6th Parliament · 1st Session
The following paperswere presented : -
Audit Act -
Finance 1915-18- The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June,. 1916, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
The War - Peace Note from the United States of America - Reply of the Allied Governments.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 61.
Defence Act - War Financial Regulations - Australian Imperial Force - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 49.
Queensland Meat at Seymour - German Concentration Camp, Liverpool - Instructors - Food and Clothing Abroad.
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for Echuca brought under my notice certain allegations that have been made concerning meat purchased from the Queensland Government. I have had inquiries made regarding the meat supplied to camps of training in Victoria, and I can say definitely that the honorable member was grossly misinformed by whoever told him that the meat in question was purchased from the Queensland Government over eighteen months ago. Frozen beef from Queensland has been supplied to camps in Victoria, but it has been of first export quality, killed and passed by Commonwealth Government inspectors in Queensland, and again inspected on arrival at Melbourne.
The Minister for Defence has promised, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane on Thursday last, that inquiries will be made into the condition of the German Concentration Camp at Liverpool, and as to whether the Australian-born internees could with advantage be separated from the others.
Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane asked these questions -
The following replies have been furnished : -
With regard to certain remarks last Tuesday by the honorable member for Brisbane concerning complaints about the inadequate supply of food and certain treatment in regard to clothes, I have been supplied by the Minister for Defence with the following statement: -
It is suggested that, before such statements are made public, the allegations should be given to the Minister, to enable cabled inquiry to be made, so that the answer could be made public at the same time as the allegation. The publication of such allegations, without any reply being possible under the circumstances at the same time, must seriously prejudice recruiting.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence if he has any information regarding a recent explosion of munitions of war in England. Is he aware that by that explosion several hundred persons were killed, and half an acre of houses some miles away demolished ? In the light of that experience, is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the proposed arsenal near the Federal Capital, and, if so, will the Government pay the difference between the premiums chargeable for ordinary policies of insurance on house property and human life, and the extraordinary premiums which will be charged in respect of the house property at the Federal Capital, and on the lives of future members of Parliament? The proposed arsenal will be about 61/2 miles from the Federal Capital. I had the distance measured.
– I only know what I read in the newspapers about the explosion referred to, and am not aware that the Defence Department has received further information concerning it. The honorable member is right in asking that the facts should be considered in connexion with the arsenal proposals.
– The charges for handling wheat in the various States are estimated to be 41/4d. per bushel in New South Wales, 4d. per bushel in Victoria, 51/2d. per bushel in South Australia, and 41/4d. per bushel in Western Australia. To handling charges are added other charges for freight, varying from 31/2d. to 41/2d. per bushel. A few days ago the Treasurer promised the farmers that, at the end of April, they should receive a further advance of1s. per bushel on the wheat, but from that advance are to be deducted the charges which I have mentioned, aggregating from 7d. to 8d. per bushel, which leaves the netgain to the farmers from 4d. to 5d. per bushel. As it has been estimated that the price obtained for the wheat will be 4s. 9d. per bushel, and as that can be accurately determined, I ask the treasurer it it would not be possible to make the farmers now a net advance of1s. per bushel, and to deduct the charges for handling and freight from the remaining 9d. ?
– I should like to inform honorable members that the Treasury Department does not administer the wheat business, which is in the hands of a Board consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth and States, the Prime Minister being Chairman. ‘ The Wheat Pool is financed by the Board under a guarantee to the Banks by the Commonwealth and the States, and all that the Treasury has to do is to make the best financial arrangements it can for carrying out the Board’s recommendation. Anything that Ihave said in regard to the wheat matter is only as Treasurer giving effect to the Board’s recommendations. I am only the guarantor on behalf of the Commonwealth, and act on the recommendations of the Board. The statement made the other day was a statement of a recommendation by the Board which has been approved by the Treasury. I am not in a position to do anything except on the recommendations of the Board. If the Board makes any further recommendation, it will be my duty as Treasurer to do my best to help so as to give effect to it.
– It is stated in one of the newspapers this morning that the Assistant Minister in another place has said that it is the intention of the Wheat Board to import cornsacks, and that the Government will remit the duty on these to the Wheat Board. Are those statements correct?
– We do not propose to interfere with the importation of cornsacks through the usual channels, but, as by reason of the vagaries of the weather, a harvest sometimes exceeds the estimated yield by 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 bushels, and is sometimes beneath the estimate to a corresponding extent, no private dealer will take the risk of importing in advance a sufficient number of sacks to provide for a large surplus, and thus, when there is a full harvest, there is always a shortage of cornsacks, which brings about an increase in the price, not only of the sacks needed for the surplus, but also in the price of all sacks imported. The Government proposes to do three things. In the first place, it will not collect duty on the imported sacks. Secondly, it will see that the sacks are sold at cost price, plus the expenses of handling and a reasonable commission. Thirdly, either directly or ‘ through agents, or through the Wheat Board, it will import a sufficient number, of sacks to provide for a full harvest, and will carry the whole of the liability that is so incurred. Thus the farmer may know that there will be sacks sufficient for the most bountiful harvest, and that these will be obtainable practically at cost price, and will not be dutiable.
