7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
TRANSFERS TO ARTILLERY.
Mr. GROOM. - Yesterday the honorable member for Hindmarsh asked me why soldiers in camp were being allowed to transfer to the artillery. I promised to make an inquiry, and I am now informed that no transfers &> the artillery have been authorized since the 31st May last, the date oni which recruiting for the artillery stopped.
TRAVELLING OP MEMBERS.
Mr. CORSER. - Has the Prime Minister noticed the absence during recent divisions in this House of a number of the members of the Opposition 1 Is he aware that it is reported that the reason for their absence is the fact that the unions .have declared the coal used for the trains Tunning between Sydney and Melbourne to be black? Is the Government providing free > steamer fares for the travelling of these members? Is it the intention of those who refuse for the reason mentioned to travel by train-to attend the sittings of this Parliament to refund their Parliamentary remuneration for the period of their absence ?
Mr. HUGHES. - I have noticed the absence of some members of the Opposition, and can quite believe iin some of their cases that the cause is that communication between Sydney and Melbourne has been somewhat interfered with by the industrial disturbance in New South Wales. I have road that the unions have declared coal to be “ black,” though, so far as I know, that! declaration has had no effect on the colour of coal. I am not aware that the Government is providing free steamer fares for members, ‘ nor “ do I know that members who may refuse to travel by train at the present time have any intention of foregoing any portion of their Parliamentary remuneration. I should be very much sur- . prised to learn of such an intention. It would indicate such an amazing departure from what my long experience of members of Parliament has taught! me to expect that I would begin to believe that the millennium was at bland.
Mr, WEST. - I should like to claim the sympathy of the Prime Minister in my present position. I am unable to proceed to my home because of tha incompetence of the engine-drivers on the railway trains in New South Wales. Will the right honorable gentleman render me some assistance ?
Mr. HUGHES. - I shall be glad to do what the honorable member asks. What: particular assistance does he need ? What does he miss most ? - t
Mr. GREGORY. - In view of the large sum mentioned in the Budget statement in connexion with the proposal to build an arsenal at Canberra, I ask the Prime Minister if the House will be given an opportunity to express its opinion on the subject before the country has been committed to the expenditure?
Mr. HUGHES. - Yea ; tho House will have an opportunity to discuss the proposal.
PRICE OF MEAT.
Mr. MACKAY. - Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a letter appearing in. the Age newspaper this morning stating the prices paid for beef and mutton at the Queensland State butchers’ shops, and also at Melbourne? Is the Prime Minister aware that the beef and mutton sold in the’ Queensland State shops is frozen, and has been commandeered at 3jd. per lb., while tha price paid by the Imperial Government for a similar article for the use of the. troops is 4Jd. per lb. ; also that the prices quoted are for cash only ?
Mr. HUGHES. - I was not aware of the facts to which the honorable member directs my attention. The letter which appears in this morning’s Age was brought under my notice by the committee of management of the Waterside Workers Federation, which attached considerable importance to it as an indication that the prices of meat here. are much higher, than they ought to be. I was not aware that the Queensland Government had commandeered the beef sold in the Queensland State shops at 3½d. -per lb., and that the price paid by the British Government for similar meat is 4d. per lb., orthat the prices quoted are for cash only. The House and the country is obliged to the honorable member for making these facts known, because statements which have appeared in the press have had the effect of greatly misleading the people both as to the prices of meat, and the reason for the increases.
– The Minister promised nearly a fortnight ago that a monthly return of the quantity of foodstuffs in cool storage in Australia would be furnished. Is such a return now available? If not, will the Minister do his best to expedite its production ?
– In. pursuance of my promise, I have given the instruction that returns shall be made available monthly, and I hope to lay the first on the table within a day or two.
– Yesterday the honorable member -for Nepean asked whether the departmental Board appointed to inquire into the working of the pay office at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, had finished its investigation and made a report.I am informed that the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration recommended that the Board of Inquiry should be disbanded, as the scope of the Royal Commission is very much, more extensive, and ‘ fully covers the ground of the Board of Inquiry. This recommendation wasapproved. All data collected by the Board of Inquiry have been made available to the Royal Commission.
Mr.BOYD. - In view of a statement made in Sydney yesterday by Mr. Willis, secretary of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Union, that ‘ the coal mine employees were out to fight the Government to the last ditch, will the Prime Minister see that some provision is made for the importation of coal, so that the other industries of Australia shall not be’ hampered and placed under the control of the executive of the Coal ‘ Miners Union ?
