6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented: -
Iron Bounty Act - Return of particulars required under Section 14, 1914-1917.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules1916, No. 328.
Statutory Rules 1917, No. 12.
amalgamation OF parties.
– I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Thursdaynext.
The arrangements for an amalgamation of the Liberal and National parties have been arrived at, and a statement of all matters, including the policy of the new party, will be. made this day week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed Coalition - Unemployment - - Clothing and Equipment of Australian Troops - Inter-State Free Trade - Wheat Farmers - Supply of Bad Meat to Troopship - “ Send-off “ to Lieutenant Burchell - Defence Administration.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
.- It is due to honorable members that they should be given more information.
– We wish to know who has been thrown overboard.
Mr.TUDOR.-Thatwill be known in due time. I am assured by members who do not belong to the Labour party that they are as much in the dark as others regarding what is taking place. This matter of a fusion will to-morrow have been hanging up for four weeks.
– That is , partly the honorable member’s fault. He is responsible for at least a fortnight of the delay.
– The honorable member repeats like a gramophone the record that has been prepared for him, or like a parrot the saying that he has been taught. When I was invited by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Liberal party to meet them in conference, I replied that I would lay the matter before the Labour party, whose next meeting would be held shortly before the re-assembling of Parliament. Had they desired to expedite that meeting, the Prime Minister could have asked the President and Mr. Speaker to call the Houses together at an earlier date. Never during the two and a half years that this Parliament has lasted was shorter notice given of the re-assembling of Parliament than was given on the last occasion. The first understanding was that we should meet on the 7th February, and a Minister informed me before Christmas that probablywe should meet on the 31st January ; but the date of meeting was pat back and back. Therefore the Labour party cannot be blamed for the delay.
– Is that the best excuse that the honorable member has to offer?
– No excuse is needed. When the country obtains an opportunity to deal with thesituation, the members of the. two parties which are amalgamating will find that the people are not behind them. That they fear that that is the case is shown by the length of their negotiations. There are meetings night after night, and day after day, without anything being determined upon. Yesterday the honorable member for Lang said that matters had not been fixed up readily because the Labour party had not come in. Apparentlyhad we come in everything would have gone on all right. However, we declined to have anything to do with the fusion.
– The honorable member did not give a reply for a fortnight.
– The Prime Minister, to whom my letter was addressed, will not say that. The honorable member does not occupy the responsible position of Prime Minister, though, of course, accidents happen, and there is no knowing what he may become some day. At least 80 per cent. of the members of the Chamber are in darkness as to what is taking place, and now we are asked to adjourn for another week.
– I have said that on Thursday next a full statement will be made which honorable members may criticise in all its parts.
– I have no doubt that we shall do that, so far as the Standing Orders will permit.
– Will you stop at the Standing Orders?
– When the honorable member was leading a Government he used the Standing Orders against his opponents. I have a vivid recollection of what we had to put up with one night. Even the honorable member for Flinders smiles at the mention of the occurrence; and to make him smile is to accomplish something. I hope that when the House does meet again the Prime Minister will have something definite to place before the country.
. - I desire to draw the attention of the House to the terrible extent of unemployment in Australia. I feel sure that there is not an honorable member who is not as well conversant with the fact as I am myself, and that they would personally be only too glad to do anything to relieve the situation. There are on the. shoulders of the Prime Minister other responsibilities besides that of winning the war; he is responsible for thewell-being of the people of Australia.
– Hear, Hear!
– The Prime Minister is well aware that the state of things in Australia to-day in regard to unemployment is disgraceful. The Federal Government and the State Governments are what they call economizing, and they are doing so at the cost of the means of living of a great section of the community. I would not, of course, ask the Prime Minister to waste money; but honorable members will agree that, in a time of stress, it is the duty of the Government to see that the people receive food and have a place where they can lay their heads. If matters go on- much longer as at present, hundreds of thousands of our people will be affected, and driven long past starvation point, which means that they will be “ under the daisies.” I do not know whether the fact is appreciated generally, but we, in Australia, are “ up against it,” because of this fiendish howl for economy in a direction that is not necessary. The Government should see that the people have an opportunity to earn a living, and, to that end, neither the Federal nor the State Governments are on the’ right lines. Prom the utterances of the Prime Minister yesterday, and from the reply he has given to a deputation, it is apparently Eis intention to discontinue public works as far as possible.
– That is not the correct way of putting it. The correct way to put it is that the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth circumscribe our activities in that direction.
