6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, in view of the general dissatisfaction which prevails as a result of the operation of the Daylight Saving Act, he will give early consideration to the question of repealing the measure?
– I shall be glad to consider the matter.
SINKING OF TROOPSHIP.
– As it is rumoured through the city that an Australian troopship has been sunk, will the Minister for the Navy make public what information he possesses regarding the occurrence, so that the fears of the community may be allayed?
– We have received information by cable that the troopship A19 - the Afric - was sunk in the English Channel on the 12th February. That news was supplemented by a later cable gram,’ which said that the vessel was sunk by an enemy submarine, the second and seventh engineers being killed; that a boat containing fifteen persons was missing; that the canteen sergeant was saved; and that before being sunk the steamer had disembarked her Australian troops.
– Will the Prime Min ister lay on the table the latest agreement between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Government respecting the purchase’ of all sugars for the Commonwealth?
– The present agreement?
-I shall be glad to do so.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General transmitting Sup- ‘ plementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year ended 30th June, 1915, and recommending appropriation accord-, ingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply.
MILITARY RAILWAY UNIT. .
– I wish to know whether the Assistant Minister for Defence is aware that ninety men enlisted in excess of the number required to make up the military railway unit which recently left Sydney, and that many of those who were rejected claim to have greater experience in railway work than some who have been accepted. Will the Minister state what are the rates of pay to be given to those who have enlisted?
– I do not know exactly how many in excess of the number required enlisted, nor have I any knowledge of the experience of those who were not accepted, but I shall have the matter looked into. The advisability of ‘ sending another unit is under consideration, and if a second unit is” formed that will give an opportunity to absorb those who were not . previously accepted.The rates of pay after embarkation are as follow: -
In addition to the pay quoted above, married men receiving less than 10s. per day may receive separation allowance according to scale; but such combined pay and allowance is not to exceed 10s. per diem.
Until embarkation, pay is somewhat less. Sergeants and 2nd Corporals get 6d. less, other ranks 1s. less.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been drawn to statements which have appeared in the press, and particularly in the Graphic, to the effect that some thousands of tons of diseased livers and other meat have been put on board troopships ? Will the honorable gentleman cause the name of the contractor responsible for supplying this meat to be published, and consult with the other members of the Ministry to see if he should not be interned- as an enemy of the nation?
– About 1,000 lbs. of bullocks’ liver delivered to a transport was found to be unwholesome, but the Department of theNavy has always in attendance an officer of the Victorian Health Department, whose duty it is to examine the food put on board the transports, and one of these officers discovered that the livers were unwholesome. The Department of the Navy has now absolutely prohibited the placing of livers on board transports forthe supply either of the crews or of troops. I have no ob jection to making public the name, of the person who supplies the livers referred to.
– The occurrence happened some time ago.
– Seven or eight months ago.
(By. leave). - I lay on the table the following paper, and the accompanying statement : -
Defence Act 1903-15, Statutory Rules 1917 No. 26. Australian ArmyReserve.
To insure that the splendid experience gained by men of the Australian Imperial Force may be utilized as part of a national insurance for the future peace of Australia, the Government have decided to create, under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915, an Australian Army Reserve.
Class “ A “ will be composed of men who have completed their training’ as prescribed by section 125(c) of the Act, and are liable to be trained in accordance with the provisions of section 125(d) of the Act. On completion of their service in Class “ A “ officers and other ranks may be transferred to Class “ B.”
Class “B “ will comprise the following men under fifty years of . age who join voluntarily: - (1) Australian officers and soldiers who have been on active service, and are in possession of a “ good “ discharge. (2) Ex- members of the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth, provided, however, that any N.C.O.’s and men desirous of so enlisting are in possession of a “ good’ “ dis- charge. (3) Men resident in the Commonwealth who have been on active service with any other Military Forces of the Empire, and are in possession of a “ good “ discharge, provided they are not members of the Reserve of such portion of the Empire. (4) Men who have completed their service in Class “ A.”
Class “ C “ will comprise members of rifle clubs.
There will also be an Honorary Reserve in which the undermentioned may enroll, or to which they may, at their own request, be transferred: - (1) Those who have completed their service in Class “ A,” and do not desire to continue in Class “B.” (2) Members of the Australian Army Reserve who are over the age of fifty years. (3) Members of the Australian Army Reserve, otherwise eligible, who are physically unfit. (4) Ex-members of the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth who are over fifty years of age, provided, however, that N.C.O.’s and men are in possession of a “good” discharge. (5) Members of the Reserve of other portions of the Empire. (6) Men over the age of fifty years who are resident in the Commonwealth, and who have been on ..active . service with- any other Military Forces of . the Empire.
For these classes theservice will be voluntary, and, save in. the case of rifle clubs, the period, of training per annum will not exceed four (4) whole days,- during which period the men will be paid- at Militia Force rates. The decision as to the classes to be trained each year Trill rest with the Minister for Defence. Arms and equipment will be provided as they become available, and . arrangments may be made for their. proper custody in conveniently located armouries.
For the purpose of preserving the traditions and honours won by. the members of the Australian Imperial Force on active service, the militia units of the Commonwealth Military Forces will be re-numbered and given, as far as practicable, the numbers at present borne by the unitB of the Australian Imperial Force.
To each of the existing militia unitB so renumbered will bc linked a Reserve unit consisting of men who have served at tha front in a unit bearing the same number as the renumbered militia unit of which they will form the Reserve. This will insure that the numerical designation of the A.I.F. units who have made history for Australia will be carried on -for all time in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, into whose keeping a great tradition will be given, and who, for many’ years, will have the actual men who created the traditions as the. Reserve of many of their unitB.
Members of the Reserve who have served in the present war will be allowed to retain their battalion arm patches, so that, no matter, where in Australia an A.I.F. member of the Reserve may be trained, he will retain the outward and visible sign of the unit with which he fought.
An opportunity will also be afforded to men who have served in South Africa or any of the Empire’s wars, prior to the present one, to give Australia the benefit of the war-won experience. These men may Join any unit which -.will best carry out the tradition of their particular arm.
It is reasonable to assume that, apart from the Militia Forces and other sections of the Reserves, this Scheme will, within twelve months of the termination of the war, give Australia a force of from 150,000 to 200,000 mcn trained in the latest methods of modern warfare who can, if Australia requires them, be quickly and effectively mobilized.
The Government, feeling that any man who, through no fault of his own, has become incapacitated in the service of his country, should not be forgotten in ‘ this scheme, have also made provision for an’ Honorary Reserve. No training will be required from these men, but, belonging to the Reserve, will enable them to keep in touch with their comrades and the units with which they were associated.
With the object of giving the people’ an opportunity to help the Military authorities in all matters affecting the contentment and well-being of the men who fought for them, and also those who are being trained for the future defence of Australia, and holding that’’ it . is the sacred duty of all Australians to, in every legitimate way, encourage and help the men who have won for them the right to re main a free people, the Government Have constituted the seventy-five Federal electorates of the Commonwealth into territorial associations. In drawing up the duties and functions of these associations, the territorial scheme of - Great Britain has been followed wherever practicable.
For the purpose of recording the’ names and tracing the whereabouts of reservists, the Government have utilized the Electoral Department as being the least costly and most effec- . tive method of keeping’ in touch’ with men, many of whom will, in time, be scattered all over the Commonwealth.
The regulations which govern the enrolment, administration, and training of the Reserves have been passed by the Executive Council, and as soon as they can bo printed and distributed to the various districts the enrolment of reservists will begin.
The Government hope, by means of this scheme to keep up the spirit of camaraderie among the veterans, and to set before the young citizen trainees a standard of self-sacrifice and soldierly conduct, and further to preserve for all time the glorious traditions won at Gallipoli, Egypt, and on the western and other fronts.
The Government intrusted Colonel the Hon. Kenneth Mackay, C.B., V.D., with the work of drawing up this scheme, and, for the purpose of carrying it into effect, has appointed’ him, temporarily, to the position of DirectorGeneral.
When taking up his appointment this officer urged that when, in the opinion of the Minister for Defence, the scheme was in working order, he be relieved, and that a Boldier who has served in the present war be given the permanent position.
The following papers were presented : -
Postmaster-General’s Department - SixthAnnual Report, 1015-16.
Ordered to be printed.
Elections and Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the submission to the Electors of the Question prescribed by the Military Service Referendum Act, and Summaries of Elections and Referendums, 1903-1916.
Military Service Referendum Act - Statistical Returns showing the Voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Sub-, mission to the Electors of the Question as prescribed, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regu lations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 15.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 14, 16, 18, 26.
Naturalization Act- Return of number of persons to whom Naturalization Certificates were granted during 1916.
Infirm and Destitute Natives Account-
Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1915-16.
Ordinances of 1916 -
No. 6 - Port Dues Revision.
No. 7 - Foreign Marriage Notice.
No. 9 - Trading with the Enemy.
No. 10 - War Precautions.
No. 12 - Liquor.
No. 13- Excise Tariff.
No. 14- Customs Tariff.
No. 15. - Samarai Disused Burial Ground.
No. 18 - Native Labour.
Public Service Act - Department of Trade and Customs - Promotions,&c., of
C. F. W. Flint and W. L. Brennan.
P. J. Tipping.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 312, 314.
– Has the Treasurer given consideration to the representations made to him a few weeks ago by a deputation representing the Blind Workers Association, who asked for an alteration of the Old-age Pensions Act in order to permit them to earn increased rates without suffering a reduction in the amount of the pension?
– Shortly before Christmas a deputation interviewed’ me on this matter, and suggested that full pensionsshould be paid to single men earning up to 35s., and married men earning up to £2 per week. The honor-‘ able member for Fawkner will remember also that ‘ the deputation alleged that if the Commonwealth would grant this request the State Government would be prepared to increase the grants to institutions for the blind. I have received a copy of the following letter from the Victorian State Government:– 9th October, 1916.
Referring to your representations on behalf of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, I am directed by Sir Alexander Peacock to inform you that the Government grant to the institution will be increased on the condition that the Federal Government pays the full rate of pension to all the blind workers at the institution.
It must, . however, be distinctly understood that any additional amount must take the form of increased rates for the work performed.
Upon the receipt of the assurance from the’ Federal Government that all the blind workers will be granted full pensions and allowed to retain them, the whole question of rates of pay should be dealt with in order that it might be determined what additional assistance would be required from the Government.