– I have not seen in the press the statement to which the honorable member refers. I would point out to him, however, that the importationof coal is not now a feasible project. As far as I know, we could not import coal, even if we desired to do so. in sufficient quantities to have the slightest effect upon the industrial position of Australia in the near future. It is not to be deduced from my remarks that I for one moment, agree with the position said to have been taken upby the coal miners, but we cannot obtain the shipping to bring coal in sufficient quantities to this country.
(By leave.). - I desire to make a statement in regard to shipping and the cost of living. Yesterday I was asked a question as to the attitude of the Government in relation to the refusal of the waterside workers to load wheat and flour for foreign countries. I said then that the Government would take an early opportunity of declaring its policy in regard to this matter. It is understood that the situation arose out of a belief which is held, not only by the wharf labourers, but by other unionists, that prices are unduly high, and that the refusal to load wheat and flour for export would have the effect of reducing them.
The Government, of course, is charged with, the conduct of the industrial and general affairs of this country, and its business is to see that the products for export get away in order that the industrial as well as the general welfare of the Commonwealth may be conserved. This morning I had an interview with the committee of management of the Waterside Workers Federation, at which I pointed out the position which would be created by the refusal to load vessels with wheat and flour. I am glad to be able to announce that the committee gave me an assurance that, so far from desiring to hamper the Government in its war policy, the waterside workers would, without hesitation or delay, proceed to work any vessels that were engaged’ in war work or in what might be termed war work. In pursuance of that assurance, instructions were issued, and the men are now standing by ready to load, or, perhaps by this time are actually loading, the two vessels to carry British and French wheat.
There is another steamer about which something was said yesterday, but so far as its immediate relation to the war is concerned, it falls within a different class. I put the matter clearly, and I wish to repeat what I said this morning to my friends the waterside workers. I told them that the business of the country must be carried on, and that it was not for them to say what ships they . would or would not load, otherwise they would usurp the functions of the Government of the country, and our position would be farcical.
I desire now to static the position of the Government with regard to the alleged exploitation of the public through the excessive cost of living. The Government has considered the matter, and has decidedto remit it forthwith to the InterState Commissioa, with a request that inquiries be made immediately in regard to the prices of the main staple commodities of daily life, the prices in relation to the cost of production, and the effect, if any, of the exportation of foodstuffs or any other products upon the local prices.
The Commission will enter upon its labours immediately. Later it can extend its inquiry, but I apprehend that this community is more concerned about theprices of the staple commodities of daily life than with any other. The Commission will proceed at once to deal with the question,, and asit . makes, its report on each. commodity the. Government will take such action from time to time, as the circumstances demand. . .
– (By leave).- The Prime Minister saysthat he received this morning from- the representatives of . the waterside workers an assurance that they were prepared to go on withwhat- is known- as war work. I wish to point out that the waterside workers have not at any time objected to load . vessels engaged . in that class of work. The resolution which, it is stated, they passed, and to which exception has been taken by certain persons, concerned the loading of the Houtmann and certain other vessels going to the East. The Melbourne wharf labourers have an understanding to the effect’ that they would not load vessels with foodstuffs that were not required in connexion with war work, but, they say, no resolution was carried. In order to substantiate my statement as to the position they take up regarding war work, that is, the loading of foodstuffs or other goods for defence requirements, I need only refer to what was done last week in connexion with a shipment of 50 tons of onions to New ZeaIand. As soon as Mr. Manson, the New Zealand Government agent here, reported that he had received a cablegram from the New Zealand Government that 25 tons of these onions were required for defence purposes, the wharf labourers withdrew their objection to’ the loading of that portion of the consignment. What they objected to’ was the exploitation of the market by the action of certain men in exporting a sufficient quantity to enable local prices to be increased. As a matter of fact, the price of onions had been more than doubled within a month.
– Within a week.
– I understand that in little more than a month the price of onions rose from about £5 to . £11 per ton. Since the wharf labourers announced their objection to load onions for New Zealand the price has dropped a little.
– The honorable member would not like to grow onions for much less than £10 per ton.
