6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers. .
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Newcastle asked the following question : -
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that, since the Australian soldiers have left Egypt, they are required to purchase new hats, coats, or other clothing that may have been stolen from them or lost,’ no matter how the lobs came about?
I promised to look into the matter, and am now able to give the honorable member the following reply : - .
Though scant information is available in Australia as to the mode of procedure that is being adopted in respect to losses of clothing and equipment by members of the Australian Imperial Force in England and France, it may be stated that Military Regulations invariably provide that articles lost by neglect shall he charged for, but that clothing or equipment which is found to be deficient through causes, beyond the control of the individual, is replaced free of charge.
– On Friday last, the honorable member for Yarra asked whether some seventy men, who were called up under the proclamation requiring enrolment for home defence, acquired a certain disease necessitating their removal to Langwarrin, and were released immediately the proclamation was repealed. I promised to bring the question under the notice of the Minister, and have been informed by him that, by the repeal of the proclamation, any such men were released from the control of the Department. I am, also informed that the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne, made on the 29th November -
That the primary cause of the unfortunate position in which they- the men in the Langwarrin Camp- find themselves is really the neglect of the Defence Department - is inaccurate and unfair. Papers showing the measures that were taken have been laid on the table of the Library.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer whether, in submitting Bills to amend taxation Acts, he will follow what has hitherto been the custom of supplying honorable members with prints of the measures as they will read if amended, so that we may see at a glance the effect of proposed amendments?
– I am arranging that that shall be done.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to relieve the growers of wool of their uncertainty about the disposal of the wool clip ?
– I have received information which enables me to disclose the principal features of the arrangement regarding the wool. The Commonwealth Government is to acquire, on behalf of the British Government, the whole of the merino and crossbred clip of Australian wools, excluding only those that had passed under the hammer before the 23rd November last. The price to be paid is 1s. 3½d. per lb. for greasy wool. It is hoped that this wool may be shipped as quickly as possible, and the wool which has already passed under the hammer will be Bent away as fast as vessels can be provided to take it.
– What arrangement has been made for paying the growers for the wool? Will the payments be made immediately on the delivery of the wool at the various warehouses?
– I am afraid that, after all, I omitted the one thing that is more important than anything else. However, I can only say that the wool-growers will be paid as soon as Great Britain has intimated the arrangement she proposes to make in regard to payment. Of course, normally, payment is on delivery, but the position is now being considered by the Wool Advisory Committee, and I shall be glad to make a more or less detailed statement to-morrow on the points the honorable member has raised.
– Does the purchase of wool include woolly sheepskins from Australia ?
– All sheepskins have been acquired in exactly the same way as the wool has been acquired. The embargo on the export of wool applies to the export of sheepskins; but, of course, as a. result of the completion of the negotiations, the embargo is now one merely limited by the opportunity for shipment. To that extent it refers to sheepskins, which will be permitted to go forward as freight is available under the scheme.
– Can the Prime Minister say what is the position of country dealers who have been in the habit of buying small quantities of sheepskins and wool from farmers with only a few sheep ? Will they have to sell to the Commonwealth Government, or what is their position now? Will they be able to carry on their business in the usual way ?
– A regulation was passed the other day prohibiting further sales or transactions in wool or sheepskins. The Government having acquired these at a price fixed by negotiations between the British and the Commonwealth Governments, it is not considered advisable that there should be any speculation which would place the seller at a; disadvantage. Every seller has now a sure buyer at that price, and that buyer being the Government, on behalf of the British Government, he can be under no disadvantage whatever,. All sales must be conducted through the Wool Committee, and if it has not been done already, it will, as soon as possible, be decided in what manner the sheepskins and wool of the small farmer shall be, as it were, gathered into the pool. If it can be decided that that may be done through the channels in which such wool and skins normally come into the warehouses and so on, well and good; but I have left the matter in their hands.
– It ought to be done quickly.
– Of course, and I shall see the president of the Committee today.
– A number of producers of wool in a small way have approached me with a desire to know whether they can have some representation on the Committee, so that their interests, so far as valuations are concerned, may be conserved.
– I apprehend that their interests are now effectively safeguarded. In the first place, there is a fixed price, or rather basis tor price, and the quality of the wool will determine the actual price they will receive for their wool. That determination will be arrived at by expert appraisers, and will vary according to the quality of the wool. Unless there is some good evidence to show that the small grower is not getting a fair deal, I am disinclined to interfere with the Committee as it now stands. We shall see how it works, and if, after experience, it would appear that the small grower is not getting a fair deal, I shall make arrangements for his representation.
– Will the Prime Minister release enough skins so that the fellmongery establishments of Australia may be able to keep their hands employed ?
– I shall endeavour to do so.The object that the. honorable member has in view was dealt with by the appointment on the Board of representatives of the fellmongers and scourers, and the idea is to have the treatment of the wool, as far as possible, to its ultimate form carried out in Australia. Subject always to the exigencies of the demand for the wool, we are endeavouring to arrange that the scouring and fellmongering industries shall be kept as busily employed as possible.
– In every small, as well as in many large, towns of the Commonwealth there are buyers of skins and wool who purchase small lots and pay cash at once. As all the wool is to go into the pool, will the Prime Minister consider the matter of still allowing those buyers to continue their operations instead of compelling them to shut up their businesses?
– I will ask the Board to make such arrangements as will permit of the small men to whom the honorable member has referred continuing their businesses, as far as may be possible. After all, what we are trying to do is to so acquire the wool as to treat everybody fairly, and to cause a minimum of interference with the business of the country. I will interview the chairman of the Board this afternoon, and ask him to what extent the request of the honorable member can be complied with.
Report (No. 1) of the Printing Committee presented by Mr. McWilliams, and adopted.
Reports of the Public Works Committee on the Canberra. City Railway and Ornamental Lakes presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister -
– My cheque book shows three items of £73 6s. 8d., £206 5s., and £81 18s. 2d. respectively. There was an interregnum between the dates of the resignation of the honorable member for Yarra and my appointment as Minister for Trade and Customs. That must be the period represented by the amount of £73 6s. 8d. Then there was a period during which I acted as Minister for Trade and Customs, which would he covered by the amount £206 5s. The third amount of £81 18s. 2d. appears to relate to a period after the 14th November. After allowing for the sum of £42 7s.10d. paid by me to Senator Russell for the then Honorary Ministers - Senators Gardiner and Russell - andthe then Ministerial Whips - Mr. Page and Senator Ready - the balance of the sum mentioned. £361 9s. 10d., namely £319 2s. was paid by me to the Repatriation fund.
Repatriation of Soidiers and Sailors.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wannon a letter announcing his intention to move the adjournment of the House’ to-day to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The repatriation of our returned Australian soldiers and sailors.”
Five members having risen in their places,
.- The delay and indecision on the part of those responsible for framing a scheme for the repatriation of Australian soldiers and sailors compel me to draw pointed attention in this House to a necessity that has long been felt. Of the 300,000 men, approximately, who have enlisted and gone abroad, over 10,000 have returned, and, so far as this House is concerned, there is no scheme for their repatriation. There is certainly before the country an Act which was passed for the purpose of establishing a Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, under which a voluntary appeal was to be made to the people of Australia for the necessary money for repatriation. In the purpose of that Act Parliament Bought the co-oporation of the States. A trusteeship was created, an executive was appointed from the trustees, and devolutionary machinery was established. The State War Councils, which owe their existence to the States, were charged with the administration of the Voluntary Repatriation Fund. To these State War Councils were given voluntarily the services of gentlemen of good qualifications and high public spirit. They are men who have done voluntarily splendid work for this country, but they are in the unfortunate position that there is no scheme before Australia to deal with the returned soldiers. Latterly, however, a change of policy has taken place. On the return of the Prime Minister from England it was determined that repatriation should not depend entirely on the voluntary spirit, but that the necessary money should be raised by taxation. I place upon the Prime Minister personally very little responsibility for the present condition of the repatriation proposals. He was absent from Australia during the first few months after the Act was passed, and when he returned he engaged in an important war work. But surely in the late Government, or in the present Government, somebody could have been found to relieve the Prime Minister of so important a work as the repatriation of our soldiers. It is one thing to send men away with a promise and another thing to fulfil that promise on their return. The policy has now been definitely established that the money is to be found by taxation. I do not propose to criticise that policy, but I reserve the right to speak later on as to the best means by which it should be done. In the meantime I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it is intended seriously to keep the two schemes going side by side; that is, the voluntary scheme and the scheme which is to be created with compulsory taxation, which, . to’ start with, will make a levy of £10,000,000 on this community. I also ask the Prime Minister whether it is intended that this Parliament shall pass on its responsibility for the administration of this fund to the States, and to bodies which are responsible to the States only? I refer to the War Councils. I claim that the time is now ripe for the establishment of a definite scheme. Either the men are entitled to repatriation by right, or they are not entitled to any assistance. We have established in connexion with the war pensions a definite basis upon which they are dealt with, but this Parliament has given absolutely no instructions as to how the men shall be dealt with in regard to repatriation. The matter is left entirely to the judgment of those who have been good enough to give voluntarily their , time, assistance, and. brains. There are good men on the various Committees, and they are moved by the very best of patriotic motives. I know that many of them have laboured long and hard on the State War Councils.
– The honorable member has done more than any of them.
– I put my efforts on one side. The men on these War Council’s, have done good work, but that is not sufficient. There is a certain amount of indefiniteness, and there is discrimination between the soldiers. There are temporary grants, inquiries, and small instalments, and there is general dissatisfaction. I do not visit all these matters on the Prime Minister, but I think that this is now the time when we should grip the whole question and lay down a complete scheme, so that the returned men may know that to which they are entitled by law. The scheme should be definite and complete, and should leave no returned soldier at the mercy of the individual judgment of any man or body of men. No one should be asked to come to the door-mat of any council and wait there until inquiries are made about him, or told to go away until an investigation is made into his claim. There is nothing’ definite, and there is too much indecision, about the arrangement. If these men are entitled to be repatriated, it is time that we. faced the matter properly, and had the courage to say what they are entitled to on their return. There was a time during ‘ this war when there was a magnificent public spirit for voluntary effort. One could go anywhere in Australia, to any district, town, or city, and get his hat full of money, as much’ as he asked for, voluntarily : but that time passed away immediately the Government declared its policy of raising this money by taxation.- That announcement absolutely killed the voluntary spirit. It is, therefore, unfair to expect that on the one hand we can lew an assessment on individuals telling them what we believe is. their duty and at the same time we can .appeal to them for further voluntary support.. So far as I can gather, the Government have not carried on their voluntary appeal since they have proposed their tax, but all the administration is absolutely carried on out of the voluntary fund. I do not know what number of returned soldiers have been actually dealt with. Many have been dealt with, while others have had grave disappointments. Naturally, on account of my having been associated with a private scheme in conjunction with the honorable member for Corangamite - we made an effort in our electorates to dp something for these men - - more complaints reach me than come to the average honorable member. Before the new recruiting scheme on which the Government propose to launch is commenced, the Prime Minister should make a clear and definite statement to the men who are coming forward as to the position they will occupy when they return. Many men will be asked to cast aside brilliant careers, and others will be asked to give up their business. When we are asking men to leave their homes and give up their chances of success in life, if a clear statement is made to them it would help many who are anxious to do their duty, but have great misgivings - as to what may happen to their families. Now I come to the question of administration. I am anxious to emphasize the splendid work that has been done by the War Councils, but, in my judgment, they are not the bodies to which the task of administering the Australian Returned Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, that is raised by taxation imposed by this Parliament, should be intrusted. This Parliament should have the administration of its own funds, or should intrust it to a body directly responsible to it. The £10,000,000 which it is proposed should be raised at first will not be nearly enough - but for the timo being it will prove to be more than sufficient- but we must create an authority that will be absolutely accountable to this Parliament for the whole of the money and for the administration of it. We cannot pass on that responsibility to the States. As far as I have observed tho results of various State Conferences, the States are prepared to make available certain lands for returned soldiers. The States have either Crown lands at their disposal, or means with which to acquire good lands for the purpose. But all that the States propose to do in this direction, I take it, will be supplementary to what this Parliament proposes to do. In my opinion, we should do something in the shape of establishing standards of payments, placing the single men on one basis and the married men on another. There is also the question of whether the wives and children of fallen men should benefit. I know that they are provided for to a certain extent under the Pensions Act, but if they do not benefit from the RepatriationFund there will be discrimination in favour of the man who returns badly injured and receives his pension in addition to his repatriation rights. The whole matter is of such importance, and bristles with so many details, that it must be taken out of the present haphazard method of dealing with it, and placed in the hands of keen experts. I do not believe in the principle of having a dozen men, such as the present trustees, in charge of the fund, bringing divided counsels tobear. Some one must take hold of the repatriation work who is prepared to devote the whole of his time to it, a man possessed of high business attainments and an administrator of some capacity ; some one who can handle repatriation work as the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank can handle finance. I am not suggesting the creation of a separate Government Department or the appointment of a Minister to deal with the matter, but , £10,000,000- Which will possibly be doubled before it is finished - is a big sum to handle. The finding of the money will certainly press on the people, but I am quite certain that every one will be willing, satisfied, and ready to wade in with his share of the necessary money to deliver to these returned soldiers their well won citizen rights. There can be no question about the equity of the business. The only question will be as to how the money is to befound and administered. It is this Parliament which has the responsibility, and which must determine the matter, and keep permanent control over the administration of the money raised. A recommendation has been made by some of the State War Councils that a Commissioner should be appointed - I take it that this means in each State - to govern the activities of the State War Councils, but the suggestion does not meet the situation. The control and management would still be beyond the Commonwealth. When this Parliament has determined what the men shall get, let there be as much voluntary aid as people like to give, but let us determine here and now under our taxation policy what our scheme should be, and what amount each man shall get.
Then let all our agencies in Australia, private and public - State and otherwise - supplement that fund as much as they please. The position to-day is that no individual, and no group of individuals, can help a returned soldier. The people cannot organize or raise a fund for that purpose. I have taken action in this direction, and I propose to read a letter on the subject that I have directed to the Prime Minister. I have not yet received a reply; but I do not complain of that, because the Prime Minister is a busy man, and only a few days have elapsed sinceI wrote to him. The letter is as follows : -
Melbourne, 9th December, 1916.
Dear Mr. Hughes,
Since the announcement of the Government’s policy of raising Repatriation Funds by taxation, we have temporarily suspended the collection and administration of our Territorial Repatriation Scheme, which was authorized by Senator Pearce, who was Acting Prime Minister during your absence in London.
The suspension has caused uncertainty and slight injustices to the men whom we were seeking to assist. I wish to have the matter of our scheme definitely cleared up. We have worked hard, and every district in the divisions of Corangamite and Wannon have been canvassed and organized, committees formed, and substantial sums raised and extensive promises of wheat areas, stock services, &c., given. The harvest is almost at hand. It is imperative that we shall at once advise donors as to whether their gifts will be accepted or as to whether all the work that has been done is to be undone, and the soldiers who enlisted from our division are to rely solely upon provision that the Government’s Repatriation Scheme provides.
Active committees representative of every interest have been formed in each district, and all their activities and voluntary goodwill are suspended. I anxiously await your decision as to whether we are to be permitted to carry through our scheme, and whether the provision is to be independent of that provided by the Government’s taxation scheme, or whether any provision we make for our soldiers will affect their rights under the Government scheme.
Is it intended that theGovernment’s voluntary scheme shall be continued as well asthe taxation scheme?
To that letter I shall receive a reply in due course. The situation at present is that our scheme, and the schemes of many others, are to-day suspended. A proclamation has been issued prohibiting the use of the word “ repatriation “ by any person, any organization, or group of persons. Under such a regulation we are practically banned and barred from administering our scheme. Many of our men are back from the war, and we have, had to tell our workers to suspend their operations. They cannot administer their scheme. Under this regulation we cannot make appeals to the public. We have held carnivals for this purpose contrary to the law, but held them because they were advertised before the publication of this regulation, and some of them have brought in as much as £1,400. I have received requests from many centres to attend and make a public appeal, but, in view of this regulation, I am unable to comply with such requests., A copy of it was sent to me by the repatriation trustees, and I was asked to specially note it. The position, therefore, is that my activities are compulsorily suspended. Our scheme likewise is compulsorily suspended. We have the money to assist men who are back, but cannot do so without a partial violation of the law. We ought to know where we stand in the matter of repatriation.
My proposal is that the Government should at once take the question in hand, and deal with it just as they did with the pension scheme. It is useless now to attempt to create throughout Australia huge, costly semi-private organizations - some paid and some purely voluntary - to try to do what is best for our soldiers. As the result of many months’ experience, and of what I have seen at the State War Council, I think that the best course to pursue is to determine. definitely by law what each man shall get. Let the amount be fixed, just as the amount of a pension is fixed. Give the Commissioner the same investigatory power as the Commissioner for Pensions enjoys, but with this difference : Having done this, let the States co-operate as much as they please, and supplement our efforts by making land available for the men, or by grants of anything they choose to give. Then let the private members of the community - the non-combatant members especially - do what they believe to be their duty, and supplement this effort. If the matter be left entirely, to taxation, men will assess. their minds by their taxes. I therefore suggest that we should invite the people all over Australia to supplement the State activities by voluntary effort. Let all the organizations that can be called into existence supplement the effort. If we are going to appeal for voluntary effort, it is wrong to cripple the efforts of those outside who wish to assist in this movement. The Government should ask them to. do everything they can to supplement the provision that Parliament wishes to make. It has not been my intention to direct these remarks against the present Government, or any member of it, but this question ia too important to be allowed to drift any further. The House should be taken into the confidence of the Government. Conferences are held elsewhere, but it is in this House, and in this House alone, that big proposals involving an expenditure of millions ought to be settled..
Under the proposition I have outlined enormous cost could be avoided. The scheme would be worked automatically. The men would get their repatriation money just as they receive their war pensions, and all the outside efforts would not cost the Government or the country anything. The voluntary spirit which prevailed a few months ago was such that we could carry through our scheme from beginning to end without a petty cash book. The same- voluntary spirit exists to-day, and, if properly organized, can be very easily marshalled.
– The question brought forward by the honorable member for Wannon is of very great importance, and I wish only to offer one or two observations that bear directly upon the points raised by him. The first is that the Premiers’ Conference, which is now sitting, is dealing, with some aspects of the matter which the honorable member has raised. I hope to be able this afternoon to join in the discussion, and to lay before the Premiers the views of the Executive Committee of the Repatriation Trustees. At a meeting of the Executive Committee last week it was decided to submit for the consideration of the Premiers certain questions that have arisen as the result of experience. These are- being submitted. One point on which my mind is ‘ fairly fixed is that there should be one authority to whom a soldier can go for information and help upon his return from service. At present, the scope of the Repatriation Fund authority is somewhat vague. Its objects and functions seem to impinge. irregularly upon those of that other authority to which has been assigned the business of settling the soldiers on the land. It is impossible to draw a clear line of distinction between such a function, for example, as stocking of the land - which is to be provided for by the States - and that of advancing the money to enable the soldier to carry on until his farm has become self-supporting. No one is able to say which is the proper authority to whom the soldier is to look for relief and help. If he wants money for one purpose, he is told he must go to one authority, and if for another purpose, he must go to another authority, and as these authorities themselves are uncertain as to their functions, it follows there is confusion- where there should be order. The soldier and the community both suffer. There must be effective organization and coordination between the- various parts and the one central authority responsible for the smooth working of the scheme. However much the authority may delegate its business later to convenient agencies, there should be one place to which the soldier could go to get an answer to every question that he may wish to put, and help in all possible cases. I am not going to say now whether it will he convenient or necessary to continue the voluntary appeal for subscriptions along with the levying of taxation; because, until we know exactly what are to be the functions of the authority controlling the Repatriation Fund, it will be impossible to say how much money will bo needed. The idea, as outlined originally, waa this : In the first place, the States were to provide land, and then money was to he provided for the stocking of the farms in the several States. The Commonwealth was to borrow this on behalf of the States. For that, a sum much in excess of £10,000,000 would be needed. It was, indeed, estimated that £22,000,000 would be required. No money is now available for this purpose. Money was to have been borrowed from Great Britain, or elsewhere; but, so far, we have not been able to borrow it. The only fund available is the Repatriation Fund, and for that it is proposed to raise money in two way’s - by voluntary appeal, and by a war levy or taxation. If the Repatriation Fund is called upon to provide, not only for the purposes for which it was originally intended, but also for those for which the other fund was. de-, signed, £10,000,000 will be grossly inade quate, being not more than one-third of what will be needed. I ask honorable > members, in putting forward their views with freedom, to remember that my ideas are fixed in regard to two matters only. In -the first place, it is upon the Commonwealth alone that the responsibility for seeing that every soldier gets a fair ‘ deal must rest, no matter to whom we may delegate authority to act for us. If the, States do not provide land, the Commonwealth will not be relieved of its responsibility in the matter. If we say to the States, “We delegate to you the business of looking after funds, for which we will borrow the money if you like, to provide for the stocking of farms, .and so on,” and money is not made available, the Commonwealth must find it.. Similarly, with regard to the Repatriation Fund. The responsibility of the Commonwealth is the base upon which we must build our edifice. The Commonwealth is .the authority to which the soldier must look. It is essential that we shall ‘ have the complete, earnest, and enthusiastic co-operation of the States, and ‘ of every other public agency of the Commonwealth, as well as of its citizens; but the ultimate responsibility must rest with the Commonwealth. ‘ My second fixed opinion is that all the -agencies by which the work is carried out must be under one control, which will have authority over the Repatriation Fund, and over the fund out of which money will be provided for the stocking of farms. It is desirable, for the sake- of co-ordination, that there should be one authority, and that the soldier may be able to go to one place, and say, “ I need money to stock my farm, or to help me to carry on.” A man must not go to one place and be told that he should apply somewhere else. As we are dependent to a very large extent on the States, I desire to consult with them this afternoon, and shall probably, early in the new year, summon a conference of their Land Ministers - who are most conversant with the aspects of land settlement - in order that we may formulate . a scheme, covering all these points. I shall carefully note the observations, comments, ‘ and criticisms of honorable members so that our scheme may be more or less perfect. Having formulated a scheme, it should be given the sanction of law, so that the soldier may know exactly where his rights begin, and where they end.