I have ascertained the number of inmates of these institutions and the number of those receiving pensions. There are 408 blind people who are inmates of institutions, and of this number 147 are receiving pensions. There are 133 earning 30s. and under 40s. per week, and there are 33 earning 40s. a week or more. If the pension is allowed irrespective of earnings up to 40s., all those who are now in the institutions would claim it, and, according to a report from the Department, this would mean a considerable increase in the cost of pensions. There are at present about 500 blind people receiving pensions, but there are altogether 3,200 persons in Australia who are blind, - and it is estimated that to grant the request of the deputation would increase the pensions list by at ‘ least 2,000 persons. This would mean an increased cost of £65,000 a year. But we have also to look at the probable effect on invalid pensions. A blind person is allowed to earn 10s. and still receive a pension of 12s. 6d. from the Commonwealth, which gives a . total of 22s. 6d. a week, whereas ‘an invalid is not allowed to earn more than 5s. a week, and draw the full pension. Assuming that, as requested, the full pension is granted to blind people and also to invalids, many of whom are capable of earning something, the expenditure on pensions would, be increased to £1,600,000 a year - an increase of something like £800,000 a year.
-Your officers have scared you on that point.
– There is no doubt as to the position. I have gone into the matter very carefully, apart from the officers of the Treasury. In the’ circumstances I have detailed I am not prepared to recommend that pensions be granted as requested.
– In answering the honorable member for Fawkner, the Treasurer has debated the whole question. If honorable members are to have the opportunity of discussing the matter, I am willing to give way to the honorable member for Fawkner, who is anxious to speak upon it.
– The ‘honorable member for Fawkner asked for a full reply.
– I take exception to the fact that the Treasurer debated the question. I ask now whether it will be possible for other honorable members to enter into the merits of the case and debate the matter as the Treasurer did?
– I followed the Minister closely. In my opinion he was replying to the question submitted and was not debating the matter. I shall not allow honorable members to debate it.
– I am pleased that I am still in the position to satisfy the honorable member for Capricornia, who on Thursday last asked that certain papers be laid on the table in regard to the analysis of the vote at the recent referendum. I now lay them on the table.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House when he will be able to introduce a Bill to deal with the embargo placed by the Queensland Government upon- the “ removal of cattle from that State?
– The honorable member is referring to an answer given by me last week to a question submitted by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. In the course of my reply I said that the Government proposed to take action either by direct legislation or by a regulation under the War Precautions Act. The matter has since been considered, the form of a regulation has been drawn up, it has been looked into, and it will probably be. in force tomorrow.
– Is it the intention of the Government to grant the franchise to residents of the Northern Territory and the Federal Territory and other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth who voted at the recent referendum?
– There is no present intention of doing so.
– In the rearrangement of portfolios, which we all under- stand is to take place, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of placing the Minister for Defence in this House, seeing that the Defence Department is such a large spending Department?
– In any arrangement that may be made, the matter to which the honorable member has referred, together with every other part of the administration of government, will be considered.
.- (.By leave). I move -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the . honorable member for East Sydney.
The honorable member is lying in hospital seriously ill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the reports that have appeared in the press of the statement made by the Prime Minister in reply to a deputation which sought assistance for the men who are now unem ployed in Melbourne, and as this trouble is acute in the other capital cities, particularly in the building trade, I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to understand that his statement to the deputation meant that the Federal Government declined to go on with any public works for the relief of unemployment ?
– The honorable member is not to understand anything of the kind. ‘ What he is to understand is that which I said. I was asked if we could start any new public works which would absorb 1,000 carpenters, 100 painters, 86 plumbers, and so on. I did not say that we proposed to stop public works. I said that we could not hold out any hope that by starting new public works we could absorb those men. Then as an alternative I was asked ‘ ‘ If you cannot do that, can you aid these men in getting to England, where there is employment.” I said that I could; I did, and it remains for them ‘to accept the work offered.
– Has the attention of the Prime” Minister been drawn to the fact that the Lakes Creek Meat Works at Rockhampton have been closed down, that the men are on strike, and that a quantity of ,meat and offal has been- left there to rot? Will he take immediate action to protect the food pf this country, arid to send it to Great Britain, where it is badly wanted, and to the various States of the Commonwealth?
– If the honorable member will reduce his question to writing, I will endeavour later on to furnish him with an answer.
- I wish to make a statement regarding the administration of war pensions, which is under the control of the Treasury. Complaints arose about a month ago in relation to alleged delays in the grant of war pensions. The complaints were not all justified, but investigation showed that large numbers of claims were in the hands of , Deputy Commissioners, ‘and it was apparent that some delay was occurring. Steps were then taken to expedite the work by new methods, which experience had .shown were practicable, and by ‘increasing the staffs of officers who deal with the claims. 1 am pleased to be in- a position to report that there has been a very marked improvement in the handling of the claims. On the 5th of January it appeared that, in the hands of Registrars of Pensions at numerous places throughout Australia, there were 6,503 claims for war pensions which had not been, determined. There is reason for believing that these figures were somewhat overstated, but they, may be used for present purposes. They included not only the claims of incapacitated soldiers, but the claims of the more numerous body, namely, the wives, widows, children, and other dependants. On the 9th February the claims not determined had been reduced to 2,990. Claims are being received at the rate of about 800 per week, so it will be seen that the number now on hand represents claims received during less than four week& Even if this position could not. be improved, there should be no hardship to the claimants, because pay or allotment of pay continues for two months after the time at which it is known pension rights have accrued. The Commissioner of Pensions is arranging, however, for the reduction of the claims in hand to such an extent that the number on hand at any time will not exceed the number received in the previous fortnight.
One of the improvements made was to grant the pensions of widows and children upon receipt of declarations of relationship and upon evidence obtained from the Defence Department as to the casualty. In this way pensions of widows and children are being granted within one week of the receipt of their claims. Another improvement which an effort is being made to bring about is that the pensions of incapacitated soldiers shall be granted immediately upon their discharge. It is proposed that a Pensions Magistrate shall attend at the hospital on the day of the final examination of a soldier by the Medical Board, and that, within fortyeight hours thereafter, his claim to pension shall be determined. This will remove one source of considerable difficulty which arose in consequence of soldiers taking their departure for the country, and getting out of touch with the pension officials.
I think it may be confidently expected that there will be no further ground for complaint as to delays in granting war pensions.
– Will the Assistant Minister bring before the Minister for Defence the desirableness of appointing- a. qualified dentist to each troopship leavingour shores?
-I shall be glad to bring before the Minister the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether farmers interested in the first wheat pool - that is, in respect of the 1915-16 harvest - can anticipate the early payment of another dividend for their wheat, or whether they will have to wait for it until the final clearing up of the whole position ?
– It will be incorrect to speak of the “first” wheat pool, as distinguished from the second, until it is decided whether there shall be one wheat’ pool or two. I take it that the honorable member’s question is whether those farmers who sold to the pool wheat out of the 1915-16 harvest, and who are anticipating the” payment of a further dividend, will have to wait ‘for it. until the whole of the wheat in respect of the 1915-16 and the 1916-17 harvest is sold. I do not quite understand the position in which financial institutions with whom we arranged the financing of the scheme are placed, nor the circumstances under which they will pay any further instalments upon certain conditions that were set out in the original agreement with the Commonwealth Government. Since the matter is of considerable importance to very many farmers, I shall be glad if the honorable member will repeat his question, in writing, to-morrow, when I will endeavour to give him a detailed and authoritative answer.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence, in the event of the Government organizing another contingent of railway men for abroad, consider the advisability of extending the age limit a little so as to give a number of sound men a chance of going?
– While I am quite willing to give attention to the suggestion, I must point out that at present the age limit is fifty, and it is very questionable whether that should be extended.
– In view of the sweeping allegations current regarding the administration of the Expeditionary Pay Office in Sydney, will the Minister for Defence invite the Inter state Commission, or appoint a Select Committee of the House, to inquire into the matter instead of leaving such an important investigation to a military officer? Does the Assistant Minister think it fair to either the public, the staff, or to the officer himself, that a member of the Military Forces should be asked to investigate matters of military office administration?
– As this question will, no doubt, appear in Hansard, I have to reply that I shall be glad to bring it under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– In view of the fact that a number of returned soldiers are employed as letter-carriers, at 8s.. 6d. per day, if over twenty-one years of age, and at less if they are under that age, will the Postmaster-General seriously consider the matter of providing uniforms for men who work for such a poor wage?
– The whole matter of uniforms will be gone into at a later date.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is correctly reported in Monday’s Herald as stating that it will be a serious thing for Australia if he is not retained in the new Government ?If he is correctly reported, is he prepared to explain to the House what is likely to occur if he is not retained ?
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the hint thrown out by the Director-General of Recruiting that there is a growing feeling of disgust in the minds of the outside public at the unseemly wrangle now going on between both parties to the proposed Fusion, while an active recruiting campaign is going on, in which he suggests the services of these factions should be employed? Can the Prime Minister explain why it is that the “ Win-the-war “ party has practically ignored the present recruiting effort?
– I did not notice the remark of the Director-General of Recruiting in reference to this matter, but I have noticed the remarks of certain other persons, and these are certainly not calculated to help Australia in her present difficulty.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the honorable member for Indi, at the last recruiting meeting he addressed, spent most of his time in dealing with the Tariff? Also, is the Prime Minister aware that, though the honorable member for Indi is of military age, he has not joined the Forces?
– I am not aware of that fact, but I think it may be taken for granted that the reasons which actuated the honorable member in putting the question to me, and addressing the recruiting meeting, were quite alien from the recruiting movement or anything in relation thereto. J
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– In view of the state ment that inferior articles are being supplied to our Defence and Expeditionary Forces, I should like to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether he is aware of the following section of the Defence Act of 1903: -
Any contractor, purveyor, or other person, and any employee of any such contractor, purveyor, or other person who fraudulently and knowingly supplies to the Commonwealth or any officer of the Commonwealth for use by the Defence Force or any part thereof, any article of food which is inferior in quality or quantity to that specified in the contract, agreement, or order under which it is supplied, or any material, equipment, or beast of draught or burden which is inferior to that specified in the contract, agreement, or order under which it is supplied, and any officer of the Commonwealth who fraudulently and knowingly receives for use by the Defence 1 Force, or any part thereof, any article of food, or any material, equipment, or beast of draught or burden supplied in contravention of this sub-section - shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any period not exceeding three years.
Has that section been put into operation in regard to any of the alleged offences, and if not, why not?
– A number of people would be in gaol if it had been put into operation !
– And it is about time.
– I am well aware of the section read by the honorable member. In the short time I have been in office I have endeavoured to have it put into operation . by sending cases on to the Solicitor-General for his advice. When I am advised that there is a good case, proceedings against the culprit or culprits will be taken immediately.
Appointment of Administrator
– I desire to ask the Min ister for Home and Territories when it is proposed to appoint an Administrator to ‘the Northern Territory ?
– The matter is still in abeyance.
Agents’ Commission : Distribution of Charges
– I ask the Prime Minister if the shipping agents handling the 1915-16 crop of wheat, which was pooled, have been paid or promised an extra½d. on all wheat held by them and passed as in good condition after November of last year? If so, has any proportion of the extra payment been “given or promised to the sub -agents, who are alleged to be greatly underpaid?
