6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House- of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker took thechair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Report of the Public Works Committee on the extension of postal stores at Harbourstreet, Sydney, presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– Is the Minister re presenting the Minister for Defence yet’ in a position to state -whether the Government intends to form an additional railway unit ?
– The information with which I have been furnished is this : -
Four railway sections have embarked. The fifth section is being organized, and as far as canbe anticipated will absorb all suitable men who have volunteered at present, but more drivers, firemen, and fitters are required.
– On the 28th September last, when speaking about the publication in Brisbane of an election leaflet in my favour referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth, I said - the report of my remarks appears on page 9054 of the Hansard record for this session -
The document which the House has just ordered to be printed bears the signature of a German citizen of Brisbane.
I was then speaking of Mr. Edward Wetzel, of Arthur-street, Spring Hill, Brisbane, and made a misstatement to “which my attention has been draw, and which I very much regret, Mr. Wetzel, being not a German citizen, hut an Australianborn citizen. His father was a German, but he was horn in Australia, has spent all his life in this country, and has all his interests here. I ought to have kn own better, because I have known Mr. Wetzel for many years, and I regret that I inadvertently misstated his nationality. As what I said may have caused him some little difficulty, I make this explanation in the desire to relieve him in that respect, and to express my regret for the mistake.
– My attention has “been called to the following paragraph which appears in this morning’s Age. The communication purports to have been sent from Ballarat -
It is stated in political circles in Ballarat “that Mr. Manifold, M.P., of Camperdown, will probably not seek re-election as the representative of Corangamite, and that in the event of this being the case, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will be asked to contest the seat.
I have not been approached by the Prime Minister, nor hy any one else, with the request that I shall vacate my seat in any one’s favour, and it is my firm intention to go before the electors when the time comes.
– The honorable member for Nepean the other day ‘asked for some information regarding non-effective statements. I have been furnished with the following reply to his question -
A cable was recently sent to the Australian Imperial Forces Head-quarters, London, direct ing that every possible step be taken to expedite the rendering of non-effective statements of deceased and discharged soldiers, and the following reply was received: - “ Assure Minister nothing being left undone in that connexion. Importance realized. Position is up-to-date regarding non-effective statements, which mails on the way will disclose.”
– Is the Government in a position to make an announcement regarding the representation of farmers on the Wheat Board?
– The Prime Minister promised to recommend it.
– The Wheat Board is controlled by the State Governments, and the Prime Minister cannot do more than make recommendations to it.
Mr.Sampson. - Cannot he exert the necessary pressure?
– I know that if he can do anything to secure the representation of the wheat farmers, it will be done. He is most anxious for that.
– It was agreed to at the meeting of the Board on Thursday last.
– Then I do not know why there should be any delay. I shall inquire into the matter. The Government is most anxious that the farmers shall have representation on the Board.
– The honorable member for Nepean has asked whether a Select Committee will be appointed to inquire into matters connected with the administration of the- German concentration camp at Holdsworthy. The reply furnished to me is as follows: -
It is considered that a Select Committee to inquire into the system and conditions in vogue at the Holdsworthy Concentration Camp is unnecessary, as both of the matters mentioned are disciplinary, and can be dealt with by the responsible officers. As a matter of fact, certain charges on these matters were brought to the notice of the Minister, who at once despatched a senior officer from head-quarters, Melbourne, to make full inquiry and report. This report shows that there was gross exaggeration in the charges. Where certain matters were found defective, steps were at once taken to prevent repetition. The treatment of internees is based on rules and regulations laid down for the government of similar concentration camps in England.
– I have been informed that at Broadmeadows and other camps the privates have dinner at ten to 1 and the officers at 1.30, and that a lad doing clerical work for the officers is detained until 1.30 and then has to pay for his own dinner. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence ascertain if this is so, and, if the facts have been correctly reported> get the evil remedied ?
– If the honorable member will give me particulars of the case, I shall send to the Department at once for information concerning it.
Pensions - Final Leave
– In view of the fact that many returned soldiers do not thoroughly understand the rates of military pensions, will the Treasurer consider the advisability of having posted in a prominent place in all post offices a schedule of all war” pensions for privates?
– I am under the impression that the rates of the pensions are governed a good deal by circumstances. I shall be glad to do anything to facilitate the receipt of pensions by those entitled to them, but I ask the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence make inquiries into the position that has arisen in the Seymour camp, where a number of men from Queensland, some of whom have already seen two years’ service at the front, and are now returning to the firing line, have, been refused final leave to visit their relatives in Brisbane ? In some cases they have been refused local leave to see relatives who had come south to see them.
– It is possible that in these cases final leave was taken > before the men came south. If the honorable member will give me the question I will endeavour to supply him with an answer to-morrow.
– In the event of favorable consideration being given to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Brisbane regarding members of the forces, who are resident in Brisbane, getting final leave to visit their relatives and friends, will a similar privilege be extended to the residents of other States who are similarly situated ?
– It is impossible to lay down a general rule. A particular case has been given to me, and I have promised to inquire as to the facts, and inform the honorable member for Brisbanewhat are the rights of the soldiers.
– I could giveseveral cases.
– Many cases have been cited, and if the honorable member hasany others I shall have them placed before the authorities. I quite agree that there ought to be similarity of treatment.
– I desire tomake a correction on behalf of the PrimeMinister, who has sent me the following minute : -
With reference to my reply on the 23rd February to an inquiry by the honorable member for Wimmera as to the conditions under which. 1,000 carpenters are to be sent to Great Britain, I desire to add that the carpenters, being, skilled artisans, will proceed to England under a similar agreement to that which applies to munition workers. I find I incorrectly stated the position with regard to the dependants of the carpenters. That provision applies to tha navvies, but not to the carpenters, who, as. munition workers are, in the case of those married or are the sole support of mother or family, entitled to an allowance as follows : - For the first eight weeks after embarkation at the rate of 25s. per week, and 2s. 6d. per week for each child under the age of sixteen years, and thereafter 20s. per week and 2s. per week for each child under the age of sixteen years until the date of their landing on their returnto Australia.
– In view of the very serious statement made yesterday by thePrime Minister that two vessels had been sunk off the Australian coast, and tha wild rumours to which the statement has given rise, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister obtain the consent of the Prime Minister to make the factspublic, in order to set the public mind at rest? It is a. good deal worse to haverumours circulated when we know that there is an element of truth in them than to set the whole facts before the people.
– As to the fact itself I find that I inadvertently fell into- an error last evening when replying to the observations of the honorable member for Capricornia. I am reported in Hansard to have said -
I understand that the honorable member for Capricornia has been saying that the statement as to the sinking of troopships is an electioneering dodge.
– I spoke of stopping the sailing of troopships. I do not deny the sinking.
– May I tell the honorable member, in order to dispose of this myth at once, that the information came in a cable from the Admiralty to-day, and there is no doubt whatever about the fact.
The truth is that no troopships whatever have been sunk. I tried to make that clear in a statement I made to the press.
– Neither the Prime Minister nor you said that any troopships had been sunk.
– At any rate the fact is that no troopships have been sunk, nor have any lives been lost.
– Have any other ships been sunk?
– May I ask the honorable member to defer that question until to-morrow?
– I do not think it should be deferred.
– We are not entirely our own masters as to this information, and there are public reasons for not being precipitate in answering these questions. If the honorable member will repeat the question to-morrow, I will try to get him an answer. In the meantime I wish to make the fact perfectly clear that no troopships have been sunk and no lives have been lost.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister read in this morning’s Age a half column account of an investigation now in progress in Cape Town as to the mysterious sinking of a ship in the Indian Ocean? Is the sinking of that ship in any way confused with the information that has come to hand?
– I do not think there is any confusion or mix up at all. I think these matters are all related.
– Is it not a fact that the danger is not as bad near our coast as it is on the African side? The ships cannot complete their journey.
– These matters cannot be made public.
– Then why was publicity started by the- Prime Minister.
– I suppose for the same reason that these questions are being asked now all round the House - because the people are anxious regarding this matter. Perhaps I had better say little on the subject, but this much may be said with propriety, that the dangers of the situation are not less than they were. For the rest, honorable members will have to wait for such information as can be properly made public.
Receipts and Expenditure
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will have regulations prepared and gazetted under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act which will compel all registered unions to lodge annually, or half-yearly, certified audited returns of receipts and. expenditure, and showing specifically amounts distributed in sick, accident, out of work, and other relief to members, and amounts expended in administration and organization ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Prime Minister. Personally, I see no reason why this information should not be published.
– I desire to know what the Government are doing in respect to the appointment of an Administrator for the Northern Territory. We have been informed that Parliament will be prorogued in a fortnight, and the term of the present Administrator expires at the end of March. The House and the country ought to know the Government’s intentions in regard to the present Administrator, and the filling of the position.
– I think that the matter will be decided at a very early date. The Cabinet, have recently been devoting attention to the matter, which, of course, is one of paramount importance. I hope that a decision will be come to within a week.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for
Maranoa, I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether an appointment to the office of Administrator of the Northern Territory is about to be made by this moribund Government. If so, it is quite unusual. The Government is now appealing to the people, and has no right to make any permanent appointment until it has been determined whether it has the support of the people?
– I can assure the honorable member that all these considerations have been taken into account by the Government. The question is under consideration, and only pressure of Cabinet business prevented a conclusion being come to to-day. There is always a distinction between continuing an administration - that is to say, filling positions which become vacant in the ordinary course - and making an appointment to a new office.
– In considering the view nut before him by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - the view that this Government, being moribund, is constitutionally incapable of making any appointment - will the Minister for Home and Tprritories also take into consideration the fact that he was asked a onestion by the honorable member for Maranoa which seemed to imply the belief that, after the coming election, the honorable gentleman will still be in a position to make this appointment?
– I was absolutely unconscious of any relation of either distinction or extinction between the elections and myself, or, as Mr. Micawber would say, as to the prolongation of longevity. I have, I suppose, retained some of my pristine simplicity, and when I answered the honorable member for Maranoa I was so confident of the future or so unconscious of the fact that an election was to tnke place, that I spoke as if an appeal to the people was not to take place immediately.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that a regulation has recently been issued to the following effect : -
Officers of the Commonwealth Service who have served with the Australian Imperial Force are not entitled, after resuming civil -duty, to recreation leave in respect of the period of military duty with the Forces, nor for the year in which they resume duty.
Has the Government considered the penalizing effect of this regulation on members of the Service who have served their country in the Military Forces at the front, as compared with others who have not done so, but have remained at home ?
– The honorable member was good enough to intimate to me his intention to ask this question, and the following answer has been supplied to me: -
The question was raised as to whether officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who have resumed duty, after service with the Australian Imperial Force, should be granted recreation leave for the year in which they resumed duty. Consideration was given to the matter by Cabinet, and it was decided, on the recommendation of the Acting Public Service Commissioner, that annual leave would not be granted to such officers for the year in question. In arriving at this determination, it was borne in mind that it is customary to grant military leave to members of the Australian Imperial Force immediately prior to discharge.
I infer from the answer that the Public Service Commissioner is of opinion that these men had already had their leave before their actual discharge. If that be so, it seems to me that the further leave is not necessary.
– That is not very satisfactory to them.
– The question is whether the decision is fair and just - that is what we have to consider. If these officers have had their leave immediately prior to their discharge, it amounts to the same thing, I imagine, as if they got it after their discharge.
– They got the ordinary leave given to returned men.
– I do not know about that, but I shall inquire into the matter. If anything unfair is being done, I shall give the honorable member further information.
– In view of the fact that the elections may not take place until the middle of May, have the Government considered, and if not, will they consider, the question of appointing Mr. Fisher, the High Commissioner, and, if a second representative be required, Sir George Reid, to act on behalf of Australia?
– I can only say . that the work of the proposed Imperial Conference is such that no public servant, however highly placed, can be considered as adequately representative of Australia,
– In reference to the cable received yesterday from the British Admiralty, I should like to know whether all sailings from Australia to Great Britain are prohibited at the present time?
– That is so as regards troopships.
– But not ordinary sailings ?
– No; the cable applies only to troopships, and ordinary sailings will go on.
– Is the House likely to have an opportunity to consider the complete Government scheme for repatriation before we go to the country?
– That does not look promising at the moment. I heartily wish it were so, and I am hopeful that the Minister, who is busily engaged on the matter-
– Who is the Minister?
– Senator Millen, the Vice-President of the Executive Council. That gentleman has already given a good deal of time and labour to the question, and is still busily engaged in shaping a memorandum of the whole scheme, which will be submitted for the consideration of the Cabinet. I can only express the very earnest hope that the matter may be pushed to completion at the earliest possible moment. My colleague has been working very hard, and has been losing no time in dealing with the subject. He has interviewed a number of people, and, I believe, has sought the assistance -of the honorable member, amongst others, as I hope he will seek the aid of any honorable member “who can give him any suggestion regarding this very important matter.
Soldiers’ Votes - Revision of Rolls - Postal Vote
– I wish to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is the intention of the Government when taking a vote of the soldiers at the front and in England to allow the different parties to appoint scrutineers to supervise the voting ?
– Provision to that effect will be made. We shall give every opportunity for the scrutiny ; and the voting of the soldiers will be, as I believe the last ought to have been, above suspicion.
– This is a very important matter, and, by leave, I should like to say that the Government will welcome from the other side any suggestion that will secure the iona fides of the voting at the front. If my honorable friends of the Opposition have any proposition of the kind to make I am sure that the Minister in charge will welcome it.
– I said that every care would be taken to make the poll of soldiers at the front above suspicion, as I believed the last ought to have been. As that remark may give rise to some misapprehension, I wish to state, since the question of the referendum vote has been raised, that I have gone into the matter, and see no cause to doubt the absolute straightforwardness with which the whole of the voting at the front was conducted. To allay any possible anxiety on the point, provision is made so that the official Opposition, as well as Ministerialists, will have a representative at the scrutiny.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether there will be sufficient time after the nominations have been received to forward to Australian soldiers at the front and in England the names of the candidates? I. should like my name to be sent across.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member’s name was known to the universe. Apparently one cannot always judge by appearances. I can assure the honorable member that what he suggests will be done, and that all necessary information will be cabled forthwith.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories state if it is a fact that the Prime Minister issued instructions to the Chief Electoral Officer at the late referendum that no scrutineers were to be allowed to check the votes of the soldiers at the front?
– I have not heard that such instructions were issued. I have endeavoured to find out generally so far as time would permit what has been done, and I know the scrutiny was conducted with very great care in England. Several men who acted as scrutineers there were actually officers of the Electoral Department on service, and other reliable men were associated with them, so that everything should be scrupulously fair in appearance and fact.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories arrange that the ballot-boxes for the votes of soldiers in Europe shall be left in the hands of the civil authorities, and not in the hands of the military, when the ballot is being taken ? Will he place General Anderson, for instance, or some other well known man at the head of the business?
– I cannot promise to put the ballot-boxes entirely in the hands of the civil authorities, because it would be impossible to get the poll taken at the front in such a way as to enable the greatest number of men to vote, if that were done. The scrutiny was conducted on the last occasion at head-quarters at our London offices by the gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred. He was assisted by the electoral officers I mentioned before, and by several other prominent men in England.
– In view of the fact that many thousands of reputable people - aged, infirm, or sick - have been deprived of the right to exercise their franchise through inability to go to the polling booths, will the Minister for Home and Territories ask the Government to take steps before the general election to restore the postal vote to enable those people to record their votes?
– The matter is actually being considered at the present time. The only doubt is whether it will be possible to carry such an amendment of the Act in the time now available.
– I understand that in Victoria - and perhaps it is so in all the States - the letter-carriers have been engaged in the collection and the purifica tion of the rolls. They hand to the Returning Officer lists containing the names of new residents in their district, and also the names of those who have removed. Will the Minister for Home and Territories have those lists acted upon, and a notification sent to the persons whose names have been handed into the Returning Officers as having changed their address? That would be a more economical course than issuing summonses against these people for being off the roll.
– It has been the practice for some time to secure the assistance of postmen, and also, I think, the police, in checking the rolls.
– The work was never so effective as at present.
– It is being done now. Every month, with the assistance of the postmen, . changes which ought to be made in the rolls are noted by -the Department, and the necessary notice is given under the Act and regulations. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Act will be carefully administered, so as to insure that no elector shall lose his vote at the forthcoming election owing to any omission to include his name on the rolls.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether any definite course has been decided upon by the Government in regard to the Maltese now interned on a hulk in Sydney Harbor?
– No definite course has yet been decided upon. I hope something may be done very speedily.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether there has been any difficulty in making a permanent appointment to the position of postmaster at Gatton, Queensland ?
– There has been some difficulty. I furnished, quite recently, a full explanation in regard to it. The matter, however, is now nearing a solution.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government, prior to the elections, to appoint the Chairman of the Murray Waters Commission?
