7th Parliament · 1st Session
The House’ met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
TheClerk read the proclamation. Mr.Speaker took the chair, and read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted,’ and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and, having returned,
Mr. BOYD made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of. Henty.
Mr. CORSER made and subscribed theoath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Wide Bay.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral district of Darwin, in the place of Charles Richard Howroyd,. Esquire, deceased, indorsed with a certificate of the election of the Hon. William Guthrie Spence.
Mr. SPENCE made and subscribed theoath of allegiance.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Amendments Incorporation Act 1905.
– I have to inform this House that, at the summons of His
Excellency the Governor-General, I attended in the Senate chamber, where His Excellency was pleased to deliver his opening Speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy. As honorable members have other, copies of the Speech in their hands, I presume that they do not desire me to read it. (For Speech, see page 7.)
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of Mr. Lamond, Mr. Leckie, and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply. to the speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the Committee do report this day.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation forthe purposes of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and of the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended the 30th June, 1917, which were transmitted to the House of Representatives on the 14th June last.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
That the foregoing messages be referred to Committee of Supply when appointed:
The following papers were presented : -
Agricultural Policy Sub-Committee (Imperial) - Appointed August, 1916 - Report - Part I. (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Awards or variations of Awards made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Statements of Laws and Regulations with which the Awards are not or may not be in accord.
Reasons for judgment.
Opinions of Attorney-General.
Memoranda by the Acting Public Service
Commissioner in the following cases : -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association - Award dated 26th June, 1917.
Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers’ Association - Award dated 26th June, 1917.
Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union -Order dated 4th. April, 1917, further varying Award dated 1st May, 1914; and Award dated 1st May, 1914, as amended by orders dated 29th September and 22nd November, 1916, and 4th April, 1917.
Audit Act- -Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 130, 137.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 129, 131, 133, 139, 144.
Inscribed ‘Stock Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 122.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Chatswood,New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Cockburn Sound, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 135.
Papua. - Ordinances of 1917 -
No. 1 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1), 1916-17.
No. 2 - Land.
No. 3. - Arms, Liquor, andOpium Prohibition.
Post ‘ and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 126, 134, 140.
Public Service Act -
Appointments, Promotions of -
G. H. Boundy, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 141-3.
The War - Kogrund Passage - Correspondence with the Swedish Government respecting the Mining of (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 77, 123, 124, 125, 127, 138.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations’ Amended- Statutory Rules 1917, No. 136.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That six months’ leave of absence be granted to the honorable member for Kennedy on the ground of ill-health.
– Will the Prime Minister state who was responsible for keeping back from the public information concerning the wreck of the Cumberland off Gabo Island on Friday last, and what were the reasons for suppressing that information ?
– I can only say that there was doubt, as there must necessarily be in these times, as to the cause of the disaster. It might readily have happened, and may prove so now, that it resulted from the presence of mines or other enemy influences. It is undesirable to- notify the public of such occurrences until we are satisfied that it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth so tlo do.
– Had the Department on Monday last, when the facts were allowed to be published, any information that was not in its possession on Friday?
– I cannot tell the honorable member.
– The censorship wants shaking up.
– (By leave.)-
One reason why the news was censored was that there is an imperative rule of censorship that no information shall be given concerning vessels as to which an accident has happened except in case of total loss.
– That rule needs to be altered.
– That is quite another matter.
– The whole svstem. of censorship needs to be altered.
– -I am not so sure that it does, not. Another reason for the censoring of the matter was that the individual investigating the suspicious surroundings of this case specially . requested the Department to refrain from publication until he had got well ahead with his inquiries. The information was released when he suggested the propriety of releasing it. Every one regrets the untoward circumstances surrounding the loss ofthis fine ship, and everything points to foul play. I hope we may dis cover the fiends responsible for it and punish them.
Re-conditioning Wheat Stacks - Agents’ Commission.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is intended to charge to the Wheat Pool the cost of reconditioning the wheat stacks in consequence of the mouse plague or whether it is intended that the Government shall bear the cost?
– The honorable member’s question is whether the loss caused by depreciation of wheat stacks is to be debited to the Wheat Pool or to the community. So far as I can see,, it must be debited to the pool. As honorable members are aware, there will shortly be submitted for their consideration and approval a scheme for the establishment of an extensive system of silosto protect the wheat in the pool. The financing of that system will rest entirely on the community, and the amount debitedto each bushel will be reduced to the lowest possible minimum. I can hardly see, however, how we could debit the whole community with the depreciation of that which belongsto the individual. We are advancing . to the farmer 4s. per bushel for his product, before it is transported overseas - before we obtain the money for it - and are taking all the risks as to whether or not we sell. Added to that the honorable member now suggests that we ought to guarantee the farmer’s asset. I maintain that the guarantee of 4s. per bushel, which covers depreciation up to that, amount, is a reasonable one for the community to give. The community takes all risks of depreciation up to 4s. per bushel, and the farmer remains liable for any risk beyond that amount. He has, however, the benefit of the difference between 4s. per bushel and the actual selling price, when sold, while the community, on the other hand, takes the risk that the wheat is not sold at all.
– Is it true that the wheat agents have been relieved of the risk of 3 per cent, in connexion with the pool? I refer to the liability which is supposed to be borne by the agents who are conducting the pool.
– The liability of the agents is determined by the instrument of their agency. It might be possible, no doubt, where depreciation occurred through their negligence to establish a right of the Commonwealth or of the pool against the agents. Where, however, there is no negligence, I do not think that the agents are liable. However, the matter is one of great importance, and I shall look into it.
– Is it correct that on the 1,000,000 bushels ofwheat sold to New Zealand by the Commonwealth, the agents did not collect any commission, whereas on the 3,000,000 bushels sold by the Commonwealth to the British Government, the agents were paid £75,000, although they did no work?
– I think the answer to both of these questions is “ No.” First of all, the honorable member, unintentionally no doubt, has misstated the question; we sold not 3,000,000 bushels, but 3,000,000 tons to the British Government. There is something which the agents did in connexion with those 3,000,000 tons.
– And they received £75,000 !
– The honorable member has asked me a question, and he must allow me to answer it. There is certain work that the agents did, and for that work they got paid. . They did not get paid the same, for this work as they do for wheat which they sell themselves. This wheat they did not sell in the sense of negotiating, but, to all intents and purposes, the machinery through which the wheat finds its way to the market is theirs, and we take advantage of it, and for its use we must pay.
– Will the Government take into consideration the practicability of distilling spirits for industrial purposes from products of the Commonwealth, which, whether from depreciation or through the absence of sufficient tonnage, are not saleable in markets oversea ?
– There is a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech dealing with this matter, and a committee of scientific experts is now engaged in considering to what extent alcohol can be manufactured for commercial purposes out of what areusually, or under present circumstances now are, waste products, including wheat, which is unfit for human or even animal consumption. At the same time, the committee is considering the question of devising such improvements inthe internal combustion engine as will enable it more effectively to consume alcohol instead of petrol.
– I should like to. know from the Minister for Works and Railways whether he is correctly reported in the press to the effect that it is the intention of the Government, unless the South Australian or the Victorian Government alter their gauge so as to bring it in conformity with the 4 ft.81/2-in. gauge, to make the connexion between Broken Hill and Port Augusta?
– I did not see the press report referred to by the honorable member, but I made no such statement.
– Seeing that the Bureau of Science and Industry will have under its purview and consideration certain inventions, as well as industry generally, will the Prime Minister favorably consider the appointment to the Bureau of representatives of the workers of Australia ?
– The honorable member fails to understand the scope of this bureau. This is a bureau, controlled by . scientists and business men, for the purpose of placing at the disposal of industry acquired knowledge and the researches of science. This work is non-party, and certainly can have no relation to capital and labour as such. Neither capital nor labour, as such, is represented on the Bureau; the persons appointed to, and now acting on, the Advisory Council, are appointed solely because they have scientific acquirements and business knowledge. They do not settle, and have nothing to do with, the relations of. capital and labour. If, however, the honorable member can tell me of any man whose services would be of advantage to thenation if he were included on the advisory council, and who by any chance holds similar views to those of the honorable member or anybody else, I shall be glad to avail myself of his services.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report in to-day’s Age et the result of an interview between the chairman of the Sydney Metal Exchange, Mr. Rodgers, and himself ? If so, is that report a substantially correct version of what took place?
– I have not seen the report; but I can inform the honorable ir ember that Mr. Rodgers has no authority whatever to publish any statement. I shall peruse the report to ascertain if it is, in effect, a reasonably correct version of what took place between us. In any case, the report is published without authority; and if Mr. Rodgers gave out the information he had no business to do so.
– Except by means of the censorship, what power have the Government to deal with Mr. Rodgers, or the chairman of any metal exchange, who gives to the press information which does not correctly express the intentions of the Government ?
– I do not know what Mr. Rodgers said, and I shall not bother about what T can do until I know whether it is worth while doing anything; but when one receives a deputation from any section of the community, and the interview is understood to be private, it is not proper for those who asked that the interview should be private to publish what took place. That applies to the chairmen of metal exchanges or anybody else. The members of the Sydney Metal Exchange -asked me to grant them a private interview, and they have no right to publish any version of what took place without authority.
– Will tlie Prime Minister say whether the Government have given consideration to the prospective supply of petrol for Australia, in view of America’s entry into the war; and whether any special steps are being taken to develop such resources in Papua or other parts of the Commonwealth ?
– The Government have considered both those questions.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intend to dispose of the forthcoming wool clip in the same way as last year’s clip was sold ; and, if so, whether tha negotiations have yet been concluded?
– On that matter I arn. unable to give the House any information, at this stage.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that non-union employees in the service. of the Department receive £16 a year less than members of a union ? If that is so, will he promise that union and non-union employees shall be paid the same salary?
– Under the Public Service Act and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, such a differentiation does /take place. If the payawarded by the Court exceeds the amount payable under the Public Service Act, at person who is not a member of the union which applied for the award is not entitled to the higher rate.
– May. I ask the PostmasterGeneral why carpenters and joiners who are unionists are paid less than the award which was given six months ago?
– I am not aware that carpenters and joiners are not being paid the award rates. There is a difference between temporary and permanent employees. However, the matter rests withthe Public Service Commissioner, and u the honorable member will supply mewith a communication on the subject, I will forward it.
– Will the Prime Minister inform( the House whether any of the vessels purchased by the Commonwealth Government, and sent to Britain with cargo, have been sent thence to other parts of the world instead of returning direct to Australia?
– When Commonwealth steamers are returning from England we are bound to have due regard for back loading. It is evident that if we bring a ship back from England empty we have to charge the cost of that return voyage to wheat or some other commodity, and if all ships returned empty the cost of carrying Australia’s products abroad would be twice as great. I am astonished that an honorable member should ask such a question as this. If, in bringing 3, ship back from England, we can get a load of coal to the Azores or Suez, we take it; if we can get back loading to America or any other place we accept it. Otherwise, some of our ships would return three parts empty? Our endeavour is to get as much back load-, ing as possible, but the object for which the vessels were bought, namely, the transport of wheat to Great Britain, is being kept in mind in the use of the vessels.
– What I am anxious to’ know is whether the Commonwealthowned steamers are diverted for the purpose of carrying goods from England to »uy other country except Australia.?
– No. With the exception of one cargo of copper which the British Government asked for in order to supply a requirement for munition making, which order was afterwards countermanded, and two loads of phosphates from Ocean Island, which were required for the wheat crop, the vessels owned bv the Commonwealth have been used exclusively in carrying wheat direct to Britain, but unless some great change takes place we shall not be able to use them for that purpose any longer.
– Has the Postal Department arrived at any. decision in regard to allowing to remain open till 8 o’clock country telephones which are now shut at 6 o’clock?
– Inquiries into this matter are not yet complete, and until the reports are available, and I have arrived at a decision on them, I do not intend to curtail existing privileges.
– In view of the press report that an arrangement has been made through the Dutch Government for some 10,000 prisoners to be exchanged between Great Britain and Germany, will the Prime Minister represent to the Imperial Government that Australian prisoners in Germany should receive consideration?
– I had not previously heard of the statement to which the honorable member refers, but I shall make representations to the Imperial Government in regard to the inclusion of Aus- tralian prisoners in the exchange.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that rapacious landlords ,are endeavouring even now to eject soldiers’ wives from their houses? Does he think that the regulations dealing with such individuals are sufficiently tightened up to meet practically any case?
– General statement* are useless. If the honorable member will. give me a concrete case I shall know what to do.
– There is a case now before the Prime Minister’s Department, but the officers are doubtful as to whether the regulations will cover it.
– I shall have that matter looked up.
– I can toll the Prime Minister that I have forwarded to ‘his Department a case in which the three sons have enlisted for service abroad, and the husband has enlisted for home service. Yet a man who flaunts his contributions to patriotic funds has turned the dependants out. of their home, and the Department say that they can give .no help.
– Paragraph 7 of the Governor-General’s Speech says that the question of protection for the wives and dependants of soldiers, in the absence of their breadwinners, is being- considered, and that action in this direction will shortly be taken. No doubt a great deal of water, has been running under the bridges lately, and I regret to say that I did not see the communication from the honorable member, bub if he will send it along again I will attend to it.
– They are turned out of the house now.
– Then we shall find another place for them.
– In a recent speech delivered by the Prime Minister :in Sydney, it was stated that Australian troops were the best fed, best clothed, and best shod soldiers in the world, and the claim is substantially correct, except that Australia does not compare favorably with New Zealand, whose troops are supplied with butter and milk in their daily, rations. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will fully justify his statement by giving instructions that these very necessary commodities, butter and milk, are to be issued to the troops in Australia?
