6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Newspaper Report - Australian-made Bags.
– In its report of our proceedings of yesterday, the Age publishes the statement that when the honorable member for Hunter was referring to the charges recently made by Senator Watson, I interjected that the honorable member for Perth had gone outside to make similar charges, and that when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports took exception to that remark, I said that he went to the Supreme Court to make his charges. What I said was that the honorable member for Perth went outside and made his charges from a public platform. He did that, and in fairness to him I have endeavoured to make the matter clear.
– I have been reported in the press to have said that no colonial bags have been accepted’ by the Wheat Board. The correspondence led me to that conclusion, but I find that the facts are that the Board rejected one particular sample of Australian-made bags. I have no desire to injure the local manufacturers of bags, and I wish, therefore, to make the statement that there are locally-made bags which are accepted by ‘the Wheat Board.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to give the House any information regarding the detention of Maltese in Sydney, in the face of the facts that some one has undertaken to find employment for them, and that every one of them is already a unionist and prepared to join the unions of this country?
– I have not heard anything during the last few hours, but I have every hope that the matter will be satisfactorily settled.
– In reply to a question on this subject yesterday, I stated that I had asked for certain assurances from the reverend gentleman who is acting for the Maltese. I have since received those assurances in writing, and propose to act on them. The men will only be released as employment is found for them, and on the definite understanding that they join unions as soon as they have sufficient money to pay their subscriptions. Each, application for release of the men will he accompanied by a guarantee from Father Bonett that these conditions are complied with.
– As my question yesterday was somewhat vague, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is his intention to apply to the Treasury for funds for a motorcar for the services of his Department, notwithstanding that the Treasurer is preaching economy to every one in the Commonwealth ?
– I have not made any such application to the Treasury.
– Is it your intention to do so?
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the same conditions of censorship in relation to political matters will prevail during the forthcoming ‘election’ campaign as prevailed during the referendum campaign. I understand that the censorship regulations have been amended, and that the newspapers are not now allowed to publish statements which they could have published during the referendum campaign?
– So far as I know, there have been no changes of any’ kind. My own feeling is that the censorship should not affect political discussion so far. as it consists of ordinary comment on matters of administration and other matters unrelated to the war.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the regulations affecting the censorship of newspapers have- been altered since the referendum campaign. Will the right honorable gentleman see that the same conditions operate during the forthcoming electoral campaign as operated during the referendum campaign, and that the newspapers shall not be prohibited from publishing comment on matters of policy generally? I understand that an agreement was made between the Prime Minister and representatives of New South Wales newspapers, and that since the referendum campaign the regulations have been amended.
– I have no knowledge whatever that the conditions of the censorship have been amended as the honorable gentleman suggests. I will state what I do know. The only censorship upon political criticism was imposed as the result of a discussion which took place in another place at which the honorable member for Yarra was present, and at which I stated that, for the time being, I did not propose to allow criticism in regard to a certain matter. For the moment I cannot remember what it was.
– It was the general situation.
– It had something to do with my going round to the various organizations. The press made a considerable hubbub about this, and no doubt the censors interpreted the instruction very, widely, and excised things which it was not intended should be covered by that instruction. After that I saw the press representatives both here and in Sydney. I said that they were as free to speak about political matters as they ever had been. So far as I know nothing has since been done which in any way limits their powers of political criticism. I speak only from my own knowledge, of course, and, so far as I know, no change has been made since I spoke to the representatives of the press.
– If I show the right honorable gentleman how the arrangement has been altered, will he see that the first. instruction is adhered to?
– I will. I should like to know how the instructions came to be altered. I have been reading the newspapers during the last few. days, and if they have been altered, by heavens, they have not been altered in the way I would have liked to alter them..
– Has tire Postmaster-General any information to give to the House .with respect to the alleged theft of mails from the Indarra!
– It has come to my knowledge that there has been an attempt to rob the mail that was being carried by the Indarra. I shall read the following telegram I have received, so that honorable members may be informed of the facts: -
On receipt at this office this morning ot mails from Eastern States, per Indarra, it was found that seals had been tampered with and registered letter bags from Melbourne and Sydney . ripped open, and in many instances . rifled. Ordinary correspondnce .apparently untouched. Man suspected being implicated robbery now in custody. Arrested at Albany. Found secreted iu hamper landed on - jetty from Indarra, having with him bag containing jewellery.
I might say that the man was . hidden in a commercial traveller’s hamper when he waa caught.
– Does he belong to the Commercial Travellers’ Club?
– I would not utter such a libel upon any reputable institution. The interjection will show the irresponsibility of some people. The telegram continues -
Police also arrested supposed confederate at Mount Barker. Ascertained to-day door ship’s mail-room, which had been locked, but not secured with iron bar in usual way, had been prized open. Police making full investigation, and inventory now being prepared of missing contents, registered articles at this office. Full report will follow early sb possible. Am notifying agents A.U.S.N. Co. of their liability. Lloyd.
I might be allowed to add a word or two. Serious allegations have been made in the press with regard to missing mails in Sydney. The allegations have been not only that the mails have been interfered with for three or four months, but that this has been the outcome of inefficient supervision. I wish to say, first of all, that the general allegation with regard to Sydney ‘ mails being interfered with is not correct. There has been a registered mail bag removed and another put into its place, quite recently, in transit from the General Post-office to the Central Office. These things are occurring, not from any lack of supervision, but from the difficulty we have in these times of war in finding men of equal probity to take the place of those who have gone to fight our battles. Do what we will, and exercise all the precautions we may-
– That is a very insulting remark concerning the people here.
– It iB a fact all the same. Although the great bulk of the men are giving good and honest service, honorable members will recognise that it requires only a few of a particular kind to get into the service of the Post Office to cause a lot of trouble to the people of this country. I did not, by the remark I made, to which the honorable member for Dalley has taken exception, cast any aspersion upon the general body of men engaged in the Post Office, though the honorable member would try to suggest that they are all implicated in that remark.
– The honorable gentleman made a very wide statement.
– I made the remark to suggest the great difficulty we have today in rendering to the public the service we have been able to give in the Post Office. I am glad to make this statement for the information of the House and the country.
– In response to the request made yesterday by the honorable member for Wentworth for information as to the total estimated cost of the inquiry regarding various works, I lay the estimate on the table on behalf of the Standing Committee on Public Works.
– Following up my question with respect to the censorship, I handed the matter, on which I based the question, to the Prime Minister, and he has suggested that I refer to it publicly by a further question so that he may have an opportunity to deal with it through the columns of Hansard. The following paragraph appeared in the Bulletin of the 22nd February last: -
Another instance of the awful Defence Department’s efforts to help voluntary recruiting
My youngest brother enlisted in the 4th Battalion, and was killed at Gallipoli between 6th and9th August, 1915. Before leaving he, no doubt thinking I could best attend to his business, nominated me as next of kin, although he had ft wife and two children. On receipt of the advice of his death I made application for a pension for his widow, and after some delay, which was quite warranted under the circumstances, I got it fixed up. I also made application on behalf of the widow for the balance of his military pay, and wrote perhaps twenty times about it. A little over a year after his death - in September, 1916-1 got the form which I enclose. 1 wrote at once pointing out that, for some unknown reason, the form asked me to declare that I was the father of the deceased, ana I pointed out that I had a year previously established the identity of a widow and children. I again, however, gave them all addresses, cartificates, &c, that had been required previously. This simple matter appears to have produced chaos in the Department, as up to date (12th February) nothing further has been heard of the matter, except that a month ago ft local sub-inspector of police called and produced forty folios of correspondence between the Military Department and almost every police officer in Tasmania. He asked me to add a few marginal notes to the huge collection he had, which I did. It is now eighteen months since my brother was killed. His widow is still waiting for the unpaid wages that were to his credit when he died. The amount is admitted to be £60 1s. 4d.
Following the publication of that paragraph the following correspondence took place : -
Sydney, 2nd March, 1917.
The Editor of the Bulletin.
Your attention is directed to’ a paragraph published in the Bulletin, 22nd February, and beginning “ Another instance of the awful Defence Department’s efforts to help voluntary recruiting. …” I am to inform you that such articles are prejudicial to recruiting. They should be submitted for investigation before they are published. - I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
To the Censor,
An agreement was entered into between the Bulletin, and other Sydney newspapers, on the one side and the Prime Minister on the other, that paragraphs of the kind you allude to in yours of 2nd March were not to be subject to censorship. I should be glad to bp informed whether the Prime Minister proposes to break this agreement.
As your letter is not marked confidential I propose to publish this correspondence.
Sydney, 3rd March.
Editor, the Bulletin.
Sir, - I have received your letter of to-day, and beg to inform you (1) that the agreement to which you refer was in force only during the period of the referendum, and (2) that it did not at any time affect the operation of the War Precautions Regulations. The publication of the matter to which my C.S. 19,231 drew your attention is prohibited by War Precaution Regulation 28. The publication of my C.S. 19,231, and of any statement to the effect that publication of any matter has been forbidden is prohibited, and would constitute an offence under War Precaution Regulation 28c.
I am, &c,
A reply was sent by the editor of the Bulletin, but I do not propose to read it.
– Why not?
– I do not mind doing so, but it will serve no purpose to do so. Apparently some alteration has been made, or the censor in Sydney is- of that opinion. I ask the Prime Minister if an alteration has been made, and, if so, whether he will ha,v& the old conditions restored ?
– I understand now what the’ honorable member’s remarks were aimed at. I take it that at the most the censorship referred to is directed to matters relating to military administration. It is not suggested that there is any- limitation of political criticism as such. That is what I said just now. But I have glanced at the papers which the honorable member has handed to me, and I think that he should have read the final letter from the editor of the Bulletin to the censor. What is said in that letter is’ scandalous. It shows the type of man that he is. I knew nothing of this matter - I would not have asked the honorable member to read the correspondence if I had known ‘anything at all about it. This is what this man has said - >
Dear Sir, - I have your memo, of this date. The agreement was not made for the period of the referendum campaign, and if the Prime Minister says it was he is merely a liar. I shall be glad to be informed if it is an offence to have this correspondence read in the Senate.
That is an unprovoked and scandalous thing for this man to say about me, and my conduct in the Chamber to-day is an ample refutation of his .statement. I know no more of this matter than the man in the moon.
– I have not said that you did.
– It is a shame. I have been hounded down from one end of the country to the other. This paper is notoriously bending its every effort to denounce me at every conceivable opportunity, and for this man, under cover of this correspondence, to make the statement he has made concerning me is absolutely intolerable. Every honorable member opposite knows that the censorship regulations were imposed during the heat of the referendum campaign for one purpose. I was going round to the various organizations, and while there was a hope of -reconciliation and of our working together again it was the practically unanimous wish of the united Labour party in this Parliament that there should be no publicity given to the negotiations that were in progress. The Bulletin at the time published a leader full of the most venomous and vile abuse of me. The article was brought to me. It had to go out under the censorship regulations, and the censor had struck it out, but though it absolutely reeked of venom, I said, “Let it go,” and it was published. Of course, I had the power under the regulations to stop it; in fact, I could have said nothing at all, and simply let the censor strike it out. But the letter that I have just read is too much altogether.
– I asked the question in good faith, and I did not read the letter to which exception has been taken. I passed the correspondence over to the Prime Minister, but I admit that he had not the time to read it at that particular moment.
– I did not read it.
– The Prime Minister passed the papers back and said that I had better read the correspondence. I did not read it for the purpose of injur-, ing the right honorable gentleman. No one can say that I have ever attacked him except in a fair way. 1 have disagreed from him, but I do not carry that disagreement any further. In regard to the censorship I do think that we are not entitled to censor such matters.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition say now that the tone of the letter is excusable in any sense?
– No; but I consider that the whole of the correspondence, with, perhaps, the exception of the letter referred to, should appear in Hansard.
– I maintain that the whole of the correspondence should be printed, so that the people may know what kind of person this man is.
– I am not particular. I simply object to this kind of newspaper censorship. I have never previously taken exception to the exercise of the censorship, although I have felt very keenly upon it. I hope that this is not to be the type of censorship to prevail during the election campaign.
– Order !
– I do not propose to debate the matter further. If we wish to do so we can do it on an adjournment motion or on Supply. Although we disagree, we wish to conduct the fight fairly, but there must be no favouring of one side while restrictions are imposed on the other.
– Did I not keep my word that people could say what they liked on the referendum campaign? I do not seek favours from any one.
– Neither do I. I simply ask that the same conditions may prevail during the elections. I ask for our party just the same treatment as is to be extended to any other party.
Prisoners of War
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I direct his attention to the following paragraph, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 19th February: -
Mr. P. White mentioned the case of one of his relatives who was a prisoner of war in Germany. A letter was received from the military authorities to the effect that the lad had been killed, but two days afterwards a letter came from the lad himself, stating that he was in Germany. The military authorities were advised to that effect, and they asked that the letter be forwarded to them. That ‘was done seven months ago, and a reply was received two days ago that the boy’s pay would go on. He thought there was a lot the military authorities could do to improve matters.
In view of the statements contained in that paragraph, I ask whether steps will be taken to see that matters like this are expedited. I quite realize that mistakes may be made, but there appears to be no excuse why hardship should be imposed on the recipients of soldiers’ pay when seven months are occupied in ascertaining the facts and making them known to the people concerned.