– Is the statement in this morning’s newspapers that the Government intends to place an embargo upon the importation of luxuries true? If so, can the Prime Minister give the House a list of the luxuries that will be prohibited ?
– I can only answer the question in a general way. A few days ago the honorable member for Grampians introduced a deputation which laid before me certain facts’ in connexion with this matter, and asked that the Government should prohibit the importation of certain luxuries, and consider the questionofthe excessive importation of certain other articles which, during a time of warmay well fall under that classification, and consider the effect of this both on Australian industries through the alleged extraordinary increase in the amount of such imports and upon the finances of the country.- I replied that I regarded the matter as one of very great importance, and I would bring the request of the deputation, together with the facts put before me, under the notice of Cabinet. Expressing my own opinion, I said that I thought the deputation had made out a very strong case for regulation of the importation of luxuries during war time. In accordance with my promise, I brought the matter before the Cabinet, who regarded it as most important. In the course of discussion Ministers saw how intricate the ramifications of the proposal are. It affects, for example, very intimately the finances of the country, as regards both the receipts of the Treasury and the ability of the nation to bear the heavy burdens now imposed by war taxation and war loans. It is obvious on the face of_ it that to send money out of this country and out of the Empire at a time when every atom of wealth is essential, is a suicidal policy. It was considered that a prima facie case was’ established for the . restriction or regulation of imports from countries outside the Empire. . Such a policy seems to be dictated both by common prudence and the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. The facts to which the deputation directed my attention clearly involved the ability of the people to contribute to those further war loans’ that are inevitable if the war continues. The financial position is now very serious in regard to every one of the States. That market which formerly was open to us for war loans is now closed, practically, and any policy which has a tendency to restrict unnecessary expenditure will necessarily make available wealth that otherwise would possibly find its way out of the country as payment for luxuries imported from places outside the Empire. The Government have considered the matter from the point of -view put forward by the honorable member for Grampians and his deputation, and “have decided that, as a general policy, it is favorable to the regulation of imports. We are now considering to who: extent and in what way we can give effect to that policy, so that we may keep the wealth of the country within the country and the Empire, make available for loan and other purposes money which otherwise would be dissipated in unneces sary expenditure, and, at the same time, encourage, as far as is humanly possible, the industries of Australia, and increase the opportunities of employment for our own citizens. With these objects in view, the Government are now considering the policy of regulating imports. It will be generally admitted that we cannot run amok, or proceed without due care in a matter so complex and difficult. Every item to be dealt with must be closely scrutinized. However, I have indicated the policy of the Government, effect to which will be given straightway.
– Will the Government consider the regulation of imports of not only what are termed luxuries, but also those articles which are being and can be manufactured in Australia from our own raw material? I will hand to the Prime Minister, privately, a list of the articles which I think may be dealt with as I suggest, but I will not name them, because I think it is better that the Government should evolve their own list, and not be able to say that certain articles appear on it at the request of somebody outside the Government.
– The Government will do that. The circumstances in which we are now placed give a very wide meaning to the term luxuries. The responsibility is thrown upon the Government of promoting the welfare of this country, without which it is impossible that Australia can do its utmost in the war, and clearly the encouragement of industry is one of the means by which that can be most effectively assured. I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra has not mentioned any particular item. To have done so would have been improper, and the Government would have been at once confronted with a host of objections. I can only assure the House that the general policy of the Government does not stop short at what are termed luxuries, but contemplates a regulation which, while not being general and sweeping, will have the effect of achieving the ends I have mentioned.
– When the Prime Minister is considering the adjustments to be made in connexion with the prohibition of the importation of luxuries, will he have regard to the fact that many men have entered various businesses under the laws of Australia, and have invested their money in them; that these men have subscribed to our war loans and depend upon those businesses to make good the amounts which they have subscribed?