– I am quite unfamiliar with the details of the Defence Department so far as the rationing of troops is concerned, but I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence. I am anxious that the statement that I made. in all good faith, and which I shall be surprised to learn is not correct, is made correct if it is not the truth, namely, that our troops are the best fed troops in the world. I shall see if it is possible for butter and milk to be supplied to the troops.
– W - Will the Post master-General take into consideration the advisability of abolishing the detention fee of ls., which is charged at countiry post offices for the use of the telephone after closing time, and so remedy a grievance felt by many country subscribers ?
– The honorable member’s request is that I shall agree to withdraw the charge for the opening of a post office after hours for telephone communication. I do not believe in asking other people to work without paying them, and seeing that the officers of the’ Department would have to go back on duty to wait for any business that might some along, I cannot consent to the withdrawal of the regulation, while leaving them unpaid for their extra work.
– Canthe Honorary Minister say whether it is a fact that a very small proportion of our troops at the” front are supplied with clothing, boots, &c, from Australia, and that a large proportion is purchased and manufactured in England?
– The position is quite the reverse. Practically the whole of the equipment referred to is supplied from Australia.
– Has the Postmaster-
General made up his mind to introduce two-penny postage in order to make up some of the deficit with which we are faced?
– Having regard to the very large increase in the wages bill of the Postal Service, and in the cost of material and the increased cost of mail services, I am afraid I shall have to draw upon that reserve before long if the Department is to meet its obligations.
The Committee appointed- to prepare an Address-in -Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s opening Speech, having reentered the chamber, presented the proposed Address, which was read by the
Clerk as follows : -
May it please Tour Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Sitting suspended from4. 11 to4.45 p.m.
.- I move -
That the Address be agreed to.
No good purpose would be served by the making of a fengthy speech on this occa sion, because this Parliament, I assume, will take its temper from the electors who created it, and be a working Parliament.. Almost every paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech suggests the need for proceeding without delay with important business vitally affecting the conduct of the war, to which attention should have been given months ago, but which, unfortunately, has, in the play of party politics, been laid aside. I am, therefore, loath to occupy time which might be used by Ministers to secure the speedy passing of the proposals outlined in the Address.
All sections of the community will agree that the entry of America Into the war is a matter for congratulation, and that that country, in taking her place beside the other nations that are fighting for the liberties of the civilized world, is acting in accordance with its highest traditions; nor will exception be taken to that paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech in which the splendid work of our Australian soldiers is commended.
The winning of the war is the work to which the Ministry and the party supporting it are pledged. This includes, not only the actual arming and despatching of soldiers to take their part in the war itself, but also the important duty of providing for the dependants of soldiers, and for insuring as early as possible that useful employment shall be available to them on their return.
The proposal of the Government to establish a Department, presided over by a Minister, to supervise the repatriation of soldiers is one on which Ministers are to be congratulated. The importance of this work cannot be overestimated, and it is essential to success that it shall be taken in hand at once. No matter how carefully any scheme for the purpose may be devised, it will be found when pus into operation to have defects, and these experience only can cure. I hope, therefore, that this new Department will be established immediately, so that we may be able to meet the position that will be created when we get back 100,000 men at one time; that before this occasion arises we shall have obtained experience iu the actual working of our measures that will enable them to be administered as efficiently and with as little inconvenience as may be possible.
The statement that scientists are already investigating matters of vital importance to leading Australian industries suggests that serious work, which has been too long neglected, is to have immediate attention . I shall be glad to see a department established which will enable us. to adopt a system like that of America, under which manufacturers who are confronted with difficulties in the conversion of raw material into finished products can call experts to their aid in the factories themselves. I trust that, when our system is established, the Government will see that it shall not be necessary for the factory owner or manager to go to the University, but that the University will go to the manufacturers. There is scope for a large extension of the work suggested, . and, as experience points the way, we shall have a very wide field of action opened up. I should have been glad to hear in the Speech mention of tlie need for commencing very soon an examination of the industries of the Commonwealth, with a view to the development of those which the war has made it possible to establish in our midst. At the present time many persons are entering upon new industries because of the protection afforded by the conditions created by the war, and the guarantee should be given that when the war ends they will not be left to the tender mercies of outside competition, but will be effectively protected by customs duties, or supported by bounties.
The Ministry is tlo be congratulated upon the promise that attention is to be given to the complaints that have been made regarding the treatment of returned soldiers, and of the dependants of soldiers. We are told that among the matters soon to be considered is the increase of soldiers’ pensions. I do not think that we are doing nearly enough for our disabled men. The maximum pension of 30s. a week is given only to” a very small percentage of the returned men. Only a man who has been so injured that he is utterly incapable of earning anything obtains such a pension. The average pension rate is miserably inadequate for the maintenance of a healthy man, and certainly insufficient for the support of men who have met with serious injury in fighting in defence of their country. I hope that before the session closes we shall have dealt with proposals for treating the returned men more liberally, in recognition of their heroic suffering amid the horrors of modern’ warfare.
What the new Government has done for the wives and other dependants of soldiers it1 has done well, but the provision of larger pensions for wounded men.. the more liberal treatment of soldiers’ dependant’s, and other undertakings necessitated by the prosecution of the war will entail a considerable increase in the public expenditure. .,
Reference is made in the Address to economy in the Public Service. One hears a great deal about the possibility of providing money for the purposes that! we have at heart by effecting economies in the Public Service. I venture to think that the Treasurer will find that he can obtain but! very little from that source. It may be possible to lop off extravagances here and’ ‘there, but the amount that can be saved without injury to the efficiency of the. Service, and without interference with the development of the country, must be small. It must be kept in mind that the development of the country is essential to the re-settling of those who come back, and their restoration to industry. The economies that may be made in the Public
Service will be quite inadequate for providing for the conduct of the war and for the repatriation of our soldiers. It will be necessary, therefore, for the community to submit to increased taxation, and the proposals in the Address are such as may well meet with the approval of all who have given consideration to the matter.
The proper taxation of war profits is admittedly difficult. It will be necessary to prevent injustice such as might be done by the application of a rigid formula for defining war profits, and it seems to me that no satisfactory solution of the difficulty has yet been suggested, unless it be the suggestion made towards the end of last Parliament that a tribunal should be established to do justice in cases that could not be dealt with properly under regulation. We shall defeat the end we have in view if we place upon any of our industries a financial burden that will interfere with their expansion. An object that must be kept steadily in view is the extension of the industrial activities of the Commonwealth in every direction, and one of the most difficult tasks ahead of the Government is to so adjust taxation that this extension shall not be interfered with,, and that the creation of new industries, as well as the development of existing industries, may be encouraged. Our taxation laws must be so framed that they will not prevent the investment of capital in industries essential tothe future prosperity of the State.
The provision of shipping presents, perhaps, one of the most important questions that we have to consider at the present moment. Whether the Government, will be able to replace the ships withdrawn from our trade during the last year, by the construction of vessels in Australia, is open to doubt, but Ministers are to be commended upon the celerity with which they have approached the problem and the care they are taking to see that if the industry is established here it - shall be under industrial conditions that will en-, able it to be carried on. I should be loath to see the Government launch upon any sufficient industry of this kind, involving, as it must, the expenditure of ‘ many hundreds of thousands of pounds, unless they had the assurance, not only that the industry would be continued under satisfactory conditions, but that the object they have in view - to secure the immediate construction of ships - would be achieved. It would be entirely futile, for the purposes of the Government, that the industry should be launched, and that it should take two or three years to complete the building of vessels. The conditions agreed to must be such that ‘these ships may be made available within a year, and continue to . be made available at regular intervals ‘ thereafter, otherwise it is useless our embarking on the venture at all. I am particularly anxious that this experiment should be tried under conditions that may lead to the continuance of the shipbuilding industry as one of the big enterprises of the Commonwealth. We should be able in the future to provide a good deal of the engineering work required in the Commonwealth, not only in connexion with ship-building, but in many other directions. The establishment of such an industry as is here contemplated , cannot but be for the benefit of the whole of the other industries of Australia and to the advantage of every citizen.
We find, also, in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech proposals to extend the war saving certificates, with a view to providing revenue, as well as other propositions which, although of minor interest, are essential to the redemption of the pledges made by our party at the general election. I hope that we shall be able to carry out as speedily as possible the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The country has spoken in no uncertain tone as to what is its view with regard to all these matters. There can be’ no doubt that the wish of the people of the Commonwealth - in which I include the wish of the great industrial army of Australia, the majority of whom stood behind the National party in theelection just concluded - is that this work should go on immediately, and be carried to a successful issue. In these circumstances the Ministry have a right to expect that, in this House as well as outside it, they shall have the support of those who have created our party as well as the support of all who are interested in the prosecution of the war to a successful issue. Our task is a difficult one. We shall have to impose taxation - and no one likes taxation. We shall, have to be economical in ways that will be distasteful to large sections of the community, and we shall have to prosecute the work of winning the war to the exclusion of numerous other things that many sections of the community are deeply interested in having done. But these sacrifices which the people of Australia are called upon to make are, after all, very small indeed compared with the sacrifices which the men at the Front are making every day, and, indeed, every hour. That is the spirit in which the people of the Commonwealth expect us to approach the consideration of these problems and I am certain that if we are able to maintain that spirit to the end we shall have done something to assist those who are fighting to preserve the liberties of the Australian people in common with the liberties of the rest of the world-.
.- In perusing His Excellency’s Speech, I have been struck by the fact that it is marked by a fault common to most such utterances - the fault of delightful vagueness. In the circumstances, therefore, on. proceeding to discuss it I may possibly be approving of a policy which subsequent events will show not to have been included in it, or I may be condemning the want of a policy for which it really provides. This vagueness, as I have said, is by no means uncommon to such addresses, but if His Excellency’s Speech contains all that I can read into it, and if -this Parliament carries that programme to a successful conclusion, we shall have no cause to fear that our labours will not meet with the approval of the people of Australia. I sincerely hope that what I am going to read into the Speech is to be found there; that it is not a load of straw,” but th’at live men are actually beneath it.
– Go carefully.
– The honorable member is now talking about something that the Opposition ought to understand.
– I hope that I am not going to emulate the procedure of the rooster that crows when it sees a light in the distance, thinking that is the rising sun. One can find no quarrel with the opening ( paragraphs in His Excellency’s Speech which proclaim our confidence in the ultimate victory of the Allied Forces of which our own .troops form a part. To think otherwise would be foreign to our ideals of right and Democracy. We can also indorse the expressions of admiration and approval of the noble deeds of the men who are representing Australia at the Front today. We hope that the men who still remain behind will proceed to emulate those deeds, and, if possible, to surpass them. In connexion with the work of the Recruiting Committees I trust that the Government will make every effort to persuade the men still in Australia to , emulate the actions of those who have so nobly upheld the honour of Australia on the battle-fields of Europe. In considering the recruiting campaign, and the need for more men at the Front, one can dwell with some satisfaction on the actual facts which have now come out, and since their publication I have been able, as an Australian, to hold my head higher than ever before. The essential fact is th’at Australia, so far, has kept her promise to the Empire, inasmuch as she has maintained five divisions at the Front. I hope that she is going to stand true to that promise in the future. I ‘am not quite so confident, however, that we have kept one of the promises made to the men as they went to the Front, because I ‘believe that sometimes reinforcements have not been available as required, with the result that they have had to work too long and have not secured much-needed rest. Our promise to the Empire and humanity has been carried out, and we must see to it that the pledges Ave gave the men who are fighting for us are also fulfilled. While it is true that we were elected -as a ‘ ‘ Win-the-War ‘ ‘ party I do not suppose that the Prime Minister, or any member of his party, claimed that anything we might do here would actually win the war. We did claim, however, that we would hel,p to win the war and do our fair share to sustain and uphold the advantages that we hope to gain from victory. And we are not going to shirk our responsibilities in that respect. The Government have placed upon the Recruiting Committees in the different States - men who are. doing voluntary work - the responsibility of obtaining recruits, but that responsibility must ultimately rest upon the Ministry, and upon the Parliament, and not upon those Committees. The Recruiting Committees are doing the best they can in the circumstances. They are rendering loyal service, and my desire is that the Government and the Parliament shall back up in every way their efforts to attain the end we all desire.
In my opinion it is necessary that an absolutely fresh census of the man power of Australia should be . taken so that we may actually know what numbers are available, what States are not keeping up to the mark in providing recruits, and what electorates and subdivisions of electorates are failing in their duty in that regard. With such a census we could put our fingers on the weak point and concentrate upon it. . At the same time it is also necessary that . there should be an industrial census so that we may know the actual number of men employed in the industries . we have established as well as the number for whom employment may be found in those which we intend to establish. With such information in our possession we should be able, when our men come back, to allot them to our various industrial enterprises; we should know what industries were capable of absorbing them, and instead of dealing with the problem’ in haphazard fashion, we would be prepared with a definite plan to return them to industry.
We are informed in paragraph 5 that a Federal Recruiting Committee, consisting of both parties in this Parliament, has been appointed to assist the DirectorGeneral of. Recruiting in his campaign. I would urge that this Committee should avoid any interference with the existing State Recruiting Committees. It should give them all the help possible, without attempting to in any way dominate them. Any attempt at domination would lead to ill-feeling and dissatisfaction on the part of organizations that at present are doing a splendid work.
Coming to the question of separation allowances. I would remind the House that married men are enlisting in very large numbers. . A big percentage of those now volunteering are married, and I do not think that, having regard to the cost of living at the present time, the provision made for their wives and families is quite sufficient to enable them to carry on satisfactorily. I hope that the Treasurer will come forward with a scheme to overcome any financial difficulty in the way of providing the means that will enable, the dependants of those who are fighting for us at the Front to be adequately and generously treated.