– I know of no more pressing or important obligation than that which is now being discussed, and the honorable member for Wannon is deserving ‘of commendation for having brought it forward. I understand that there are now in Australia about 12,000 returned soldiers.
– I have been told that there are 19,000. -
– All kinds of trouble and delay are occurring owing to the want of a definite scheme with thorough co-ordination, so that it may work equitably in the various States. I do not pretend to say how you are to gee equity with the present machinery. The more I look at the matter the more I feel that in the end it’ will be necessary to create a separate Department, with a Minister for Pensions and Repatriation. The two subjects are correlated, and cannot be separated; they are parts of the same whole. The scale and range of the objective makes it necessary that it shall de treated as more important than it has been regarded hitherto. It has been estimated that we shall - need about £30,000,000 before the scheme has been ‘ earned out. That, in my opinion, is a moderate estimate. I am a member of a. board of trustees, of whose doings I have heard nothing for the last three months. I understand that an executive is at work, but I do not know what it is doing. This matter should be in responsible and expert hands. It is essentially a oneman job, so far as the business side is concerned, and, in saying that, I say nothing in derogation of the trustee bodies, who are very able men, or of the State efforts that have been made from time to time.
– i should like to see the honorable member the one man. He would have a lively time.
– I mean that there must be some one man responsible to this Parliament for the scheme - a man expert enough to see that th’e scheme is efficient. Efficiency, -I fear, cannot be secured by delegating authority to this body and to the other body without responsibility. The responsibility belongs to the Commonwealth, and the sooner we recognise that the better it will be for the scheme, and for our own reputation.
– I do not think there is one man in this Parliament who wishes to shirk that responsibility.
– I quite believe that, but in partitioning the duties between State and Commonwealth a great deal of trouble, friction, and delay has occurred.
I strongly suggest to the Minister that he should “ take the control of pensions from the Department of the’ Treasury. I do not believe that the pensions are being administered as, perhaps, they ought to be in that Department. The Treasury has enough duties piled upon it without this very important obligation also. The sooner we get the whole combined in one Department - and I am not so sure that we should not have a responsible Minister at the head of it - the better it will be for the scheme, ‘and for the co-ordination which seems to be necessary. That something will be done soon I believe. The Prime Minister indicates that he is realizing the responsibility which he holds, and it is a responsibility shared by the whole House.
– He said that twelve months ago, and nothing has been done yet! ,
– And for nine months of “those twelve the honorable member for Illawarra supported the Prime Minister in doing nothing. I do not think I should have mentioned the matter had I been in the honorable member’s place.
– Do not follow his bad example!
– I am not going to follow his bad example, but I suggest a way to end this kind of thing, and to come square-up to our responsibilities. The sooner some responsible steps are taken in this direction by the Prime Minister the better it will be for the scheme, for our future recruiting, and for our reputation as sane administrators. That something’ needs to be done every one is fully aware; indeed, this is the one thing that presses urgently. The moment it can be put on a proper basis that moment will see the scheme under conditions which promise success.
Our difficulties arise, of course, from our Federal Constitution. We have divided duty; we cannot repatriate men on land which is not ours unless by some method of co-operation with the States.
– All the more reason why we should alter the Constitution.
– I am quite sure the honorable member has only one remedy, and that is to “ collar “ all that the States possess; but judging from the sorry mess he is making of the duties he already has, I do not know what in the world would result if his duties and responsibilities were multiplied two or three times. However, let us begin at the beginning; and the unit of all is” an expert man of high business qualifications, with control of the scheme as a whole, shaping it according to the needs of the men, and to the land legislation of the various States. In itself, it is a great function to make this scheme equitable in all the States as far as possible.
– Will the honorable member, as a member of the Committee, say whether the £10,000,000 is supposed to be on loan or as a gift?
– It is on loan.
– As a matter of fact, I’ cannot tell the honorable member very much about the matter; all I know is that a number of very able gentlemen, as trustees, are struggling with a very difficult and almost insuperable problem, and the sooner it is simplified and resolved into its elements the better. What I think is wanted is a separate Department for pensions and repatriation ; whether we place a responsible Minister at the head of it is a matter for consideration hereafter, though my mind is running in that direction at present. Whoever takes the work in hand - work involving the expenditure and administration of £30,000,000 of public money - must be a good man, and must be responsible - a man with large powers, gifted so as to be able to deal with large concerns of the kind, and, above all, gifted with that saving common sense to enable him to look at the matter in a broad, large, human way, and deal out even-handed justice, as far as possible, to those men who are doing the fighting for us.
.- I should not have risen but for the interjection by the honorable member for Franklin io the effect that “ nothing has been done.”
– Ey this Parliament. ;
– I can tell the honorable member .what has been done, if not by this Parliament, by members of this Parliament, and other gentlemen outside - gentlemen of the highest business integrity to be found in the whole of the Common wealth. They have given their service? voluntarily, not only for an hour, but hour after hour, day after day, and week after week, as trustees appointed by this Parliament I thoroughly agree with the honorable member, for Parramatta that something must be done with regard ‘to the management. The movement, of course, was only in its infancy, and we trustees took up the work as we found it, the State War Councils administering the business side, and the trustees administering the fund. T may say that I do not know of a single instance in which a recommendation by a War Council has not been carried out by the trustees.. The honorable member for Wannon asked whether this money is by way of a gift or a loan. The reply is that the money is to be given to the men on loan without interest, with no time fixed for its repayment; if the men cannot repay it, all right, but if they can, they are expected to repay it.
– We must have it one way or the other.
– The honorable member accuses the Prime Minister of only touching one phase of the question, namely, the land phase. As a matter of fact, men have been helped to start in many different kinds of businesses.
– The honorable member is not quite fair to me. I was speaking in reference to the States which deal only with the land. I am not referring to the action of the War Councils.
– The honorable member said that the Prime Minister was dealing with only one aspect of the question, namely, the settlement of 10 per cent, of the men on the land.
– In association with the States and what the States are doing.
– There is something else besides. The reason that the money is only on loan is that there have been several instances of men who, on being given a start, have immediately disposed of the property. If that were permitted, not only would the money advanced be lost to the men, but it would be lost to the Commonwealth; and the trustees, in order to protect the funds, take a lien over the plant until the receipient either shows that he is able to make a living, or expresses a wish to try some other venture.
– Is there not a regulation which prevents the men from disposing of property, and prevents any one from buying it ?
– There is. As soon as this sort of practice came to the knowledge of the trustees, they immediately took possession of the property.
– It would be a nice job to watch the property of 300,000 returned men!
– It is of no use for the honorable member to talk like that.We do not wish to take the property to bed with us, in order to protect it; but there must be some protection, or not only the trustees, but the country, would be fleeced.
– My idea is that we should give the men the money, and trust them and their friends to look after it.
– Does the honorable member regard that as a good business proposition ?
– I have passed through the stage of mind of the honorable member, and have reached another.
– My experience of human nature and that of the honorable member are entirely different. There are many cases in which we have to protect an individual against himself; indeed, in my walk through life, I have found that to be so in nine cases out of ten.
– You will find that you cannot protect them all the time.
– J am going to try. I accepted the position of trustee, and I am going to give the best that is in me in looking after the soldiers and after the fund. As I have said, I thoroughly agree that we require some form of management - that there should be some person in this House to whom we could appeal and present cases for inquiry, and who should be responsible to this House, and this House only.
– But surely we need some kind of local control, too?
– Quite so; the more local control we have the better for the soldiers and the better for. the fund. It is absurd to suppose that even the best of business men tin Melbourne could manage properties up in Queensland. We all know that the banks and the big pastoral bodies have not only travelling inspectors, but district inspectors.
– You do not propose to have inspectors in connexion with this fund?
– There must be inspectors in order to insure that the men shall do what is right with the property and stock.
– It is the contemplated cost of administration that makes me say what I do.
– In Queensland, Mr. O’Connell is willing to give, not only his time, but his experience, in gathering stock in the Wide Bay and Burnett districts, and seeing that it is properly looked after, without the cost of a single penny to the Repatriation Fund. I can answer forthose engaged in the pastoral industry, and I venture to say that we could get, not one man, but dozens to do similar work in every one of the districts with which I am acquainted.
– In the administration of our scheme in the Wannon and Corangamite districts we adopted the same line as the honorable member now suggests, but when we come to deal with the whole of Australia in a voluntary way it is a different matter.
– There are as good patriots in Queensland as there are in Victoria, and particularly amongst those engaged in the pastoral industry. They have not only given of their best in stock and money, but, in many instances, have, to their credit, made their sons enlist.
– I do not think there is a better section of the community.
– There is not a man in the House who is not anxious to see this repatriation scheme wisely administered and made successful; and, if the Government fall in with the views of the Leader of the Opposition, we shall have that management we all desire.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Wannon has brought this very urgent and important subject before the House, and I take this opportunity of paying a tribute of admiration to the ‘excellent work done under difficult conditions by the trustees of the patriotic funds and the members of War Councils. They have been struggling against adversity, and their difficulties have been largely due to the fact that no comprehensive and definite scheme for the repatriation of our soldiers has yet been formulated. That, above all other things, is an urgent necessity. We are told that soldiers are returning to Australia rapidly. This matter was easy to deal with when there were comparatively few returned soldiers in our midst, but if it is true that the number has now reached 19,000, further delay cannot be permitted. The handling of this matter is not a task for the Government alone; in connexion with it there can be no party considerations. I am disposed to think that representatives of this House, together with leading busi- ness men, might be appointed to formulate a definite scheme. It is of the utmost importance that there should be no ‘ divided responsibility in connexion with any proposal that is adopted. The suggestion that the Commonwealth should do certain things, and that the States should do other things, will not result in a successful scheme.
– Would you create another Lands Department? Cannot the States conduct the whole of the business in connexion with land?
– In my view, the Commonwealth must have the sole responsibility, and to that end arrangements should be made by. the States to give to the Commonwealth such lands as are necessary for the settlement of returned soldiers.
– Why not advocate Unification ?
– I wish the honorable member would not interrupt so inanely. If we leave one portion of the scheme to the States, and another portion to the Commonwealth, the soldiers will receive differential treatment. A soldier belonging to Queensland may be treated in one way and a soldier belonging to Victoria, New South Wales, or Western Australia in other ways; such differential treatment will be calculated to generate dissatisfaction. It should never be said that a soldier connected with one State was more generously, dealt with than the soldier from another State.
– That would result in setting State against State. ,
– That should not bp> allowed to happen. But it will be inevitable under any scheme “such as that which has been forecasted.
– Not if a basic principle is laid down.
– If the States are allowed to treat their respective soldiers in such manner as they . think proper, there must necessarily be a dif ference in the treatment in each State, and that is most undesirable. I do not say that there should be only one centre for the administration of the scheme throughout the Commonwealth. As far as possible, we should decentralize the carrying out of” the scheme, but the control must be under one responsible . head. Moreover, I am of opinion that the time must soon come when we shall need a responsible Minister in this House to deal with the matters of repatriation and pensions. My main object in speaking, however, is primarily to emphasize the absolute necessity that exists for the immediate formulation of a wide and comprehensive scheme. Secondly, I urge, that the idea which has hitherto obtained that the States shall be permitted to treat their own soldiers as they think proper would be a fatal mistake. They are all Australian soldiers, and must be treated alike, so that it may never be said that because one soldier has the misfortune to belong to a State which has not the same area or quality of available land as another State, he is to be less generously treated. The proposal has been that the States should provide the land, and also funds for stocking. Such a proposal would be doomed to failure, and would work serious injustice.
– It will be under Com. mon wealth supervision.
– It cannot be under Commonwealth supervision unless the Commonwealth has transferred to it the lands whereon the soldiers are to be settled, in order that a central body may have the responsibility and control, of course delegating its powers throughout Australia. By that means we should secure uniformity of treatment and justice to all soldiers. Every member of the House is animated by a feeling that our soldiers must be treated generously, and receive a due acknowledgment of the willing and magnificent’ services they have rendered. But I know that already there are soldiers walking about in desperation, not knowing exactly what their future is to be. In this connexion there is an important aspect which I wish to emphasize, and which is .occupying the attention of Prance, the Mother Country, and even Germany. I refer to the immediate future of the soldier who does not intend to settle on the land. A process of despondency and degeneration sets in as soon as the soldier begins to think that he is not being properly looked after and that his outlook is gloomy. The schemes which are being organized with genuine zeal and foresight in other countries embrace the provision of some means of qualifying soldiers for new employment, so that they may never be allowed to reach the stage when a process of demoralization sets in, and the men feel that they are not so useful to the community as they were hitherto. There must be some organized plan whereby these men may be trained for every variety of suit1 able occupation. This must be done by a deliberate process of organization to insure that the soldier’s life shall not be vacant, that he shall not feel himself a. burden to the community. In conclusion, I repeat the necessity for the Government taking immediate steps to create some high-class expert body, which shall beintrusted with the duty of formulating this scheme, and submit it to the House, upon which the ultimate responsibility will rest. It is a matter of grave urgency, and permits of no delay, and I join with other honorable members in asking the Government to take it into consideration at once.
– I feel obliged to direct the attention of the honorable member for Wannon to the Conference of State Premiers which is in session in Melbourne at the present time. The whole efforts of those gentlemen seem to be directed to ascertaining how much money they can borrow for the carrying on of works in their own States. The honorable member for Wannon has been complimented on his action in connexion with the repatriation of soldiers, and I am prepared to give him praise for what he has done. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this is a responsibility of the whole Commonwealth. It matters not what our voluntary efforts have been ; the people of Australia, as a whole, are charged with the responsibility of making for these soldiers the provision to which they are entitled, and this Parliament with the obligation of imposing additional taxation to raise the necessary funds. We are told that the voluntary system may relieve us of that obligation, but the people of Australia must realize that they must be taxed to a greater extent in order to carry out that work for the soldiers, which should be done at once. Honorable members are asked to immediately appeal to the people of Australia for additional recruits. Yet the Government have not informed the House of any definite policy for the treatment of the soldiers on their return. The House has a right to know, without delay, what is to be done in connexion with this matter. Much has been said of the obligations of the States and what they propose to do. The States can do nothing without the sanction of this Parliament, and without the Commonwealth granting them money for the purpose. They have land at their disposal, but this sanction must be obtained before that land can be made available, or before stock can be purchased. For both those purposes money must be found. We should announce at once a definite policy, so that every returned soldier may know exactly to what he is entitled. In regard to the proposal to appoint a Commercial Committee, , in my opinion this matter should be dealt with entirely by the Government. We should establish a Department which would carry out the policy decided upon by this Parliament. Honorable members may talk over the matter this afternoon, but they must arrive at some decision that will make the position clear before we go into the country in connexion with the recruiting scheme suggested by the Government.
– No apology is required for considering this matter to-day. The House could deal with no subject of greater importance at the present time. This unfortunate war has been going on for two and a half years, but, so far, there has not been that grip of the question that there should have been.
– Give one definite case that has not been dealt with?
– I am not depreciating the very excellent efforts that have been made by the State War Councils and the trustees, but of the 20,000 men who have returned, I ask what percentage have gone through the hands of the trustees. The system adopted has been absolutely one of drift. The Federal Government appointed a War Committee, and put its responsibility on that body; the War Committee proceeded to appoint State War Councils and trustees, and put its responsibility on to them . These bodies have done a certain amount of really good work, but, as the honorable member for Oxley has put the matter, this is a responsibility that rests on the National Parliament. I do not like to hear statements made by thePrime Minister and others that the Commonwealth is waiting to see what the State Premiers are going to do, and will shape its policy accordingly. The only excuse offered for that course is the fact that the Commonwealth has no Crown lands, and the State Governments own all the land. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth owns about fifty times as much Crown lands as some of the States own. As the honorable members for Wannon and Maranoa have pointed out, a serious point is whether the money should be a free gift or a loan. The honorable member for Maranoa is correct in stating the War Committee has given this point serious consideration. He has told us what induced the Committee to adopt the course we have followed. Unfortunately, there will be cases, however few in number, in which it will be necessary to protect the men against themselves. We are prepared to treat the soldiers generously but, unfortunately, out of the large number that will be dealt with, there are some to whom it would be positive cruelty, in some cases, to advance money without having some control over it.
– Suppose that a soldier is allotted cash!
– When a man is desirous of setting up a business, in justice to himself and his family, if he has one, it is in his best interests that there should be some lien over him, not for the purpose of embarrassing him, but really in order to protect him from himself, against any rash speculations that he may be induced to enter upon. The men will have nothing to fear. I believe that they will be treated generously and fairly, but in their best interests it will be necessary to protect them in this way. I do not think that Australia has yet gripped all the enormous responsibility that is resting on it in connexion with this matter. We have sent our men away under a distinct pledge that when they return they will be protected by the State. We do not want a repetition of what happened after the Boer War, when men returned and had. practically no consideration extended to them. But if we are to do what we have pledged ourselves to do, it will take at least£25,000,000. If 20 per cent. of the men who return are desirous of going on the land, it will cost between £15,000,000 and £16,000,000 to give them a start.
– Should this House discriminate between a man who is going on the land and a man whois not?
-I do not think so. I am afraid that there will not be nearly so large a percentage of returned soldiers desirous of going on the land as some people seem to think, but no greater act of folly or cruelty could be entertained than to send men on to the land to starve. We must provide them with a certain amount of capital in order that the land may be fenced and some sort of house put up, and we must provide certain agricultural implements and horses, also a certain amount of stock in the shape of cattle or pigs. I have had some little experience in this direction. I believe that in the majority of cases it will take at least £400 to enable a man with a wife and a couple of children to make anything like a start, and if 20 per cent. of the men who return are desirous of going on the land, the expenditure in this directionwill amount to between £15,000,000 and £16,000,000. It will be money well invested, and I am one of those who hold that Australia should not shrink from providing that amount of money.
– Will not the soldier who goes on the land fall under the land settlement policy of a State Parliament, which will be supplementary to what this Parliament proposes?
– I do not think that this Parliament should deal with what a State Parliament proposes to do. It is our responsibility, and we should face it.
– But he gets the money from us, and he gets the land from the State.
– That is why the matter should be gripped at once by a central department, dealing through the local authorities. I have always regarded it as esential that we must provide about £25,000,000 in order to make provision for all the men whom we hope will return to Australia, and I think that half of that amount can be got by a very simple process. It may offend the canons of political economy, but in these times of national emergencies, we are compelled to throw overboard some of our canons of political economy. I have worked out the figures on the census returns issued by the Statistician. On the 30th September last, the single men in the Commonwealth between twenty-one years and forty-five years numbered 163,800. Qf these, 117,000 are classed as fit, and 46,800 as unfit. It is up to these men to pay £2 per head per annum, or lOd. per week, in order to, provide homes for the men who have gone away to fight for them.
– Would the honorable member take on the task of collecting the’ money ?
– We have had some experience of a poll tax in Queensland.
– In communities where the whole population of Australia would form a very small proportion, that is in about ten or twelve States in America, a poll tax is collected, and. if . Americans can do this, we in Australia can also do so. The question is whether it ought to be done. There are 310,000 married men between the ages of twentyone years and forty-five years. Is it too much to ask a married man to pay £1 a year to protect his family and his home, and to make provision for the men who have gone away to fight for him ? There are in Australia 34,000 men of enemy birth between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years It would not be expecting too much to ask them to pay £2 per head per annum. In this way we could raise £706,800, which is 5 per cent, interest on over £14,000,000, practically half the amount which I consider will be necessary to provide f,or the repatriation of our returned soldiers. Is there a single man in Australia fit to go to the war, but who has not gone, for some reason or other best known to himself, who would not be prepared to pay his £2 a year in order to provide a home for those men who have gone and fought for him ? Do we think that the 50,000 men who have done their best to go to the war, but have been turned, down by the medical officers, would not be prepared to pay their £2 a. year to the men who are fighting ? The experience of the world shows that this tax could be collected. It is collected in other countries.
– The experience of Queensland is entirely the opposite. A man will pay £5 through the Customs, but will buck if he is asked to pay 10s. in direct taxation.
– it is not a question of whether there would be any grumbling. It is a question of whether it is right that the money should be paid or not. In some localities men are compelled by their unions to pay certain sums in the shape of hospital fees. At Mount Bischoff, when a hospital was established, some men objected to pay, I think it was 9d. a week as hospital fees, but the union went to the manager of the company and asked him to deduct the 9d. per week from the pay-sheet. That system has been in vogue at Mount Bischoff for twenty-two years, and has been to the mutual advantage of all. The man who does not like to have this deduction from his pay has his option. I throw out the suggestion to the Treasurer. Half of the money required for the Repatriation Fund could be raised in a way which no man in Australia would feel. It would mean to each man only two drinks or two afternoon teas a week to provide homes for the men who have gone to fight for us. It is up to those who do not go to the front, or who cannot go, to take their share of the responsibility of making provision for the men who, it is universally admitted, have put up a splendid fight for them in other parts of the world. This Parliament should do everything in reason to make proper provision for these men. Up to the present, despite the good work that is being put in by local councils and by trustees, the policy pf the repatriation scheme has been one of drift. We are face to face with this problem, and should no longer shirk our responsibilities. The Government should not look to the States, and to voluntary aid. The responsibility rests with the National Administration and the National Parliament, for the question is one that can be dealt with only by a central authority.