– I do not know who these people are, or what the honorable member has in his mind; but one cannot have an omelette without breaking eggs. There is, or there is not, a policy in this country in regard to Australian industries ; there is, or is not, a war ; and there is, or is not, an imperative demand for money. The honorable member admits, I assume, all these things. All these facts being admitted, the Government has, obviously, to take some action; but we shall have regard to the position of every person. We are not going to benefit A to injure B, C, and D. That would be the act of a fool. If by prohibiting the importation of luxuries we gave employment to ten people and threw 250 out of work, of what avail would that be? We must have regard for the general welfare of the community. Since the honorable member has put this question to me, let me invite the House to consider for a moment the use of silks, so-called. Nowadays, I suppose there is hardly a woman in any class who does not wear silken garments of some sort. It is well known that thousands of people in Australia are employed in making up such garments’. If we prohibit the importation of that material, and throw those people out of work, we must do something for them. And that is why I say that the question is difficult and complex. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked me a question in regard to a certain list, I had to point out that before completing such a list it was necessary to look into the whole question and to see that we did not do incalculably more harm than good.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a newspaper paragraph purporting to be the report of a speech delivered in the Senate on Wednesday night by Senator Stewart to the following effect : - “ He advised the people of Europe to dethrone every monarch after the war, the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Germany, and all the rest.” Can the Prime Minister take any steps under the War Precautions Act to prevent men, who have taken’ the oath of loyalty to the King, giving utterance to such a treasonable and disloyal statement ?
– I am quite sure that there is no law in the country that prevents the statement by any member of Parliament of anything he chooses to say, except the Standing Orders and that good sense and restraint which honorable members choose to impose upon themselves. The publication of such statements is in a different category, and if any honorable gentlemen choose to so abuse the position they occupy as tribunes of the people as to class in the same category the King of England and the Emperor of Germany at a time when England and Germany are locked in a life and death struggle, not for the preservation of monarchy, but for the preservation of liberty, I take it that this House and this country do not expect that the law shall distinguish between persons, whoever they may be. I do not know what can be done with regard to what has been said by an honorable gentleman in another place. I can only say that the statement seems to me obviously cheap, insincere, inexcusable abuse, meaning nothing, and utterly incompatible with the oath the honorable gentleman has taken in order to draw the money upon which he lives. A man who comes to Parliament and takes the oath of allegiance to the King, and after eating his Majesty’s salt makes statements of that kind, is not even fit to be guillotined.
– The honorable member for Macquarie yesterday charged me with having made treasonable utterances, and he alluded to an address I had delivered at a certain place. At no time in my life have I ever given expression to any words that could be truthfully called treason.
– I read your statement in Hansard, and it was as near as you could go to treason.
– One is led to think that the honorable member for Macquarie is not able to judge treasonable utterances, or anything that takes place in the House, because he spends so much time in making money and so little time in Parliament.
– On a point of order. Is the honorable member for Melbourne
Ports in order in attacking another honorable member when making a personal explanation ?
– The honorable member is not in order in saying anything beyond what is necessary to explain a matter affecting himself.
– I should like the honorable member to withdraw the reflection he has made on me. His statement is untrue.
– As exception has been taken to the remark of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I will if he will withdraw his statement that I made treasonable utterances.
– The honorable member must withdraw it unconditionally.
– I withdraw it. I now ask that the honorable member for Macquarie be made to withdraw his references to treasonable utterances.
– The honorable member for Macquarie must withdraw the words to which exception has been taken.
– I never said that the honorable member made treasonable utterances.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday the Treasurer intimated that probably another ls., less freight and handling charges, would be paid to those interested in the 1915-16 Wheat Pool. Is the Prime Minister aware that, so far as New South Wales is concerned, those freights and handling charges were deducted from the first amount that was paid to the farmers, and if so, will the Wheat Board pay the full ls., at all events, to the New South Wales farmers.
– I have already tried to make it clear to the House that the effect of the proposed payment would be to put the farmer in each State on a level. That being so, in some of the States the farmer will get more from this next instalment than in others. It will depend upon whether he has, or has not, paid the freight and handling charges. Where he has, he will receive the full amount; where he has not, then of course the amount of the freight and handling charges will be de ducted. In short, the answer is that those farmers who have already paid these charges ‘will not have to pay .them again, but will receive the full amount, and without the deduction to be made in the case of the other men. The net result will be that the farmers in all States will, when this instalment has been paid, have received the same amount of money for their 1915-16 wheat.
Report of the Public Works Committee on the proposed erection of a power house at Flinders Naval Base, Victoria, presented by Mr. Finlayson for the chairman, and ordered to be printed.
– Has the Prime Minister considered the position of the fruit industry, and is he prepared to make any announcement regarding it before the House rises?
– The position of the fruit industry, and of ‘the apple industry in particular, has much improved since I last spoke on the question. There have been since then two large shipments which have materially relieved the position. I can hold out very little hope of those shipments being continued, but it is not anticipated that the quantity of apples left in Australia will be more than can be consumed here, now that we have prohibited the importation of American apples. In any case the Government will take such steps as will have the effect of minimizing, if not entirely eliminating, any loss that may fall on the grower.
Postponement of Elections
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the very serious news just to hand as to the occurrence of important events in the Russian capital, and the possibility of that occurrence having effects upon the war detrimental to our interests, the Government will reconsider its determination to send this Parliament to the country at so serious a juncture.