In paragraph 8, reference is made to the curtailment of sports meetings throughout the Commonwealth. This is a question that should be grappled with in the early future. We have been shocked, and our sentiments have been outraged, at the sight of large numbers of apparently eligible men leaving stadiums, football matches, race meetings, and such gatherings; but while that is so, we must take care that we do not go too far in dealing with the trouble, since we might easily interfere unduly with legitimate exercise for our boys. I would suggest to the Government that they exercise some care in dealing with this problem, and that only professional or semiprofessional sports meetings - those in respect of which an entrance charge is made - are interfered -with. If we are to have sport, let it be free from the association of filthy lucre. I fail to see why any one should make money out of such undertakings at this time, and I would therefore advocate the abolition of all entrance charges in respect of any sports in the Commonwealth.
– That would stop them in one act.
– And a very good thing, too.
– Would the honorable member prohibit sports meetings tie proceeds of which’ were to be devoted to patriotic funds ?
– That is a different question. We have found, in respect to quite a lot of such undertakings, that, while some of the proceeds go to the patriotic fund, the bulk of the money goes to other purposes.
Coming to the question of repatriation, and the intention of the Government to appoint a Minister and to create a Department to deal with it, I must say at once that this is a vital proposal in the programme of the party. The two big questions confronting the Government, and transcending all others in importance, are, first of all, that weshall be properly represented by reinforcements at the Front; and, secondly, that a proper scheme of repatriation is put into operation at once, without waiting until the men have returned. In this work of repatriation we shall be met by two serious difficulties, the first of which will be to provide for those youths, from eighteen to twenty years of age, who left this country before they were half through their training, or, in some instances, before ‘ they had commenced their training, and who will return as men of twenty-two to twenty; four years of age. They will not caro to start to learn trades in the same way as before, and the Government will have to make financial provision so that these men may obtain the training they desire in the trades to which they are inclined, and receive in return something more than the apprenticeship wages at present paid. The second difficulty will be to provide for men who are partially disabled, and not fit to go back to their originaljobs. Thislatter, I think, will prove one of the greatest problems, not only here, but in the other countries of the world, and it will require the most careful consideration. It has struck me that the Government might take into consideration the advisability of creating for these returned men a monopoly in some particular light trades, so that they may be protected from outside competition, and enabled to form their own associations, and in the management of their business reap the rewards of their own industry.
Then the work of demobilization will prove most difficult, and it ought not to be carried out in any haphazard fashion. We are told that it will take eighteen months to two years after the conclusion of the war to get all our men returned to Australia, and I am of opinion that they ought to be methodically brought here as employment is available in particular trades. As to the financial proposals of the Government, I am driven to ask first of all whether those proposals will prove adequate. Are those men, or those families, who have not done their duty to the country, and are now reaping the advantage of high prices, to be allowed ‘to escape their full financial responsibilities ? Are men of German parentage, or of alien enemy races, who at present are battening in Australia, to be allowed to escape those responsibilities, or are they to be obliged to accept them, and so in some degree’ make up for their remissness at the present time? It is only fair that such people should be asked to bear some extra financial burden in view of the fact that our own men at the present time axe fighting to keep Australia free to their advantage.
It is proposed that certain amendments should be made in the Com monwealth Public Service Act to facilitate the appointment and employment of returned soldiers in the Service, and of that proposal I entirely approve. May I ask, however, if there is any proposal to encourage those eligible men who are at present in the Service to go out, so that they may be replaced with returned soldiers? I ask this question because at a recruiting conference that I attended yesterday I was told by representatives from Queensland that of the last thirteen appointments made to the Public Service of that State, seven were those of men fit and eligible for service abroad. If that be so I hope the example is not going to be followed by the Federal and other State Governments. In this regard the States and Commonwealth ought to show an example to private employers throughout Australia.
We are told that the Government consider that present circumstances impose upon the community the duty of national economy. That reads very well, and if itmeans what I think it does, it is good. But does it mean that, while we are advocating economy, we are going to continue the works at Canberra, and spend large sums on other works while we are at war? Apart altogether from economy, I am driven to the conclusion that it would be very much’ better for the Commonwealth and State Governments to, as far as possible, suspend public works until the war is over, when we should be able to employ our returned men.
– Is that the only reason ?
– That is not the only reason. I am now referring to the economy foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I was saying that I hope this paragraph really means something, and is not merely a pious wish, for I feel that we ought to set an example to private people in the way of economy.
As to the taxation of war profits, the Government ought, I think, to go rather warily, or they may find themselves injuring businesses that were established just prior to the war, and have not quite got on to their feet. There is also the danger that they may injure businesses which, perhaps, for a couple of years made excess profits, but this year may possibly have made none, When the question of excess profits is being considered, I think the balance ought to be taken over two or three years, and not only over one year picked out, while in the following year a loss may have been made.
Then the Government tell us that it is proposed to take steps for the purpose of insuring the continuity of industrial operations and the prevention of strikes or lockouts which would affect the efficient prosecution of the war. I say emphatically that if it is necessary to have discipline in the trenches iti is equally necessary to have discipline here at home. If we are to get safely through these troublous times, and pu6 Australia in the position we desire, there must be this discipline; and I hope that the steps foreshadowed will, without injuring that sense of liberty inborn in the Australian people, show them that they must do their duty in a crisis like this.
As to the necessity for -increased production and the appointment, of an . advisory council of scientific experts, I suggest that the Government should endeavour to get some of our soldiers specially trained in England and France before their return. A number of industries have been established in Australia, but, so far as the higher grades and finer points of many are concerned, we have not quite that scientific knowledge necessary to success, and the least that could be done by the Mother Country, and our Allies in France, to make some return for what we have done, would be to give our men an opportunity to learn trades, and branches of trades, which have not yet reached Australia.
I am afraid I am wearying the patience of honorable members, but I desire to refer particularly to paragraph 17. In that paragraph we are told that modern methods of organization being an essential factor in industrial enterprises, it is proposed to give active encouragement to the improvement and perfection of industrial organizations. We can only hope to successfully carry on some, of the > large trades of Australia by, first qf all, providing a market in Australia, and, secondly, by conducting them in an extensive way. If the~ necessary capital is not available, it may become the duty of the Government to provide capital for the establishment of these basic industries, though, if the efforts are to be in the same direction as in one or two instances during the last twelve months, I should not be quite sure about success.
In this connexion I should like to refer briefly to the position of the tin-plate industry in Australia at the present time. Some six or eight months ago the Government of thecountry entered into a contract - at any rate, we believed that there was a contract - with the Welsh tin-plate workers, through the Minister of Munitions in Great Britain, to make available until the end of the war tin plates for the people of Australia at a price of 28s. The Australian Ministry on entering into this arrangement agreed to put a prohibition on the import of tin plates from elsewhere, especially from America. The argument at that time, though I did nob quite follow it, was that there was a great scarcity of steel in Great Britain, and, that being so, the best way to help was to prohibit Australia obtaining supplies from anywhere else. However, that was the agreement, and contracts amounting to hundreds of thousands of boxes had to be . cancelled in other* countries. Permission had to be obtained from the Government to obtain a box from Great Britain, and, shortly afterwards, imports were< restricted. One small industry that had grown up here as a result of the war was the manufacture of seaside buckets, drums and other toys, which: hitherto had been entirely supplied by German manufacturers.. The Australian manufacturers applied for enough tin plates to enable them to carry on, but were absolutely refused, and they were> also refused permission to import from America. At the same time, .however, the made-up articles were coming intoAustralia from . Japan and other places without prohibition of any kind.
– When were the manufacturers refused permission?
– Last January and February ; I can give the Prime Minister the exact dates if he desires. Then therecame a further restriction. It was also found that, although it had been agreed that the same price .should continue to the end of the war, the price had gone up at Home, and the reason given was that conditions had changed in Great Britainowing to the increased cost of labour and other circumstances. I do npt think that those who desired tin plates objected very much to a little addition to the price; but an embargo had been placed on American tin plates, although such an embargo is not of much use, because I believe that Australia cannot now obtain a box of tin plates in America for love or money, even if freight could be obtained to Australia. Was there really a contract such as I have indicated? Was the contract absolutely repudiated? At any rate, if the Government had not interfered, there would have been sufficient tin plates in Australia to meet our requirements for the next two years. But, in consequence of the restrictions imposed during the last week, 3,000 or 4,000 workers will be thrown, out of employment within the next three or four months.
– It is only fair, to say that the Government action is the result of direct instructions - for they amount to that - from the British Government. Every effort is now being made to import tin plates.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will make every endeavour to insure that the contract made with those engaged in the tin-plate industry is carried out, because, not only is that industry being disorganized, but conditions in allied trades also are upside down.
I should like to refer to the position of the fruit-growing and jam-making industries. I understand that; as a consequence of the new sugar agreement, jam-makers will be required to pay £27 per ton for their sugar, although there is in Australia a good deal more sugar than we shall be able to use. As there is likely to be a big glut in fruit, we should endeavour to export as much as possible in the form of jam. I am informed that in Java sugar can be bought for £19 per ton. If the facts are as I have stated them, it seems to me that, in order to benefit thei sugar-growers of Queensland, the fruitgrowers of Victoria, Tasmania, and other southern States will be almost wiped out of existence.
– In regard to that matter, I propose to make a statement tomorrow which’ will- dispose of the honorable member’s objection.
– I am pleased to have that assurance, because I had a feeling that, in the making of the new sugar agreement, industries in southern Australia were being ignored. It is very satisfactory to discover that the Prime Minister and his colleagues are worthy of the confidence I repose in them, and that, before 1 mentioned this matter, they had already resolved upon a remedy.
In conclusion, I hope that this Parliament will address itself seriously to the work which lies before it. I know that the issues to be dealt with by the National Parliament are ‘ very much larger, and require greater concentration of mind and effort, than those which come within the purview of the. Parliament from which I have come. I realize, also, that the party now in power was returned very largely as a result of the inspiration which the Prime Minister gave to the National movement, and I am prepared to afford him my loyal support so long as he acts in accordance with the promises he made on the platform, and the statements contained in His Excellency’s Speech. I hope that our deliberations may be profitable, and without ill-feeling between parties ; ‘because I believe that, irrespective of the sides on which honorable members sit, we all have in view only the one object of retaining, and more firmly establishing in Australia, those ideals of Democracy, liberty, and justice for which our soldiers, and those of the allied nations, are fighting on the battle-fields of Europe.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Public Works Expenditure - Separa tion Allowances - War and Invalid and Old-Age Pensions - Preferential Employment of Soldiers - Reemployment of Returned Soldiers - Supplementing by Employers of Military Pay- Rabaul: Legal Trials - Economic Conscription - Prosecutions Under War Precautions Act - Postmaster-General’s Department : Disputes Board - Accusations of Disloyalty against Roman Catholics - Naval Censorship of News - “Contingencies “ Expenditure - Cost of Elections - Commissionership of Taxation- Clothing of Soldiers’ Children - Housing of Soldiers’ Dependants - Reflections upon Mr. Justice Higgins - Northern Territory: Appointment of Administrator: Offer of Purchase.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means to be appointed before the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Opening Speech has been agreed to by the House, and to enable all other steps to be at once taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all stages without delay.
– I have ascertained that there- is an absolute majority of the members of the House present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the House do now resolve itself into Committee to consider the Supply to bc granted to His Majesty.
In Committee of Supply),
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1917-18 a sum not exceeding £4,356,186.
This Bill is to provide for the expenditure for the three months ending the 30th September next, and is based approximately on the Estimates for the year 1916-17, which are now before Parliament. There is nothing unusual in connexion with the Bill. The Government do not propose to introduce at this stage a Bill to provide money for additions, new works, and buildings, but it is our intention to submit the Appropriation Bill for Works and Buildings immediately after the Budget statement has been made to honorable members. I am making a big effort to get the Estimates before honorable members at the earliest, possible date, and I hope to be able, to deliver my Budget statement at, the end of this month. Until we know our responsibilities for the coming year it is not convenient to submit to the Committee n Bill to provide for works expenditure. By the time the Budget statement is delivered the Government will have finally decided upon the method of financing the works expenditure.
Mr.kelly. - Meanwhile, will you pay for public works out of the Treasurer’s Advance?
– Will you allow us to dis- cuss the works before you spendthe money?
– We shall not have expended much money on public works by the end of this month. . There will be no expenditure on works hot authorized by Parliament. We shall be carrying on only works already in hand, and our operations will be as economical as possible until the end of the month, when we shall be in a position to submit to the Committee a full statement of our intentions.
– I think that when the honorable gentleman was sitting in Opposition he had a great objection to voting £600,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance.
– Circumstances make a difference. I think the honorable member also, when Treasurer, obtained big sums for his advance account. It is unnecessary for me to say more at this stage. I propose to place on the table a statement giving a summary of the financial position as at the 30th June last. The figures are not finally audited, but they will give honorable members the latest information we have in regard to the transactions during the last financial year, and those particulars should be of great assistance to the Committee.
– Does that statement contain any information in regard to the indebtedness of the Commonwealth’ to the Imperial Government for the equipment and maintenance of our troops abroad?
– On the 30th June we owed the Imperial Government about £24,000,000. We are in the course of paying £8,500,000 of that amount at the rate of £500,000 per week. We have the money in hand with which to pay the balance, but the Imperial Government are not pressing us for payment.
– - Is that, balance earning interest ?
– I am sorry to say that it is not. Owing to our having borrowed money by means of loans in Australia, much more quickly than we have been able to spend it, and owing to the fact that we have not paid the Imperial Government’ the money we owe to them, we have had. a considerable sum of money, on the average, about £20,000,000, lying idle for about a year. Interest on that amount would be about £1,000,000. I do not say that any one isto blame. When we borrowed the money we intended to pay the Imperial Government, what we owed them, and had that been done there would not havebeen so much money lying idle, but there is no scope in Australia for lending money at short dates. There is plenty of opportunity for doing so in London, but we have already plenty of money lying in London, and so have the banks there. Considerable money is congregated in London already, and furthermore, we need money here.