.- When our men were asked in the first instance, over two years ago, to volunteer, we told them distinctly that legislation would be brought in to insure that their wives and families would be properly looked after in their absence, and that suitable provision would be made for them on their return. How has that promise been fulfilled? It is all very well to say that the War Committee is doing its best. No doubt it is, but it has no power to permanently determine what these men shall receive. It cannot place them on a farm, nor can it set them up in any business. I do not agree with the honorable member for Franklin with regard to the very large sum of money that will be required for this purpose. We must not lose sight of the fact that many of our men were in good positions, when they left for the front, and that they will return to good positions, so that they will not be any tax upon this fund. My anxiety is rather for those who were not in that fortunate position. No time should be -lost in establishing a central authority that will be able to provide for these men immediately they return to Australia. We are told that 19,000 men have already returned, and that no arrangements have yet been made to fulfil the promise that we gave them. Is that right? Are we likely to obtain more volunteers when the charge can be made against us that the promise which was made at the very outset of the war has never’ been fulfilled ? We should have a central authority to ascertain in what parts of the Commonwealth land can be obtained on the easiest terms for the settlement of returned soldiers. In Queensland alone, we have 419,000,000 acres of unalienated land. That land is very different from the Northern Territory areas. It would be absolutely cruel to ask any returned soldier to settle in the Northern Territory. The position would be altogether different if they were asked to settle on the fertile lands of either Western Australia or Queensland. If a central authority were in possession of all the facts as to the areas of land available, and the conditions on which those areas could be obtained, and if it also had details as to the number of men ready, to settle on the land, we should make good progress in solving this problem. Men who were placed on the land in Queensland at all events, and who had a little capital with which to make a start, would receive from the Agricultural Bank an advance of £800 each. It does not require a very large amount of capital to enable a settler to obtain the first advance of £200. Any man who takes up an agricultural selection has twenty years in which to pay off 50 per cent, of the cost. He can obtain from the Agricultural Bank £200 for £200 worth of work that he and his family can put into his selection. He gets £1 for £1 for twenty years at 5 per cent., and is also entitled to a further advance of 15s. in the fi, until he has received another £600 on approved improvements, making in all £800. This system is of enormous advantage to those who settle in the fertile parts of Queens land. Instead of the Repatriation Fund being called upon to find such a large amount as has been suggested for the purpose, a great deal of the burden will be taken off the shoulders of the Commonwealth by the various States, who will be glad to help these men to settle on their agricultural holdings. There are also many iron founders and other business people who, if approached, would be prepared to find employment for men who have been, to some extent, injured in the war. These people would consider that they were merely doing their duty to the Commonwealth, and to the men themselves, by affording such assistance. We have also to remember that, when the war is over, it proba’bly will not be as easy as it has been to obtain money by voluntary effort. A permanent system should, therefore, be devised, so as to avoid any possibility of the people of the Commonwealth repudiating their obligations to the men who have fought for us so nobly. I sincerely hope that there will be no loss of time. I have no wish to say anything harsh concerning the late Government, but the fact remains that’ they knew that this question had to be dealt with, and that they should have prepared long before this for dealing with it effectively. We know now that no arrangement has been made, and we should not lose twenty-four hours in ‘trying to make a start with some such scheme as that which has been foreshadowed to-day.
.- There are only two or three minutes ax my disposal under the Standing Orders, and I shall therefore direct my remarks to the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, as I desire to bring under his special notice a phase of this question which has not yet been discussed. Mr. J. C. Watson requested me to formulate for his information my views on this subject. I did so, and I am pleased to learn from the discussion to-day that honorable members are turning their thoughts in the direction that I urged should be taken. The first consideration is that there should be Federal responsibility and central control. There is a division of opinion as to whether the control of the land should . be divided between the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments. Most of the discussion this afternoon has centred round the desirableness of putting men upon the land, or assisting to set them up in small businesses. The great bulk of the trouble will arise, however, in connexion with returned soldiers who will be seeking work for wages, and who will not desire to go on the land. I would, therefore, suggest” that the Government should first of all create a’ central authority to deal with the whole subject, and that it should be prepared to pay for an efficient administration somewhat along the lines indicated by the honorable member for Maranoa. The Commonwealth should be divided into districts, and the scheme should be administered, not by volunteers, but by paid men, since it must necessarily extend over a long period. There will be much to do in finding employment for returned soldiers. We have a Returned Soldiers Employment Bureau, which is already unable to find employment for all who are see’king it. The Bureau should be linked up with this scheme, and efforts should be made to. provide these men with permanent situations. A separate Department would be required to deal with this work, and the States should be divided into districts so that a returned soldier, who has perhaps a wife and family to support, will not have to wait six months to secure employment.
Debate interrupted tinder standing order 119.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The payments made to sailors are not made subject to any maximum rate of pay, but are made to all married men who fulfil the conditions of allotment of pay.. It will be seen that the Navy payments are not made on the same basis as the military, and a comparison between the two systems is not easy, as the Navy pay is based on a different system from the military. Sailors have also many opportunities in. the Navy for obtaining extra pay and allowances which do not obtain in the military. “ v
It is considered the present method of paying married allowance in the Navy suits the particular circumstances of the Department, and compares at the present time not unfavorably with the military. In some instances the military scale would appear to be more favorable, ,and in other cases the Navy system would show better results.
Taking all the circumstances into consideration, it is not considered necessary, at the present time, to further extend the payments to . sailors in respect of wives and dependent mothers.
Subscribers to War Loan.- Recruiting: Closing Stadiums. - Destruction of Letters
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that soldiers on- service here, going to the front, and at the front, were .asked to subscribe to the war loan; and, if so, is there a list of such subscribers kept?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The attention of the troops, both in Australia and abroad, was drawn to the desirability of investing in the war loan from national and business points of view.
The applications would be forwarded to the Commonwealth Bank; but it is not known whether the bank has a list disclosing the applications which were received from members of the Australian Imperial Force.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the shortage of fighting men, and’ the urgent necessity of strengthening the proposed recruiting campaign, will the Government consider the desirability, before canvassing country districts, of closing the prizefighting stadiums, which occupy the time and attention of many eligible city men who are not producers of anything essential to the favorable prosecution of the war, and would thereby be afforded an opportunity of offering their services?
– The matter will receive consideration.
Mr. MATHEWS (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In reference _ to answer to Question 1 of the 7th December, 1916, will he cause inquiries to be made as to the accuracy of the following letter: - “ If, as in reply ‘to question, the authorities in Egypt state that ‘ nothing more than rumours were established,’ an attempt is made to suppress a very serious offence. A large number of letters addressed to Australian reinforcements in Egypt were destroyed and burnt. Many letters were received with burnt edges, rescued from the flames by friends of the recipients. An official inquiry was held in the Second Australian Division, and it was found that many letters in the Sixth Infantry Brigade (among others) had been burnt under official orders. This was in January-February, 1916, at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt, and the grief and indignation of the men in the reinforcements expecting letters were intense. If the Defence Department has been kept in ignorance of the matter, it should find out who is suppressing the facts. The procedure is that letters to reinforcements are sent out to the corps, and afterwards re-addressed to the training camps where the reinforcements are, and there was no military necessity for any orders to be issued for destruction of the letters”?
– The letter referred to will he brought under the notice of the authorities abroad, and a report called for.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I have not the amount of revenue and expenditure available at present, but will supply the honorable member with same later.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When does he propose to introduce a Bill for an Act to legalize the expenditure of £2,068,000 on the purchase of steam-ships?
-A measure to deal with this matter will shortly be introduced.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The cost of telegrams, telephone calls, stationery, &c, which is not readily available, would require to be added to the. above expenditure.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Following his answer re question on 27th September with reference to Dalgety and Co. Ltd. having the sole control of molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite, and also what commission and charges were made against the miners and mining companies, when he replied - “ 1. No; the Commonwealth Government have the sole control of the export of these minerals; Messrs. Dalgety and Co., as stated in the advertisement, are the agents of the Commonwealth Government for that purpose.
– I shall lay the whole of the papers dealing with the question on the table.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the approaching Christmasseason, will the Prime Minister, as an act of grace, extend clemency to those of our Australian soldiers who are now in prison in Australia for military offences at the front, so that these young men may be given their liberty for Christmas?
Mr. JENSEN (for Mr. Hughes).The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No. It is not considered advisable, in the interests of the service, that this should be done.
Itis also pointed out that, in the case of civil offenders, the practice suggestedis not followed.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
On what approximate date does he propose to proceed with the consideration of the Wartime Profits Bill?
– As soon as the business of the House permits.
The following papers were presented: -
Death and Invalidity in the Commonwealth - Committee concerning nausea of - Report on Venereal Diseases.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Awards varied -
Copy of Order varying Award which has been made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Statement of the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the President (or Deputy President) of the Court, the Order is not or may not be in accord.
Copy of the “reasons for judgment” of the President (or Deputy President).
Opinion of Attorney-General -
On plaint submitted by -
Australian Commonwealth Post and
Telegraph Officers’ Association - Order dated 27th October, 1916, varying Award dated 19th September, 1916.
Australian Letter Carriers’ Association - Order dated 27th October, 1916, varying Award dated 19th September, 1916.
Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union - Order dated 22nd November, 1916, further varying Award dated 1st May, 1914.
Federated Public Service Assistants Association- Order dated 27th October, 1916, varying Award dated 19th September, 1916.
Award further varied -
Copy of Order dated 21st November, 1916, furthervarying Award dated 23rd April, 1913, made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Opinion of Attorney-General -
On plaint submitted by -
Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
Customs Act-Exportation of Goods -
Lists of Persons to whom Goods may be exported (with Minister’s permission) in-
China (not including Hong Kong) and Siam (dated 30th November, 1916).
Liberia (dated 22nd November, 1916).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under at-
Bherwerre, New South Wales - For Establishment of a Port in connexion with the Seat of Government, and for Defence purposes.
Broken Hill, Now South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Promotions of -
S. W. Gibbs. Department of Trade and Customs.
W.Reid, Postmaster-General’s Department.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 293.
– I move -
That in accordance withthe provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-14, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz. : -
Extension of Postal Stores building, Harbourstreet, Sydney, New South Wales, for store purposes and for Telephone and Telegraph Workshops.
I lay on the table the plans of the proposed building. It is proposed to erect a building to provide accommodation for a number of workshops in connexion with the engineering department of the Post Office. The Government own the land on which this building is to be erected, having paid £13,369 for it. and the cost of the building, which is called an extension of the present postal stores building, is estimated at £68,532. The building is to have eight stories, to be constructed with brick walls, with steel reinforced concrete flooring, and to be completely fireproof. The main reason for erecting it is that the Department is now paying rent for the premises in which its work is being done, although the Government have a fine block of land lying idle. I have other information concerning the project, but I do not think it is necessary to weary honorable members with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Tariff Reform - Repatriation Scheme - Unification - Peace Proposals - Recruiting - Referendum Campaign - Military Offences - Sugar Industry - Land Settlement - Prohibited Circulation of “ The British Navy
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now * leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
.- It has been the general desire of honorable members that the Tariff should not be discussed or revised during the war; but it contains certain anomalies which it was the duty of the late Government, and particularly of its Minister for Trade and Customs, who is now the Leader of the Australian Labour party, to abolish. Most of these anomalies affect Victoria chiefly. While one industry in the Commonwealth is being absolutely penalized, others are being spoon-fed, and those connected with them are making enormous sums of money. It is time, therefore, that an opportunity was given to criticise the Tariff of 1914. Apparently, it is not intended that we shall have that opportunity, although it was promised to us.
– The Tariff must be dealt with before Parliament is prorogued, or else £5,000,000 of revenue will be lost.
– Then I hope that the present Minister for Trade and Customs will promise that something shall be done which ought to have been done under his predecessor. The Tariff of 1914 should be considered by us, and we should have a Tariff policy ready to come into operation as soon as the war ends. The sooner that happens the better, so long as there can be an honorable settlement of the causes of dispute. ‘ When the war terminates, Parliament may not be in session. The nations of the world have all made arrangements for flooding Australia with goods, and we ought not to sit with our thumbs in our mouths doing nothing. We need a well-defined Tariff policy, which we can bring into operation as soon as the war finishes. I intend to draw attention to some of the anomalies in the Tariff under which’ duties are now being collected to show how unjust they are to the public. Although the’ Inter-State Commission reported on them,’ the late Government took no action to protect the public, *the Leader of the Australian Labour party, when Minister for Trade and Customs, not performing his duty in the manner that was expected of him. I am a great advocate for the protection of the primary, as well as the secondary, producers, but a Tariff must be equitable. I do not consider that the dutieslevied for the protection of the dried fruit industry are equitable.- ‘ A majority report of the Inter-State Commission says that it was alleged in the inquiry that it made that Australian dried fruits are sold for export at a price much less than that charged for home consumption, and that the Dried Fruits Association penalizes any trader which handles such fruit other than their own. The Tariff imposes a duty on dried fruits, which gives a protection of 100 per cent., and the association controls not less than 95 per cent, of the total output of dried fruits in Australia, so that, as the Inter-State Commission points out, no wholesale or retail dealer can afford to disregard its operations, and dealers are bound, in order to secure ‘their necessary supplies, to agree to any conditions that it may impose. The association says to its customers, “ You may buy dried fruits from us only on the condition that you shall buy from no one else. If you buy from any one else, we shall cancel our contract, and have no more dealings with you.” If I were to ‘purchase 10 tons of currants or raisins from the association, and saw an opportunity of buying dried apricots more cheaply from some one else, my agreement with the association would at once be cancelled, unless I got its permission to buy the apricots. The growers connected with the association are in several of the States,’ but its executive manager controls its affairs from Melbourne. The Commission says that it was admitted that for some years not half the production has been consumed in Australia, and we have therefore been compelled to export.’ The majority report, which is by Commissioners Swinburne and Lockyer, says that, in evidence, it was stated that in 1912 Three-crown sultanas were sold in London at £54 per ton. They go on to say-
This price paid the producers, because, as the witness stated, “ it was almost equal to the Commonwealth price.” The witness continued -
Last year ‘(1913) the same quality fruit only realized £25 per ton on the London market. That was the world’s market price at the time of sale. The local price last year was 7Jd. per lb., or £66 10s. per ton.
The cost was only £25 lis. 5d. In a time of war the people of Australia, by reason of the action of this association, are compelled to pay nearly double the price that people outside the country are charged for the same fruit. Then, on page 5 of this report, we are told -
It is doubtful, however, whether the association would be able to maintain the high prices for local distribution, even with the duties of practically 100 per cent., if it did not use powers of combination, and if it did not, ‘in addition, control imports by refusing to supply its locally-produced goods, to any dealer who either imports, or is connected with imports,’ without the sanction of the association.
It was given in evidence that -
American apricots can be imported at a laid-down , cost of 7d., including 3d. per lb. duty, of a quality equal to Australian apricots distributed by merchants at 9)d.
– You cannot buy Yankee apricots for that price to-day, nor could you last season, and the honorable member buys as many as any man in the House. Give us the price in England and the price in Australia last year.
– I much prefer to quote the report of the Inter-State Commission, which is dated no later than 18th August last.
– The Commission has not been sitting for nearly twelve months.
– However, the Commission call attention to the following section of the Australian Industries Preservation Act : -
Any person who, either as principal or as agent, makes or enters into any contract, or is or continues to be a member of or engages in any combination, in relation to trade and commerce with other countries or among the States -
in restraint of or with intent to restrain trade or commerce.
In view of that provision, I should like to know what an ex-Minister for Trade and Customs has to say when we find people allowed to export large quantities of dried fruits of all descriptions - probably 50 per cent, of the production - and sell it at 50 per cent, below the price they charge here.
– They were stopped, from doing that, and had to sell at the same price here.
– They have not done so.
– They have done so - there was an embargo put on.
– However, Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Lockyer signed the following recommendation: -
On account of the costs of production in Australia, including interest on the .value of established orchard lands, we recommend that there should be no alteration in the 1908-11 Tariff, Item 54 (a), (b), (c), in respect of dried fruits.
We are of the opinion that, up to a certain point, the association has done very good work for the growers generally in encouraging .cooperation and in improving the grade of fruit produced, but that it has now introduced principles of control of trade which, if allowed to proceed unchecked or without supervision, may seriously interfere with the liberty of private trading and the charging of fair prices for foodstuffs.
The Chairman of the Commission, in a minority report, goes a great deal further. It has been suggested to me that this gentleman has more Free Trade propensities than have his two colleagues. Of this I cannot speak personally, but, if the fact be as stated, I may say that I am not a Free Trader, and I do not wish to depend too much on the report of a man with such sympathies.
– That is hardly fair, surely ?
– As I say, I have only been told that the Chairman has Free Trade propensities.
– I believe that Mr. Lockyer is one of the straightest, fairest,’ and squarest men’ that ever. trod on earth.
– But Mr. Piddington is the Chief Commissioner, and, so far as I know, 111, the reports of that gentleman have been fair. At any rate, they have not been attacked, and I do not wish to attack them now on account of any rumour there may be as to his Free Trade propensities.
– If the honorable member desires to be quite fair, he should not quote evidence, which may be ex parte, in order to make his case.
– I do not quite follow the honorable member, but if, in this connexion, we cannot use a report which has been placed, in our hands, what is the good of circulating it?
– But the honorable member proposes to quote evidence that he has already discounted.
– In what way ? I have no intention of doing so.
– By the reflections you have made on a particular Commissioner.
– I made none. I do not say that there should be any reflection on the character of the Commissioner, but I thought it right to say that I had been told by honorable members he has Free Trade propensities.
– Would that prevent him having a judicial mind?
– I do not think so, and from what I have heard of Mr. Piddington, the Chief Commissioner, I have every confidence in him. However, I should like honorable members to hear the following extract from the report: -
No industry examined by the Commission has shown a monopoly so complete as this. But the question remains - Are the prices thus exacted fair? because this Prussianization of the trade may be excused if the producer in this excellent industry cannot otherwise get a fair return. On this point the evidence of the chairman of the association is conclusive. He says -
The average cost of production of currants, sultanas, and lexias for the years 1907 to 1914 inclusive would be £2311s. 5d. per ton (i.e., 2½d. per lb.).
If that be so, surely there is more than a reasonable margin? Again -
The prices charged to wholesale merchants at the time evidence was given were, it was said, lower than had been previously the case. These prices are set out on page 37 of the Evidence, and for 10-ton lots they range from 5¼d. up to11½d. per lb. for the grades of sultanas, lexias, and currants most in use in Australia (where Three Crown currants are not sold, vide page 336). These grades are all of them sold at over 5d. per lb., or 100 per cent. gross profit, if the goods are sold in Australia, as is the case with 92 per cent. of the total production of the association.
In other words, leaving out of sight anything by way of rebate which the merchant may earn on proof of his loyal submission to discipline, the association sells nine-tenths of its products to the merchants at more than 100 per cent. upon the cost of production. . .
The present duty of 3d. is therefore about 100 per cent. on the ordinary currants and raisins imported. The. prices shown by the statistics are borne out by the evidence. . . .
The average cost of production of all grades of grape products, viz., 2½d. per lb., is below the average import price per lb. of the lowestpriced article by½d., or 20 per cent. on the cost of production. It would appear, therefore, that the industry has now reached a position where a duty of1d. per lb. would insure to the grower a protection which would allow for a gross profit of at least 60 per cent. And it has been seen that the export trade pays with a gross profit of 40 per cent.
They are earning 40 per cent. as gross profit, and even if the duty werereduced from 3d. to1d., there would still be left 60 per cent. profit. The report goes on -
The Commission considers that the policy of Tariff encouragement to Australian manufacturers adopted by Parliament involves the following general principle: -
That Tariff assistance should be of such an amount as to enable the Australian manufacturer, under an efficient system of production, and with modern business methods, to compete with outside competitors, with a margin for a fair and reasonable profit. Assistance which ignores these conditions will not tend to the genuine development of Australian industry. . . .
So long, therefore, as present prices are maintained, the industry cannot expand.
The point I wish to make is that the industry is being checked by the very fact of these huge profits - which means that no more land can be brought under this kind of tillage. On the other hand, a reduction of prices must remedy the present under-consumption of articles which should be’ an ordinary and nutritious food. The profits of the industry, it has been seen, can well afford a reduction in prices, which will let in new growers, with a certainty of their disposing in Australia of their produce at reasonable profits, and by such a reduction the reproach would be removed that the association is now selling its products outside Australia at half the price it charges our own people in the Commonwealth market.
Is not that a strong charge to make ? We allow the producers to make a handsome profit on the export of an everyday commodity, and yet the consumers within the Commonwealth are charged double the price at which the article is exported. The Chief Commissioner continues -
In order to secure the Australian market to the local producer without perpetuating the present injury to the public, and the present clog on future development, it is suggested that the duty on currants and other dried fruits should be reduced to lid. per lb.
I should not have commented so much on this, but for the injustice that is being done in connexion with the sugar industry of Queensland. The Federal Government, by purchase, have taken possession of the whole of the sugar crop, and the financial statement delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia shows an estimated profit of £500,000 for the year, although the Government have been told repeatedly that with the present high rates of wages the industry cannot live. They know also that if the sugar, industry in the tropical part of Queeusland is killed we shall not be able to replace it with any other industry, and consequently those millions of acres of beautiful agricultural land will be a menace to Australia instead of a safeguard. If we drive the white men out of the northern part of Queensland, how shall we justify the holding of that beautiful ‘ country unutilized ?’
– Did the Government make a profit of £500,000 in one year on the sugar transaction?
– In the financial statement delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia there was an estimated profit out of sugar of £500,000 for the year. That estimate was not contradicted by the present Treasurer. The Government proposed to utilize that profit to wipe out the losses incurred in importing from Java black-grown sugar to supply the balance of Australia’s requirements. Does that look as if the Government are giving fair, even-handed justice to the growers in Queensland? Yet there are honorable members in this Parliament who suggest that we should have Unification. There is already too much Unification in the policy of the present Government, when no consideration is given to the important sugar industry in Queensland.
– This Parliament has stood by the sugar industry of Queensland very well.
– The people of Queensland do not admit that. The honorable member must bear in mind that there are differences between protection and protection run mad. I will give another instance of the latter kind of protection. Victoria has a grape-growing . industry. Since the war there has been ‘ an increase in the price of wine of about ls. per gallon, and that rise is attributable solely to the war. In Great Britain and France most of the distilleries have been commandeered in order that the spirit may be used in munition factories, and the consequence has been an enormous increase in the prices of whisky and brandy. What have the Government done to reach, some of the profits which the local wine growers and producers of whisky and brandy are making ? >
– What profit did the vignerons make in the year of drought?
– Did not those engaged in the sugar industry lose one-third of their crop during the drought? They were not considered by the Government, and why should the vignerons be considered ? In 1914, Australian brandy was 8s. 6d. per gallon; to-day it is being sold wholesale at 14s. per gallon. Who is getting the advantage of the difference between 8s. 6d. and 14s. ? The Government have allowed those engaged in that industry, although they are protected by the Customs duty, to make huge profits. In 1914 Australian whisky was selling freely at 5s. 6d. per gallon; to-day the price is 15s.