– I should like to see the question in writing. If the honorable member asks whether the agents have received more-
– More than the 3¼d.
– No. They have received, and are receiving, considerably less.
– In order to clear away doubt and misgiving in regard to charges, and as to the relative value of scrip issued by the Australian Wheat Board in connexion with the pooled wheat, I ask whether the Board has yet come to the definite decision that the No. 1 and No. 2 ‘ pools should be wound up separately ? If so, will a fair proportion of the foundation charges be debited to the No. 2 pool?
– I have already stated that it has not been decided whether there shall be one or two pools. The balance of opinion favours the establishment of two pools. Should two pools be created, it would, in my opinion, be fair to debit the No. 2 pool with its proportion of the foundation or initial expenses.
Dismissals : Pay
– Is it true that the officers of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral are dispensing with the services of men appointed temporary lettercarriers who volunteered for the front and were rejected because of disability ?
– So far as I know, it is not true; but in order to satisfy the honorable member I shall cause inquiries to be made, with a view to ascertaining the exact position.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consult with the Public Service Commissioner with a view to raising the pay of temporary letter-carriers - 8s. 6d. a day - to a reasonable living minimum wage?
– Yes, if I have the opportunity.
– In view of the supreme sacrifice of those returned soldiers who have lost their sight at the war, will the Treasurer - remembering the small percentage of such men - consider the advisability of making their pensions more generous, so that their needs may be properly provided for?
– A soldier blinded at the war receives a pension of 30s. a week, and, should he be single, an additional 10s. is given to pay an attendant. Should he be married, his wife gets 15s. a week, his eldest child 10s. a week, his second child 7s. 6d. a week, and the others 5s. Cases have been brought under my notice in which blind soldiers and their families are drawing from £3 to £4 a week in pensions.
– Has the Treasurer given further consideration to the suggestion I made last week about granting pensions to old persons in institutions?
– The pension of 2s. ? I have the matter under consideration.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the woolgrowers of South Africa and of other parts of the British Dominions - except Australia and New Zealand, where the wool has been commandeered - are allowed to sell their wool in the open market?
– The British Government strongly urged that, in the interests of the Empire, we should act as its agent for the purchase of the Australian wool clip, and we agreed to do so. It is nothing to the point that other Dominions may not have done so. Clearly, we have taken the right step.
– Will the Minister for the Navy, in connexion with the building of war vessels at Cockatoo Island, consider the need for following designs and types evolved by the war, instead of gaining the homogeneity of classes by following types which the war has made obsolete?
– The Naval Board is in continual communication with the-
Naval authorities in London, with a view to following the latest types in its shipbuilding. As we are acting in unison with the British Admiralty, we are likely to be well to the front in the construction of war vessels.
– Is it true that Dr. Gilruth has been in Melbourne since September last, and draws £2 2s. a day for his expenses in Melbourne in addition to the salary and allowances paid to him as Administrator of the Northern Territory?
– That is not exactly the position; but Dr. Gilruth draws £2 2 s. a day for his expenses in Melbourne.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence ascertain, and acquaint the House with the result of his inquiry, whether Mr. Bean is throwing a slur on the Australian printing trade by having his history of thewar and its plates printed in London? Australian work seems not to be good enough for him.
– I shall make Inquiries on the subject.
– An official appeal has been made by the Trades Hall Council and Political Labour Council on behalf of certain members of the Industrial Workers of the World who were sentenced by Mr. Justice Pring, of New South Wales, for certain offences. It is stated in the appeal that “ The President of the Australian Workers Union and the editor of the Australian Worker are now threatened with gaol because they dared to protest ‘ against the infamous sentences imposed by Mr. Justice Pring.” Can anything be done by the Government to protect our Courts from the infamous attacks of these organizations?
– I do not know how the Commonwealth could throw theægis
Of its protection over Mr. Justice Pring, who is a Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In my opinion, he does not need protection. The facts are quite sufficient to satisfy any reasonable person that attacks such as the honorable member has referred to, coming from such a quarter, should carry no weight.
– Is it a fact that no Australian native can get employment, and that no such person is employed, at the dock at Cockatoo Island?
– No. No rule has been made by the Minister prohibiting the employment of Australian natives, and the manager of the dockyard cannot prohibit their employment.
– Has that been done?
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inquire into the complaint that a number of sergeants who have qualified are being sent away without being gazetted as non-commissioned officers ?
– Yes; and I shall let the honorable member know the result.
– I have received from the honorable member for Capricornia notice that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ the appraisements by the Wool Board.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places’,
.- I should not have moved this motion had it not been impossible to obtain satisfaction from the Board which is intrusted with the handling of the wool that has been purchased by the Imperial Government in the interests of the Empire as a whole. We have approached the Prime Minister and his Department repeatedly, asking that the wool grown in the central districts of Queensland, which must pass through the city of Rockhampton, may be appraised there. I understand that the original idea was that all the wool should be brought to the capital cities or principal ports of the Commonwealth - to Sydney, Melbourne,Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Fremantle. The object of the Prime Minister and his advisers may have been to economize in effort and expense, and perhaps it would suit the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments to have all the wool exported from those places.
I must confess that I have been unable to see any advantages in that scheme except from the point of view of the valuers and appraisers, and perhaps of some commission agents, who, under the present system, will receive a commission which they would not get if the wool were dealt with at certain other ports. The Prime Minister led us to understand that it was absolutely impossible to make any alteration in the scheme for dealing with the wool at the principal ports of the Commonwealth, but I am informed that an alteration has been made, and that certain other centres have been named as places at which wool may be . appraised. This is a matter of the utmost importance to the port of Rockhampton, and to other centres in the Commonwealth. The State of Queensland naturally cuts up into three divisions - central, southern, and northern - each comprising about 200,000 square miles of territory. Townsville is the principal port for the northern division, Rockhampton for the central, and Brisbane for the southern. Brisbane is situated in the south-eastern corner of the State, and under the Government scheme the whole of the wool produced in central Queensland, comprising about 60 per cent, of the total ‘clip, and which formerly went through the port of Rockhampton, is now dragged 400 miles south to Brisbane for appraisement.
– Are wool sales held at Rockhampton in normal times?
– No. An agitation has proceeded for some time to have wool sales instituted at that port, and no doubt those endeavours will eventuallysucceed, as they have already done in the case of Brisbane. In 1915, the exports from Rockhamptbn were valued at £3,464,496, and in 1916 they were reduced to £2,547,404. In the former year there was exported from Rockhampton £364,119 worth of scoured wool and £1,505,456 worth of greasy wool and in 1916 £222,927 worth of scoured wool and £836,254 worth of greasy. One of the greatest difficulties in the way of the development of Australia has been the tendency to drag all trade and commerce to the big cities and ports . of the Commonwealth. The railway lines all converge, and bring trade to the big cities. Particularly is that the case in regard to Brisbane and Sydney, owing to the strength of political influence in the past.
The Prime Minister ought not to encourage that tendency, and if he cannot see his way clear to help along the development of the country districts, he ought not, at any rate, to disturb the existing trade arrangements, as he is doing, by means of this scheme, for the appraisement of wool. It costs the pool about £1 per ton to bring the wool from the central districts to Brisbane, and we say that even if it cost the pool more money to have the appraisement take place” at Rockhampton, that course would be fairer, both to the Harbor Board, which has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in improving the harbor, and also of the waterside workers and their families, who have been partly dependent in the past upon the handling of this wool. It would be far cheaper to take the appraisers to Rockhampton than to drag the wool along the railway to Brisbane. We were told that the original scheme for appraisement was as unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, but I understand that the Prime Minister has decided that appraisements shall take place at Geelong, Ballarat, and Albury.
– There have Been regular wool sales at those centres.
– If the reasons for having the whole of the wool appraised at the capital cities of the Commonwealth were sound a ‘few months ago, they ought to be sound still. I would not for a moment suggest that the establishment of branches of the National Federation at Geelong, Ballarat and Albury has any connexion with the concession to those places in regard to the appraisement of wool, but my constituents may wonder why their plaint has not yet been successful. I believe that Albany is now asking that wool may be appraised there also.
– That has been agreed to.
– If that, be so, it is another reason why Rockhampton should receive the same consideration. The Imperial Government are not likely to complain if the Prime Minister decides that wool appraisement at twenty different” ports will be in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I do not think the Imperial Government are responsible. That is a bit of bluff.
– It may be. If we wish to do anything to help along the progress and development of the country districts - of Australia, the request I make to the Prime Minister to allow wool grown in the central districts of Queensland to be appraised at Rockhampton will be granted, and a cause of grave dissatisfaction throughout la very large portion of Queensland will be removed.
.- I rise to support the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia. It does seem remarkable that, whilst the Government say they are acting in accordance with the wishes of the Imperial Government in appraising only at the principal ports of the Commonwealth, a concession has been made to certain ports which are not likely to suffer to anything like the same extent as other ports at which the Commissioners have decided no appraisement shall take place. If the Government could only realize the harm that is being done by their decision, and the consequent diversion of the shipment of wool from the ports at which it was previously loaded, they would take action in the direction urged by the mover of the motion. Not only does it cost about £1 a ton to carry the wool over the railway for a considerable distance further than is necessary, but if the boats do not go to the other ports to load wool all the other produce they usually take from those ports must be also dragged over the rails to the capital cities.
– What quantity of wool is normally shipped from the port of Newcastle ?
– I quoted the figures in the House a few days ago, and handed them to the Treasurer, who promised that he would get into touch with the Commission to see if any relief could be afforded. I received a reply to-day that the whole matter had received careful consideration, and a refusal to comply with my request was sent to me in the envelope of the letter which I had handed in. That letter proves absolutely that the Government could have adopted a course other than this policy of centralization, because they are now asking the local interests at the various ports to get into consultation with the wool-growers who formerly shipped at their ports, in order to have matters rectified for next season. If there is one port of the Commonwealth that has suffered through the war it is the port of Newcastle. The export trade in coal has been absolutely cut off. There is the further consideration that boats which called at Newcastle for wool took away considerable quantities of bunker coal. At the present time some of the mines are working only two or three days per fortnight.
– Are you talking about Maitland coal or Newcastle coal?
– Newcastle coal.
– You know that the ships will not take Newcastle coal when they can get Maitland coal. ,
– The bluff of the Prime Minister only shows his ignorance of the question before the Chair. All the deep-sea steamers under forced draught would rather have Borehole coal than the other.
– Then why do they not take itf
– Because the Government are compelling the ships to get their loads in Sydney, and therefore they bunker in Sydney.
– That is not so.