– Where is this balance deposited?
– At the Commonwealth Bank. All our moneys, so far, have come through the; Commonwealth Bank. I am sorry that we have so much cash there not bearing interest. We shall have to borrow at longer dates.
– When you borrow from the Commonwealth Bank you pay interest. 1
– The Treasurer does not borrow from the Commonwealth Bank. We have the money in hand with which to pay the Imperial Government, but we may need that money. If we paid it we might have to borrow from the Home Government again, so keeping the money here is as broad as iti is long.
– When does the honorable member propose to raise the rest of the loan money already authorized?
– We have plenty of loan money in hand.
– Do the Imperial Government charge us interest on the money we owe them?
– No; the British Government are’ very generous, and we endeavour to treat them as generously as we can. I have nothing further to add.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra) f5.49]. - Of course the Treasurer is all powerful. If he had asked for Supply for six months no doubt he would have got it. I think this is the first occasion on which a Treasurer has asked for three months’ Supply before the Government hae set forth any financial policy. Of course, I can have no objection - I frankly admit it - because the Treasurer can do what he likes in the matter. If he came down with a request for -twelve months’’ Supply and did not submit any Estimates, quite a number of honorable members sitting behind the Government would accept the situation. Some, perhaps, would not do so, but there are others who would absolutely swallow what the Treasurer handed out to them, and even if he said that he would stop ali works, they would not dare utter any objection.
– Why not?
– Because they have to do exactly what the Treasurer says. I do not claim that my remarks apply to the honorable member for Barker. He might object to giving Supply for more than three months, but we will see if he offers any objection to the granting of three months’ Supply.
– Your party used not to take the trouble to sit in the Chamber.
– I was always a regular attendant in the Chamber, whether I was in the Ministry or not. My attendance in the Chamber will compare favorably with that of the honorable member, who was noted for his repeated absences. If there is any honorable member who should not speak about the attendance of others it is the honorable member for Parkes. We have heard of Satan reproving sin. Every honorable member knows that the honorable member for Parkes nearly lost his selection for his seat because he was so irregular in his attendance at the House.
– I secured a ma- jority. of 13,000 only!
– I shall not pursue that matter further. The Treasurer is unwise in not bringing down a Works Bill. It is far better that honorable members should know the works that are going on.
– You’ will have that information within, a month.
– I am doubtful as to whether it will be done. If there is to be any stoppage of works Parliament should know the intention of the Government in that direction.
– Also before any new works are started.
– I understand that the Government will not start new works without appropriation, and that they will merely continue works already authorized. My point is that Parliament has the right bo know whether there is> to-be any stopping of works already authorized. I object to economic conscription, that is, to men being thrown out of work for the purpose of compelling them to enlist. A “married man, with a family of six or seven, has been thrown out of work in order to permit a single man to take his position, simply because that single man has been to the Front. The single man told the married man that he was a member of the same union, and did not like taking the job, because he knew of the married man’s responsibilities, but he said that if he did not take it another single man would come along and do so. The married man replied that the best ,the other man could do was to take the job. This kind of thing is not going to help us in our struggle. If the Government intend to shut down works for the purpose of compelling men to enlist the effect will not be what some honorable members opposite think it will be. 4
– There is nothing in the Speech of the Governor-General saying that that policy is to be pursued.
– I am not dealing with the- Speech of the Governor-General now ; I contend that we ought to know what works are to be stopped, and what works are to take twelve months instead of being finished in six months. For instance, I expect that we shall hear the voice of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in relation to any stoppage of works at the Federal Capital.
– You will hear it presently.
– I do not know that I will hear it criticising the Treasurer. While the honorable- member may be hard on other members of the Government, I do not think that he is a very violent critic of the Treasurer. I trust that the Treasurer will let us have the Works Bill within a month, so that we may know whether any works are to be stopped. There are some works that must be gone on with, such as works in connexion with the Post Office, and in connexion with the construction of lighthouses and quarantine stations. When our soldiers come back it is possible that diseases will be introduced into this country, and we shall need all. we can provide in the direction of quarantine equipment.
– The Bill will’ be presented on the 1st August.
– As the Treasurer assures us that there is nothing in this Bill other than was provided in last year’s authorization, I have nothing more to say.
.- It is now two months since the election’s took place. The Government were loud in their promises as to what it was intended to do for the soldiers at the front, and those who would return, and for the assistance of voluntary recruiting, and it is dis appointing that they have introduced this financial measure without making provision for some of the urgent needs of our soldiers and those who are dependent upon them.
Australia promised a rate of pay to our . soldiers upon enlistment, a minimum rate of ‘ 6s. per day ; but largely through the neglect to regulate the prices of commodities, the cost of living has increased, according to our Statistician, by 33 per cent, since the outbreak of war. If the Government propose to honour the promises made to our soldiers by Australia to pay them a minimum rate of 6s. a day, it is their business to maintain the purchasing power of that 6s. a day on the same plane as when the promise was made at the outbreak of war. To do that it will be necessary to increase the present minimum rate of pay by at least 2s. 6d. a day, thus making iti 8s. 6d. a day. This Government has” the opportunity io do that’, and it is its duty to do it. , The Treasurer announces that the Government have £20,000,000 in the bank unused, and not earning interest. So lack of funds does not deter the Government. 4
Ministers wish to know why volunteers are not coming forward. One of the reasons is that, because of the neglect of the Government to regulate the prices of commodities, it is impossible for soldiers to maintain their dependants with the miserable pittance provided for those who join the colours.
It is necessary that the separation allowances and soldiers’ pensions should be increased accordingly. Cases come under the notice of every honorable member ill’ which the pension allowance, to returned wounded soldiers is paltry. I am not alone in being the recipient of innumerable complaints on this head. One of the last with which I dealt came from a young farmer, whose arm was shattered, and his knee injured, so that it is impossible for him to again earn his living as a farmer, and he cannot obtain any other employment. That man receives a miserable pittance of 7s.. 63. per week. That is the scale on which this Government provides for returned wounded soldiers ! When Ministers ask why it is that more men do not volunteer, one answer is that the pay and allowances for soldiers and their dependants are inadequate, and that the administration is hard and unsympathetic.
– The extent of incapacity is determined by medical men.
– And. the rates of pension are fixed by an Act which the honorable member supported.
– The Government, and ‘ no doubt those honorable members who interject, were loud in promises regarding what would be done for our soldiers and their dependant’s; but, although Ministers have had two months in which to honour those promises, not a word has yet been said about increases.
Separation allowances should not be subject to reduction because of income earned by their recipients. The Government seems to have a set of inspectors at work to discover whether those in receipt of separation allowances have any other source of income, and cases are frequent in which the wife, or tEe mother of a soldier, finding it impossible to pay for the sole use of a decent house; rents a dwelling at, say, £1 a week, and sub-lets half of it for 10s. a week. In such cases, when the Government inspector has ascertained the facts, the separation allowance is stopped, and an account is submitted for the whole period over which the subletting has taken place, so that a woman may have to pay back to the Government £20, £30, £50, or even £60. These sums are deducted from the paltry separation allowance, to recoup the Department for the excess alleged to have been illegally collected.’ These cases are innumerable, varying in detail and degree.
– Has the honorable member brought, such cases before the Minister?
– What has been the reply?
– The reply has been unfavorable. I have been told that the regulations are being carried out
– Give us the names of a few cases.
– I shall give cases until the honorable member becomes tired of listening to them.
– I have brought similar cases under the notice of the Department, and have obtained no redress.
– Yet Ministers ask why it is that recruits cannot be obtained. When a soldier goes to tEe front, leaving to his mother a small allowance out of his pay, the Government, should the mother be in receipt of an old-age or invalid pension, reduces this pension by the amount of the son’s allowance.
– I do not think that any such reduction as that is made.
– Then, apparently, the right honorable gentleman does nott know what is going on under his administration. By stating these facts, I shall give the supporters of the Government an opportunity to direct Ministers to provide that the treatment of soldiers and their dependants must in the future he not merely more liberal, bub also moreequitable.
– There areplenty of cases of the kind mentioned, and they should be remedied.
– When soldiers are reported missing, .but their fate has not been definitely ascertained or determined, the Government suspends payment to their dependants.
– Their dependants getneither pension nor deferred pay, nor anything else.
– All payments connected with the missing . man aresuspended. I hold that it is essential that payments to dependants should, be continued in these cases until the fate of the soldier has been definitely determined.
– That is done by the British Government.
– Liberal treatment is being accorded by the Government of New South Wales to the widows of deceased soldiers. So far, the Government of New South Wales has provided _ 294 widows with free> housing for life. This is an obligation which should be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. Free housing should be provided for soldiers’ widows and dependants,’ not in New South Wales* only, but throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
In cases in which returned soldiers areunable to take up their old occupations, and cannot find other employment - suchas the case to which I referred a moment or two ago - the men should be kept onthe pay-roll - but not under military discipline - until they have become able to resume their original occupation, or suitable employment has been found for them. Being a member of the State War Council, I regularly attend its fortnightly meetings in Sydney. Every fortnight we have before us a long list of returned soldiers, with a statement of the occupations which they were following before, the war, for whom it is impossible to find employment. It is the business of the Commonwealth Government to find employment for these men, and to keep them until employment has been found for them. They should be maintained on the pay-roll until they have been settled again in civilian life, or otherwise provided for.
Employers promising to keep open positions for employees who have enlisted should register the promise, giving the names of those to whom it applies, and should be compelled to honour the promise on the return of the employee. This provision should be made to apply also to Government Departments and other public authorities. The promise to keep open positions for men who have -enlisted is often not being honoured. Many private employers promised their men that if they would enlist their positions would be kept open for them, and then immediately set about training women - arranging for long terms qf training - to do their work, having not the slightest intention of reinstating their men in the positions that had been vacated. The same thing, is occurring in the public Departments. It is occurring in the New South Wales Railway Department. Cases have been brought under my notice.
– Most institutions have specially provided for keeping open the positions of employees who have enlisted.
– I am not referring to those who are honestly keeping their contract. What I say is that every employer who promises to keep open the positions of men who enlist should be compelled to register that promise, and the Commonwealth Government should see that the promise is fulfilled. As a matter of fact, a great many of those to whom appeals are made to enlist know that the air is full of empty promises, and that once they have volunteered, very little thought will be given to their welfare. Yet, the wonder is expressed that the v’oluntary system pf enlistment is not fulfilling expectations !
Employers and public authorities offering inducements for enlistment, such as the making up of the difference between a soldier’s pay and the amount that he was earning in civilian life, the payment of insurance premiums, and the like* should be compelled to register those promises, and should be made to carry out their promises under Government supervision. A case came under my notice a little while ago, in which it was understood that the Postmaster-General’s Department would pay the premiums on a policy for the insurance of the life of a man who had enlisted, and this .was not being done. I brought the case under the notice of the Department, and an unfavorable reply was given. Various promises are being made from time to time to induce men to enlist, and these promises are not being kept. It is advertised in the newspapers that this or that employer will take out insurance policies to cover the lives of their employees who enlist, and these promises should be registered, and those who make them, ‘whether private employers or public authorities, should be compelled to keep them.
The Government is creating a spirit of antagonism against the voluntary system of recruiting by adopting economic coercion, or economic- conscription.
– It’ is about time that they did something of the kind .
– Let what is done be done openly and above-board.’ If the Government cannot obtain authority from the people for conscription, the popular verdict should not be undermined by ingenious methods of economic prussianism. It is not a fair thing to bring economic pressure to bear, to make men enlist : to force enlistment by starvation. If members have not the courage to propose’ conscription openly and directly, they should not support economic conscription, the conscription of an empty stomach. By doing that they bring about what is neither real conscription nor voluntary enlistment, but a system against which all the objections may be urged which apply to either of the other systems. To apply economic conscription is extremely damaging .to the voluntary enlistment system, because it creates, in the minds of the friends of those upon whom pressure is brought a spirit of antagonism to the Government and to recruiting.
In order to protect returned soldiers from the sweating arising from the system pf contract and individual bargaining, and to protect trade unionism from any attempt to disrupt it that may be made by unscrupulous employers, all returned soldiers receiving preference of employment should be paid full standard union wages, and become members of the union of the trade or calling into which they enter.
– One would think that the honorable member was behind the Government.
– I am. laying down the conditions which I think should be observed, and it is part of my duty as a member of this Parliament to do that. A great many persons who to-day are waving the patriotic flag are declaring that soldiers should have preference of employment, and should not be called upon to join unions. Many such persons desire that . the soldiers may be used as non-unionists to bring down wages, and thus break up the system of collective bargaining which trade unionism has built up during the last few years. I would point out that it is not in the interest of the returned soldier that he should not join a union. If the soldiers are kept out of the unions, they will eventually receive but very little mercy from some private employers, who, although they are now waving the flag, and shoutingpatriotic shibboleths, will not, when the war is over, take long to forget the promises they have made. The consideration of these employers will then be how tlo get most out of the soldiers for the least that can be paid for their services. It is in order to protect the returned soldiers themselves, as well as the genera] structure of our unions, from encroachments under -the pretence of patriotism, that it is necessary that they should join a union. I do nob object to returned soldiers being given preference, of employment over everybody else; but when they do secure that preference they should join a union, which provides for the rate of wages paid, and maintains standards of wages, so that unionism shall not be broken down by unscrupulous employers who would make use of these men for future “profiteering.”
– Would the honorable member compel a returned soldier to pay the union fees?
– I think he should join the union concerned, and pay the small fees involved. Surely the honorable member would not have a man take advantage of the efforts and expenditure of others in this direction, and refuse to pay the paltry fees necessary to maintain the organization which obtains better working conditions for him.