– ‘We have wasted more money in the Department of Defence than would have enabled the undertaking of public works sufficient to give employment to all those now desiring it. If the Prime Minister asks for details, we on this side are well able to give them. I have on previous occasions pointed out that in every civilized country in the world- to-day, except Australia, there is no unemployment. Australia is the only country at war to-day which has any unemployed; and the reason is that in those countries nearer to the seat of war, all the people are engaged in. producing munitions and other commodities required by the Forces. We are told that Australia is so’ far away, that such work cannot be done here; but when we urge distance as a reason why we cannot be expected to do as much as other countries in the way of supplying men, the idea is scouted. While factories in Australia, which are engaged in the production of clothing, boots, leatherware, and other supplies for the troops, are putting off hands, such commodities are being produced in Great Britain, where there has been the most complete organization in order to insure a sufficiency of men for the work. The Prime Minister and the honorable member for Parramatta - the dual kings of Aus tralia when the fusion takes* place - will find that while the people of Australia are law-abiding, there is a point beyond which they cannot be forced; and there is nothing like unemployment f°r bringing about dissension.’ I am asked why the men out of employment do not enlist, and I reply that if it is intended to raise the army by throwing men out of work the Government ought to say so. However, thousands of men who are now seeking employment, in the building trade particularly, are unfitted, by their age and other circumstances, to take their place in the trenches. (Every member of the Government who has been approached on this subject knows the facts as well as I do myself. I am not now talking with any kind of feeling against my political opponents, but if the present position continues - and apparently it is going to get worse - I am afraid that something will happen. I know that the Government have at their command laws which, -if exercised, would stop any dissension, and an attempt may be made iD this direction; but I point out that the trouble may be too big for the Government to deal with. We must remember that the fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters of those who are now fighting are amongst the people out of work today; and we must not strain our men too far. The result of the referendum showed that our men are not to be coerced into doing that in which they do not believe: and if the Government think that out men in the army can be handled as soldiers are in other nations they are mistaken. If dissension does start, it may take more than the Prime Minister, and those behind him, to stop it. The Prime Minister is responsible to the people, and I wish him to state on the floor of the House whether, he intends to pursue the course that has been rigidly set down bv the anti -Labour section of the community, who hold that economy, of a character disgraceful to any civilized community, is necessary at the present juncture. It must have come within the knowledge of the Assistant Minister for .Defence that his Department is getting commodities in Britain that could be supplied in Australia. It is said, as to public works, that there is trouble with the workers;’ a”d heaven forbid that those workers should be satisfied with their position ! It has been the salvation of Australia that the workers here have not been satisfied with- conditions similar to those obtaining in the old countries, for it is that dissatisfaction and their determination to enjoy better conditions that have made this country what it is to-day. If the war had not eventuated much more might have been done in this direction ; but, in spite of the war, I think that when we can raise millions for defence purposes, there is nothing to stop either the Federal or the State Governments making provision for essential and reproductive works. I warn the Government that the responsibility is thrown on them and not on the Opposition, and if they fail to convince the public that they are desirous of reducing unemployment, on their heads will fall the trouble. I can assure them that when that trouble comes it will be considerable.
– The attack made on the Defence Department by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports calls for some reply. ‘ The honorable member has not been correctly informed. Most of the Australian troops in Great Britain are equipped with clothing made in Australia. - But even before they arrive in Great Britain they pass under the control of the Imperial war authorities. And when a man is wounded and sent to hospital in France or Great Britain, the British Government supplies him with ‘ necessary clothing made in Great Britain if the Australian articles are not available. Every boat that leaves these shores takes bale upon bale of clothing for the use of the Australian troops. We have the clothing ,in hand, and could send considerably more, but no one will expect the Defence Department to take .up the whole of the cargo accommodation for the purpose of sending clothing to Great Britain. The Department can only take a fair share of the space on each, ship, but vast quantities of clothing have been sent to England and people in the Old Country, who are capable of judging, say that the Australian troops are the best equipped in the world.
– That is no reason why a wounded soldier should not get an Australian uniform if he wants it.
– Surely honorable members will not contend that men should go short of clothing because they cannot get the Australian-made article. If honorable members will only take the trouble to make themselves conversant with what is being done, they will admit , that the Defence Department has done wonders in the clothing of troops abroad. Our great trouble is to get transports for the goods we wish to send away. We have to export wheat, wool, and other commodities, but as the Minister for the Navy is well aware, the Minister for Defence has insisted upon getting as much space as he possibly can for the purpose of sending clothing and equipment to our troops in Europe.