– The Excise duty is more than 5s. ‘6d. per gallon.
– I am speaking of the in-bond price before the Excise duty has been paid.
– Is not most of the whisky that is consumed by the public imported ?
– No. Sometimes it is almost impossible to get imported whisky, and on account of the excess of the heavy duty on the imported article over the Excise on the Australian product, and the high prices ruling in Great Britain and France^ due to the war, the cost has been raised so much that hotelkeepers, in order to sell at the usual prices over the bar vend Australian whiskies and brandies. I have another illustration which shows clearly the necessity for revising the present Tariff. In 1914, we imposed on confectionery coming from the United Kingdom a duty of 2 1/2 d. per lb., and 3d. per lb. on confectionery from any other country, or an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, respectively, whichever duty produced most. A large proportion of our high-class confectionery came from Great Britain. At that time the duty on sugar in Great Britain was ls. lOd. per cwt., and it is now 14s., whilst the duty on cocoa, which was then Id. per lb., is now 4d. Adding the difference between ls. lOd. and 14s. in the case of sugar, and between Id. and 4Jd. in the case of cocoa, and then applying the ad valorem duty, we absolutely shut out the British manufactures, and make a market for the goods of the United States and Japan, which have no duty upon cocoa, and a considerably smaller duty upon sugar. In those circumstances, a preference of 10 per cent. to Great Britain is useless, and the effect has been to drive the high-class confectionery trade to .the United States and other countries. The duties should be revised as soon as possible, not only ‘in justice to the consumers who are penalized to such a large extent by the local producers, but also in justice to the manufacturers of Great Britain. A preference df 30 or 40 per cent, in favour of Great Britain would be necessary to shut out the United States confectionery.
– That is an anomaly, I admit.
– The people are suffering from these anomalies, and why do not the Government take action to prevent these enormous profits going into the hands of the few to the detriment of the many ? We should have more industries, and assist them in every way by putting heavy Protective duties on the goods they can produce. But there is a difference between a Protective duty and’ an imposition. The people are not getting the benefit of this imposition, and we are simply throwing to Japan and the United States of America legitimate business that should belong to Great Britain if we do wish to import from that country. Again, why should the Government allow all kinds of wheels of certain sizes to come in free from Great Britain, and under a duty of only 10 per cent, against other countries, thus preventing the manufacture of those wheels in Australia? The result of the legislation of the Government in this direction is that although Walkers Limited have spent £12,000 ,in putting lip a complete 1 steel plant, with the hope of being able to make these wheels if they had anything like decent Protection, they are not able to use the factory one-fifth of its capacity. When they put it up they hoped soon to be able to duplicate and triplicate it. The whole fault lies in the inadequate Tariff.
– Has not “the war affected the position?
– The war has made no difference in this case, because the trouble is that no encouragement has been given to manufacture the wheels here. The manufacturers have been relying on wheels imported from elsewhere.
– What wheels is the honorable member talking of?
– Locomotive wheels and others, but more particularly locomotive wheels. On account of the maladminis tration of the Department of Trade and Customs, for months and months tens of thousands of pounds have been tied up in locomotives complete in every other respect but wheels.
– It has been stated that tenders were invited for the East-West railway, and the ‘firm you mention wass not in a position to tender.
– It is not a question of. ability with a firm like Walkers Limited, that has turned out some 156 locomotives for the Queensland Government, twenty for the Victorian Government, and eighty for the South Australian Government. I understand that that firm is now building large locomotives for the Commonwealth Government; and that they were anxious to compete in every item of locomotive construction. It was making the steel, and the brass, and everything in that line in connexion with the locomotives, except the wheels, and it put down machinery for the purpose of making’ wheels. If it had had fair play it would have been able to do so.
– Why do Walkers not. make wheels for their own locomotives?
– Because they can get them cheaper by importing them from Home.
– At the present time?
– No. They relied on the orders that had gone Home. If they had reasonable ‘ Protection they would use the plant already erected for the purpose of making wheels.
– In 1908 Walkers Limited joined in the suggestion that there should- be no duty on wheels.
– But to-day we are progressing. It is the duty of the Government of any country to do everything in its power to assist the industries of the country. We do not desire to force every man to go into the dockyards at Cockatoo Island, and, perhaps, learn to be a slacker, because there is not much work .in sight for him after leaving the island. The reason for much of the existing slackness is the fear that when the job is over there will be no other work to go to. If we had a real policy of Protection, it would establish a number of new industries, and these men would know that they would have ample and constant work, and that it would be in their best interests to do ‘ a fair- day’s work for a fair day’s wage.
– We do not require any Protection against Great Britain now. We can get no steel from Great Britain.
– But we have to prepare for the time when the war is over. If we had been far-seeing enough before the war, and had given that meed of Protection which is necessary, Walkers Limited would have been making their own wheels by this time, instead of having their locomotives hung up for the want of wheels that they cannot get vessels to bring out from Great Britain.
– Walkers Limited do less growling about Protection than any other firm.
– Of what use is it to growl? At the same time, ‘I have with me a letter from the firm, dated the 8th May, 1916, in which they make the following suggestion : -
We would suggest for your consideration that the present wording of clauses 359(b) and 359(c) of the existing Tariff be excised, and a clause substituted to cover the following : -
Wheels of steel or partly of steel and other material for use on railways and tramways, 30 per cent. and 35 per cent.
That means 30 per cent. against Great Britain and 35 per cent. against other countries. If that were done, a plant three times the size of the existing plant would be required, and would employ a large number of men. Why was not this advice taken ? It was a reasonable request. Honorable members talk about the necessity for finding employment for men, but when they can find permanent and lucrative employment they do not take action to secure it. The Treasurer shows an anticipated increase of revenue of £250,000 from Customs and Excise duties over the estimate of the ex-Treasurer. The ex-Treasurer estimated to receive £16,750.000 for the year 1916-17. The present Treasurer’s estimate is £17,000,000 for the same period. No doubt, the Treasurer feels that he is justified in thus increasing the figures because of the enormous rise that has taken place in regard to the duty paid on certain articles. The increased Excise duty paid on colonial spirits in seven months has been £153,000. This shows whether colonial spirit is being used. The increase of duty paid on textiles, attire, &c, for the same period has been about £500,000. Yet we talk about being careful and not overtaxing the poor people. Whom do we see going into the shops? If we go down
Bourke-street, we see all kinds of people doing so. They must spend an enormous amount of money unnecessarily to bring about an increase of £500,000 in the Customs duties paid on that sort of material in a period of seven months. The increase on jewellery and fancy goods in the same period has been £45,000. Some other means ought to be found by the Ministry to raise money for repatriation than by taxing property when we find suchan enormous waste of money in placing clothes and finery on people’s backs and in purchasing jewellery. Let us obtain the taxation by means from which the people will suffer the least. If a man has a foundry, and all his capital is represented by machinery and land, when a tax of 2½ per cent. is imposed on his capital he cannot cut off a piece of the machinery, or a piece of the land, to satisfy the demand. It is another way of taking the levy from income and profits. It cannot be done otherwise. Why does not the Treasurer get the money in an honest and straightout way by taxing the income? Whatever is necessary, let it be taken from income and from profits. Do not let it be taken from the land or the machinery that are required for the purpose of producing revenue upon which we can levy a tax. The more money that is invested in enterprises, or capital, as it is termed, whether it is in land or in buildings, the more employment we are giving, and the better it is for the whole nation, because the. machinery and the capital are earning something that can be taxed in the form of income tax, and they are giving employment to men who, in their turn, contribute through the Customs to the taxation of the Commonwealth. We must tax ourselves to find every penny that is necessary for repatriation purposes, but we should use wisdom, and impose taxation in a form which will do the least harm to the whole community. If people can afford to spend so much additional money in seven months that even the Customs duties upon their expenditure amount to the enormous sum that I have mentioned, why not put a tax on certain other articles which are now free, but which will reach the whole of the people, and apply the money derived from that means to repatriating our soldiers? Many people say that we should not tax kerosene, motor, and other oils. If honorable members knew as much asI do, they would know that Australia saves very little by admitting kerosenefree.Very little benefit was gained by the removal of the duty of 6d. that was formerly imposed in the State of Queensland. The people in New York who fix the price of kerosene do not fix it upon any Customs taxation that may be imposed. What influences them is what the people of the country can afford to pay without using some other illuminant or lubricant. They do not want anything but oil to be used, and they fix the price accordingly. They are prepared to take as’ much as they can out of the people as long as they do not lose the trade. I do not believe the people of Queensland received, by way of a reduction in the price of kerosene, anything more than a fractional portion of the duty that was removed.
– What is the remedy?
– When we find the people are in such a position of affluence that, in the course of seven months, they can afford to spend by way of duty alone an additional £750,000 on clothing, jewellery, and spirits, it is time to consider whether they should not contribute something for the special purpose I have named. All the places of amusement are crowded from day to day, showing that there is still plenty of money available for pleasure.
-Does the honorable member suggest a duty on kerosene?
– I would favour such a duty for the one special purpose of raising money for the Repatriation Fund. I do not think such a duty would mean any increase worth considering in the price of kerosene and other oils delivered in the homes of the people. The Government should be able to ascertain whether or not my statement is correct and if they find, as I know they will, that it is, they should act upon it.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong, when speaking a few days ago, said the Constitution should be amended in a certain direction, because there had been an interference with Inter-State Free Trade since the outbreak of the war. No doubt there has been some such interference, but it has occurred, not under the Constitution, but under regulations brought into force in connexion with defence matters. Queensland took advantage of regulations issued under the Wat Precautions Act passed by the State
Legislature; but no matter what may be the views of the people of Victoria, where there is practically no unalienated land, the people of Western Australia and Queensland would never submit to Unification. They desire to work out their own destinies, just as other States have been able to do. We do not wish to forego the home rule that we so much appreciate.
– You are getting too much of home rule in Queensland just now.
– It is not home rule, but Caucus rule. There is a great distinction between the two. Home rule is for the benefit of the whole community, but the Caucus rule considers only one section. The honorable member for Maribyrnong also read a longlist of dividends paid by various companies. I asked him whether it was not necessary, if he desired to prove anything at all, by quoting that list, to state the capital invested, and the proportion of profit made upon that capital. The honorable member did not do that. All that he proved then - and this is a very valuable point, although I do not think he intended to make it - was that we have a number of live firms giving much employment and producing wealth which is being taxed, and will’ be taxed both by the State and Federal Governments’ for war, repatriation, and other purposes. We ought not to find fault with the establishment of ten times as many such companies in Australia if they can profitably carry on and give employment.
– I did not attack them. I only desired to show the profits they were making in war time.
– The honorable member did not show what was the return on the capital invested.
– In nearly every case it runs up to 3 per cent.
– In a vast number of cases these companies are not paying 8 per cent.
– At all events, I am glad we have another Protectionist in the House.
– He is only a halfhearted one.
– Not at all. I am never half-hearted in anything I take up. I like to be just. Why should we adopt in respect of certain industries such a policy of Protection as will have the effect of destroying other Australian industries) I do not want a Protectionist Tariff’ such as will enable the few to become enormously wealthy at the expense of the rest of the community. I want such a policy of “Protection as will enable new industries to be started with the certainty of a profit, and which will also enable good wages to be paid. That is the kind of Protection in which I believe. I do not believe in monopolies; but I am afraid that some of our protected industries are approaching a monopoly. My object in rising was to endeavour to induce the present Government, even at this, the eleventh hour, to do something to relieve the Queensland sugar industry of the burden it is now carrying. I hope those honorable members who have in their constituencies industries that enjoy a full measure of protection will remember that there are 19,000 people engaged in the Queensland sugar industry who are not receiving justice. They are not receiving that measjure of protection that is enjoyed by the clothing industry, the dried fruit and the jam industries, as well as many others, which, as the result of a Protectionist policy, are now making enormous profits. I appeal to honorable members to see that there is meted out to Queensland in this respect that even-handed justice which is enjoyed by the southern States.
– When the honorable member for Bendigo yesterday asked tho Prime Minister a question regarding Germany’s peace overtures, there was a howl of derision from a certain section of the House. The man who howls at a suggestion of peaco is, to my mind, little better than a human beast. If he is so fond of war, he ought to be at the front. I am not suggesting that Germany’s peace proposals should be accepted, but those who howled when it was suggested that they should be considered reminded me of theconscriptionists who used to howl at the anticonscriptionist meetings, but were not prepared to volunteer themselves.
-Does the honorable member think that those terms are worth considering ?
– I have already said ’ No.” It is the duty of civilization to bring about peace as soon as possible, but the terms should be *each as will prove beneficial to humanity. Although we know that the British Government could not ac cept the peace proposals which have been made by Germany, they should, at all events, he ready to make an alternative proposition. There is nothing/ unpatriotic in a suggestion of that sort, and the less we have of the howling down of men who talk of peace - . the- better for every civilized community. In the Age of the 2nd inst. there appeared two articles, which, if printed in the Labour Gall, would have led to that paper being confiscated, and its machinery would have been collared by the Government. One of these articles was taken from an English newspaper. There was also a quotation from a book in Napoleon’s library,’ written by Colonel Guibert, in which there is the statement - “What can be the issue. of our wars to-day? Victor and vanquished become about equally exhausted. The total of the public debt increases. Credit falls. Money isscarce. The navies find no more sailors; the armies no more soldiers. Ministers on both Bides feel that it is time’ to negotiate. Peace is made. A few colonics or provinces change masters. Often the source of the dispute is not closed, and each of the belligerents remains seated among his ruins, busy paying his debts and sharpening his sword.” The warning against the kind of peace we must not have is worth remembering.
I admit that no peace terms should be considered unless they provide for the disarmament of the nations in such a way as would prevent the recurrence of war.
– Would Germany agree to that ?
– Let me explain my attitude. Like many other honorable members, I have indulged in fisticuffs in days gone by, and sometimes there has been a sort of armistice, during which the man who has had enotugh has said, “ You “gave me a black eye, and I am going to get even with you before I give up.” When a man talks peace, we know that he has had enough; and while Germany is not exhausted, it is nonsense for us to say that we are to dictate what terms we please. We know that Germany has had enough, and that her people realize that they cannot possibly win. It would be very foolish, therefore, for lis to carry on this war for an interminable period - to go on spending our millions, and losing thousands of lives - without considering her offer. Germany has thrown out this bait, and we should be prepared to come forward with a counter suggestion. No Government would be worthy of its position if it were to say, “ We will have no peace.” Germany offers, amongst other things, to assist in rebuilding and rehabilitating Belgium. I think Germany has reached such a position that we ought to be able to talk to her. We ought to insist upon a disarming of the nations, so that there can be no recurrence of war. The refusal of such a condition would alone justify Great Britain and the Allies in going on with the war. I make that statement as an individual member of the community.
– Did Germany include such a proposal in her offer?
– No; but we could make it. I have heard some people say, ‘ What ! Are we going to hand back German New Guinea ? “ Is war to be continued because we cannot hold German New Guinea ? Such a suggestion is preposterous. Side by side with the quotation I have just made from the Age appeared the following, which, if published in a Socialistic newspaper, would have resulted in its being closed down: - “ When These Dumb Speak.”
A member of Parliament sends the Nation this notable letter, “ which,” he says, “ has just reached me from a private soldier, who, under a stern sense of duty, laid down the useful educational and social work on which he was engaged to share the great burden which his fellows were bearing, in what he, too, felt to be a just cause. He gave me his thoughts as friend to friend; may I pass them on to some of your readers? “’ In spite of the bitterness of it all, I like to adopt the true philosophic view that it was best I should be whipped with the others, who deserve it perhaps less than I. In a few weeks’ time all of you who have imagination enough to understand the monstrous tragedy that is being enacted will have an opportunity to put up a stand for peace, and the comments which follow are written in the hope that they may help, if ever so little. “ ‘ I have spoken to literally thousands of soldiers, in dozens of different regiments - men from France, Egypt, Dardanelles, and Malta. There is not one man in twenty who wants the war to go on. If the Government could hear the conversation of the men in khaki when talking to each other, and not for public consumption, they would be startled out of their complacency. Hope alone prevents a mighty movement; the iron is entering deep. So far from hating Germans, no one discusses them in an unfriendly spirit. It is recognised quite plainly that all, or nearly all, the bloodthirsty people of the different countries have by this time been killed or wounded; the German who is now fighting is simply driven to the slaughter. We all seem caught in a terrible machine, which no one has the capacity or pluck to control. “ ‘ Again, the war that now rages is mere blind killing of men, in the hope that one side may weaken. Apart from military families and a populace who are hypnotized by fear, which they sometimes call hate, no man believes in a military ending of the war. “ ‘ The broad position is that the war goes on because no Government has the moral courage to make the first move for either a truce or peace. Each thinks its reputation depends on shouting hate the longest. I know the public will blackguard the men who ask for peace, and in their heart of hearts will thank them. . . The cry goes up, “How long? Can no one help us?”’”
That article was reprinted from the Nation in last Saturday’s Age. The man who wrote it, and the newspapers which have printed it, are endeavouring to doa service to the civilized world for which they ought not to be howled down. We cannot accept a peace which may be followed by war in a few years’ time ; but it is monstrous for men and women who are not called on to risk their lives to say, “We will have no peace. We will continue the war until we have the Germans done.” Most of us have lost in the war some one who is dear to us, or have such a person there risking his life. But are such as we, whose own lives are safe, to assert that millions more are to be killed and maimed, and millions of pounds to be wasted to gratify our pride? Are we to refuse to make counter propositions for peace? I hope that this Parliament and Australia will not say to the Germans, “ Now that you have offered peace on certain terms, we know that you feel that you cannot win. Therefore we shall not state our propositions; we will wait until we have beaten you.” It is absurd to cherish the idea that we can beat them. No doubt we could do so ultimately, but it would take years. Some say three years, and some say five years, but no one knows. We have no right, therefore, to cast aside any opportunity for securing peace. It would be foolish to accept what the Germans have offered, but we should entertain any proper means for putting an end to the horrors of the present struggle. It is all very well for men like you, Mr. Speaker, the Treasurer, and myself, who are beyond the military age, to say that the fighting must go on.
– My son is at the war.
– And my nearest and dearest are there. It might be thought, to hear some men speak, that they alone have relatives at the front. We who are over the military age have no right to say that peace terms will not be considered. The letter which I have read reflects the views of thousands of men at the front, as I have seen them expressed in their private correspondence. Our men a’re willing to fight to the death, but they know the real military position. The statements which I have read are not those of a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Let me come now to the question of recruiting, which we have not yet had an opportunity to consider. Parliament ought not to adjourn until the matter has been fully discussed and I trust that the so-called Opposition will help us to prevent a long adjournment, so that al] these matters may be considered by Parliament, and that we may not have government by regulations under men who have only one idea. In July of last year, when I was addressing recruiting meetings, conscription was in the air, although at that time we were getting 20,000 volunteers a month. It was said, “ We want to get at the shirker.” My only concern, however, was to get men who were willing to fight the battles of the Empire. When the Prime Minister returned from England, in August last, he told us that in September some 32,000 men would be needed, and 16,500 men per month for every month for a year to come. Some members pointed out that the casualties would not be heavy every month. We have been told by the Minister for Defence that the casualties at Pozieres numbered 19,000, but if the Australian and British troops were being treated in the same way, when our casualties numbered 19,000, those of Great Britain must have numbered 200,000, having regard to the differences in population, and there has never been an engagement when the casualties of Great Britain were so large as that. . The “ Yes “ campaign was the best stage-managed affair ever attempted in Australia. Every detail that might assist conscription was used. But two nights before the voting the Prime Minister, speaking at Newcastle, was like the captain of a water-logged vessel who was heaving this and that overboard in the attempt to keep afloat. On that occasion he said that on the 28th August we had enough men in camp to provide reinforcements until the end of January. Yet he still urged conscription. His ac- tion had the effect’ of embittering the men whom we wish to enlist. One of the most foolish things the honorable gentleman ever did was ‘to issue a proclamation calling men to enlist for home defence, giving them a taste of what they would get if they joined the Australian Imperial Force. But it was a good thing for Democracy that he did that. To-day, however, it is impossible to get as many recruits as we were getting previously, because the Prime Minister and those who are with him have embittered the men to whom the appeal has to be made. How can I, after all that has taken place, go on to a recruiting platform ?
– You said that we could get all the men that we wanted by the” voluntary system.
– The honorable member and those with him have spoiled our chances of getting many men under the voluntary system. We were getting under that system as many men as Australia could afford to send away, and would have continued to get more than would make good the gaps caused by casualties. We were getting not less than 6,000. a month, and had enough to provide reinforcements until the end of January next. Every one knows that a winter campaign does not cause as many casualties as a summer campaign. I have been twitted with having tried to regulate the killing and maiming that should be done by the Germans, but everyone knows that in winter time casualties are few, because little can be. done beyond holding the positions that have been taken. I do not intend to take the deputychairmanship on the recruiting committee in my electorate, because the position would be intolerable to me. On a former occasion I, with other honor-, able members, assisted in a recruiting campaign, but one night, when we were considering the referendum question, and when I left to attend a meeting at Port Melbourne, -the moment I got on the’ platform, in a place where I had always previously been well received, and which had supplied thousands of recruits, I was bombarded with questions from all parts of the hall as to different cases of injustice to soldiers and their dependants: Many of these were cases in which I had failed to obtain justice from the Defence Department. Does anybody, in view of the feeling created by -these circumstances - created bv the treatment of men at the front and when they have returned - expect recruiting to he a success ? We ought to have had a repatriation scheme long ago, and to have had thousands of men settled on the land and in business. We have endeavoured for months to bring about the institution of a responsible Department, but the Prime Minister “ runs the show,” and is to blame for the whole position.
– You assisted to keep the Prime Minister in his position.