– It is so. I think I can believe the people who are interested in the coal trade in Newcastle rather than the Prime Minister. While the whole of the wool clip of New South Wales is to be brought to Sydney for appraisement, in the little island of Tasmania appraisement is taking place both at Launceston and Hobart, which are only 120 miles ap’art.
– The honorable member is getting beyond the subject of the motion. »
– I was merely drawing a comparison between these different places. In any case, the motion has been moved in such a way as to narrow the discussion and prevent our debating the whole of the phases of the. matter. In my opinion, there has been a clumsy piece of administration that has possibly done considerable harm to Rockhampton, as to other parts of the Commonwealth.
– I indorse the remarks made by the two previous speakers in regard to the Wool Board. I have no doubt that the Board imagines that it is doing its best in the interests of the Commonwealth, but iti must be obvious to those who know anything about the wool of the north-west of New South Wales that the Board is doing a great injury. We all ‘desire to attain economy at the present moment, and Boards are generally appointed either for the . purpose of exporting our staple’ produce or for the purpose of effecting some economy. In this case the result is just the reverse. Wool that was formerly shipped at Newcastle will have to be carried on to Sydney to be shipped at additional cost. - It is not as if the wool had previously been shipped at Sydney. The Prime Minister has. interjected, “ Are ‘there sales at Newcastle? “ If any product is taken to a port for shipment, salesmen will be found at that port. Salesmen have purchased wool in the past at Newcastle, and have shipped it from that port. But my point is that it is obvious that it is not in the best interests of economy to drag the wool 100 miles further to Sydney before shipping it. If we can save a large sum of money by ‘shipping any produce at its natural port, there must be a saving to the Commonwealth. Furthermore, ‘to deprive the waterside workers at Newcastle of work that they have had in the past is unfair. Every facility has been provided by the State Government for the purpose of enabling large ships to go to Newcastle and load the products that are shipped there, and this has given employment to a large number of men, but ‘the action of the Wool Board has thrown these men out of employment. In order that .the Prime Minister may know exactly what happens in regard to the bunkering trade, I may say that the vessels which take coal from Newcastle for the foreign market invariably bunker with Newcastle coal, and boats calling at Newcastle to ship wool will probably take Newcastle coal for their bunkers. Thus the prohibition imposed by the Wool Board means that the collieries of the Newcastle district, which are very slack at the present time, will be affected, while the vessels will be put to an additional expense by being compelled to bunker at Sydney. If the wool were shipped at Newcastle, the vessels, instead of having to buy coal railed to Sydney from southern and western collieries, could get their wool and their bunker coal at the one port. The complaint in Australia for years has been that there has been too much centralization. The Commonwealth Government will not be doing justice to all parts of Australia if it permits centralization in any shape or form. We should” do all we possibly can to extend the production of the Commonwealth and make provision for the shipment of all products at their natural ports. Wherever provision has been made for dealing with large vessels, it is only fair that steps should be taken to continue the shipment from those ports of the produce that has previously been shipped there. I merely rose to protest against what the Wool Board is doing. It may be urged that the season’ is too far advanced to enable any interference with the present arrangements. The Government are responsible in this matter. When Boards are appointed they are expected to do the best they can in the interests of the Commonwealth, and if it is found that a Board is not doing this, it is only fair that’ its attention should be drawn to the position, and it should be asked to rectify it. If what has been urged in this connexion, cannot be done this year, there is nothing to prevent the Government from making representations to the Wool Board to have next year a re-arrangement which will be satisfactory, not only to Newcastle and Rockhampton, but also to the whole of Australia.
.- In my opinion, the Wool Board is not looking after the best interests of the country by dislocating the various trades connected with the wool industry. Its control over the wool supplies has dealt a very severe blow to some of the trades in my electorate. The wool is tied up until ‘the Board has classified it, and the result is that hundreds of men in the Botany district have been thrown out of work. The Board has been urgently re-‘ quested to facilitate the delivery of skins and wool to employers, who are anxious to continue the trade that they have hitherto carried on. I know that the Prime Minister has done his best to facilitate the matter; but, so far, his efforts have not been successful. Botany is noted for its wool-washing and tannery establishments, but employers’ capital is idle, and . the workers are walking about the streets. I ask the Prime Minister again to “ shake up “ the Wool Board, so that it will send wool to Botany and give these idle men employment. He has had some communications with regard to the matter, and he knows the conditions of the trade. Had the Government not taken control of the wool clip, the men would not have been unemployed, and trade would have been normal. I hope that he will be able to do something to permit of the normal state of trade in Botany being resumed. The employers in the district have spent a great deal of money in preparing to deal with this class of work, but now they are up against a dead-end waiting for wool, and awaiting the pleasure of the Wool Board. The Board may be very busy, and it may be doing excellent work, but in the meantime men are feeling the pinch very hardly. I hope that the Prime Minister will give the Board a reminder and endeavour to facilitate the resumption of work ‘by these men in the district, of Botany.
– I would like to say a word now. I have heard the case set out for Rockhampton, Newcastle, and the port of South Sydney. I approach the matter with a sympathetic ear. The desire of the Government is to do what has to be done with as little, interference as possible with existing customs and with the industries and interests of the people; but in the switch over from former conditions to Go,vernment control there is necessarily some little friction. On a fair and calm review of the whole matter, which is a very important one, I think it will be generally admitted that there is surprisingly little trouble. On the whole, we have to congratulate ourselves on the fact that so little friction has occurred. I wish to disabuse the minds of the public and honorable members generally of the belief that the individual wool-grower is any worse off by having v his wool appraised in Brisbane as against Rockhampton, or in Sydney as against Newcastle. He does not have to bear the cost of moving the wool from Newcastle to Sydney or from Rockhampton to Brisbane; nor does he get paid any later.
– The Prime Minister is for-0 getting the fact that, in the past before the Wool Board was formed, a good many sold their wool in Brisbane, and others shipped direct to Sydney.
– In some cases persons whose wool was sold before the pool was instituted may have an advantage over those who sold inside the pool, but I think it may fairly be said that they have not an appreciable advantage, because the price offered and accepted by .the Australian pastoralists is a fair average price, and is 55 per cent, above the 1912-13 price. Now let me come to the point I was endeavouring to make. There were no shipments direct from Rockhampton to Europe - if there were any, there were very few - and there were no sales there.
Therefore the wool at Rockhampton had to await sale in Brisbane, or had to be shipped to some other port at which wool sales took place. It is clear, therefore, that, in this case, the wool-grower is no worse off than he was before. His wool is not charged with any greater expense, and he does not have to wait any longer for his money. Newcastle is differently situated. There were some shipments that went direct to Europe, but not many. The honorable member for Newcastle said that there were ninety ships in five years, so that on the honorable member’s own showing it was not a large trade. The overwhelming bulk of the wool of the district which Newcastle taps must have gone some other way. I do not propose to stand as an advocate of centralization. I agree with the argument (put forward that everywhere possible we should go in for decentralization. I agree, indeed, that wherever possible we should encourage shipment from local ports. But we have to consider the position in the light of our present circumstances. The British Government controls all available shipping. The Com: monwealth Government is the agent for the Imperial Government, and must ship from ports to which particular ships are directed to come. We are notified that such and such a ship will arrive at such and such a port at such and such a time, and we have to put our wheat or wool, as the case may be, in her within the time prescribed, or we must be regarded as negligent agents at a time when it is vitally important that wheat more particularly, and also wool, should reach Home. That is the position. We are not free agents. We are not as’ we were before, when ships could be chartered by any one in any part of the world, and told to go to the port of A, B, or C. That cannot now be done.
I come now to the third point, raised by the honorable member for South Sydney. There is, he says, some unemployment arising from the tardy release of wool. That is a matter which can and will be dealt -with. It is something within our jurisdiction. I shall urge upon the Wool Committee, with all earnestness, the speeding up of the appraisements, or whatever it is that stands in the way of the release of wool for the local market, in , order that local industries may be kept busily engaged.
As to the further point, relating to both Rockhampton and Newcastle, I shall again discuss it with the Wool Com’mittee, and ascertain what we are able to do. I wish, however, to point out quite clearly that the position of Newcastle, and especially of Rockhampton, is entirely different from that of Albany and Geraldton. Geraldton, by its very remoteness, was served, in normal times, by vessels that took wool to Singapore, where it was transhipped for despatch to Britain. There were no wool sales at Geraldton. It was more convenient to ship wool from that port to Singapore than to ship it down to Fremantle and thence to Britain. With regard to Albany, vessels called there, and as it was in some cases a port of final clearance, wool was shipped there and sent direct overseas. That, however, is not the position of Rockhampton. Wool does not go by that route; it goes the other way.
Coming to that part of the argument which relates to Newcastle coal, I wish to explain to the honorable member for Newcastle that he misunderstood my interjection with regard to Newcastle and Maitland coal only as it related to bunkering. What I desired to convey was that there will be 100 wheat ships a month, and as many ships as can be got for wool, in addition to the ordinary berth steamers ‘to be bunkered. All these vessels have to be, and must be, bunkered practically with New South Wales coal. In addition, the Government requires coal for its own vessels, and gave an order last week for Newcastle coal, both for its transports and for the Commonwealth line of steamers. Fbr the benefit of my honorable friend I want only to say that we are keenly alive to the necessity of maintaining the Newcastle coal trade which is now, to a large extent, affected by the prohibition against exports which circumstances, not law, have imposed.
Generally let me say I shall do what I can to help honorable members in this matter. They Will realize that it is complex and difficult. The Wool Committee, which is an honorary body - not a member of it receives a penny by way of remuneration - consists of men of first class standing. I do not know a better instance of that cordial co-operation between citizens and the Government which we desire in time of war than is furnished by the way in which the Wool Committee is working without fee or hope of reward. Its members are doing their very best/ No doubt they are not perfect, but even we are not, although we do not make such an admission in public. I shall look into the whole matter, both as it affects Rockhampton and Newcastle, as well as Geraldton.
.- There is another phase of this question to which I should like the attention of the Wool Committee to be directed. It is well known that in addition to the export of wool we have had a large export trade in sheepskins. I understand that the consumption of mutton and lamb in Australia is from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 carcases per annum, in addition to the number that we export, and in some years we have exported up to. 4,000,000 carcases, so that we have that number of sheep and lamb skins available for use. Prior to the war the great majority of these skins were sent oversea for treatment. They should have been treated here; but since the outbreak of war the bulk of them have been treated here. It is just as important that these skins should be prevented from passing into enemy hands as it is. to safeguard our wool from the same destination, and when the British Government originally asked that the export of wool should be prohibited, the export of sheepskins was also added to the prohibition list. That prohibition remains to this date. I mention this matter because of a paragraph which I saw in the press a few days ago to the effect that the Government intended to allow one of the Allies - France - to buy wool direct from Australia instead of having ‘to obtain it through Great Britain. In that connexion, there is a point of which the Government should take cognisance. If they are allowing sheepskins to be dealt with in the same way - and this is a matter that affects the electorates of Yarra, South Sydney, and Maribyrnong, where the bulk of these skins are treated - it is quite possible that there will be an extra freight on the dirt* in the skins sent out of the country. These skins are estimated to contain 40 or 50 per cent, of dirt.