– It is not a question of the Australians not getting Australian clothes, but of their being compelled to pay for their clothes.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made no reference to that matter. If the men have any grievance in that particular, it will be rectified as readily as all other of * their grievances have been rectified. Daily I am dealing with these questions, and not one complaint has failed to receive prompt attention where that was possible. Wherever it is practicable to send clothing and food to our soldiers they get them. In reference to the stoppage of employment, it must be remembered that a Minister, no matter to what- party he belongs, is the custodian of the finances of the Commonwealth, and I shall be no party to a policy of shifting sand. It has been said that at one time a Minister of the Crown, in order .to find work for men, employed them in carting sand from one side of the beach to the other side, and Nature did the rest by bringing the sand back to its original position. That is not a profitable policy, and the Defence Department will not adopt such methods. We have told those concerned that it is necessary to reduce production for the simple reason that we are stocked up to requirements. But we have given the mills “three months’ notice so that they can send their travellers out to work up a private- trade. Every contractor throughout the Commonwealth has been notified that the Commonwealth is about to curtail the production of clothing, but all are being allowed to complete their contracts. They are not being harshly dealt with. But the Department cannot be continually giving contracts and stocking up with material, that is not required. If we did that honorable- members would accuse us of filling our stores with clothing to- be eaten by the moths. Our stock is being kept ahead of requirements, but wherever a legitimate saving can be made it will be made. Why should not a Government concern as well as any other’ business effect a saving ? While I am on this subject I may be permitted to deal with the charge made against the Defence Department by the honorable member for Macquarie, whose allegations were due solely to his limited knowledge of the facts.
– Let there be an inquiry.
– The Government will welcome an inquiry.
– That is all I desire.
– What are the facts of the case? Let us do justice to those who are subordinate officers in the Department. How unfair it is for honorable members to make an attack upon men who are honestly serving their country by the work they are doing in the factories. Are the officers in our factories only loafers? Are they neglecting their duty, and animated by no other desire than to get filthy lucre? I know that those men are keenly interested in their work, and that the Government factories will compare favorably with any private establishments in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Macquarie stated that thousands of yards of cloth had been imported by the Department.
– I said 2,000,000 yards.
– The fact is that no cloth has been imported from England which was not of good quality. It was inspected by the authorities in Great Britain, and again on its arrival in Australia, and was found to be up to standard. Speaking from memory, the Defence Department in August of last year was at its wits’ end to get the material necessary for the clothing of our troops. I say this in order to prove that we are not overstocked, that there is no waste, and that the material has not been lying in the Stores for years, motheaten and rotting, as the honorable member would have the country believe it has been. Perhaps those who have given the honorable member his information do not know waterproof sheeting from cloth. There was a quantity of waterproof sheeting brought from the Old Country and passed by the War Office authorities there which was found wanting on being inspected here; but subsequently it was ascertained that a considerable quantity of it might be used. It was but a small quantity of waterproof sheeting that was bought at a low price, as other goods have been bought.
– Has that defective material been paid for ?
– The War Office has been informed that the material was inferior, and negotiations are now proceeding for an adjustment of the matter from a financial point of view. The honorable member also stated that made-up clothing was lying in the Ordnance Stores while more recently made-up clothing was being issued.
– That is correct.
– The statement is contrary to fact. Let me remind honorable members once more that in August, 1916, we were using practically all the material that we had in store. How. then could the clothing be lying idle so long? It was not in the Stores. In the face of these facts,surely the honorable member willnot adhere to such a rash statement in order to establish his claim to have the Minister for Defence in this Chamber for the purpose of preventing a continuance of what he alleges is taking place. The Department has been handicapped by fluctuations in recruiting. There has been no regularity about the enlistments. In one month we would have a considerable number of men to provide for, but subsequently, unfortunately, recruiting would fall off. At this stage I may say that I welcome a visit - not a prearranged visit, but a casual visit - to the Ordnance Stores and Clothing Factory. I do not mind meeting any honorable member at any time and showing him all that is to be seen. If honorable members will pay such a visit they will see that the material is carefully stocked, and that every possible means is taken for the protection of the clothing.
– Why this apology?