– There is no decision in the wide world which I would so easily reconsider. I dare say that in that respect I am like every one else. I have never tried to pose as one of those who are anxious to go to the people, although until now I have had a reasonably good seat.
I confess I do not know the meaning of the occurrence to which the honorable member refers. None of us is familiar enough witE’ the Russian situation to know precisely what is ‘the meaning of this most dramatic and most amazing episode. In the history not only of this war, but of the civilized world, there never has been a revolution so complete, so far-reaching. At one stroke a great figure has disappeared, and what is more to the point, the whole bureaucracy - the governing class of Russia - has disappeared. The Duma, which was yesterday dismissed at will, the sport of this or that official appointed by the Czar, is now the ruler. Whether that is an omen of good or evil depends entirely, in my opinion, on the nature of the forces that are directing this revolution. I confess I do not know, and a man would be a fool to stand here and dogmatize about it. But if it means that Russia is going to pull out of this war-
– It means the reverse.
– I did not say it did mean that Russia was going to pull out of this war; I said “if it does mean that.” If I may be permitted to express my own opinion - and I put this forward merely as my own view - it means the very opposite. I may be wrong. We shall learn, perhaps, in a few hours what is the truth.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether the statement on an electioneering card issued in New South Wales by Mr. J. ». Garden that he volunteered for active service, and was refused permission to enlist, the Department stating that his services were required at home, is true ?
– The honorable member notified me of his intention to ask the following question: “‘Is it a fact that Senior Assistant Garden volunteered for active service, and was refused by the Department on the ground that his services were required here?” The information supplied is: “ It is not a fact. Garden volunteered,’ and has been approved to enlist.”
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– As a matter of privilege I desire to bring a question of importance before the House, and it is a pleasure to me to’ be able to strongly commend the action of the present Prime Minister in connexion ‘with the matter to which I am about to refer. It would appear that in this case “ even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer.” The Prime Minister’s action, however, should be carried a little further. Where public documents are published without authority before they have been received by the Governor-General, or dealt with by the Government, some decisive action should be taken. Every honorable member will agree with me that the receiver is worse than the thief; that the briber is worse than the bribed, and that the person benefited by a wrong act should be punished when the individual guilty of that wrong act is also punished. Throughout my life my sympathy has generally gone out to the under-dog, and while I compliment the Government for the action they have taken in regard to the premature publication of the report of the Federal Capital Commission, I have something further to propose. In last night’s issue of the Herald it was stated that -
Mr. W. M. Hughes, the Prime Minister, announced to-day in the House of Representatives that he had agreed to a recommendation by the secretary of his Department that Mr. D. J. Quinn, secretary to the Royal Commission which inquired into the Canberra Administration, be dismissed for having supplied to the press the report of Mr. Wilfred Blacket. K.C., the Commissioner.
– Order ! The honorable member on rising intimated that he rose to a question of privilege, and before doing so he handed to the Clerk a copy of a motion with which he proposed to conclude his speech. Before I give a ruling, it would, perhaps, be as well to read the motion with which the honorable member proposes to conclude his remarks. It is as follows : -
That justice demands that as well as the dismissal of a Commonwealth officer guilty of breach of duty, that the real wrongdoer, the editor-in-chief of the Sun, should be punished equally for violating the public duty followed by all respectable newspapers of not making use of information so obtained from a disloyal officer,” and publishing an official report which was secret before it reached the GovernorGeneral.
That the Sun Newspaper Company should not enjoy the privileges of cable, telegraph, and other press services afforded it by the Commonwealth Government, and these services should be suspended so long as the said editor-in-chief is employed by the directors of the said newspaper, and the directors have not apologized in such form as the Commonwealth Government require.
I should like to point out to the honorable member and the House what “ privilege “ means. In this case there is no charge against the Prime Minister or any member of the .House for having done anything derogatory to his position as a public representative. The persons affected are not members of the House, and the facts referred to relate entirely to people outside. In May, on which we are bound to rely, we find it clearly laid down, in the 11th edition, page 272, that if a question of privilege is raised it must be in connexion with something affecting the House or members of the House. As I say, the matter’ referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne does not affect this House, or the members of the House. It affects departmental administration; and, in regard to it, the Government may or may not take action. I am bound to rule, and I do so at this early stage, that the motion, which the honorable member has handed to me, does not come within the definition of “ privilege.”
– Before the matter is finally settled, I should like to raise a point of order. So far as I remember, in no case where a member of Parliament has risen to privilege has a Speaker ever read out the motion before it has been read by the member. I remember that in England, when the secret treaty between Russia and England was stolen-
– I submit that if the honorable member for Melbourne wishes to proceed further, he ought to move to dissent from your ruling, sir.