– I am nob aware of any such intention. The matter has not yet received the consideration of the Government. The honorable member will recollect that for the time being the Minister in charge of .the Department controlling this question is ex officio chairman of the Commission. So far as I know, there has been no proposal to depart from that rule.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Grey is reported in the Age this morning as having said yesterday -
Mr. Hannan had omitted to inform the House that on a memorable occasion in the Caucus he went with tears in his eyes to the Prime Minister and asked the Prime Minister to go to the executives and liberate him from a promise he had made.
I rose at the time to a point of order, and insisted on the withdrawal of the statement, which is absolutely incorrect. The occasion the honorable member refers to was the result of a rather lengthy debate, and every member present then will give me credit for having acted from the inception to the end of the debate in accordance with the attitude I had adopted on the floor of this House. I opposed the proposal for a referendum on the conscription question, and I opposed the enactment of conscription by direct legislation, both inside and outside the House, and particularly on the occasion referred to by the honorable member for Grey. I am .prepared to admit that a member of our party did propose bo the Prime Minister that he should approach the executives, and that in speaking on the question I told the Prime Minister exactly what I felt - that I had no objection to him going to the executives.
– You asked him to go.
Opposition Members. - No, he did not.
– I said that it would not affect my position personally, because I would not alter the attitude which I had adopted. I also said to the Prime Minister, as the honorable member for Grey will admit if he takes his mind back -
So far as this question is concerned, you have treated the Labour movement with contempt. This is the first occasion on which you are going to appeal to the country without having the confidence and support of that movement behind you, and you will find out, when you come back from the country, that without their co-operation and support you have been defeated.
Those are the exact words I used that evening, and my prediction has been borne out by the result.
– There is a bird in Gippsland with a name that will suit you.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state if it is a fact that Mr. Baddeley, the president of the Miners Union in New South Wales, and Senator Watson approached him to secure a further contract for Seaham and West Wallsend coal when, as a matter of fact, the present contract for 150,000 tons has not been consumed, and is not likely to be for some months?
– I do not know where the honorable member has obtained the information, but it is a fact that Senator Watson, the honorable member for Hunter, and Mr. Baddeley saw me last week and put his case. They said some of the mines there were working very poorly - about three days per fortnight - and asked if it were possible to place any contracts with those collieries so as to relieve the undoubted distress existing. I promised to inquire, and found that we had already entered into contracts for supplies for the year much exceeding our probable requirements. In the circumstances, I expressed to them my regret that I could not help them to relieve that distress.
– Did not the deputation mentioned by the honorable member for Henty point out to the Minister for the Navy that, in consequence of the coal trade of the port being interfered with by the war, the miners employed at the Borehole Colliery were working intermittently, and ask if it were possible to take such coal as was required for Government purposes from the Borehole seam? The Minister asked which mines were the worst off, and it was pointed out to him that the Wallsend and Seaham were the worst off in the Newcastle district. I ask for a reply to the question, because there is something underlying it.
– The honorable member has correctly stated the facts. When men are out of work, any avenue which promises employment should be looked to. My only regret was that the conditions of our present coal contracts prevented me from doing what was desired.
– I have received several urgent telegrams from Rockhampton, asking whether the Prime Minister will receive a deputation which wishes to place before him its views regarding the appraisement of wool. I understand that at the present time there are four deputations from the other States waiting to see the Prime Minister, and I wish to know from the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether ‘he will arrange that the Rockhampton deputation, when it comes to Melbourne, shall be heard?
– Are the members of the deputation in Melbourne now?
– I have received a telegram from the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, saying that they have arranged to leave to-morrow.
– Would it not be well for the honorable member to ask the members of this deputation not to start until he has received the reply to his questions, which the Government is shaping for him. Should they then still feel that they ought to come, they will be heard by a Minister. If the Prime Minister cannot hear them, I shall endeavour to do so.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the reply that is coming from the Wool Board will cover the position of Newcastle?
– I shall be unable to say until that reply has been received.
– In view of the general dislike of the way in which the last voting was done at the front, will the Minister for Home and Territories insist upon all the ballot-papers being sent to Australia, to be distributed according to electoral divisions and subdivisions by an officer competent for the work ? . The honorable member could appoint one man in Melbourne who could do this.
– 1 think that what the honorable member suggests would take too long, but he need not fear that the scrutiny will not be strict and proper. The voting at the front is not. to be confined to those whose names are on the electoral roll, but is to be done by all on active service and over the age of twenty-one. Therefore the roll prepared here is not that which will be used.
– The difficulty lies in distributing the votes according to the electoral divisions.
– Provision is to be made for that, and a method of voting is proposed that will shorten matters. When the Bill is presented, it will be seen that it provides for the allotment of votes to the various divisions. We are only too anxious to obtain suggestions from honorable members opposite in regard to this matter, because we desire to remove all possibility of suspicion.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Prime Minister if the Government will provide that the Chief Electoral Officer shall not be subservient to the Minister presiding over his Department, but shall be in a position similar to that of a Judge, so that he may be able to act independently?
– I have always understood that the Chief Electoral Officer is in an independent position, so far as the performance of his duties is concerned. The further you can remove electoral administration from the possibility of political manipulation by any party, the better for all concerned.
– Surely you would not make the Chief Electoral Officer superior to his Minister ?
– I do not see how he could be that. The essential thing is that no Minister shall interfere with him in the carrying out of his ordinary duties.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with the appraisement of sheepskins, he is prepared to recommend the appointment to the Board of Appraisers of a member of the non-associated houses ?
– It is not proposed to appoint a Board of Appraisers, but there will be a tribunal of three appraisers, of whom one can be a representative of a non-associated house.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether Major Smeaton, Chief Censor for South Australia, is being paid a salary as an officer of the Intelligence Department in addition to his salary as Censor ; and, if so, how much f
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he state the names of the contractors who supplied meat and bullocks’ liver for the transports from 1st January, 1916, to 31st December, 1916?
– The following firms have supplied meat and bullocks’ livers to transports from 1st January, 1916, to 31st December, 1916, at the port of Melbourne: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Certain preliminary works of a preparatory character have been approved by them as proper to be proceeded with at once, and this is being arranged for.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will have a searching investigation made into the financial operations of the British Imperial Oil Company, with a view to discovering if the losses disclosed in their balance-sheets were legitimate, or if they were brought about through its method of doing business with other companies with which it is allied or which hold a preponderance of its shares, and if such methods of business have resulted in any evasion of the obligation of the company to contribute to the Commonwealth revenues through the income tax?
– No information has. reached the Treasury in regard to this matter. I shall be obliged if the honorable member will give me any information he is in possession of that will assist in making inquiries.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the ruinous effect to orchardists that would result from the prohibition of imports of fruit into Great Britain, he will bring this aspect of the situation before the Imperial authorities, and endeavour to obtain permission for the export of at least a moderate quantity of Tasmanian apples?
– Strong representations have already been made to the Imperial Government in regard to the question of the export of apples.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 47.
Customs Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 40. Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 46.
Defence Act. - Regulations - Financial and Allowance - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 31.
War Precautions Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 17, 19.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumed from 6th March (vide page 11046) of motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a sum not exceeding Three million seven hundred and ninety-eight thousand six hundred and fifty-two pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1917.
.Last night the honorable member for Grey referred to us on this side as having no love for the Homeland, and I shall, therefore, quote for his edification remarks that I .made in this chamber on the 28th August, 1912, when I tried to induce the House to agree to a method of transferring the State debts to the Commonwealth. I proposed to ask the money princes of Great Britain to advance the capital necessary for the scheme, and I showed that Great Britain would, under it, receive from Australia a gift of at least £20,000,000. As a matter of fact, had the scheme been adopted, it would have released over £50,000,000, which could have been used to build a fleet of ironclads to protect the highways by which the food supplies of that country travel - chiefly from Australia. I then said -
I should he glad if they would look at it as a suggestion coming from one born in Australia, and loving his native land, with the blood from an English mother coursing through his veins, and desirous of giving to the country that gave his mother birth the best of his help, so far as voice, vote, or hand can do it.
I remarked that were the highways along which her food is transported blocked, Great Britain would have food sufficient for only six weeks. Her food supplies I regret to say, are being greatly interfered with at the present time. To continue my quotation -
Although I, being over age, could not take a weapon and fight, everything I had would be handed into the war fund, for the maintenance of our flag and race.
– 5 do not think that the honorable member could be kept back in our case.
– I would give everything I had.
– The honorable member would go to the front himself.
– Yes, if I could do the slightest good there; but when a man is approaching sixty, his time for active service is nearly closed.
Those remarks were made before the honorable member for Grey had ever spoken from a platform in favour of conscription. I was over sixty years of age when I offered my services to the country, and hold a badge which proves that I offered them. The honorable member, as exTreasurer, knows that for the little money that I was able to put into war bonds I have not received a penny piece in interest. If I had £50,000, I would invest it in the loan, and would not take a penny in interest.
– I know you returned the interest while I was in office.
– And before that, too. I have a love for England second only to my love for Australia. I hate and loathe the franchise which deprives the Englishman of his vote, and places women on a level with criminals and lunatics, but I love the people from whom my mother sprang. I should like to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.] If we were wisely governed, as Switzerland is, £1,000 would have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund last Thursday in fines imposed on members who were not in their places in this House while business was being transacted. Our quorum is only twenty-five m a House of seventy-five. A complete majority of members is required to form a quorum in most European Parliaments. In my opinion, the forthcoming election will be fought on three great questions. The first will be a protective Tariff so that Australia may be able to manufacture all its requirements. After protecting Australian products we should show our kindly feelings for the Mother Country, by which I mean the four Kingdoms. After that, we should give a preference to our Allies, then to the neutrals, and finally we should have a prohibition to the hilt against enemy countries. Such a Tariff would, I feel sure, give an opportunity to our Australian industries. In Great Britain the Government hae seized various factories, and is to-day manufacturing all kinds of goods. I do not know of a single factory that has been started by the Australian Government, although we are pouring out our millions like water, and rightly so.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– A protective policy such as I have indicated will, I think, be a burning question on the hustings. The second great issue will be the referendum, initiative, and recall. When the people of Australia have the right of recall, they will not allow a Government that i3 in its dying days to make appointments carrying with them salaries up to £2,500 a year. I have not met a Liberal of my acquaintance . who believes that the present Government will be returned to office. If the people had the right of recall, they would recall every man appointed by the present Government recently. It is an infamy to give these positions for five years at salaries from £2,500 downwards for possibly a political purpose, or for reasons that they dare not disclose. On the eve of going to the country, I tell the House that I am prepared to contest my constituency with any honorable member of the Ministry, or to go to Sydney if the Prime Minister will show his face in that city. It is an infamy that these appointments should be made by a dying Government. Another burning question will be our love of Australia. I do not think the people will permit the Government to override the freest, highest, and greatest constitution in any part of the English-speaking world. Such a proposal is infamous, whether it comes from an Australian-born like Sir John Forrest, or from an Australian by adoption like one of the other proposed plenipotentiaries, who came from a country that has not yet given manhood a vote. Neither in England, Scotland, nor Wales is a man given a vote because he is a man. He must own or rent property. It is recorded in Hansard that even Mr. Asquith had his name crossed off the voting list because he lived in a house owned by his wife, and had not arranged to become a lodger. England, with a population of 45,000,000, has only 8,000,000 voters, whilst Australia, with only 4,800,000 people, has 2,800,000 voters. England, with over nine times our ‘ population, has not three times as many voters as Australia. In regard to voluntary enlistment, I give place to no man in my advocacy of that system.. In company with Mr. Billson and Mr. Solly, I have spoken on platform after platform. The Chairman of the Victorian Recruiting Committee (Mr. Wise), and the DirectorGeneral have honoured me by adopting my suggestion to utilize moving pictures to assist the recruiting movement. I will tell honorable members some of the things that are stopping voluntary enlistment. One of the hindrances to recruiting was the asinine act of Senator Pearce in discharging upwards of 2,000 soldiers in New South Wales because of a small riot in Sydney. General McCay went to Liverpool Camp and increased the hours of drill, and reduced the leave. The men made a little trouble in Sydney, and the high and mighty Minister for Defence discharged them. Granting that they were wrong in making a disturbance, why were they not placed on board transports and sent to the front, and if they did damage to the property of Sydney citizens, why was not that damage paid for by deductions from the pay of the rioters? Instead of that action being taken, Senator Pearce said, “ Leave the Army; you are not fit to fight.” Some of those men who were unjustly discharged - for the Minister discharged the innocent as well as the guilty - have gone to the front under assumed names, and are amongst the finest men that ever left our shores. Another thing which did injury to the voluntary system was the infamous lie about Lieutenant Jacka, who holds a higher honour than any man in the British Army, an honour higher than was held even by the late Lord Kitchener and the late Lord Roberts. It is true that Lord Roberts held the V.C., but as he had not won it twice, he had not the right to wear a bar as well as the cross. The father of Jacka took the platform against conscription. His three boys had gone to the, front, and he desired them to return to Australia free men. A letter purporting to be from Jacka to a man in the township in which Jacka’s father . lives was published, and in it Jacka was alleged to favour conscription. Jacka senior made a sworn declaration that there was no man of that name in the town, and that he believed his boy still held the opinion which he had expressed in his earlier letters. Was that denial permitted to be published in the newspapers? No; the cursed censorship intervened.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed /
– Though Lieutenant Jacka’s father rendered himself liable to’ be charged with perjury if he was stating an untruth, the Government did not permit his sworn declaration to be published in the press; but it was distributed in leaflets. Another circumstance that has militated against recruiting is the treatment of women and children whose male relatives are at the front. Did any one hear of any delay in paying the £4,500 that Parliament voted to Lady Bridges? I do not care if she got £10,000, poor soul. She was a widow of the war; but I have more pity for a woman with four or five children, who has lost her husband, than I have for any one connected with the Government House “ push.” This widow came from Government House, and the money was poured out like water, whereas in cases where little children are concerned, weeks go over without their getting a penny. Every member who has supported the retention of black labour in
Australia, and the only genuine. Free Trader we have, the honorable member for Lang, are now on the Government side of the House, together with all the Conservatives who would not give women the vote.
– I gave women the vote in my State.
– I am not accusing the Treasurer in this instance, and I hope, . he is proud of the action he then took. All who have hitherto voted against equal pay for equal work are on the benches opposite, and ofthe old Liberals there is only one remaining now in the person of the honorable member for Gippsland, though of the company he is keeping the least said the better. The other day, when another matter was under discussion, honorable members opposite felt that they had two men “ in the bag.” In Elizabeth-street, of this city, I met a man who holds a very important position in the State, and when he expressed regret at the illness of Senator Long and Senator Guy, I said that these gentlemen would be able to get pairs. -In this House, where the Government have a majority, pairs can be obtained by the Opposition, but not in another place, however ill a man may be. This man said to me, “ They have two men ‘ in the bag,’ “ and I replied, “ It is a damned lie, and I do not believe it.” I am sorry to say, however, that my confidence was ill-founded. I now repeat what I said the other day, and what I shall say on every platform, that, though I regarded Senator Ready as almost a son, who had a bright future in front of him, with possible Ministerial honours, I would rather see him dead in his coffin than in the degraded and disgraceful position he occupies to-day. I saw the late Sir Frederick Holder fall dead in this chamber, and I was here when . that great fighter, Mr. Roberts, who latterly never rose without danger to his life, fell dead at the foot of the statue in Queen’s Hall; and I am sure that both of these men would have scorned the idea of resigning to make room for a political opponent. The conscience of Senator Ready will plague him as long as he lives; and, certainly, never in my twentyseven years of parliamentary experience have I come across a similiar instance. As Senator Ferricks justly said at one of the mightiest meetings ever held in the Melbourne Town Hall, it was just as though Admiral Jellicoe, if he intended to resign, had informed von Tirpitz or the Kaiser before telling his own Government. Good-bye, Senator Ready! You are dead politically, I believe, for all time, for I have never known a man arise again after such action ! Then, on the question of the food supply, I say that the Minister for the Navy is screening one of the richest men in Melbourne by not allowing his name to be held up to infamy - a man who supplied to the Forces livers impregnated with hydatids and fluke, all for the sake of the cursed lucre. What does it matter if he has half-a-million of money, if he makes that money by supplying such food, and is screened by this Government?’ The late Minister for the Navy was man enough to say in the House that he would give the name of this scoundrel, but the present Minister cannot see his way to do that, urging that it is nine months since the offence was committed.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa, I believe, is the only member of the Repatriation Committee now in the chamber, and I hope that he will convey to his co-trustees the remarks I am about to make. Last week I addressed to the Acting Prime Minister a question in reference to the treatment of the relatives of fallen soldiers who did not come within the scope of the War Pensions Act. I pointed out that there were many such cases, some of them very distressing, and asked from what particular fund they could be relieved. The reply furnished by the Minister for the Navy was that he thought such cases should be dealt with by the Repatriation Fund trustees.
– The State War Council makes recommendations to the trustees of the Repatriation Fund.