– I do not know what is the cost of production per acre or per ton, but Ihave always said that no, exception can be taken toany legitimate increase in prices due to an increase ‘in the wages of those producing the commodities or foodstuffs involved: I made ‘that statement in the Melbourne Town Hall last week when’ speaking -on the’ cost of living, but the Argus did not publish it. I said then that I would do- my best to see that, producers secured any legitimate increase to which they were entitled by reason of an increase in the cost of production. What I object, to is the practice, when there is Id. increase in wages, of adding ls. to the price of tine commodity produced, r
I should now like to deal with the matter of remitting such questions as the cost of living to the Inter-State Commission. In the last Parliament; about the beginning of March, the honorable member for Maribyrnong and others drew attention to the proposed prohibition of the importation of luxuries, and I myself threw across the table to the Prime Minister a note upon the subject. That question of the importation of luxuries waa remitted tlo the Inter state Commission, ,but, although five months have elapsed, not a single report has been presented to Parliament. Shall we have to wait as long for a report on the prices of commodities? I do not say one word about the personnel of the Comi mission, the members of which have done good work, and one, I know, is busily engaged at the Treasury.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Yarra has no right whatever to make an argumentative and controversial speech at this stage under cover of the leave generously granted to him by, the House.
– I can only say that the honorable member for Yarra informed me that he wished to make certain statements in reference to observations by the Prime Minister. I told the honorable member that it would be necessary for him to obtain the leave of the House,and that leave has been given. I am not in a position to dictate to the honorable member what he shall say.
– If honorable members opposite object to statements being made in this way, they have in their hands a simple remedy, seeing that the Standing Orders allow them at any time to prevent an honorable member being further heard. ; _
– The honorable member is abusing the privileges of the House. ‘
– - I am not abusing; the privileges of the Blouse. * I .am referring to what the Prime Minister said, and I submit that the waterside workers have never refused-
– I never said they had. I dealt with facts, but the honorable member is simply going on and on.
– I am also dealing with facts, and the first fact is that the waterside workers never refused to deal with stuff for war work.
– That is not true; they refused to load the Medic and the Runic.
– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement that what the honorable member for Yarra has said is not true
– Of course I withdraw the statement; hut every one knows that what I say is perfectly correct, and the honorable member himself knows it ‘perfectly well!
– Order !
– I should like to know what staple commodities were submitted to. the Inter-State Commission for inquiry, and whether we shall have to wait as long for a report as we have had to wait in the other case I referred to.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways, with a view to absorbing a number of the unemployed in our midst, almost immediately pub some public works . in operation, even though he may have to anticipate the sanction of Parliament in certain instances ?
– The honorable member indicated this morning that he proposed to ask this question, and I have since been in consultation with some of the technical officers. I have not yet been able to go through the list of proposed works. Some of the proposals on the Estimates are a continuation of ‘ old works ; indeed, there are very few new works, and in regard to the latter it would be necessary, even in order to anticipate parliamentary authority, to obtain Treasury consent. Speaking broadly, if I can facilitate the early embarkation, on; those works,’ I shall do’ so with pleasure.
The following . papers “ were presented: - ;
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 163-167.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 160.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos 155, 156, 162, 168.
– Can the’ Minister for Works and Railways inform the House whether sites have been selected for storage on the Upper Murray under the Federal and State scheme, and, if so, whether it is proposed to proceed with the work without delay?
– I am afraid I am not able to answer the honorable member quite as specifically as he might like. I am just about to take over control of the Murray Waters Commission, and I have not yet had a chance to consult with the existing members. I do not think the site of the Upper Murray storage dam has been definitely determined, but some 30 or 40 borings have taken place, which have more or less proved the capacity of certain ground to hold the stream when dammed. I shall take an early opportunity to ascertain the exact facts up to. date, and confer with the honorable member later.
– -Will the Prime Minister increase the facilities for very small wool-growers to dispose of their little lots in the country? At present the limit is £10; and I point out that they have the experience of last year’s appraisement to enable them to see that they are not unfairly done by* In view of the fact that at present they have to wait many months for the returns from the Central Board, it would be a great convenience to allow ordinary buyers to purchase on the spot.
– I shall out ‘the matter before the Central Wool Committee, and see how far .the honorable member’s views can be met.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is the proper time to ask questions concerning -the multitude of regulations submitted, especially from the Defence Department?
– The honorable member is at liberty to” put any question without notice, when notices of motion are called on, or, if he prefers, he may put his questions on the business-paper in the ordinary way. Now is the time to ask questions without notice, before the business of the day is called on.
– Then I should like to know whether there is any rule of the House under which these regulations may be discussed ?
– The regulations may be discussed on a motion of which notice has been given. If the honorable member desires to discuss regulations, he can put a notice of motion on the businesspaper, or discuss them on Supply or on the motion for adjournment.