– The honorable member for Melbourne, and every other member, must realize that the Speaker has a duty to perform, and it is in pursuance of that duty that I have given a ruling. It is perfectly clear that no one can rise to a question of privilege unless he concludes his remarks with a motion. The honorable member for Melbourne was courteous enough to supply me with a copy of his proposed motion, and, therefore, I knew exactly what it was he intended to propose. It became my duty to satisfy myself whether or not the motion came within the definition of “ privilege,” and on that point I have given my ruling. Of course, if the honorable member desires, he can take the sense of the House as to whether my ruling is correct.
– No, no ; on the last day of the session I should not think of doing that. I should, however, like to ask the Prime Minister whether he will consider the necessity of bringing in a Bill to deal with newspapers, reputedly respectable, which make use of Government officers, or secretaries of Royal Commissions and other bodies, in their efforts to obtain and divulge information that should first of all be given to the GovernorGeneral ?
– I have no doubt whatever that it is most improper for any newspaper to publish any such information ; but I am bound to say that the newspapers have to regard the position as it exists. The public clamour for news, and when news comes to a newspaper from any source, it is published. I do not pretend to defend the newspapers, but merely state the facts. I will say this for Mr. Quinn, quite frankly–
– I did not wish to refer to the particular case.
– In the case of Mr. Quinn, I had no option but to dismiss him.
– I quite approve of that.
– But I do not say for one moment that Mr. Quinn had any improper intention - not the slightest. I have not spoken to Mr. Quinn for years, but that is my opinion in regard to him. Under the circumstances, however, I could do no other than dismiss him. Since the honorable member has brought the matter up, I think it only right to say these few words in justice to Mr. Quinn, lest it should be thought that he had done this thing for some consideration. I do not believe for one moment that he did so.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Wentworth asked me the following question: -
A number of eases have arisen in which refunds are demanded by the Pay Office from soldiers returned from overseas, because of overpayments, either alleged or actual, made to them. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence have inquiries made as to whether this hardship to returned soldiers cannot be in some way obviated, and whether the Pay Office cannot be made more directly responsible for any mistakes of the kind made in the future?
I can now give the following reply : -
In many cases the overpayments are due to the fact that advice from abroad regarding casualties affecting soldiers’ pay is not received until after the “overpayments” have been made. In many other cases the overpayments are the result of inaccurate declarations made by the soldiers and their dependants.
In regard to overpayments due to mistakes of the Pay Office Staff, the Crown Solicitor has advised “ it is part of the employee’s duty to take proper care of such property of the Department as is intrusted to his charge, and also to exorcise reasonable care and skill in the discharge of his duties, and for negligence in these respects he may be made liable to the Department in damages.
Generally, therefore, where loss to the Department occurs through the negligence of an employee, the Department may recover such loss from the employee by action for damages.
The Department is not’, however, entitled to withhold pay or allowances due to such employee, or to withhold payment of any moneys belonging to such employee which the Department has in its possession until a judgment has been obtained against the employee for a definite sum of money, for the reason that a claim for damages cannot be set off against a debt, and if a loss was caused by act or omission not amounting to negligence, the loss could not be recovered from the employee.”
With regard to over-payments made in which employees are held responsible, the departmental practice is -
The employees concerned are given the option of making good within reasonable time any over-payments, or of having their services immediately dispensed with.
Permanent members of the Department would be dealt with under the regulations governing the conditions of their employment.
– There is one class of over-payment to which the reply makes no reference, but which I find fairly numerous. When non-commissioned officers go with reinforcements they lose their rank on joining their unit. Under pre sent conditions, when a man loses his rank, the fact is not always notified to the Pay Office, or, if it is, it is not acted upon, with the result that the men and their dependants are paid more than, under the regulation, they ought to be paid. In such cases I desire the Department to stir up its officers, so that hardship will not result to these men and their dependants on suddenly finding themselves, through no fault of their own, called upon to repay large amounts. I ask the Minister to take the matter into his consideration, because it was these cases that caused me to ask the original question, in the hope of securing some alleviation of the present conditions.
– The question of the honorable member was put in general terms, though now he has directed my attention to specific cases. I take it that his desire is that when the change takes place abroad, the information shall be sentmore expeditiously to the Department. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister.
Contracts for Fat
– I should like to repeat the question I put yesterday to the Assistant Minister for Defence in regard to contracts for fat in the camps?
– I take it that the honorable member’s question had reference to a specific contract, though yesterday he spoke in general terms. I brought the matter under the notice of the officers of the Department, and made an effort to get the papers connected with it. I have not, however, been able to get complete information; but I will try to do so, and let the honorable member have it before the House rises.
– In view of the importance of oil discovery in Australia, and in order to give an impetus to private enterprise in this direction, will the Government offer a substantial bonus for such discoveries?