– Be fair.
– I have done my utmost to secure for Australia the work of wool scouring. Seeing that we need to conserve space on vessels required to take our exports abroad, and that, as the Prime Minister’ says, we ,have to ransack these waters to obtain vessels for the purpose, why should we be .sending away sheep and lamb skins, 40 .or 50 per cent, of the weight of which is made up of dirt that could well be removed here ? I am sure that the honorable member, for Maranoa would be the last to advocate that the work of scouring these skins should not be done here.
– What surprises me is the honorable member’s solicitude for the squatters.
– I am not evincing any solicitude for them, but I am concerned about employment for the workers. I rose to point out that we’ now have an opportunity to re-establish in the Commonwealth, an industry that was in existence here, but has been lost to Australia during the last few years. If, in addition to re-establishing that industry, we are able to reduce in this way the demand upon the freight offering, that should be a special reason for the action I suggest.
– We would save 50 per cent, “of the freight by washing the wool.
– I believe that is so. A. report of this debate will, no doubt, be put before the Wool Committee for its consideration, and I enter my plea for the treatment of lamb and sheep skins here. The space on every ship that leaves Australia is, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, carefully mapped out, and a determination arrived at as to what quantity of each product awaiting export shall be taken. If a vessel were to take only wool she would be “ blown up,” to use an expression known in the trade; she would not have enough stiffening. If our wool is cleansed before being sent away we shall reap the advantages I have outlined. The great majority of those engaged in the wool scouring or fellmongering industry are above the fighting age. It is not a. highly skilled occupation, and it provides work for many men who have followed, the trade for years. I hope that the Wool Committee will look into this phase of the question.
.- I congratulate the Prime, Minister upon his grasp of this question, and regret that his multifarious duties of ]ate have rendered it impossible for him to give to the recommendation of honorable members the consideration which the importance of the matter demands. I thank him for having gone into the -question of the appraisement of wool in Western Australia, and feel sure that if he had been able to give a little more consideration 10 this question many of the difficulties with which we are now confronted Would have been overcome. The right honorable gentleman says he is not in favour of concentrating all trade in the State capitals. That, however, is not the policy behind the Board which he has created. He should impress on that Board the fact that, when dealing with the produce of the country, they must consider the economic conditions of each and every part of Australia. I do not wish to raise any objection to what has been done, but I hope that the Prime Minister W1 endeavour to arrange with the British Government that the shipment of the ensuing clip - shearing is just about to start in North- Western ‘ Australia - shall follow its natural course. I hope he will endeavour to arrange for the shipment of wool from the north-west ports of Western Australia direct to Singapore for transhipment there to London. I wish to emphasize the point that the economic conditions of the country demand that something should be done. The Union Shipping Company runs vessels between Fremantle and Singapore, and, though they usually return fairly well laden, if they do not get freight for Singapore there is a danger that these vessels may be taken off the coast. This would* be most serious, because these boats are keeping that part of this country alive.- I was informed the other day that the people at Port Hedland receive mails only once in forty days ; and there is no doubt that the difficulties of the residents at that and similar places would be much accentuated if anything were done which would have the effect of destroying the present shipping facilities. I hope the Prime Minister will be able to appoint some colleague to look after matters of this kind. I have to say that I have been treated with very gross discourtesy by the chairman of the Board, so much so that I prefer to send all my correspondence through the Prime . Minister. Questions of such urgency as those involved should be attended to as speedily as possible. Dalgety and Company, of Western Australia, in their circular, say -
Shortly after the announcement was made of this purchase, our manager visited Mel bourne, and interviewed the central committee, emphasizing local conditions, of which the committee had little ‘or no knowledge. . . .
That is the statement of a large and wellknown firm, and in their opinion this controlling body has little or no knowledge of the local conditions of Western Australia. Enormous quantities of .wool are brought from the stations .on the north-west coast; and, although the cyclonic period was coming on, and there were 80,000 or 100,000 bales of wool lying on the beaches and jetties in danger of damage or destruction, the Board refused to allow this wool to be shipped. I may say that on one occasion a boat, which was leaving Fremantle, had space for 4,000 bales, but the Government would not allow the wool to be sent away-.
– Was any reason given?
– The reason given was that the Government had arranged for the appraisement of the wool at Fremantle, while the British Government had arranged to send their vessels to that port - an absurd plan, under all the circumstances. . At the present time, we need every ton of shipping we can control, in order to take metals, wheat, wool and other commodities to the Old Country. We were told that the Board would send a special boat around the northwest coast to bring the wool to Fremantle; but this, of course, would mean a boat taken away from other work, while the service could be carried on by steamships already there. As I said before, it’ is a most serious matter to disturb the economic conditions of a huge area like, this by depriving it, amongst other things, of postal communication and the means of obtaining ordinary supplies. The Board said that one consideration that would be extended would be the establishment of a wool exchange at Fremantle; and, in my opinion, this would be a very good arrangement; but I have very grave objections to the Government forcing people to divert their produce from its ordinary course, on the grounds stated. All this is done at the instance pf brokers and agents. I have noticed that since ‘ the formation of the Board, and the restrictions imposed by the Government, everything has been under one control - the control of Mr. Higgins, who formerly acted as adviser in regard to the metal industry. I think we’shall be able to make some revelations to the House later on, and show what has happened, and is happening, in the metal industry. I only mention thiB at the present moment in order to point out the undesirability of concentrating . all the power in some little monopoly in the city, especially when we see that the same thing iB being attempted in the wool business. I have, further, grave objection i to the ‘ people in the back country, who have to face all the difficulties and’ hardships of the north-west and the distant parts of Queensland, being placed at any disadvantage by the action of any little coterie in Melbourne or any other city. My only desire is that- the Prime Minister, when dealing with the next clip,- will endeavour to arrange that ordinary local conditions will be considered. I am quite satisfied that an arrangement could be made with the Imperial Govern- ment.
– Was it not the fact that the people could have had the ships, but that they objected to pay some extra cost”
– There was no extra cost.
– There ‘would have been the extra cost of sending appraisers to those ports.
– The wool would have been appraised in England, and I cannot conceive that it would not have been cheaper to send the wool direct to Singapore. If the Treasurer can make the House believe that it is cheaper to send a special boat to bring the wool to Fremantle than to ship it in the ordinary way straight to Singapore, and then tranship it to England, he’ is a bit of a genius.
– But does not the British Government object to the wool going through the Suez Canal ?
-It is not necessary that the wool should go through the canal, because it can go round the Cape. At the present moment enormous quantities of low pressure shells, rice, and other commodities “are being taken from India’ to- England, so that there should not be the slightest difficulty in obtaining ships. I - am not making these remarks in any captious spirit. I am surprised that the Prime Minister, with all that he has to do at the present time, should have such a wonderful grasp of this subject; and if it were possible to approach that honorable gentleman, and have the matters brought before him, I should be satisfied. The fact is, however, that we have, an irresponsible Board, and I object to any person or body being placed in a position of- this kind, unless payment is made for the services rendered., I have heard that Mr. Higgins is working . twenty hours a day for nothing, and I do not know that the Commonwealth desire that that should be so. If work is worth anything, it ought to be paid for.
– It is done from patriotism !
– I have some doubts of that.
– I have not.
– It is hardly fair for the honorable ‘member for Dampier to speak in this way of a man who cannot defend himself here.
– I shall say what I have to say to the House. *
– Then attack the Government for using this man’s services, and do not attack the man himself I
– My objection is to any person being appointed to such a position unless he is paid, and held responsible to the Government. I have in my possession a letter in connexion with the export of zinc, and in that letter we are told by the Zinc Corporation-
– Surely this is not in order?
– If the honorable member interjects, and desires information, I can very soon give it to him. The honorable member would do much more good for the country if he would endeavour to obtain work for the people here instead of aiding and abetting in what has given rise to the trouble. However, there will be a later opportunity of dealing with the question of metals, and I shall be able to show that things are not right so far as the producer is concerned. I hope that the Government will see that the people on the north-west coast receive proper consideration this year.
– I am heartily in accord with the honorable member for Capricornia. Some 60 per cent, of the wool clip from Queensland comes through the port to Rockhampton. It may be said by some people that there is no storage accommodation there, but, as a matter of fact, there is enough accommodation for appraisers to deal with 20,000 bales of wool.
– Are there any wool sales there?
– No; and there never has been ; the only wool sales held in Queensland are at Brisbane. When places like Ballarat and Geelong can be considered, surely Rockhampton, the second city in Queensland, with ‘all its exports, is ‘ entitled to be made an appraisement port.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is aware that owing to the difference in cost in black labour in South Africa and white labour in Australia a duty on wattle bark is essential to the preservation of . the wattle bark industry. If so, will he refuse to take any notice of the representations made, by a recent deputation who asked for this duty to be removed?
– Representations made for and against the retention of the . duty will be fully considered.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
Will he state the total sales of wheat under the “pool” of 1916; the total of the 1915-16 “pool”; tha wheat still in stock but sold to the Imperial Government; the price per bushel which the total crop of 1915-16 is estimated to realize?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
An agreement has been made between the British and German Governments for the exchange of all British civilians over the age of 45 years interned in Germany for all German, civilians over the same age interned in the British Empire.
The number of Germans interned in Australia who are entitled to repatriation under this agreement has not been finally ascertained, but is probably between 250 and 300. Australian- civilians interned in Germany who are over the age of 45 arc entitled to repatriation under this agreement, and the arrangements for securing their return to the United Kingdom are in the hands of the British authorities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will suspend operations under the regulations empowering the Minister for Defence to send labourers to England until Parliament, has an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to the advisability of sending single’ men of military age under - the conditions suggested-?
– This matter has been fully considered, and it is’ intended, when making a selection, to first select those who are not fit for military service though fit for labouring work, also to select, as far as possible, those over thirty-five years of age. Should there be insufficient of the above, others will necessarily be chosen. The British authorities have represented the matter as one of great urgency, so that further delay cannot be consented to.
Services of Mb. J. C. Watson
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
We hope to be able to proceed with some business to-morrow.
.- I am surprised to hear the Minister propose that we should now adjourn. Has the right honorable gentleman no business to put before us? What has become of the “ Win-the-war “ policy of the right honorable gentleman? It seems to me that the Government have no policy, but that the
Prime Minister has in his mind a scheme to which public attention should be directed. The public should be made aware that a great deal of the patriotic oratory which they have heard from certain eloquent members is very shallow. I regret that the Prime Minister seems to be more concerned about keeping his hold on his office than about the progress and development of the Commonwealth.