Northern Territory : Reappointment of Db. Gilruth.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Brisbane that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The reappointment of Dr. Gilruth as Administrator of the Northern Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- The matter with which I wish to deal was referred to by me and other honorable members during the debate on the Supply Bill on the 11th, July last. Since that date I have secured such further information as justifies me in making’ a special feature of this question because of the contradictory statements that are in circulation. When I made my remarks on the 11th July I asked the . Deputy Leader of the Government and the Treasurer if any offer for the purchase of the Northern Territory had been made as reported to any member of the Government or to the Government! as a whole, Sir J ohn Forrest replied, “ I have never heard of it;” and Mr. Joseph Cook said, “ None whatever; absolutely none.” I am quite willing to believe that those honorable gentlemen were stating what) they believed to be true, and what, so far as they were concerned, was true. But that there was something .in the statement is borne out by the following paragraph which appeared in the Age of the 6th July - the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), to whom it was alleged the offer of purchase had been made, ‘admitted yesterday that the Administrator had made some’’’ reference, to a purchase of the Territory, but he did not regard the matter seriously. Mr. Glynn said that when last he was in office as
Minister for External Affairs, three years ago, when going into the position of the Territory with the Administrator, he remembered Dr. Gilruth casually mentioning that he thought a chartered company would take the Territory up, pay off the debt, and develop the country. He (Mr. Glynn) replied in effect that such a proposal did not commend itself to him. No such offer as mentioned by Mr. Bedford was’ ever made to the Government, nor did he regard Dr. Gilruth’s observation as more than a casual remark, strengthening his belief in the possibilities of the country. The Minister added that they had reached a stage of development from which they could not revert to chartered companies. A chartered company was, the next stage after a protectorate, and then followed the creation of a Crown colony,
I wish to submit the following sworn affidavit on this matter : -
I’, Randolph Bedford, of Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, journalist, do solemnly and sincerely declare-
On the afternoon of the 12th February, 1917, I was visiting the Hon. F. “W. Bamford, M.P., in the Ministers room at the Department of Home and Territories, Melbourne. AsI was leaving the room I met a Mr. Rigby, who told me he wanted to introduce me “ to somebody.” I, with him, entered a room near the Minister’s room, and . was introduced to Dr. Gilruth, Administrator of the Northern Territory. Dr. Gilruth complainedthat I had been attacking his ‘administration, and I told him that I had not yet finished the attack, . and that the administration seemed to dislike Australians.
In the conversation ensuing, Dr. Gilruth said that the Territory was difficult to administer, and that, on behalf of a syndicate, he had offered the Commonwealth £5,000,000 for the purchase of the Territory, and to spend £10,000,000 within two years of the purchase. I asked him how he proposed to govern the Territory in such event, and he . said it would be administered by a company on the lines of the British Chartered Company of South Africa. 1 said that that was no good to White Australia, and that I would do my best against any sale of a Territory four timesthe size of France at any price. ‘ He then hurriedly told me that the information, unsought by me, was not for publication, and a few minutes later I left for the Sydney express.
I have not so far published, the conversation, and would not now make this declaration did. I not believe many of the Liberals of the new Parliament to be suspect of complaisance or agreement in this matter, and did I not apprehend danger to Australia’s development and Australia’s ideal destiny of a high wage country for the white man. For those reasons the confidence forced upon me I now break with much pleasure, so that Australians can demand full particulars of “the offer, and pronounce against its repetition.
And I make this declaration with full knowledge of the penalties provided for wilful and corrupt perjury.