– It is not an apology ; it is simply a statement of the real condition of affairs. The honorable member for Brisbane should be the last to interject in that fashion, seeing that he, like others, is quite ready to discredit any Government Department. Honorable members can come down and see what I have seen often, well-stocked Ordnance Stores where stock is taken repeatedly, and where the contents of each bale are carefully marked on it. Every three months, owing to the requirements of the Forces, the material is moved, and as it is regularly disinfected there can be no moths eating through it. From the moment one enters the Clothing Factory he sees most up-to-date methods in use. The system of costing charges is equal to anything to be found in any merchant’s house in Melbourne. The manager could tell me this morning the amount of material he had in hand in any particular branch of the Department, because stocktaking goes on practically daily on an American system that will hold good in comparison with the system employed in any other establishment. Owing to the managers of these Stores having made early purchases at the outbreak of the war, they were able to secure material at a price which is much lower than now obtains. For example, some canvas which was purchased could be sold in the open market to-day and we should realize a profit of £750 on the deal. We do not hear anything about this from honorable members, not a word of commendation for the men running these Stores because of their foresight and the business ability they displayed in stocking up with the material necessary for .the equipping of troops. Scores of other instances might be mentioned’ in order to substantiate my remarks. I recently saw the employees leaving the Clothing Factory, and I contrasted them with what I have seen in Glasgow and other parts of the world. They were a healthy, well-grown, fine body of employees, well satisfied W11*1 their conditions. They work under splendid conditions. No sweating is permitted in the Defence Department, and contractors are treated fairly. Good work is being done, not only for the Defence Department, but also for the Postal Department and other branches of the Commonwealth Service. In conclusion, let me invite honorable members to go down to the Ordnance Stores and the Clothing Factory, and see for themselves what I have told them. I hope that they will do so before they rise in this chamber and bitterly criticise a Department that is so well organized and managed.
.- I have listened with interest to the statements made by the Assistant Minister in regard to the question raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but his statement as to the conditions operating in the Clothing Factory and under which the workers are employed there is no reply to the honorable member. He was not questioning the conditions under which the operatives of the Clothing Factory are employed. His complaint was that there was immediate , danger of a large number of these men and women losing their employment, because the Government were now obtaining in England, for our soldiers at the front, clothing which ought to be made up here. That is the point he made, and to it the Minister did not offer any reply. Parents of boys who have been wounded at the front and sent to England are often surprised by the receipt of cablegrams from them asking for the immediate transmission of £10, £15, or £20. A member of my own family recently cabled for £15, and in a letter which was subsequently received explained that he had asked for this money because, upon his discharge from hospital, he had to spend £10 in the purchase of a new uniform. Wounded Australian soldiers, on becoming convalescent in England, are compelled to purchase uniforms at their own’ expense if they desire to retain their identity as Australians while walking about the streets. I do not take any exception to the statement of the Assistant Minister that, in respect of both quantity and quality, the equipment of Australian soldiers when they leave this country compares more than favorably with that of soldiers from any other part of the world. What I do take exception to is that the Government make good the wear and tear of clothing by our troops at the front by obtaining fresh supplies in England. We have here an abundant supply of material, and, in addition to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, have a large number of contractors working for the Government. ‘The Assistant Minister has just admitted that the Department has notified many private employers who have been working under contract with the Department that three months hence their contracts will practically be cancelled.
– No; not cancelled.
– The Department is giving these contractors three months’ notice, so. that at the end of that period th’ey may utilize their plant in carrying out work for private enterprise. This is being done notwithstanding that we have in Great Britain or in France from 225,000 to 250,000 troops, who need supplies from time to time. The charge made by the clothing trade here is that the Australian Government is making good the wear and tear of the Uniforms and clothing of men on active service by obtaining supplies through the British Government instead of securing them in the Commonwealth.
– That is not correct.
– That is our complaint, and it can be proved. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has referred to the unfortunate industrial conditions operating throughout Australia. The industry most seriously affected by the prevailing depression is the building trade. In this State alone there are 2,000 carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, bricklayers, and builders’ labourers out of work. A few days ago a deputation representing men out of work in the building trade waited on the Prime Minister, and submitted two propositions. The first of these was that the Government should endeavour to ease the position by pushing on with public works. The Prime Minister replied that the Government were not going to proceed with new public works; that practically all the money we had was required for war purposes. The deputation’s alternative proposal waa that the Government should issue passports permitting these men to go to some other country to find employment. The Prime Minister answered that if 1,000 carpenters could be supplied he would take the responsibility of promising to obtain passages, to pay the expenses of their passage Home, and that work would be found for them through the British Government. As the honorable member for Melbourne Forts has truly said, the majority of these men have reached such an age that even if it were the ‘ desire of the Government to compel them, through the medium of economic pressure, to volunteer, they would not be accepted for service at the front. “ The Prime Minister cannot land them in Great Britain under £20 per head, or a total expenditure of £20,000. Having regard to the wages operating in that country, these men, if they have to provide for their wives and children in Australia whilst also maintaining themselves in the Old Country, can never/hope to get back unless the Government assumes the further responsibility of spending an additional £20,000 in paying their .return passages. Thus, at the very lowest estimate, this proposal would involve an expenditure of £40,000. It Was .a proposal emanating from the minds of men made desperate by existing conditions. No doubt the right honorable gentleman thought, “ These men are foolish in the extreme, because they must leave their wives and children behind, and they cannot hope to maintain themselves abroad while keeping their homes