– I can promise the honorable member that everything will be done at this end to expedite the making of these inquiries. Of course, the honorable member can se© that the delay may have occurred at the other end, but even in that respect he is justified in asking that representations may be made to see whether these matters cannot be expedited across the seas.
– Seeing that practically the whole of the shipping is held up on the east coast of America owing to the submarine scare, would the Prime Minister see if arrangements can be made with American ship-owners to send their boats to Australia to load our wheat and wool that has accumulated here in big quantities? These vessels could go across the Pacific and through the Panama Canal, and land our produce at one of the ports on the seaboard, so that there would be only a short distance to transport it to the Old Country. Any arrangement in that direction would relieve the pressure here, and at the same time provide freights for American shipping.
– I am afraid the honorable member’s proposal is not practicable. What we have to do is to take wool and wheat not to America, but to England.
– It is a half-way point.
– It is the other half that is the trouble. It is like making a charge - the first half mile is nothing; the last 100 yards is bell. The fact is that there is a blockade, and w© have to run it. The nearer we get to Great Britain the harder it is to get through. I am afraid there is no way round this business. I wish there was.
– In the Age report of the proceedings of the House yesterday it is stated that when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports complained that the meat supplied to the transports was rotten, the -honorable member for Denison interjected that it was meat supplied by the Labour Government in Queensland. I know that is a misreport, and therefore call attention to it. I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy if the report is correct, and whether any meat supplied to the transports by the Queensland Government has been inferior or condemned for any reason whatever?
– It is quite untrue to say that rotten meat has been supplied to tHe boats. It is a great pity that in discussing these matters that affect the business honesty and integrity of our community, we could not be a little more careful in the way we put these things. As I said yesterday, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne, the facts were that a certain amount of meat had been supplied - over nine” months ago - chiefly ox livers and the like, affected with fluke and hydatids.
– I never heard of ox livers affected with fluke.
– Then it must have been hydatids, or perhaps the fluke was in some other meat.
– Fluke might be in sheep’s livers, but it is not very common in this country.
– Then probably it was sheep’s livers. There were two or three shipments of meat - not a great quantity. I think in one case 1,100 lbs. was supplied, and about 5 per cent. of it. was found to be infected.
– Three thousand pounds.
– My honorable friend is quite wrong. There was not 3,000 lbs. diseased.
– I have the dates, and the figures were not “denied by your pre- decessor
– When the 1,100 lbs. of liver was found to be infected to the extent of 5 per cent., the whole lot was rejected. The point is that these contractors supply meat which has already passed the inspection of the health authorities, and has come from the various abattoirs. It seems to be quite wrong to try to fasten on these men a charge of intentionally supplying rotten meat to the soldiers. If a business man was proved to be of guilty intention in that regard, he ought to be put up and shot.
– But you are not man enough to do it.
– I hope I am man enough not to condemn another for a thing for which he is not responsible.
– Who is responsible?
– I should say the authorities who passed the meat.
– They deny it.
– They may deny it, but the fact is that this meat came from the abattoirs somewhere, and had passed some responsible inspection. If my honorable friends have any case which they can prove as to the mala fides of these men, why do they not bring it along? Why do they keep saying these things ? I am as anxious as they are to hunt out wrongdoing, but it is wrong to condemn the contractors for things for which they are not responsible.
– They are responsible, and you know it.
– If that is the honorable member’s attitude I shall have no more to say to him. I take it to be grossly insulting to say that I know that these men have been doing wrong. I know nothing of the kind. If I did I would pillory them at once.
– The Minister having taken exception to the remark of the honorable member for Melbourne as insulting, I ask him to withdraw it.
– What words do you wish me to withdraw ?
– I do not want the honorable member to withdraw anything.
– The honorable member imputed to the Minister that he said something which he knew to be incorrect.
– Certainly I withdraw it, but there are repeated instances of it in his Department.
– Order !
– Very well, I will withdraw anything.
– There is no evidence of any intentional wrongdoing on the part of these business contractors, so much so, that they are still supplying meat to the Department.
– In which State ?
– It is all from Victoria.
– It is not from the Labour Government in Queensland ?
– No meat whatever from Queensland has been condemned, so far as I know.
– By way of personal explanation I would state that I was in attendance at the House last night when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was making a charge about the inferior meat supplied to the troops going from Australia. From his remarks one would infer that the whole of the meat supplied to our men was rotten. During the time I was Assistant Minister for Defence I had the opportunity of seeing the meat at one camp, and no one could wish to see better meat served out to the men. I was also aware of the fact that most of the meat supplied to our men was obtained from Queensland - it is frozen meat, and so far as I could learn it was of excellent quality. Wishing to emphasise that the meat was good, I interjected to the honorable member last night: “Is it not supplied by the Labour Government in Queensland?” From the information given this morning, we know that the meat supplied is of excellent quality; and it is wrong for any honorable member to say that it is rotten.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if, during the coming elections, candidates and the press keep within the scope of the Electoral Act, they will be regarded as having done sufficient, or will any other embargo be placed on them in the criticism of the Departments of State, including the Military and Naval Departments?
– So far as Defence, meaning thereby the Army and the Navy, is concerned, I can hardly say that every man can have a. “ free leg,” for there are people who say all sorts of things. So far as political criticism is concerned, it must be, and should be, as free as ever it was. But we cannot during a time of war allow men to say things that may, perhaps, jeopardize the safety of the country, imperil the lives of the men on the transports, or prejudice recruiting - that cannot be allowed. There may be ordinary criticism ; and if any gentlemen like to get up and say - and I have no doubt many will like to get up and say - whatever they think about me - so far as I am concerned they can say anything, from the first word to the last in the dictionary - they will have a free run. But, so far as the law’ will protect me, by heavens, I will appeal to it ! If they want law, they shall have it !
– Are we to understand that the Government intend to allow unlimited licence in speech and in the press in dealing with matters more military than political - comments and criticism that may prejudice the success of the Allied troops in the field, and be of material assistance to the Germans? Is it the intention of the Government to allow unlimited licence in such matters?
– Of course it is not. Let me put it this way : So far as personal abuse of myself is concerned, everybody can have a free run - beyond that I cannot go - but if they say anything that will endanger the safety of the country, or prejudice the cause of the Allies or of recruiting, let them look out !
The following paper was presented : -
Public Works Committee Act.- Second general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In some cases magisterial inquiries have been held. Decision as to further inquiries will be determined by the merits and circumstances of each case.
– On behalf of the Minister for Home and Territories I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to make certain further provision, for the duration of the war and six months thereafter, in relation to parliamentary elections.
I desire to inform honorable members that this measure is now being printed, and that an advance copy will be available, I hope, in about an hour. What I propose to do, with the consent of the Leader of the Opposition, is to supply him with a copy. That is all I can do at present. The honorable member will then be able to discuss the Bill with his friends, and the measure will come on for consideration at the earliest, possible moment next week. I may add that we have not yet had an opportunity of carefully scrutinizing the Bill, so that it must not be regarded as definitely and finally the best that can be evolved, but it is the best that can be formulated in the circumstances.
.- I .presume that the principles to which the Government desire to give effect are embodied in the measure, and that no fresh principle will be introduced.
– That is so. I will supply the honorable member with a copy, which is to be regarded as private and confidential by the members of his party.
– That is all right. I will tell every honorable member to whom it is shown.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 8th March (vide page 11176) of motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a sum not exceeding £3,798,652 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1917.
Mr. GREGORY (Dampier) [11.231. - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie last night twitted the Treasurer in regard to a motion which appears upon the businesspaper dealing with preference to unionists in our Public Service. I was rather surprised that he should draw such pointed attention to the attitude of the right honorable gentleman, in view of the fact that when he himself joined one of the most extreme Protectionist Ministries in the Commonwealth, his previous Free Trade protestations made very little difference to the support which he accorded that Administration. I may tell the honorable member, however, that if the Treasurer does not proceed with the motion in question there are other honorable members on this side of the chamber who will not hesitate to press it. There is no greater disgrace to Australia than the preference which is accorded to unionists, so far as temporary employment in our Public Service is concerned. It is degrading and immoral. I believe that the admission made by the Postmaster-General to-day is directly due to the fact that the heads of Departments have not the control over their subordinates which they should be able to exercise. Doubtless they get a number of goodmen, but they also get a proportion of “scallywags,” who ought never to be there. We have only to imagine the position prevailing in the Defence Department to-day to realize what a disgrace preference to unionists means. When that Department requires clerical assistance it cannot obtain it from the Returned Soldiers Association - it has to go to the Clerks Union, to Mr. Katz, the secretary of that organization, which, honorable members will recollect, sent to Mr. Fisher, when he was Prime Minister, the most disloyal resolution that has ever been carried in Australia. That resolution affirmed that those who had gone to the front had only done so because of empty bellies. This Mr. Katz, I understand, is now opposing the honorable member for Maribyrnong in the preselection ballot. If the Government are worth their salt, they will immediately withdraw the objectionable regulation granting preference to unionists in the Public Service. I do not think that that regulation would ever have been promulgated but for the honorable member for Darwin. I do not believe that Mr. Fisher or the other members of his Cabinet desired it.
– I have a better opinion of the people of Australia than that. Honorable members heard what the Postmaster-General said this morning in regard to the difficulty that is being experienced by his Department in securing the services of a better class of men. I hope that whilst the war is in progress he will not allow young men to be brought into his Department, but that he will get women and girls to do the work.
– I cannot do that, because most of the work is done at night, and I will not work women and girls at night.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports had a good deal to say last night in regard to the treatment of our returned soldiers. He professes to believe in this war, and says that he has done his best to induce many persons to enlist. But after his deliverance of last evening, and his speech at Ballarat, can we believe that he is in. earnest on this question ? Evidently he does not mind asking one section of the people to volunteer for service abroad-
– I have left recruiting severely alone for nearly twelve months. I will not undertake it again until the Government treat our returned soldiers properly.
– The honorable member has stood all the things of which he spoke for nearly two years.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Why, I have heard honorable members pointing out, night after night, that no soldiers in the world are so well paid and so well looked after as are the Australian soldiers. But since the disruption of the Labour party there is no charge too bitter to be levelled by honorable members opposite against their former colleagues. Is it fair that a new Administration should be charged with, all these shortcomings ? In regard to the accusation that rotten meat was supplied to our troops on board a transport, I would point out that it was supplied by a Labour Government in Queensland. But I do not believe that rotten meat was wilfully supplied. I cannot credit that the Queensland Government would wittingly provide bad meat for our troops. It is quite possible, we know, for meat to become tainted. We must not forget the difficulties under which work is being carried on at the present time, and especially the difficulties in regard to transport. Only last Sunday in my own home in Melbourne we had to throw out a, joint because it was tainted.
– Would the honorable member like to have bad meat for five weeks ?
– No. I am not going to accept the honorable member’s statement, until it is supported by an official report, that the men on this transport had tainted meat for five weeks.
– But the authorities will not investigate these matters. I am not blaming the present Government. They have been in office for only five minutes, and will not remain there much longer.
– There can be no doubt that these statements are made not to better the conditions of the men, but to injure recruiting. Whatever the honorable member’s object may be that must be the result of his statement.
– Not if the conditions are improved.
– The whole trouble with the honorable member is that the Prime Minister either left, or was turned out of his party.
– I blame the Minister for Defence, ‘nob the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member in his speech last night showed very clearly that his loyalty is wholly and solely to the political party to which he belongs. It is not his country - it is not Australia or the Empire - that comes first with him; it is the political organization to which he belongs.
– We are the workers, and the workers are the Empire.
– The honorable member and his party do not represent the workers. How can they claim to do so when 300,000 of our men are fighting for us on the other side of the world ? They are undergoing all sorts of privations, and making all sorts of sacrifices for the honorable member and myself amongst others. We do not hear him denounce the great strike which took place recently in Newcastle, and which resulted in thousands of men being thrown out of employment. That strike reduced our producing capacity, and injured the country, but the honorable member and his party said nothing against it. He and his party do not reprove the men who are fighting for a hours working day when others are working for 20, 30, and 40 hours at a stretch. It is a lasting dis grace to this country that such things should be possible. If there had been in office, a strong Administration, when Mr. Considine gave to a Herald reporter the interview, in which he talked about forming a volunteer army at Broken Hill, those responsible for such a thing would have been deported.
– Of course we ought to hang them.
– In some instances men guilty of such conduct, in a time like this in our history, ought to be shot.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– The honorable member for Bendigo had better hold his tongue. He disgraced his own son for the sake of getting an advertisement for himself.
– You are a deliberate liar.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark. If the honorable member for Dampier has made a statement to which he takes exception I shall also call upon him to withdraw it.
– I will withdraw the remark if the honorable member for Dampier will withdraw his remark and apologize to me for his deliberate insult.
– I also withdraw the remark.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– A strong Government is essential at the present time, for three special reasons. We must have efficient administration; help for our primary industries; and economy in the Public Service. The Treasurer’s financial statement must convince any one that we cannot go on as we have been doing.
– We want a few more thousand out of work !