– Has he not the country behind him?
– I do not think that he has. The right honorable gentleman is an orator, and orators are not administrators.
– The honorable member is admitted to be an orator.
– “I am no orator, as Brutus is.” An orator must give free range to his imagination, whereas an administrator is bound by facts. Thus an administrator may be a speaker, but he cannot have the free flow of eloquence which makes an orator. The right honorable gentleman has made it the text of various speeches delivered in different parts of the Commonwealth that a man, to gain his life, must be prepared to give up his life. But the right honorable gentleman has no thought of giving up his political life and sacrificing the Prime Ministership. He will cling to that office in spite of everything; and it will greatly surprise me if the members of the Liberal party are able to dispossess him of it. Many persons consider the Prime Minister a strong man, and at one time I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt; but I have come to the conclusion that he is not a strong man. Had he been a strong man, he would, in the first instance, have’ presented as his- alternatives conscription or his resignation; but fear that he might lose the Prime Ministership prevented him from doing that. Later, he should have said to the Labour party, “I misinterpreted the opinion of the people of Australia. They are not conscriptionists. I therefore tender my re- signation as leader of the party.” Had he done that, he might still be Prime Minister. What he did say to his party Was, “ I ask those who believe in me to follow me,” and a number followed him - I shall not say into outer darkness - out of the Labour party’s room. Were he a strong man, he would stick to those members, saying, “We left the Labour room together, and we shall stay together.”
– Do you think that you could lead Australia better than he can?
– I say, in all humility, that I believe that I have a truer knowledge of the feeling of the people of Australia, and that I am a better administrator .than he is. In order that he may continue Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman is prepared to throw over some of those who left the Labour room with him. The public has been led to believe by the newspapers that certain members are engaged in a patriotic endeavour to form a National Ministry, and that the honorable member for Yarra stands in the way. That is not so. The Premier and the managers of the conferences . appointed to bring about a fusion are engaged in a tussle of wits. The Prime Minister’s opponents had a tough customer to handle.
– At any rate, he put his country before his party.
– There is but little patriotism, underlying the endeavour to bring about a fusion. I hope that an arrangement may speedily be come to by the managers of these conferences, although I feel that, until there has been a general election, the political tangle cannot be unravelled.
– Let us have an election at once.
– We should go to the country before June. The Labour party has given every opportunity for an appeal to the country. Labour members in the Senate amended the Supply Bill. Why did not the Government make that a ground for appealing to the country? They could easily have objected to the Senate’s interference with a money Bill.
– The honorable member speaks with his tongue in his cheek.
– The Treasurer seems to be in a pleasant frame of mind. Possibly for geographical reasons which must be given weight, his position is satisfactory. Other Ministers may not be so cheerful. Who are the members who are standing in the way of an agreement between the Liberal and Hughes parties? Or is it that there are certain planks in the platform of the new party which cannot be settled? I am inclined to think that the delay arises, not from differencesof opinion regarding policy, but from personal differences.’
– If the honorable member will have patience, he will hear thefacts later. ,
– Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I wish to know why we should adjourn. Have not the Government a policy?’ At the last election the people rejected the Cook Ministry, and put in its place the Fisher Ministry, giving it a strong following in both Houses. What justification has Mr. Hughes for trying to thwart the will of the people by bringing back Mr. Cook to power, and giving him a majority in the Cabinet? The supporters of Mr. Hughes were elected to keep Mr. Cook and his party off the Treasury bench. If the Hughes -Government, which succeeded the Fisher Government, are not capable of conducting the business of the country, Ministers should resign, and allow the Opposition to take the responsibility of governing.
– The honorable member was elected to support the party now in office.
– I have risen to ask why the present Government do not proceed with the business of the country. The Ministerial party comprises men who were elected to carry on the business of the country, and to do everything possible to bring the war to a successful issue. Do they admit that they have npt done that, and that they are incompetent to do it? Do they wish to get somebody to share the blame for their mismanagement by entering into a coalition with the Liberal party? If the present Government are not prepared to carry on the business of the country they should be challenged, and turned off the Treasury bench. I remind the House that while the war is in progress representatives of two parties are meeting together, not to develop schemes for the prosecution of the war-
– Did the Labour party split in twain in order to help to win the war ?
– It is to be hoped that the honorable member’s party will not split. It it farcical to read in the press that the great Liberal party is endeavouring to make the people believe that its one object is to win the war. Having regard to. existing circumstances should we not all act together to win the war, instead of two parties fighting in rooms as to who shall occupy the Treasury bench ?
– Why did not your party join with the others?
– Because we believed that it would be better not to interfere with the Government of the day. We are prepared to support any Government which brings forward proposals calculated to help in bringing the war to a successful issue. But if a fusion of parties takes place no quarter will be given from the Australian Labour party because of the corruption that is taking place. I trust that the members of the Liberal party will assert themselves and take possession of the Treasury bench. We admire men who will fight for, and retain, what they are entitled, to have. While the country is at war we should put an end to these conferences for the purpose of getting party advantages, and the Government should bring forward a policy which all parties could support. The Prime Minister should make a clear statement tomorrow as to what the Government propose to do. Do the members 6f the Ministerial party intend to allow themselves to be submerged by the Liberal party, and to stop all public works as one condition of the Fusion? I have so much respect for the supporters of Mr. Hughes that’ I do not believe they will sacrifice any of their principles for the purpose of bringing about a fusion with the Liberal party. If they are asked to agree to certain conditions which are repugnant to their principles, and opposed to their record as Labour members, I hope they will reject them. Let the other two parties take up the same lofty attitude as has been adopted by the members of the Australian Labour party. We are prepared to support any Government that will produce a policy for the speedy termination of the war and for the organization of Australian industry on proper lines.
– Why did you not join ns?
– I believe in standing by the party to which I was elected, and while this Parliament lasts, at any rate, I prefer to keep my pledges. The party to which I belong has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by an election. The country has already indorsed the attitude which we adopted on the conscription issue, and we look forward to another appeal to the people as the only solution of the present tangle. the people are sick of these continual conferences. Reports of meetings betwen Messrs. Hughes, Cook, and Tudor will not satisfy the country. Until we have a united Parliament, we can make no progress in regard to recruiting and other war measures. If to-morrow the Government do not come forward with a satisfactory policy for recruiting and for the conduct of the war, it will be the duty of the Liberal party to move a vote of censure, and put the present Ministry out of office.
– I rise to enter my protest against the waste of time for which the Government are responsible.
An Honorable Member. - You will know what you are talking about tomorrow.
– I am sick of waiting for the to-morrow which never comes. We were told last week that if we would agree to an adjournment until to-day all arrangements for the fusion would be completed by that secret junta which has been meeting for some days’ in this building. We heard a great deal about a secret junta a little while ago, but we really did not know what the term meant until these conferences commenced.
– We were considering the Tariff.
– I do not think the Tariff will be allowed to be discussed. If the fusion is effected, the Tariff will be put out of sight, as it was by the previous Fusion party. In a question which I put to the Prime Minister to-day, I referred to a statement by the Director-General of Recruiting which I understood to mean that he and the general public are disgusted with this political wrangling on the part of a body which claims to be the “ Win-the-war party.” When we consider that the recruiting campaign has been in progress for some weeks, and that the members sitting behind the Prime Minister have not taken any part in it, we must realize the irony of those persons attempting to thus designate themselves. The members of the Australian Labour party, on the other hand, have taken an active part in recruiting. I have participated in the campaign honestly, and I have adopted the same attitude in support of the voluntary system ever since the “war started. We were told that the obligation rested upon the anti-conscriptionists to make the voluntary system a success. In my opinion, that is the poorest kind of logic. We who advocated voluntarism were not responsible for killing recruiting. That responsibility rests upon those who tried to foist conscription upon the country, and upon them is cast the obligation to restore life to the system which they condemned. The Prime Minister has said that there is no business to be proceeded with, and has asked us to adjourn in order to allow the wrangle to continue in another part of this building. Prom the press we can get an inkling of what is happening at these conferences. It has been stated that the conscription issue was discussed, and that certain members of the Liberal party still believe conscription to be absolutely necessary to win the war. Indeed, Dame Rumour has it that one gentleman will not participate in the fusion unless conscription is placed in the forefront of the Government’s programme. That is indeed edifying news for the people. I do not question the right of those who honestly believe that conscription is necessary in order to win the war.
– Your party did not quarrel with us, but you turned us out.
– The honorable member did not wait for the order of the boot; he walked out. I could use a stronger expression.
– The honorable member can make it as strong as he likes, for all I care.
– I will let the electors deal with the honorable member. I have. never cavilled at the right of any one who thinks that conscription is -necessary to win the war to express that opinion, but I have an extract from one of this morning’s newspapers which I wish to read for the edification of the public. I presume that the writer has some idea of the inner workings of the secret junta that has been sitting. What he has written will show how far some men are prepared to go in regard to their convictions as to what is necessary for winning the war. This is how one news paper reports the secret negotiations thathave been in progress -
There was some discussion on the conscription issue. The New South Wales members at the party, almost to a man, were opposed toany attempt being made to revive it.
They believe that conscription is necessary to win the war, yet they are absolutely against any efforts, being made to revive it. The report proceeds - °
Several frankly admitted that it was more than their political lives were worth to even, mention the subject in their particular electorates; and, although no resolution of any kind was submitted, it was generally agreed that no attempt should be made to reintroducethe question, unless the situation took a moreserious turn, and that, even then, it should only be raised by means of another referendum.
I do not know who gave the newspaper this information, nor do I know if it is correct; but, assuming that it is correct, it is very interesting and edifying to know that while some gentlemen who are taking part in the proposed ‘fusion admit that conscription is absolutely necessary to win the war, they think it better to Lose the war rather than sacrifice their political existence.
– Assume, now, that the report is not correct.
– Then the gentleman who has had his ear to the key-hole has mis-heard. If the honorable member says the report is not correct, I must accept his word for it; but if it is true, some gentlemen in the secret junta are prepared to go so far in the matter of upholding their beliefs as to sacrifice the country, and that, of course, means the Empire, to the safety of their own seats.
– That was the bone of contention among your crowd.
– My crowd was the honorable member’s crowd a little while ago, and when he was in it there was no word that he could use that he considered too flattering for it. I have no objection to his designation of my party as a crowd, because we are a crowd. The term certainly cannot be applied to the thirteen on his side of the chamber. If this newspaper report is correct, those who held the belief that conscription was necessary for the safety of the Empire, have now made up their minds that it must not be brought forward in order not to endanger seats in this Chamber.
– The honorable member’s arguments are all based on “if.”
