheers! He went on to say -
I will tell him (Mr. Fisher) the facts of my life as I have roughly told you, and if he says it is up to me to go, I will volunteer within half-an-hour.
In company with his friend, Jim Boyd, who would pull him out of a hole if he could, he went to Mr. Fisher-
– That is totally wrong. I was not interested in or connected with the matter in any way.
– A newspaper gave the honorable member the credit of going with him.
– I said the other night that the newspaper was a liar, and I stick to that statement.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has not exhibited much pluck in this affair. He said last week, “ God forbid that Mr. Higgs should ever hold office again.” He said that because I had exposed the Prime Minister’s tactics. Was he annoyed because I had brought to the front some regulations which he himself had discussed with the Prime Minister?
– That I discussed with him ?
– I have it on the best authority that the Prime Minister consulted the honorable member about those very regulations, by which it was proposed to manipulate votes.
– That is entirely incorrect.
– I have it on good authority that the honorable member was consulted, and- that he was in constant consultation with the Prime Minister. He was the only member of the Liberal party who did consult with him. I wonder whether he was trying to intrigue the Leader of the Liberal party out of his position. On the return of the Prime Minister from Sydney after the referendum campaign, he went to Seymour to meet him.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Was he disappointed that the Prime Minister did not make some proposal for a coalition ?
– I did nothing of the kind.
Mr.- HIGGS. - Another reason why the honorable member for Balaclava said “ God forbid that Mr. Higgs should ever hold office again “.was that he was attempting to exploit public sentiment in connexion with the returned soldiers. You will have read, sir, that some persons were proposing to buy land, with Government money, on which to settle the people. There was another proposal to avoid land taxation, and, while I was Treasurer, the honorable member called to see me several times on the subject. I well recollect when he first put his head inside my door. He used such objectionable terms in respect of others that he will not mind my saying that when he thrust his head through my doorway, I said to myself, “ By all the gods! Charles Dickens’ Bill Sykes!” When he walked towards me with that lurch of his, that might be expected of a leader of the “Bouveree” push, I wondered what was the object of his visit. He asked that I would amend the Land Tax Act to provide that the
Australian Farms Limited might be able to avoid taxation.
– A good and sound public proposition, which I still maintain.
– We shall see.
– The honorable gentleman seems to have got this up very well.
– No doubt he has spent a week on its preparation.
– I have spent a little time on it. Since I was made the victim of a malicious and unprovoked attack on the part of the honorable member, I thought it was about up to me to make some reply to him. The honorable member for Balaclava, like all bullies, is a coward when he comes under the lash.
– Is that parliamentary?
– Will the honorable member withdraw that remark?
– Yes. The honorable member for Balaclava came forward with a proposal that the Australian Farms Limited should not be asked to pay land tax when it has in process the dispersing of large estates for the special purpose of putting New South Wales and Victorian returned soldiers on the land, and that no present land taxpayer should be called upon to pay a higher rate of tax because of any fresh investment in the company. I got the Commissioner of Taxation to investigate the bona fides of the Australian Farms Limited, to see how far they had been successful in settling farmers on the land - to ascertain their history and practice, and what was the Commissioner’s view of the proposal. His reply was as follows : -
The Commissioner of Taxation considers it impossible to furnish an accurate estimate of the prospective loss of land tax, because it cannot at this stage be known to what extent this company’s operations would spread, or whether other companies will be formed to carry on the same business.
I then wrote to my colleagues in the Government -
I do not approve of the first amendment suggested by the company, viz., that the company should not be asked to pay land tax when it has in process the dispersing of large estates. Land owners would probably arrange with the company to take over properties, with a view to evading taxation.
I am afraid that the time at my disposal will not permit me to go further into this question, but I turned the proposition down, in spite of the solicitation of the honorable member for Balaclava, and I submit that that is the reason he made such a vicious and unprovoked attack on me the other evening.
– I had forgotten all about it!
– I have done with the honorable member for the present.
– What about the honorable member for Moreton?