– I have here figures showing that in 1914-15 the States borrowed £22,000,000. All that money is being expended here. The growth of our national debt has been abnormal during the last five years. The public debt of the States is £350,000,000, to which we have to add £159,000,000, representing the indebtedness of the Commonwealth. Despite this vast expenditure of public money during the last few years, and notwithstanding that 300,000 of our men are away at the front, we find that there is unemployment in Australia; we have honorable members coming here and talking about starvation, and about men having to leave work. Is it not discreditable that this should be the position after the expenditure of all this borrowed money? The fact is that this Parliament has been the enemy of the primary producer. It has done everything possible to cripple the man who is prepared to put his money into industry. In the very near future we must give greater encouragement to the building up of our primary industries: otherwise no one can say what will happen. Our direct taxation is £7,600,000 a year. The taxation from Customs is £16,600,000, or a total of £24,000,000 in the Commonwealth’ alone; not taking into account the State taxation, and representing nearly £5 10s. per head for every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. It is enormous, and if on top of this we have to make provision for repatriation, and for the increased interest and sinking fund on further loans that will have to be raised for the war, it will probably run us into another couple of millions of pounds a year. We must therefore try to put a stop to the extravagance that is going on. Let us look at what is being done at the Flinders Naval Base. Admiral Henderson reported that this was suitable as a small sub-base for repairing submarines, but now it is being formed into a training establishment. I do not know what the expenditure has been up to the present, but I do know that the Defence authorities want over £500,000 for buildings alone, and at the present time they are proposing to erect a workshop, which alone will cost over £40,000. The machinery is estimated to cost over £30,000, and, in addition, £22,000 is required for three Babcock and Wilcox boilers. And I suppose that the boilers will cost this sum because they are going to be made at the Cockatoo Island Dock.
– I do think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The expenditure on these Public Works should be considerably curtailed at a time like this. This morning I received the Minister’s answer as to what is going on at the Flinders
Naval Base. Just imagine paying 7s. 8d. per cubic yard for handling the dirt of an embankment! I believe that when one man on the job was asked one day how much it was costing per cubic yard he said he could not tell, but he had a very good idea how much a “ bally “ shovelful it was costing.
– That was: cutting through the rock, was it not?
– No; it was all loose dirt. I have particulars of another excavation about 700 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, the cost of which was 9s. 3£d. per cubic yard to take out and distribute to spoil. I am given to understand also that there was no necessity to take out one yard of that dirt. As an instance of what is being done there, I might mention that when we visited the Base they told us they were making the excavation because they could not drive the piles through the sand. I objected, with the result that for the balance of the wharf the piles were driven without one yard of further excavation being made.
– How many thousand yards were taken out?
– Twelve thousand seven hundred cubic yards at a cost of £5,900, and they told me it would cost £2,750 to put in reinforced sheath piling to fill in the places from which they had taken the earth away.
– Money is being wasted there in thousands.
– Yes; because the men in charge have had no experience of what is necessary. Work has been going on also at Cockburn Sound for the past two years, but the plans have not even yet been prepared. Take also the transcontinental railway. That has cost over £6,000,000 up to date, and they were going to spend £250,000 in building workshops at Port Augusta. As a matter of fact, the train service on that line should be conducted by the State Railway Departments. We do not want an unnecessary Commonwealth Department to be created, because this means building up huge expenditure against the people of Australia. Let us look also to the proposal with regard io the arsenal at Canberra. We are told that Mr. Ratcliffe! the manager of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, has been sent to London to get experience, and the Defence Department authorities are going on with this proposal, though I pointed out in this Chamber some time ago it will cost £1,750,000 to house the men properly. I have no doubt that the site suggested would be an excellent one for a monastery, but for an arsenal, all I can say is, God help the men who have no better brains than to suggest such a thing as that ! Mr. Glynn told me the other day that it would cost nearly £4,000,000 to house the men and provide all the necessary facilities for a township.
– We had a water scheme propounded to cost about £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, but that is not to say that it is going to be adopted.
– But work in connexion with the arsenal is going on. Nobody knows better than the honorable member that £40,000 was set aside by the Treasury without parliamentary sanction. They are going on with it, and I say we should fight the Estimates in this House, and have something to say as to whether the arsenal should be established there or not. It is absurd to go on with the proposition, because in Australia we have no one capable of giving a satisfactory opinion upon this subject. This House should determine whether the arsenal should be built at Canberra or not. We have, of course, been promised that the House would have ‘ the right to determine the question, but it has been shelved every time, and, in view of the fact that it will cost at least £2,000,000, and probably £4,000,000, is it not a proper matter for the consideration of this House? Look at what has happened at Lithgow. We were told that we were going to produce rifles at a cost of £3 9s.1d., but actually they cost over £15 each; and let us not hide the fact that none of our rifles are being issued to our troops. From the beginning of the war we have hardly sent a rifle away, and the whole factory might as well be closed down for all the use it is, except to supply rifles with which to train our troops.
– Do you say the rifles are costing £15 each now?
– The first estimate was about £13; but after the honorable member for Melbourne and I made certain representations, Senator Pearce sent up an inspector, who condemned an enormous number of rifles. The man responsible for this work should have great experience, yet the man who has blundered is being sent to England to get knowledge and ad vice in connexion with the building of the arsenal at Canberra. I ask the Committee to remember that we are at war, and that the arsenal cannot be completed inside of four years. The whole science of manufacturing munitions of war is in the melting pot. The types of guns and rifles are being continually changed. New conditions are arising and fresh experiments being made to cope with them. The genius of the whole world is concentrated to-day on the task of producing munitions of war as speedily as possible. If we wait until- the war is over, we shall be able to get the best expert advice and the finest machinery in the world at probably a third of the price which would have to be paid for it to-day. There ought to be a sound inquiry into this project. Experts have told us that a work of this character should be somewhere near a large centre of population, because a large supply of youthful and inexperienced labour is required.
– Mr. Walker, of Queensland, said that the site at Canberra is one of the best in Australia.
– That is not the opinion of Admiral Clarkson, who has expert knowledge. Mr. Walker is an ordinary engineer, and probably he does not care what the cost is. The proposal is to erect an arsenal ‘ seven miles south of the Capital City where not a soul is living at present. We should have to construct a railway to the site, build a weir in order to conserve water for factory purposes, and install water supply and sewerage systems. The consequence would be that we should have a second Broken Hill at the doors of Parliament House. Parliament should discuss this matter, and come to a determination before we are too fully committed to the scheme.
.- The honorable member for Dampier has sounded the funeral note of the Fusion party. He made an attack on the principles of unionism, and said that if a strong Government is returned to power preference to unionists will be abolished.
– In the Public Service,
– I am pleased to have heard the honorable member’s statement, and I accept the challenge of the Fusion party that it wishes to have a strong Government in power in order to put unionists in their proper place.
– Is he speaking for the Government ?
– He is sitting behind them, as the honorable member is. I hope that former members of the Labour party who are now supporting the Government will not give allegiance to that part of the Fusion policy. The honorable member for Dampier has said that a unionist should have no preference.
– I spoke only of the Public Service.
– That issue was fought at the last general election, and Mr. Fisher came back with an overwhelming majority pledged to the principle of preference to unionists.
– Very well, we will consult the people again.
– I am glad that is the intention of the Ministerial party. The Liberals have always been famous for stupidity..
– We are not dumb, driven cattle.
– I am going to Sydney to-day, and I shall bid , my honorable friend good-bye, because he will not be in this House when I return.
– The honorable member was nearly turned down by his own league the other day.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. The Labour party is prepared to defend the principle of preference to unionists during the elections. Let that be one of the issues placed before the people. The honorable member for Dampier said also that the Postmaster-General should employ young women and boys to do certain work which is now being done by men. I am pleased to have it on record that the honorable member proposes to substitute boy and girl labour for the men and women now employed in the Postal Department. I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral repudiated that suggestion, but if the honorable member for Dampier returns to Parliament with a majority who are of his opinion, the workers of the country will know what to look forward to. I shall take the opportunity of keeping the honorable member’s proposals under the notice of the Public Service. He has said also that the public works of the country are costing too much.
– There is no doubt about that. .
– In war time everything costs more. The British Government is paying three times the price it paid for certain commodities before the war.
– Labour conditions in Australia were just as bad before the war. You are Chairman of the Public Works Committee, and you are not worth your salt if you talk like that.
– I know that the cost of labour has risen throughout the civilized world. Why should the honorable member be always sneering at the workers of Australia ? Do honorable members in this House attend to their duties as they should ? Some honorable members who are so loud in their lip loyalty are amongst the greatest shirkers in the country. They do nothing but slander Australia and its workers.
– Throughout this debate there has been an average of about five Oppositionists present.
– Honorable members are doing detriment to the country by continually saying that everything done in Australia is costing too much, and that our workers are inferior to those in other parts of the world. Such a statement is a slander upon the workers of Australia. They and the civil servants of the Commonwealth are equal to the best in any part of the world.
– You ought to resign from the Chairmanship of the Public Works Committee, you are not fit for the job.
– An endeavour is being made to cloud the issue at the forthcoming election. The Government have stated that all possible energy should be put into the campaign to obtain recruits. They stated that their object in trying to get the life of Parliament extended was to assist in winning the war. Having failed to get that extension they are throwing the country into the chaos and turmoil of an election. For the purpose of winning the war? No; for the purpose of winning seats and keeping themselves in power because the time is not opportune for certain things to be done. The Prime Minister had the honour of leading the Labour party for twelve months, and wrecked that party. Now he has wrecked the Fusion party after leading it for twelve days only. Had Liberal members been worth their salt, they would have challenged the right of the Hughesites to hold the Treasury bench, but they said, “We shall not do that, because we wish ito put all our efforts into winning the war.” Consequently there was a fusion, and they had the effrontery to call themselves the ‘ ‘ Winthewar “ party and to try to have the name of the Ministry inserted in Hansard as the “ Win-the-war “ Ministry. The Prime Minister has sunk everything to gain his ambition of representing this country at the Imperial Conference. He had a Ministry composed of men whom every one trusted and respected, but he did not hesitate to get rid of them when it became necessary, to get to the Old Country, to take into his Cabinet men whom he had been denouncing for half a century. His vanity was on the point of being satisfied, a majority having been secured in this House to support his policy. Attention was then turned to the Senate. Two Labour senators are absent sick, and a third is away on a sea voyage. No pairs could be obtained for them. Then attempts were made to get others to resign, or to change their party. Statements were made openly in the Senate regarding the overtures of Ministers to a senator. Was ib the object of the Government to prolong the life of the Parliament in order that the war might be better pro1secuted and the Empire strengthened ? No. The desire was that the Prime Minister and the honorable members for Swan and Flinders should be allowed to go to the Old Country to represent Australia ab the Imperial Conference. A senator suddenly disappeared from the political arena without consulting his party, and just as suddenly another man was appointed. The Premier of Tasmania has made statements which bear out those made in this Parliament. Everything suggests that there was something wrong. I am not going to impute corruption, but the people outside may think that there was corruption. Last Friday, when the Labour party asked for a Royal Commission to inquire into the charges that have been made against the Government, the whole Liberal party, with the exception of Mr. Mcwilliams, voted against the proposal.
– We voted against a blow aimed at the Government.
– You voted against the proposal for an inquiry. That action must be the keynote of the elections. The Liberal party and the Hughes party had deliberately refused an inquiry into one of the gravest charges that could be made against the Government. They now shelter themselves behind the action of the Prime Minister in issuing a writ for a Supreme Court action against Senator Watson. If Senator Watson takes my advice, he will ignore that writ, and not forgo his parliamentary privilege. He is prepared to make his statements on oath before a Royal Commission. We desire that those statements shall be so investigated. As an answer to our demand for an investigation the Prime Minister has brought about a dissolution. We are prepared to appeal to the grand jury of the country. I do not think that the Prime Minister consulted the Liberal party in this matter. What he has done has been done off his own bat, as he has done other things in the same way. We have a right to insist that the honour of members of Parliament should be made clear. The issue of a writ against Senator Watson will prevent the free discussion of this case from the public platforms, because it will be sub judice. This is a trick on the part of the Prime Minister. The statements of Senator Watson are dovetailed in with the disappearance of Senator Ready.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– The two things are closely associated, and have caused a great deal of suspicion in the minds of the people. Senator Watson would not have made his disclosures had it not been for the resignation of Senator Ready. He saw that a young man had fallen a victim to bribes offered to him. That, in plain English, is his statement, and, therefore, he asked for an inquiry.
– Do you say that bribes were offered?
– I make no charges. There is strong ground for suspicion, and I ask for an inquiry.
– It is your own men who are concerned.