– I am glad to have that information. The Treasurer, in his Financial Statement last night, set out that the Repatriation Fund trustees had been handed a total of £325,000, including £250,000 paid out of the Commonwealth revenue for the financial year 1915-16, and that their expenditure up to the 31st January last was £21,000, leaving a credit balance of £304,000. With all this money in hand the trustees
– How is it possible to bring her under the repatriation scheme ?
– I am citing this case-
– I can tell the honorable member how he may get relief for the young woman. The Treasurer may grant her a compassionate allowance.
– Has he the power?
– Yes; he has granted such allowances.
– Why did not the honorable member write to the Treasurer about the matter, instead of bringing it up here? He wanted the advertisement.
– I do not think that any one would seek an advertisement in a case of this kind.
– I do not know so much about that.
– If the honorable member were sympathetic he would not interject as he has done.
– I am sympathetic. I had a similar case, but instead of bothering the House with it I went to the Treasury, and found out’ what could be done.
– There are many cases of this kind, and opponents of the recruiting movement are making use of them. People will talk, and I do not blame. them for halting before they urge men to go’ to the front when they hear of cases like this.
– That is not a fair way of putting the position.
– The view I take is that as soon as a case of this kind comes to the knowledge of the War Pensions authorities in the Treasury Department relief should be granted. Why should the relatives of a man killed at the fronthave to invoke the assistance of a member of Parliament in pleading for help when the facts are already known to a Department of the Commonwealth Government, and should be sent on as a matter of course by the War Pensions authorities in the Treasury, or the proper quarter, for consideration and help ? There should be a ready, expeditious means of dealing with such cases. The Minister representing the Prime Minister agreed that relief should be granted in this instance, and I hope that it will be speedily forthcoming. I would prefer to make the mistake of paying money to many undeserving persons rather than miss doing justice in a deserving case of this kind.
The Treasurer said last night that the expenditure of the Commonwealth was going ahead by leaps and bounds, end that he was puzzled to know how these liabilities were to be met as they arose. I had the temerity to ask “ if the Treasurer is not going to tell the Committee how he proposes to meet these liabilities, will the Government set out -in their policy speech, when they go to the country. the course they intend to pursue?” The right honorable gentleman answered in the negative, and seemed to be offended at my question. Our liabilities are mounting up, and if the Treasurer has no proposal for meeting them to put before Parliament, he is not acting up to his duty as the purse-holder for the Commonwealth. If the Government are not going to inform the taxpayers of their proposals for financing the country, that in itself should justify the electors in turning them down. Before this Bill is passed, we should be informed of the intentions of the Government in this regard. Are they going to try to dodge their responsibilities until the turmoil of the elections is over, and then, if returned to power, increase the burdens -n the already overburdened taxpayers ? Are they going to propose a tax on tea and a tax on kerosene ? They would not dare to suggest such a taxation before the elections.
– They are not going to propose any such thing.
Mr.FENTON. - If the Government will keep the Committee and the country in the dark as to their intentions, I am quite justified in attributing to them some ulterior motive.
– The honorable member’s statement is quite inaccurate.
– In the absence of information from the Government, Iam entitled to make these conjectures.
– There is no thought of taxing tea or kerosene.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs, after all, is only one member of the Cabinet, and his section of the Coalition is in a minority. The right honorable member for Parramatta said, while in Opposition, “ There are worse things than a tax on tea.”
– You can take it from me that there will be no tax on tea and kerosene.
– The honorable member is only one of the rank and file, and that kind of thing is decided in Cabinet, where the members he helped to put there are in a majority, and many of them are not particular about overloading the poor taxpayer.
It may be somewhat heterodox to express this opinion, but I do not think it will lead to international complications with our Allies if I say that I would absolutely prohibit the importation from any other country of articles that we can produce and manufacture in Australia for our own requirements.
– Then what about tea?
– Will the honorable member say that we at present produce tea. in Australia? I would not even exempt the Mother Land or New Zealand from that prohibition. We should put all other countries on the same plane with regard to anything that we can produce or manufacture. The Prime Minister the other day told a deputation, in order to soothe their troubled feelings, that somehow, under the War Precautions Regulations, or by some other means, he could stop certain importations as far as luxuries are concerned. In the absence of the Prime Minister, I appeal to the Treasurer, if anything like that is to be done, to have it done by Act of Parliament. Let us enumerate in a schedule all the goods that can be produced and manufactured here, and refuse to allow a single item in that list to be imported. The honorable member for Barker will agree with me that that will mean giving employment to thousands and thousands of our people, spending our own money among ourselves, and enabling Australia to become selfcontained. We are blest with, one of the grandest countries, and if Germany took charge of Australia to develop it, she could, with her organization, in twentyyears make it one of the richest.
– It is the richest now.
– But it needs developing. There is untold wealth at our very feet. The country is overflowing with raw material, which we are sending away by the shipload to be made into the finished article - a disgrace to every Australian; and I accept my portion of the responsibility for it. The Minister for Trade and Customs who came into Parliament with me in 1910 knows that I can never be charged with having failed on any occasion to do what I could to advance Australian industries; either at party meetings or in this House. Immediately the war ends, Great Britain’s munitions machinery will be turned into industrial channels, and France and Russia will do the same; but what are we doing in this delightful, much-blessed country? We have a Bureau of Science.
– And we are running into debt.
– Yes, magnificently. What is the Bureau of Science doing ?
– You were years in office, and what have you done?
– I was only one of the party. The honorable member knows that one is often overruled by the majority. He has five comrades of the same political kidney as himself in the Cabinet, and they can do what they like, especially with the backing that they have in their party meetings; so that I cannot be blamed for being a little suspicious about what the Government may do if they scrape through the election.
The Commonwealth Government practically has control of the sugar industry, especially in regard to the importation and sale of sugar; and -I would remind the Treasurer - who, no doubt, has not yet had the matter closely under his attention - that a large number of people in this country are not allowed the same privileges under the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s agreements as others are. I mentioned, by way of a question the other night, that the country storekeepers and others formed an organization of their own to. supply their own requirements, including sugar. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, under their old arrangements, had their own particular curled darlings, who were allowed 6 per cent, rebate on sugar sold. This newer organization was formed, and sold from £80,000 to £100,000 worth of sugar to its clients during. the year; but when they asked for the same rebate as is allowed to other customers of the company it was refused to them by the company, and also by the Commonwealth Government, which has control of the company’s operations just now. Will the Government either abolish rebates altogether or put all purchasers of sugar over a certain amount on the same basis ? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company to-day, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Government, are making as much money as ever they made, and, according to the statement of the. ex-Treasurer last night, they were prepared even to put their hands into the Commonwealth Treasury to the tun© of another £60,000 or £70,000, and would have done so if the exTreasurer had not detected some flaw in the new agreement. If the Treasurer has not direct control over this matter, will he convey my remarks to the Minister who has charge of the business ? It is not fair that all traders should not he placed on an equal basis. No right-thinking Government should allow the existence of privileged individuals in the community who will operate favorably to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
There are in the Supply Bill some items which the Treasurer’ might well have touched on. Some of these I note with pleasure. Why is it estimated that a less reurn will be received during 1916-17 “from the land tax than in 1915-16 ? Is it owing to, the large estates being split up, and a consequent reduction in the taxable area ?
– That was the object your party had in view when the Act was brought in. Your forecast was that the revenue under it would become less and less.
– I hope it is so. We argued at the time that the Act would not only be a revenue-producing instrument, but would also have the effect of splitting up large estates.
– Besides that, a decision of the High Court on some point has reduced the revenue somewhat.
– Unfortunately, the High Court always seems somehow- to come to the rescue of the rich man. Was there also a reduction caused by the breaking up of large estates?
– Perhaps so, a little ; but it has not been so much as was expected.
– I notice that the Treasurer expects an increase of nearly £500,000 this year from income tax as compared with last.
– I suppose that is due to the 25 per cent, increase of tax.
– Is 25 per cent, extra all the Treasurer is getting out of iti I should have been glad to pay only 25 per cent, increase on my last year’s tax. I was down there to-day, and I thought the Commissioner charged me 150 per cent, more. They have a peculiar method of calculation down there, and I parted with a cheque three or four times bigger than I expected. However, I do not regret it, because I know the money is required, and I am glad to pay if I am in a position to do so, even though an election is hanging over our heads, and those’ fortunate enough to get hack will have to miss at least five weeks’ pay.
I was also pleased to notice the increasing revenue from detained enemy vessels. This proves that we are making use of them, and that they are earning money for tie Treasury. Whereas we had a revenue last . financial year from this source of £646,000, it is anticipated that we shall receive £1,000,000 this year.
– There is an expenditure on the other side.
– I admit that the expenditure will increase in proportion, but still the revenue is increasing.
I have no wish to indulge in the recriminatory language of which we have heard so much lately. Much has been said in this chamber that might well have been left unsaid. Unfortunately, a leading actor in these scenes has been the Prime Minister himself. He is in possession of a most varied and vitriolic vocabulary, and has lashed out with it with that nimble tongue of his. Whilst asking on the one hand for peace, quietness, calm deliberation, and thought, he unfortunately fires himself off in this chamber- like a veritable volcano, vomiting forth those harsh statements that have such a cruel effect upon the soft hearts of honorable members sitting on this side. I hope and trust that some of his quieter and calmer colleagues will try, in a hearttoheart talk, to calm down his troubled feelings, and induce him to indulge in much less recriminatory language than in the past. Honorable members opposite have frequently stated that we on this side are the bond slaves of leagues and executives outside. They suggest that these bodies hold up their hands, and we simply do as they dictate. The air is full of intrigue and ugly rumours. One of the facts standing out very clearly, especially on the eve of a general election, is that thora has been a split of parties and much bargaining for office. Large sums of money are being mentioned. A few months ago, when Mr. Holman and those associated with him were anxious to obtain the help of the Labour leagues in New South Wales, Mr. Holman was so offended on one occasion that he actually resigned his position, and, for twenty-four hours, the present Leader of the Labour party in that State was appointed leader. I understand that there have’ been communications with the Colonial Office in regard to that resignation, and some disputes with the State Governor. One thing that happened during that time of turmoil was this : Two Ministers waited on a number of others associated with the Labour movement, and one of the many suggestions made by these Ministers was, “For goodness sake, as leagues and executives, don’t push us too far at the present time. We are not far off a State election, and we Understand that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other organizations have provided an election fund of not less than £100.000 to fight the Labour party.” That statement can be verified by a number of witnesses in whose presence it was made. As an individual member of the Labour party, I would much rather take instructions from or listen to advice given by Labour leagues and executives than be the tool and vassal of rich men behind the scenes. Does any one believe that the Labour organizations are the only bodies operating in regard to political matters f I could quote denunciations by the Prime Minister himself of trusts and combines at the back of the Liberal party. From his place as Attorney-General in the Fisher
Government, he smote them hip and thigh, and told the country that we were not safe in the hands of those people, He mentioned thirty or forty different industries absolutely under the control of a few individuals, who were manipulating them to their own gain and to the sacrifice of the people. Those same people to-day are providing funds to fight - the elections against the Labour party. Into whose coffers will those funds gol From the press gallery of this chamber at least one man has been taken at a good salary for a three years’ engagement. Who is finding the money? The trusts, the squatters, and the big land-owners. They know that; if the Labour party were to get back to power, they would be called on to pay the taxes, instead of the poor people being forced to keep the country going. During the war the poor have responded magnificently in blood and in boodle. I would rather take the advice of a Labour executive or Labour league than be the tool and vassal of the rich men who are pulling the strings which make some honorable members here behave like jumpingjacks, and dance to their tune. I would rather be controlled by Labour committees of working men and- working women than fawn at the feet of Mammon. I have referred to the charges levelled by the Prime Minister against those with whom he is now associated. Does he deny now that their election funds axe contributed to by the trusts and combines? This election will be fought with the money thus contributed. If I have an opportunity to appeal to my constituency - and none of us knows exactly whether he will be able to seek the suffrages of the electors - I shall make my voice heard regarding this matter. The trusts and combines are not on our side. In the lobbies of late, I have seen faces that I have rarely seen since I have been a member. “ Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” We on this side are not being supported by the rich, the trusts, and the combines. We are out against them, and they know it. If we could get an amendment of the Constitution, we should try to deal with them as they ought to be dealt with. But, after some of the decisions of the High Court, I question whether our legislation would be wholly effective. I would therefore go further, and, to make this a truly National Parliament, I would put into the melting-pot all the Federal and
State Constitutions, and frame a new Constitution, under which there would be a National Parliament, to deal with the best and vital interests of the people. Some persons might call such an arrangement by what they consider the ugly name of Unification. I would not, however, entirely deprive the States of local government. I would give them magnified municipal councils, transferring the more important departments of government to the control of the National Parliament, which I would make supreme. Those on this side will not do the slimy work of the trusts and combines. We do not want their money, because it is tainted. It has never, and will never, come our way. Into whose pockets does it flow ? For whom are trusts and combines organizing? Are they not organizing against the Labour party? During the forthcoming campaign, we on this side will not need to find language with which to expose their designs; we shall have the manifestos and the speeches of William Morris Hughes, the present Prime Minister, with which to condemn him and those behind him, and these should win us the election.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong says that he has it on good authority that intriguing is going on in New South Wales in connexion with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Probably that statement is on a par with many that come from the other side of the chamber, and based purely on imagination. Certainly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not likely to provide money for the support of members like myself or those with whom I am associated; we shall have to find for ourselves what may be needed. I do not think that, in the past, anything such as he has suggested has been done, nor do I consider it likely that it will be done in the future. The honorable member spoke of seeing strange faces in the lobbies. It would be a relief if the faces to be seen in the Queen’s Hall could be changed, because of late it has been difficult for members to move through that apartment; it has been so full of officials and emissaries from the Trades Hall who come here to instruct and watch the members of the Official Labour party. If one-hundredth part of what goes on in our lobbies - I refer to the attempts of these persons to interfere with the actions of members - were to occur within the pre cincts of the House of Commons, those concerned would soon find themselves in gaol. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has announced that he is quite prepared to be the lackey of the Trades Hall, and of the Labour leagues, and, of course, if the electors of Maribyrnong prefer as their representative a lackey to a free man, he will be returned. But I doubt that the people generally desire such representation. He pretends that the only alternative to being a lackey is to be the slave of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other combines. I do not think that such organizations are exercising influence on this or any other Parliament in the Empire. If there has been any interference at all, it has been only in isolated cases. I rose chiefly to protest against the action of honorable members in airing here grievances which should be brought directly under the notice of the Defence Department, and remedied. Honorable members opposite, however, desire not so much to remedy grievances as to get their statements published in the Age, so that the limelight may be thrown on their doings, and the people may give them credit for their energy. Their desire, moreover, is to retard recruiting. There is hardly an honorable member on that side who has not spoken regarding the war with his tongue in his cheek. They have tried to make recruiting unpopular. I have had some hard cases to deal with, but I have never brought them before the House. I consider it my duty to help the Defence authorities, and, therefore, I have gone, ‘ not to the Minister, but to the proper officials. Any honorable member who attends properly to his parliamentary duties knows where to go to get grievances remedied. Honorable members opposite, however, desire to air their eloquence by way of advertisement. They try to make it appear that the Defence authorities do not wish to be just and fair to the dependants of our soldiers, though they know that the contrary is true. I do notsay that mistakes are never made by the Department - it would be impossible to avoid them, and there must be delays occasionally - but those who have grievances are responsible if they allow serious delays to take place. I know that the cases in which I have been interested have not been hung up by the Defence Department. However, the Government is anxious to get on with business, and I shall have another opportunity to show that it is part of the programme of honorable members opposite to do all that they can to retard the war, and to assist the Germans.
– I congratulate the Treasurer upon the quantity of information that he has given to the Committee, although there is much that he has omitted to give. He is not a man who is afraid of giving information, which is the fault of most Ministers. They adopt a tango-dancing method of secrecy in corners, and bring about wars because they are not open with the people. I have gone through the Treasurer’s statement as carefully as I. could. We have arrived at a stage when we must stop and think regarding the financial position of Australia, From the Treasurer’s statement I find that it is estimated that the war loan expenditure for the current year 1916-17, including our liability to the British Government for the maintenance of Australian troops abroad, will be £80,000,000. War loan funds in hand on the 1st January, 1917, amounted to £31,000,000. From the fourth issue of the war loan the Treasurer has received £18,250,000. The amount of loan money required, in addition to present flotations, in order to finance the war expenditure to the 31st December, 1917, is £30,750,000, roughly £31,000,000. The annual interest on £31,000,000 at 4½ per cent., exclusive of a sinking fund, is £1,395,000, say, £1,400,000. We cannot discuss Commonwealth finance unless we include the operations of’ the various States and the municipalities. We make a great mistake in attempting to consider our Commonwealth finance operations apart from those of the States and municipalities. We must get the taxes out of the same workers, the same . producers, and the same consumers. Assuming that the State indebtedness increases from £357,808,000, as it was on the 30th June, 1916, to £370,000,000 on the 31st December, 1917, and the municipal debt at the latter date is £18,000,000, the total public debt of Australia then may be estimated as follows: -
The total private property of the Commonwealth is valued at £1,000,000,000. That does not include the utilities of government.