– When, before the Prime Minister went to England, we tried to move him on the point, we found that it was the Liberal Opposition who kept him in his position; the honorable gentleman always knew where to look for support in matters of that sort. The State War Council of Victoria has done well with the means at their command, but I must say that the women who- run the Patriotic Fund ought to be ashamed of themselves, and the money which they hold ought to be handed to some other body. I believe that these women have some £300,000, and, if they followed the example of the War Council, they might be able to do some good. When enlisting the men were promised .that their wives and families and other dependants would be looked after and justly dealt with, and that they themselves, when they returned, would receive similar treatment; but we have not performed any of the promises we then made. The military system is bad enough under any circumstances, but when it is administered under the British Army Act, and by British officers, no man can obtain justice. Men reared in a free community like that of Australia do not understand discipline as applied under the British Government; and while, of course, discipline is necessary, our men do not appreciate all the frippery and foolishness surrounding a European army. The very qualities that make them grand soldiers render them incapable , of tolerating all the damned nonsense of the military system, though, of course, I must apologize, and do, for using such language. The soldiers from Australia are men with red blood flowing in their veins, and they suffer acutely under the system to which they have to conform when they go abroad. I should say that the Australian Government have saved millions of pounds in the fines inflicted on our recruits for trivial offences, which they cannot .conceive as deserving of punishment. Just to show the treatment to which they are subjected, I should like to read the following extract from a recent issue of the Age: - “ Some “ Rest at the. Front. “I say, boys, we’re going for a rest tomorrow. I guess it’ll be acceptable after sixteen days’ trench work like we’ve had.”
Bo spoke Smiley, our optimist. He had only been. out’ in France for a month, and he had just finished Ms first spell of trench life, and was eagerly looking forward to the promised six days’ rest which was in store for us.
Poor fellow! He hod had no experience of “ rest camps “ as yet, and we did not fancy the job of breaking to him the sad news that, far from having’ got past the worst part of life with the Expeditionary Force, he had really only tasted the top layer, so to speak. “ Rest camps “ were an unknown quantity to kim as yet, and I felt pity for him as I contemplated what the reality was, and what heimagined it was going to be. -
One glorious round of idle luxury and pampered attention, no parades, no rifle inspection, no anythings which go to make life hard and tedious. Such was Smiley’s idea of a stay in a “ rest camp “ ; yes, verily, X pitied him.
That night we were relieved from our trenches, and commenced a long, miserable march back to the “rest camp.” Rain and cold winds about our ears, water and mud, and more mud, under our feet, shell holes in the road conveniently placed where we could not possibly avoid them, flares continuously going up, and causing snipers to snipe at .us. Such were the conditions under which we commenced our march to the “rest camp.”
Well, dead beat, hungry, and thirsty, and muddy, we eventually arrived.
Up to this point I can take no exception, because the men, of course, are under war conditions -
Imagine a specially big and specially wet Irish bog dotted over with wooden huts in the last stages of decay, here and there a decrepit incinerator slowly burning the camp refuse, and over all a look of resigned helplessness, and abandoned to desolation. Such was our “ rest camp “ as we saw it for the first in the grey light of a dawning day.
I do not know that there is much objection to- that -
Four hours to get our rifles and equipment and .uniforms cleaned, and to have a sleep, a wash, and what the cook was pleased to call breakfast. Four hours, I say, and then we were out on parade, minus rifles, equipment, and tunic, and busily engaged strafing Sweden and everything Swedish (especially drill). Next a run for about 2 miles, and then a rest for dinner.
After dinner there was rifle exercise and rapid bolt moving for an hour or two.
Next tea - such as it was - then company drill, and then, when we were feeling like overwashed starch collars, we -were told we could get to bed.
I had been sleeping about three hours when I was rudely awakened, and told to fall . in with a fatigue party to proceed on a sandbagfilling expedition, and when we came back wc were glared at for expecting to be allowed to make up for lost time.
Tho succeeding five days were a replica of the first, only more hard work was attached, and each day a bigger scramble for grub, until I began to seriously contemplate the waylaying of the ration party and pinching my share before it reached the billets; but I managed to survive without that. . Of course, we had our light moments, but they were not bo plentiful as we would have wished, and I think few of us were sorry when the order came to move on again to the trenches.
I happened to be next to Smiley on the maTch, and when I slyly mentioned “ rest camps,” he glowered at me, and muttered, “ Blow rest camps, I’m glad I’m going up to the trenches. There’s a chance of a rest there anyhow.”
Poor optimist! He had been initiated, and the initiation was indeed hard.
I have seen dozens of letters to exactly the same effect, and I may say that the men take good care that such letters are not censored, for they are taken by invalided men and posted in England. How can we ask mcn to go to the front when they are treated in that way? No man can say that such conditions could not be obviated. ‘
– We do not know that such. accounts are true.
– They have been corroborated too often not to be true.
– It is’ only the yarn of an odd one or two.
– I tell honorable members that such accounts are general. I had a letter from Egypt in which it was stated that no matter how willing our men are to pay second-class railway fares, they are compelled, as soldiers, to travel third-class with blackfellows, and run the danger of all kinds of diseases, from fever to leprosy. Under the British Army Act, in Egypt as in England, men may be fined for offences; and yesterday it may be remembered, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider the. advisability of refunding this money to the men or their families. In one case a company was ordered to appear in shorts, but they did not, for the simple reason that they could not obtain them; and on this occount they were fined fourteen days’ pay. If the Government have any desire to mete out justice, or to induce men to go to the front, every cent, of these fines will be returned, and they must insist that the British. Government mete out fair play to the recruits from Australia. When such, treatment is possible under .the voluntary system, what might we expect under conscription? Personally I have brought under my notice at least fifty cases of injustice each week, involving men at the front, returned men, wives, and families, and mothers. Men in the full vigour of youth .when they go away, come back impaired in health, and are treated more like’ dogs than men. Their families are not looked after while they are away.
– Your experience is different from that of most of us.
-I am relating my own experience, and I investigate every case before I take any steps.
– This is a peculiar recruiting speech.
– Of course it is. It is because of these things that I cannot recruit.
– I have had many hundreds of letters from boys at the front,’ and I never heard of such things.
– I received two letters yesterday, one from a close relative telling me of a. man in his company who, however he may put his case, is dealt with by the British officer in that gentleman’s own peculiar way. I know of a man who, returning with impaired health, was discharged and received a pension of 7s. 6d. a week. He has since been in a private hospital. For seventeen weeks he was on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and he was then sent to Lemnos Island. While there, he was fined for having been out of bounds, although he said he was not aware that the locality was out of bounds. The maximum penalty that could have been imposed on him was £27, but on arrival in Australia he found that, owing to mistakes, the fines amounted to JE47. I wrote, to Colonel Fair about it, and he told me that he could do nothing, and that the case must go before Colonel Braund, the officer commanding- the regiment to which this man belonged. Accordingly, the Department has written a letter concerning the case. In this case, as in many others, we can get no information. I quite appreciate the difficulties of those who have the responsibility of looking after soldiers, but it must be remembered that the Australians were taken from a free life, and were unaccustomed to military discipline. They proved, however, that they could fight. Before the adjournment ‘for the (referendum campaign, I asked the Prime Minister to investigate the case of , a returned soldier who could obtain no particulars as to the deferred pay that was due to him. That man had been waiting for eight months to get his money; to-day, ten months has elapsed, and he has not received a penny. An old lady, whose daughter lives in my constituency, wrote to me from Sydney concerning the case of Major E. W. Kirke, in regard to whom the following was published in the Sydney Sun of the 17th August last: -
Before the war broke out young Kirke had qualified for his majority in the Commonwealth Cadet Forces with the fine record of 99 per cent. . Within an hour of the news of the declaration of war, he had offered his services to the military authorities, and left Sydney with the first Expeditionary Forces for Rabaul, sinking his rank as captain, and going as 2nd lieutenant. On arriving at Rabaul he was made adjutant to Colonel Paton, and rendered special service, being appointed personal attendant on the field.. Colonel Paton wrote of him as being a splendid s>oldier and officer. After the occupation of Rabaul he was for some time Prosecutor in the Court Marti ais at Rabaul.
On returning to Sydney he was for some months Instructor in the School of Instruction, and left for Egypt with the. rank of captain, second in command of a company of the 17th regiment. In Egypt he was highly commended for his soldierly qualities by General Maxwell, and on account of the many compliments paid by the General to Captain Kirke and his company, they were dubbed “ Maxwell’s pets.” Captain Kirke went to Gallipoli in August, 1915, along with his two brothers, Hunter and Basil. Shortly after landing he was transferred to the 18th Battalion as . Officer Commanding “ C “ Company, and took part in the Suvla, Quinn’s Post, and other engagements. He was still associated with his old colonel, now Brigadier-General Paton, and in a letter to Mrs. Kirke, after the evacuation, General Paton said, “ I was honoured with the command of the last couple of thousand to go, and was glad to have “ Chap “ (Major Kirke’s sobriquet) close to me, in what we expected to be a warm corner.”
In a further letter to Mrs. Kirke, General Paton stated, “ It was a great pleasure to include ‘ Chap’s ‘ name in the list they asked for, especially as he had done such good work in Rabaul.”
It appears that Major Kirke was recommended for honours for bravery, but the despatches were lost, and never reached the Imperial authorities, and it was only on Monday last that Mrs. Kirke complied with the request of the Defence Department for copies of the General’s letters, so that the young officer should receive his merits.
That man was killed in action. He had been recommended for honours and for his majority. His relatives cannot get the honours, and the authorities will not recognise his majority. There are thousands of cases of this kind in the Defence Department. Putting aside our responsibilities as members of Parliament, are we, as men, justified in sitting down and allowing these irregularities to continue in connexion with men who are risking their lives for us? The referendum poll was taken on a Saturday. By some means, the mails from Europe were not distributed until the Monday. Had they been distributed on the Saturday, many more people would have voted “ No’.” because of the intimation in the letters that the soldiers at the front had voted that way. In a letter written from an artillery camp on Salisbury Plain on Tuesday, 17th October, a soldier said -
When the voting was nearly through yester day word came from General Birdwood to stop the voting. It must have been because he knew the boys in France voted a very solid “No.”
That statement ought to be investigated.
– That is a statement that ought never to have been made. It is a disgraceful thing to say of a British General.
Sitting suspended from 8.S0 to 7. £5 p.m.
– The writer of the letter to which I have referred is not a boy. He is a man of about thirty-four or thirty-five years of age. He is in no way a Radical’ in political matters, and he is one who voted “Yes.” The letter was in the form ‘ of notes written from day to day, and from it I read the following : -
Tuesday, 17th October 1916.
Yesterday the voting was stopped because of a telegram that came from General Birdwood.
The Leader of the Liberal party has rebuked me for having mentioned the name, but it does not matter who was guilty. It should be looked into.
– The honorable member does not believe that statement?
– I do believe it. There should be no interference with the ballot. If His Gracious Majesty the King interfered, I would make the same statement, though, of course, we know that he would never interfere in- such matters. Most remarkable things were done during the referendum campaign in order to insure the carrying of an affirmative vote. All through, I strongly objected to the unfair treatment meted out to those who were opposed to the carrying of the referendum. We are told that we resorted to all sorts of methods to gain our ends, and that we howled down the other side, but we also were prevented from speaking. Dear old Conservatives in the country districts refused us the use of town halls, and in my own division we were stopped from speaking where I had spoken for a score of years. Two days before the vote was taken, the Age and the Argus devoted the whole of their issues to a marvellous description of the hideousness of the Germans, and of everything they could imagine that would induce people to vote “ Yes.” There was one article in the Age of the 18th October which, for the sake of the honour of Australia, should have been suppressed. I wonder that the newspaper published it. I cannot imagine how it got by the censor, or even the editor. Let me read it-
Why Men are Wanted. a soldier’s appeal.
Writing to his father, Mr. Louis E. Burns, 51 Burke-road, Camberwell, from the front in France, Staff -Sergeant H. D. Burns, of the 13th Field Ambulance, states:- “ What silly game is the Government of Australia up to now? It seems they are going to bring compulsory drill in for home service. What in the name of Heaven is the good of them over there? Are they training for the next war, or do they think they will bluff the Kaiser? God knows, we want the men here badly enough. We are only a handful now. If only the people of Australia could see the way our ranks are thinned, I am sure they would come and give us a helping hand.”
I have nothing to say against the letter up to that stage, but it goes on to say - “ We only want enough Australians to lead a charge, and the Tommies will follow. The Australians are the boys to take positions, and do not care who holds them. “ The Tommies are relieved every twentyfour hours. “ Why do our men, after staying in the trenches for over seven days, have to return again after a few days’ spell? For the simple reason that we have not enough men to relieve them.”
It is not an ignorant boy or a private who knows nothing who writes this letter ; it is a staff-sergeant in an ambulance corps who has the brazen effrontery to say that the British soldiers, who have fought the battles of the Empire for centuries, need Australians to lead them in a charge. No Australian could hold up his head in Great Britain if that statement were reproduced in any British newspaper. I was ashamed of it when I read it, because I know the history of the British Empire, and the work’ that the British soldiers have performed. As for the charge that the Australians are in the trenches for seven days, whereas the Tommies are relieved every twenty-four hours, if it be true, General Haig should be shot for treating one section of his Army differently from another. I do not believe that it is true. Yet this was the sort of piffle that was used during the campaign in order to get people to vote “Yes.” I. am justified in bringing these matters before the House. We want to bring about reform. Our Government is supposed to be a responsible Government, and we have a “friendly” Prime Minister, who for months has posed as a dictator, so far as Australia is concerned, and has the power to bring about the needed reforms. At any rate, he can acquire the necessary power if he wishes to prevent these things taking place instead of assisting them. I have alluded to the treatment of the men as the reason for the failure to get recruits. There should be some responsible body to go into the matters that I have mentioned relating to the treatment of the wives, so that their position may be remedied. The honorable member for Denison is young and vigorous, and he is determined that he will do his share as Assistant Minister for Defence. I believe that he has endeavoured to do so since he has been in the position, but I may tell him that he will never succeed. How can I go out again as I did in the past, asking men to join our Army, when, from all over the audiences, these matters can be pointed out to me, and I know that they are correct ?
– I do not mind what the honorable member says. I have done my share; in fact, more than any other man in Australia, so far as that is concerned.
– And the honorable member is going to try again ?
– No. The ground has been cut from under my feet, and I cannot go out in the circumstances. Even in our camps they do not know how to treat the men.If we get an officer who can handle those under him, he is by Borne set of circumstances removed. We had an officer at Broadmeadows in command of the Army Service Corps. He had been through the Boer War, and held an Imperial, as well as an Australian, commission. He is about forty-five years of age, but is merely a lieutenant and was in charge of over 200 men. They swear by him; but, because he insisted that he himself should handle the men he fell foul of somebody at head -quarters. As a consequence his troop was brought ‘down to Royal Park, and he was sent to’ a position subordinate to a man years his junior at Seymour. Through some trouble before he left, he was brought clown again and relieved of his command. Perhaps I was not playing the game fairly, but I asked an honorable member of this House, who had reason to know the officer, what he thought of him. He told me that the officer was the smartest man he had ever worked under. It is of no use hiding his name. I refer to Lieutenant Holland. He should be a captain, but he has fallen foul of somebody, and he has to go. There is no inducement to any officer to go straight .and look after his command. When a man in my electorate enlisted and went into camp, the doctor told him that he must have three teeth removed. He told the doctor that the teeth had been in the same condition for a long time, and he did not care to have in his mouth a small plate with three teeth, because he knew of men who had swallowed such plates. He would not consent to have his teeth extracted, hut they were forcibly removed, and he was fined fourteen days’ pay, and “ shanghaied “ away before he could see his father and mother and friends. It is no inducement to’ the men at Williamstown,who know the circumstances, to enlist. Yet we wonder why we cannot get more recruits voluntarily. The whole thing hasbeen mismanaged from start to finish - by the Defence Department in the first place, then by those who talked conscription too early, when we were getting plenty of recruits voluntarily, and lastly by the Prime Minister, for the sake of aggrandizing his position. When he- returned to Australia, he thought that he would force conscription on the people of Australia, so that he might pose as a shining light in the Empire. .He could, under a proper system, have got the necessary men if he had insisted on the present Minister for Defence running his show properly. I do not wish to mention names- - it would not be fair to do so - but there have been Ministers who have done things to alleviate certain matters - things that Senator Pearce has not attempted as Minister for Defence. Senator Pearce must accept the blame for the fact that his Department is not run on the lines on which it ought to be run. Of course, the Ministry are responsible, but the Prime Minister and the Minister for’ Defence seem to be running things. That being the case, they should see that Australians are treated as men, and not as things. Of what use is it to talk of the German military system, which, to the Britisher, is anathema, when our own defence system is not what it ought to be, though it is much better, I admit, than that of the British Isles ? In the British Army, men are treated as if they were dogs. They do not understand how to handle Australians. In an artillery division on Salisbury Plains, the men claimed to have Brigadier-General Grimwade as their commander. The British officer put forward was creating nothing but discontent. There was an appearance of mutiny. There was nothing but turmoil. Those who know anything about the British Army know that it is worked as a machine, and not as men. We all recognise that in the handling- pf troops some discipline is necessary, but I maintain that common sense should be exercised. Australians do not understand discipline such as is insisted upon by some British officers; but they can prove, and have proved, that they are soldiers. In our own camps here men are properly treated. There would have been no need to talk of conscription but for the news we hear from the front as to the treatment that is meted out to our soldiers under the Britis”h Army Act, because the men who remain here are for the most part brothers of those who have gone to the front, and were prepared to assume the same responsibility. But when they hear of wrongs that cannot be redressed by the Australian Defence Department, trouble arises. I advise the Minister to see that the men to whom I have been referring do get their money, and that the payments are made, regularly to their wives and families. I advise him also to see that those who return from the front are not kept waiting for their money because of remissness on the part of officials. We have dozens of soldiers in gaol in Australia, and we cannot obtain the official papers to see for ourselves on what grounds they were sent to prison. Some of these men have been sentenced, perhaps, to two years’ imprisonment by a drum-head court-martial. The honorable member for Fawkner went with me to Pentridge to see some of them - men who fought at Gallipoli, and who were punished for a crime which, they hardly understood. It must be remembered that we are living, not in Germany, but in Australia. The British Government should be made to see that while Australia, is prepared to spend her money and give the blood of her sons in the winning of this war, the system carried on under the British Army Act will not suit Australians. I shall close by asking the Government to appoint a Committee that shall be empowered to inquire into the cases of men who have been fined or otherwise punished, with the object of ascertaining whether some redress ‘cannot be afforded them.
– A man cannot do as he likes on active service.
– I quite understand that. 4
– Order ! The honorable’ member’s time has expired.
Mr. LYNCH (Werriwa) [8.41.- The discussion that has taken place this evening in regard to the Repatriation Fund for returned soldiers has shown very clearly the stupendous character of the many tasks that now confront Australia. Our small population has already to carry a tremendous burden, contracted before the war began, in connexion with the improvement and settlement of this great continent. We now have super-imposed upon that burden the huge expenditure incurred in waging this war, and the problem of adequately providing for our returned soldiers. I cannot help thinking that the people of Australia have now presented to them a great opportunity to show the sort of metal of which they are made. We have an opportunity to show whether we are not capable at this vital point in our history of getting out of the old grooves, and of boldly entering upon systems which, while avoiding the mistakes of the past, will open up fresh avenues of development, production and distribution Such a system would afford a hopeful outlook, not merely for our returned soldiers, but for every man and woman in the country and for every free man and woman likely to be at tracted to this empty continent of ours by reason of the better conditions that it offers. There are thousands, I might say tens of thousands, of deserving men following various employments - men engaged on railway works, deviation works, and other public undertakings - for whom it will be absolutely essential to provide, because it will be impossible, owing to our inability to obtain borrowed money for the purpose of continuing these huge improvement schemes, to keep them employed at the same standard. The time, therefore, is ripe for us to institute a scheme, not only for the repatriation of soldiers, but for the thorough settlement of every deserving man - even those who have not a shilling behind them.
– Settlement on the land ?