– I am pleased that two Liberal senators had the decency not to be a party to the Government proposal for the prolongation of the life of Parliament. I knew before leaving for Sydney last Friday that Senators Keating and Bakhap were not likely to support the Government. Ministers, as they were certain of defeat, took the bull by the horns and arranged a dissolution. I heard the speech made by Senator “Watson in the Senate, and also the replies made by the President, Senator Pearce, and the Prime Minister, all of whom evaded the charges that were brought. The Labor party has nothing to fear from an election. We believe that the people of this country will return a majority pledged to honest Government and vigorous administration. The honorable member for Dampier has said that this is a time for retrenchment ; that we should tighten up because of the war. We must always avoid waste, but, as Mr. Fisher made it clear, the public works of the country must be carried on. I understand, however, that there is to be cheeseparing. Public works are to be stopped, and the old methods of the Liberal regime are to be followed. There is unemployment in Melbourne and in Sydney. That should be impossible under good government. In one week the Prime Minister, together with the Premiers of the States, completed a deal for the purchase of our wheat and wool, amounting to £90,000,000. In addition, the country makes profits on its exports of sheepskins, hides, tallow, coal, and minerals of various kinds which every ship takes away. It is a disgrace for a Government to say that the public expenditure of a country with this great natural wealth which only needs development should be tightened up. There would be no unemployment with proper expansion of industry. The policy of Ministers when war and trouble comes is to stop public works expenditure. Honorable members opposite say that we are a disloyal party, and that we are not assisting to win the war. I challenge the truth of that statement. While the Labour Government was in power no body of men could have done more than they did to carry the war to a successful issue.
– But the party have failed at the crucial test.
– No; we have not failed. Every member on this side is as anxious to carry the war to a successful issue as are the members on the other side, who have been waving so many flags and talking so much of their loyalty. We are prepared to assist any Government to win the war. I am prepared to go out re cruiting, and do everything possible. I do not wish to see the Empire beaten, because I have no desire that this .country should be shackled by militarism. Australia is doing her part in this war. We have sent 300,000 men overseas, and that is more than the whole British Nation sent to the South African War. We have a bigger army from Australia in the field to-day than Great Britain ever had in any previous war. In addition, we are supplying the Allies with food, munitions, steel, and steel rails, and I have no doubt that when the history of this great war comes to be written Australia will hold a prominent place, and will be considered a credit to the Empire. If there is anything more that we can do, I am willing that we should do it.
– That is what we are trying to do.
– I do not believe there is any party in this House that is not trying to do all that is possible to win the war. We differ only as to the methods to be adopted. I am honestly convinced against compulsory service abroad. It is repugnant to my nature, and I believe at the same time that the voluntary system will be found to meet all our requirements. Those concerned in the Labour movement are most anxious to win the war, because trade unionists, and the sons of trade unionists, are today at the front in the trenches. The honorable member for Dampier has sneered at the trade union movement in tills connexion, but the majority of the men in the trenches to-day are trade unionists. The trade unionists of Australia have shouldered their responsibility, and are doing their work for the country in the trenches.
– And they voted “Yes” at the referendum.
– I am not dealing with that matter. The point I am making is that those concerned in the trade union movement, politically and industrially, are absolutely sincere in their efforts to win the war.
– Then why not send some of the collar-and-cuff brigade on “the Block “ to help the trade unionists at the front?
– If I could persuade the collar-and-cuff brigade referred to to do their duty, I should be only too pleased to do so. But I will not compel any man against his will to leave his home and his country to enter the trenches.
– But the honorable member would compel men to join a union 1
– Cannot the honorable member for Calare see the difference between compelling a man to join a union in order to benefit himself, and improve bis conditions, and sending a man into the trenches, it may be, to be maimed or killed ?
– To defend his wife and children. Is that not more important?
– I hope that the time is not far distant when the whole of the people of the civilized world will take the view that war is repugnant to our nature, and that the time will come when peace and good-will will be realized on earth. Every day we pray that such a state of things may come about, but what are we doing to bring it about?
– Poor stock platitudes !
– Listen to the ex-parson. Is the honorable member for Wakefield trying to follow in the footsteps of the Meek and Lowly One, or he is trying to wave the red flag of blood over this country ? I am prepared to do all I can to assist in winning the war, but I could not be a jingo like the honorable member.
– The honorable member would if he dared.
– He has done more than has the honorable member for Wakefield.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong would also if he dared.
– Order! The honorable member for Wakefield will please keep silent whilst I am on my feet. I ask honorable members to cease their constant interruptions. I do not know how the Hansard reporters can take a record of the proceedings in view of the interruptions from time to time. I again ask honorable members to cease their constant interruptions.
– It is the ideal and aim of the Labour party to bring about the brotherhood of man and to put an end to war. We are perhaps before our time, but that is our ideal. If by inducing the nations at present engaged in war to reduce their armament, and the number of men they have under arms, we could assist to bring that about we should be doing something for the benefit of civilization. In this connexion I should like to say that I desire that Australia shall be represented at the Imperial War Conference when the terms of peace are being drawn up. We have at present a High Commissioner in London who possesses the confidence of the people of this country. There is also in London at the present time the ex-High Commissioner, Sir George Reid. If the Commonwealth cannot be represented by a delegation from this Parliament direct, it could be well represented by these gentlemen, and at a considerable saving of money. The Labour party desire that Australia should be represented at the Imperial War Conference, and there is no man better fitted to represent us than is the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, who is an ex -Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. If the Government desire that we should be represented at the Conference they have now the opportunity to do the right thing by appointing Mr. Fisher as our representative, and also Sir George Reid if that be considered necessary.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to follow the honorable member for South Sydney through the whole of his excellent electioneering speech. I take strong exception to the attempt he has made to identify honorable members on this side with a cowardly recession from what might be regarded as a vital principle of parliamentary government. He accuses us of voting against -an’ inquiry into certain charges that have been made. We were not quite so innocent as to be taken in by the flank attack made upon the Government by honorable members opposite. I want to say now to the honorable member that if he or any other honorable member on the other side will make any definite charge in this House regarding the matters that have been referred to, I for one will immediately vote for the necessary inquiry. The trouble is that no definite charges have been made. Merely insinuations and innuendoes have been made, upon which it is quite impossible for this House, or any other deliberative assembly, to take action. We must have something definite before we can act.
– Does the honorable member not think that ‘ ‘ Does money or a position stand in your way? “ is definite -enough ?
– 1 say that no definite charge has been made. We have had quite a number of statements made with respect to what it is alleged took place.
– Then why was the writ issued ?
– The writ has been issued in regard to allegations against the Prime Minister by Senator Watson. Let me say that so far as this matter is concerned it seems to me to be merely one man’s statement against the other’s. But it is quite obvious that if a bait was offered to Senator Watson he not only nibbled at it, but he came back to it again and again. However, I am not concerned so much about the Senator Watson part of the business as I am about the Senator Ready ,part of it. I say, unhesitatingly, that if there is anything that needs inquiry, it is that particular matter. But so far we have had no definite charges in this connexion; nothing but a considerable amount of talk that tends to create suspicion. Personally, I believe that that is wholly and entirely the object of all the talk by honorable members opposite. Their desire is, not that there should be an inquiry at all, but to stir up some of the mud so that there may be an opportunity later on of declaring that something is beneath it.
– If there is nothing under the mud, what an opportunity honorable members on the Government side now have offered to them.
– If there is something under the mud, let honorable members make their charges definitely, and I will assist them to secure the inquiry they profess to be so anxious about. In connexion with this matter it has been mentioned that I was concerned with a certain inquiry, but there appears to be some misapprehension as to the facts in that case. I made definite charges in this House against a certain person who obtained a position under the Government. I made those charges categorically. A Commission was appointed, and the result was somewhat colourless, and unsatisfactory.
– At any rate the Government did grant a Commission.
– 2es ; that is so.
– And a Commission consisting of a Supreme Court Judge, who was not likely to be biased in favour of honorable members on this side.
– That Commission was appointed because I made definite charges in this House, and, therefore, I say that honorable members opposite must make similarly definite charges in this case before they can in reason expect to secure a similar inquiry. As soon as definite charges are made, I will vote for an inquiry into them.
– I think that the honorable member, and a number of other honorable members on his side, would like to have voted last Friday for an inquiry, but were prevented by party reasons.
– It is of no use for the honorable gentleman to make these insinuations. I have given honorable members opposite a definite challenge. If they make a definite charge my course will be plain, and I shall assist them to secure an inquiry. They have no right to demand that a Royal Commission shall be appointed to go fishing in this muddy wa,Der in the hope that something may be brought to the surface. Coming back to the Chinn Commission, I wish to inform honorable members that I went on the public platform in Western Australia and repeated the charges, and challenged action in the Law Courts, and nothing came of it. I make this statement now because there is some misunderstanding as to what exactly transpired. I hope that I have made the position quite clear.
I wish now to call attention to a matter that has been under my notice for some little time. I referred to it in the House a little while ago by way of a question. It appears to me that certain old-age pensioners are being penalized in a way which I am sure this House never intended. I refer to those who have lost their breadwinners at the front. The case that I brought under the notice of the Treasurer was one which I believe has been repeated in very many instances. A widowed mother with an only son was enjoying an oldage pension of 12s. 6d. a week. The son went to the front and was killed. As the result, she is in receipt of a war pension of £1 a week, but her old-age pension was immediately reduced so that the total amount she derived from the oldage pension and the war pension together should not exceed the maximum of £1 2s. 6d. Unfortunately, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act renders that course of action imperative, but, while it is the legal position, it is not the moral position, and I contend that this state of affairs should be altered at the earliest possible opportunity.
– I endeavoured to get the Government to deal with the matter when the War Pensions Bill was under discussion, but they would not do so.
– If the present Government do not go into the matter and take the necessary action, then if I came back to the House I shall have no hesitation in trying to bring; about an alteration. The old-age pension is given to a widowed mother irrespective of whether provision is being made for her by her children. The House recognised that it was not a fair and proper thing if a widowed mother happened to be receiving assistance from her children that she should be penalized in that regard. Section 4 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act says distinctly - “ Income “ means any moneys, valuable consideration, or profits earned, derived, or received by any person for his own use or benefit by any means from any source whatever, whether in or out of the Commonwealth, and shall be deemed to include personal earnings, but not any payment -
Thus the Act provides, in regard to any person receiving assistance from children, or even step-children or grandchildren, that he or she is still entitled to the oldage pension, no matter whether the pensioner may be living in the lap ofluxury at the instance of her children. In the case that I have mentioned, the death of the son gives the widowed mother a war pension of £1 a week, but while the son was alive he probably contributed much more to her support.
– The pension paid depends upon the rank of the son.
– I am speaking of a private.
– If the widowed mother is in receipt of £10,000 a year she is still entitled to the war pension.
– That is so, but it only serves to emphasize the position, that special provision was made in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act so that the widowed mother should not be penalized, but the effect of the administration of the Act has been to do the very thing that we were anxious to avoid. The hardship is all the greater when one reflects that the son before going to the war might have allowed his mother much more than the equivalent of £1 a week, the pension to which the widowed mother of a private who is killed becomes entitled. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act automatically cuts down the old-age pension, so that the maximum drawn by the widowed mother does not exceed £1 2s. 6d., and the 12s. 6d. pension she was receiving under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is reduced to 2s. 6d. per week. The facts need only to be mentioned to the Committee for the injustice and inequity of it to be seen. I ask the Treasurer to go into the matter carefully and see whether the intention of the Act in practice in this regard is not being flouted. I do hot say that the administrators could do anything else than bring down the old-age pension to make the total receipts of the pensioner £1 2s. 6d. a week, but I do say that there should be forthwith a simple modification of the Act that will insure, in the case of widowed mothers, that the same conditions that apply while the son is alive shall apply in the case of his death at the front. It is monstrous to think that the son, who has made the supreme sacrifice of his life for his country, who has gone away thinking that in any case his mother would be , provided for, has forfeited by his death the right of his mother to a few extra shillings per week.
– The widowed mother is entitled to the pension even if the son did not contribute a farthing towards her keep.
– I know that such is the case, but the Act points out that whatever contributions are made by sons or daughters, stepchildren, or grandchildren shall not be deducted from the widowed mother’s pension, and surely if a contribution in the shape of a pension is made to her by a son as the result of his supreme sacrifice of his life for his country there is less reason than before for the deduction in the case of the oldage pension of the widowed mother.
– The honorable member’s point is unanswerable.
– I trust that the necessary modification of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act will be taken in hand by the Treasurer. I know that the right honorable gentleman is fairly keen in the matter of preventing raids on the Treasury, but the granting of this request would not be in the nature of a raid. It would merely secure to the oldage .pensioner what the Act intended without increasing the charges on the country. I hope that the Treasurer in his large heartedness will see that the hardship imposed on the widowed mothers of those who have made the supreme sacrifice at the front will be put right at the earliest possible opportunity.
Several honorable members rising,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I call ou the honorable member for Werriwa. It is the usual practice to call on an honorable member from the opposite side to the honorable member who has just completed his remarks, but I have determined that I shall give preference to an honorable member who has not already spoken on the question before the Chair, over honorable members who have already addressed the Committee.
– No exception can be taken to that course.
.- I am pleased that the Treasurer is present, because I wish to accentuate a few matters concerning the wheat-growing industry that were brought under his attention yesterday evening by a deputation. As a wheat-grower and a representative of a large farming constituency I am intensely grateful when I find that the right honorable gentleman and his Government are seriously considering the position of the wheat-growers, and intend, as soon as possible - I hope it will be almost immediately - to pay another instalment on the 1915-16 wheat. The wheat-growers in some of the districts of New South Wales are carrying on under great disabilities. They have suffered from hailstorms and unprecedented wet weather, and from rust attacking the late crops. As a result the wheat-growing industry in those districts is in a very serious position, and temptation is pressing many land-holders to dismiss their share farmers, and go out of the industry on account of the high price of stock and wool, and the tremendous cost of wheat production, and because through such huge sums of money being locked up the duty will devolve on them to finance their share farmers through another year. It will be necessary for this to be done if the wheat-growing industry is to continue, but many of these land-holders are not in the position to do it. If we are to cast adrift a large number of able and capable men, and cause them to sell at a mere bagatelle the plants they employ in their share farming, and which really represent the savings of years, I am afraid that it will result in augmenting the unemployed trouble, which already promises to be sufficiently pronounced before the winter is over.