Here we have in a few words some of the wrongs that need to be righted in connexion with the administration of the Defence Department, if the Government desire the voluntary recruiting system to get a fair trial. It will never have a fair trial under present conditions. It will gain it, however, if the Government will be a little more just in their treatment of soldiers, and of soldiers’ dependants, and will take into . account some other considerations of vital concern. I regret very much that ‘the Government, fresh as it is from the country, and having had two months in which to hold its party meetings, has yet made no provision of this kind for soldiers who are going to the front, as well as for those who are returning, and for their dependants. I hope that if the supporters of the Government, who profess sympathy -with soldiers and their dependants, desire to give effect to their promises on the public platforms of the country, they will stir up the Government which they control to the performance of their sacred duty.
.-I wish to draw the attention of the Government, and of honorable members generally, to what I consider to be the grossly unfair way in which the War Precautions Act, and regulations framed under it, are being administered, in relation, more particularly, to prosecutions that have recently been instituted on the Barrier. It will be remembered that at the opening of Parliament the honorable member for Dalley presented a petition asking that certain action should, be taken in respect of returned soldiers serving various terms of imprisonment for offences alleged to have been committed abroad. A petition, very similar in its terms, was circulated by Mr. Stuart Robertson, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, among the various unions and labour leagues in that State, with the object of securing signatures to it. That petition was published, without comment, by the Barrier Daily Truth, which is owned- by the Amalgamated Miners’ Association of Broken Hill. The secretary of that Association, Mr. Barnett, is nominally the printer and publisher of the Daily Truth, and he was prosecuted under the War Precautions Act for publishing this petition, or circular, issued by Mr. Stuart Robertson, and was fined £100 - the maximum penalty - with the alternative of nine months’ imprisonment. I think .honorable members on all sides will agree with me that, if the matter be viewed from a fair stand-point, there was nothing detrimental to recruiting in the publication of that circular by which it was sought to obtain redress for some of our men who had left their country to fight for the Empire. In Hansard of 8th December, 1916, there appeared a report of a speech delivered in another place by Senator Grant, in which he directed attention, very exhaustively, to the cases of these men. Hansard is circulated throughout the Commonwealth, and another publication - the report of the proceedings of the special Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labour party, published in December last. - also contained the same statements concerning these men that appeared in the Barrier Daily Truth.
– The Age also published the statements.
– The Age, of Friday, 15th June, on its leading article page published under the headings of “ Military discipline,” “ Sentences on soldiers,” “Unmerited harshness alleged,” “Petition to Parliament,” the names of the soldiers, the battalions to which they belonged, the sentences received, and the charges in respect to which the punishments were imposed.
– Is it a fact that the Barrier Daily Truth is the only newspaper which has been prosecuted?
– So far as I am aware, only two newspapers have been prosecuted for publishing this matter - the Barrier Daily Truth and the official organ of the Victorian Railways Union. Mr. Frank Hyett, as the publisher of the. latter newspaper, was fined £10, I understand, for allowing the same statements +o appear, whereas the nominal printer and publisher of the Barrier Daily Truth was fined the maximum of £100, in default nine months’ imprisonment.
– The other newspapers have not been prosecuted?
– No. I do not urge that they should be. I am merely trying te point out the apparent unfairness shown in the selection of the Barrier Daily Truth for prosecution. It appears to me that it was singled out with but one object in view, and that is the accumulation of a sufficient number of prosecutions to justify the Government in attempting to suppress it altogether.
– Is there a censor at Broken Hill?
– No. I am glad of that interjection, since iti serves to emphasize the point I am seeking to make. There ,is no censor at Broken Hill, and it was not . until months had elapsed after publication “ of the statement complained of that the prosecution was instituted. For a few weeks prior to the taking of the conscription referendum, a censor attended at the Barrier Daily Truth office; but since then there has been no censor there. It would seem, therefore, that Melbourne newspapers published, with the approval of the censors here, facts which the Barrier Daily Truth was prosecuted for publishing. One would naturally expect thatsome latitude would be shown in dealing with a newspaper published in a district where there was -no censor. The Government’ considered it unnecessary to place a censor in the Barrier Daily Truth office, yet in this case the maximum penalty was imposed.
– Who prosecuted ?
– Mr. Edwards was, I think, the local solicitor authorized by the Defence authorities to prosecute. Instances of the kind are multiplying every day in Broken. Hill. I opened my campaign as a candidate for a seat in this House by a speech delivered in the Central Reserve, Broken Hill, in April last, and on Friday last the nominal printer and publisher of the Barrier Daily Truth was again prosecuted for publishing certain statements that I made in the course of that speech. If a breach of the law was committed, then I should have been the individual to be prosecuted. I do not desire to force the Government to take action in that direction, but if an offence was committed, it was -absolutely^ unfair for the authorities to wait until three months had elapsed, and then to institute proceedings against the nominal _ printer and publisher of the newspaper in question, and not against the person alleged to have actually committed the offence. I am. quite prepared to take the responsibility for anything I may say outside this House. I do not propose to go into- the particular statement that I made, and for reporting which the Daily Truth was prosecuted, but I appeal to honorable members on both sides as to whether it was not onlyunjust, but absolutely ridiculous, to prosecute the publisher of that newspaper for reporting my speech, and to allow practically every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth in reporting that prosecution to publish the words alleged to have been detrimental to recruiting. If the object of the prosecution was to prevent the publication of statements calculated to prejudice recruiting, then surely that object has been defeated by the action of the authorities. The Barrier Miner, for instance, published the full statement complained of. It set out that in the Police Court -
William Diggory Barnett, as printer and publisher of Barrier Daily Truth, was charged under the War Precautions Act with that he did, on April9, make statements in a newspaper likely to prejudice the recruiting of His Majesty’s Forces.
It then went on to quote the words complained of, and set out in the summons.
– That was something quite different from the publication of the words when uttered.
– The point I wish to make is that if the words complained of were considered by the authorities to be likely to prejudice recruiting, then the taking of proceedings against the nominal publisher of the Barrier Daily Truth served only to give a thousand times greater publicity to the speech reported.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
- Mr. Chairman-
– I beg to call attention to the State of the Committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– The Government, or the Defence authorities, have not thought it worth while to instal a censor in the office of the Daily Truth at Broken Hill, but have been content to initiate prosecutions against the nominal printer and publisher months after the appearance of the statements complained of. If the Government are not actuated merely by a desire to financially smash the unionowned . newspaper in Broken Hill, it is the duty of the authorities, in order that fair play may be given, not only -to this newspaper, but to other newspapers else where, that a censor should be placed on the premises. However, it is not my desire that the censor should be placed there, because I do not agree that the statements published are prejudicial to recruiting. The ‘ statements made ought to be answered, and the people at large ought to be permitted to know the truth. The views expressed are views that ought to be discussed in order that, in regard to them, the public may exercise their reason and common sense. If the arguments advanced cannot be met and contradicted, such prosecutions ought to ‘cease; at any rate, as I say, if they are regarded as inimical to recruiting, a censor ought to be placed in the office, as a much fairer way of dealing with the press. “What I complain of is that, in the case of the prosecution of last Friday, the speech delivered by me, and reported in the Barrier Daily Truth, has been distorted, extracts being taken here and there, and presented as if they were a consecutive paragraph. In the course of the speech reported in that newspaper, I quoted one made by the Hon. Joseph Chamberlain in 1896, when replying to a deputation at Birmingham; and certain references I trade before using the quotation have, with other parts of the speech, been extracted in the way I have described and lumped together as if one complete utterance. Moreover, through these prosecutions, these extracts have been circulated throughout the Commonwealth; and if the sentiments uttered are detrimental torecruiting, the Government have defeated their own. ends by permitting this wide circulation. If the object of the prosecutions is to prevent the public from having statements like these placed before them, then the conduct of the Government shows that there is something radically wrong with the administration of the War Precautions Act. When such statements are made, some poor devil is prosecuted, and then, as a consequence, every one throughout the Commonwealth is free to make use of the speech which is said to be calculated to prejudice recruiting. That is, of course, absurd ; and, in view of the gross unfairness of the action taken, I contend that the Government ought to withdraw the present prosecution, otherwise an opinion will be created amongst the people I represent that the motive of the Government is not so much to protect recruiting as to attack the finances of the unions, and make it impossible for a Labour newspaper to promulgate the views of the Labour party at Broken Hill. I do not desire to press the matter further; but I hope that those responsible for the prosecution will see their way to take other than vindictive action of a strictly partisan character against Labour newspapers in my constituency.
– I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the speech of the honorable member for Cook. It was just one of those speeches that will be fastened upon bv those behind the Labour party outside as an excuse for the action they took at the last election and in connexion with the referendum . The honorable member made a sweeping charge against employers of labour in this country to the effect that they are not going to do the fair thing by those of their employees who have gone to the war, and are in the’ meantime training females and others to take their places. I have taken some interest in our soldiers at the Front, and endeavoured to ascertain what provision is being made for them on their return. I find that in Melbourne - and I am sure it is the same elsewhere - some of the large institutions have studiously set to work to prepare very complete schemes under which they not only keep the places open of their enlisted employees, but provide special funds, and even’ invest them, so that during their absence these men shall continue, to enjoy the same rates of pay as when they were here. Further, in many places employers have insured the lives of their enlisted employees and pay the premiums. The honorable member for Cook says that already there are cases of men not being taken back by their employers on their return ; and that was referred to to-day in a question by the honorable member for Yarra. I remind the honorable member for Cook of the fact, that, in many cases, members of the families of enlisted men have been taken on in their places, very often sisters, so that the wages go into the same homes. A soldier on his return may be loath to disturb any member of his own family.
– That is a very nice little story.
– We know very well that thousands of men who have gone to the Front will return disabled or otherwise unfitted to resume the work they did previously. The honorable member for
Cook went further, and desired to lay down as an absolute principle that returned men before they could get employment were to be compelled to join unions.
– I did not say that.
– In answer to the honorable . member for Calare, the honorable member for Cook said that he would compel those men to join unions.
– You do not wish to be corrected.
– The honorable member will have his opportunity afterwards.
– You would rather pub a twist on my words. .
– The honorable member for Cook would compel returned soldiers to join unions which did their utmost to prevent reinforcements being sent.
– That is a lie!
– I call upon the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw that word.
– I believe the word I used was unparliamentary, and I shall withdraw it, and substitute the word “libel.”
– The honorable member for Cook is a leader of one of those unions which did their utmost to prevert the Government of the day from having themeans to send reinforcements to the Front, and he would compel soldiers to join the very bodies which refused reinforcements. It would be a reflection of the worst character on the Government if they were to allow themselves, under any pretext, to accept the principle of compelling returned soldiers to contribute to the up-keep of organizations which have acted in that way.
– It was not my intention to . take part in this discussion, but the honorable member for Wannon has chosen to attack the unions for the attitude they took at the last election. In my opinion, any man who wishes to share equally in the benefits of a community ought to be prepared to contribute to the up-keep of that community. About 90 per cent, of the workers, not only of Australia, but of the world, are fighting; and what for? For a pittance. They are receiving wages which are not a compensation for the sacrifices they are making, and I ask whether, at the termination of the war, the people who own the wealth of Australia will be prepared to divide that wealth equally amongst the returned soldiers? They are prepared to encourage the returned soldier to work outside the union that was formed to build up the social conditions which he left. Honorable members opposite may undeceive their minds as to what the soldiers will do when they return. The majority of the men who are returning now are mental cripples, and the Government are not making sufficient provision for them by simply returning them to the positions they left. After two years or more in the trenches men cannot be quite normal, and many of them are not fitted to resume their former employment. That is why v 1 urge that they should receive special help. At the present time they are returned to their former employment, and when the employer is dissatisfied and discharges them the State repudiates any liability to them because they had accepted employment. Such treatment of the returned soldier is not fair. I have read in the press articles dealing with the nervous troubles which affect soldiers, and from which nearly every returned man one meets is suffering. In my opinion an institution should be created in which men could be employed for a couple of years at any work in which they wish to engage, so that they may return to their normal mental and physical conditions of pre-war times. Even if the soldier were re-instated in the industry in which he was formerly employed the Stat© would be doing some good for him. I should like to assure honorable” members that the trade unions have no fear for the future. They may be temporarily broken, but they will recover, and they will profit by the lessons the war has taught. When our soldiers went to the war it was for the purpose of fighting for the liberty of the subject, for the ideals of democracy, and for the breaking down of militarism, and by .this attack on unionism the Government are destroying those very principles for which those men are struggling. They will expect to return tlo the same conditions as they left, or to improved conditions, and this insidious method of preference to the returned soldier by giving him liberty to take positions and protecting him against interference by unions, will prove to be not for his, benefit. The returned soldiers will form another and stronger organization than any that previously existed.
-That is what you are frightened of.
– That prospect does not frighten me. I say that for his own protection the re-turned ‘soldier should join a union, and help the organizations to such a state of perfection as will enable them to resist any assaults made upon the conditions which unionism has won.
Another matter with which I wish to deal has relation to the Postal Department. Constituents have represented to me that Mr. Justice Powers, in a recent award, stipulated that the postal authori-‘ ties should create a Board for the settlement! of certain minor disputes, because he thought! that those matters could be better dealt with by such a tribunal having knowledge of the technical work of the Department, than by a Judge. The Postmaster-General has been approached on that subject, but, so far as I can ascertain, he has done nothing to meet the wishes of the employees. The request for the creation of such a Board is legitimate. The Postmaster-General should meet the men, ‘and for their sake, as well as for the sake of the efficiency of the Department, appoint a tribunal to investigate their grievances. In a time like the present harmony should prevail amongst the people, and nothing should be done to encourage strikes. We do not wish to have discontent in the Public Service, and the Minister should take advantage’ of the opportunity to arrive at an agreement, that will be of advantage to the men and to the Department.