– What do public and private debts amount to ?
– I am not touching private debts at all. The £1,000,000,000 represents the private property, of the people.
– Is it unencumbered?
– No. I suppose private and corporation mortgages would represent £300,000,000, but I am not taking them into consideration. I am talking only of the public debt. I deduct for the transferred properties, and the loans contracted by the Commonwealth for the States, £15,000,000. Though the Commonwealth has taken over the transferred properties, they do not belong to us as an asset; they are still in the debt books of the States. . Therefore, I have deducted £15,000,000 on that account, and that leaves the total public debt at £563,000,000.
– My figures deal with the financial year. Why did you not stick to that?
– The Treasurer mentioned ‘£18,000,000 for . the financial year, and I have deducted the amount of cash he has in hand. My. object is to call the attention of the Australian people to the dangerous position we are gradually reaching because of the unfitness of the men whom we allow to carry on our great operations. I believe that in the Defence Department millions of pounds are wasted, but the Minister cannot help that. These losses are made because we have never called in trained business men to carry on these operations. If we did, we would not be depending on clerks who, though absolutely honest, were trained to handle shillings, not millions of pounds. The interest on the various public debts on the 31st December, 1917, will be -
I know that the Treasurer will insist on a sinking fund, just as I would. A sinking fund of 1 per cent. on the estimated war debt as at 31st December, 1917, would entail an annual payment of about £1,550,000, making the total annual debt charge £23,650,000.
– That is nearly the annual revenue of the Commonwealth.
– I shall discuss that later, because I feel, as an Australian taxpayer and citizen, that I cannot complain of the . position in which we find ourselves if from my place in this Bouse I have not called the attention, of honorable members to these considerations. The time has come when this matter must be handled seriously. Prom the Treasurer’s figures it would appear that at the 31st December, 1917, the annual charge on revenue in respect of war pensions will be not less than £3,250,000.
– I did not say that.
– The Treasurer mentioned £2,000,000, but added that already there was a charge of £1,250,000. Adding these £3,250,000 which I have already mentioned, makes a total annual debt charge of £26,900,000. Of that amount the Commonwealth will be liable for £12,050,000. This obligation must be met by the Australian taxpayers before any ordinary expenditure of any kind is discussed.
I may remind honorable members that my mind is purely constructive. I cannot make a destructive speech. Honorable members know that for years I stood alone in the advocacy of a Commonwealth Bank and a note issue. I was laughed at by members on the Liberal side, and many of my own brethren were sorry for me. What would Australia have done during this war without the note issue and the Commonwealth Bank ?
I notice that nobody has bothered to make a calculation of the financial loss in the reproductive industries of Australia occasioned by the , absence of 300,000 men from industrial and agricultural activities.
– Those men are our insurance.
– I am not questioning that. The census showed that the number of males in the Commonwealth engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits was on the following dates - 5th April, 1891. 290,633-26.78 per cent 31st March, 1901, 349,000-27.18 per. cent. 3rd April, 1911, 420,823-26.85 per cent.
Reliable figures in respect of occupations are available only at the time of a census.
It will be seen that during the twenty years from 1891 to 1911. there was an increase of 130,180 in the number of males engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits in the Commonwealth, and that the proportion of total breadwinners represented by males so engaged remains practically the same - that there was absolutely no increase of any consequence.
– Do you take into consideration the great effect of machinery inventions in increasing the reproductive powers of men in agriculture?
– I am a modern man; at least I hope I am.. There are no particulars available concerning the increase of tenant as compared with freehold farmers. According to the census of 1911, the private dwellings in the Commonwealth were distributed as follows in respect to method of occupancy : - Occupied by owners, 402,637 ; rent purchasers, 39,318; tenants, 404,371; and other and unspecified methods of occupancy, 48,063; or a total of 894,389. In the returns furnished under the War Census Act 1915, there were 460,000 male and 223,000 female residents of the Commonwealth as owners of land, a total of 683,000, which does not represent a bad percentage. I now try to ascertain the value of the productive power; and it is calculated that the average earnings of an employee was, approximately, £127 for the year 1914. The total number of recruits enlisted in Australia to date is, approximately, 300,000; and if these had been earning the average mentioned, their annual earnings would have been about £38,000,000. These recruits have performed miracles, and the name “ Anzac “ will live in history as long as the world lasts. If we make a calculation, and allow only a small percentage of this annual production of £38,000,000 - say 5 per cent. - we arrive at £1,900,000 a year. Our position is very serious, because it means that we have that much less production - so much less to export on which to build up a large foreign bank balance, which could be brought back to Australia to distribute amongst our own people, and thus increase opportunities and the wealth per capita and also the luxuries for our enjoyment. I noticed the other day a great deal of talk about shutting out certain “ luxuries “ from Australia. What constitutes a luxury ? One man told me that, in his opinion, a motor car is a luxury, while others so described the telephone and telegraph conveniences.- This may be so; but how about the farmer, or any man in the backblocks, from 40 to 100 miles from his market? Is a motor car a luxury for such a man?
– He does not try to do any farming then !
– At any rate, he is doing something- running some kind of industry. The other day a man from the Gwydir district told me that there a motor car is absolutely an essential - more essential than a railroad.
– We do not think that.
– That may be. As to our soldiers, I think the Government ought to encourage these men to meet and decide amongst themselves as to the best system by which they can be helped. I am afraid that if something like that is not done, we shall place men on the land who are not fit to go there. Why have nearly all such land propositions failed ? It is because they have not been in the hands of business men. The land grants given to the great American railroads by the United States Government are managed by business men. In the cities of the east men with no money were selected, and sent, with fares paid, to the west, where, in many instances, houses and barns were provided for them, and they were given assistance until they could make a fair start for themselves. All this was done because at the head of these railway enterprises there were business men. But what is the system here ? Here we have a clerk in an office to see to the repatriation of soldiers and he possibly writes a letter to Johnson, who, in turn, writes to Williams; there is no investigation, nothing is done that ought to be done to see that men are placed in positions in the country for which they are fitted. There is no psychological investigation as to whether or not a man is qualified for such an occupation. A man may be a good clerk, but not a person to make a farmer of.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong in his description of the method.
– I am not.
– I can assure the honorable member that he is.
– At any rate I will have my little say.
– Hear, hear ! but your argument is wrong. All cases are investigated by experts.
– Clerks ?
– No, experts in the particular line.
– I did not find them in the Home Affairs Department.
– Hear, hear; that is right; now you are talking !
– I do not wish to say anything unkind, but I am afraid that Governments will never be a success in anything. I think that, if to-day you gave Governments the biggest corporations and businesses in the world, they would, in a few years, be almost hopeless -I am commencing to think that.
– You do not believe in nationalization ?
– I do, if we could take over the men who create the industries. I believe in nationalization, with the Government owning 51 per cent., and the men who create the corporation or industry owning 49per cent., and operating it. I believe in a physical valuation of all these corporations, and in their operation for the benefit of the people, with a Government director on the Board. Last night I told the Treasurer that, in my opinion, instead of heavily taxing incomes, he ought to try to tax expenditure. The word “ tariff “ means anything, and that is the reason I made that remark to the Treasurer. Great expenditure is more dangerous than great incomes. Big expenditure, used for unproductive purposes which only represents lavish extravagance, is double destruction - it destroys the capital so expended, plundering society in its services, and frequently it destroys the ability’ of the spenders to render society full service.
– This discussion is so valuable that I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I fail to see why a man who does not save should not be called upon to pay taxation. The man who, by sound judgment, thrift, and economy, by modest living and moderate expenditure, accumulates a competency, which he invests in reproductive undertakings, is rendering the highest type of service, while those who are responsible for profligate expenditure plunder the people, and leave the country poorer by its double reaction. But the man who, as the result of “ staggerjuice,” profligacy, and other methods of waste, spends all he has, goes free, while the accumulating man is taxed.
It is good to look back at what one has said in the years gone by, and I propose to make a few quotations from a speech that I delivered seventeen years ago. A little while ago great enthusiasm was aroused by a proposal on the part of the Government to establish a great public laboratory. Not a word was said, however, about the man who first suggested it - seventeen years ago. Let me read from this speech of mine -
A Federal laboratory should be founded, with different departments, for the purpose of original scientific research on a scale similar to what prevails in America and Europe. Among the departments should be metallurgy, chemistry, biology, geology, bacteriology, and electricity. A Federal school of mines, and a Commonwealth school for technical education, should be established. The school of mines ought to be free of access to all prospectors and miners, who should have the right of forwarding specimens of their discoveries, and have them assayed, with a geological description of the country where found.
On that occasion I also said -
Federal civil servants should be paid an honest wage, and not starved, like these of the Tasmanian service.
That was seventeen years ago. Here is yet another quotation as to the Tariff question -
All workers should read the Bulletin and Agc, the two greatest democratic papers in the southern hemisphere. The Commonwealth being indirectly a debtor and not a creditor, a borrower and not a lender, an interest payer and not a coupon-clipper, I argue that a reasonable scientific revenue protection against the world, with reciprocity, preferential British clause, and Inter-State Free Trade, should be the foundation policy of the Commonwealth, so that the imposition of duties on foreign goods should be made, not for revenue only, but that in creating sufficient revenue for the Commonwealth such duties should be so levied as to safeguard Australasia’s diversified industries, and protection to the rights and wages of the workers to the point that active and intelligent labour, as well as capital, may enjoy its just reward, .and the wealth producers, the working men, have their full share in the Commonwealth prosperity. It is the sacred obligation of a progressive democratic Government to protect the rights and promote the interests of its own people.
There can be no question about that; but we have never had the courage to give Australia a proper Protectionist Tariff. A nation that is importing more than she exports, and is becoming a debtor nation, is going to the bad. It is the difference between a nation’s imports and its exports that pays its interest bill. We find, however, that’ this year we have imported millions of pounds’ worth more than we have exported. That means that we are paying our interest out of borrowed money, and funding interest into debt. I went on to say on this occasion, seventeen years ago, that -
The great diversity of industry is most productive of universal prosperity and of the comfort and independence of the whole people. The discussion going on between the Right Honorable George Reid and others over the price of starch in protected Victoria and Free Trade protected New South Wales -is no funeral of ours. We cannot build a new nation on a few packages of starch.
– Where was that statement made?
– At the Gibraltar of Democracy, the blue ribbon of progress - Queenstown, Tasmania. What, again, had I to say in regard to a National Bank for Australia? No one will deny that I am the father of the Commonwealth Bank. It is my only child. Then, again, on the 9th May, 1901, in this House, I submitted a resolution for a Commonwealth old-age pension system. I was also responsible for the proposal that the Commonwealth should acquire 1,000 square miles in the Federal Capital Territory, and, in addition to the purchases made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Wentworth, when in office I acquired sufficient land up there to bring in for the Commonwealth a total revenue of £20,000 a year. Then, again, no one will deny that I was the first in this House to advocate the building of the Commonwealth buildings in London. I also had something of interest to say in regard to defence. And yet every one says that I am a man of peace. I am a pacific man ; I fight only when it is necessary.
– The honorable member turns the other cheek.
– Yes; I believe that it is right to turn the other cheek, because your assailant might have made a mistake when he hit you the first time. If you turn the other cheek, and he hits you a second time, there can be no mistake - he is out for war.
I could go on reciting various other schemes that have been carried into execution as the result of my advocacy, but I shall not do so. Owing to the fact that we have been gathering in the wealth of the people to purchase material for destruction, money is not going to be plentiful in Australia when the war is over. It will, on the contrary, be very scarce. I can well remember what followed the American Civil War. In 1873 - I was then only a youngster - there were from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 men travelling, with their swags, from New York and Chicago to the west. The United States Government, however, had their homestead law in force, and a geodetic survey of the whole country had been made. I advocated the making of such a survey of the Commonwealth at the very outset, but one might as well try to swing to eternity as to induce a Cabinet to do anything out of the common - anything beyond a little push. A man who moves along new lines is considered dangerous until others have worked up to him. There is only one job worth having in a Cabinet ; it is that of the Prime Minister. As soon as the war is over we shall have a great slackening, because the volume of our paper money has grown, and must be pulled down, and pulled down gradually. It must be pulled down, not as the result of anything done in this Parliament, but by increased effort on the part of our producers. We must so legislate as to encourage our miners to produce wealth out of the bowels of the earth, and our farmers to till the soil and cultivate the hillsides. We must encourage primary production, and send our produce to all parts of the world by ships which will bring back such exchanges as we require. We have to prepare for all this, but as yet no preparation has been made. I know people who are living like prize-fighters. I want to lead the public just as I led them on the questions of the Commonwealth Bank, the note issue, and the Commonwealth Offices in London. The most important activity of human existence is agriculture, for the happiness and prosperity of the whole people depend upon the products of the soil. When the farmers’ returns are bountiful, all the people share in the prosperity, and when their crops are bad, depression overtakes every one. The farmer is the foundation of the nation, and yet he pays the highest rate of interest for his re- quirements, although he has the best security in the world. The reason for that in Australia is that we have not tried to meet the farmers’ necessities. I thought to get the Commonwealth Bank to assist him; but that institution is not yet performing what should be its greatest functions - that is, . operating a Rural Credits Loan Department on such a reasonable plan as will increase the number of farmers in Australia, develop more intensive methods of cultivation, reduce the number of tenant farmers, stop the movement of our population from the country to the over-crowded cities, increase the number of farm home owners, and maintain and increase the production of food products. The existing Savings Banks, both Commonwealth and States, approved Land Banks and Credit Foncier institutions, could be utilized by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to grant loans to accredited farmers under uniform conditions authorized by the Commonwealth Treasurer.
Imperial Federation will have my uncompromising opposition, unless I can see that Australia will be left in possession of every self-governing power that she needs. I shall certainly oppose it, unless the delegates on their return can show me that we have a controlling voice in our own destiny. This nation of ours is 16,000 miles from anywhere, and Australians know better than any one else what is wanted for the government of their own nation. On the question of Imperial Federation, I have to say: -
One can travel east, west, north, and south in Australia, and find the people satisfied. The reason is that they have their own homestead Governments, just as in Canada and the United States. In% American States like Texas and Arizona, most of the people have never heard of Washington, and do not know who the President is. One old fellow on the Brazzas River asked me who the President was. I told him “ Grant.” He asked,
What did he do?” I replied, “He whipped the South”; and he replied, Oh, that scoundrel.”
We have confidence in the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. He stands above anything that is not straight. He is one of the hig men of Australia, and did big things - the waterworks in the West, for instance. If we want to keep the young men in the country, we must improve the country conditions. That is a point I would specially press on the attention of the Postmaster-General. He has done his best, and been very fair in many things; but I hope he will provide facilities and activities in the country, and not be afraid if he finds he is losing a pound here or there. If he does, he can easily make it up in the big cities. In America letters are actually being delivered to the farmers all through the country. The honorable gentleman ought to supply telephones to farmers at low rentals. Just imagine at night time how nice it would be in the backblocks, after a day’s toil, to ring up a neighbour and have a yarn.. That is civilization. That is the only way we shall ever keep the country populated. We should teach’ all sorts of scientific and intensive farming. Professors should be sent into the backblocks to actually grow the crops and show the farmers how to get the best results from the soil, as is being done in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. In those States they have universities, and the professors travel throughout the country and give the farmers practical demonstrations. Why should we not grow more than 14 or 15 bushels to the acre? In Germany they grow 33 bushels of wheat to the acre. All that we want is the organization. Let us not curse the Germans so much, but profit by their organizations.
.- I was dealing, when speaking previously, with the causes for the non-success of the voluntary enlistment system. We should not have a single soldier at the front if every one followed the example of the honorable member for Balaclava. He is getting older, and now I suppose he will get out of enlisting on the ground of age. It is the height of ridiculousness for the Government to call themselves a win-the-war Government, with the honorable member as one of its Ministers. He pretended to go to the recruiting depot, and never went. He toddled across to Sydney to see Holman, and asked Holman to write a letter to Fisher. Holman then made the wonderful statement that Mr. Watt in Melbourne was worth 1,000 men at the front. The thing is too ridiculous. I do not know whether there is any truth in the canard going round that, for the honour of being appointed a member of the Cabinet the honorable member for Balaclava has placed his seat at the disposal of the Prime Minister. If he has, the Prime Minister will have the time of his life there, because the electors of that constituency will not allow’ their noses to be pulled round as was done on the last occasion, when Dr. . Carty Salmon was treated so unfairly. The honorable member for Flinders, whom it is proposed to send to England as a delegate, has publicly announced his abandonment of the White Australia policy - the most vital question, next to political freedom, in the eyes of the Australian people. At the Dandenong Town Hall, on 24th January, 1917, the honorable member is reported to have said that -
He accepted the abandoning of the policy of a White Australia, and the surrender of the claim that Australia had always made to control the future destinies of this continent.