In addition to the question of unemployment there is a higher consideration of deep interest to all, the question of how a cessation of operations in the wheat-growing districts will affect the food supplies of the Empire and of our own people of this Commonwealth. For these reasons I ask the Treasurer to make every possible effort to have the promised payments made as soon as possible. I am sure that his sympathetic reply to the deputation means that something will be done, but action should be taken immediately, because the months during which the new land must be prepared and sown are just upon us, and people are trembling on the brink as to whether it is safe to go ahead or not. I intend to go ahead, and increase my area under crop, notwithstanding that last year’s operations resulted in a huge loss to me. Generally speaking, the bountiful harvest that was reaped that year should certainly enable the farmers to face their difficulties if they obtain the support and encouragement which they are seeking.
Another matter of great importance to country interests, and one that has not, so far as I am aware, been dealt with in the House before, is the acquisition of the wool clip by the British Government. I am sure that woolgrowers, large or small, throughout Australia, are desirous of doing their duty. I am sure they will be satisfied on the whole with the price obtained, but there is one feature in connexion with the administration of this great matter, which is of vital Imperial moment, that cuts right across the principle of decentralization, for which most country members stand. Woolgrowers, large and small, feel that if it can be shown that any injury will be done to the vital principle of giving Great Britain control of the wool clip of the Dominions, and preventing any leakage towards the enemy, by any suggestions that we make for alterations or amendments, ‘those suggestions ought at once to be set aside. But up to date the Central Wool Committee have not been able to show that any of our suggestions would injure any vital principle that it is necessary to observe.
For the first time in the history of the wool industry in this country scientific methods of valuation and classification have been adopted in the disposal of the clip, and influential men in the trade agree that the system of appraisementpurchase has come to stay.
The objections raised by the country interests involved are to the position developed through the administration being wholly centralized. Country wool businesses, especially in New South Wales, have been built up during the last 50 or 60 years, many of them employing large numbers of permanent hands, but if the whole administration is to be centralized and the present system of disposing of the wool is not altered, the bulk of those country businesses will go to the wall, and utter and complete ruin will await the men who have developed them at a vast expenditure of capital and industry. Many country wool firms were buying wool on commission both for British and foreign manufacturers. They all admit that that business must go, but the very first action of the Central Wool Committee was to put an embargo on country trading in regard to both skins and wool. The country dealers or hawkers who visited every farm and station, and gathered up the skins that perhaps were only two or three days old, used to take them into their central depots, where they were poisoned, properly treated, and conserved. All that trade was stopped. Much of the stuff was allowed to rot, and the skin money derived by the very poorest of the people was in a great measure lost.
– Could they not preserve the skins themselves?
– They were in the habit of having it done in the way I described. The logical deduction from the regulation was that these small people were asked to send every few skins to Sydney in a separate lot. We asked that the country dealers should be allowed to buy, properly treat, and classify the skins and send them down in bulk to be appraised for the purpose of the Imperial arrangement. That was conceded when the Central Wool Committee saw what a tremendous dislocation had taken place. Previously also country wool merchants bought up large and small quantities of wool, brought them into their central depots and warehouses, classified them, and by their expert knowledge and the appliances they possess, doubtless gave them an added value of from Id. to 3d. per lb. But all that was knocked on the head by the edict of the Central Wool Committee, and each individual woolgrower was supposed, if he had only one bag of wool, to send it to the central appraisement depot, which was generally in the capital.
– Do you not think he got better value that way?
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. Such was the outcry that after a while the regulation was relaxed, and country wool merchants are now allowed to buy up to £10 worth - a concession that is absolutely worthless.
It cannot possibly be argued that the idea of preserving the whole of the wool clip of Australia for the British Government would be in any way interfered with, or the work of the appraisers rendered more arduous or difficult, by allowing the country merchants to buy the wool, classify it, and send it down to be appraised and taken possession of by the British Government. On the contrary, such a policy would preserve our inland industries, and keep in employment hundreds of men in the country who had what they hoped was a life-long occupation.
A country wool merchants association has now been formed in New South Wales, and is seeking representation on the Central Wool Committee.’ I wish to point out that never in the history of the wool industry have the large firms which are represented on the committee made profits commensurate with what they are now making. The contention of the association has not yet been fairly answered. If sacrifice amounting even to the destruction of one’s business is necessary for the carrying on of the war, why should that sacrifice fall needlessly upon country traders, while the extra profit goes into the pockets of the kings of the wool trade, who are not asked to make commensurate sacrifices themselves ?
The honorable member for Richmond asked me just now if the small growers would not get a better market by sending their wool to Sydney direct aa they are compelled to do now. My reply is: Why not leave them both markets, the local market or the central appraisement depot, so that they might still be free agents ?
– It seems to me the new arrangement does away with the middleman’s profit.
– No one can accuse me of being a middleman’s advocate. I am up against him at all times, but in this case the middleman was performing a really useful and essential service. Hundreds of small wool-growers, even in my constituency, carry on small mixed farming and grazing, and were in the habit of selling anything from £20 to £100 worth of wool to local merchants in October, just when they wanted a little ready cash to begin harvesting. There was a time in my history as a small settler when the local wool merchant and skin buyer helped me along in the same way. If I were still in the position I was then, I would be told now that I must send my few bags of wool down to await the appraisement boards. This policy causes congestion, because it would be infinitely better for a dozen small clips to be properly classified in country warehouses and then submitted in one or two lots to the appraisers down below. There is a time as I say, when the support of the local wool merchant and skin buyer was essential to the small settler. It is essential now to thousands of struggling people who are trying to knock a piece of rough bush into shape, and derive sustenance from it. We are told that they can make application to the wool brokers and get advances, but no logical or just reason has been put forward to show why our country wool industries should be disrupted in order to swell out of all proportion the huge monopolies already possessed by the great wool agents in the capital cities.
– There should be a representative of the small growers on the Board.
– Exactly, and there should also be a representative on it of the country wool merchants. No man who has built up a business of that kind in the country should be needlessly broken up and cast aside as if he were an enemy to the Empire. I hope the Government, notwithstanding its many and varied difficul ties, will bring about an alteration of policy that will commend itself more to the people of the country than the present system of administration. I say nothing against the capacity or worth of the gentlemen on the Committee. I believe them to be actuated by the highest motives. We are told that most of them are giving their services free, but they have utterly forgotten the welfare of the deserving people who have built up these country industries.
There is an unreasoning fear on the other side of the House, which no doubt will be fanned into full blast in the coming contest, that the Government is a con- scription Government, and will take the first opportunity of fastening conscription on the people of Australia. I was driven out of the ranks of the Official Labour party because of my conception of a broad principle. I stated on 14th November, 1916, that I could not follow Mr.- Hughes until the home service proclamation was withdrawn and a guarantee given that the will of the people, as expressed at the ballot-box, would, be respected, but I find that the Coalition has given that pronouncement emphatically to the country, and I am compelled te follow them. It is alleged that certain members on this side intend to flout the decision of the people, but I would not be here if I thought there was the slightest truth in such statements. Possibly two or three have stated their intention to hold another referendum, but their attitude reminds me of a very sad story I read many years ago. A father, mother, and seven young children were overtaken by a tremendous flood in the back blocks, and the only survivor was a little girl of about two years of age. She refused to be comforted until some kind lady asked, “ What does the dear child really want? “ And the dear child replied, “ I want to see another flood.”
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the adjournment for lunch I was referring to the suggestion made on the other side that the Government will seek to bring about conscription by means of another referendum. But the nearest approach that Australia ever got to conscription, or is ever likely to get, was when the division was taken in the Labour Caucus, and only by two votes was the Prime Minister given permission to refer the question to the people. With all the power he undoubtedly possessed at that moment, and despite the sentiments expressed by scores of thousands of people throughout Australia, that conscription would suit this country, the Prime Minister refused to adopt any other but the democratic method of referring the question to the people. Had the Prime Minister been compelled to surrender, in the absence of a war policy, I think I am right in assuming that, under the circumstances, the Government which superseded him would have used only the method of direct action and proclamation. But in view of the chastening influence of the referendum vote, can any reasonable being suggest that there is any possibility of that happening now? I have been an anti-conscriptionist from the beginning, but if the people, by a fair majority, declared for conscription, I would even, if I refused to sit in this House to administer the policy, declare that they had a perfect right to do so. This canard is being raised for election purposes, but the commonsense of the people of Australia will assert itself, for they will see that it is raised only to cloak the fact that the Official Labour party, having subscribed to the doctrine of outside domination, are anxious to extend that domination throughout the country, and thus obtain the votes of a panic-stricken people who are being frightened by the bogy of conscription in the near future, or at any time, without their consent. We who were expelled from the Labour movement were expelled on the authority of a resolution passed by the Political Labour League Conference in 1916 to the following effect: -
That this conference solemnly pledges itself to oppose by all lawful means conscription of human life for military service abroad, and directs all leagues and affiliated unions to take immediate steps to oppose all Labour members who voted for or otherwise supported conscription. The Central Executive is hereby authorized to oppose, under any circumstances, indorsement of conscription candidates; and that it be an instruction to leagues, and the Federal Executive, to oppose, at all costs, the policy of conscription.
That resolution was moved by ex-Senator Rae, and it is the sole authority on which the Labour movement in New South Wales has been disrupted. We find that just about the same date a similar resolution was passed by the Central Executive of the Queensland Labour party. According to the Labour Gall of September 21, 1916, and also the Brisbane Standard -
At the last meeting of the Central Executive of the Queensland Labour party the whole question of conscription was thoroughly discussed, and complete unanimity was expressed in the determination to fight the conscription proposals to the utmost. The following resolution, which has been wired to every representative both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, was adopted : -
That this executive hereby declares that endorsement will not be given to the candidature of any sitting member, either of the House of Representatives or of the Senate, who does not oppose by his vote in the Federal House, the passage of the Conscription Referendum Bill when before the Commonwealth Parliament.
It is well known that quite a number of honorable members opposite voted for the Referendum Bill. It is quite certain, too, that a number of them voted upstairs to refer the question to the people, knowing that this threat was held over them - and all honour to them for that. I suppose, however, that their complete surrender afterwards is the price of their forgiveness. Though I have been an anticonscriptionist from the beginning, I refused to recognise the authority of the State conferences over Federal or State representatives.
– Would you have recognised it if it had come from a Federal conference ?
– Not from any conference which sought to make the rights and privileges of my constituents subservient to its ends. If the Labour movement is so destitute of intelligence as not to be able to discriminate between the owners of a concern and its servants, then, whatever the source, whether Federal or State, it is the duty of every freedom-loving man to fight against the attempted dictation.
– I am sorry you ever got into the Labour movement, and I am very glad I voted against you at the time of the by-election.
– The nomination for Werriwa was offered to me. It had no attraction for the rest of you - none whatever. Although notice was given to the Political Labour Leagues, right from the beginning of the referendum campaign, that Lynch was no longer to appear on any Official Labour platform, because he had flouted the executive, I was told, long after the referendum vote, that if I did not make an open breach my faults would be condoned. I have been an anticonscriptionist from the beginning, and my constituents turned down the conscription vote by 11,000 votes.
.- Mr. Atkinson-
– Three speakers in succession from one side.
– I understand that, according to the prevailing rule, an honorable member shall be called, even though two or three honorable members from his own side have preceded him, if he himself has not already spoken in Committee. An honorable member who has spoken once in Committee is, I understand, not entitled to the call if an honorable member who has not spoken rises to address the Chair.
– If the honorable member for Wakefield has not already spoken, it is all right.
– I understand that the debate is to close to-day, and, therefore, I shall be brief ; and in the time at my disposal I shall refer tothe statement by the Treasurer, and offer some observations on the public revenue and expenditure. I regret exceedingly that in this debate so little time has been devoted to this vitally important question. I do not, however, desire to reflect in any sense on honorable members who have been dealing with personal matters, because I know that present circumstances are somewhat unique. For some years past I have been urging that more time should be devoted to the criticism of public expenditure, more time than we have seen devoted to the matter during the existence of the National Parliament. For years I have advocated the constitution of a Public Works Committee, a Public Accounts Committee, and a Supply and Tender Board. Wenow have a Public Works Committee and a Public Accounts Committee, and the present Prime Minister has promised to constitute, at the earliest opportunity, a Board to supervise all purchases in connexion with the Government. Although the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee have been in existence for some time, and have devoted much consideration to the matters referred to them, I cannot help expressing the belief that we are not reaping the benefit that we ought to from the work they do. These Committees submit their reports, and these are laid on the table and printed, but, generally speaking, that is the end of them. In these reports it is admitted, and is well known in the House and throughout Australia, that we are not getting as much for our 20s. as we ought to. Overwhelming evidence has been furnished of mismanagement in various directions - in connexion with over-costly undertakings, and nob only in regard to the men who do the manual work, but, in many instances, the management and supervision. But the point is that we have not yet dealt definitely with any report, either of the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee. The honorable member for Dampier, during the course of his remarks, cited the departmental report on the cost of certain work at the Flinders Naval Base, and, unless the conditions surrounding that work were exceptionally difficult - unless the material excavated was chiefly rock - I say that the prices paid for it were extraordinary.