here. I will accept it, however, because calm consideration will doubtless convince them that they cannot go on with it, and their failure to accept my offer will enable me to prove right up to the hilt, in the public mind, that they do not want work.” My contention is that the Government should recognise that Australia’s part in this war has been unique. In all the -allied countries every man and woman is employed. In many cases, even where private- enterprise cannot really spare them, their services are commandeered by the Government, and in Great Britain every man and woman who wants employment is able to secure it, and is working under conditions superior to any that have ever previously existed there; Since the war began, Australia has been denuded of the flower of its manhood, yet the Governments of the States and the Government of the Commonwealth declare that they accept no responsibility for keeping the wheels of industry going to enable those whose sons are shedding their blood on the fields of Flanders to maintain themselves and those left behind. The Prime Minister practically declared that to be his position when a deputation of representatives of the building trade waited on him the other day. These men, in their desperation, demand from him something more than the proposal that they should leave their wives and children behind and cross the ocean to obtain employment in another country. Why should we spend money on sending men abroad when our Governments are deliberately closing down on public works, which if not required immediately, will be needed directly peace is declared J When the war is over, and times are normal again, the Governments of Australia and private enterprise will be competing for the services of men, and it is the duty of our Governments now to set an example to private persons by making an effort to find employment for our citizens. This Government should carry out the promises made by Mr. Fisher when Prime Minister. He appealed to the Governments of the
States. to keep the wheels of industry revolving. He asked private citizens to see that business was carried on as usual, and he declared, on behalf of his own Government, that necessary works would be’ pushed on. I have been told .that the reason for the change in policy is that it is conditional upon the agreement with the Liberal party for a coalition. The Liberal party asks for economy, and its members are pledged to break down the institutions hitherto protected by the Government. I am assured that the agreement for the coalition of the Liberal and Ministerial parties provides for economy in the carrying out of Commonwealth public works. I trust that in settling the final terms of the agreement the Prime Minister and his supporters will insist that the Government shall be allowed to proceed with necessary public works with a view to assisting the workers and their wives and children, who are now suffering untold, hardships by reason of the industrial depression. I hope that they will do all that they can to relieve this’ distress at the earliest possible moment.
.- Apparently whatever this Government’ may propose will meet with the bitter opposition of its erstwhile supporters. Without wishing to be severe, I say that their condemnation reminds one of Satan rebuking sin. If Australia to-day is in a straitened financial position, it is the members of the Corner party who are chiefly responsible. They were responsible for three financial statements in which the expenditure exceeded the revenue by £12,500,000. In the first statement the excess of expenditure .over revenue was £1,500,000, in the next £4,000,000, and in the third £7,000,000. Any country would run short of funds under such administration. Now these members attack the Government for not proceeding with public works. But they do not say where money is to be obtained for prosecuting such enterprises. Great Britain is embroiled in the greatest war that the centuries have ever seen, yet notwithstanding the enormous war expenditure which has thus been forced upon her, we have been going to her cap in hand for money for our own purposes. Now, however, the springs have dried up, and we must depend on our own resources. It is for the critics of economy to say how money can be obtained for public purposes. I am surprised that the Leader of the Labour party has deplored the delay which has occurred in arranging a coalition between the Liberals and the Ministerialists. I was called to Melbourne, when in the midst of a recruiting campaign in my electorate, to take part in deliberations regarding a coalition, and within a couple of hours’ the Liberal party decided to hold out the olive branch to the Corner party, because we felt that all parties should be represented in a- National Government. I cannot understand how men can have the interests of the Empire at heart and yet put party considerations first. Of course, the Corner members cannot help themselves. They are muzzled and shackled, and have to do as their masters tell them. Were they free to consider only the interests of the Empire, they would join in forming a strong National Parliament to enable us to present a united front to our enemy. -For some time past the representatives of farming districts have been urging the Government to give consideration to an interpretation placed by the’ High Court on section 92 of the Constitution. That section reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free. …
If any University Professor, or any other person acquainted with the English tongue, were asked to state the meaning of that . sentence, he would say that it provided for absolute Free Trade between the States. The farmers were asked to vote for Federation in order that there might be Inter-State Free Trade, but quite recently the Government of New South Wales prevented Victorian farmers from buying wheat in the northern State, with the result that the people of Victoria had to pay excessive prices for their bread, and the Government of Queensland prevented the exportation of stock to South’. Australia and elsewhere, thus bringing about a scarcity of meat. The other - day a friend of mine, who breeds cattle in New South Wales, bought a highly-bred bull for £250. in Queensland, but, after he had made arrangements to have it sent to his stud farm, he found that, owing to the Queensland regulation, it was impossible to do so. If honorable members desire . to know my authority, I may mention the name of “Mr. Frank Witney, of Goombie Park. The graziers who live on the borders of. Queensland and New South Wales have been in the habit of dealing with one another, but now they are prevented from doing so. I hope the Government will give favorable consideration to the many questions and suggestions ‘that have been made to-day in regard to the position of wheat growers all over Australia. In New South Wales, and especially out towards Young, in my own electorate, great thunderstorms have wrought such destruction that, in one case, a farmer who this year put in 800 acres of wheat, has harvested only 30 acres. Thousands and thousands of acres have been destroyed, and the average in the central-western district this year has not amounted to more than about 6 bushels to the acre. As it costs about £2 to cultivate and harvest an acre, including in the charges interest, railway freights, and so forth, we find that, at the price of 3s. allowed by the Government, the growers are faced with a deficit ofabout £1 2s. I urge on the Government the absolute necessity for settling up in connexion with last year’s pool. The farmers were told emphatically ‘ that the 1915-16 pool would be settled without fail on the 30th November last.