– All I can say offhand is that the policy of the Government in this matter has been very clearly stated. We are very desirous of encouraging industries, and developing the resources of Australia, and the Government will give the most earnest consideration to the matter referred to in the question. It is perfectly clear that the mere discovery of oil, unless in payable quantities, would be of very little value, while, of course, the discovery of oil in payable and great quantities would practically revolutionize our industrial outlook.
– Will the Prime Minister consider whether something cannot be done in the way of discovering the value and extent of the crude, oil deposits in Papua ? Some months ago rather favorable reports were made in this regard, and considering the importance of the matter it seems to me that it would be well worth while making some systematic attempts in the direction I have suggested.
– I understand that while the Department of External Affairs was under separate control the Minister of that Department gave considerable attention to this matter, and was rather hopeful of securing good results. Since the control of External Affairs has been handed over to me the matter has been dealt with by the Minister for Home and Territories, so that I am not closely acquainted with the details. If the prospects are as I have been led to believe they are, there should be a very hopeful outlook for the oil industry in Papua, and the Government will do all they can to develop it.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me yet whether any application has been made to have the appraisement of wool carried out at Townsville ?
– I have not been able to find any trace of any such application.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received a report from the InterState Commission fixing the rate for the carriage of mails over the Australian railways? Also, has the Minister given consideration to the matter with a view to securing the carriage of mails over newlyopenedup railway lines’?
– I am still anxiously awaiting the report of the Inter-State Commission. I have indicated my desire to secure that report as early as possible in order that I may give the relief to which the honorable member has referred.
– With reference to the question asked in this House on Tuesday last by the honorable member for Maranoa as to whether my attention has been drawn to the fact that, in numerous post-offices throughout Australia, as the result of juniors being called upon to handle the allotment pay of soldiers who have gone to the front, the Treasury was being defrauded of considerable sums, and whether I would take action to protect the Treasury by seeing that these junior officers were not required to deal with such matters, I desire to state that I have had inquiries made, and find that there is no trace of any papers in the Treasury regarding the matter. It is understood that nothing is known of it by the Auditor-General or the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department received a somewhat similar complaint, signed “James Lowe, Moonee Ponds.” Inquiries made by the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Police Department failed to discover any such person.
– It is alleged that the British Imperial Oil Company have a controlling influence over the shale oil mines in New South Wales. Can the Prime Minister give any information on this point, because I understand that, owing to this company being a foreign body, it has turned down our shale oil mines in order to secure advantage to the enemy ?
– I do not know whether the British Imperial Oil Company have any control over the shale oil mines of New South Wales. Certainly they have no hold over the Newnes companies, which carry on the largest shale-mining operations in the Commonwealth. The object of the Commonwealth is the encouragement of industry and the development of our resources, as well as the discouragement of German control of our industries, no matter whether they are carried on under English or any other names.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
Whether the Government have decided on a scheme for the repatriation of returned soldiers; and, if so, will he inform the House of the decision arrived at?
– The matter was fully considered at the Premiers’ Conference, and a basis agreed upon which was subsequently approved by the Repatriation Board, who made certain suggestions for giving effect to the resolutions of the Premiers’ Conference. The Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council has been appointed as Minister in Charge of Repatriation, and is now formulating a detailed scheme on those lines.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, 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 Treasurer, upon notice -
Is the total revenue for the financial year ending 30th June, 1917, from taxation imposed by the Commonwealth and States authorities (including municipalities) estimated to be approximately £40,750,000, or about £8 7s. 7d. per head of the mean population of the Commonwealth?
– The answer furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician is “ Yes.”
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
There is no authority to apply the provisions of the award obtained by the Commonwealth
Public Service Clerical Association to nonmembers of that association, except in the case of officers who -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
.- Last night, when I was speaking of the Bodington Estate, near Wentworth Falls, New South Wales, which has been purchased out of Red Cross funds, the honorable member for Wentworth questioned the figures I gave. I have received an urgent telegram in reference to the matter as follows : -
Kelly’s statement of valuation wrong. Shire valuation conclusive, was appealed against by vendor. Red Cross funds despoiled. Apparently not an isolated case.
.- (By leave.) - I would like to know from the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the rumours that are abroad that there is a possibility that Australia may have to abandon the White Australia policy? It is said by some people that, owing to certain coloured races having taken part with the Allies at the front, it will be no longer possible for Australia to maintain this policy, and I would like to know if the Government intends to re-establish the Pacific Islands kanaka trade?
– Is the honorable member in order ?
– The honorable member for Capricornia asked to be allowed to make a statement, and I put the matter to the House under the impression that what the honorable member wished to say was something in the nature of a personal explanation.
-The honorable member can say all that he has to say on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
Sitting suspended from3.45 p.m. to 11 a.m. (Saturday).