– If we put our shoulders to the wheel’ and get away from some of the old systems that have proved so ineffective, we can evolve a scheme for their settlement on the land, or their employment in various industries that we can develop. I do not wish to criticise the States land systems, but it seems to me that in- their attempt to settle people on the land they have all been wrecked upon the one rock. It is impossible, we are told, to put men without means on Crown lands, or ‘lands acquired under closer settlement promotion Acts. Although they may be good and willing workers, it is impossible, so we are told, to place them upon such lands unless they have capital behind them. As a member of a Land Board I have had some experience in administering State land laws, and it has always stabbed me to the’ very heart when the Board has been compelled to turn men down because they could not show that they had what was considered to be the capital necessary to enable them to work the land with any hope of success. Our failure to utilize to the full the labour of every well-meaning worker who is without employment is an indictment of our intelligence, and not of the resources of our country. It is possible for us to evolve a satisfactory system in connexion not only with the repatriation of our soldiers, but also the settlement of those willing workers who in the near future will be dispossessed to some extent of their present employment. We can evolve such a system provided that we can induce a majority of our people to do in reality what they are clamantly demanding the right to do - and that is to show that they, are willing to make equal sacrifices in the mainten ance of the independence of Australia, and the security of the Empire to which we belong. It is utter nonsense to try to patch up a system that has already proved its utter worthlessness as a means of settling people on the land even in normal times. I have given much thought to this question, and propose to set before the House certain principles in regard to it. I do not want to suggest for a moment that my scheme has not many imperfections. I only claim that I’ have given years of consideration to this subject, and that, as a man who battled for twenty-six years on the land, with some little success, I have endeavoured to discover a means of giving an opportunity to every willing worker to assist in the development of this country. I hold it to be quite impossible to help a man who is unwilling to help him-
I submit that we should have but one comprehensive scheme of repatriation and war finance, under the direct and sole control of the Federal Government. This scheme should, in my opinion, aim not only at relieving the financial strain on individuals and States, brought about by this war, but also at increasing settlement and permanent production by all classes, and at the building up of a permanent fund for the future defence of Australia, and the liquidation of our war loans. I think not only that direct wealth conscription is feasible and practicable for these purposes, but also that it is absolutely essential in our present dire need. The 1£ per cent, wealth levy which has been proposed does not, in my opinion, do more than affirm the principle, and gives only the feeblest expression to it. This is the hour for us to show how real equality of sacrifice can be insisted upon for the benefit of all. If we really succeed, then the voice of honest opposition will be stilled. I do not agree with those who claim that taxation is wealth conscription. It is wealth conscription only to a very limited extent. T believe that heavy taxation can cause to wealth holders and producers all the injury that direct wealth conscription can cause and more, without bringing any of its accompanying and all necessary advantages, in a crisis such as we are now going through. I shall endeavour to show how a comprehensive and national scheme might be evolved to deal with the subjects of the Government proposals, but I shall also attempt to show how the Federallyowned lands of- the Northern Territory, as well as other lands acquired in this way, may be utilized to the full in the realization of our ideals and objects. My scheme would provide that all wealth over an exemption of net value of £2,000, should be actually conscripted, and ear- marked as “ Commonwealth war wealth,” to the extent of 10 per cent. - 10- per cent, of mortgages to be also conscripted. Such Commonwealth war wealth should be held and used to help to defray the present war expenditure and pensions, and in the future to provide for defence and the liquidation of our war debts. Above all, it is essential in tlie present to provide suitable land for the repatriation of our returned soldiers. The vesting in the Commonwealth in perpetuity of all lands and other property thus secured should be provided for. Returned or other Australian soldiers ,who have served in the country’s defence should! be given preference, at half rentals, and on long and secure tenures, with full tenant right in improvements, of living areas in the country, whether agricultural or grazing, or of residence or occupation areas in towns and cities, which would be .provided by the lands and properties acquired by actual wealth conscription. No redemption or purchase of land, capital, or other forms of wealth secured bv wealth conscription should be allowed to original owners or others without the consent of Parliament being obtained. All rents from “lands, interest, or other proceeds from all such war wealth should be paid into a “ War Wealth Fund,” and be devoted to the purposes I have mentioned. From the moment of the proclamation of the wealth conscription of the said 10 per cent., about 2 per cent, interest on present value should be payable into the war wealth fund until notice of not less than twelve months had been given of the intention of the Commonwealth Government to enter into possession or to realize thereon for the purposes of this scheme. Where the partition or detaching of the 10 per cent, levy from the property was not practicable or desirable, then rent or interest -or even complete liquidation, with the consent of Parliament - should be arranged for on terms recommended by a, competent tribunal. 1$ or 2 per cent, of all wealth above £500, and not exceeding £2,000, should be levied and collected within five years in equal yearly instalments. Such sums should be paid for repatriation purposes into the war wealth fund as previously defined. Provision for payment of interest on deferred instalments should be made when necessary. Any money necessary . to supple-, ment the sums collected as direct levy, interest, or rents under or over the capital net estate values of £2,000 to meet obligations upon war wealth fund in the immediate future, should be raised by loans, which, if necessary should be made compulsory when the sums required cannot be obtained at present war loan interest rates. All net salaries or revenues derived over £500 and under £2,000, or of £2,000 and over and not affected by the 1£ per cent, wealth levy or the 10 per cent, wealth conscription, should, pay an annual sum for five or more years equal to the sum paid by other wealth owners in their classes, in addition to income tax.
The interest and sinking funds to maintain or liquidate such loans should come out of the war wealth fund in the future, assisted by special legislation in the shape of war taxation,.’ such as the war profits tax measure. In War Profits Taxation Acts provision should be made to exempt largely pastoral as well as agricultural producers, on their actual production, apart from their speculative or dealing profits. Individuals or companies whose wealth had been subject to the 10 per cent, conscription, or the 1^ or 2 per cent, levy, should be given reasonable deductions in consequence in War Profits Taxation Acts and State and Federal income taxes. The Federal Government should institute in connexion with the repatriation of returned soldiers a permanent settlement system, not only on the conscripted lands nf the States, but on the Northern Territory lands as well - a system so linked up with the general scheme of repatriation for soldiers, that soldiers settling in the Northern Territory would share equally with those elsewhere in the financial benefits provided by the Commonwealth War Wealth Fund. The principles of the scheme I advocate were briefly touched upon by me in a previous utterance in the House. I would set aside about £2,000,000 for a start, and appoint three settlement Commissioners to practically administer the scheme under a responsible Minister for Lands in this House The personnel of the Commission should be one practical pastoral manager of wide and lengthy experience in the Territory, one practical farmer and grazier, and a capable business man and accountant with knowledge -and experience’ of country conditions. A comprehensive Land Settlement Act should be passed dealing with all lands in the Territory. The provisions of such Act should insist on true classification. Suitable areas should be set aside by the Commissioners for improvement and occupation under their direction, at first as grazing lands with slight experimental cultivation, perhaps afterwards to be devoted almost wholly to agricultural use. A number of the most favoured of such areas should be at once improved, stocked, and worked by the Commissioners under their direct control as Commonwealth pastoral or agricultural holdings. The tenure of such holdings should be terminable for subdivision on the report of Commissioners or the decision of Parliament. Where legally possible all existing holders of leases in the Territory, except . perhaps those issued for mining purposes, should be subject to periodical appraisements of rents during their whole currency. The holders of all present or future private leases should get the advantage of minimum or peppercorn rents given to the Commissioners as lessees of Crown lands by subscribing to and having indorsed on their leases the conditions laid down for all new leases in regard to employment, subdivision, compensation, &c. These conditions may be best set out by showing how they would affect the Settlement Commissioners’ leases. The Commissioners should employ in the work of improvement and working of all lands under their control, young men, say, between the ages of seventeen and forty years, preference being given to returned -soldiers, other things being equal. Such men should be asked to sign on for periods of about seven years, in accordance with regulations defining their conditions, the principal one being that the men should be paid about 10 per cent, more “than the current rate . of wages, as defined from time to time, providing the full term be served, or that they Come within exceptions hereinafter defined. Also, subject to appeal, any such men ‘leaving, or. being dismissed, or refusing after serving the full term to join as beneficiary ‘settlers under a subdivision scheme hereinafter defined should be paid off at rates not less than 10 per cent, less than the sums agreed to be paid to those fulfilling all prescribed conditions and ‘accepting areas as hereinafter provided for subdivision settlers. Provided always that during the currency of the seven years’ service, or and until the dismissal or abandonment by the . probational settler of his contract, that not more than 50 per cent, of such wages or salary shall be paid until the full term of service has expired, or until, in accordance with the condition’s, the service term has been discharged. Compound interest should be credited at about the rate of 4 per cent, only to those .probationer settler candidates who complete their service and accept subdivision areas and the conditions thereof. When a sufficient number of young men have served their term and accumulated in back pay and . interest the necessary instalment, a subdivision - preferably of the holding they were working on - shall be made, such subdivision to be based on average figures relating to net profits made on the holding for at least three years, and shall allow for at least £400 per year as a net return over working expenses for each area allotted in subdivision. Special provisions enabling young men to hold in co-operation for a time should be provided. Each probational settler, as he takes possession of his allotted area, should be furnished with a statement showing the appraisement - with right of appeal - of all stock and improvements allotted to him on such area; and the amount of his accumulated deposit should be credited against the cost to him of such stock and improvements. There should be provision for repayment to Commonwealth Commissioners of the value of stock and improvements, to be spread over the full term of lease of twenty years, in equal annual payments at the lightest possible rates of interest. At the end of the twentyyear period - or sooner, if the special tribunal of appeal agree with the Settlement Commissioners’ recommendation - all such leases should be reviewed with the object of ascertaining if a further subdivision, in the interests of closer settlement, is desirable at that stage. For the purpose of the second or any subsequent subdivision, there should be the same principles of tenant right in improvements, terms of payment, and insurance of area, with conditions that will guarantee a good living for an average worker with insurance against the autumn of life. I need not say more to explain the principles, which I consider will not only provide a real repatriation scheme for returned soldiers, but insure real settlement and increased production, giving every willing and healthy youth, even if without a shilling, a certainty of success. ‘ The system I advocate provides for every man who is anxious to help himself at the beginning of life an opportunity to carve out a future. If we waft until the moneyed men come along to improve the country, we shall wait until we have lost this precious land of ours. If we are determined to strike out into new paths we should not be afraid of trusting a hardheaded Commission with the management, under the most practical condii , tions, of the stocking and improvement of the lands to be subdivided. The principle of the system I advocate is not the absurd attempt to fix on what is a living area for all time, but to have regard to the average amount of money derived / under normal conditions from the land by each willing worker. I maintain that under the absurd system of attempting to fix living areas for all time we are robbing the State of willing workers and of permanent settlers, because the conditions make such a system impossible of success. Without interference in State affairs, the object-lesson furnished by such a huge experiment on the part of the Commonwealth would give the cue to the various States to introduce more sensible, methods in their .land settlement. As a member of a Land Board I have sat and listened to evidence that has compelled us to turn down a capable and willing worker because he did not possess the amount of money required by. the law. My very soul rebels at the idea that a so-called Democracy should be capable of differentiation to that extent between rich and poor. I have seen sons of wealthy men - doubtless fine young men, but with whom it remained to win their spurs, and show they were capable of succeeding under the rude conditions of the bush - given preference over others of experience -in digging, shearing, and other bush work, because the latter had not, as the law phrases it, “ the necessary capital.” I know some men who, years ago, were working as rough bushmen, and who could barely provide the £10 necessary for the first 40 acres, but who are now amongst our most successful settlers. If we can- evolve no better system than to wait for men with money, we shall only bring to the forefront, as we unfortunately are doing, conditions which crowd the people into the cities and keep them there, and cause them to bring all sorts of influence, legitimate and otherwise, on the Government to do what we are doing on account of the war - mortgage the natural resources of the country by putting in improvements which are perishable, and which do not provide true settlement. I pay a tribute to the capable men who are administering the land laws of the States, but these men are bound by the law. When I started on the land, if my application had come before such men, they would have had to turu me down as having no chance of succeeding. I have felt, ever since the war began, that, notwithstanding the fact that the better and more accessible lands are within the control of the States, it is up to this Parliament, if the Northern Territory possesses even that portion of good land which some honorable members assure us it does, to push our railway policy forward, and boldly initiate a system that will not only provide repatriation for young soldiers, but will provide for every young and- willing man from town or country, even though he may not have a shilling to bless himself with. In this connexion, such men ought to stand on equal terms with the richest men, and, in my opinion, a system of the kind is possible. In the present disturbed condition of the world, the liberty-loving peoples of the old countries, where many ties, family and otherwise, have been broken, will have a clamant desire to seek a new world and atmosphere, where they can live a new life, and the opportunity to settle the Territory will be 0!urs, if we can rise to it. »
– Are you not in competition with a better proposition furnished by the lands in the more settled parts of the other States?
– The competition that will arise will assist, instead of injure, the competitors. I have on a previous occasion shown how one of1 the old careless class, who neglects his 1,000 acres, worth, perhaps, £2 an acre, is not injured, but benefited, by the advent of a progressive man capable of using up-to-date machinery,” and, may be, of -making five times the sum per annum that his neighbour does. In the case of land, competition does not do what it does in other branches of business.
– I do not mind the competition; but I suggest that the States can offer a much better proposition.
– My scheme provides for at least 10 per cent, of the land in the settled districts becoming the absolute property of the Commonwealth; and such a scheme would hit me to the extent of 300 acres, though that would hurt me much less than £100 land tax. If a soldier were working on 300 acres of my laud, and proving that a living could be made there, it would appreciate, instead of depreciate, its value; and, in a few years both the country and myself would have gained. As an old land-holder, I contend that that system would hurt me least, and serve the country best. As one who has studied closer settlement, I maintain that to continue under the present absurd system is to insure financial ruin. We find, as each fresh effort of closer settlement is made in normal times, an increase in the value of what we call the living area. When we started in New South Wales, we could get a living area by purchase from the owners for £1,700, but now, notwithstanding the war, a living area is worth considerably over £3,000; indeed, I have heard dozens of witnesses declare that living areas in their district were worth £6,000 or £7,000. To settle people under such conditions, even when the owners are willing to accept debentures, is only to tie a millstone round the neck of posterity, and such a system should be put in the waste-paper basket. As land-holders and land reformers, we ought to face our responsibilities, not in a destructive or tyrannous spirit, but in such a way as, to make our position more secure. If any wholesale attempt were, made to realize the improved and unimproved land values of Australia, such values would be dissipated as the dew in the sun. It is only while we have secure a mortgage on the production of future labour that we shall be able to maintain our present false position. Those who think that we can have any true adjustment by the present methods are reckoning without their host, and if they were to put in twenty-five or thirty years struggling in the bush, they would realize exactly how much soundness there is in the principle in which they believe. I am convinced that it is necessary for us to get out of the old beaten path. To borrow millions to settle soldiers here, there, and everywhere, under parental and interfering committees, local and otherwise, is, to my mind, to court absolute and certain disaster. No man knows whether he is suitable as a settler until he has had a “ go “ at it. I know that some men out of the cities, who did not know at which end of the plough to put a horse, have made some of the most progressive farmers we have to-day. So long as a man has: the necessary strength, courage, and determination, and these advantages are not counterbalanced by viciousness in any other direction, then, under fair and reasonable conditions, he is better .off on the land than in any other employment. When I look along our railway lines, - and see hundreds of families camped under wretched bags and calico - and I spent fifteen years under calico myself - I always think that it is a crime to refuse people an opportunity to become permanent settlers simply, because they have no capital or. training. We are absolutely setting our face against theonly method ,by which the best from all countries can be attracted here. The opportunity is ours now, because the war has stirred to their utmost depths the hearts of the people. Persons who previously would not have dreamt of allowing their conservative privileges to be entrenched upon are now willing to make sacrifices of which hitherto they had no conception. I do not advocate any wildcat scheme, or anything which cannot be defended from every point of view. But I say that now, when the war is on, we have the opportunity to till this mighty field. If we stop to consider, and ask ourselves how any proposal will affect our own little monopoly and petty distinctions, and the means by which we are sidetracking production and distribution, we must fail. But I am sure that the people can, and will, rise above these petty considerations. We have had ample evidence this evening of the tremendous difficulty presented in connexion with the repatriation of soldiers, but, to my mind, that is only one portion of a huge problem the settlement of which we have neglected up till now, but which we will be compelled to tackle. Notwithstanding our desire to do all that is humanly possible for our soldiers, they have no greater claims upon us than have those men and women who are denied a future in this Australia of ours, and who are compelled to have constantly before them the spectre of necessity, and to daily ask themselves, “ How long will these few shillings last? When will this casual employment cease? What am I then to do?” I say the repatriation of our soldiers is only part of a vast problem which is capable of solution, and which it is our duty to solve. If in the various Parliaments of the country we confine ourselves to fights over petty matters, and continue this” beggarmyneighbour “ business until the country is lost, or so hopelessly in debt that it is beyond redemption, we shall have met with a fate that is deservedly ours. Instead of doing that, let us concentrate our efforts and form a Committee of members of Parliament to go into these matters with the one desire to arrive at a scheme regardless of whether it emanates from the Labour party or from any other party, and with only the one foundational principle, viz., to make this country what we all wish it to be - not only the home of freedom and the shrine of liberty,but a place that will attract from all parts of the world every liberty-loving person who is denied a real home in the land of his birth or adoption.
.- At the outset of my remarks, I wish to remove any possible misapprehension in regard to an interjection which I made earlier in the evening, when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was speaking. The honorable member read a quotation, whichhe said had been republished in a Melbourne newspaper, from the Nation, and in reference to some allusion to the Industrial Workers of the World I interjected that in some regards the paper from which he was quoting was not far removed from the attitude of that organization. I wish it to be understood that that interjection had no reference to any of the Melbourne daily papers. They have been, without exception, notablyloyal to the many ideals which I, in common with many other honorable members, regard as of pre-eminent importance just now. I was speaking of the Nation, the views of which, for some reason or other, are often cabled to Australia. Although undoubtedly far removed from the criminal taint of the Industrial Workers of the
World, that journal, in its attitude on the war, going round the other side of the circle, arrivesat very much the same point of view as the Industrial Workers of the World. The Nation is well known as an extreme pacifist organ. It is one of those mischievous activities that had a great deal to do in creating this war.
Mr.Finlayson. - You do not regard peace advocacy as a mischievous activity?
– I do regard peace advocacy in the face of war as a very mischievous activity indeed, and this paper is one of the few which for years before the war was crying peace when there was no peace, and when it ought to have seen that there was an imminent danger of war. It was one of the leading agents in the crusade for the reduction of both the Army and the Navy, and when Germany attacked Belgium did its best to keep Great Britain out of the war. Then, the war having been entered upon, the Nation strenuously objected to conscription, and now, when we are fighting for our very existence, it is advocating what is practically an unconditional peace. ‘The persons responsible for such a policy as that would, in the more strenuous times of the nation’s past history, have been brought to account for constructive treason, and made to suffer for it in a way which I regret is impossible at the present time. Having made that explanation, I shall turn to the matter upon which I particularly rose to speak. I hold a copy of what may be called a boys’ book, entitled The British Navy, its Making and its Meaning. It is by an English author, and published in Great Britain on behalf of a Melbourne firm of booksellers and publishers. It contains a number of illustrations of warships, and on its introduction into Australia a letter was sent by the Victorian Collector of Customs to the importers, pointing out that there were several pages in ‘the book that would cause it to be detained until the end of the war unless those pages were blocked out. On referring, to those pages I find they contain illustrations of British warships, which, it would appear, are regarded by the Customs authorities as very dangerous indeed.
– I have no doubt that the Customs authorities have taken action at the instance of the Defence Department.
– That is probable, but the letter came from the Collector of Customs in Victoria, and gives no indication that the Defence Department is at all concerned in the matter. I quite recognise the ‘necessity for extreme care in re’gard to any publicity that might be detrimental to our carrying on of the war. I agree that there are certain matters which in the interests of the Empire should not be made public, but this book has been published for two years, and circulated all over the British Empire, and probably in other parts of the world also. , Its illustrations have been common to books of this class for many years, and illustrations of the same kind are continually reproduced in the weekly papers of the Old World. Why, therefore, the authorities should decide that these illustrations are so objectionable as to necessitate the book being detained until the war is over I. cannot understand;1 but I wish, to call the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs, in the first place, or the Defence authorities if they are concerned, to the action which has been taken, in order to urge them to take a common-sense view of a matter which is of considerable importance to all Australian importers of literature. I am assured by the Melbourne importers that the book is being sold in this form in Great Britain at the present time without let or hindrance^ I have brought under the notice of the House from time to time illustrations of unreasonable views in regard to the censorship, and- while this particular matter is one that requires immediate’ attention and correction, I wish, on broad grounds, to ask the. censors and the military authorities to remember that we are not likely by any publicity such as is represented by this book to do any harm to the- interests of the Empire. A good deal of quite unnecessary work is being done in regard to the censorshop, work which appears to be in the nature of the actions of busybodies, who, finding themselves in a position of authority, think it necessary to make themselves as objectionable as possible.
– Has this book been printed in Australia?
– It was printed in Great Britain for a Melbourne firm of booksellers and publishers, and is identical in all respects with the edition which is being sold in Great Britain. It contains information of a useful and instructive character, but nothing that is likely to be detrimental to the interests of the Empire in the slightest degree. All the information contained in it is such as Ger many could get in a hundred other quarters, arid in all probability did obtain long ago if it is of any use at all.
– Should not the example of Great Britain be sufficient for us?
– I think it should. If the Customs ‘ authorities had asked the booksellers if the book was being sold in Great Britain in this form, and had received an assurance to that effect, that would have been a sufficient safeguard. But apparently without consulting any one they took it into their heads to believe that some of these pictures were dangerous, and the book has been interned, as they suggested, until the end of the war. The position is too ridiculous, and I feel sure that it only needs to be mentioned to the Minister in order to be put right.
– In the first place I wish to say a word or two concerning the discussion which took place this afternoon in regard to repatriation. The country, as well as the House, believes that it is a duty that the Government can no longer shirk - in fact it has been too long neglected - and I venture to say that it will be of little use to start out on a new .recruiting scheme until some finality is reached in regard to it. So much has. been said about it this afternoon that I do not propose to refer to it further than to say incidentally that the Government stand charged, not only with neglect in this direction, but also with having neglected the whole question of finding suitable employment for the men who are returning here in such large numbers.
– Does the honorable member refer to the late Government or the present Government?
– I refer to the Government, but I may boil it down to one individual, because for a long time past it has been a one-man Government.
– It is marvellous how you fellows supported him,
– I have said before that if the Government and those who speak for them were as much concerned about preserving the lives of the men who return as they were in destroying life by getting every available man out of the country, they would be doing useful work. It has been part of our war obligation from the time the war started to do something towards building up our industries so that suitable avenues of employment may be found for the men on their return. We know that a number of them will find their way on to the land while a number will endeavour’ to find their way into business, but many of the men who went to fight the battles of this country have had no experience on the land, and are not accustomed to being in business on their own account either on the land or in any other avenue. For that reason the Government have been totally lacking in their duty by not doing something towards the building up of industries. It is said that we cannot deal* with the Tariff at the present time. The honorable member for Wide Bay was criticising the Government in this regard this afternoon, but whatever chance -he might have of getting anything out of the Government in regard to the Tariff in peace time he will have no chance at present under the “ unholy alliance.” But I leave that matter for the time being, because the excuse now is that the work cannot be done because of the war.
– Is the honorable member prepared to break up the “ unholy alliance “ ?
– I tell the honorable member candidly that I am prepared to do so, but I do not know that I would assist him in that proposition for a national proportion which he has put forward to-day. The experience of the world in regard to National Governments has not been a very happy one since the war started. We were told that if a National Government were formed in Great Britain it would be the acme of perfection, but we find that it has not been a success. However, the honorable member has led me away from what I was about to say. Apart from the question of the Tariff, the Government should have done something from the beginning of the war in the direction of establishing what I may term a trade intelligence bureau, so that the minds of men might be concentrated on the avenues that are available throughout Australia for spreading our commerce. We should do as has been done largely in America. I, do not know how long the Washington Trade Bureau was in existence prior to the war, but I believe that one of its representatives is now in Melbourne. He is visiting the cities of Australia and is travelling over the world, and everywhere he goes he reports to the bureau at Washington, which passes his reports on to the press. In this way the whole world knows just what are the possibilities of trade in America. Had we done the same, Australia would not be in the present unfortunate position of seeing the commerce that was in the hands of Germany before the war passing into the hands of other countries such as America and Japan - - 1 believe that Japan is getting the most of it - when a large quantity of it could have -been retained here. Consequently, whilst I admit that the Tariff is a most important factor, immense strides could have been made without it, and we could have been in a position to dis- charge a great part of our war obligai tions to the men who have gone to fight the battles of1 this country. Instead of returning to employment they will return to find that the trade which was previously in the hands of Germany has passed to other countries instead of being retained by Australia, and consequently they will have to walk the streets as we already find them doing. A little while ago the Prime Minister told us a lot of what he was going to do with the science bureau. The press columns were filled with the matter. Science is a very good accompaniment to the building up of industries. It is a kind of handmaid; it is not everything, but it can do a lot. However, we have heard nothing of the bureau lately. I do not know what has. become of it. It may be a little late in the day to make a start, but it is a matter which should not have been neglected so long; and whether the thing be termed a science bureau or a trade bureau I think the Government will admit that it is nothing short of their obligation to the men who have gone out of the country to fight our battles to create a scheme for the purpose . of retaining some of the trade that was previously in the hands of enemies, and is now passing to Japan and America.- ‘
– We wished to send boys to finish the job, so that they could all get back.