– If it is necessary, I should be just as willing to “ take on “ the honorable member for Moreton as I have been to “ take on “ the honorable member for Balaclava. I warn the latter honorable member that he must not think that he can bring into the Federal House the tactics he adopted in the State House of Victoria, because they will be combated every time he uses them. This House has wrecked the reputation of many a public man, and no man’s reputation has received a bigger dint than that of the honorable member for Balaclava. I commend to the electors of Balaclava the remarks I have made concerning that gentleman this evening.
.- Mud slinging has been carried on, not only in this chamber, but from one end of Australia to the other during the last six or seven weeks, lt is most astonishing to find men, who pose as leaders of thought and as empire builders, indulging in tactics that would disgrace people of the lowest order in the world. Criminal charges have been preferred against certain people in the community, and those charges are made a stalking-horse for political purposes. The object is to associate members of this House with people who are alleged to be guilty of criminal actions. It is most cowardly and contemptible to attempt, for political reasons, to damn the character of men against whom nothing can be said, either publicly or privately. During the referendum campaign I myself was charged with being connected with the Industrial Workers of the World. I know nothing of that association - I do not know a single member of it, and was never connected with it in any way; yet this charge was made against me. I repudiate any charges of this kind, and to say that Iwas astonished at such being levied against me is to express my feelings in very mild language. We hear of what is called the “higher criticism,” and itwould seem that the rarefied atmosphere in which some people live induces them to indulge in such criticism as I have described. When, during the campaign, we told the people what Australia was doing, and was prepared in a. legitimate and honorable way to do, we were told that we were in the pay of Germany and the agents of the Kaiser, and then, as a piece of “‘higher criticism “ in excelsis, we were said to be members of theIndustrial Workers of the World. Such tactics reflect no credit on the people who adopt them,and the vote of the people of Australia on the 28th October is the best reply that can be made to them. When we have a campaign, let it be conducted on the merits or demerits of the question before us, but do not let us lookin mud puddles for filth to throw at one another. Those who make charges of the kind in connexion with myself I challenge to place their character against my own. It is damnable to, first of all, say that there is a criminal association in existence, and then to connect the names of honorable men with it.
– Who did so ?
– The honorable member may not have done so personally, but those who hold the whip over his party outside - his press “ barrackers “ - have done so. One of the reasonsfor the. falling off in recruiting is to be found in such tactics, although there are other reasons, as I propose to show.One of those otherreasons is the idiotic,and, in. some cases, the callous, administration of the Defence Department, in face of which we cannot possibly hope to have a proper response to our appeal for recruits. What is wanted, first of all, is the abolition of the present policy, and the adoption of a policy of justice and common sense. One case, which is typical of many, is that of a man who enlisted as a private, and, after being at the front for a short time, “was given the temporary rank of corporal, which carried with it an increase in pay of 4s. a day. His wife had been left with an allotment of 3s. a day and a separation allowance of1s. 5d., or a total of 4s. 5d. a day. This she was getting on the pay of her husband as a private. But it suddenly dawned on the Department that it had been paying the woman a separation allowance which the regulations did not allow, the temporary rank of corporal, at 9s. a day, bringing the payments over the proper amount. In a letter which the woman wrote to me she said that on a certain day, when she went to draw her allowance, she was informed that she had overdrawn by . £20, and that her payments in the future would be reduced to1s. a day until that:amount had been refunded. She said she had been toldthat there were hundreds of others in a similar position, some of the husbands being in Egypt and some in Trance. She pointed out in her letter that it was impossible for a woman tolive in Sydney on 7s. a week, and that she was an old woman whose working days were passed. It will be seen that this was the Department’s own mistake and incompetence, but, all the same, the woman’s allowance was cut down to1s. a day. I know that the Assistant Minister is very sympathetic, and, if he had the power, would quickly remedy this sort of thing.
– If the honorable member will let me have the woman’s letter,I shall look into the case.
Dr.Carty Salmon. - Was the soldier drawing 9s. a day ?
Dr.Cabty Salmon. -then heshould have made a further allotment.
– That is where the foolish policy of the Department comes in. These men are in France, and when they receive some temporary rank it is practically impossible for them to arrange for their dependants to receive the extra money.