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
– It will be remembered that when we were in Committee the Minister for Home and Territories moved an amendment in clause 5 enabling munition workers, who were under agreement with the Commonwealth for service outside Australia, to exercise their franchise overseas exactly as our soldiers will do. The Senate has inserted after the word “ munition “ the words “ or other,” so that the clause as amended by it will provide that, munition or other workers under agreement with the Commonwealth for service overseaswill be entitled to the same privilege in this respect as our soldiers abroad. This, I think, is a reasonable amendment, to which we should agree. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have been requested by Mr. Speaker to read to the House the following message from him : - 15th March, 1917.
I regret to say that, owing to my recent illness, I have not been able to be at the House during the closing days of the session, but I desire to thank honorable members for the courtesy and kindness extended to me by them during my term of office as Speaker.
At times, I have found the position very trying, but I have always found honorable members ready and willing to assist me in maintaining the dignity and the high reputation of the House.
I desire to specially thank Mr. Deputy Speaker Chanter for his kindness in relieving me during my illness, and also Mr. Gale and the staff generally, who have so ably assisted me in carrying out the high and responsible duties devolving upon the Speaker’s position. I am also indebted to the staff of the Library, who materially assisted in lightening the work connected with my position as Chairman of the Library Committee.
Valedictory - Officers of the House - Illness of Mr. Speaker - Supply of Tramway Rails - Dismissal of Mr. Quinn.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
As the House will not meet again during its present lease of life, I desire to tender to the officers of the House our high appreciation of the manner in which they have carried out their duties. Happily for us, ever since the institution of this Parliament we have been admirably served. To those who sit at the table and take down, for the purposes of the official record of our debates, the words of wisdom which fall from our lips we owe so much that no effort of mine could do adequate justice to their services. I know very well that with whatever feelings we may approach the contest, they, without doubt, come to it with feelings of undiluted joy. We owe very much to them, and although they “take us down “ in one sense, they certainly do not do it in another. I personally owe them very much, and am very grateful.
There is another matter about which I shouldlike to speak, and that is the illness of Mr. Speaker, who has exercised the functions of his high office with distinction and credit. Until this cloud darkened the political heavens he was a friend and colleague of mine of many years’ standing, and both as a friend and as the Presiding Officer of this House, where the representatives of the people sit, I do most sincerely regret his illness, and trust that it will be only of short duration.
To you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I may express the sense of satisfaction that it has been to the House that during Mr. Speaker’s absence you, having been called upon to take up his- duties, have done so in so capable a manner. It must relieve Mr. Speaker to know that during his absence, one so well calculated as you are to fill his place has been found.
I shall not say anything as to what is before us, because it is one of those things that mere words cannot adequately portray. Honorable members opposite know me well enough to feel assured that, personally, there is not one of them to whom I do not wish well; but, politically, of course, I consign them to Hades with that thorough sense of fitness which characterizes me. ‘I could have wished - I am sure we all could have wished - that this cup had. passed from us; but it cannot be. Parliament,as it is, is unworkable. We must go to the people ; and obtain from them that verdict which will enable those who receive it to carry on the business of the country in a way that the circumstances demand. We are not to settle our business in the way they have settled theirs in Russia. We are to go to the people, and they are to decide who is to govern this country.
.-. I join with the Prime Minister in his expressions of gratitude to the officers of the House for the manner in which they have carried out their duties, and also in the sympathy that he has extended to Mr. Speaker in his illness. The general public can have no true conception of the strain which the Speakership entails upon the holder of that office. I do not know why it is that this House is so different from the Senate, which in my time at least as a Senator certainly had a very serene atmosphere. Mr. Speaker is very highly strung, and his -extreme desire to carry out his duties in an impartial and conscientious manner’ has no doubt affected his health very greatly.. We all hope he may be rapidly restored to health, and that he will long grace the Chair inthis House, no matter what party may be returned to power. I would also express the thanks of this House to the gentlemen of the press, who must often feel bored in having to listen to our well-meant efforts to do our duty tothecountry.
– No morebored than we are.
– The difference between the position of the representatives of the press and that of the honorable member for Henty is that while they have tosit here hour after hour there is no obligation on the part of the honorable member to remain in the chamber during the delivery of an uninteresting speech. It is usual at the breaking up of the House of the. Representatives for the Prime Minister to indulge in a series of: complimentary remarks, but I am glad, and I appreciate the fact, that the right honorable gentleman has not followed the practice oh this occasion. I agree that personally, and generally speaking, . we have no animosity towards each other; but in the contest between the two great parties in the Commonwealth it is impossible for us to fall on each other’s necks in friendship. I wish there were some method by which we could pension off our friends opposite, and allow honorable members on this side to run the country; though, at the same time, I am quite in accord with the opinion that the absence of a strong Opposition is not inthe public interests. We are now going before our masters, the people, by whom our fate will be decided. I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite may be defeated, and that we on this side will be returned to power to carry out the policy that we believe to be in the interests of this great Commonwealth. At the same time, I realize that it would be a very bad thing for the country if honorable members opposite were not returned at all; and all I desire for myself and colleagues is a sufficient majority to enable us to realize our policy, with, perhaps, some ten or a dozen of the best amongst honorable members opposite to ably and eloquently state the policy of the Liberal party. I should like to express high sentiments of benevolence and generosity; but there is great difficulty in doing so, for I feel that it would be very much in the nature of the bow of the duellists of old. No doubt the forthcoming contest will be bitter, and I hope every effort will be made to conduct it in as gentlemanly a manner; as possible, so that when we return, those of us who do will be able to forget our personal differences inthe interest of this great Commonwealth.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin)
Deputy Speaker whether there is any truth in the rumor that Senator Stewart had advance information of the abdication of the Czar of Russia?