– The honorable member knows that we thought the war would be over by that time.
– That does not remove the necessity for affording some relief to the farmers.Up to the present only some 3s. 6d. has been received; and if another6d. were paid, it would enable these people to tide overtheir difficulties. The farmers, who, after all, are the backbone of the country, deserve sympathetic consideration. Our friends in the Labour corner talk about the Tariff, and I do not blame them; but they speak only on behalf of the secondary industries, whereas I speak for the greater and more important primary industries - mining, and wheat, wool, and sugar growing.
.- I had intended making a personal explanation in regard to an occurrence in this House yesterday, but, under the circumstances, I take the opportunity afforded by the motion for the adjournment of the House. I desire to draw attention to the Argus report of what occurred at the rising of the House yesterday, and to point out that that report, unintentionally I have no doubt, is inaccurate. The Argus report says -
For the second time in two. months Dr. Maloneyhas been unable to find a quorum of membersof the House of Representatives who are willingto listen to his eloquence, and the House has been adjourned when he desired to address it.
I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you will remember, that it was the honorable member for Maribyrnong who had to resume the debate after the dinner adjournment. I took action because I felt some resentment at the unfair treatment of my friend and brother whom I have just mentioned. Personally, I can always defend myself.
– I think you ought to apologize to the House for making a Yarrabank of the place !
– It would be impossible to make a Yarra-bank where the honorable member is; a Yarra Bend is the only place fit for him. The only other remark I have to make in regard to the Argus report is that I did not call the public of Australia simpletons ; the rest may be allowed to pass. There is another, and very serious, matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the House. I am sure no honorable member would condemn any member of the community simply because he happened to be born with a foreign name. I am now alluding to the persons born in Australia of German parentage, and to figures given in the Argus this morning in reference to the German-Australian vote at the referendum. The heading of the Argus article is-
The Divisional Returns. German-Australians Vote “No.”
In the body of the report the following occurs - .
When the writs were returned a majority of 61,280 votes in favour of “ No “ was . shown. Subsequently some 17,000 additional votes were counted, of which approximately 14,000 were “ No “ votes, and the “ No “ majority was increased to 72,476.
It is this to which I particularly desire to draw attention -
As the 17,000 votes outstanding at the return of the writs were principally those of Australian-born sons and daughters of naturalized and unnaturalized persons of enemy origin, which wore subject to examination by special tribunals prior to being counted, a significant indication is given by thisincrease in the “No” majority and the sentiment of these citizens.
This 17,000 votes referred to could only be those recorded under section. 9 of the Act, which empowers the Returning Officer to ask certain questions of electors who have German names.
– Quite so. Let us see how many such votes , were recorded under section 9 in the metropolitan constituencies. The Argus analysis shows that in Balaclava there were 18; in Batman, 23; in Bourke, 90; in Fawkner, 18; in Henty, 18 ; in Kooyong, 77 ; in Maribyrnong, 6 ; in Melbourne, 41 ; in Mel- V bourne Ports, 13; and in Yarra, 29; a total of 333. Where, in the name of heaven, did the Argus get 17,000 1 However, I feel certain that if the Argus finds that the figures it has given are wrong, a correction will be made. I had three questions on the notice-paper to-day in regard to the quality of the food supplied to our soldiers, and I think those questions might well have been replied to in the interests of the public. I did ask a question on the subject without notice, and the Minister for the Navy was courteous enough to give me a direct answer, saying that the name of the contractor who had supplied diseased and filthy meat to our unfortunate men would be made public. When that- man’s name is blazoned in the press, as I am sure it will be, I hope every Australian will realize that he is an enemy within the gates, and, further, they may well ask themselves - what became of the diseased meat that was refused by the transports. To-day, when I came to the House, I found waiting for me a copy of the Graphic of Australia, of the 26th January last, which contains the following -
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.