Seeing that 99 out of every 100 citizens of Australia are in favour of a White Australia, it is too contemptible to imagine that we should be represented by this individual in London. Another reason why I object to his appointment is hia treatment of the old-age pensioners when in the Victorian Parliament. About 1904, he voted for the reduction of the old-age pensions vote from £216,000 to £150,000. As we are paying now just upon three-fourths of a million for oldage pensions, the people can understand what he did then. He also interfered with the franchise, which is the most sacred power invested in man. That country is the freest and greatest whose franchise is the most widely distributed. Yet he limited the franchise of every magistrate, policeman, railway official, and other public servant in Victoria. That was what prompted me to ask the Prime Minister whether, if the honorable member went to England to represent Australia, he would be allowed to interfere with the franchise. The Prime Minister said that he would not be permitted to interfere with the franchise, but I have ray doubts about it, knowing his past. I come now to deal with the Prime Minister, who has issued a writ for libel. It is all fudge. He knows very well that a member of Parliament can protect himself. Every man who enters Parliament receives, as the gift of the electors, what is equal to the sum of £10,000, the interest on which at 6 per cent, gives him an income of £600 a year. He also obtains the right to expose in his place in Parliament any frauds, swindles, or robbery, and is safeguarded by privilege. The Prime Minister wants to have an action at law so that the strict rules of evidence may be applied to the case. I know that every person in this chamber has some money in his pocket, but I could not go into a witness-box and swear to the fact. That statement illustrates the difference between knowledge and legal evidence. It is to prevent exposure that Mr. Hughes wants to take these serious charges into the Law Courts. As the Age has pointed out, the Government has only to ask for the appointment of a Royal Commission to get the matter properly sifted by Justices of the High Court. If Ministers go to the country without having done that, every decent man will think that they were afraid of the consequences of an investigation. What has been the experience of the Prime Minister in the Law Courts? Yesterday, when subpoenaed to appear in a case, he did not trouble to attend, acting on the advice of a very clever lawyer. Then there is the history of his reliance on the moratorium. He had a friend who used to visit his house, and was a welcome guest there. This friend saved money for the Prime Minister in the pur- 1 chase of furniture, and sold him a house, allowing him to borrow £1,000 for a year on payment of interest at per cent., on the strength of a sacred promise that the money would be paid on the due date,, because he and his wife then had large financial undertakings to meet. The debt fell due on the 21st October last, but in the preceding August the Prime Minister cut his debtor in the street, and no longer treated him as a friend. On the 11th October last, a regulation was issued under the War Precautions Act to protect mortgage borrowers, and the protection was extended by section 10 to contracts of sale. It was so extended because Mr. Hughes had this debt to meet on the 21st October. Between October and December the creditor and his solicitor repeatedly tried to meet Mr. Hughes, to make an arrangement concerning the debt, but without success. On the 11th December, relief was sought from the Courts, the creditor determining to sue the Prime Minister. Finally the man came to me. I did not know him previously, but I had asked questions in this House regarding the moratorium which drew his attention to me. On the 18th December, the case, at the request of Mr. Hughes’ counsel, was adjourned until the 20th, on which date Judge Hodges granted a further adjournment, saying that he could understand that Mr. Hughes was too busy to attend to his private affairs. On another occasion this horse-hair divinity would not allow a woman to get justice by permitting the process of law to be served on a man at the front. What would he have said had his own wife or daughter been prevented from getting justice? The case was then adjourned until the 1st February, but on the 24th January - eight days earlier - it was provided by regulation that a complainant should be required to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that a defendant had sufficient money to pay out of his own pocket, which it was impossible to prove. Finally, after much argument, the counsel for the two parties agreed that Mr. Hughes should pay half the debt - £500 - and his counsel gave an undertaking not to rely in the future upon the present or any further moratorium, and to pay 6 per cent, upon the outstanding £500. Mr. Hughes did not pay his debt, although he knew that his creditor was thereby prevented from meeting his financial undertakings, and the bank through which the cheque was paid was made aware of the overdraft. That is the way in which Mr. Hughes has made use of the Courts. Does he wish to settle his libel action in the same way ? The Justices of the High Court are not men who have sprung from the working classes; they are taken from the privileged professional class, and, if swayed by sympathy - I do not suggest that they would be - they would lean to the class from which they have sprung, not to that which Labour members represent. There I leave the matter. As honorable members know, I have always sympathy with the under dog, and I believe that Mr. Hughes is down and out. The Demooracy of this country will not allow its franchise or its Constitution to be interfered with by any Government. On the 28th February last, before the events which have been so much discussed of late occurred, three delegates were to be sent to the Imperial Conference. Now that the Government is about to die, big appointments at very high salaries are to be made, so I am informed. I do not believe that in his heart any Minister expects that the Government will be returned with its present majority. I cannot see how they can get a majority in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m
– I purpose to finish my personal references to the Prime Minister by pointing out that his name appears amongst the registered bills of sale in the Weekly Trades Gazette, a journal dealing with financiers and money lenders, and published in Perth. I have no objection by any means to Mr. Hughes being a money lender, but I do object that, for a paltry sum of about £20, he should register the sacred name of the Prime Minister of Australia amongst those of other financiers. The Trade Gazette to which I have already referred on 22nd November, contains the following : -
Grantor - Bergin, Henry, and Bergin, Ellen, of 29 Hay-street, East Perth, insurance agent, and wife. Grantee - Perth Finance and Discount Company, of Perth, financiers. Consideration - Contemporaneous advance, £20, and for a note exceeding in aggregate £50.
Grantor - Thomas, David Watkins, and Thomas, Rosetta (his wife), of 354 Williamstreet, Perth, purveyors of refreshments.
Now I come to the Prime Minister of Australia -
Grantee - Hughes, the Honorable William Morris, of Melbourne, Prime Minister of
Commonwealth of Australia. Consideration - Contemporaneous advance, £29 18s. 9d. Property comprised in bill of sale, stock-in-trade, fittings, fixtures, furniture, and chattels.
I challenge any member of this House to say that ever before a Prime Minister of Australia descended to what the present Prime Minister has done. It is in keeping with his action with regard to the moratorium of which I have already spoken. Now let us see what the Age newspaper of the 28th February hae to say -
Now that the Official Labour party has shown itself opposed to the project for indefinitely prolonging the life of the existing Parliament, the Coalition Government should promptly withdraw the issue from discussion. To act otherwise would merely cause a futile waste of public time, for Labour has a majority in the Senate, and the project could not be carried into effect without the consent of both. Houses of the Legislature.
Then again -
Truly the sooner the Coalition Government makes an end of its insupportable pretences and recovers its sense of proportion, the better for us all.
Speaking of the proposal of the Coalition Government to approach the Imperial Government, the Age states -
The project is resented for two very simple reasons, (a) the proposal is the outcome of a dying Parliament’s diseased ambition to secure a new lease of life in contempt of the authority of the electors who created it.
I tell this dying Parliament that the people of Australia will remember if there are any important posts with heavy salaries attaching to them.
I come now to Sir William Irvine, who says this Parliament is the place to settle a matter like the charge made by Senator Watson. No one knows better than Sir William Irvine that, as a party, we have nothing to expect from the High Court Judges, because they are taken from a body of the people who are rarely connected in any way with the Labour party. By the very nature of their profession, they are mostly allied to the wealthier sections of the community ; and would they take a fee against any company or combine ? Do we not remember, when the honorable member for Flinders was Attorney-General, that he allowed the Australian nation to be unrepresented’ by the Attorney-General because he had taken a fee from - what was it ? The wireless combine ! What did the Age, on the 5th March, say about Sir
William Irvine in relation to the charge brought by Senator Watson -
Sir William Irvine holds the Conservative ; we might justifiably say the archaic ; view that “ charges of corruption could not be determined by any tribunal outside the House,” and that “ Parliament should decide, subject to the final appeal to the country.”
The Government were very strong when they thought they had two members of the other House in the “ bag,” and an article in the Age, on 6th March, reads almost like a prophecy, in the light of more recent events -
The National Government can, and must, save us from this imminent and terrible disgrace. It has the power, by a scratch of the pen, to insure that the election shall not be determined by such flagrantly despicable and squalid issues, and to lift the forthcoming contest to a level far above the interests and manners of the pot-house. And the Government can exercise its power with ease. All it needs to do is to appoint a tribunal of investigation of a character all sections of the people can respect and trust - preferably a High Court Judge - and direct the tribunal to proceed immediately to sift Senator Watson’s charges to the very bottom.
We desire that - nay, we demand it. Out of Tasmania came much evil, but out of Tasmania also came the remedy. The Daily Post, of the 2nd March, reported the Premier of that State as saying -
I received word from His Excellency the Governor to-night that he had been advised by the Governor-General that Senator R. K. Ready had resigned his position as a senator, and that he had also received the resignation of the Honorable John Earle as a member for Franklin in the State House of Assembly.
It was splendidly arranged, and I propose now to quote what is in to-day’s Age on this subject -
The Premier (Mr. W. H. Lee) has made a statement regarding his connexion with events surrounding the resignation of Senator Ready and the appointment of Mr. Earle. Mr. Lee says he went to Sydney on 24th ultimo, in response to a telegram from the Prime Minister, and on the following morning had an interview with Mr. Hughes in Sydney regarding wheat and hops. “The Prime Minister,” continued Mr. Lee, “ said ho understood there was a possibility of a vacancy occurring in the Senate through the retirement of a Tasmanian senator, and asked me whether, in the event of such a happening, my Government would appoint Mr. Earle to the position. I said, ‘Who is the senator?’ He replied, ‘ I cannot tell you.’ I said, ‘ It must be an Opposition member to be of any use to you?’ He said, ‘ It is.’ I said, ‘ I understand a certain Tasmanian senator is taking a trip to the East.’ He did not reply. I referred to Senator Long, who, I understood, was suffering from a serious malady, and surmised that he was contemplating retirement from public life.
I told, the Prime Minister that, as far as Mr. Earle’s appointment was concerned, the matter would have to be submitted to the Cabinet; but I thought that, in view of the facts that Mr. Earle had announced himself as a candidate for the Senate, and that my Government was in sympathy with his attitude on war matters, there would be no objection to his appointment.”
Never was there any better organization to win against the Opposition by any means, foul or fair, but luckily, as I have said, out of Tasmania came good. Two Senators - Senators Bakhap and Keating - did not bow down to. the god of infamy. They voted as straight and honest men.
– Mcwilliams voted for us, too.
– Yes. The honorable member for Franklin led the way. Out of all that remnant of a party which has disgraced us in the past, and which comprises members who have voted against the rights of women, old-age nensions, and other social legislation, the honorable member for Franklin voted on our side.
– If he had been on your side, and had done that, you would have called hi- a traitor. Now he is a hero.
– The honorable member knows me too well. He knows that on questions of principle I would sooner bite my tongue out than hesitate. I challenge any honorable member to say otherwise.
Some people in this community have tried to poison our soldiers with diseased and rotten meat. It lies between three men, but at present the matter is covered up by the Minister for the Navy.- To his honour, the previous Minister for the Navy, Mr.- Jensen, promised to give the names of these scoundrels, but the present Minister, for some reason, is covering them up.
– How long are you going to repeat this?
– I will repeat the charge until I get the names. Here are three. W. Angliss and Company - I cannot say whether that is the man - T. K. Bennet and Woolcock. From what I have known of Mr. Bennet I do not think he would descend to such a despicable thing. The other is Watkins Pro- prietary Limited. So it lies between these three. This is the report given by men who inspected the meat. It appeared in the Graphic of Australia on 26th January last -
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: -
I want to know if we can have some pro- ‘tection against these people? “What does it matter if they are worth £100,000 or £500,000? Why does the Government shelter them? “March 2, 1916.- 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 bad that I called the attention of the Board of Health inspector to same, and the lot was seized and destroyed.”
I am in dead earnest, as will be the people who suffer from such practices, especially when they know that there is only laughter for any complaints here, and that Ministers hide and screen the offenders. It will be realized that it is time the people got control of Parliament by means of the referendum and initiative, so that they may be able to recall any Minister who behaves as the responsible Minister is behaving at the present time. My campaign committee has passed the following resolution: -
That, in the opinion of the Melbourne Federal Campaign Committee, the selling of meat and all other foods that are diseased should be made a criminal offence.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to call attention to a matter which is of great importance to the farming community. I have here a letter from a cor respondent at Youanmite, dated 8th January, as follows: -
At a largely-attended meeting of farmers held at Youanmite on Saturday, 6th instant, I was requested to write to you, and ask you to bring before the proper authorities the action of the Wheat Board in condemning the Australian-made cornsacks, which are subjected to a deduction of ls. 6d. per dozen.
There are thousands of these cornsacks sold to the farmers, who bought them from agents who represented them as being equal to the imported sacks, and we now find that the Wheat Board will take them only at a deduction of 1 1/2 d per bag. If the sacks are inferior, and not fit for shipping, we consider the agents who sold them to the farmers should refund to the farmers ls. (id. per dozen.
– I do not think there is a quorum present. [Quorum formed.’]
– These are Australianmade bags, and not second-hand bags, and the peculiar thing is that, in a Protectionist country like Australia, the Wheat Board should condemn the manufacture of such bags by our own people. I contend that this charge of ls. 6d. per dozen is unfair, in view of the fact that the Wheat Board placed no embargo on the bags before the farmers were allowed to buy them. Now, of course, the farmers, who have been induced to take them, are the losers, because they bought them on the assumption that they were equal to the best. As a representative of the farmers, I feel quite justified in voicing their complaint. I have this afternoon received the following reply from the Australian Wheat Board, over the signature of Senator Russell : -
Your letter of 11th January, with which you ‘enclose letter from Mr. J. H. Fraser, of Youanmite, on the subject of Australian cornsacks, has been referred to me.
As the question of the fitness of cornsacks is a matter for the State Boards to deal with, I have obtained from the Victorian Wheat Commission a report on the subject, of which I inclose a copy.
Should the misrepresentation complained of by Mr. Fraser have taken place, apparently his best course is to obtain redress through the Law Courts.
That appears to me rather a sorry remedy, because to the individual farmer the amount involved is not sufficient to justify an appeal to the Courts. It is really a question of policy - whether the producing interests shall be made to suffer for an oversight on the part of the authorities, who should have seen that better bags were put. into circulation. The following is the memorandum of the Australian Wheat Board : -
Re Colonial-made Cornsacks.
Early this season the attention of this Commission was drawn to the fact that large numbers of inferior, colonial-made sacks were being sold to farmers, and on inquiry it was found that there were several classes of these sacks being put on the market - one of which was totally unfit for holding wheat. The manufacturers state that these particular sacks were never intended or sold for that purpose; but whatever were the intentions of the sellers, they did not give them any prominence when effecting sales, and there is no doubt that the buyers intended to use them as cornsacks.
After careful consideration by the Advisory Board to this Commission, and on the advice of expert officers of the Customs Department, it was decided that one grade only of the sacks submitted should be accepted without dockage - this sack being much superior to any of the other sacks.
The next grade would be accepted at a minimum dockage of ls. 6d. per dozen.
It was also decided that the very inferior sacks referred to above should not be accepted on any account. Prompt notification of this was given to the receiving agents.
Samples of the various colonial-made sacks are lodged at this office, and are open for inspection.
This action was necessary, not only in the general interests of the Pool, but also to the main body of farmers, who have bought and used the standard cornsacks.
I have no objection to the Wheat Board seeking to have a high standard of bags, for they ought to have the best obtainable. My contention is that, now the Government have taken in hand the pooling of the wheat and further the interests of producers in this, and, presumably, other directions, they should see that the producers are not the victims of persons who place in their hands bags of an inferior quality, and should not seek to make the producers pay the cost of the necessary rectification. Last night I listened with surprise to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, who complained that the present Government were not prepared to reopen the Tariff question so far as it is concerned with bags; in short, he advised the Government to place these bags on the free list. But when the honorable gentleman himself was Minister for Trade and Customs he turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of those who represent the farming interests, and- who made a precisely similar request. The position appears to be that, not only is a duty placed on imported bags, but far mers are forbidden -to use the Australianmade article.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that, when Minister for Trade and Customs, he was in favour of placing bags on the free list, but that the majority of the Cabinet were against him.
– That is not so.
– In view of the fact that our prosperity depends on the producers, they ought to have more consideration. It is not reasonable for the Leader of the Opposition to appeal to the present Government to do what he himself refused to do when in office.
– He did not refuse - it was the majority of the Cabinet.
– Then, the honorable member for Darwin was a party to this ?
– No, I was not.
– Apparently the honorable member for Darwin assisted in an act which is contrary to the interests of the farmers, and I commend him to the kind consideration of the farmers in his constituency. It seems to be manifestly unfair that men should be of one opinion when in office, and of another opinion when in Opposition.
.- When my honorable friend, the honorable’ member for Melbourne, was paying one of his small meeds of praise to anybody or everybody, according to the position they occupy, the honorable member for Lang, in, I think, the most unseemly way, interrupted to tell him that if the honorable member for Franklin had voted in the way suggested, the honorable member for Melbourne would certainly have denounced him as a traitor. And, of course, he would ; why not 1 Whether a man is a traitor or a patriot depends entirely od which side of the fence he comes down - entirely on the point of view.