On the occasion of the last meeting of this House I asked a question of the Prime Minister in relation to the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard. The honorable member for Barrier dealt to-day with prosecutions under the War Precautions Act for printed statements that were alleged to be detrimental to recruiting. I consider that some of the statements published in the paper I. have mentioned are prejudicial to recruiting. It stands to reason that if a paper accuses a section of the community of being disloyal and anti-British it discourages these men from enlisting,, In Australia there are about 1,000,000 Roman Catholics, and amongst them are many men eligible for military service. Honorable members opposite say that they desire the whole community to be unanimous in its efforts to win the war.
– The Roman Catholic faith is well represented at the front.
– It is. I do not know what the statistics are, but it is not desirable to quote figures in regard to the part played by any denomination. We are not engaged in a denominational war, but when honorable members speak of the participation of Roman Catholics in the present world struggle they must remember to include the soldiers of Italy, Belgium, and France. If that is done it will be found that the soldiers of the : Roman Catholic faith are in a majority, and to allow any paper to make a charge of disloyalty against Roman Catholics is’ an insult to some of our Allies. Although it is too late now to suppress this journal, the’ Government should in future take steps to prevent a repetition of these scurrilous attacks. In the report of the Dardanelles Royal Commission I read that the principal work at the landing was done by Irish regiments, the Munster and Dublin Fusiliers. On the bridge of boats a man’s tenure of life was not more than three minutes, but in the face of almost certain death the Dublin Fusiliers “doubled” on to the boats and were literally swept away. That incident alone shows that the Irish Catholics are just as loyal as any other people in the community. Of course, during a political campaign a certain amount of latitude is allowed, but when the nation is at war no person should be allowed to turn one section of the people against another. Such actions are just as detrimental to the successful conduct of the war as any speech alleged to- have been made by the honorable member for Barrier or anybody .else. I ask the Government to see that in any future campaign libels of this description are not allowed to be circulated’.
.- I should like to say a few words in regard to the statements made by the honorable member >for Cook as to the unfulfilled promises of employers to their employees who enlisted, to make good the difference between their military and civil pay. I do not know of any institutions which made that promise and are not carrying it out. .
– What about the New South Wales Government?
– The New South Wales Government represents the people of New South Wales, and if the people, through the Government they recently elected to power, will not carry out the promises of a previous Government, the people, and not the Government, are to blame. I am connected- with an institution which is paying £16,000 a year to make up the difference between the pay which its employees received before they enlisted and what they . receive in the Expeditionary Forces’. That offer was continued to the employees of that institution, for fifteen months after the outbreak of. the war. But the position of that body is very different from that of a person who employs two or three men. There are in this country hundreds of businesses which are operated with the services of two or three men, and if those men enlist and others are employed in their places, the business is not able to pay to the enlisted men the difference between ‘ their civil and military pay. A recent award of the Arbitration Court gave to men who are bagging wheat £1 per day. If men engaged in that work enlist they receive 5s. per day. Is their former employer to make good the difference of 15s.?
– If he promised to do so, yes.
– Those are temporary employees, and that is never done with temporary employees.
– The Melbourne Harbor Trust is making good the difference between civil and military pay to every person who was in its employ up to a certain date, and every- person was treated as a permanent employee, even if he had been in the service of the Trust not more than a week. But businesses which employ a small number of men cannot possibly carry the additional burden. In Victoria, during the year 1914, there were 331,000 employees working in 15,000 factories. That gives an average of twenty-two employees to each factory. Some factories employ hundreds and thousands of hands, but! the more of such cases there are the greater is the number of small factories employing from three to six people. If all the employees in one of these small factories were of military’ age and enlisted, and the employer had to provide the difference between the amount they receive from the Defence Department and the average daily wage of 10s., which he was paying, he would be charged with a 50 per cent, increase in the cost of his wages sheet, seeing that he would need to employ other hands to fill their places. So there are two sides to this question. Before an honorable member begins to denounce any class of people, without submitting particular cases by which we can judge as to the justice or injustice of the actions referred to, he should be sure of his facts. The honorable member for Cook did not say that the policy he advocates should be applied , generally, but that was the tenor of his speech; but if it were applied it would mean adding 50 per cent, to the cost of manufacturing articles, which ad’ditional cost the employer must put on to the price of the article produced. He has no lucky bag into which he can dip and draw out sovereigns galore. If the honorable member’s suggestion were carried out, it would mean adding 50 per cent, to the cost of foodstuffs. Thus the working man who buys the goods must pay the cost. Yet the representatives of the working men como to this House and cry out about the increase in the price of goods, and claim that the employer is grappling at the throats of the working men.
– All I asked was that the promises made should be kept.
– Proofs should be submitted before wild, sweeping charges are made. In Parliament we have more of that kind of thing than in any other place on earth. Charges are made which, when investigated, usually vanish into thin air. Nearly all of the Royal Commissions appointed for the purpose of investigating grievances have shown the utter futility of appointing them and also the great waste of money involved in the appointments.
I wish now to deal with a matter upon which I asked a question earlier in the ‘ day, that is, the question of the censorship of news. The reply given by the Prime Minister was not at all satisfactory. The statement made by the Minister for the Navy seemed to carry a certain amount of support from the House, as was indicated by the cheers that were given when the Minister said that the policy was a wise one. The S.S. Cumberland left Sydney on Thursday, and was beached on Friday. The news reached Melbourne on Friday at midday. I heard the particulars at that time. They were given to me in confidence. At home at 6.30 p.m.,. I was rung up on the telephone, and asked straight out whether it was a fact that the vessel had been torpedoed off Gabo Island. I replied that
I had not heard that the vessel was torpedoed, and I asked where the questioner had got) the information. He said, “I cannot give you that,” and I replied, “ I cannot tell you anything about it.” I simply had the information that the vessel had been sunk. The next tiling was that I was asked whether she had been mined, and I found numbers of rumours going round the city on the Saturday, some of them most alarming. For instance, I was told that the vessel had been mined by a ship that had been dropping mines all round the coast), and that her crew and passengers, numbering hundreds, had been captured. Stupid as these things appear, we cannot prevent the circulation of such stories if we do not give publicity to the facts. I cannot understand what prevented the public knowing on the Saturday what was made known to them on Monday morning. The Minister for the Navy indicated that foul play had occurred, and that the Department was anxious to secure an opportunity to deal with it; but assuming that it was a bomb that did the damage, will the Minister tell me that the man who placed the bomb on the vessel did not take all the necessary steps “to cover up his tracks ? It is claimed that the publication of the fact that the vessel had gone down would add security to the position of the man who had- placed the bomb on the vessel. Such a claim would be absurd. The censorship is conducted in a most stupid manner. Whatever conditions prevail in the Old Country they are totally distinct from those that prevail here, 16,000’miles from the seat of war; but even if the conditions here are the same as those that, prevail in the Old Country, and that our censorship is directed to a certain extent by those conditions, I plead for the exercise of’ common sense. I have complained previously in this House that information published in] Great Britain was subsequently censored here before being published in Australia. Is iti claimed that our stomachs are not1 strong enough to take the dose 1 of medicine that the Britisher can take? Such a claim is childish in the extreme. It is time the Minister’ for the Navy shook up some of the censors in his Department, if he controls them, and inaugurated some common sense in the censorship.
– I do not control the censors.
– Then it is time that the Minister took the responsibility of controlling them. I would do it if I were in his place.
I ask the Treasurer if the statement that he has submitted to honorable members, showing the distribution of £785,000 for “Contingencies,” is a reasonable one. We are asked, as representatives of the people, to pass money for certain services, and we ought to know something of what those services are.
– It has been done in the same way for the last ten or fifteen years.
– Then it is about time a change was made.
– The details of contingencies are all shown in the Estimates before honorable members, and the amount in this vote for Supply is a quarter of the full amount; it covers three months.
– The Treasurer is simply asking honorable members to open their mouths and shut their eyes, and pass £785,000 for “Contingencies” for a period of three months. It is not a fair way in which to treat the representatives of the people, if they have any regard for the pledges they have made to their constituents to endeavour to bring about economy. How can we economize when we see such a lump sum for “ Contingencies “ ? I guarantee the Treasurer would find it difficult to explain where the £48,000 for “ Contingencies “ in the Taxation Department is spent.
– It will not be difficult to do so. It can all be seen in the Estimates in detail.
– If one investigates the constitutional development of parliamentary history, he will find a gradual taking away of control over the public purse from the hands of Parliament, and the concentration of that power in the hands of the Administration to such an extent that the Parliament becomes helpless in controlling any of the affairs of the nation. The individual gradually sacrifices his control bit by bit, until the Treasurer can come down and say, “Here is £4,000,000 to be passed,” and we simply have to pass it. One of the fundamental principles of constitutional government is that no money shall be spent unless it is voted by Parliament. But what is the practice? Estimates are submitted at the end of the session, after all the money has been spent. Yet we say that we represent the people, and that the people control their own public expenditure. That is not the position. Parliament does not control the public expenditure. Men who are on the Government bench control it. Every man who gets on the Ministerial bench feels his responsibility to get his Bills through the House, and, if he can “ bulldoze “ Parliament, he does it. I wish the Treasurer to explain, also, how it is that this statement before us shows that the recent Commonwealth elections cost only £6,000. I thought that they cost about £100,000.
– Perhaps the balance is coming out of “ Contingencies.”
– If so, I would like to know it. Before the election men who were sitting on the Opposition benches were very anxious to be sent to the people. Most of those who went there remained among the people. They appeared to readily agree that the country should spend £100,000’, that they might patriotically sacrifice their seats; and I wish to know why we are asked now to authorize the expenditure of only £6,000. My reason for discussing the matter at this time is that the resources of the country must be taxed to the uttermost to find the money needed to carry the war to a victorious conclusion. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain revenue, and it therefore behoves every honorable member to check the public expenditure as closely as he can, in order that no waste may, take place ; but with the information placed before us”, we cannot do more than I have just done.
– The honorable member for Henty, having been a Minister, should know how Supply Bills are prepared. Like Rip Van Winkle, he seems to have just awakened to what has been going on round about him for many years past. In every Supply Bill a large sum is voted for contingencies, ‘ but the heads under which the money is to be spent are set out in the Estimates. Last year the amount voted for contingencies for the Taxation Department was £147,000; but this year the cost of the Department will be greater, because of the administration of the Entertainments Tax Act, and because of other work which has been put upon the Department.
– Apparently, the “ contingencies “ expenditure of the Department this year is to be nearly £200,000.
– Although £48,000 is asked for to meet the expenditure on contingencies for the first three months of the year, it does not follow that the total expenditure for the year under that head will be four times that amount. The rate of expenditure is not the same throughout the year, and the Department took that into consideration in fixing the sum which appears in the Bill. As to the expenditure on the election, most of it was provided for in the last Supply Bill. The honorable member will see, by referring to page 48 of the Estimates, that the expenditure for contingencies is there set out under the headings “ Travelling Expenses,” “Allowances,” “Telephone Services,” “ Temporary Assistance,” “ Printing,” and so on.
– Why is the officer at the head of the Taxation Department only its acting head)
– The Government has not yet had an opportunity to make a permanent appointment, but the matter will be dealt with shortly. During the electoral campaign it was difficult to get Ministers together. Two or three similar appointments have yet to be made.
– The whole Service is being run by “acting” officials. That is not fair.
– The head of the Taxation Department is only acting in that capacity, and so is the Public Service Commissioner.
– And the Secretary for Defence, the Secretary for Home Affairs, and the Secretary for Public Works.
– It will not be long before the Commissionership of Taxation is filled with a permanent appointment.
– The sum of £300 is provided as contingencies for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works; on what is that money to be spent?
– The honorable member will find the details set out in the Estimates. That is the amount which it is thought will be required during the first three months of the current financial year.
.- By way of supplementing the remarks made this afternoon by the honorable member for Cook, I would draw attention to the following letter, which was published in yesterday’s Age, and which came as a shock to me -
Clothing for Soldiers’ Children.
To the . Editor of the Age.
Sir, - May we once again, through your valuable paper, make an appeal for warm clothing for the children of our soldiers. A woman with four or five children finds it very hard, in fact, impossible, on a private’s pay to keep the children in warm clothing with the price of food so expensive, especially if there is sickness. Up to the present we have had sufficient clothing sent to us to meet our most urgent cases, but now our cupboard is empty, and we have numbers waiting. I would gladly acknowledge any clothing sent to our room at Commerce House, Flinders-street. - Yours, &c,
Acting Hon. Sec. Friendly Union of Soldiers’ Wives.
The publication of letters like that does not assist the recruiting movement,- and it will be a disgrace to Parliament if the children of our soldiers are not well clothed, well fed, and well housed. - This letter is signed by a responsible officer of a society organized to do what it can for the wives and children of soldiers, and some attention should be paid to it. Its publication proves that we are not paying enough to our soldiers.
– Why not give definite cases?
– The The letter itself is proof conclusive that, with the present high cost of living, which this ‘Government is doing nothing to reduce, soldiers’ children are not being properly cared for. This Government, although it has prosecuted a few Labour men for things said or written, allows the food exploiter to go free. It would do better to pay attention to the food exploiter, and especially to those who are exploiting “the wives of the soldiers. It spends money in appointing this man and that man to public employments; but it would do better if it paid our soldiers a sufficient amount to put an end to the cadging which is going on in one of the richest countries in the world. When I can get things done by a departmental officer, I do not trouble the Minister; bub this afternoon I felt compelled to bring certain matters before the Prime Minister. He asked me for concrete cases, and I have given them.
I have shown that the wives of soldiers have received notices to quit their dwellingplaces within a certain time. My contention is that a regulation should be framed for the protection of such women. The landlords and house agents who deal harshly with the wives of soldiers should be made to know that they will not le allowed to treat them unfairly.