– There was no rock.
– I am glad of that interjection. The honorable member for Dampier has himself inspected this particular work at the Flinders Naval Base. It consisted of ordinary earth excavation, so that the prices paid for it were simply outrageous.
– Was there any water in it?
– There was not, in a great deal of it. While the honorable member for Dampier was dealing with this question, the honorable member for South Sydney, who is the chairman of the Public Works Committee, derisively suggested that he was reflecting on the poor working man. But it is of no use appointing a Public Works Committee if we are not to have the right class of men upon it. It is idle for the members of such a Committee to industriously apply themselves to the discovery of evils if they do not emphatically give Parliament the benefit of the results of their investigations.
– Of course this work was carried out before the Public Works Committee was appointed.
-I am simply taking this work as typical of a good many other works which have been investigated by that Committee, and also by the Public Accounts Committee. I do hope that, when the honorable member for South Sydney gets before his constituents, he will inform the people of Australia, through them, of the knowledge which has come to the Public Works Committee from the investigations which have been made.
– He will do that, for sure.
– He will not, unless he adopts a different attitude from that which he assumed while the honorable member for Dampier was speaking. I say that it is unworthy of him to suggest that the honorable member for Dampier was reflecting on the working man.
– The honorable member for South Sydney will come back again all right.
– I am not dealing with this matter from a personal, but from a national, stand-point. I am glad that the Treasurer is present, because I wish to know whether he is going to put the East- West line into a better condition, so far as its’ effective management and supervision are concerned.
– It is not in my Department.
– But the right honorable gentleman has to find the money for the undertaking, and when he is appealed to in that connexion, he is in a position to whisper a word or two into the ear of the Minister for Works and Railways. I shall be very disappointed if the present Minister for Works and Railways does not effect a very great reduction in the expenditure upon that line. I am informed that an inquiry into this matter has at last been arranged, and that but for the coming dissolution a committee would, at an early date, have been engaged on it.
– The honorable member has been promised that inquiry 1
– Absolutely. And this House was promised it by the Prime Minister during the past few days. In answer to questions which I put to the Minister during this week I learned that there has already been expended on this railway, inclusive of plant and rolling- stock, £6,006,524. As there is nearly another 100 miles to construct to link up the two sections of the railway, the additional cost of that may safely be put down at £500,000.. Then there is the ballasting, which, according to the Engineer-in-Chief , Mr. Bell, will absorb another £2,000,000. It will be seen, therefore, that when the work is completed, it will have cost between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000 in lieu of £4,000,000 as originally estimated.
– It is the most expensive mileage which has ever been carried out in Australia.
– It is, for the character of the country which the line traverses. I wish now to say a word or two in regard to the Traffic Department in connexion with this railway. That Department was created some three years ago. I protested against it as strongly as possible, and urged that the creation of such a Department purely for constructional purposes was absolutely without precedent. But the Government was informed by their officials that there was a lot of money to be made by a Traffic Department, and consequently it was created. I have received all the previous returns of the revenue and expenditure of that Department, and I say, without any qualification, that those returns, instead of revealing a handsome profit, disclose an enormous deficit. The latest return, which covers a period of six months to the end of January last, sets out the traffic receipts from the public at £5,335 12s. 3d., and from the Department at £64,510 0s. 4d., or a total of £69,845 12s. 7d. To earn £69,000 odd it has cost this Traffic Department £137,484 10s.1d.
– That is a losing game.
– Yes; and my trouble is that the same losing game is in evidence in every part of the Commonwealth where public works are undertaken. If the East- West line costs £2,000,000 to ballast, in accordance with the departmental estimate, it will mean an annual deficit of £500,000.
– The honorable member need not prophesy.
– I challenge the Treasurer to investigate the figures.
– I do not think that the Treasurer will agree with that statement.
– He will have to do so. I want, very hurriedly, to make a suggestion or two to the right honorable gentleman. The construction of that railway was approved by this House, on the understanding that it would cost £4,000,000, and honorable members know that it was a mighty difficult job to get parliamentary authority for the work. Had it not been for the Treasurer, the measure authorizing the undertaking at a cost of £4,000,000 would not have been passed by this Parliament.
– Then he is responsible for the whole of it.
– He is responsible for a lot of good things that Western Australia enjoys, and they will stand to him, and rightly so, till the crack of doom. This, however, is a matter of business. Mr. Bell wants £2,000,000 for ballasting the line. In his last annual report, published recently, he states that the road is excellent considering that it is unballasted, and that he could run trains safely and easily on it up ‘to a maximum of 40 miles an hour ; or, including stoppages, a service averaging 33 miles an hour. In this time of war and stress, when we are reminded very emphatically by the Treasurer, as well as by his predecessors, that we shall have to be careful in our expenditure and undertake no new works except those which must of necessity be put in hand, the Parliament has no right, at least until the war is over, to authorize an expenditure of £2,000,000 on ballasting this line. An average of 33 miles an hour, inclusive of stoppages, ought to be good enough for a railway which, according to the Department’s own admission, is going to give them a revenue of only £5,600 a year in respect of cattle arid goods traffic. Mr. Bell has not ventured to estimate what the coaching or passenger traffic will be. If the Melbourne to Adelaide express service, with an average of 27£ miles an hour, satisfies the people of this country, as well as oversea visitors, who declare it to be one of the finest in the world, then surely an average speed of 33 miles an hour, including stoppages, should be good enough on this railway to the West, the revenue from which is exceedingly problematical. The one thing that is not problematical, so far as this line is concerned, is that the people will have to pay, by way of taxation, £500,000 per annum to meet the deficit on it.
– That is because the country on the South Australian side is poor.
– It is poor, but on the Western Australian side also the country is not good. The line terminates in salt-bush country, at Kalgoorlie, where the average rainfall is 5 inches per annum.
– But nearly £2,500,000 worth of gold comes out of Kalgoorlie.
– It is not coming this way. If there was another Kalgoorlie alongside the railway, I should strongly advocate making the service equal to the very best on this Continent. I am certain that the Parliament will not approve an expenditure of £2,000,000 of loan money on the ballasting of this line. Another point is that if the work of ballasting the line were submitted for public tender, it would be done for 25 per cent, less, at the very least, than it would otherwise cost. I know of men who would jump at the chance of doing the work. Had the tender system been applied to the whole work of constructing this railway, the country would have saved £1,000,000, if not £2,000,000. There is yet another point which I would bring under the notice of the Treasurer, since it affects Western Australia. If this railway is inevitably to be run at a loss, we should insist upon the Government minimizing that loss by running it at the least possible expense consistent with efficiency. In order to do that, the Federal Government should request the Government of Western Australia to administer the service on their side, and the South Australian Government to run it on the South Australian side, just as they now control the Oodnadatta railway for the Commonwealth. The striking figures that I have put before the Committee this afternoon are an evidence of what will be the Cost of running this railway under existing conditions. From a national point of view, it is not a good policy for the Commonwealth to build up a big Railway Department unless there is justification for it. The Western Australian and South Australian Governments have their own railway administrative staffs, consisting of experienced men, and the cost of their own railway systems would not be materially increased by their taking control of the sections of this line within their respective States. I have discussed this phase of the question with the Premier of Western Australia and some of his colleagues. I have also discussed it with the right honorable member for Swan and other representatives of Western Australia, together with South Australian railway officials, and they are confident that the line could be effectively controlled, in the way I have just suggested, for infinitely less than it would cost the Commonwealth Department to run it.
– I agree with the honorable member in that respect.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I put a question to the Prime Minister a few days ago as to the adoption of this course. The reply I received was that it would be taken into consideration, but that the difficulty in the way was the commitments that have been made in respect of both coaching, locomotive, and other rolling-stock. Those commitments do not put any obstacle in the way.
– The Commonwealth line has a gauge of its own, and its rolling-stock must be kent separate.
– Exactly. Separate rolling-stock would have to be provided, whether the Commonwealth or the respective States administered the service.
– I presume the honorable member intends that the Commonwealth shall find its own rollingstock ?
– Certainly ; but the respective States should control the railway for the Commonwealth just as South Australia has run the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway on behalf of the National Government.
– The Oodnadatta line is a fairly costly one for the Commonwealth.
– I read in the press a few days ago a statement to the effect that the Commonwealth Railway Department was considering the advisableness of taking over the control of the Oodnadatta line since it believed that it could run it for less than the South Australian Department could do. I challenge the Government on that point. Unless there is a pronounced change in the administrative costs connected with the East-West railway, then the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, if taken over by the Commonwealth Department, would cost 50 per cent, more than it does at present.
– Considering we pay all the interest on the money borrowed to build the Oodnadatta line and give the South Australian Government the free use of it, they ought to be able to run it for less.
– That does not make the least difference. South Australia has no interest in any part of the railway since it has been taken over by the Commonwealth. The State Railway Department, however, can run it better than we can hope to do, because it has its own administrative staff. They have had control of it for thirty-five years, and there has never been a strike or any industrial upheaval in connexion with it.
.- I propose to make a few observations regarding the war policy of the present Government. We are on the eve of a general election, and I think it is our duty to acknowledge the success that has so far attended the Wheat Pool and the Wool Pool - the two great pools of primary production initiated by the Leader of the present Administration. The development of a proper scheme was necessary to make them effective, and certain defects have necessarily occurred in connexion with them. But, generally speaking, they were the only possible means of enabling the primary products of Australia to be husbanded, to encourage our producers to produce still more, and to permit of their products reaching the markets of the Mother Country, where they are so essential.
I have neither the time nor the opportunity, at* this stage, to deal with the finances of the Commonwealth, but I would congratulate the Treasurer upon the clear statement as to our financial position which he submitted when introducing this Bill. Owing to the approaching dissolution it will be impossible for the Parliament to give to the all.important question of finance that attention that we are in duty bound to extend to it, having regard to the enormously increased expenditure of the Commonwealth. We have had some illuminating figures supplied, however, by the Treasurer, and we are also indebted to the ex-Treasurer, the honorable member for Grey, for much valuable information. Three principles, which are safe and sound, and which should have been adopted at the outset of the war, are laid down in the present Treasurer’s Financial Statement. I trust that they will be observed while the war continues, and for some time afterwards. In the first place, the right honorable gentleman enunciated the principle that we should borrow money for war purposes, and that the new taxation imposed upon the people should be only such as is necessary to cover interest and sinking fund on war loans - I am speaking now of war expenditure - and also the cost of war pensions and repatriation. Up to the end of the present financial year our war loans, including the sum recently subscribed, will amount to something like £125,000,000. The Treasurer states that, in order to meet the interest and sinking fund for the year, we shall have to raise something like £4,800,000; but if we add to it 1 per cent. for sinking fund, the amount will be £6,000,000 on the total of £125,000,000. We have also to face about £1,000,000 of expenditure for war pensions; so that we shall have to increase new taxation in some form or another, on account of the war only, to something like £7,000,000. In the course of his speech last night, the previous Treasurer said that if the war continued until the end of 1918 our indebtedness on this account would be increased by another £100,000,000, or £190,000,000 by the time we brought our troops back to Australia; so that we have a prospective war debt up to the end of 1918 of, at least, £225,000,000. Our war pensions, moreover, will probably increase two or three times over, and then on top of that will be expenditure on account of repatriation to the extent of a couple of million pounds a year. By the end of 1918 then, our total war debt will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £250,000,000. This will mean that instead of raising about £6,000,000 a year in war taxation, we shall have to find twice that amount, and probably more.
– Three times that amount.
– Well, the amount I have stated is about the minimum which the people will be called upon to find. This surely emphasizes the necessity, as the Treasurer remarked, for greater economy and for a very searching scrutiny of all public expenditure. I am glad to know that the Treasurer is going to pay for public works out of loan money.
I will pass on now to refer briefly to the new Government. We all know the necessity that existed for a coalition, in order that we might increase in vigour and effectiveness thewar policy of the Commonwealth, and also to insure adequate representation of Australia at the War Conference in London. No more important Conference has even been called in the history of the British Empire, and no questions of such vital importance to Australia have been considered as those which will be brought before this Conference and dealt with during the present year. These were ample reasons for a coalition of those political forces whose views on war questions were identical. I hope that the policy laid down by the Prime Minister on 21st February, as indicating the essentials of the coalition agreement, will be amplified and developed in many directions. I do not take the view, held by some members, that the two parties of the coalition should go to the country as two separate entities on domestic policy. It is a little unfortunate that we have not a homogeneous policy, not only in respect to the war, but in respect also to our domestic affairs, for I believe that the development of the primary industries of Australia, as well as the multiplication of new secondary industries, are quite as essential as a war policy. They are, indeed, properly a part of it, and I hope, therefore, that it will be possible for the Government to give some attention to this important matter. We appointed a Committee for Scientific Research, with the idea of increasing our primary and secondary productions. That was a step in the right direction. We shall have to deal with this problem in a practical manner sooner or later, because, with our increasing burden of taxation, it will be imperative to increase our industrial efficiency in every possible way. Especially in this connexion will it be necessary to increase both primary and secondary production. It will also provide employment for our returned soldiers. We owe a solemn duty to those who have gone to the front, and are taking their part in the titanic struggle now in progress for the defence of the Empire. I hope, also, it will be possible for the Commonwealth Government to get into close association with the State Parliaments to see if it is possible to elaborate a more efficient system of technical education, including compulsory apprenticeship and training, having for its object the greater efficiency of our artisans in all industries.