The question before us is that of Supply. The Treasurer is asking for an additional £3,798,652 on one account, and about £1,250,000 on another, and I think that this is the fifth Supply Bill we have had before us without an opportunity to deal with the general Estimates.’ This is an evil which has been growing up and greatly extending, and now* we find in nearly every Department the item of contingencies doubled and trebled.
At the Post Office during the referendum campaign a notice was posted up to the effect that any messages presented by a gentleman named Adam McKay were to be accepted as prepaid, and the account to be rendered to the Prime Minister’s Department. Is the Postmaster-General aware of that ? He is not ; and what happened in Melbourne probably happened throughout Australia.
– Who is Adam McKay ?
– He was the gentleman whom the Prime Minister brought over from Sydney to act as his publicity agent, and who sent cables and other messages throughout the Commonwealth.
I notice that although this is the fifth Supply Bill, and although the average amount for contingencies is about £6,000, that item, in the case of the Prime Minister’s Department, is now something like £14,000. I did not rise for the purpose of dealing with this particular subject, but since it is possible, upon a Supply Bill, to discuss anything from cornsacks to jerusalem, I propose to avail myself of this opportunity to refer to one or two other matters.
The other day the Prime Minister suddenly announced that we are to have a general election. Speaking as one who would like to see the life of Parliament prolonged till my . death, I naturally said to myself, after one man had contracted an illness which precluded the possibility of his attendance in another place, whilst another had resigned, thereby sacrificing £600 a year, and his place had been filled, “I am right now for three or four more years.” I regarded everything as settled, and I slept in comfort. Then I came here to listen to the Prime Minister’s announcement that we are to have an election. To me it is a most painful subject. Why should we have an election? Why? Because somebody in another place - Senator Watson, I believe - has said something. But because he has said something, that, surely, is no reason why we should go to the country. Did ever anybody hear of a Parliament going to the country merely because somebody accused somebody else of having done something ? If we are to go to the country on such a flimsy pretext, when we come back here some other person will merely have to accuse the Prime Minister of committing a dreadful crime, and away we shall be rushed to the polls again. Yet we are asked to believe that the reason why the destinies of the Empire are to be jeopardised, the reason why all who are suspected of being traitors to this country are to be summarily cast on one side, is that somebody has said that Mr. Hughes called him into his room, and whispered something into his ear. It is essential that three men shall go to Great Britain ; it is all-important that the life of this Parliament should be prolonged, and yet everything in that direction is to be sacrificed because somebody has said something. Probably this is the last speech I shall make before we go to the electors. It may be the last speech I shall ever make here. Nobody knows what is going to happen in this case.
– But somebody cares.
– It is no good counting one’s chickens before they are hatched. I like to see them come out of the box before I start to count them. I do not care what Senator Watson has said. In itself the Senator Watson charge is nothing. It is merely an aside. Only because it seems to fit into something else does it become important. If I were to charge the Treasurer with some atrocious crime, he would stand upon his own dignity and honour. He would be conscious that I was maligning him. But he would not secure a dissolution of Parliament on that account.
Now what is the position? We are told that on a certain day a number of persons were sincerely desirous of preventing the destruction of Senator Watson’s soul. Senator Watson is, I understand, essentially a religious man. Upon various- occasions, he has propounded the gospel to the unregenerate miners of Newcastle. He has none of the frailties to which the human race is heir. He does not drink, he does not smoke, and he does not swear. But in spite of his manifold virtues, it appears that there was a number of men who were extremely desirous of saving his soul from destruction. So Senator Tom Givens went searching after his soul. Afterwards Senator Pearce took Senator Watson aside, and spoke earnestly to him. Subsequently he sent telegrams to him for the same purpose of saving his soul alive. There was this marvellous searching after the soul of David. Then Senator Watson came over from Sydney, leaving that city on Tuesday, in order to be present at a party meeting here on’ Thursday morning. Again he met Senator Pearce, and subsequently entered the Prime Minister’s room. Senator Pearce knew that if he succeeded in inducing Senator “Watson, to become a Government supporter, the wicked and unregenerate miners of Newcastle would denounce the latter, so that he would not be able to live there. But Senator Pearce had a home for Senator Watson away from Newcastle, somewhere where the fields were very green. Then what did the Prime Minister say? He said to Senator Watson, “ Come and be saved. Join the regiment of the just. Join the noble army, and save your soul alive.” Yet Senator Watson refused to be saved. Let the matter drop at that. Suppose that there was no truth in Senator Watson’s statement. Suppose that he suffered from hallucination - from some delusion. Those who know the Prime Minister know that he would not do what has been imputed to him. Senator Watson merely dreamt the charge that he preferred against him. The Prime Minister came here to answer the charge. But that is not the charge which has been laid at the door of the Government. It does not matter whether Senator Watson made a charge or not. This is not a question of one man’s affirmation against another man’s denial. The question which confronts this Parliament is the subtle disappearance of ex-Senator Ready. How does the Prime Minister answer that? He says, “Why, before I went to England, those criminals over there asked me to secure the prolongation of the life of -this Parliament.”
– He did’ not do it.
– Suppose that he did not, what has that to do with the question which is confronting us ? One crowd of men say “No,” whilst another crowd say “Yes.”
– The honorable member . told us that there would be no election.
– It is quite true that, long before Mr. Hughes went to England, I did say that. And I will tell the honorable member why I said it. I saw in this Parliament at that time one great united party. I could see plainly that the big majority of the members of the Labour party were supporters of Mr. Hughes. . Amongst the party there were one or two firebrands, like myself; but for the most part its members stood solidly behind him. But whether or not they sought to induce Mr. Hughes to secure the prolongation of the life of this Parliament does not at all affect the question. “ How did Mr.Ready disappear from, public life?” The Prime Minister has evaded that question. But, since everybody is tearing himself to pieces, since the two sections of what was formerly a united Labour party are mutually destroying each other for the benefit of the common enemy, probably it would be well for me to say a little more. Did the Prime Minister secure a prolongation of the life of this Parliament? I remember that about the time he was supposed to do so, I was invited to attend the Caucus for particular reasons. And then I have a recollection - I do not know whether it is correct or not; if any one denies it, I will accept the denial at once; probably I am suffering from delusions - but I have a memory of a man rising to his feet and saying, “ Gentlemen, follow me, and I will lead you to victory; follow me, and I will guarantee you security. I hold in my pocket a guarantee of the prolongation of Parliament, so that the vengeance of the people cannot touch you.” Is that true or untrue?
– It is very unfair.
– Very well; I leave it at that.
– He meant you to follow him in submitting the question to the people ; which the bosses outside would not allow you to do.
– And he meant, “If you follow me in opposition to the bosses outside, I will guarantee you against their vengeance.”
– He made no promise at all.
– Very good, I apologize ; put me down on the list. I thought Mr. Hughes said that if I followed and supported him, there would have been no election. I merely dreamt it. Put it down at that.
What is the next excuse which the Prime Minister puts forward to divert the attention of the public from this issue ? He alludes to this junta that prohibits everything it pleases, that will not allow us to do anything. Suppose that is all right. I know it is true. I cannot sleep because of this blessed junta. It dominates my body and soul. It is an ogre; it is an octopus in the caverns of the deep ; it is a dragon in the wild woods ; it possesses us body and soul, and makes us work for it and slave for it. It is a most awful junta, I will not deny that. Mr. Hughes knows all about it. He lived with it ; he grew up with it ; he slept with it, and he fed it. He was part and parcel of it for twenty-five years, and never discovered in it anything to be denounced until he saw that he could find a better opening elsewhere. Whether it be true or not that there be an outside junta, what does that matter to the general public in this great hour of crisis in the nation’s history ? This man talked about country and patriotism, danger and duty; and I ask what has the junta to do with it all ? What does it matter whether we are the mere tools and instruments of the outside organizations? How does that affect the problem which confronts the country as to how and by what means Senator Ready was spirited away from the public life of the country ?
And the Prime Minister said, “ I am going to vindicate myself.” How? He says he will take out a writ. Against whom? Against Senator Ready. Not at all. Against any of the newspapers - the Hobart Mercury, for instance, or the Age ? No.
– Or the Labour Gall.
– The Labour Gall, like myself, is so obscure as to be hardly worth mentioning. He is going to take out a writ against Senator Watson, and he is going to bring that gentleman into Court. What for? To vindicate his honour. When he goes into Court, what will happen? One man will say “ I did not.” The other man will say “You did.” What will any Judge and jury say? The Judge will say, “There is no evidence one way or the other, and the case is dismissed.” Very good; but the question still remains - What became of Senator Ready? How did he get away? No Court of justice can settle a case like this. The Prime Minister is merely drawing a red herring across the trail of public attention.
– Surely a man has a right to resign !
– I do not object to anybody resigning. I was about to say that if I could get sufficient inducement- .
I have no objection to any man doing what he thinks necessary in the country’s interest. If a man leaves the country for his country’s good, well and good. If a man leaves Parliament for his country’s good, well and good, again. I do not denounce Senator Ready. I am only talking about the red herring which the Prime Minister has drawn across the trail. The taking of this case into the Law Courts of the country will not settle anything.
– You seem to be getting ready for a verdict.
– I do not know what the honorable member would do, but I put it to him: If somebody said the honorable member is so and so, and the honorable member said the statement was untrue, and the matter were left for me to decide, I would say, “ You have not proved anything one way or another. It is a piffling thing, anyhow. Case dismissed. Costs against the plaintiff.” Such a case does not settle anything, but I tell the Committee what it does do very cleverly. It closes the mouth of everybody upon the public platform. How clever! How astute! One man is in a position to close the mouth of all the people. We cannot do in this case what the ‘ Prime Minister did in the case of the poor devils of men who were tried as members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Talk of those men as you will, suppose they were criminals of the deepest dye, the fact remains that they were on trial; their case was before a Court of this country. Yet the Prime Minister denounced them as scoundrels and criminals before the Court had ever examined the evidence and pronounced a verdict. This man who talks of his probity and honour, and says he wishes to have these charges threshed out before the public, wishes to close my mouth and the mouth of everybody else so that no man may pronounce any opinion on any aspect of the case. And when the matter goes into tEe Court, such are the limitations of a Court of Justice that no man may raise a question as to the resignation of Senator Ready into which the Watson charges naturally dovetail. The Watson charges must be decided by themselves, and that is an absolute impossibility and absurdity.
Let us see how the facts in connexion with Senator Ready’s resignation and the temptation of Senator Watson fit in. The Prime Minister admits that he had a conversation with Senator Watson on the 21st February. Apparently he failed. He did not offer money. He did not offer any permanent job. He simply said to Senator Watson, “ Come and be saved for your country’s good, no matter what you lose. You may be kicked out of Newcastle, and you may lose your position in the Senate. But come and be saved.” When all this failed, he, apparently, turned in a new direction, and then he was suddenly able to secure another lost soul, and to save it from the furnace. On Saturday he found a lamb, and proceeded to bring it to the penitent’s stool. So he suddenly wired to the Premier of Tasmania, “ Come over and see the lamb I have saved ; come over and see the brand I have plucked from the burning.” And immediately Mr. Lee left Tasmania. Then suddenly John Earle found out what was happening. How did he find out 1 There were voices in the night. Nobody told him. Nobody said there was a game on and somebody was going to resign. He knew nothing. But he suddenly rushed forward and said, “ Here is my resignation as a member of the State Parliament. I am going to leave Tasmania at once.” Later the Prime Minister and Mr. Lee met, and Mr. Hughes said, “It is all right, Lee; things are going to happen. There is a man in the Senate, and something will happen to him. He will have a pain in the solar plexus. Or it may be paralysis or a broken leg. But he will have some’ thing, and the needs of the nation require that we shall have another senator to take his place. I do not know what disease will afflict him, but I do know that something will afflict him.” And what was Senator Ready’s position? He was a member of the Labour party, be. it good or evil. There is no question of the validity of his party. He occupied the trenches against the enemy. He had a pain. This foretold disease suddenly attacked him at the prescribed hour, but ihe did not go to his friends and say, “ Comrades, take my place in the trenches, because I must leave.” He said not a word to them. But he left his place in the trench unoccupied. He suddenly went over to the enemy, and whispered in their ears, “ At a particular hour I will have a pain-, and must leave. Take my place.” Did you, Mr. Acting Chairman, ever hear of a man who deserted his post in such a manner as to leave the enemy to occupy it 1
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Atkinson) . - The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think the honorable . member may be allowed to continue his remarks.
– I am sorry the clock went round so quickly ; it is smarter than some politicians. The next step in the proceedings was that Mr. Earle suddenly posted his resignation, and the way was mads clear for him to take his seat in the Senate. I make no denunciation. I do not rise to criticise or enter into a personal conflict. I charge no man with being a criminal. I have my own opinions, and honorable members opposite have their opinions. But I venture to say that, in the inmost recesses of our hearts, and in the privacy of our homes, there is not one amongst us, I care not what our diversities of opinion in other regards, who does not hold the same opinion in this matter. I care not what we may say in the country; I care not how many honorable members may deny this charge from the housetops, and affirm it to be a most unfortunate circumstance; we shall never be able to convince the public that the happenings in connexion with the departure of Senator Ready from public life were honest and proper. There stands the bare fact that a certain place in the trench was occupied by a member of our party. He could have said, ‘ 1 1 am no longer able to occupy this position. I am no longer able to stand the wear and tear of public life. The elections will happen in a few months. I can no longer be your standard-bearer; select another man to carry your banner.” Would not that have been the attitude of an honest and upright man ? There is not one honorable member in this House, no matter to which party he belongs, who will not admit that that was the proper attitude to be adopted by an honest and clean-minded individual. Senator Ready did not do that. He came to the Caucus meeting at an hour when he knew what action he was about to take, but he kept his friends in the dark, and notified the enemy. He maintained silence when he knew that his doom was sealed, and that another man was already waiting to occupy his place.
I put the matter to you, sir, to the press of the country, and to the public, whatever be their shades of political opinions : Here is a Prime Minister who tells the people that it is imperative in the public interests that the life of this Parliament should be prolonged. I will not argue now whether it should or should not. I have previously stated my opinion on that aspect of the matter. I have said clearly and distinctly that I do not stand upon technicalities where the necessity of the nation is concerned. Here is a man who asserts that it is absolutely necessary, in the interests of Australia, that the Commonwealth should be represented at the Imperial War Conference. Yet we are invited to believe that the needs of the nation and the necessities of the Empire are to be swept into the dust bin because of a charge that is not true, and of rumous that are without foundation. No man believes that particular thing. If it were true that there was a Prime Minister, satisfied as to his own innocence, buttressed and bulwarked by the support of colleagues, and ‘a party behind him equally satisfied that his deeds are clean, and will bring honour to them, the needs and necessities of the nation which might be secured by the sending of a delegation to the Imperial War Conference would never be sacrificed. Why should they be sacrificed because of an unfounded charge or of statements that have nothing behind them!
It is because behind this man there stand men who cannot bear the imputation which hag been made, because they feel that there is toe much of truth in it, and they fear lest their political future should be in any way associated with it, that we have reached the present position. It is the disapprobation of his own colleagues, of men who, whatever their political opinions or social standing, and however humble or exalted, rich or poor, they may be, have such a sense of honour and public probity that they can no longer stand to him that has driven the Prime Minister into this position. They are determined that they at least shall not be identified or associated with these matters on the public platforms of their country. I venture to say that when the elections are held it will be found that very few, if any, of them will stand on the public platforms of this country and attempt to justify the most remarkable and mysterious disappearance from public life of ex-Senator Beady.
I put this also to the press and the country : Is it of vast importance to this country that it should be represented at the Imperial War Conference? We have been told that it is. Yet we are not to send any representatives. There is no man to represent us in this great crisis at this most important Conference. Is there really no man to represent us ?
– What about the honorable member for Bourke?
– I should try to reflect honour upon the country. I should endeavour to perform my duty to the country, although I might not reflect the opinions of many honorable members on the other side. For what reason are we paying Mr. Andrew Fisher thousands of pounds a year. What do we pay him a salary of £5,000 for? For what do we pay the expenses of his office which, according to the last Supply Bill, have landed us for this year in something like £20,000 ? Was not Mr. Fisher regarded as worthy to be Prime Minister of the Commonwealth? Was he not held in such high esteem that he was made the ambassador and representative of Australia at the court of the Empire? Is he unworthy to represent Australia to-day? If he is, he has no right to occupy that place or draw the emoluments of the country that regards him as no longer worthy to represent them. He becomes a mere dummy, an instrument.
Suppose the position were reversed, and that instead of Mr. Fisher being appointed High Commissioner Mr. Hughes had been appointed to that office. Mr. Fisher would then have been Prime Minister and Mr. Hughes High Commissioner, and will any one say that the country should be deprived of the talents and astute mind of Mr. Hughes because he was no longer Prime Minister, but ambassador of the Commonwealth ? Yet the Government say now that Australia is not to be represented at this important Conference, at which our representation is absolutely vital.