– The honorable member might have waited until to-morrow.
– We might have more light to-morrow, but as there are so many discordant notes I do not see how they can be reconciled. I see the honorable member for Wide Bay associated with the right honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Lang. I can quite understand how amusing it must have been when the subject of the Tariff was under discussion. The newspaper report of the meeting says -
As to the new Government’s policy, it is known that the Tariff is to be ratified by a short Bill’. This would have had to be done in any case, otherwise the duties which the Government had been collecting ever since the schedule was submitted, over two years ago, would have had to be refunded - an exceedingly costly, and, of course, impossible, undertaking. It is stated, however, that, owing to circumstances arising out of the war, the Tariff will not be revised in detail at the present juncture.
I -do not know whether the honorable member for Wide Bay subscribed to that policy.
– I am not accountable for that report.
– Of course, the report may be all-at-sea, but I can imagine how interesting the discussion must have been when the Tariff was under consideration at this meeting.
– The pump is very good, but the well is dry.
– I hope that the honorable member for Wide Bay and others who have been talking of this subject in the House will see that Tariff reform is not dropped. I want to know how many honorable members have subscribed to the policy, which, apparently, has been settled, that the Tariff is to be put on one side, and at a time when men are returning from the front, to swell the ranks of the unemployed, in a country whose industries are at their lowest possible ebb.
– Was not the policy of putting the Tariff on one side decided on by the Labour Government and its supporters before the split?
– Then why have we had the Tariff before us for two years, and it has not yet been dealt with ?
– The honorable’ member’s party of one has never done very much for the Tariff.
– It is all very well to laugh, but the honorable member knows that the Government and its supporters in the Labour party allowed the ‘Tariff to lie on the table without being dealt with up to the time of the split. The honorable member knows what was said at the secret session.
– With all due deference to the Prime Minister, whose party has agreed to sink the Tariff, I say that he was never serious in regard to Tariff revision.
– I am talking about what happened before the party split. Let us be fair and honest. I am sick of this hypocrisy.
– It was due to the constant manipulation of the Prime Minister and those who have gone over with him to-day - some of. them, at all events - that the House has not had a fair chance of revising the Tariff before this.
– Y,ou had a majority in the party; there are more of you over there than there are with the Prime Minister.
– I did not subscribe to that attitude towards the Tariff. I did not agree to any sinking of the Tariff, such as »ha.s been arranged by the party of which the honorable member is a new champion.
– I have not championed any party. I have always stood forhonesty, and not hypocrisy. ‘I am about full of this talk.
– I remember times when the honorable member for Gippsland would have been the first on his feet if he heard of a proposal to sink an important question of this character, but now, of course, he appears as an apologist right up to the hilt for the present Ministerial party. It is welcome to his new associates.
– Let the honorable member be fair and honest. I have never been an apologist for any party.
– If anything should sicken the honorable member for Gippsland it is the fact that day by day goes by without opportunity being given for discussing the question of the repatriation of our soldiers. If we are to have nothing to do with the Tariff or with building up our industries, at least there is something that was promised by the Prime Minister last year, and concerning which he made several glowing speeches. I refer to the Bureau of Science. He said that science was to be’ brought in as a kind of handmaid to build up dur industries and help them when established, and he spoke of the urgent necessity of such a bureau. What has become of it? No one can deny that there will be many men returning to this country, and not more than 15 or 20 per cent, of them will find’ their way on to the land, so that they must get into some kind of useful occupation. They will not be able to do so if our industries are allowed to become stagnant. In any case, whether it is to be done by the assistance of science or by any other means, the repatriation of our soldiers above all other questions should absorb our attention. If we are not to raise what may be by some considered a contentious question-; - I am referring to the Tariff - at any rate we have a lot of useful work that could be done, and it is an outrage on the country that we are here day after day and are asked for adjournments. There is important work to be done inside as well as outside the chamber. Instead of adjourning in order to allow conflicting factions to be brought together, we should get to work. I raisemy voice against this further delay to permit further time for the establishment of this so-called Win-the-war party, which is not so much a party formed to win the war as it is a party to win seats in this Parliament for the Prime Minister and those who have . been discredited in the eyes of the country after the recent verdict of the people. We are told that at the secret conferences the subject of who is to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference is being discussed. The most recent appeal to the people of Australia was on the 28th October last, and they spoke in a very . definite manner, not as followers of the Prime Minister, but right in the opposite direction; and the Prime Minister, in assuming to-day that he is the rightful representative of this country, . is doing nothing but flouting the will of the people.
– He is no worse thanthe honorable member, who does not represent the people of Indi on the matter of conscription.
– Unfortunately, my ‘honorable friend does not know whether his statement is true. I cannot ascertain exactly what was the vote in my electorate. We will never know, the issue in the different divisions in regard to conscription, at any rate as long as the Prime Minister is in office, but surely the honorable member for Gippsland will agree with me that we should be able to look beyond our own electorates. The Commonwealth is bigger than Indi or Gippsland. The Prime Minister said that he was leading the Commonwealth, and that Australia was behind him on the conscription issue, but Australia, by a majority of 62,000 votes, voted against him. Consequently, at a time when it is desired that the sentiment of Australia should be made known in regard to the war, a man who was in a minority of 62,000 votes should not be regarded as the one to represent the Commonwealth.
– Your party was 250,000 votes behind on one occasion on an amendment of the Constitution, yet your Government did not resign.
– I am speaking about those who should represent the Commonwealth at what will really be a War Conference. When the people were appealed to on the great issue of conscription they were not at the back of the Prime Minister, and he has no right to assume that they are behind him. today.
– Mr. Fisher went as a representative of the Commonwealth to the last Imperial Conference, after he had been defeated at a referendum.
– But that was not an Imperial matter.
– It was.
– It was only a question of an alteration of the Constitution.
– It was not an Imperial matter. The voice of the electors has been heard’, and it is plain that the Prime Minister cannot claim to represent the people of Australia. He is, therefore, assuming too much. I shall not detain the House further except to enter my protest against this constant waste of the time of Parliament when there is so much useful work to be’ done by it. It is no wonder that on the recruiting platforms of the country, com- ‘ plaint is made of the wrangling that is going on amongst the members of what is claimed to be a “ win the war “ party.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) member for Indi that there is much useful work to which this Parliament might well attend at the present time; but the responsibility for its inability to do so must rest with the honorable member and the party with which he is associated. The honorable member for South Sydney also indulged in some admirable sentiments, and asserted that the sooner we had a united Parliament, the sooner the war would be won. Who has prevented the establishment of a united Parliament at the present time, and helped to prolong the war, but the honorable member and those associated with him in the Official Labour party ? For what purpose are the present negotiations but to secure a united Parliament? An invitation was issued to the Leader . of the Official Labour party to join with the other parties in the Parliament in bringing about unity for the benefit of Australia and the Empire,1 as well as for the benefit of all associated with us in the conduct of this war. His reply was that they would have nothing to do with the proposal. If the Official Labour party honestly believe that ‘ a united Parliament is necessary to help us to win this war, then they alone are responsible for the failure to have a united Parliament. It is time that this hypocritical pretence on their part was exposed. They should be shown in their true light, and the responsibility for preventing Australia putting forth her utmost efforts to win this war should rightly be placed upon their shoulders. They are endeavouring by every possible means to put obstacles in the way of anything being done to assist the Empire at the present time. Their refusal to sink petty personal differences of opinion and sectional aims with the object of securing a united Parliament, pledged and resolved to do its utmost to. win this war, must always stand to their discredit. When invited to join in an effort, with this object in view, their answer in effect was: “ Let Australia and the Empire go hang! Our selfish class party policy before Australia and before the interests of the Empire.” That, then, is their position. How long could we hope to hold Australia with such men administering the affairs of the country? How long can we hope to hold it, if we have in responsible positions men who place their own little petty party shibboleths before the interests of not only Australia but the Empire, and before the interests of the peace of the whole world? If members of the Official Labour party are sincere in their professed desire to have a united Parliament to give effect to a win-the-war policy, why did they refuse the opportunity to bring it about ? When the invitation was extended to them they delayed their answer as long as they could, and finally said they would have none of it. Their party shibboleths were more to them than any questions of Empire, of patriotism, or of winning the war ! They put first of all their own sectional aims, which are of a purely selfish and unpatriotic character. They were given an opportunity to come in and to’ take their share in the government of the country. They were offered an opportunity to join in moulding its policy, and in shaping a war policy. They were offered an opportunity of being represented, if they so desired, at the Imperial Conference, but all the overtures that were made in the most friendly and courteous terms, and with the utmost forbearance on the part of those who endeavoured to show them the true path of duty, were rejected by them. These, then, are the men who are responsible for retarding the progress of Australia and the successful issue of this war so far as Australia is concerned. These are the men who put obstacles in the way of winning this war, and of doing in a patriotic way what the highest military and administrative authorities in the Old Land have said to be necessary to bring the war to a speedy and successful conclusion. Upon their heads must rest the responsibility for any failure that may result, as far as Australia’s part is concerned, in connexion with the war, or for its undue prolongation. They are responsible also for the failure of the recruiting system by their administration, their cavalier treatment of returned soldiers seeking employment, and wholesale misrepresentation of facts.
– What has the honorable member done?
– More than the honorable member.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable’ members to cease these interjections.
– The honorable member should be called upon to withdraw what he has said.
– There is nothing for me to withdraw. I have merely said what is commonly known to every one. The Official Labour party are largely responsible for the failure of the recruiting campaign. I would remind the honorable member for Oxley, when he asks what I have done, that I have volunteered for active service on more than one occasion. He perhaps has not done so.
– Because the honorable member knew he could not be accepted.
– The honorable member could at least have volunteered his services. I have “done more. I have placed my services, without fee or recompense of any kind, at the disposal of the Government, to be employed in any capacity in which I can be useful in connexion with the war, whether it be on active service or in any other direction. In addition, I have taken my part in the recruiting campaign wherever I have been desired to do so. But many honorable members of the Official Labour party are against not only conscription but recruiting.
– That is not so.