Declared before me, W. J.Riordan, J. P., a justice of the peace for the State of Queensland, at Brisbane, sixth day of June, 1917. “
In a letter published in the Age of the 21st July and in the Brisbane papers of the 20th July Mr. Bedford supported his sworn affidavit. I shall merely read a few extracts from the letter, which honorable members will find in the press if they wish to followthe matter in fuller detail -
The Age of Thursday, 5th July, reports Dr. Gilruth . as saying : - That he had made no offer as stated, that he had in mind no syndicate, nor had he been approached by anybody in connexion with a proposed purchase. It was true that he had mentioned the matter lightly to Mr. Bedford in the course of a conversation. He had also asked Mr. Bedford to publish nothing, on the subject. There was no warrant for Mr. Bedford’s statement beyond the factthat he (Dr. Gilruth) had informed him that he had asked the Minister, in the course of a general conversation, whether he thought the Government would sell the Territory. The statement by Dr. Gilruth is, in spirit and essence, untrue. . . . He did not mention the matter “ lightly,” he “ said it forcibly, seriously, and as if disgusted, at the refusal of the offer, and rather pitying the intelligence of the refusers. He used the words “ offer” and “ syndicate,” and that his intention was serious and not “ light “ is proved by the details he had already thought out and had given me. . . . Mr. Glynn admits the offer was made, but says he didn’t take it “ seriously.” I don’t care whether he took it badly or standing up, or withhis hands full of ripe bananas. He had the offer. Dr. Gilruth says that he made no offer, and that “ Mr. Glynn’s reply was that the Government wouldn’t consider the proposal.” Do these men know the meaning of words? “ Offer nottaken seriously “ - “ proposal not considered “ - and yet there was “ no offer “’ and no proposal. Mr. Glynn says that he looked on it as “ strengthening Dr. Gilruth’s belief in the possibilities of the country.” Dr. Gilruth told me that the Commonwealth would never do any good with the Territory.
Here we have a clear and emphatic statement in a sworn affidavit that an offer for the purchase of the Northern Territory was made, although we have no cognisance of the details. Further than that, the Minister for Home and Territories admits that an offer was made.
Mr.Glynn. - A man admits something that he has previously denied. I did not use the word admit.
– I assure the honorable member that. I am not to-day making an attack on the administration of his Department. Neither do I wish that this matter should be regarded in any sense as a party question, because we have every ground for believing that every member of the House is anxious to do the best possible for the Northern Territory.
– If your action is entirely non-party, why do you give countenance to the obviously untrue statement of Mr. Bedford that any member of this House wishes to infringe the White Australia policy for the Northern Territory I
– The statement ia Mr. Bedford’s, not mine. I am quite prepared to believe that every member of the House is anxious to assist the. administration in connexion with the Northern Territory. Its development is a heavy and difficult problem, and iti is because I believe that by the reappointment of Dr. Gilruth we have only increased our difficulties’ that I am raising the question today. Unfortunately we have too much evidence that during the period of Dr. Gilruth’s administration in .the* Northern Territory there has ‘ been nothing but trouble and disappointment. There’ have been several years of expenditure without any result,- and at times there have ‘been internal troubles of :a very serious character.
– What troubles? ‘
– Difficulties in settlement, the industrial position, and the utter lack of’ development.
– Is not the honorable member aware that industrial troubles were .just as numerous in the case of the freezing works as in connexion with Dr. Gilruth’ s administration 1
– The industrial troubles have been so painfully frequent, and so unfortunately bitter, during Dr. Gilruth’s term of office, that there is not only disappointment with regard to the past, but also considerable apprehension in regard to the future. This statement is borne- out by the fact that when Dr. Gilruth was returning to the Northern Territory, the residents gave an exhibition of their feelings in regard to his re-appointment. The following report appeared in the Brisbane Standard on the 31st July: -
A mass meeting was held in Darwin to protest against the re-appointment of Dr. Gilruth as. Administrator of the Territory. The- Mayor presided, and “’ numerous speakers .-referred specifically to various acts of alleged maladministration, particularly in the Mines Department, the jensen inquiry, and the Batchelor and’ Daly River farm experiments, the limited Knowledge of the Administrator, his excision of. experts, ‘the suppression of ‘facts, and misleading statements Handed to the Southern press, and the continuous misrepresentation of the various industries. … The meeting vigorously protested against the mock reception to be tendered the Administrator,, as engineered by an official clique of puppets. . . . Some severe criticisms of inquiries as to the method of eliminating some of the troublesome officials’, not subservient to the Administrator, were passed, notably, ihe, cases of Dr. Jensen and Mr. .Beckett.
It was suggested that a mass meeting be held outside the hall when the reception is to be tendered to the Administrator by card only, to show the real feeling of the citizens.
In regard to the same matter, the following telegram, appeared -in the Age on the 7th of this month: -
When the Administrator arrived in Darwin on Monday last the new Labour Mayor (Mr. D. C. Watts) and his Labour councillors were not there to welcome him. On Monday evening a meeting, called by the secretary of the A.W.U., Councillor Harold Nelson, was held r’ to express indignation at the re-appointment of Dr. Gilruth, and resentment that the new Labour Mayor had not been asked ‘to welcome the Administrator.,” ‘.The meeting was held in the Town Hall). and unionists gathered in force. The speakers, condemned the Administrator, one calling. on the new Mayor, as “ high sheriff of the city,” to eject Dr. Gilruth from the Territory ‘as an undesirable. Another urged workers to do no more work until the Administrator had been ‘” booted “ out of the Territory. All complained indignantly that the Mayor had not been accorded his. proper place as the first citizen of the’ town in a welcome to the Administrator.