We are to go to the country within a few weeks. We are driven to it, not by the fact that their plot was successful, because had it been successful, apparently, the delegates would have gone to the Conference. They were going in spite of the charges about ex-Senator Ready and in spite of the statements made by Senator Watson. They were going last Friday night. They were going right up to the very last moment when the Senate adjourned last week. Notice had been given for the presentation of the very resolution which was to carry the whole thing through, because their majority was secured. Would they take notice of these things, of the base accusations about exSenator Ready? No; they scorned them. Of the charges by Senator Watson ? No ; they spurned them. They left it to the intelligent opinion of the community to visit upon the slanderers the contumely they deserved.
Then on Monday they completely changed their attitude. What happened between Monday and Friday night, when they were going to the Imperial Conference in spite of the accusations ? On ‘Monday morning when the Senate met they had not their majority. What happened ? The majority had disappeared. How did it disappear?
– That is the question.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh says “ That is the question.” Can the honorable member mean to say that the Government majority had disappeared by the same instrumentality that our majority disappeared ?
– Absolutely. I mean the same thing.
– Shelley has said, I think, in Queen Mab, “ All things are bought. Even the light of heaven is venal.” I do not know where that money came from that bought Senators Keating and Bakhap, but it never passed through my hands. They would never have got it if it had. It would have been put to a better use. I would never have wasted money in that way.
– It was satisfactory to a big interest that they should do what they did. It was not money, but a big interest.
– Yes, I see, the Kaiser again. Really I have been unfortunate from the day I came out of the cradle. I never seem to get anything. Here is the Kaiser splashing it all round everywhere. Where is it ? Show me where it is. There is another seat to be had. I do not know how these men in the Senate get the good things all the time. Where do we come in ? We appear to have no chance.
The Government had a majority in the Senate, and then, apparently, the Kaiser, if we are to believe the honorable member for Hindmarsh, saw his chance, and got to work on Senators Keating, and Bakhap.
– I never said anything of the sort. I said a big interest in Australia - not the Kaiser.
– Then it was not the Kaiser ?
– And the honorable member knows the interest I am talking about, too.
– Now we come to another thing.
– The honorable member is not so dense as he looks.
– Now, I want to get this clearly. It was not the Kaiser who got to work on Senator Keating. There is another interest, we are told. It is the Pope this time.
– I never said so.
– I am trying to get at the truth.
– There are more interests than that of the Pope knocking about.
– Senators Keating and Bakhap disappeared. They would not vote with the Government. Somebody “ got “ to them. I suggested the Kaiser. Of course, that was my first impression, because of the statements that are generally made concerning payments by the Kaiser and Germanic interests. Then we are told that there are other interests. I cannot be supposed to be ignorant of what they are, when I have heard so much about the red light and the green light. I know thoroughly how the banner of the Lord will be waved up and down at the next elections. I suggested the Pope, and that the Roman Catholic interests were the interests that purchased Senators Keating and Bakhap. It was not the Germanic interest; and now we are told that it was not the Roman Catholic interest. Apparently there are still other interests. If there are, I leave it to the honorable member for Hindmarsh to say what they are.
The position with which we are confronted is that the election is forced upon us, not because the Government did not purchase their majority, not because certain accusations were made, or because exSenator Ready disappeared. The Government were going to send a delegation to the Conference, no matter what accusations were made. They were going to save the Empire, in scorn of everything of the kind. Then they found that some of their own d would not line up -with them. Tin. found that their own little junta, the Constitutional Union at the Equitable Buildings, the people with the hard cash, the proprietary interests in this community, the metallic monopoly, and the great moneyed interests of the country, could not pull the strings. And then they made a virtue of necessity. They could not carry their motion for the prolongation of the life of this Parliament through the Senate, and they then said, “ Now we shall force you to the country. We will give the Opposition what they say they want.”
They say now, “ The Opposition has forced us to the country. It is nothing to them that the country should be involved in an expenditure of £100,000 at this juncture, and that we should be prevented from sending our delegates to the Imperial War Conference. It is the minority in this Parliament - the Labour party - that prevents us going.” We know that the truth is that they were prevented from going because they could not get a majority of their own party in the Senate. That is the situation that confronts them.
Now with regard to our position. I affirm that nothing that has been said about Senator Watson has anything to do with the case. The fact stands before the country that a sufficient number of the supporters of the Government could not be found to support them. We can go to the country and present the case as it appears to us.
I should like to say that I hope the contest will be fought without personal animosity. I have been sixteen years in the public life of this country, and I have had no personal animosity against any man with whom I have entered into a political contest. I see in this chamber men whom I have known from boyhood. The honorable members for Henty and Balaclava have been bitter opponents of mine in politics. They have been opponents of mine in debating societies, in State politics, and on public platforms throughout the country, but we have always fought each other upon public grounds. For years we have been fighting each other, criticising each other, denouncing each other’s policy, and ridiculing each other in every conceivable form; but never have we made an imputation upon each other’s honesty. Never have we made imputations upon each other’s honesty of motive. And’ so, while I can see in front of me strong opponents, I can truly say that, after long years of hostility in the political world, we still entertain for each other that mutual respect which soldiers, fighting hard, can feel. For the credit of the country, I should be glad to see an end to these mutual recriminations. I should like to see an end to these attempts by political parties to paint each other as a gang of criminals or a set of poltroons. As honest men, entertaining honest differences of opinion, we should recognise that in. every great crisis in a nation’s history men are bound to be divided, and friends of a lifetime are bound to be separated. Such things are inevitable. From a contest conducted on those lines we could emerge, remembering long associations, and meet together to fight the battles of the country. There must naturally be diversities of opinion. I hold opinions that in the view of some are reprehensible and odious. I can only say that every man should extend to me and my opinions that meed of honesty which I extend to the opinions of those who disagree with me. These are the lines on which a national contest should be fought. We should endeavour to promulgate, not personal dissensions and denunciations, but a national policy. We should be occupied with the consideration of where we stand as a nation, where we stand in relation to the Empire, and where we stand in relation to the allied nations. These are the principles, these are the issues, on which I should like to see the contest conducted. But this attitude on the part of a man. who defends himself merely by denouncing and traducing his ‘opponents is the most miserable spectacle that has ever been presented to the public of Australia.
– I should not have intruded in this debate but for the attitude that has been taken up by some honorable members of the Official Labour party. They will do me the credit of believing that I regret very much the circumstances that made it necessary for me to separate from the party to which I had belonged for a quarter of a century. As one who has been associated with the Labour movement for twenty-five years, who watched its inception, was. present at its birth, took part in its development, helped to .propagate its platform and its policy, and who for years has fought its battles on the platforms of this country, as well as in this Parliament, I cannot regard as pleasurable or palatable the conditions which have led to my separation from it. I wish to set out the reasons why to-day I am on this side of the House while members of the Official Labour party are on the other side. I am here, first of all, because the movement to which I belonged for a quarter of a century has become another movement. It is not the movement in which I grew up. It is not the movement that I and others of our party developed. . It has gradually merged into a movement with ideals and objects foreign to those which it propagated for many years. One of the principles laid down in the initial stages of the Labour movement in Australia was that we should pledge ourselves to stand shoulder to shoulder in carrying out the platform of the party as enunciated by the delegates in conference. That platform was placed in black and white, so that we knew what was the contract we were signing. We knew what was the task before us.- Any man who signed that contract knew that he was pledging himself to carry out the platform which had been compiled by his fellow Labourites in conference assembled. That was the contract he was to faithfully observe during the following three years. He knew that he was not called upon to do other than was laid down in clear and definite terms in that contract during the three years that he sat in Parliament. That policy, clear and honorable, as between the man and the organization, every honest man could carry out. But what happened later on? There came into the movement a body which has changed all this. There gyrated into it elements which I could see plainly enough were going to introduce a “ rift in the lute.” How have they brought that about? It was brought about by a conference which was as different from the conferences that preceded it as light is from dark. It was a conference constituted for the distinct and definite purpose of bringing down a number of men whose positions the members of that conference desired to fill, and whose honour they wanted to besmirch. At a conference held in’ the principal State of the Commonwealth twelve months ago, we found bound together men who were prepared to charge others in the movement with all sorts of offences, and who howled those men down when they sought to explain their position. That is the element which has entered the old Labour movement. It has borne fruit during the last few months. We are on this side of the House through no fault of our own. We have broken no pledge, and violated no platform that we have signed; we have been driven out from the Official Labour party because we decided that we were free to use our own judgment, and vote as our consciences dictated on any question that was not embodied in the platform of the party. When the fate of the Empire was at stake, and I was asked whether I was in favour of taking such action as would save this country, and the Empire as a whole - whether I was in favour of saving the grand institutions that we had been able to develop under this free Constitution of ours - I said, “ If the Empire is to go, if Australia is to go, what else matters ? We shall have neither the right nor the power to carry out our wishes.” And yet this movement, of which I have spoken to-night, has driven me out. It has expelled me, not because I broke my contract with it, but because it wanted me to honour a promissory note that I had never indorsed. It is dishonest to ask any man to honour a promissory note that he has not indorsed.
– Did not the honorable member pledge himself to the Sydney Executive as being opposed to conscription?
– My reply to their communication was perfectly consistent with my subsequent action. When I remember the machinations that have been at work; when I look at the forces that are propelling the movement to-day, and which have taken control of the grandest movement this country has ever known-
– What are those elements? It is just the same as when the honorable member was connected with it.
– The honorable member knows what they are. When the time came for me to decide whether I should obey the mandate of men to carry out a pledge which I had never given, and turn against the country to which we all owe so much, I had the courage to do what I believed to be ‘ right, irrespective of what any outside body to whom I was under no obligation dared or cared to demand of me.
– You would not be in Parliament to-day but for that organization.
– I helped the Labour party.
– That does not matter. Why besmirch it now i
– It is no longer the organization that I helped to build up. The honorable member knows that it is not.
– How long is it since it changed ?
– Since the honorable member’s influence has been at work.
– It is “a dirty bird that fouls its own nest.”
– That is what they have been doing.
– The organization was good enough to put you into Parliament.
– And I was good enough to stand by it and fight for it, as the honorable member knows.
– That is so. You always did.
– I wish to clear up a point which the honorable member for Bourke sought to make in this House a few days ago. He, and other members of his party, have made denials which I am surprised to hear. He reminded us the other night of his admiration for the Prime Minister after the great fight that he put up on the Constitution referendum.The honorable member for Bourke said that he was so struck with the fighting qualities of the Prime Minister that he was impelled to write him a letter expressing his admiration of the way he had conducted the campaign. For months afterwards he basked in the sunshine of the Prime Minister’s smile. In those days he had no word to say against him. The two could not have been closer friends, and the honorable member’s explanation as to his letter-writing explains the whole thing. He went on to say that the difference between them was due to the fact that, in the early stages of the war, he told the Prime Minister, in this House, that under the War Precautions Act the Government had power to do everything that they would be able to do under the Constitution, as proposed by the Labour party to be amended. He said that he pointed out that there was no need for the proposed amendments; and that he fell out with the Prime Minister because he would not take the course sug gested by him, but persisted in his proposal to appeal to the people by way of referendum to make certain constitutional amendments. Later, we found that the Prime Minister was face to face with the question of putting the referenda proposals to the people. The House of Representatives is supposed to be elected for three years, and the life of a Parliament to extend to that term. But when I came back from the country the last time it was the third fight which I had had in four years. Having regard to the size of the constituencies which some of us have to cover, it was an abrogation of the intention of the Constitution. And because the elections had come so quickly upon us I determined to take some action. Seeing that there was a prospect of the Parliament not lasting for three years, but for only two years and five months, on account of the anomaly in the Constitution, I personally decided that it was time that the Constitution, which did not give us what it professed to give, was amended in some way. I urged, not only that the Constitution should be amended, but that, in order to make up for the short terms between the elections, it would be a wise thing to extend the life of the Senate for one year beyond its term, and to carry the House of Representatives with that extension. I did that deliberately, believing that the people, knowing that Ave had had to fight three elections in four years, would have no objection. I went to my fellow-members, as I did when the question of increasing our parliamentary allowance was raised. I took that matter in hand, because, being a unionist always, and in favour of the best conditions for the workers, whom I had fought for, I desired fair conditions for the. men who were doing the country’s work in Parliament. I hesitated not to organize for a fair remuneration, which would put the members of the House beyond the possibility of temptation, and allow them to carry out their work with a feeling of self-respect and with credit. I did not hesitate to say what should be done. I carried that proposal through, and I have been proud of the fact, because I have seen men in the House, not as they had been before, practically living from hand to mouth, and liable to be tempted, if they were capable of being tempted. I do not claim any credit for bringing about an increase of the parliamentary allowance, but I feel proud that I was the instrument through which it was done. If I hold an opinion I have the courage to express it, to give effect to it, and to carry the responsibility of my action, no matter what it may be. With regard to an extension of the life of Parliament, I went to Labour members and told them what I thought was right, and asked them if they agreed to the proposal. The matter was taken before the party, and agreed to. Of course, honorable members agreed. Why should they disagree when the proposal was honorable and right? The party agreed to a postponement of the Senate elections for twelve months beyond the term of six years. Then I went to members of the Opposition, as I had a right to do. It was not a party matter. I made it a parliamentary matter. I asked members of the Opposition their opinion on the problem, and they agreed to the proposal. At that time my proposal to make up for the numerous elections which we had had to fight since I entered the House was indorsed, not only by my own side of the House, hut also by the major portion of honorable members on the Opposition side. The proposal was to be submitted with the referenda to the people, and honorable members all agreed to it. But when it came to the crucial point, some honorable members trembled. There were men who did not like to go beyond bringing the Senate into line with the House of Representatives. There was a makeshift, or a compromise, required by the weak-kneed men ; they preferred to bring the Senate into line with this House, and to start the terms in October instead of in the following June. That proposal was agreed to, and was to be put to the people with the referenda. In the meantime the Prime Minister evidently realized what the honorable member for Bourke had said, namely, that these things could be carried out without the constitutional amendments. Whatever the honorable member for Bourke declared could be done under the War Precautions Act was in fact realized by the Prime Minister later. When the latter was asked to go to England on national business, and the party desired him to go, the question arose as to whether we could not do the things under the War Precautions Act. When I suggested to the Prime Minister that he might get a validating Bill put through the British Parliament to extend the life of this Parliament to October, not one honorable member objected to the suggestion. It was understood that the Prime Minister should go to the Imperial Parliament, as the Prime Minister of Canada had already done, and ask for the same authority. He went to England, and no doubt - in fact, I am sure - the question was brought forward, and the opinion of the British Government was obtained. However, when he returned to Australia the war was waging very fiercely, and, worse luck, it is waging more fiercely now. People were realizing that if we were to do our duty by this country, so that in our hour of need we might claim the protection of those whom we are helping to-day, we must take some action, as members of the British nation, remembering that, whether Australians by adoption or by birth, we enjoy our privileges to-day only because we have the strong arm of Great Britain to defend us, from infancy to nationhood. When the Prime Minister got a promise that the life of this Parliament could be extended - it was clear that it could be done, because it had already been done for Canada - he came back to Australia. He told us what had happened. I told my colleagues at that time-
– He did nob tell us anything of the kind.
– Let me go on.
– He did not say anything.
– No, my honorable friends did not give the Prime Minister a chance to say anything.
– You have just said that he did tell us what had happened.
– The conference had carried a resolution in Sydney ; the executive had struck an attitude ; the Prime Minister was condemned before he spoke by a junta - a junta which had no authority to condemn him under those conditions.
– There was not a word said about him until long after he had come back.
– The honorable member cannot tell me anything, because I know what took place.
– You were too much taken up with a Royal Commission.
– I can attend to a Royal Commission and do my work too.
I am not like some men who get tired. I have had to work all my life. “When the Prime Minister came back, the recruiting was falling off. It had been falling off for months. The recruiting efforts had begun to fail, and fail badly.
– The Minister for Defence said that we were getting plenty of men.