Let me now refer to the question of a more effective war policy. I am satisfied the Prime Minister’s statement concerning the verdict of the people at the referendum is one that can be trusted. Mr. Hughes told us that the Government will respect the verdict of the people. Every member of this House, and every elector, must recognise that that verdict cannot be contravened; but if they are not satisfied with the verdict, the plain duty is to submit the question again, either in the Government policy, or in the form of another referendum. I regret that the question is not going to be submitted again, in some form or other, to the people, because I believe that on the last occasion it was put before them in such a manner that it was least likely to be accepted. I believe there was a disposition on the part of the people then to believe that the draft of 16,500 men per month asked for was too great, and tha>t it would deplete the manhood of Australia. Now my conception of the policy of conscription is, not that it should be administered in such a way as to take the last man out of Australia, but that the Government should discriminate and have authority to say which man should be taken for service abroad, and which man should be left in Australia to carry on essential interests here, because a man might be more profitably employed, and be more valuable, within the Commonwealth than if he were sent abroad.
– We should have a nice state of affairs then. The man with money would stay behind, and the poor beggar who had none would have to go.
– The honorable member must have a very poor conception of the democratic spirit of this Parliament if he holds that view. I am surprised that a supporter of the Labour party since 1910 should now declare Parliament to he no longer a democratic institution. My idea is that if the Government consider it necessary, they should submit this question to the people either in their Government policy, or as another referendum, and that it should be placed before the electors in exactly the way it is intended to be applied. At the present time we are recruiting something like 4,000 men per month throughout Australia; but if any honorable member investigates the figures, Le will find a great proportion of these recruits are young men from eighteen to twenty years of age. Is it creditable that the younger men of this community should be so largely drawn upon to supply the recruits wanted to furnish reinforcements to our soldiers? Unfortunately, the manhood of Australia - I refer to the men between twenty and forty-five years of age - are not enrolling in anything like the same numbers as the younger men, and it certainly would not be creditable to this Parliament if this were allowed to continue. The question should be submitted to the people again, and the Government should have authority to determine which men should remain in Australia and which should go to the front. I know there are certain industries from which the men cannot be taken, but there are certain other industries in which the places of men could readily be taken by women, and their duties be discharged just as efficiently. For instance, we have not a single woman in Australia acting as a tram conductor, and we know that there are thousands of them so employed in Great Britain.
– We have much better jobs for the women of Australia, thank God.
– I am satisfied that if volunteers were asked for from women there would be a very satisfactory response, and if the honorable member had seen how “women are carrying on work in the munition factories in Great Britain he would realize that they are inspired by just the same spirit as the men who have gone out to fight in defence of their country. There are clerical and other positions that could be filled by women, the men being released for service. The Government should give consideration to this question of submitting the subject of compulsory service abroad again to the people before the elections are held. I do not intend to pledge myself against such a course.
I desire now to make a few remarks in reference to Senator Watson’s charges and the resignation of Senator Ready. Honorable members on the Opposition side have made all sorts of innuendoes regarding the peculiarity of Senator Ready’s resignation. That gentleman is a member of their own party.
– He is not.
– He was, up till the time he resigned from Parliament, apparently a trusted member of that party. Whatever outside people may say and believe in their individual capacity, it appears extraordinary that no member on the Opposition side has brought forward any evidence that would indicate a serious charge on the Ready resignation.-
– Agree to a Royal Commission.
– Honorable members opposite desire a fishing inquiry. I tell the Committee frankly that I am disappointed that the Watson charges have not been taken in hand by the Government. I would have been pleased if some tribunal had been appointed to clear up the mystery. The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in bringing forward a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission was equivalent to an endeavour to take the business out of the hands of the Government. It was a motion of the kind that is brought forward for the purpose of embarrassing a Government. If the honorable member for Yarra will look up parallel cases he will find that, when charges have been made, the Government have been asked to indicate what they intended to do. His standanddeliver motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission was tantamount to an endeavour on the part of the Opposition to take the control of business out of the hands of the Government.
– The same action was taken in New South Wales by Mr. Wade in respect to charges against Mr. Arthur Griffith.
– I believe that the constitutional and technical difficulties supposed to stand in the way of the Prime Minister allowing the Royal Commission to be appointed have been exaggerated. I do not believe that an independent inquiry into the charges made by Senator Watson would have entailed the resignation of the Prime Minister, and I regret that he did not take the bold course of nominating on his own initiative, on behalf of the Government and the House, a proper tribunal. It is not for us to pronounce judgment as to whether the charges are true or not. If I have to express my own opinion it will be in favour of the Prime Minister’s denial. But the great outside public expects Parliament to vindicate its own honour in its own way, and not to depend on an outside tribunal at all. Utterances in Parliament are privileged, and honorable members do not come within the jurisdiction of civil tribunals in respect of doings within the Legislature. Consequently, the onus and responsibility are thrown on Parliament to vindicate itself in its own way. In those circumstances I regret that the Prime Minister did not take the bold course I have indicated. He has taken action to bring these charges before a Court of Justice, but the other line of action would have been more in conformity with the traditions of this House of Parliament, would have been better from the point of view of the public, and would have done more to safeguard the honour of Parliament.
– It would have involved the resignation of the Government.
– I know that statement has been made. I have consulted some, but not of course all, the authorities. I do not think that the Marconi case, in England, involved the resignation of Ministers. On other occasions in our Australian Parliaments charges against Ministers have been investigated without necessarily involving resignation. But in any case, during the stress of war, and on the eve of an election, why should not this Parliament create its own precedent? No constitutional difficulties or technicalities should stand in the way of an inquiry of this kind if it be desirable that it be held. I do not believe that one elector in Australia would have expected the Prime Minister to resign, if he had decided, in order to remove all possibility of suspicion, to appoint a tribunal to inquire ‘ into charges which he has denied. The matter might have been determined in two or three days during which his administrative work could have been carried out by his deputy. However, in the absence of any other form of investigation, I hail with some satisfaction the announcement by the Prime Minister that he intends to take action in a Court of law, and if Senator Watson does not plead privilege, I houe that the Court will deal with the case soon, so that we may contest the election on broad question of principle and policy instead of indulging in recriminations which would obscure the more important questions, particularly the paramount question of winning . the war, and enabling Australia, as an integral part of the Empire, to do its share to achieve that desirable end.
– In my earlier remarks I referred to a leading article in the Hobart Mercury, and I attributed the sudden change in the attitude of Senators Bakhap and Keating to ‘the influence brought to bear upon them by that journal. The honorable member for Wimmera stated that he would welcome the appointment of a proper tribunal to investigate the ReadyWatson business, and that no request for such an inquiry had been made. Honorable members know that the Leader of the Opposition moved a motion to have these charges dealt with by a proper tribunal, and Government supporters, with one exception, voted against it. The honorable member for Wimmera said that he voted against the motion because it was tantamount to taking the business out of the hands of the Government. A division having been taken on that motion, and the Government having won, why do they not now of their own volition move for an investigation? The remarks of the honorable member prove that he, with others on the Government side, has been influenced, by the force of public opinion during the last few days, and he is now pretending to be in favour of that which he and others voted against on Friday last. Honorable members know that the Prime Minister said. “ If honorable members require a Royal Commission or any other inquiry into the matter, in God’s name let them have it.” Why has not the Leader of the Government given effect to these words, and appointed a tribunal to investigate an accusation which is the most serious ever levelled against a public man in this country?
– The Watson case?
– The whole unsavoury business.
– The Watson case does not affect the Ready resignation.
– The inquiry into the one matter will involve the other. I still believe that as a result of the views expressed by the Hobart Mercury two senators, who are Government supporters, resolved to vote against the prolongation of the life of this Parliament.
– I do not think that applies to the honorable member for Franklin.
– I have said before that the remark does not apply to him. But the other two senators decided to vote against the Government, and for that reason the Government did not proceed with the motion for the prolongation of Parliament. Therefore it is unfair to say that the defeat of that motion, and the consequent nonrepresentation of Australia at the Imperial Conference, was caused by members on this side of the House. The truth is that two members of the Government party were so disgusted with the unsavoury action of the Ministry in regard to the WatsonReady incidents that they would not stand by them.
– Senator Ferricks in the town hall expressed his pleasure that he had prevented the delegation going to England.
– The honorable senator was not responsible for the Australian delegation not going to London. The fact that no delegation is to leave these shores is due to the actions of the Government in bringing about a state of affairs that alienated the sympathy of two of their supporters. I may say that I did not evade my responsibility to deal conscientiously with the prolongation proposals. Some people may think that in submitting myself for reelection my prospects are not bright. I do not fear the result of the forthcoming contest, but though my seat may not be a safe one, I shall never, for the sake of my own political safety, agree to the tactics that were resorted to in order to bring about a prolongation of Parliament.
The Prime Minister asked what was the policy of the party on this side in reference to the conduct of the war. Beyond abuse and vague platitudes the policy of the Government in regard to the war amounts to nothing beyond what is proposed from this sideof the House. The Government say that because of the vote of the people on the 28th October they will stand by the voluntary system and it does not matter how many platitudes they indulged in and how they appeal to popular sentiment. They cannot get away from the fact that they are now prepared to follow the policy laid down by the Australian Labour party, and adhered to by it from the beginning of the war. The policy of our party is that upon which wo were elected two and a half years ago. Honorable members opposite who left the Australian Labour party interfered with the voluntary system of recruiting by supporting conscription. We, on this side, have always stood by the voluntary system, and are prepared to go on with it. Every man on this side knows that in the interests of the Empire and of the country, the war must be won. No accusations of disloyalty will prevent the bulk of the people from believing that. We stand for the voluntary system, and if returned will do everything in our power to give the fullest effect to it. It will be carried on as it was until the 28th October last, by which date Australia had sent 300,000 of its manhood across the seas. The only way in which to give full effect to the voluntary system is to allow the party that has always believed in it, and has stuck to it, to take charge of the government of the country. The men returning from the front will believe that if we get into power we shall provide a scheme of repatriation which will be honest, and will properly cater for those who have done their duty to the Empire. Last night an honorable member opposite told the Government straight out - and I endorse what, he said - that the amount provided for the benefit of our returned men is equivalent to only £26 a man. The Government cannot say that they are doing their duty in regard to the repatriation of soldiers. They have delayed too long. It is the policy of the Labour party to stand to an effective voluntary system, and to see that those who have done their duty to the Empire shall not be neglected. In addition, the Australian Labour party will, if returned to power, stand for the building up of the industries of this country, in order to provide suitable employment for our men when they come back. No one can say that it is a right thing for this country to import something like £14,000,000 worth of goods annually more than are exported. Should we continue to do so, we must ultimately become bankrupt. The honorable member for Wimmera has admitted here recently what he did not say during the conscription campaign - that it would be disastrous to bleed the rural districts of their manhood. Even without conscription being imposed the farming districts have been depleted of labour, and the farmers have not been able to properly attend to their work. I know the effect of the home service proclamation. It showed that, if conscription were resorted to, production in this country would be almost impossible.
Very little exception has been taken to the fact that the Government has hitherto denied the farmers representation on the Wheat and Wool Boards.
– It does not rest -with them.
– They have given it.
– Yes ; but only on the eve of an election. The farmers will not be caught with this kind of chaff. They will ask why it was not done earlier. It has been done on the eve of an election, just as a mere election dodge; in the same way as it has been decided to give the sugar millers of Queensland a bribe of £500,000.
Mr.Fenton. - The Government will be giving bonuses to every one before the elections are over.
– Yes. Had conscription been carried, the position of the farmers would be still worse than it is, and they would have no representation on these boards. In many cases so many of the farmers’ sons have gone to the war that production is seriously interfered with. It has been asked why should not Australia do as much as Great Britain. The reply is that our circumstances are different from those of Great Britain. The men in camp there can easily be released to take part in farm work. But our men, when they are sent abroad, go 14,000 miles away from home. It was stated in the newspapers recently that some thousands of Australians in camp on Salisbury Plain were released to take part in farming operations in Great Britain. People talk with their tongues in their cheeks about the promise of the “ last man and the last shilling.” They know that such a thing is not practicable. Besides, Mr. Fisher added the words “ if necessary.” The Mother Country would not ask for such a sacrifice from this distant outpost of Empire. Until the 28th October, the country was doing admirably in the matter of recruiting.