Some traitorous contractor, whose name has not been divulged, has attempted to supply diseased ox livers to troopships. Thousands of pounds weight of this alleged meat has been seized and destroyed. Here are some extracts from the veterinary inspector’s report: - “March 2, 191-6.- We rejected 1,100 lb. of ox livers on account of finding some affected with hydatid cysts and fluke. Owing to the frozen state of the livers, no extensive inspection could be undertaken, but, as some were diseased and others were repulsive in appearance, we rejected the lot.” “6/3/1916. - The livers were again submitted for examination; we found some with hydatid cysts and signs of fluke, and many half -livers were included - appearance bad; we rejected the lot.” “ 8/5/1916. - I rejected 707 lb. ox liver, as it was diseased with fluke and hydatids.” “26/5/1916. - The ox livers were rejected, being dirty .and badly infected with hydatid cysts and fluke. This parcel was so baa that I called the attention of the Board of Health inspector to same, and the lot was seized and destroyed.”
If this contractor’s name were made available for publication he would have a bad time of it. He deserves more than public opprobrium. Some may go so far as to say he deserves to be strung up as a traitor. Is he to be prosecuted, or is he to be allowed to tender again? He tried to poison our brave lads, whoever he may be, and he is as big a menace as a Hun. submarine commander who sinks ships without warning, or the German fiends who disseminate tuberculosis and cholera germs. Name him! Who is he? We and the public demand to know! Probably he’s posing as a patriot - a ravening wolf in sheep’s clothing. Strip the creature of his disguise and put him in the pillory!
Is there a man or woman throughout Australia who will deny that that contention is right? I say in this House, as I would say on the public platform,, that that man should be interned, because he is an enemy within the gates. Is money to be made in thousands of pounds by creatures like him ? I thank the Minister for his announcement that he will not allow any liver to be supplied to transports in future. When the House meets next Thursday I intend to ask the Minister the name of the creature who sought to make money by supplying diseased and filthy meat to soldiers going to the front. >
– That will not make him all right. Will the Minister inform me who was the man who supplied this diseased meat to the soldiers ?
-^- I will tell the honorable member next week.
– That is quite fair. I will ask a question next week so that the public may have this information. I desire to express my deep regret that I was absent when Lieutenant Burchell was receiving a send-off last night. I think the honorable member who arranged that function ought to have’ made every other honorable member aware of it, because, after all, apart from our political quarrels there is such a thing as the friendly feeling of one member for another, and if any man is going to the front as a soldier and to enter the trenches, as r-I understand Lieutenant Burchell is JI should like to participate in a valedictory gathering, even if he were my bitterest enemy.
– What is the honorable member talking about?
– I was informed last night that the reason for the absence of a quorum was that a send-off was being tendered to Lieutenant Burchell, and I am saying that I should like to have been present at the function:
– The function was over before the House was counted out.
– I am sorry if I have been .deceived. Whilst I do not agree with all that was said by the Assistant Minister for Defence this afternoon, I will admit that since he has been in office he has been most attentive to any cases that I have brought before him. I have not had to wait weeks and months to have a matter dealt with, as I have had to do when I have brought complaints before the notice of the Minister for Defence. The case of a fatherless child was delayed by Senator Pearce for seven weeks. I venture to say that if the complaint had come from one of the Government House “push” Senator Pearce would have, fallen over his shoes in his anxiety to give it immediate attention. The Assistant Minister, on the other hand, has always done his level best, and I think it was fortunate that I was able to bring cases under his personal notice. I am informed that in other States matters which cannot be brought under the Minister’s attention are not attended to as quickly as they are in Victoria.
I am credibly informed that possibly Australian cloth will be exported to England to be made into uniforms for Australian soldiers there. If that is done the Government will be robbing the women workers of employment to which they are justly entitled.
– I have not even heard such a suggestion made.
– The request will be made to the Minister, and I ask him to be on his guard. If that policy is allowed to be followed, at least a thousand womenfolk in Melbourne and surroundings may be thrown out of employment. No member of the House has had the
Same experience as I have had of unemployment troubles. I remember how in 1889 we boiled down three cartloads of -sheep’s heads for soup at the old Trades Hall, gave over- a quarter of a million meals, and provided 39,000 beds. I remember also the misery that occurred when our brave soldiers return’ed from South Africa with their hearts buoyed up with the promise that work would be found for them. To his eternal honour, Sir John Madden was man enough to say that that promise had not been kept. At that time I was a pro-Boer, but I never dreamed that England would act so magnificently as to give the conquered territories self-government, with the result that their sons are fighting with the British Army to-day. With all the experiences of the past in mind,, I have no wish to see in Australia another unem ployment difficulty. In a heavily taxed country the more fully the citizens are employed the better they are able to pay. the taxation. There are only 960,000 * householders in Australia, and upon them < will fall the brunt of the taxation. Therefore I hope the Assistant Minister will do his best to provide abundant em- .ployment, in our midst.