– If the honorable member was as concerned about finding something for the men to do when they return as he is in getting them out of the country - in other words, if he was as concerned in preserving life as he is in destroying it - there would not have been any need for a great deal of the discussion that took place in the chamber to-day. But I shall not deal with that matter further, because I rose for another purpose.
– Deal with the Post Office and you will get the honorable member on “ the raw.”
– I have so much to say about the honorable member’s want of interest and sympathy with those in the back country, whom he is robbing in every direction of the little utilities and facilities that make all the difference between isolation and civilization, that I propose to wait for another grievance day, when I will have longer to speak.
– If we all start on that racket, the Postmaster-General will have a lot to hear.
– I know that the honorable member for Gippsland can talk a lot on that topic. A little while ago we passed through a campaign in this country which in one sense was worse than any campaign we have ever passed through. One man could say, and did say, all he desired to say, but there were few, especially those who were opposed to him, who could say anything but what suited him. Consequently, as this is the first opportunity T have had of saying what I wish to say in regard to the campaign, I propose to take advantage of it. I do not think any honorable members who opposed the introduction of Prussianism into this country had an opportunity of saying what they desired to say. Consequently I propose to say here the things that I did say, but which I was not permitted to get into print through the operations of that very “busy gentleman, the censor, to whom the honorable member for Perth has just referred. My complaint against the Government, and I think the complaint of every member who desires a continuation of responsible government in this country, is that their very presence on the Ministerial benches is a violation of both responsible and representative government.
– Responsible government! Not one of them could get back at an election. ,
– I will take you on if you will come up above.
-The Minister means “ up to heaven.” I can quite understand why the head of the
Government is hanging on to office so diligently. There are many good reasons why he does not wish to see a change of Government. There are many good reasons why he does not want to see other Ministers enter the Departments he has been administering during the last few months. They would find out too much.
– The honorable member al ways says something nice.
– The Treasurer and his associates said a lot of nice things during the conscription campaign. They were permitted to say all that they desired to say, but I was not. I intend to express my opinions here. I propose to get right back to the beginning of the conscription campaign. During that campaign, I, and a number of others who opposed conscription, said many things-
– For which you will be sorry later on.
– Time will prove the correctness of the great bulk of the statements that I made.’
– The bulk of you said the war was over.
– I am not aware that any one of us made that statement.
– It was a very common statement in South Australia.
– The Treasurer’s own leader said it would be over in July.
– I do not propose to touch upon anything that the honorable member’s leader said on that matter. It will take . him all his time to account for all his statements. The pretext for conscription was an alleged cable - I will say a cable - that came from the War Council. We were, told that the War Council requested that we should send 32,500 men straight away, and 16,500 each month thereafter. I told my audiences during the campaign that I had never seen that cablegram. I do not know any honorable member of this- House who has. I have never been able to bring myself to believe that that was a serious request made by the War Council. I do not know who composed the War Council at that time; I only know that they are no longer there. A kind of want of confidence in them has been expressed. ‘
– The cablegram came from Sir William Robertson.
– I do not know who sent it. I have never been able to bring myself to believe that it was a genuine request from the War Council.
-The honorable member does not want to believe it.
– I do not know that the honorable gentleman has ever seen the cablegram.
– I believe that it was received.
– I have seen it.
– The Postmaster-General saw . many things during the campaign. The telegrams that he sent from his electorate will live long in my memory. I do not desire, however; to refer to a subject so disagreeable to him, because I know that the honorable gentleman does not like to be reminded of those telegrams. He was misled, I think, with regard to this cablegram, just as he was regarding the feeling in his own electorate. I hold the opinion that the request from the War Council was made because the Prime Minister knew that this country could not contribute so many men except under conscription - and it could not long make such a monthly contribution even under conscription. That, I believe, was the basis on which he launched his conscription proposals. The getting of a cable through to suit the circumstances was, I believe, a mere passing incident in a campaign which was notorious for the methods that were employed - methods that, I hope, will never again be employed in this country.
– Will the honorable member tell us what he is going to do for the recruiting movement ?
– I said in the early part of my address that if we provided for the better treatment of the men who have already gone to the front and those who have returned, we should not have so much trouble in securing recruits. If the Government had done its duty to the men who have fought its battles, there would not have been nearly so much trouble as has been experienced in obtaining recruits. Every little country newspaper, and every conscriptionist advocate took up the cry that it was absolutely necessaryto send 32,500 men straight away, and 16,500 every month thereafter, to reinforce our men at the front. I said during the campaign, and I stand by the statement to-day, that it was an absolute misrepresentation to assert that 16,500 men were required every month to reinforce our troops at the front. I said further, that the real object of such a demand was to get these men, not for reinforcements, but to form extra divisions. Everything I have seen since the campaign has confirmed me in that belief. Upon what was the demand for 16,500 men a month based? The Minister for Defence when asked a question in the Senate since the campaign asked “ Are you not aware that during such and such a month there were 16,500 casualties V I am perfectly well aware of that. There might have been that number of casualties during one month, but who would say that those casualties were going to continue? You could not base your demand for recruits upon the number of casualties for a day, a week, or a month. The absurdity of the statement can be easily proved. If we are going to have a wastage of 16,500 per month, that means that the whole of our Australian divisions will be wiped out in about six months’ time. If the British army to-day comprises 5,000,000 men, and its wastage is in the same proportion, that means that in twelve months’ time 9,000,000 men will be necessary. The whole lot of them would be wiped out within twelve months.
– Does not the honorable member think we need sufficient troops to give our men a spell?
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of a pet argument with which I was met at every turn during the campaign. I could never understand why it was used in support of conscription; I always thought that it was a splendid one for the anti-conscriptionists to use. The argument was that Australian soldiers were kept for eleven and twelve days continuously in the trenches, whereas the French remained inthe trenches only three days, and the British troops only four or four and a half days . Because of the lack of reinforcements the unfortunate Australians, we were told, were kept eleven and twelve days continuously in the trenches. That argument misled a lot of people who did not think very hard.
– It is a fact.
– No doubt the honorable member drilled it into his electorate.
– And I shall do so again.
– That. I venture to say, accounts for the result of the referendum in the honorable member’s electorate.
– And the honorable member was not successful in his campaign in his own electorate.
– Had I used that argument in my electorate it would have produced the same result that was secured in the honorable member’s constituency. Every one knows that as soon as our soldiers leave the Heads they pass out of our control and under the con; trol of the War Authorities. If the War Authorities are responsible for keeping our men eleven and twelve days continuously in the trenches, then on the figures I have given it would mean that the Australians were given three times the job that the British forces were given. That is the best argument this country could have for calling a halt.
– That is a scandalous statement to make.
– I am not saving that it is correct.
-t- It is an absolutely disloyal statement.
– I am merely repeating an argument that the honorable member for Echuca has used. I do not believe that the Australian troops were kept so long in the trenches. But, taking the word of the conscriptionists who made this allegation - and T do not believe that the statement is correct - it casts a very grave reflection upon the War Authorities. I repeat that I do not believe it, and I want to sheet home this disloyal statement to such men as the honorable member for Calare.
– My honorable friend tells me-
– Order I These interjections must cease.
– If it had been true it would have been the best argument that could be adduced for the people voting .”No,” as they did.
– And for “calling a halt,” the honorable member said.
– I did not use the words in the sense suggested by the honorable member. I simply meant “a halt” on the conscription issue. I have never been able to ‘ understand why, to reinforce four or even five divisions at the front, a demand should have been made on Australia to contribute 16,500 men a month. If the wastage is going to be at that rate, the whole of our army will be wiped out in less than twelve months. The statement is so preposterous that it is no wonder the people dealt with it in the manner they could be trusted as an intelligent people to deal with it.
– There is nothing to “ skite “ about. The people were fairly evenly divided.
– There were six Governments and six Oppositions on the one side.
– And that side was allowed all possible latitude, whilst the other was confined within the narrowest limits.
– The one side had only the spirit of self-sacrifice to appeal to, while the other could appeal to all that was selfish in the community.
– Lies, lies, all the time.
– If the Treasurer and the honorable member for Melbourne are going to converse across the chamber, we cannot go on. The honorable member for Indi is in possession of the Chair. I appeal to the House to cease from this continual interjecting.
– In order to prove that there is something in my contention, I shall quote from a speech delivered by the Minister for Defence, which is to be found in No. 67 of Hansard, page 8410. That speech shows that men were being asked for, not as reinforcements, but to make new divisions. Here are the words of the Minister, which he used also on the public platform -
We have a large’ number of troops already in training. . . . Their numbers, exclusive of the four divisions in France and the Light Horse Division and details in Egypt, are as follow -
– Is the honorable member ^quoting from the Hansard report df the present session?
– The book from which I “am reading does not look like a copy of Hansard.
– Nevertheless, the report is the Hansard report.
– The Minister for Defence said -
Number in camp in Australia, 43,512; number in camp in England, 44,511; on the water, 15,000; total, 103,023 men.
Here is the point -
It is proposed by the Army Council to make up any deficiency of reinforcements by utilizing the troops from, the division in England . . . and to replace those in that division by men coming forward from Australia. . . . The Fifth Division will not take the field until much later on.
Those words prove my contention that the men were being sent abroad not as reinforcements, but to . increase the size of our Army.
– Which would have meant more reinforcements later.
– If the Prime Minister . had not been checked, the time would have come, considering that our population is less than 5,000,000, when we should have been unable to reinforce those whom we had. forced out of the country, and the abandonment of them would have been worse than that spoken of by conscriptionists. I have, referred to the methods that were adopted. Not only was there misrepresentation, so that the question was not fairly put to the people, but the Prime Minister, whenever he found himself in a tight corner, produced a cablegram from some person in a mysterious way, as if by magic. I remember that a few days before the vote was taken, he produced cablegrams from General Birdwood, General Haig, and others, stating that men were urgently needed; but after the vote had been taken we learned that there were on Salisbury Plains 40,000 Australian soldiers, who, although anxious to get to the firing line, in order to pass the time away, were teaching the Englishmen the Australian game of football. We were not allowed to know that before the 28th October.
– That is an absolutely unfair statement. The honorable member would be the first to complain if the men were kept always at work, and given no recreation.
– I am not in a fit state to-night to call for order. The honorable member must have heard my request that interjections should hot continue. When I call the House to order, I expect honorable members to obey.
– I did not hear you, < sir. I am not in the habit of disobeying the Chair.
– I have called order several times, and cannot understand why the honorable member should not have heard me.
– I apologize; I did not hear you.
– I shall quote, for the benefit of the Whip of thia party of . thirteen
– Is it in order to refer to an honorable member except by the name of his constituency?
– It. is not in order to do so.
– Then let me say that I wish to remind the honorable member for Premantle that the Prime Minister told the country that he had received from General Birdwoqd a cablegram stating that men were urgently needed. That message was published throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I ask the honorable member for Premantle, who has implicit faith in his leader, how it compared with the following statement of GeneralBirdwood’s views which was read by the Prime Minister when speaking at Bendigo a fortnight before the vote was taken, when he said -
I have received a letter from LieutenantGeneral Sir William Birdwood, in which he Bays that, notwithstanding the heavy ‘casualties, a considerable number were already back in the front trenches. General Birdwood added that this early return to the trenches was largely due to the fact that he had sufficient reserves to enable him to send to the hospitals just at the rear of the lines those men who had been suffering from shell-shock or sickness, for immediate attention and regular spells. Consequently, they recovered very much sooner than if they had been kept a longer time in the trenches without rest and opportunity for recuperation. In short, he said the effectiveness of the Australian Army had been enormously increased owing to the increase of its reserves.
Three days before the vote was taken, the Prime Minister said that he had received from General Birdwood a cablegram stating that men were urgently required. I do not know which of the two statements the ‘honorable member for Premantle accepts; but in the light of subsequentevents the statement about the letter seems the more reliable. In reply to an interjection which has been made, let me say that the Prime Minister was aware that the most conspicuous opponents of conscription were persons who had given their sons for the defence of the Empire. The Prime Minister knew that honorable members of this House were speaking against conscription who had given their nearest and dearest to the cause of their country. There were also private citizens who had done the same, among them being notable persons like Mr. Jacka, the father of the first man to win the V.C., and who were anticonscriptionists. The right honorable gentleman was aware, too, that these men were doing a great deal of harm to his cause. He therefore produced cablegrams from Lieut. Jacka, General Haig, General Birdwood - in fact, so many that every one was expecting to hear that he had had one from the King. The cablegram from Lieut. Jacka, V.C., was interpreted to mean that he advised the people of Australia to vote for conscription. When that statement appeared in the press, Mr. Jacka, the father of the hero, who lives at Wedderburn, wired on the Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock to the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney, denying its truth. He said that he and his, wife, the mother of Lieut. Jacka, had recently had a letter from their son which was totally at variance with the cablegram, and that he was sure that his son did not possess or advocate the view that was attributed to him by the Prime Minister. That telegram should have been received by the Australian Workers Union’s secretary on Friday evening, but by some form of manipulation - perhaps that would be too strong a word - in some way or other, it did not reach him until the following Monday, after the vote had been taken, when its publication could serve no purpose. These facts have been made public before, and I therefore ask the PostmasterGeneral if he has caused inquiries to be made as to the reason of the delay in delivering that telegram, or if he is prepared to ascertain who was responsible for that delay?
– I am not allowed to interject.
– The father of Lieut. Jackahas made a sworn declaration on the subject. Presently I shall come to something else which may not be at all agreeable to the PostmasterGeneral. I hope that he will preserve silence until then. On the last occasion whenI attempted to say something about this matter, I was not permitted to con tinue; and I, therefore, now propose to refer to another phase of the methods employed during the campaign. I have just said that those who advocated the side opposed to the Prime Minister were restricted, while the fullest latitude was given to the Prime Minister - he saw to that himself - and those associated with him. They went so far as to send a manifesto to the men in the trenches. The Premier of Queensland cabledto Mr. Philip Snowden, an anti-conscriptionist in England, asking him to put the “No” side to the men ; but that cable was never delivered. There has been some Question as to whether a manifesto was sent by the Prime Minister to the front, but we are in the happy position of being able to prove up to the hilt that he did. Further, we know that General Birdwood not only issued a manifesto, but addressed the men in favour of conscription. General Birdwood’s manifesto began as follows: - 1st Anzac B.E.F.,
To Members of the A.I.F.
As General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Forces, it is not for me to interfere in any political matters, or to influence the voting of our men on the coming referendum.
It will be seen that right at the beginning, General Birdwood admitted that he knew his duty and appreciated the order that had been given by the Prime Minister. We remember that the day before the House rose before the campaign, the Prime -Minister assured us that nothing would be said or done by the officers to influence the minds of the men under them; but, notwithstanding, we have General Birdwood addressing the men in these words -
Many brave men have given their lives for. the sake of our Empire and the freedom of the world - lives which will have been uselessly sacrificed if we relax our efforts in any way until we have the Germans right down on their knees.
– Is there anything wrong about that?
– Nothing ; but when it is said as a canvass for votes it is wrong, and a violation of the Prime Minister ‘s order, though, of course, the Prime Minister did not mean it. General Birdwood said -
Remember, too, boys, that the word freedom does not only mean freedom for ourselves, but what is far more important, freedom for our children and our children’s children. For them I know no sacrifice can be too great.
– That is what the honorable member should have thought of.
– Unlike the Postmaster-General, I do not always have my loyalty on my lips, though I hope I am no less sincere than he is. I have very little faith in those who are always proclaiming their loyalty from the housetops. Here is another extract from General Birdwood - 2 In the magnificent manifesto which our Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, has sent us -
There- is the proof that a manifesto was sent - he has fully shown what exemptions there will be when universal service is adopted.
We gather from this some idea of the advice given by the Prime Minister in hia manifesto to the men at the front - advice, however, that was never put into operation here when the men were called up, as I shall show -
It will be seen from this that members of’ families, some of whom have already come forward, will be fully safeguarded, and no men need fear that there is danger of, we will say, the brother who has been left behind to look after the affairs of the family, being ordered to come out. The shirker, however, will be caught, and made to do his share, instead of staying at home, as he has done’ up to now, not only evading his duties, but getting into . soft jobs which we want to see kept for our boys here when they return, or for the representatives of their families who have been left in Australia. ,
There is much more which I do not propose to quote. I read these extracts merely to show that a manifesto was sent to the front, and that a promise was given that the relatives of the men left behind would be in no danger of being called up. As a matter of fact, in scores of families in my own electorate, sons, some of whom are the sole support of their parents, and have relatives at the front, had to. report, and were placed in camp. Even before the question was decided by the people, the promise made in the manifesto to the men at the front was broken. There is another phase of the methods adopted during the campaign. Notwithstanding the manifestoes, and the advice given to the men at the front, no opportunity was given to advise them on the opposite side. We gather, however, that the men did not pay very much heed to the advice they did get; and, as a proof of- that, we have the fact that the Prime Minister is’ not “ game “ to publish the figures showing how, the men in the trenches voted. During the campaign every little newspaper one picked up throughout the country contained the words “ “Voice from the Trenches.” Day after day ‘we saw letters published which were alleged to have been written by > soldiers at the front advising Australia to vote “ Yes.” As a matter of fact, there were scores of letters coming to Australia then, though not so many as since the referendum, advising the people to vote “No” ; but, with very few exceptions, they never found their way into any of the unfair journals and newspapers. However, the “Voice from the Trenches” cry, which secured conscription a great many votes, has been exploded ; and I venture to say, that if the, vote were taken over again to-morrow, with the knowledge that we now possess as to how the men in Europe voted, there would be a still greater majority on the side of Australia’s freedom. But there is one thing above all others I desire to say, Everywhere I went during the campaign I took the responsibility of quoting letters from the front to show that the men there did not favour the Government policy; and I am pleased to say that, along with others who took the same line, I stand acquitted of any idea of deception. We now practically know what the vote at the front was; as I have said, the fact that it was displeasing to the Prime Minister is shown by his not being “game” enough to publish the figures.
– Yet some people went so far as to say that the vote at the front was going to be “ faked.”
– There must be some “ faking “ now, seeing that the figures are not published. What is the reason ? If people did say there was “ faking,” the charge is borne out by the fact that we here are not allowed to know what the vote really was. There ought to be a Select Committee appointed immediately to inquire into the methods adopted in the taking of the vote of the men in camp and at the front, and I shall not be satisfied until a step is taken in that direction. Parliament, at all events, has a right to know at .the earliest possible moment what that vote was. I shall not have time to make a record of all my grievances against those responsible for those methods, particularly against one gentleman; but I shall have an opportunity later. The instance I have given is only typical of the methods adopted during the campaign by men in responsible positions. The Prime Minister, when in the neighbourhood of my electorate, used a form of intimidation in addressing a farming community. He told them that if the vote was not as he desired, he did not see how ships were to be provided to take our wheat away, or where the money was to come from to purchase it. He practically threatened the farmers that if they did not vote as ha wished, the Mother Country would not come to our rescue in the way of ships and money for our wheat. A little while after, when “in the same neighbourhood, I took the responsibility of saying that if the vote were “No,” it would make no difference to the Mother Country, in whose estimation Australia stood high because of what we had done under the voluntary system.- To-day I am vindicated by the pronouncement of the Prime Minister that Great Britain has bought practically the whole of our present harvest of wheat and wool.
– Give the Prime Minister credit for arranging that sale.
– But he gave the farmers to understand that he could not arrange it if the vote were against conscription. I venture to say that it never entered the mind of any Imperial ‘statesman, when bargaining for the purchase of our products, to consider how Australia had voted. The Prime Minister during the campaign was asked where labour was to be secured if we sent 16,500 men out of the country every month ; and I should like to know how representatives of farming communities who advocated conscription, explained their position to the men on the land.
– I explained it all right.
– The honorable member represents an intelligent community of farmers, and the result of his explanation was a majority of 7,000 against conscription. The honorable member should have explained his explanation. As a representative of a farming district, I said it was absolutely necessary that production should be kept going in this country, but that advocates of conscription thought only of sending away all the available manhood, without regarding the results. Subsequent events have proved, the accuracy of the attitude I took up. The Prime Minister told the farmers that they need have no fear, be cause there would be plenty of labour to carry on their farming. This country has risen so . magnificently to a realization of its obligations that even under the voluntary system there is a scarcity of labour. The Government Labour Bureau recently issued the following report concerning different wheat-growing centres and the labour available for carrying on the harvesting operations: -
Birchip - Supply of labour will not be sufficient. Charlton - Labour scarce; none offering locally. Chillingollah - Good demand for labour, and farmers will be glad to engage suitable harvest hands. Dimboola, - Local labour - supply not sufficient. Donald - No serious difficulty anticipated in obtaining labour, but there is shortage locally of harvest hands. Hopetoun - Farmers appear to’ be able to obtain labour required. Kerang - Local supply insufficient, but good many hands have passed through looking for harvesting work. Murtoa - Labour will be scarce, but no difficulty is anticipated in getting harvest in. Ouyen- Up to the present a good supply of labour offering locally.- Rochester - Harvest hands expected to be scarce. Ultima - Harvest hands scarce; i good demand. Woomelang - Local labour supply inadequate.