– One must hear both sides.
– There may be cases in which action is justified, but in the case to which I have referred, the rent had been paid up to date, and yet a most arrogant notice to quit had been served on a soldier’s wife. I hope” that the Department will prevent the further harassing of soldiers’ wives in that way. The letter which I have read shows that we must give more attention to providing for the children of soldiers. Those who do not go on the public platform night after night to advocate enlistment are twitted with not helping to secure recruits. But complaints such as that which I have just read do more to prevent, than .can be done by appeals to secure, enlistment. The better we treat our soldiers and their dependants the more easily will it be to obtain recruits. » We have to-day a worse form of conscription than we should have had if members opposite had had the pluck to stick to their convictions - supposing them to have any - and had brought in conscription. Economic conscription is the worst thing’ that a community can have, but it is being applied in some of the Government Departments. What more right has the Government to attack a public servant than to attack a man in private employment?
– Does the honorable member say that that is being done ?
– The services of men are being dispensed with. Notices are being put up, and censuses are being taken, to find out what men are eligible to go to the Front. All this is evidence that economic conscription is being applied.
– I understand that tlie honorable member objects to giving preference to soldiers.
– At times the PostmasterGeneral is so confused mentally that he is not responsible for what he says. I do not know how he can construe my statement into a declaration against preference for soldiers. We said in our election manifesto, and on every platform throughout the country, that we are in favour of giving preference to soldiers. Senator Foll, himself a returned soldier, stated at a deputation that employers seemed to, be taking advantage of the return of soldiers to cut down the rates of wages. He asked whether this was because the poor fellows who have returned from the Front are not able to take care of themselves?
– Was that said at election time?
– It was said before the election. I understand that the same senator has said since the election that, although he objects to returned soldiers being compelled to join unions before receiving employment, he thinks that those of them who believe in unionism should join unions. I object to economic conscription being applied, either within or outside the Public Service. The honorable member for Wannon will bear me out in the statement that you cannot conscript economically ‘the farmer and his sons. No one can deprive them of their means of livelihood.
– Most farmers’ sons have already gone to the war.
– It is the man employed in a large warehouse, or in a Government Department, for whom things can be made so hot that he can be forced to enlist. That is economic conscription, If the honorable members for Henty and Flinders believe in conscription, why do they not. take every opportunity to voice their advocacy of it in this Chamber? Straight-out conscription is less cruel than the underhand method to which I object, and the public will resent what is being done.
– Is the honorable member charging the honorable member for Flinders and myself with enforcing economic conscription ?
– No; but the honorable member and the honorable member for Flinders have again and again declared themselves emphatically in favour of conscription as against voluntarism. The only men in the Service upon whom perhaps pressure might be legitimately placed are those who have been trained to fight - officers in the Defence Department occupying comfortable positions when they might be serving the country better by leading men at the Front. It is right that such men should go. But we have no more justification for attacking men in the State and Commonwealth Public Services than Ave have for attacking other members of the public. They are taxpayers just as we are, but because they are inside the Public Service fence some people would pay special attention to them in this respect. That is unfair and unreasonable. Such isolated attacks on the part of the Government will do more harm to recruiting than would the adoption of more open methods.
– I am a. conscriptionist, but I have not heard of anything of the kind referred to by the honorable member in my Department.
– I read the other day of a joint protest being made on behalf of a very large number of public servants. If the Government are going to act in this way in respect” of public servants, let them ‘ take their courage in both hands, and go in for what they supported prior to 28th October last. It is rather mean for them to make it so hot for men ir certain positions as to compel them to enlist. Many of these men may have wives and children dependent upon them. I also object to single men being attacked in this way. I know of single men in my electorate who have more responsibilities than have most married men. They are the eldest members of their families, and have widowed mothers and four or five young brothers or sisters to support. If single men be attacked indiscriminately in this way, men who are bearing a bigger load than many who are married will be affected. I object to any isolated sectional attack being made on individuals merely because they follow a certain class of employment. While the Treasurer is inclined to retrench, and to cut to the bone in some cases, I hope that before long we shall be engaged on a proposal to increase the pay of privates at the Front, so that they may be able to make better provision for their wives and children. It is not right that such dependants should have to rely upon charitable efforts of the kind to which I have referred to provide for them in the depth of winter.
– I should like to have the facts in individual cases.
– Either the lady who wrote this letter is telling a deliberate falsehood, or what she says is true.
– The honorable member, by the way in which he is going on, will enable us to get a lot of recruits !
– I am drawing attention to existing abuses, and if the Government have any sense of honour they will see that there is no repetition of anything like that to which I have referred.
.- I do not think any one in this House will disagree with the principle which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has just laid down : that it is the duty of the Government and of honorable members on both sides to see that those whom soldiers on service have left behind are not exploited in any way. For my part, however, I fail to see the value of ventilating a broad general grievance against landlords, for the sake of argument, since the Government have already taken steps to enable the remedying of individual cases where landlords attempt to exploit the dependants of soldiers on service. Let the machinery be put into operation in each individual case as it arises. Let the malefactor be punished ; but do not let us pretend in this House that nothing has been done in the interests of these dependants. I have not risen to delay honorable members, but merely to ask the representative of the Minister for Defence a question on a matter concerning which I have recently heard something which has given me grave cause forconsideration, and about which I should like to see the official papers before making any statement. I take it that in connexion with the occupied territories - Rabaul and the German possessions in the Pacific - the papers affecting legal trials and so forth there would in due course, be sent to Melbourne. I presumethat papers would not be retained there indefinitely, and I should like the Minister to secure for the House, if they can be given - if not, for the confidential information of honorable members - papers in connexion with the request for the trial of a gentleman named Komine and a few soldiers, as well as the papers showing why that trial did not take place. I should be obliged if the honorable gentleman could secure those papers for the use of honorable members, because if my information is correct, and it is very authoritative, they will disclose’ a state of affairs which ought not to exist in those possessions/
.- I desire very briefly to refer to only one item. A few days ago there appeared in the press a report that an offer of £5,000,000 had been made for the purchase of the Northern Territory under certain conditions, one of which was that the purchasers were prepared to expend there £10,000,000 spread over a number of years. The Minister for Home and Territories is reported to have stated that tlie offer has ‘not been made to him, and that he is not aware of it. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Government, or the Treasurer, if any such offer has been made to any member of the Government or to the Government as a whole.
– I have never heard of it.
– None whatever; absolutely none.
– I am very glad that we have now an official authoritative denial that any such offer has reached the Government. This will satisfy honorable members and the country that the report was of no value. There is another matter relating to the Northern Territory to which I also wish to refer. In to-night’s Herald it is reported that Dr. Gilruth has been reappointed Administrator. I congratulate the Government on the fact of having now made an appointment. The only satisfactory feature of Dr. Gilruth’s reappointment, however, is that it is to be of a temporary character, apparently only in respect of this year. It is one of the unfortunate experiences in our administration of the Northern Territory that Dr. Gilruth should have been so unsuccessful there. Whether he is temperamentally unfit, or whether it is that he is not quite seized of the problems of the Northern Territory, may be open to argument; but unfortunately his term of office there has accentuated, rather than removed, the difficulties of administration.
– As a matter of fact, an archangel could not have made a success of the administration up there, having regard to the number of industrial troubles and inordinate demands.
– Unhappily, the reply to that interjection is that most of those industrial troubles were due to Dr. Gilruth’s own conduct.
– Not at all. Some of the greatest industrial troubles were in connexion with the freezing works and apart altogether from the administration.
– Unfortunately, industrial troubles in the Northern Territory have not received that reasonable consideration which honorable members and the country generally think should be devoted to the settlement of such questions. We have provided for conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, but conciliatory methods were certainly far” removed from the conduct of Dr. Gilruth while he was at Darwin administering the Territory. I, therefore, look with some trepidation upon his return to the position. I am’ certain that in the minds of a very large section of the people there was a hope that a change would be made in the administration. Although Dr. Gilruth may be a very excellent gentleman - and I believe he has some very special qualifications in certain directions - he certainly does not seem to be the man for that particular job. I hope that as the Government have made his reappointment in respect of only a shortdated period, they either intend to alter the system of administration, and place in power there a man who will give some reasonable satisfaction, or have not quite made up their minds as to what they are going to do in the Territory. I shall not enter upon a discussion of the question, because I know that the Minister, is engaged in the -preparation of a statement on the subject for submission to the House, and that there will be ample opportunities to discuss it. But the problems of the Northern Territory are becoming so acute, and the expenditure of money going on there, which at any time would be unjustifiable, is so wholly without justification at the present time, that I am sure the House will want to be told in unmistakable terms what is the policy of the Government. I hope that Dr. Gilruth will have had some experience during his stay here in the south which will send him back with different ideas and perhaps some intention of adopting different methods, so that the administration of the Northern Territory, so far as he is able to control it, will proceed along more peaceful lines than has hitherto been the case.
.- I shall not occupy more than a moment or two, but I realize that this is the best time to bring under the notice of the Treasurer, or the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, one or two matters concerning soldiers and their dependants. We were recently informed by the Minister for Defence that he was amending the regulations dealing with the separation allowance, so as to permit dependants in receipt of an allowance to also enjoy other earnings. On the strength of that, I communicated with the Department on behalf of a mother who is in receipt of an old-age pension, thinking that her case was one which would come under the amended regulations; and I received a reply to the following effect: -
I have to advise you that, although it was notified in the newspapers’ that widowed mothers of soldiers on active service would be treated similarly to wives, this does not apply in the case of persons who are in receipt of old-age pensions, invalid or war pensions. . . . This woman represents the very class to which the amended regulations should apply, and yet she is being deprived of her allowance. At the very inception of the business of this Parliament, I desire to bring this matter under the notice of the Government, because I think it is one that requires rectification.
– We should have to amend the law to do what is desired. The matter is now under consideration.
– If it is necessary to amend the law, will the law be amended so as to meet cases of this kind ? I think it is really a matter for the Defence Department, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to take a note of the case, which, with other cases, is doing much harm to recruiting. Anywhere in my district can be heard complaints about the treatment received by the dependants of the gallant men who have gone to the Front. There is another case which comes under the Treasurer’s administration. It is that of a man who enlisted, and was passed fib by the doctor, and who has been returned to this country incapacitated. In the year previous to his enlistment he earned £249 as a miner, so that there could not then have been anything very much wrong with him. He was before the Medical Board in the Old Country after he took ill, and then was returned, as I say, unfit for further service. When he got back he was unable to follow his work, and is unable now; and yet he cannot get a pension on the ground that his incapacity was not connected with warlike operations. What are warlike operations?
– What is his name?
- His name can be obtained at the Department. He is a married man, I think, with two children.
– He gets something.
– Up to the present he has got nothing.
– Then he cannot be incapacitated.
– But he is.
– Then he must get a pension.
– He does not, on the ground that his incapacity was not connected with, warlike operations.
– If he went to the war, and his illness happened there, it would be in the course of warlike operations.
– He went bo Salisbury Plain, and did drill there, and it was there he took sick and went into hospital. When he reported to the Medical Board he was found, as I say, unfit for further military duty.
– Then he will get a pension.
– My point is that he has not got a pension.
– Send me his name.
– I realize thab this is not the time to discuss such matters, and I merely bringthe matter forward in order that action may be takento prevent similar cases in the future. I feel sure that the Treasurer desires to see the fair thing done by the men who have served their country, and I hope that a pension will be made available tlo this man immediately, so as to prevent any illfeeling in regard to recruiting.
.- I hope the Government will see the necessity of amending the Invalid and Old-age Pension Act so that parents may get the full advantage of the pension if their sons are lost at the war. I could cite cases, particularly one of a widow whose son, her only support, was killed at the war. She was awarded the war pension of £52, but her old-age pension was immediately cub down to £6 10s. a year.
– That is the present law.
– I desire to show the necessity of amending the present law. This woman lost her only support, and now she only gets one-fourth of the oldage pension that another person would get.’ There is another case - that of a father who had three sons at the war, and of these one, who partially supported him, was killed. This man was in receipt of an invalid pension, and he has been offered 3s. 6d. a week, though he cannot earn anything for himself. Apart from these cases, however, there is a slight amendment required in the Invalid and Old-age Pension Act so far as the civilian population is concerned. Some time ago we amended the law to enable an old-age pensioner, without any deduction from his pension, to receive any support his children liked to give him.
– That is the law now.
– Quite so, but nothing has been done in regard to an invalid child that a poor person may be keeping as one of the children of the household.
– Some one else’s child ?
– No, the person’s own child. Recently the administration has been altered, and I know a case of an x invalid child who has had its pension of 10s. cut down to 5s. for some reason or other. Here there is room for a little act of justice that would not cost a great deal.
– The State provides for such cases.
– Only up to a certain age; and surely it must cost more to keep an invalid child of sixteen or eighteen years of age than one of thirteen or fourteen years of age. If an adult old-age pensioner may receive help from his children without any reduction in the pension, how can we ‘object, to the same treatment being meted out in the case of an invalid child, who may be eighteen years of age, or even thirty years of age, and who is living at home with its parents. Why should any deduction be made because such children are living in their parents’ home.
– Adults cost more to keep.
– An invalid “ child “ may be an adult.
-. - An adult would be independent of the parents.
– Not) if an invalid! and living at home. We ought to havean answer from the Treasurer as to whether the law is to be amended in the direction indicated. I should like to ask whether the Department; has not given instructions to the police to make special inquiries in ‘ particular cases.
– I do not know. Let the honorable member make a representation, and we shall look into it.
– I have made any number of representations, with the same negative results as those- obtained by other honorable members. Cannot theGovernment say whether they are going, to amend the law’
– We are going to amend the law, but I cannot say ‘exactly in what direction.