The Treasurer has pointed out that the war expenditure for the coming year will be something like £80,000,000. That is a crushing burden for a young country to bear, even under the voluntary system, but what would have been the position had we taken what even some honorable members opposite now admit would have been a fatal step, and adopted conscription ? The Treasurer has not indicated how the interest which must be paid on this money is to be raised. The Government, however, have given some indication that it is their intention to run away from the scheme for the taxation of war profits. If there is anything in the statement that there are meat barons in Australia who are supplying our troops with rotten meat, some of those who have been making huge profits in that way will escape taxation under the proposals of the present Government. I believe there is a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Maribyrnong that the Government will come along presently with a proposal to meet our huge expenditure by the taxation of kerosene, tea, and other things used by the poorer classes of the people. No one will deny that in connexion with the constitution of the Wheat Board and the Wool Board an injustice was done to the growers of wheat and producers of wool in denying them representation, although for the purpose of the elections an attempt has been made to remedy that injustice at the latest hour; but I should also like to say to the Postmaster-General, before he leaves the chamber, that the residents of the country districts have been incensed by his action in robbing them of very necessary facilities which make all the difference between isolation and civilization. Mail services and other postal facilities have been cut down in the interests of what the Government call economy. It is strange that this economy is always achieved by means which can be regarded as nothing but an attack upon people who have to live in adverse circumstances in the back places of the country. It is admitted on all sides that the men who go out into the backblocks are the mainstay of the country, and should be catered for. Instead of their facilities being reduced they should be increased in order to encourage others to follow their example.
According to all we hear, and particularly from the Prime Minister, the coming electoral contest is going to be a bitter one. I shall do nothing to make it bitter. I shall make no appeal to the people in the way suggested by the action of honorable members opposite. Only in this morning’s newspapers we have seen a tele gram sent by the Prime Minister to Adelaide, in which he says that the coming election is going to be a war election, and that the Labour party are against assisting in recruiting. So far as the recruiting movement is concerned, since it was taken in hand by the present DirectorGeneral of Recruiting all the assistance given to it has come from this side. The Prime Minister has addressed only one meeting since the inauguration of the present recruiting movement.
– The honorable member knows that every speech delivered by the Prime Minister has been a patriotic appeal to the whole of Australia.
– The honorable gentleman may put his own construction upon them, but I have seen no such appeals in the speeches of the Prime Minister. We are to-day faced with a most unholy alliance on the other side. Two political factions have come together that were anathema to one another until yesterday. I have the greatest possible sympathy with those who, up to the 28th October, always supported the democraticprinciples of the Fisher Government, who did such good work in order to win the war and defeat our enemies, but who are now deluded into joining forces with the Fusion party, because that party brazenly claims to be more sincere in regard to winning the war. When they remember the unseemly wrangle that took place while the Fusion was being brought ‘ about to decide whether the Liberals should have five, and the Hughesites six, members in the new Ministry, or vice versâ, the people will not believe that the Fusion party opposite are going to the electorates to win the war. On the contrary, they will regard them as the’ “ S.O.S.” - save our skins - party, the members of which are out to save their political skins in the most degrading way possible by an appeal to the electors under the cloak of patriotism. I shall make a clear and clean fight in my electorate, and I have the fullest confidence that the electors will not be led astray by the introduction of side issues, but will again return to power the party who, up to the 28th October last, did such good work to enable Australia to shoulder to the fullest extent her responsibilities in connexion with the war, and which will continue to do so to the end.
Mr.CORSER (Wide Bay) [3.45]. - I shall not delay the Committee for more than a few minutes, but I think it is just to the Government and the country that a denial should be given as’ early as possible to the statements which are published in the Age and the Argus of this morning. It is stated in those newspapers that the Government have given to the sugar-growers of Queensland £500,000, which had already been received, and which . ought to go to the Consolidated Revenue. Nothing of the sort has been done. There is another statement published in the Age leader which reflects upon all who have been advocating that justice should he done to the sugar industry of Queensland. I quote the following: -
Asimple calculation shows that the Commonwealth Government intend to raise the price of raw sugar to between£20 and £22 per ton. Before the war the producers were content to get about £12 per ton, but henceforth they will receive well over £21.
I deny the truth of that statement, on evidence supplied by the best authority on the subject in Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company in their reports show that in 1911 the price of sugar was £13 8s. 6d. per ton, and there was a bonus of £3, making the full price £16 8s. 6d. . In 1912 the price was £12 17s. 2d., which, with the £3 bonus, brought it up to £15 17s. 2d. In 1913, when, it will doubtless he remembered, the Excise duty was abolished, the price of sugar was fixed at £15 17s. 6½d. per ton. It is necessary to correct the false statements which have appeared in the newspapers to which I have referred, or otherwise the people would be misled.
– The price is only £6 a ton more now than it was.
– Nothing of the sort.
– What is the price now?
– We hope to get £22 7s. per ton; but, in considering the increased price, honorable members must take into account the increased cost of production owing to the increase in the price of manure, the land taxes - Federal and State - the super-income tax, the increase of wages between the McNaughton and Dickson awards, apart from the Dickson award, the increased cost of living, the increased cost of bags, machinery, and railage, and increased -steamer freights. We must leave it to the people of Queensland to decide whether there should be a’ revision of the Dickson award. It is the duty of the Government of Queensland to see that such a revision. takes place.
.- Last night the honorable member for Denison made the statement that I had attended a meeting in Sydney and given away some Caucus business. I give the statement an emphatic denial. I did attend a meeting, but all that I did was to tell the people who assembled that I was opposed to conscription, and would fight it at every stage. The Prime Minister has been making use of the statement to which the honorable member for Denison gave utterance, and I take this opportunity of “ scotching “ it before it goes any further. The Postmaster-General, when speaking the other night, said that he had been connected with the Labour movement for many years, and that he was one of those who helped to build it up. I have been looking up some old records. In 1891, when the Labour party decided to run candidates for Parliament, and selected three for Canterbury, the . Postmaster-General stood as an independent in opposition to the Labour candidate.
– Does the honorable member know why I did- so?
– I do not, but the honorable member says that he helped to build up the Labour movement, whereas on that occasion he helped to knock it down.
– I did not go out of the league.
– When I asked the Post master-General regarding his attitude towards conscription, he said he had always been a conscriptionist. - I have a photograph, of the letter which he sent to the central executive . in Sydney, to which I drew his attention. It reads as follows : -
In reply to your request for my opinion of conscription, I desire to say that I am in favour of training our men for home defence forthwith; and of voluntary service abroad.
– As I know there is a desire on the part of the Committee to get this Supply passed through, I conclude by trusting that the Postmaster-General in future will be sure of his facts.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
Motions (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1916-17, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £988,245.
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1914-16 for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1914-15, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings,&c, a further sum not exceeding £42,630.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means covering resolutions of Supply reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Joseph Cook do prepare, and bring in, Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Bill presented by . Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Following upon the statement yesterday with regard to the activity of a German raider in the Indian Ocean, I have to announce that advice has now been received from the Admiralty to the effect that, although the risk of danger on the Australian coastal route may not be great, the Admiralty consider that both shipowners and cargo owners should act with prudence in the matter of insurance..
.- The Prime Minister this morning promised me a copy of the Electoral Bill within an hour. It is five hours since then, and I have not received it.
– It was found quite impossible.
– Honorable members on this socle, and more than one on the other, have asked me if I have received that copy, but it is all right so long as I have the assurance of the Assistant AttorneyGeneral that the delay was unavoidable. What will be the order of business on Tuesday?
– The Tariff Validating Bill will probably come up very early .
– It will rest with honorable members themselves how long that Bill will take. So far as I can see there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent any honorable member moving any amendment he desires in the schedule. If there is one matter in which honorable members of Parliament are keenly interested it is an Electoral Bill, and we are all anxious to know what the new Electoral Bill contains. We are told that it deals only or mainly with the soldiers’ votes, but, as the Prime Minister said, taking the soldiers’ votes on a straightout question of “Yes” or “No” is a very different matter from taking their votes for candidates in divisions. Metropolitan members, particularly in the big cities, know that some streets run into two or three electorates. Those of us on the spot cannot always tell what division contains a particular address unless we know the number. Therefor© it will be almost impossible for a soldier at the front to know, for instance, whether he is in Yarra, Batman, or Bourke.
– Will not that balance itself?
– It may, and probably will not matter for the Senate vote.
– Their vote may be invalidated.
– That is the danger. When ‘ scrutineering at Senate elections, and at the recent referendum, I saw votes invalidated because a man, living in Batman, voted as if he were living in Yarra. The returning officers do their very best, and if it is difficult for us on the spot to know, what must it be on the other side of the world? I am anxious to see the Bill, so that we may give every facility for carrying out the election properly. What business is to be put through before the adjournment, and when are we likely to adjourn before the House is dissolved ?
-10].- The Minister for the Navy knows that I am specially interested in Tariff matters, and I wish to learn whether it is the Government’s intention to correct any anomalies there may be in the Tariff. I have heard it stated, and seen letters to the effect, that the Government have promised that certain anomalies shall be rectified when the Tariff comes before the House for validation. If the honorable gentleman can give us any information, we shall know what to do. I have consulted legal authorities, and I am told that once the Tariff is on the table, we can debate the whole of the items. If that be so, there is not much chance of our getting away next week.
– If the honorable member has risen to cast slights upon Victorian members, he had better sit down !
– I do not wish to cast any aspersion on Victorian members, but I know that, at election times, these members are always red-hot Tariffists, and, as there is an election pending, I presume they are red-hot Tariffists now.
.- I am also interested in the Tariff, especially in regard to an alteration of the duty on New Zealand timber. However, what I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Navy is the fact that there recently appeared in the Daily Standard, of Brisbane, a Labour-Socialist paper, a rumour to the effect that Mr. Wilson, who is the Divisional Returning Officer for Darling Downs, has been selected as the Labour candidate for that constituency. So far as I know, Mr. Wilson is now performing the duties of his office; and I should like to know whether the matter has come under the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer. Has the Minister for the Navy information to give on the matter ?
– So far as I remember, the business next week has to do with the Electoral Bill, which is in course of preparation. I regret very much that that Bill is not sufficiently advanced to allow honorable members to have copies.
– Could I have a confidential copy, before the House meets again ?
– I do not know, I am sure, but I hope it may be so. That measure and the Tariff comprise, so far as I know, the only business. We must validate the Tariff.
– Is any Bill required to grant the £500,000 to Queensland ?
– I do not think so. This is simply money which we have taken from the Queensland sugar industry, and which, as it turns out, we need not have taken. There is every prospect, I understand, of the production of sugar reaching the demand, and, therefore, there is no need to provide for any contingency in the way of importation. There is no more reason that I know of why this money should be kept in the Sugar Pool, than there is why the wheat money should be kept in the Wheat Pool.
– Except that the people might get their sugar a little cheaper. Surely 5,000,000 consumers are worth considering ?
-I quite agree that the consumer has a right to be considered in all such matters; and I am not sure that the consumer is not being fairly treated with sugar in war time at 3½d. per lb. Only last week a letter from my sister in England informed me that sugar was selling there at 7d. per lb., so that our price is just about half, and there is not much to complain of in this regard.
– Will you put cornsacks on the free list?
– I will put anything on the free list that I may, privately, but as to putting anything on the free list legislatively, I am afraid the prospects are not good. I . hope we may be able to do something in the matter of cornsacks in quite another way, which will be to the benefit of the farmer.
– Are you going to give another bonus?
– I forbear to say what we are going to give them, because we might find the honorable member, like the honorable member for Indi, turning round and suggesting that our action was for electioneering purposes. We are first asked what we are going to do for people, and when we say we are going to do something, we are told that it is for political purposes.
– Tell us what you are going to do about the Tariff.
– We are going to put the Tariff through - to validate it, if possible, in order to make all acts done legal.
– Without any amendment?
– Without any amendment.
– Do you propose to accept any amendments?
– We hope there may be none. The Leader of the Opposition knows as well as I do that, once you re-open the Tariff, it is impossible to close it.
– You were returned to give us responsible government.
– I do not quite see the point of the remark, though I suppose there must be a point, since so many honorable members are moved to hilarity. The attitude of the Government is that this is not the time, nor are the circumstances such as to justify us in re-opening the Tariff.For high reasons of State, as well as because of the utter impossibility of dealing with the Tariff at the present time, the only course open to the Government and the House is to pass the Tariff, in so far as we may, without re-opening it. That unquestionably will be the attitude of the Government.
– I am very sorry to hear that.
– The Leader of the Opposition is not more sorry than are agood many honorable members on this side. It is one of the dearest wishes of many honorable members all round the House to re-open the Tariff and correct many of the existing anomalies. The point is, however, that we cannot do that at the present time for the reasons I have stated. As to the Darling Downs constituency, it is true that the Divisional Returning Officer for Darling Downs is spoken of as a candidate for the seat, and I have here a statement by Mr. Oldham regarding the matter. It appears that Mr. Oldham’s attention has been called to a statement in the Brisbane Daily Standard of 19th February, as follows : -
It is rumoured here that Mr. J. Wilson (Divisional Returning Officer for Darling Downs) has been selected to oppose Mr. L. E. Groom for Darling Downs. If this is so, Mr. Groom will have the fight of his life, as Mr. Wilson will undoubtedly prove the strongest Labour candidate that ever took the field in that electorate.
The Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth has had this paragraph brought under his notice, and, in reply to an inquiry by him, has received the following statement from Mr. Wilson: -
You have my assurance that the statement concerning myself in the accompanying paragraph is incorrect, and that the strictly nonpartisan administration since my inception, which has earned me the confidence of all interested in local politics, will continue as long as I- remain an electoral official.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170309_reps_6_81/>.