– Not a bit.
– Those men are in the trenches fighting the German menace of which the honorable member talks so much, and a man has thus no time to sit down to write any letters. He is busy firing bullets at Germans.
– You willnot send them help, although they cannot get away from the trenches even to write a letter.
– I am illustrating the things that are killing the endeavours to send help to those men.
– Why did you not bring the case before the Department?
– I will tell the Committee the sort of things done by the Department presided over by Senator Pearce, a man who does not receive with ordinary civility a member who interviews him. I say candidly that I will not go to the Minister for Defence with any more cases. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the case of three young Australians who nobly responded to the call for recruits. We sent them off to the front as heroes, and, to our dismay, we found that Senator Pearce and his Department brought them back as criminals. This matter first came under my notice in the following letter -
Darley Chambers, 156 King-street,
Sydney, 21st June, 1916.
H. Mahony, Esq., M.P.,
Dear Mr. Mahony,
I am deeply interested in the case of Boy Fountain, recently court martialled and sen-‘ tenced to three years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
The young man is only about twenty-one years of age, and was about one of the first to go to the front, and served for seventeen weeks on the Peninsula.
I am sending you a statement of his case, and I understand his relatives have already seen you, and that you are also interesting yourself in regard to Mr. Quill. The punishment appears to me to be outrageous. The young man has been sent back to serve three years’ hard labour in our ordinary prisons, and his career practically is blasted by a form of offieiouaness which one can quite understand would influence a- large majority of people against anything like militarism.’
The Herald and Daily Telegraph newspapers have also been impressed by the severe sentences. The Herald, in reporting, heads their report, “ Severe Sentences,” and the Daily Telegraph heads its report, “ Heavy Sentences.” I am attaching herewith the Daily Telegraph report.
Will you do your best to get at the matter at once, even if a temporary expedient can be found in releasing Fountain, with Quill and Dalton on parole until further inquiry has been made. Will you also endeavour to get at once a copy of the records of the case. I understand Senator Millen, Senator Gardiner, and Mr. Pigott have also been seen.
Even if the case were much worse than what is painted, one’s blood boils at the method of the punishment and the confinement of these young men in the State’s prisons for years in respect to, a breach of discipline.
In the case of Mr. Quill, I understand that he is a married man with wife and young children, and that the authorities have refused to give her any allowance.
I have to confess, as one who believes in universal service, and has acted as chairman of a War Recruiting Committee, and visited at the homes of many young men, that this list of punishments which has been published has almost frozen my zeal. One, of course, subscribes at once to punishment for lack of discipline in matters of great moment, but one cannot subscribe to forms of punishment which appear to have the viciousness that is akin almost to a barbarous vengeance.
Yours truly, (Sgd.) Richard Croft.
This is the statement of Private Roy Fountain -
Statement of Roy Fountain.
On the 10th March three of us, Privates Quill, H. J. Dalton, and self, three of us on the same charge, were sentenced for three years’ penal servitude. No, it was not for manslaughter or blackmail, but for disobeying in such a manner as to show wilful disregard of military discipline and authority, as the crimesheet shows it. And^ they still say, “Your King and country need you.” And to think that a man enlisted to fight for men like that. After seventeen weeks on the Peninsula, we, 20th Battalion, were sent back to Egypt, and then across the Suez Canal on the Arabian Desert. One of the jobs allotted to our battalion was that of building a light railway. There was a party of us told off for outpost duty. Next morning the party for railway was found to be short, and our party was taken at a minute’s notice to make up the complement. Before leaving for work, we asked Sergeant Turner about water, as we would be away from camp from 8 a.m. till 4.30 p.m. We could get no satisfaction - the rest of the party had filled their bottles previous to this. On arriving at the job about 8.30 a.m., after a march of 1 mile, the three of us (Quill, Dalton, and self) were told off with a party ‘ under Corporal Cunningham. We sat down, and did not start work. The corporal came along and asked us why we were not working, and we said we wanted some water first. He, the corporal, said that water would be sent for at 10 o’clock, that would mean 11.30 before it came back- we would have to work in the broiling sun with a shovel for three hours without a drink. We asked the corporal for a drink out of his bottle, which was then full of water, and were refused. Sergeant Turner was then brought along, and he also refused us a drink. Lieutenant Blanchard also refused us. We were then placed under arrest, and we were tried by court martial on the 10th March. At court martial it was pointed out this was my first offence, and my character was very good.