– There are just two matters I should like to bring under the notice of the Government before the House rises. I know that this is an expiring Parliament, and that the Government may be an expiring Ministry, but my requests are pertinentand urgent. I am rather sorry that the Prime Minister has left the chamber, for I hope to present a deputation to him shortly in relation to the procuring of tramway rails for several tramway trusts in and around the city of Melbourne. The money is available, and it is only the shortage of rails that is holding up the work and keeping large numbers of people out of employment. These rails are required by the tramways trusts of Footscray, Northcote, Preston, Fitzroy, and Hawthorn.
– You ought to go to the coal miners and talk to them about the matter!
– I am preferring a request in the interests of large numbers of people who are out of work, and I can only hope that the honorable member for Grey is as anxious as I am in this regard. The Tramway Trusts are composed of members of municipal councils and other prominent citizens; and the deputation of which I have spoken will seek to impress on the Prime Minister the necessity of pressing forward the manufacture of steel rails in Australia, so that we may not experience this lamentable shortage in the future. Of course, I know that the matter is full of difficulty, for it is said that Russia has made a request to Australia for steel rails, and there is a shortage everywhere. The other matter to which I desire to refer is connected with the premature publication of the report of the Royal Commissioner on the Federal Capital works. I should like to make it clear that I do not know Mr. Quinn myself, and that I have not been approached by that gentleman or any of his friends ; but in the trouble Mr. Quinn has fallen by the way. I think, from the words which fell from the Prime Minister yesterday, that Mr. Quinn had no intention of divulging any secrets, and that he acted quite innocently.
– If so, he was a very big simpleton !
– In view of what the Prime Minister has said, I hope that no very drastic steps will be taken in regard to Mr. Quinn, but rather that he should be treated, if possible, leniently, and not sacrificed for, perhaps, one mistake in a long public career.
– Is it not true that Dr. Maloney did a similar thing in connexion with the Pearling Commission?
– I do not desire to go into any other matters, but’ merely to direct attention to the two subjects I have mentioned.
– As the nights are getting exceedingly cold in Tasmania and Victoria,’ and, if my memory serves me rightly, the soldiers in our camps are supplied with only two blankets, I desire to suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence that he should have inquiries made with a view to the issue of an additional blanket. This, I am sure, would be very acceptable to the men, and as there are plenty of blankets available the matter has only to be mentioned to be attended to.
.- The worst of a situation like the present, when there is an expiring Parliament, is that you do not know who is going to expire. The Prime Minister was very hesitant this morning.
– It is only temporary.
– The right honorable ‘ gentleman did not display his usual facility of speech, and I only hope that in the coming contest he may not have a recovery in that regard, nor place a strain on his imagination.
– My imagination is quite all right!
– It is beautiful! I only wish mine were not as excellent. I notice that, so far, there is no opponent for me at Bourke.
– We shall have to remedy that!
– I sincerely hope you will hot be able to remedy it, because I can assure you I can do much better without one. No matter what may be the caseof other honorable members on this side, I can assure the House that during the coming contest there will be no need whatever for anything but kind words concerning myself. From my first appearance in this Chamber I have never had any but the most kindly words for all opposed to me, and I expect that spirit to be reciprocated. Whatever honorable members opposite maythink of those on this side, the supporters of the Government,. I think, have the good sense to appreciate the honorable member for Bourke.
– On behalf of Mr. Speaker, myself, and the officers of the House, I desire to return thanks for the complimentary remarks that have been made, and I trust that whoever may be the Speaker in the new Parliament he will enjoy the same experience as myself. I have received every assistance from the officers of the House, and I can assure them that that assistance was highly appreciated by me. Any action I may have taken during my occupancy of the chair I have been impelled to take by a strict sense of duty, and from no other motive. My personal feelings towards and relations with honorable members on both sides of the House are of the most amiable character.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.30 a.m. (Saturday).
Commonwealth of Australia to wit.
By His Excellency the Right Honorable Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, a Member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170316_reps_6_81/>.