– There is also a case of a woman who got full separation allowance on. account’ of two boys at the war, and some State aid for younger children. The State aid, however, watt taken away because one of these childrenhad passed through his apprenticeship, and became a journeyman, and the woman was called upon to pay back something like £30 or £40 claimed to havebeen overpaid.
– Had the moneybeen overpaid?
– Nott according to> law; but, even if it had, it was the fault of the Department.
– People ought not to take money to which they are not entitled.
– If the administration of a law is altered, the responsibility lies with the Department, and not with the person concerned, if that person correctly filled in the papers in the first instance. However, we shall have an opportunity of threshing this matter out in a day or two, and if the Government do. not amend the Old-age Pensions Act, so that invalid persons may get the full separation allowance and also their pensions, we shall make known their default throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
– Th - The Committee ought to have a definite statement from theTreasurer regarding this matter. The case mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle is not an isolated one. I have in mind the case of a man named Samuel Garland, of Yass; his son has been killed, and the father has been deprived of his old-age pension. If the Government do not give a promise to amend the Act, they will not be acting fairly, or in the interests of recruiting.Why should the old-age pensioners be penalized? Poor people have sent their sons to the war, and because those sons are killed part of their oldage pension is taken away. It is easy for the Treasurer to say whether the Government will amend the Act or not. The amount involved in this request is not a large one, but it means much to the old people concerned. I ask the Treasurer to give a promise to-night that the law will be amended; a promise to take the matter into consideration will not be sufficient.
– In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech an amending Bill is promised.
– I desire to have a distinct promise from the Treasurer that he will amend the pensions law.
– The law may not be a good one, but I believe that it has been carried out.
– I say the law operates unfairly.
.- Paragraph 14 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech mentions that amongst the financial measures to be submitted to Parliament during the session is an Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
– That is only an Appropriation Bill. This is mere bluff.
– It is not quite fair of honorable members to attack the Government in this way. We have been in office for only a few weeks. Honorable members opposite were in office for years, and if a wrong is being done, why did not they amend the law?
– The full pension was being paid before the present Government came into office.
– I deny that there has been any alteration in the system of payment.
– There has been no alteration.
– Honorable members know that the Act passed by this Parliament placed the administration of the pensions in the hands of the Commissioner, who is independent of the. Government. Although I am Treasurer, I have nothing to do with the granting of a pension. I agree that that arrangement is just. I should be sorry if the granting of pensions were made a political matter.
– The Commissioner of Pensions is as sympathetic as anybody could be.
– I believe he is. Years ago I tried to ameliorate the conditions of the old-age pensioners, but my efforts were thwarted by the obstructive tactics of honorable members opposite, who would not follow my advice that the Bill then before the House should be passed.
– Your present colleague, the Postmaster-General, was responsible.
– The honorable member for Brisbane was principally responsible for the failure of the Bill to become law. Since that date theLabour party was in power for a long period, and no endeavour was made to do what I invited honorable members to do then. Yet to-day honorable members opposite are full of complaints. I am already looking into this matter, with a view to liberalizing the law, and I will promise that the representations made by honorable members will be investigated.
– That is no good.
– That is all the promise the honorable member will get from me to-night. I shall make my recommendations to the Government, and I have no doubt they will be agreed to. If time permits, and I have my way, honorable members shall have an amendment of the Act, so that justice may be done to everybody.
– At a very early date?
– I should like to amend the law as early as possible. As I am not in control of the business of the House, I cannot make a more definite promise. I advise honorable members to allow me to see what I can do in the next month or two.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the grievance of a number of people in regard to the payment of separation allowances. In this regard (here has been more trouble since the present Government have been in office than at any other period since the outbreak of war. I have in mind particularly the cases of two young men Who have gone to the war, and who, when they enlisted, said to their widowed mothers, “I will give you all I can possibly spare out of my pay, and the Government will supplement that with a separation allowance. With the two amounts together you will be able to live, and we shall make that sacrifice in’ the interests of our country.” In both cases the sons allowed their mothers £2 per week out of their earnings. Each of the mothers has three children other than the son at the Front. One mother had drawn £12 and the other £14 in separation allowances, when an officer visited them about ten weeks ago and informed them that, as portion of the house in which they lived was let, they were not wholly dependent upon their sons, and were not entitled to the separation allowance. In consequence, the amount of the allowance was deducted from the soldier’s pay to recoup the Department the money paid to the mothers as separation allowance. I wrote to the Defence Department in regard to these cases, and the reply I received was that the action taken was according to law. I could not dispute that statement; but I feel that no Government has a right to play such tricks as these. One of the most pitiful scenes I have ever witnessed was enacted when I visited the two ladies. Their daughters were in the room, and, with tears in their eyes, they asked their mothers why they had ever allowed their sons to go to the war; and the reply of the mothers was that they had never thought the Government would be so cruel te women who were making such a sacrifice in the interests of the country. I promised them that I would ventilate their grievance from my place in Parliament, and I should not be fit to longer oc cupy a seat in this House if I did not fulfil that undertaking.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is a report published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday of a meeting, in which statements were made reflecting on the honour of Mr. Justice Higgins. The honorable member for Barrier has informed the Committee how anxious the Government are to put the War Precautions Act into operation against the journal of the Broken Hill miners. The statement to which I wish to refer is one that should stimulate the AttorneyGeneral to some action to protect a Federal Judge. It was published in the Daily Telegraph of 10th July, and was to the effect that Mr. Justice Higgins depended on increases of wages for his popularity. I do not think that anybody occupying his high and responsible position should be attacked in that way. I have here another statement which was made at the Manufacturers’ Conference in Sydney, on Tuesday, to the effect that, “ Mr. Justice Higgins exercised authority in an arbitrary fashion without a knowledge of facts.” There is sufficient legal knowledge in the House for honorable members to know that any Justice who gives a decision that is not based on facts is not fit to hold his position; and if the Attorney-General would exercise the same interest in protecting the Justices of the High Court that he displays in prosecuting the miners’ journal at Broken Hill under the War Precautions Act, he would be doing more good.
– Who made that statement?
– It was made by a Mr. Griffith. I do not think such statements should be allowed to pass without comment. Our Justices should be protected from such charges. At any rate, the person who levels such charges ought to be called upon to show some reason for making them. I guarantee that if the statement were made at a trade union meeting, the person would be called upon to give a reason for making it. It is the duty of Parliament to protect the Justices of the High Court, and I feel it my duty to bring this matter forward, so that some person may be called upon to substantiate this charge, or apologize to the Justice attacked. Otherwise, how can we expect the people to have confidence in the decisions of our High Court? And if the High Court cannot earn the respect of the people, it will be a sorry thing for Australia. I hope that the Attorney-General will not allow such statements to pass without taking some steps to protect the Justice who has been put in a false position. It is my place, as a representative of the people, to see that opportunity is afforded to the person who has made these charges to substantiate them.
.- I I believe that the officers dealing with war pensions are endeavouring to interpret the Act as sympathetically as possible, and that the faults and hardships that have arisen are chiefly due to the inadequacy of the law itself. The case referred to by the honorable member for Hunter should have been met. The first part of the definition of “ dependants “ in the Act passed last year reads as follows :-<-
Wife or widow of a person or widowed mother of an unmarried son who is or has been a member of the Forces whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations.
A sympathetic interpretation of that paragraph would include cases such as that referred to by the honorable member.
– It does so. I have seen a case in which it has done so.
– A man, in the ordinary course of his duty, is sworn Tn as a soldier, .and all his duties are associated with warlike operations. If he is passed by the medical officer a3 fit for war service, any sickness that overcomes him through hardship or exposure, or from conditions arising from his training or warlike services, and not arising from misconduct, should entitle him to his rights under the Act, just the same as if he were wounded at the Front. We were told that there would be liberal and sympathetic interpretation of the Act in all these cases, but I think that the Act should be amended in order to give a broader interpretation to the word “ dependant.” Cases have come under notice in which claims have been refused by the Deputy Commissioner because the applicants could not prove that support was given in actual cash previous to the soldier’s departure for the Front. I know that the Act provides that if the relative becomes indigent after the son is killed or incapacitated, the claim for a pension can be made, although it may have been refused for the time being; but I think it would be much better to stipulate a minimum income. If a mother loses her son at the Front, and if it can be shown that the family had been in receipt of only a certain amount per annum, the pension should be given. Everything depends upon how far the mother has been in actual receipt of contributions, or a certain proportion of support from the son prior to his enlistment.
– Any one would think that the present Government was to blame.
– I am merely pointing out that the Act is faulty. When the measure was passed, it was considered that there would not be a strict interpretation placed upon the word “ dependant.”
– There is sympathetic interpretation of the Act.
– The Act was allowed to go through because the House was told that there would be sympathetic interpretation; but now we find that the law itself frequently prevents the officers of the Department from giving sympathetic administration, and therefore it is the duty of Parliament to amend the wording that prevents that sympathetic administration being given, and to remove a lot of the anomalies and serious injustices that are occurring to mothers who have lost their sons at the Front, through the carrying out of the law as it stands.
– When the War Pensions Bill was going through the House, /Some honorable members raised this point, of incapacity arising from warlike operations, and the Minister told us at the time the reason for the wording which was adopted. We know that there are many men returning to Australia who have never seen the Front. They are, nevertheless, incapacitated, and the Department is doing its best for them. If we interfere with the provision referred to, we may close a door that gives opportunity to these men to secure relief.
– They must have a clean certificate of discharge.
– It is the want of a clean certificate that prevents them from being brought under the provision.
– Not in all cases.
– We need a clearer expression of the intention of Parliament.
–That can be easily obtained. There is an express statement in the British Army Act, and a similar statement should be inserted in our legislation. If that were done we should know exactly how we stood. I am sorry that the Pensions Commissioners are sheltering themselves behind the Act in such cases as those brought before the Committee by the honorable member . for Hunter. Similar cases have been brought under my notice in Queensland, and when I inquired about them I was told that the action taken in one case was taken under the Act. In one instance, a man was thrown from a horse when being taught to ride in Egypt.
– Did he not get a pension ?
– No. He was turned out of the hospital to do light duty in an unmounted section of the Army Service Corps, and finally sent to Australia on the certificate of a medical board that he was unfit. He has not been able to obtain any compensation. The Pension Commissioners shelter behind the Act in cases like that. I favour the putting of aplain statement of our intention into the law, and ask the Treasurer to bear the matter in mind when amendments are being considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the House will, to-morrow, again resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported.
That the House will, to-morrow, again resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest,. and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Mr. HUGHES presented the following paper:
Science and Industry - Report of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Advisory Council of, from 14th April, 1916, to 30th June- 1917. and moved -
That the paper be printed.
.-I understand from a paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that it is the intentions to make the Advisory Board permanent. I am not averse to such action, but honorable members should have an opportunity to read and study the report before definite action is taken.
– There will be the opportunity which the honorable member desires. In speaking on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply I shall explain what is proposed to be done; but a Bill will be introduced to provide for the permanent appointments referred to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this Houseshall meet for the despatch of business at 3’ o’clock on each Wednesday afternoon, at half -past 2 o’clock on each Thursday afternoon, and at half-past 10 o’clock on each Friday morning.
.- I have spoken to one or two members who agree with me that 10.30 is an inconvenient hour at which to meet on Friday mornings, a particularly inconvenient hour for Ministers. In my opinion, it would be better to adopt the hour fixed in another place, namely, 11 a.m. This Government has a tremendous majority, and may find no difficulty in getting and keeping quorums on Fridays, but those who have held the position of Government Whip know how difficult it has been in the past.
– No one will accuse meof opposing reasonable reform. I agree to the alteration.
Question amended accordingly, and resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented -
Finance - Further Summary of Common wealth Finances, 30th June, 1917.
Ordered to be printed.
– We have not fixed a day for private members’ business, and as there are on the business-paper several notices in the names of private members, I ask. when will there be an opportunity to deal with them ? I do not suggest that anything be done to-night.
– It means the wasting of time to give days for private members’ business.
Mr.Hughes. - There will be an opportunity to discuss that matter.
Artillerymen, Australian ImperialForce. - Private Members’ Day.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) . proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. -I wish to amplify the answer to a question put to me on the 14th June by the honorable member for Nepean, without notice, just before the House rose, relating - to the position of artillerymen in the Australian Imperial force. The answer was given then rather hurriedly. The position is that, generally speaking, men sent away from Australia as artillery are drafted into the artillery in England, and are retained in that arm, and are recognised as artillery. , We have no reason to believethat any alteration in that procedure will be necessary with respect to the men now going forward’; but, of course, it would be obviously wrong for the authorities in Australia to tie the hands of the General Officer Commanding as to the regrouping or disposition of the Forces under his command across the seas.
Have the Government decided absolutely that there shall be no private members’ day? I hope they will restore this privilege to private members.
– Not this session.
Mr.J. H. CATTS. - It will simply mean that a member who wishes to move a resolution will be compelled to exercise his ingenuity to find other means to get the matter before the House, and the Government will not save much time in the end. There are ample means of doing it, but it would be better not to mix these things . upwith other business. The time occupied by private members’ business is not very long if the opportunity is given in a straight-out way.
– We certainly cannot start to-morrow.
– We are not asking for that.
– The Government will consider the whole matter, and announce its decision, and then honorable members can discuss it.
.- I would plead with the Prime Minister to allow private members alternate Thursdays, as usual. It cannot be done to-morrow, while the Address-in-Reply debate is unfinished. It will not mean more than four hours in any one week, and at the beginning of a session it does not take as long as that. If members desire they can easily find other means to discuss these matters, and that is not desirable. I am not raising this question with a view to stopping Government business, as the Prime Minister well knows. Private members’ day has never been taken away before.
– We have never had a private members’ day since we reduced the number of sitting days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170711_reps_7_82/>.