– I have heard statements made by members of that party which are likely to prevent the enrolment of recruits in the numbers said to be necessary by those responsible for the conduct of the war. I have it from responsible officers at the front that our failure to send the requisite reinforcements made it necessary for some time to draw upon men in camp in England, and who were sent there to form part of a new division. That new division could not then be sent to the front because it has been necessary to draw upon it in order to fill the gaps in the ranks of our men already in the trenches. The honorable member for Indi and others made an attack upon the Liberal party, and also referred to me individually. I told the honorable member that he would probably regret that he had drawn me into the discussion. He says that, instead of sitting here, we ought to be engaged in recruiting. I agree with him. We are here, however, only because the honorable member’s party, in caucus, has made it impossible for us to engage in the recruiting campaign. They have compelled us to remain here by refusing - as their party did in another place - to grant Supply sufficient to tide us over the proposed recruiting period. In this respect again the responsibility rests upon the honorable member for Indi and his party. Owing to the action of members of the Official Labour party in another place, who, obedient to the orders of the Caucus, refused to grant the Supply necessary to cover a period long enough to enable honorable members to travel over the length and breadth of Australia in connexion with the recruiting campaign, we are forced to come here to Melbourne, hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of miles from our electorates. All this is part of their plan of campaign to prevent recruiting. The sooner that is known the better. Let us away with all this hypocrisy and cant. Let us face the truth. Let us place upon the right shoulders the responsibility for the present situation. The party which refused to set aside party politics, and to bring about a united Parliament in the firm determination to carry this war to a successful conclusion, the party that will only grant Supply from month to month is responsible for the present condition of affairs, and that party is led by the honorable member for Yarra.
.- I should like to have been able to congratulate the country to-day upon the formation of a strong National Government, comprehending at least a more representative body of men than is now controlling the affairs of the Commonwealth in this time of crisis. When a nation is passing through such tremendous ordeals as those which we are undergoing, all that the country can give, in the way of administrative capacity, is needed. There is an old saying that a Government which is not too strong in times of peace is not strong enough in time of war; but we in Australia have been slow to realize its truth. To ray mind, the tardiness with which this desired result is being arrived at is only less regrettable and less unworthy than the attitude of the Official Labour party on this particular question.
– The Labour party.
– The Official Labour party, which has repudiated its obligation to this country. It prefers to have its lips sealed by an outside body, to speak only when it is told to speak, and to do only that which it is asked to do. Such a sinking of independence is intolerable to a freedom-loving people; yet that is their attitude.
– It. has taken the honorable member a long time to find this out.
– It was discovered only when we were dictated to from outside, and asked to observe conditions which had nothing whatever to do with our undertakings to our party, and which had not entered into our campaigns as candidates. When edicts of this sort came from the trade union bodies, no independent, right-thinking man could accept the position ; and that is why the breach occurred. Before that we knew where we stood j but when the masters outside put their demands even above the - national well-being, it was time to take a stand. Those who did take the stand were put aside, and those who did not are here as the puppets of the Trades Hall. However, I did not rise particularly to attack the Official Labour party, who are merely incidental to the present position.’ In view of the fact that finality, in the negotiations between the Government and the Liberal party has not yet been reached, I think it is just as well for the Government to know what some of those who sit behind them think of the situation. I am here more independent than ever I was before in this House - although I have always been pretty independent - and I wish to express the hope that the arrangement which has been hinted at in the press in regard to the Defence Department will be effected. If any Department requires attention it is that Department. Of course, it is very difficult for a vast Department of the kind to work quite smoothly when catastrophe overtakes us; but after two years of war we have a right to expect better things. When we find it possible for officials to muster imaginary regiments and draw their pay; when we find outrageous expenditure at the camps, and such abuses as were denied and covered up at the Liverpool Camp; when we find official heads ready to smother offences, it is time that something was done. There are all sorts of irregularities. I have a list of twenty or thirty men who are holding good positions in the service, and who have not seen, and are never likely to see, the front; and it was only the other day, after two years of agitation, that there was a call for volunteers from their ranks. The Department is too slow to take the initiative, and it is “up to” Parliament and the country to demand a change. We have no right to be supporting in office the head of a Department who cannot assume responsibility - who cannot gird himself up sufficiently to take the initiative in the rectification of abuses. We have a man who listens to the whisperings of his officials - to any plausible explanation that is offered - and the results are what we have seen. Innumerable cases of bad administration have been exposed. The Holdsworthy Camp inquiry disclosed the fact that German prisoners were making money out of their rations, and the regulations were so outrageously indifferent that large quantities of supplies were stolen. There are barracks full of clothing moth-eaten and going to waste, while the fresh clothing is first used, and millions of yards of cloth imported from England is not wanted. It is high time, under all the circumstances, that we had a “clean up”; and I hope that we shall have a Minister for Defence in this House in the person of a strong man who is not afraid to act. We are much better off in regard to our Naval Department, where the Minister for the Navy has done something. That honorable gentleman has indicated that we are to build our own submarines, but not for two years. We have now had two years of war, and had we been alive to the situation we should have had our industrial, commercial, and financial resources properly organized. The Minister was urged in this direction long ago, and by this time we ought to have been turning out our own submarines and aeroplanes in large numbers, for we do not yet know that we may not have to fight for our very lives. Some of us have been warning the authorities, knowing they were not wide-eyed enough ‘to see for themselves - we have been warning them to be prepared for the worst - and we have been informed that they were doing their best, and that the war would soon be’ over. We have not been doing our best, and we shall not until this country is organized on similar lines to .those of Great Britain. What folly it would be to wait until we are actually compelled to take steps in the direction indicated. What is required can only be obtained by putting in the forefront of this Parliament the best men we have; and I only hope that the negotiations now going on will be finalized by to-morrow at the latest. If the Official Labour party is not in that arrangement, as I think they should have been, it is their own fault, and not the fault of the others concerned. The financial side “has not been properly handled. Every attempt is made to squeeze money out of the community in order to carry on the war, but this has been accompanied by repressive measures which’ have tended to prevent the creation of wealth on which levies could be made. The Tariff question has been raised, but I fancy that there is a good deal of “ hot air “ about that. Great Britain is depending on the help of her Allies to save our skins, and it is a most delicate matter to prepare a Tariff which might prejudicially affect some of those Allies, so that the least said the better about the Tariff at this juncture. I hope that to-morrow we may hear something that will raise our hopes for Australia.
Mr.FENTON (Maribymong) [6.15]. - Never in my experience of this House have I seen the honorable member for Lang so forcible, excited, and energetic. As a rule, he is a mild-mannered man, who is more prone to indulge in serious reflection, especially when he desires to expatiate on the virtues ofFree Trade. In a speech he delivered earlier in this session, it may be after some collaboration with his leader, the honorable member for Parramatta-
– Or with the honorable member for South Sydney.
Mr.FENTON.- I know that the views of the two gentlemen I have mentioned are almost identical in regard to the Tariff, though I think the honorable member for Lang is prepared to go a great deal further than is the honorable member for Parramatta. If I can read any meaning into the speech I have referred to, the honorable member for Lang is an out-and-out supporter of the Single Tax; and I know of no better material to circulate in election times than a speech by him on that principle.
– Accompanied by one from Senator Grant !
– I fancy that he was trying to drown his feelings by loud talk because he had been driven into a fusion, and he could not help showing his annoyance at finding himself in a very peculiar position. I cannot help thinking that; when he’ was speaking this afternoon, loud in voice, and splendid in gesticulation, he was trying to drown the feelings that have ever been uppermost in his mind since the 28th October. In his electorate, in common with many other electorates, a majority of many thousands was recorded against conscription, even after most eloquent gentlemen had advised the other way. That fact is ever present with the honorable member, and others who think with him, and it presses on ‘them like a nightmare, and the Liberal caucus yesterday decided that, as the people had decided against conscription, the question must be regarded as settled. I do not know how the Liberal caucus is going to select Ministers, but I understand that if it does come to a, vote, one or two . of the brainiest men on the Liberal side are practically going to be put “ down and out.”
– What about the brainy men on the other side?
– There is no doubt that some of them will have to go overboard. The honorable member for Lang would have us believe that, right from the very inception of the negotiations for the establishment of what is called a “National Government,” the Australian Labour party was taken into account. But I ask honorable members, including the honorable member for Macquarie, to cast their minds back to the negotiations from the beginning of the New Year. If they do, they must” acknowledge that,, for the first three or four weeks, the Labour party was never consulted, and never would have been consulted, had not the rank and file of the Liberal party taken the matter in hand, and instructed their leader to inform the Prime Minister that they desired to see a fusion of the “three parties. That proposal emanated from the rank and file of the Liberal party, and not from the leaders.
– That is not correct.
– I have very good in-, formation on the subject.
– It is not correct.
– The honorable member has no right to interject; and, in any case, he will, I fancy, have considerable trouble in explaining to his constituents his connexion with the Fusion. As I say,, the Leader of the Labour party of Australia was never consulted during the first three weeks of the negotiations. In common language, the leaders of the two parties concerned did’ not want any “ truck “ with him. Had those leaders had their own way, this party would neveT have been consulted. But the rank and file of the Liberal party on the present . occasion have taken a greater hand in caucus than ever before. They put in black and white what they desired, and instructed their leader to insist on every demand laid down. So little does either party trust the other, that every agreement must be
Bet down in writing. Their word is not their bond. It is a nightmare to many of the New South Wales Liberals that their constituencies declared overwhelmingly against conscription, the majority against conscription in nine of these constituencies being between 60,000 and 70,000 votes. That fact cannot be lightly regarded in a consideration of the prospects of an election. The mention of conscription might easily bring ab’out the defeat of the honorable member for Lang, of the honorable member for Monaro, and of some others. There must have been great tussles at the conferences between the two parties which were conducted by three managers a side. There were opposed those two heavy-weights, the gallant knight from’ Western Australia and the Minister, for the Navy. The honorable member for Angas and the Minister for Defence might be. regarded as lightweights. Then, the Prime Minister was opposed by the Leader of the Opposition. One of the most despioable pictures ever presented to the public of Australia and to the world is that of the grasping for pelf exhibited by this so-called national, win-the-war party. Mouths of members are full of patriotic utterances and selfsacrifice, but their negotiations are merely astruggle for place and pay. It would have been more honorable for the members of the present Government to resign office than to take part in the tactics in which they . are now engaged. A meeting lasting five minutes was sufficient to enable the Ministerialists to decide to adopt the proposal of the Prime Minister, but I feel certain that directly the new Ministry is announced the chamber will he filled with the voices of its candid friends. There are one ot two now, like the honorable member’ for Macquarie, but they will presentlybe very numerous. Instead of peace and calm settling down on the chamber, we shall have wrangles to which those of the past will he mere circumstances.
Nothing will be done to revive our languishing industries or to establish new industries to provide employment for those who, by reason of physical infirmities or age, could not go to the war, and others. The Director of Recruiting stated some time ago that he hoped that every recruiting committee, and all engaged in recruiting, would become members of what he termed the Win-the-war party; but as soon as the . phrase was coined the Prime Minister laid hold of it, and applied it to a proposed coalition of Ministerialists and Liberals. This caused Mr. Mackinnon to administer a well-deserved rebuke. He stated that the term had no political significance, and applied only to those who were assisting the recruiting movement. I am. glad that he had the manliness to do that.
Sitting suspended from. 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended-
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House.
A quorum not being present,
Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House at 7.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170214_reps_6_81/>.