That is the case for those boys who to-day are in a criminal prison in New South Wales. On receiving that letter, I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence, by letter, and received the following reply from the Acting Secretary of the Department for Defence, under date of 23rd June, 1916 -
With reference to representations made by you concerning Privates Quill, H. J. Dalton, and Roy Fountain, who have been returned from the front under sentence for disobedience, I am directed to inform you that the courtmartial proceedings in these cases have not yet come to hand; but, on their receipt, the matter referred to in your letter will receive prompt consideration.
I waited in the ordinary way for the promised communication; but having received no further word, on the 4th October I sent the following “ chaser “ after our friend Senator Pearce -
Re case of Privates Quill, Dalton, and Fountain, who were seventeen weeks in trenches, Gallipoli, now doing three years in criminal gaol. Public of Sydney wants to know how much longer these boys are to be kept as criminals.
To that telegram I received the following reply, despatched from Melbourne on 16th October, twelve days later -
With reference to your telegram of the 4th instant, respecting the case of Privates Quill, Dalton, and Fountain, of the Australian Imperial Force, who are at present under sentence of three years’ imprisonment, I am directed to inform you that, pending the receipt of the proceedings of the Courts which tried these men, it is regretted that it is not possible to take any action. The proceedings have been cabled for from England, and should be shortly available, and on their receipt it is proposed’ to submit these cases for the consideration of the Committee appointed to review court-martial sentences.
The boys had been sentenced by court martial in” March. In June, the Department said that the papers had not arrived, and in October the papers were still unavailable. Now the Department proposes to’ cable to somebody - God knows who and where - to send the papers in connexion with the case. All this time these boys are incarcerated in a criminal gaol in New South Wales. It ‘ is that sort of thing which is damaging recruiting in Australia.
– It is the parading of these cases that is having that result.
– These three boys are young Australians, who gladly answered the call of duty. They have their relatives - one man has a wife and children, the other boys. have their parents, and the three families have their friends. Particulars of their harsh treatment spread like wildfire. Questions concerning the case came to me from fully fifty different sources as to what action I am taking in the matter. I am about “ fed up “ with sitting down and waiting for Senator Pearce to do something. In future, if I cannot get satisfaction in the ordinary way, I will use my privileges as a member of this House.
– . You have only ex parte evidence, anyway.
– What evidence has the Department other than a statement that they were sentenced by a court martial in Egypt? How does the Minister know that those men received a fair deal ? In view of the statement of the boys themselves, why cannot the ‘Minister allow them out on parole? The boys and the people are well known, and plenty of sureties could be obtained. Why should not the Department liberate these prisoners, holding the sureties until the papers arrive, and then if it is proved that they have been guilty of something which deserves punishment to the extent of three years’ imprisonment in a common gaol, perhaps we will allow them to go there. One of these boys held a responsible position in . a public Department, but he felt it ‘ to be his duty to give up that position and go to the front. The three of them served for seventeen weeks in that hole of hell, Gallipoli, and even if they did commit an indiscretion, even if they had the awful temerity to ask for a drink of water in the Egyptian desert, that does not justify them being sent to a criminal gaol for three years.
– Let us have the full facts, and not half the case.
– Why do they not crucify them ?
– Yes; mangle them. Instead of “ Mangling Doyle’s manifesto,” let it be “ Mangling Gallipoli heroes.” We should not be too harsh on the Australian boys who have been to Gallipoli. They had never been under militarism previously, and, after leaving sunny conditions here and being suddenly thrown where the lid was taken off hell, it was only natural to expect that some of them would lose their mental balance. Let us show that we hav.e some sympathy for them, and that we are prepared to assist them. Do not let them be dealt with by the iron hand of militarism. I have received the following letter: - 36th (Riflemen’s) Battalion Comforts Committee.