– The honorable member might reasonably be quiet on the question of recruiting or the war. When my colleagues asked me whether I was going to put party before country; whether I was going to turn my back on the boys whom I had persuaded from twenty to forty platforms in this- country to go to the front, and to whom I gave the promise that come what might I would never forsake them, and that there would be comrades to see them through ; when my colleagues asked me what I was going to do, I said, “I will wait till the Prime Minister returns. Let him tell you from the centre what the position is, and whatever he conveys to you as to the needs of the Empire, I will do my duty to my country and my race.” On his return he gave the message which he had to bear, and whatever honorable members may say about there not being any need to send 16,500 men a month, whatever they may say about that statement which came across the sea, they cannot deny that the very refusal of the reinforcements has caused the Australian Force at, the front to be reduced in numbers, and compelled us to absorb men who were part of a division to make good the wastage in the ranks. They know all that while they are trying to shelter themselves behind the allegation that not so many men were required, that the wastage was not so great. They were counting on the figures for the winter months. Let them consider what the wastage is likely to be during the great offensive which is to take place.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed^]
– When the Prima Minister told me what the needs of the Empire were I did not raise any question. I did not ask what the Labour party, or the Labour conference, or the Labour executive was going to do. I did not ask whether they would permit me to follow ‘ the dictates of my conscience on a matter on which I was not bound by a pledge. I took the course which to me seemed the right course for a man to take into whose hands had partly been committed the welfare of his country and the welfare of the Empire. I took that course whatever consequences it might carry. I regret that I am alienated from a movement which at one time I used to love, and in which I used to spend my hours with pleasure and delight. It is not my fault, and I say, without hesitation, that numbers of the men who remained on the opposite side thought as I did until they heard the sound of the juggernaut in the distance. Those men cannot reconcile with their consciences the attitude they are now taking up, as compared with the attitude they took up before any threatening forces arose. Nearly half the party opposite, if they were free to express the faith that was in them, were of the same opinion as myself. What are we to think of them ? What are they to’ think of themselves? Because they feared that they might not return when the time arrived for their trial before the public, they hesitated and shirked their duty, and got back under the domination of a power that did not belong to the Labour party, a power that does not belong to it to-day, and that some day will be cast out of it as it has cast other men out of the movement. It is said now in the Senate that those members did not prevent us going to the country. They claim that they wanted to go to the country all the time; but in saying that they are saying what is not correct. They are saying the opposite of that which I know they were in favour of only a year or eighteen months ago. The only reason they wanted to go to the country was that they thought they would not get there. By their malignity towards the Prime Minister, whose only crime is that he stood by his country through thick and thin, no matter what befell him, they have managed to dominate the Senate, and now they have to face an election. Previously they admired and praised the Prime Minister as their leader, no one more so’ than the honorable member for Melbourne, who, for the last two days, has showered on him abuse that would be a disgrace to Billingsgate. I have heard that man applaud and laud the Prime Minister to a degree that would almost make one sick; but’ to-day he is denouncing and pouring vitriol on him. What type of men are these that can adopt such an attitude towards a man whose only offence is that he would not be bound or driven by any power to do other than what he believed to be right in the interests of the country that he serves, and that raised him to the position that he holds? The honorable member for Bourke gave us an address to-night in his characteristic and dramatic style, which is one of his brilliant qualities; but, whatever his fireworks, his sparks, as a rule, do not burn. The flashlight which dazzles soon burns itself out. He comes into this chamber now and then like a flashlight, and, for the moment, blinds those who are looking on ; but after the flare has passed one cannot see any results. So it is with the utterances of that able tongue. He spoke to-night about what the electors are going to do, and the fight that is to be fought. That fight can be fought without personalities; but who has introduced personalities into it already? What has happened ever since the Prime Minister dared to ask the people to carry out the platform that we all signed, the platform containing the referendum, the right to ask the people whether they will or will not agree to any measure? Because he dared to put that plank of his own platform into effect, men who were adherents to the platform condemned him for trying to give effect to the highest principle of Democracy. The result of the campaign was the outcome of the malignancy, selfishness, and cowardly propaganda of those men, after a fight the like of which I hope never to see again. Had there been one more week, or, at the most, a fortnight, for us to allay the false rumours that went about, had we had another fortnight in New South Wales to inform the people of the realities of the position, and to extract the poison injected by those who propagated the doctrine of national sacrifice and humiliation, there would have been no majority against the referendum in October last. There was a majority for “ No “ in one State which practically constituted the negative majority for the whole of Australia. Our opponents in that State said, “We rely on voluntary recruiting to maintain our forces at the front.” All the anti-conscriptionists told the people to rely on the men coming forward voluntarily to fight the battles of the Empire. How have they come forward since ? How have these men carried out the doctrine that they themselves put forward? Since that time how many of those who brought about the negative verdict of the people have come forward to advocate the policy of voluntary enlistment with any energy or enthusiasm? It is true that some of them go on the platform, but do they go with the real enthusiasm, have they got the true ring in their voices; have they the appeal in their hearts, do they reach the people that they want to reach? No, they merely talk without an atom of sincerity in their voices. That is not the way to bring men to the colours.
– How many meetings have you addressed since the referendum? Not one.
– I have been working all the time; but I did not rely on voluntarism.
– Why point the finger of scorn at us, then?
– Because you said, “ We will rely on voluntary effort,” and I expected you to follow it up like men.
– I have done it.
– I have been doing the work of this country during that time night and day. Otherwise, I should have been on the platform, too. The Government, at the latter end of last year, asked the party opposite to grant them three months’ Supply, so that we could go on recruiting. If that had been granted, I could have given a month to recruiting; but these men who wanted to help the Empire cut down Supply to two months, and prevented me from doing so.
– You have been giving a month up in the club-room in another Minister’s Department.
– Yes ; and doing good work, too, which the honorable member will not do.
– We ought to have a quorum to hear this.
– That is the boy who volunteered for enlistment and did not get through. [Quorum formed.] Those disciples of the voluntary principle prevented us helping the recruiting movement. Had they meant what they saidthey would have given us three months’ Supply, and proved their sincerity. A desire was expressed to prolong the life of Parliament, not because members wanted to retain their seats a little longer, but because, even apart from the war, it was an equitable thing to do under the conditions. On account of the war, it was not only equitable, but absolutely necessary, and those men know it. But how have they helped us? We thought we could get the life of Parliament extended, and have the House adjourned so that we could again mount the recruiting platform, and appeal sincerely, earnestly, and vigorously to those able and fit to go to the front to take their places in the ranks. If that had been done, relief would have been sent to men fighting in the trenches to-day, who are actually the sons of some of those who have prevented help going forward in the way that we desired. Eighteen months ago honorable members opposite favoured the prolongation of the life of tnis Parliament, and desired that the Prime Minister should ask the Imperial Government to bring it about. Their doings of late have been actuated, not by the desire to prevent that prolongation, but’by the desire to defeat the voluntary recruiting movement. Mr. Mackinnon has prepared his organization for a march forward to victory, but all his labour is to go for nothing because of the blow which they have struck. They have forced upon the country electoral turmoil which will extend over at least two months, regardless of the fact that our boys at the front need help. Our brave soldiers, by their actions at Gallipoli and Pozieres, have made the name of Australia glorious in the pages of history. In the coming great offensive their ranks may be decimated. They are facing the cannon of the Hun, and are striving to drive the enemy of civilization back into his own country, but honorable members opposite will do nothing to help them. We are not to be allowed to appeal to the manhood of this country to go to their assistance. Honorable members opposite have branded themselves the enemies not only of compulsory military service, but also of voluntary military service. They cannot denv it.
– The honorable member used to attend our meetings at one time.
– The honorable member, like myself, was called upon to do something beyond what he had pledged himself to do, but he had not the courage to refuse. He and those with him will tell the electors that it was Senator Bakhap and Senator Keating who were responsible for the present catastrophe. In their wildest dreams they never thought that the elections would come. They have cried “Wolf! Wolf!” without ever expecting to be devoured. Personally, I have no feeling against them individually, but I should be less than a man if I remained silent in the face of the attempts to defame the Prime Minister and the aspersions cast on those associated with him. In days gone by they trusted and admired him; now they turn and rend the man who is responsible in a great measure for having paved their way into Parliament. In many cases he won for them the support of their constituents. I remember what a demand there was for his help at election time. There was not a man in the party who did not ask for it.
– What rot!
– The honorable member is one who did.
– Mr. Hughes never came to Brisbane.
– The honorable member never gave a vote for Labour until he voted for himself. It was the pioneer work of Mr. Hughes and others that enabled him to get into Parliament. He and others have come in on the wave made by the founders of the movement. They reap where others have sown.
– You have not been in the movement so long as I have. You have been in it only twenty-five years.
– I was secretary to the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney in 1880, and my soul was torn with sorrow when I was driven out “of the movement, not because of any offence against Labour, nor because I had broken any political pledge, but because of a fatal influence that has been working of late, due to Labour’s unholy alliance with those who will bring it to its doom. Later there will come a day of resurrection, but at present the Labour movement is besmirched and destroyed by men who are not fighting in the cause of humanity, but whose aim is revolution.
– To whom does the honorable member refer ?
– The honorable member knows better than I do. He knows what is the power behind the throne.
– More innuendoes !
– The honorable member for Indi knows, too. There are men still in the Labour partv who, although they declared their belief in conscription, have not dared to say a word about it since they received orders as to the way in which they should go.
– I shall produce that letter to-morrow.
– You may produce what you like. I have fought battles against even more unscrupulous men than the honorable member. He is unscrupulous in debate.
– I ask that the honorable member be required to withdraw that re-
– Does the honorable member for Illawarra regard it as offensive?
– If I have offended the honorable member - I did not think that possible - I withdraw the remark. I hope that we shall hear no more from honorable members opposite the statement that they did not desire the prolongation of Parliament. I hope that they will not deny what is well known to be a fact. They should tell the country that they did their best to prevent an appeal to the electors. I hope, too, that they will have nothing more to say about the efficacy of voluntarism, and that they will not try to mislead the people as they did last October. They have done what they can to prevent voluntary recruiting, in the first case by refusing to grant three months’ Supply when it was asked for, and now by preventing the Parliament from continuing its work, and compelling the country to spend on elections money which might well be spent upon munitions.
– I think that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Why do you not speak from your usual place?
– I am not like the honorable member.
– No, there is no chance of your resigning.
– When the honorable member was on the recruiting platform, and before conscription was in the air, appealing to other fathers’ and other mothers’ sons to go to the war, he said that he had a son not old enough then to go, but that when he was, if he did not go, he would try to compel him.
– I never said that. My boy will go voluntarily.
– But what was it that the honorable member said then ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It appears from the cross-firing that has been going on that the debate is developing into election addresses instead of having relation to the Financial . Statement, which I fear is not receiving very much consideration. So far as my constituency is concerned, the people there are very much exercised over a matter of vital importance to them.
– Sugar !
– I refer, of course, to the sugar industry. I observe that the honorable member for Illawarra is laughing. Apparently he is not concerned with the fact that tens of thousands of people in Queensland are almost ruined on account of the action of certain people, and evidently he would not help to get this Parliament to come to their assistance. What kind of a man is he ? I do not consider him a man at all.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Wide Bay is accusing the honorable member for Illawarra with laughing at some statement which he has made. That is not correct. The honorable member for Illawarra was laughing at an aside by the Postmaster-General. I heard it, and I say that the honorable member for Wide Bay is not in order in accusing the honorable member for Illawarra with laughing at such a serious matter as that to which he is referring.
– As a personal explanation, I desire to say that I was laughing, not at what the honorable member for Wide Bay was saying, but at an interjection from the Postmaster-General, who sarcastically interjected “ Sugar !” I am quite in sympathy with the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay in connexion with that matter.
– Evidently the honorable gentleman does not consider very much about the duty he owes to the country. I repeat that tens of thousands of men engaged in connexion with the sugar industry of Queensland are almost on the verge of ruin, and that while they have hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together the Federal Treasury has been receiving a considerable amount of revenue from their industry. This year alone no less than £336,000 was paid in duty on black-grown sugar, and the sugar industry in Queensland had to bear that impost. The Government have made a profit of over £1,000,000 out of the sale of the sugar grown in my State. The present Treasurer has also informed us that £500,000 has already been paid into the Consolidated Revenue. How is it that one industry in this Commonwealth is penalized to that extent, while other industries are taken by the hand and fostered ? The wool, the wheat, the mineral, the butter, and the dried fruit industries, to mention but a few, are all safeguarded. Not one penny is taken from the joint earnings of those engaged in those businesses and paid into the Consolidated Revenue. It appears that honorable members in this House will not look into these questions to see that one section of the Commonwealth is not penalized as against another. No industry in the Commonwealth is of such vital importance to the people of Australia as the sugar industry. Once it is killed, what will become of that large eastern seaboard of Queensland, with its tens of millions of acres of agricultural land, as good as any in the world, and capable of growing all classes of tropical and sub-tropical products? At present black-grown sugar from places like Java is allowed to come into Australia, not at the price paid to the cane sugar grower of Queensland, who gets only £18 per ton for his crude sugar, but at from £20 to £23 per ton. The difference between the amount paid to the Queensland grower and that paid to the grower of black sugar in Java has to be borne by the Queensland grower, as well as the protective duty of £6 per ton. If that is not an unjust and hard case, I do not know what is.
– The Treasurer ought to reply to this.
– It is from the present Treasurer that we have got this information. The late Treasurer, in his statement of 27th September last, allowed this House to believe that there was no certainty as to what would be made out of the Queensland sugar transaction, whether a profit or loss. He said that no one could say until the war was over whether there would be a profit or loss on the Government dealings in sugar. That was the statement made ; and yet we had it from the present Treasurer yesterday, in answer to my questions in this House, that £500,000 has been placed in the Consolidated Revenue Fund as the net proceeds of the sale of white-grown sugar in Queensland. Further, the late Treasurer never told us that we not only have to bear the cost of importing the blackgrown sugar at a higher price, but also pay the duty of £6 per ton on the same sugar. The ex-Treasurer, the honorable member for Capricornia, claims to represent one portion of Queensland; but, in my opinion, he misrepresents it. In his position as Treasurer he misled me and others who were endeavouring to do our duty to our constituents. It was in consequence of his action that no steps were taken in September last by me. The present Treasurer, on the other hand, tells us truthfully how things stand-; and I firmly believe that now we shall have justice - that some action will be taken to save this great industry, in which, at present, there is invested no less than £13,000,000. The crop in Queensland, under normal conditions, represents about £7,000,000; and I ask whether that is nothing to this Commonwealth 1 Is this industry not of vital importance to us from the point of view of defence ? Do we not know that, before the war started, some neighbours of ours, who represent a population of some 55,000,000 on a small island, were anxious to find a dumping ground for their surplus population ? They then had an eye on the northern portion of Queensland, and still have. In my opinion, once this industry is killed by reason of the present wages conditions under the Dickson award, it will not be possible to establish another industry there; and I do not think that the powers of the earth will allow all this beautiful territory to lie dormant while there are people on the globe who cannot find space for their surplus population.
– The Queensland Government are doing their level best to fill the territory.
– All I know is that the Queensland Labour Government, since they came into power, have done much to ruin the industry.
– I beg to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Capricornia cannot refrain from ungentlemanly remarks, and it is not the first time that he has called attention to my age. But my age is nothing to be ashamed of ; and when he is as old as I am, if he can show as honorable a career, he will have something to be proud of. Only last Friday, he said that I was “ not acquainted with modern politics.” And I am not, if modern politics includes the purloining, and bringing to this House, of Executive Council papers in violation of the Executive Council oath.
– I dare say the honorable member thinks that the violation of his oath is rubbish, but other people do not. Then, again, it may be supposed by some that modern politics includes the purloining of a mace ; and I do nob know that it has not yet been discovered whether the honorable member did not remove the leaves that are missing out of the books of the ex-Sneaker, the honorable member for Lang.
– I regard these remarks as offensive, and I ask. Mr. Chairman, that you compel the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I must ask the honorable member for Wide Bay to withdraw the remarks complained of.
– What I said was that I did not know; and if the conscience of the honorable member tells him he is guilty, I, of course, cannot help it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Capricornia has taken exception to the remarks of the honorable member as offensive, and I must ask that they be withdrawn.
– Obey the Chair!
– I always obey the Chair, and I withdraw the remarks because the Chairman has asked me to do so.
– I think that the remarks ought to be withdrawn unconditionally. I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Capricornia asks that the remarks be withdrawn unreservedly.
– What is it that I am asked to withdraw ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Words that are regarded as offensive.
– What are they? I have a right to know.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member knows what they are.
– I do not know that I have said anything that is untrue.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I must ask the honorable member to withdraw the remarks to which exception has been taken.
– Then I withdraw them. The honorable member for Capricornia is, to a large extent, responsible for the fact that no relief has been given to these 5,000 or 6,000 farmers who are now suffering. The present Treasurer, as I say, has given us the true state of affairs; and I feel sure that, before very many days are over, such relief will be given as will enable this industry to survive. I shall not delay the Committee longer now, because I shall have a further opportunity to-morrow to refer to the matter. If there is to be a sugar crop in 1918, the cane must be planted this or next month, and under existing conditions that is impossible. If there be a revision of the conditions under the Dickson award, and the grower is allowed to obtain the market value for his sugar, there will be no difficutly in producing both in 1917 and 1918 all the sugar that is required for consumption in Australia. I do not advocate that there should be an additional burden imposed on the consumer of sugar. We can carry on the industry without doing that, so long as the growers are allowed to have the proceeds of the sugar to which they are entitled, just as the wheat growers are allowed the proceeds of their wheat to which they are entitled. If the sugar industry is treated on all fours with other industries of the Commonwealth, it will be all right. But, unfortunately, some honorable members do not seem to recognise the necessity of keeping alive this valuable industry in which £13,000,000 has been invested, and the production of which in normal years is valued at £7,000,000.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170307_reps_6_81/>.