There are several . other reports in the same strain, all showing that the response under the voluntary system has been so great that there was a scarcity of labour ^ for farming operations. ,
– Yet you wish us to go in for a vigorous works policy.
– The Prime Minister wished to make the position even Worse, for if we had agreed to a policy that would have taken 16,500 men per month out of the country production would have been at a standstill. There are honorable members who are continually pleading for the man on the land, but in the hour of crisis, when there was a danger that the farmers would be unable to carry on their industries, and when they needed somebody to stand by them, they were deserted by those who formerly were their professed champions.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Indi, one would not think that this country was at war at all. The honorable member did not compare the position of Australia with that of . Great Britain. We find that out of a total population .of 45,000,000 the Mother Country has in uniform 5,000,000 men, and in the munition factories 4,000,000 men and 1,000,000 women, or a total of 10,000,000 persona engaged’ in war operations, whereas Australia has only re,cruited 300,000 men, of whom a great number have already returned. The honorable member had a great deal- to say about the danger of depleting the labour market, but although 10,000,000 of the population of the Mother Country are engaged in war work, her exports last year were more than in the year preceding the outbreak of war. If, the British people can take off their coats, and enter into the light in this fashion, I contend that Australians are just as able to do the same.
– Do you want women to do clerical work?
– Women will be fighting for the honorable member and his two sons before long.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– Order! The honorable member for Brisbane must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– In a letter which I received from a lady relative in England it was stated that there are hundreds of well educated ‘ women working in the munition factories and counting houses, often from 7 o’clock in the morning till 9 o’clock at night.
– Some of them are working day and night.
– That is so, and they have not taken a penny in payment for their work. Honorable members who recently returned from a visit to the Mother Country have told us of the numbers of women engaged in the dockyards, in doing police duty, manual labour in the railway yards, and in many other activities, in order that the male population may be relieved to carry on the tremendous task of defeating ‘Germany.- The honorable member for Indi expressed much concern about insuring a supply of labour to carry on farming operations. A few months ago honorable members of his party stated that the farmers had not sent their sons to the front, and that the recruits were coming from the Labour leagues. To-night the honorable member adopts a strong attitude’ in defence of the farmers. I was supplied with figures by Mr. Griffith, a former Minister of the Crown in New South Wales, which showed that in that State 30,000 men could be released from public works which were not immediately necessary. If men were detached in similar proportions ‘from unnecessary public works in the other States of the Commonwealth, and drafted into the farming districts, we ( should thus be able to insure an adequate supply of labour for the rural industries.
– The honorable member would not classify all those men as fit for farming.
– I think their services could be utilized for farming operations. It is not my intention to defend every action of the Government, and I believe that conscription was defeated largely because of the fatal mistake made by the Government in indiscriminately ordering the manhood of Australia into camp during the campaign. I heard of a case in the Darling electorate of a grazier who had experienced great difficulty in getting shearers together. The grass seeds were getting into the wool, which was depreciating in value. Having at last got a body of shearers together, the grazier was in the midst of shearing when the proclamation was issued, and he and. his men “had to travel 50 miles to enroll. It was not against conscription that those men voted so much as against their being disturbed at that particular time. The proclamation was issued in the busiest period of the year for men on the land, when shearing and harvesting were in progress, and because of the inconvenience which resulted, a big negative vote was cast. The honorable member for Indi assumed that a majority of the soldiers at -the front voted “No.” There is no authority for that assumption. On the contrary, there is more reason for arguing that the soldiers generally voted an emphatic “ Yes.” When there were still some 500,000 votes to be counted, the “ Noes “ were in a majority of 90,000, which represented about 4J per- cent, of the 2,000,000 votes that had been counted. If that proportion had been maintained, a 4^ per cent, majority on the remaining 500,000 votes would have added a further 22,000 to the “No” majority,- increasing it to 112,5.00. Instead of that, it was reduced to 60,000. If we deduct- 60,000 from the 112,500, it leaves 52,500, and I claim that this 52,550 represents- the soldiers’ votes. My honorable friends “in the corner were very clever in saying that the cablegrams published by the Prime Minister were “ fakes.”
– Hear, hear!
Mr.PIGOTT. - I invite the honorable member to make a statutory declaration outside that they were “ faked.” He would soon find out whether they were or not. It is very regrettable to all who have the interests of the Empire at heart to see the whole of Australia, as it were, divided into two opposing camps at this particular juncture of all times, when we should drop our differences. Honorable members in the Corner have nothing to complain about. They worked hard for the purpose of inducing people to vote “ No,” and they got all they worked for. Now, I say to them,” Let us bury the axe, and get together behind the Empire, and behind the Prime Minister and push on the recruiting scheme for all we are worth, and show the world and the Empire that we are genuinely loyal in this matter.” That is the attitude that every loyal honorable member should take up ; but, instead of adopting that attitude, I hear some honorable members say that they have no intention of going into the country and persuading their electors to get behind the Government and the Empire. Their great objection is that they decline to assist the Prime Minister. I have never supported the Prime Minister. I was returned to this House as a Liberal, in opposition to his policy, and in opposition to him, yet during the last two years and two months, I have loyally supported him on all matters appertaining to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue. That has been the attitude of the Liberal Opposition. Never, during the two years and two months, has it launched a vote of censure against the Government. Yet the honorable member for Yarra, the Leader of the Australian Labour party, had not been in his position for ten minutes before he moved a censure motion against the Government. This is not a time for censure motions. We should all work harmoniously together to push the campaign to a successful issue, and I plead with honorable members to take a correct view in regard to this matter.
– The remarks of the honorable member are so valuable that we should have a quorum to hear them. [Quorum formed.]
Mr.PIGOTT. - One would think that we were not a part of the Empire, and that we had no interests in common with the Empire ; but I maintain that, in fighting for the Empire, we are fighting for ourselves. Australia was the first portion of the Empire to enter upon German territory. Having conquered New Guinea, we gave Germany cause to engage against us, and, as the Prime Minister has properly pointed out, the ramparts of Australia are not in the Pacific, but are to be found in Flanders at the present time. If the Germans overthrowus there, they will come to Australia and conquer us here. If a person leaves Australia, whether he is an Irishman, a Scotchman, or an Englishman, he tells us that he is going to take a trip Home to the Mother Country. If he is an Irishman, he says, “ I am going home to old Ireland.” If he is a Scotchman, he says, “ I am going home to Scotland.” If he is an Englishman, he says, “ I am going home to England.” But when he has had his trip, and enjoyed himself for a few months, if his friends ask him what he proposes to do, he says. “ I am going back home to Australia.” Wherever he is, he is at home - in Great Britain or Australia. To the Britisher orto the Australian it is always Home, Home, Home. Therefore, in prosecuting the war we are fighting for the defence of home. I appeal to honorable members sitting in the corner not to criticise the Government as they are doing. Some months ago, the honorable member for Illawarra criticised the honorable member for Nepean for attacking the Government in regard to the conditions at the Liverpool Camp, and said that it would have beenfar better if the Liberals had placed the case quietly before Mr. Fisher, and had not exposed the maladministration of the camp to the people, because by doing so a great setback to recruiting had been caused. Instead of following the advice that the honorable member then gave, honorable members who supported the Government a few months ago now rise on every possible occasion and criticise them. But they are really speaking of their own maladministration, and condemning themselves, because they were sitting behind the Government which they now condemn. I hope that they will take a rational view of the matter and act in a proper manner.
.- In an interjection this afternoon I said that twelve months ago we were promised that something definite would be done in regard to the Repatriation Fund. We were also ‘told a few months ago that a day was to be set apart in Australia for that fund. The day that was fixed upon was about the time that the referendum poll was taken, and consequently it was postponed until the 12th of this month, but that date has been passed and still we hear nothing about the matter. The Queensland Government have done a great deal towards settling men on the land, and I understand that some of them who have been settled on the land in that State have been able to send some produce to the market and get a very fair return, but Queensland seems to be the only State that has done anything in the matter. Strange to say, the Government in that State represent the same party and the same people thai: the section of the House to which I belong represents. Every day, in Sydney and Melbourne, complaints are being made by the Returned Soldiers Association. In the Syd-, ney Sunday Sun there is a standing advertisement seeking work for returned soldiers who are anxious to get jobs. This should not be the duty of the press. It is the duty of the Government to see that these men are placed in positions, and the only way in which it can be done is by way of a repatriation scheme. Reference has been made to-night to the Science Bureau. Before the Prime Minister left for Great Britain this matter was mentioned, but nothing has been done in regard to it; at any rate, J have not seen any report in the press of any meeting of the bureau, or any statement as to whether it has been appointed to go on with the work mapped out for it by the Prime Minister. If there is any country that is leading the way in the direction of science investigation it is Germany. Ithas done a vast amount of work in scientific .development, so much so that it leads the world in this direction; and, much as we may despise its methods of warfare, we can advantageously copy what it has done in scientific development. The Science Bureau, or some other body that could be brought into existence, should inquire into the cost of living in Australia. During the last,twelve months or two years it has gone up by leaps and bounds.
– That is a world-wide experience.
– I admit that it is, but something should be done to inquire into the cause of it. Some people claim that it is owing to the increases in .wages that have been granted, but, as the honorable member points out, it is a world-wide experience to-day, and in countries where increases of wages have not been given the cost of living is also going up. Even assuming - that the argument of those who say that the increase in the cost ‘of living is’ due to the increase of wages that have been granted is correct, I may point out that full inquiry is made before any increase is given to see that the industries can afford to pay it. Evidence is heard, and” books are examined with that object. My point is that it is the duty of the Government to appoint a Commission or some other body which will make, inquiries into the why and wherefore of the increased cost of living in Australia.
– We have already Commissioners fixing prices.
– What evidence are they taking ?
– They are making inquiries in some of the States.
– I do not think any evidence has been taken in New South Wales, nor have I seen any reports in the press regarding the taking of evidence in Victoria. There may be an energetic man in Tasmania who knows his business, and is going into the question.
A very serious “charge was made last night by the honorable member for Dampier, who said that the rifles turned out by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory were costing as much as £17 each. We are told that we are turning out something like 3,000 rifles per month at this factory, but the honorable member for Dampier asserted that all the rifles manufactured there during the last few months had been condemned. That is a very serious charge to make. If true, Australia is paying for rifles that are of no use. It is a serious charge against the management of the Factory, and ought to be inquired into.
I come now to the calling up of our men under the proclamation. Senator Pearce said that the issue of the proclamation, and the placing of the men in camp, cost over £600,000. ‘ While engaged in the referendum campaign, I met men who had been called up and ordered into camp. In order to bolster up the statement made by members of the Ministry that there were something like 190,000 eligible and fit men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years, the authorities sent into camp men who were suffering from consumption. Men who had endeavoured on five or six occasions to enlist, and who had been rejected, were also sent into camp. In my own district, a man who could hardly see, who. was as deaf as a post, and club-footed, was examined by a doctor and ordered into camp. Another man in the same locality who had suffered from infantile paralysis, who had a withered leg - one leg being 3 inches shorter than the other - was also examined by a doctor and ordered into camp. Several consumptives were examined, or supposed to be examined by a doctor, and ordered into camp. That was not only a serious thing for the community, but for the other men with whom these unfortunate consumptives had to share the same tents.
– No doubt that sort of thing helped to defeat the referendum.
– It played a very important part. These things were done in order to bolster up the statement of responsible Ministers that there were 190,000 eligible and fit men in Australia between eighteen and thirty-five years of age.
– Does the honorable member suggest anything against the doctors?
– Of course I do. I complain that they were not doing their duty, and did not make a proper examination. Whether they so acted in obedience to orders or not I do not know.
– It was that kind of accidental bungling that beat the referendum, not the merits of the question ?
– I do not know. Another matter affecting the censorship came under my own personal observation.I was informed one day that thirty-six Bulgarians had been liberated from the Holdsworthy Concentration Camp. Together with Senator Grant, I went to the Melbourne Steam-ship Company’s wharf,where the Dimboola was moored, and there interviewed these men. They told us they had only been liberated the day before from the Holdsworthy Camp, that they had been brought down to the wharf under military escort, and there allowed to go free. They said, further, that they were Bulgarians, who had been arrested in Western Australia, and sent to the Holdsworthy Camp. They were going back to Western Australia to follow their usual occupations. These men who eight months before had been arrested and in terned because they were thought to be a menace to the community were liberated on the eve of the referendum, and were sent back to take up their usual occupations in the western State. Had the referendum been carried they would probably have taken the place of conscripted men. I mentioned this fact from the public platform during the campaign, but my references to the subject were not allowed to be published. They were censored because the authorities knew that if published they would materially affect the referendum campaign. I made what use I could of the information, and I make the statement here to-night that these men were liberated from the Holdsworthy Concentration Camp,and that they were going back to their work as timber-getters in Western Australia. I told the Prime Minister before he brought down his Referendum Bill that the proposal would be unsuccessful I told him that the referendum ‘ would divide the people of Australia, and it certainly has done more to damn recruiting than anything of which I know. When the Prime Minister came back from the Old Country to lead the way, the offer of a vigorous recruiting campaign throughout Australia was made to him. That proposal, which is now being adopted, was not accepted by him Had he approved of it then, we should have got a large number of recruits to fill the gaps.
– The honorable member says they are wanted to-day?
– I do not say they are wanted, but probably they are. As it is, the recruiting campaign, in view of the bad treatment of the returned soldiers, will in all probability be a failure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed-
That a tax be imposed upon payments for admissionto entertainments, at the following rates, namely: -
Payment for Admission ( excluding the amount of tax), Rate of Tax.
Not less than fivepence and not exceeding sixpence,½d.
Exceeding sixpence and not exceeding one shilling,1d.
Exceeding one shilling,1d. for the first shilling, and one half-penny for every sixpence or part of sixpence by which the payment exceeds one shilling.
. I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– What is the business for to-morrow ?
– That will depend on circumstances. We have yet to receive a message from the Senate in regard to Supply. When it comes to hand we shall deal with it, and will then go on with the Amusements Tax Bill and the Income TaxAssessment Bill.
.- I wish to ask the Prime Minister what business he proposes to deal with before we adjourn for the Christmas holidays? Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with any measures other than the two he has just mentioned? Further, are we to sit next week, and, if so, on what days? It is rumoured that the Supply Bill is to come back with a request; I do not know that it is. I wish to know, further, when the elections are to take place next year. It is rumoured that the Constitution is likely to be altered, and we should know the intentions of the Government in that regard. I am not desirous of prolonging thesittings of Parliament at this particular time.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra did not say anything more about the perturbing subject of an election. We are now within measurable distance of Christmas time. Last year we adjourned before December, and my recollection is that seldom, if ever, have wesat after the 15th of the month of December. As to-day is the 14th, I ask the Prime Minister how far it is proposed to leave the businesspaper unfinished when we adjourn for the Christmas holidays - that is, if we are to have any. If our friends in another place are not bent on staying here over Christmas, would it not be a good thing to do what business remains to be done by sitting until the end of the week ? I think that most honorable members are prepared to sit to-morrow night, and on Saturday, if necessary, and perhaps on Monday, to finish’ what business remains to be done. Unless we finishby Tuesday or Wednesday, honorable members who live at a distance must either leave before the adjournment or forego the pleasure - in my opinion, the right - to spend Christmas in their homes.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman instruct the Prime Minister to do what he wishes?
– If it will satisfy my honorable friends on the corner benches, I say to the Prime Minister, ‘ You are not to sit longer than Monday next.” I hope, seriously, that the right honorable gentleman will consider my suggestion.
– I object to the continual talking about adjournments. When Parliament is sitting one can get done, by the asking of a question, what it takes weeks to get settled when Parliament is not sitting.
– The honorable member speaks in that way because he lives here.
– That is not true. The statement is unworthy of the honorable member. Never was the Earl of Warwick so powerful as the Leader of the Opposition. According to Shakspeare, Julius Caesar never had the crown offered to him so many times as has the honorable member. I wish to know if there is a limit to. his refusal of it. If he goes much further, we shall have to appeal to the right honorable member for Swan, or to some one else, to lift this Devil’s Ministry but of the path. The number thirteen is the Devil’s number. Every day is increasing the infamy of the treatment accorded to the soldiers who are coming back. Men who went away with the promise that positions would be kept for them are finding, on their return, that that promise is not to be kept. Then, we thought that disabled returned soldiers would continue to draw their pay until they got their pensions, but some of them have had to wait a very long time for pensions. If the Government will give security to some of the officers they will speak of the cruelties that are being practised in the camps. Some of the gilt-spurred roosters, as the honorable member for Darwin so well named them, are trying to introduce Prussianism. I have never tried to prevent any man from enlisting who wished to do so, and I point out that recruiting is being interfered with by what is happening in. the camps. I have asked repeatedly when are we to be told how the brave fellows who fought at the front, and have given such glory bo Australia, voted. Why should the Leader of tho Government treat them with such dishonour f Why should they be treated as if it was not worthy that their voting should be known? I resent the trickery and the treachery that has been resorted to.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– Let me say that I object to the interference with the rights of the soldiers at the front. General Birdwood does not interfere with his officers, but he has interfered with the Australian ballot. He has not had the experience in his country of the glorious form of ballot that we have in Australia. Even thB Prime Minister of England had his name removed from the rolls because he did not arrange to become a lodger in his wife’s house. I resent strongly the determination that we shall not know how our soldiers voted. You, Mr’. Speaker, as an Australian, must be proud of our men. Even the Prime Minister has stated on the platform he is proud of them ; but how does he treat them? He seems to think that they are unworthy to have their voting known. With my personal knowledge, and that which my friends have obtained from the letters sent to them, I accuse the Government with having faked the ballot at the front.
– The honorable member must not impute unworthy conduct. A Government capable of doing what he says would have no right to be here.
– This Government have no right to be here. It is only byfavour of their opponents, led by the honorable member for Parramatta, that Ministers remain in office. I am going to advise the people of Australia to appeal by petition to .a man who is higher than the highest man in Australia - -that is, to the King. Even the Prime Minister would not dare to prevent that, nor would the Governor-General. ‘Every citizen has the right to appeal to the King, and I shall advise the people to petition the King to have, this matter cleared up in- England. I do hot know how the Leader of the. Government has persuaded his party of thirteen to follow him.
– It seems to annoy the honorable member.
– If the strong man will remember the teaching of his good -unionist father, he will not interject so much, and will be a better man than he is. It is the duty of the citizens to petition the King to ascertain why the ballot at the front was interfered with. The ballot was interfered with here and at the front. We were not permitted to have scrutineers at the front. The Prime Minister was asked, that both sides of the question might be put before the people, but that was refused. He sent a manifesto to England and got General Birdwood - a good soldier, who is liked -by his men, hut who had no right to interfere with their voting-
An Honorable Member. - What proof is there that he did ?
– We have proof. The Constitution of Australia is too sacred a thing for General Birdwood to interfere with. The King of England has no right to interfere with it, and would not, and dare not,, interfere with it, and General Birdwood should not interfere with it. I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House how many returned soldiers are wanting work and are unable to get it. If he gives them work he may encourage enlistment.
– I am ready to meet the wishes of honorable members generally as to the arrangement of the sittings. There is certain business that must be done before we can adjourn, and the sooner it is done the sooner we shall be able to get away. The measures that I shall ask the House to consider other than - those already presented to it are few, and, with one possible exception, should not provoke .much discussion. I know of no reason why, if honorable members are willing, we should not finish our present business by Saturday. I must say that the prospect of meeting on Saturday, and also on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday does not appeal to me very much. If we sit on Saturday, it should be with the idea, of finishing ‘ on Saturday; otherwise we might just as well come back next week and finish then. However, there is no reason I know of why we should hot easily finish on Saturday if honorable members so prefer.
– What are the measures to come before us?
– The entertainment tax measure is before us, and’ amongst other measures, I have to ask the House to consider is one arising out of the war, and relating to the marriage of soldiers by proxy. This is a Bill the need for which is very real, and about which there is not very much room for difference of opinion. Thenthere is a measure in reference to daylight saving, which ought to commend itself to the community ; and a third, of which I have given notice, reIates to inciting to certain offences. Another matter to which I should like to draw attention is theposition of the Tariff, under which collections are now beingmade, and have been made, for quite a long while. If, by any unfortunate shaft of fate, this Parliament were to pass suddenly away, what would be the position of the Tariff ?
– We should make you responsible for that!
– I am not the man to wantonly cause this Parliament to pass untimely away. But circumstances may compel it. If it should happen, I do not think there is any man in the House who wishes to throw our industrial world, depending, as it does, upon our present fiscal policy) into the chaos into which it would be thrown under the present circumstances. Whatever differences of opinion we may have as to particular items, we are all agreed that the result would be absolute chaos if the Tariff were summarily to lapse ; besides, we should be in the position that the revenue already collected would have been illegally collected.
– Is the suggestion to pass a measure so as to legalize the Tariff?
– Then I see no reason why it should not go through at once.
– If it does not go through at once, it is obviously a measure that is not compatible with the fervent hope the honorable gentleman has expressed that we should adjourn within a reasonable time. If it does not go through at once, it will have to stand over. My own idea is that if honorable members agree, we can finish the business by Saturday night. If they like to say so, that will be done; otherwise we shall go on next week. The honorable member for Yarra madesome reference to the extension of the life of this Parliament.
– I wished to know what is being done; I did not say anything about an extension.
– I know of nothing being done. I notice that the honor able member asks the question with some apprehension. Whether this is apprehension of something being done, or of something not being done, I do not profess to say, but I am not doing anything. Honorable members will be able to draw what deductions they please from that statement. Whether it evokes the smile that masks the saddened mind or not, I do not pretend to say, but that is the position. The steps necessary to wind up this stage of the session are in the hands of honorable members. The work to be done can be speeded up, or we can go on to next week. If honorable members think they can deal shortly with the question of legalizing the Tariff, I shall bring it before them; if they think they cannot do so, I shall not bring it before them. Honorable members can make up their minds by a reasonable hour tomorrow whether they prefer to sit on Saturday, and finish the business. For those who live in Victoria, it is a matter of, at most, indifference; but in the case of those wholive at a distance, I can readily understand that it is desirable that they should work on Friday and Saturday, and get away. I shall be very glad to fall in with their views.
Question resolved in theaffirmative
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 December 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19161214_reps_6_80/>.