We have been told that the Government cannot get sufficient shipping accommodation. I should like to know what has become of the ships which the Government .purchased. , Was any commission paid on the purchase of those ships ? If so, who received it ? ‘Have the people of Australia been consulted in regard to that transaction ?
– Even the Ministry was not consulted.
– If the people had the power of recall, this House would be called upon to face the electors, and thereby we should get the only possible solution of the present political situation. The right honorable member for Parramatta is like great Caesar of old. Are npt honorable members familiar, with the passage in Shakspeare, -“ Upon what meat doth this our great Caesar feed, .that he is grown so great?” Betimes Mark Antony said -
You all did see that on the Lupercal -
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse.
The right honorable member has had the.
Crown offered to him a dozen times. The great Liberal party is apparently to be dragged into the mud, although, to be precise, there is only one genuine representative of that Liberal party remaining in this Parliament. The late Sir William Lyne and the honorable member for Gippsland were the last survivors.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has gone over to the Fusion party now.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Gippsland has attended any of the. Liberal party’s Caucus meetings. But what do the Liberals intend to do? Is it to be said of them that they -will welcome any person who leaves any other party ? According to the press, two political parties in this House have been endeavouring to strike a balance-five 1-lb.- weights on one side of the scales, and on the other side four smaller weights and two still smaller ones. One .party says, “ I want five pieces in the scale,” and the other party says, “ I want six.” Is it for actions of this kind that we are paid our salaries? The Prime Minister receives £48 a week, and a regulation has been made under the War Precautions Act that, if anybody wishes to prosecute the Prime Minister for money owing, he must swear that the debtor has the money with which to pay.- If the Prime Minister is receiving £48 per week, that fact ought to be accepted as proof that he has’ the money, unless the Judge should have his horsehair wig on the wrong side of his head, and be unable to see justice. ‘
In regard to the £750 profit which the Assistant Minister for Defence said could be made on the sale of certain canvas, will the honorable member say what sort of drop that is in the ocean of losses which have been made through dishonest dealings in the Department - £10,000 in one case in Victoria, and £66,000 in another case in New South Wales? All this money is allowed to go astray; but, if a little financial assistance is required for the unfortunate widow of a soldier, she must wait. The latest action of the Defence Department has been to make a regulation that the wife of a missing man is to receive his pay for only two months after her husband is reported missing; thereafter she may get a certain pension. . The , honorable member for Maranoa will remember that, on one occasion, I asked the Prime Minister to appoint that honorable member and another from this side to go into the Defence Department and ascertain whether the unfortunate dependants of soldiers could not be better looked after. The promise which the Prime Minister made on that occasion was never kept, and it was never intended to be kept. Amongst the notices of motions before the House are some that have been on the notice-paper for over two years. There are some legal lights on the Government side, and some of the greatest legal lights in Australia are on this side of the House, and they permit this sort of fool. ing, adjournment after adjournment, to continue day after day. Not even the questions on to-day’s notice-paper have been answered. There is one notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Franklin for the appointment of a Select Committee of seven, members to investigate and report upon the administration, of the DefenceDepartment. If that Committee is appointed, I .shall be only too willing to accept its inquiry, and will not have another word of criticism to offer.
– I think that we should have a quorum. - [Bells rung.]
– There not being a quorum present, the House, under our Standing Orders, must be adjourned until 2.30 p.m. on Thurs.day next, but before declaring the House adjourned I wish to refer to an incident that occurred last night.
– But 1 there is no quorum ; there is no House.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– I rise to a . point of order. I ask- How dare you speak?
– An honorable member cannot speak while the Speaker is on his feet.
– I move -
That the Deputy Speaker do leave the chair.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat ?
– I will not resume my seat.
– Resumeyour seat.
– I will not resume my seat, because you have no House.
– Order !
An Honorable Member. - I second themotion.
– It is moved and seconded “ That the Deputy Speaker do leave the chair.” All those in favour say “ Aye,” those against say “ No.” The “ Ayes “ have it.
– Order !’ Before adjourning the House until 2.301 o’clock p.m. on Thursday next, I namethe honorable member for Melbourne for disobeying the Chair. The House stand* adjourned.
House declared adjourned at 4.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170215_reps_6_81/>.