Patroness, Lady Edeline Strickland ; Presidents, The. Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Logan, Mrs. Campbell Carmichael ; Chairman of Committee, J. F. Coates, Esq.; Hon. Auditor, Allred. Newmarch, F.C.P.A. (public accountant) ; Hon: Treasurer,. W. J. Tidex, A.I.I.A. ; Hon. Secretary, Miss. B. Pillinger: 138 George-street West, Sydney, 7th November, 1916.
Mr. J. F. Coates, Chairman of the above Committee, has asked’ me to place the following facts before you, and: ask you if you would kindly have the matter immediately inquired into.
On the 13th of May this Comforts Committee had nine hundred pairsof sand shoes placed on board the transportA72, along with the 36th Battalion, for the use of the men on. board the boat. These shoes were paid for by money raised by this committee, and were a free gift to the men. We now hold a letter from one of the men, stating that the shoes were sold to the men of the 36th Battalion on board the boat at1s. per. pair.
What my committee wishes to know is : - Is it correct for the gifts from the Comforts Funds to be sold to the men for whom they are intended? If it is correct, what becomes of the money received for them ?
If it is not correct, why was it done in this case? - and what became of the money received ?
We would be very glad if you could place this matter before the military authorities, and let us know what explanation they have to give, as soon as possible.
Thanking you in anticipation.
I sent a copy of that letter to the Defence Department, and received the following reply : -
I am directed by the Minister- to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant, relative to a statement by the Hon. Secretary, 36th (Riflemen’s) Battalion Comforts Committee, that sand shoes placed on board the transport A 72 for the. use of the. men were sold to them at1s. per pair, and to inform you it is regretted that there is no information available at present in this Department on the subject.
However, in view of the importance of the question raised, immediate inquiriesin the matter are being made from the Australian Comforts Fund authorities abroad, and you will be further advised immediately a reply is forthcoming.
The state of affairs shown in the letter from the Comforts Committee, if true, is a scandal, and the reply from the Department shows that there is laxity somewhere when such a thing can take place, and’ they admit that there is no information available up to the present time on the subject. If the Departmentis being run as it should be run, and the interests of the men are considered, it ought to know immediately whether any comforts were placed on a transport for the use of men. There is too much of this sort of thing. going on. It creates an uneasy feeling in the minds of people that the goods, they donate for the use of the troops are not being given tothem, but are being sold to them, and that some one is making money out of the deal. The great thing that is helping to kill recruiting is the laxity in the administration of the Defence Department. Unsympathetic administration tends to kill that healthy feeling which enables a good response to be made to the call for volunteers. I. opposed compulsion, and I am still opposed to it, but I am not opposed to voluntarism. I have always been in. favour of it. and have always endeavoured to do my bit for my country. I am still prepared to do what I think is the right thing.
– I believe that commonsense administration of the Defence Department would help to get recruits more than the sending of flamboyant telegrams all over the country. We wouldget far more recruits and more confidence in the Department. What kills recruiting is the fact that the people outside have no confidence in the administration of the military authorities to-day.
– The honorable member does not propose to go out and help.
– Statements about “ Routing- the shirkers,” “Inspiring the’ workers,” and “ Australia will be there “ cut. no ice. What will help far better to. win the war will be common-sense administration by the Department. I hope that the- Department will give serious consideration to cases such as those I have mentioned, and when an honorable member approaches the Minister for Defence the Minister might have the ordinary decency to treat him with courtesy, and, at least, listen to what he has to say in reference to the matter he wishes to put forward .
– Is there any objection to adjourning the debate!
– No, .but I. wish the honorable member to understand that I want the Supply Bill put through to-morrow, in order to get it to the Senate.
– It all depends upon how many speakers there are- from the Liberal party, because the members of my party are prepared to sit on to-night if they are not to have an opportunity of speaking to-morrow.
– Cook. - This is the first Leader of an Opposition that I have everheard ask a Government to sit all night.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19161207_reps_6_80/>.