On Tuesday evening, in the Town Hall, Dr. Gilruth was welcomed home at a social evening by the citizens.
These reports show that there is among a section of the community in Darwin and the Northern Territory generally a very strong personal feeling against the methods adopted by the Administrator.
– Even in this House there are two opinions on everything.
– The division between the two sections is much more closely marked in the Northern Territory than it is in this House, because, while we have respect for each other’s opinions, and admit the right of each man to hold his own views on political matters, it seems that only one view can be held or admitted in the Northern Territory, and that is the view of those who are willing to bow the knee to -Baal in the person of the Administrator. For others there is neither use nor room., At any rate, we have the statement of these newspapers of Melbourne and Brisbane showing what the feeling of the majority of the citizens of Darwin is, at any rate of those who are looked upon as the working section of the community.
Dr. Gilruth’s term of office has been marked by severe and almost continuous difficulties between himself and his officers. It would seem that no officer can please him unless he is willing to say “ yes “ when the Administrator says “ yes,” or “ no “ when the Administra: tor says ,” no.” Here let me quote from a statement made by Dr. Jensen which appeared in the Brisbane Worker on l2th July last -
Instead of attempting to create bond fide settlement, tlie Administration has handed over the best of the country to a monopoly, has stunted the, mining industry by changes at a time when it was making headway, and has killed all hope of agricultural settlement by putting a large number of good, hard-working settlers on unsuitable land, treating them harshly, and dictating to them as if they were children.
The Land Board, consisting of an accountant (a new chum to the Territory, who has hardly been off the railway line), a survey draughtsman (with a minimum experience of land), and a clerk, decides where people should settle by deliberation in Darwin.
George Ryland, who had extensive experience of land in Queensland, having ploughed his old bicycle through every part of this State, was discarded as Director of Lands to make room, for pets of the Administrator. No wonder most of the settlers had- to leave through starvation. . . .
The poor postmaster, a widely respected man, became so worried that he blew his brains out, and one of the unfortunate Daly settlers drowned himself.
Glynn also laments that he cannot get married men with families to stay in the Northern Territory. That, too, is essentially the Administrator’s fault. His alterations of working hours, school hours, and office hours have created conditions intolerable to all domestic life among those who are id the Public Service and have families. The Public Service Association protested again and again.
I can supplement that statement by a letter that I have received from a man who has abandoned his selection on the Daly Baver: I knew him in Brisbane. He went to the Northern Territory to take up one of the blocks on the Daly River, and he wrote to me on the 6th November of last year as follows: -
You will see by the address that we have left the Daly. This was the only course, left for us, as the treatment was abominable. One of the settlers has got his clearance through the influence of one of the senators who came here ‘ (Senator Newland), and now, owing to the treatment we are receiving from the officials, I am appealing to you to help us. I received your letter some few weeks ago that you sent up the line to me, also the official’s letter, and I am satisfied that we shall get no justice from him. You will have read enough about the Territory, Hut what must it be for us that are here?
The developmental policy of the Northern Territory under the administration of Dr. Gilruth has been on wrong lines. Whatever Dr. Jensen means by the statement that the best parts of the land’ have been given to a certain monopoly, there is, at any rate, a suspicion in the minds of many people that when .Dr. Gilruth made that offer of £5,000,000 for the Northern Territory under the conditions specified, the company behind him was the same company that has established meat works at Darwin, and which has secured a very large control over the lands of the Northern . Territory for grazing purposes. It is only reasonable that this company should have behind it reasonable facilities for growing cattle, and keeping its meat works fully employed, and I do not object, so long as the conditions under which it secured control of that land do not preclude other settlers who are anxious to do the same class of work from having an equal opportunity with it; but if there is any connexion between Dr. Gilruth and Vestey Bros., then at once we have an Illuminating comment in regard to the offer that is said to have been made.
– Does the honorable member say that there is any connexion between them?
– I do not. I say that there is suspicion in the minds of the public that there ia a connexion between them.
– The honorable member should not make such a statement unless he has reasonable grounds for making it.
– Can the honorable member deny it 1
– The honorable member is making the charge.
– I am not making any charge.
– The honorable member is indicating one.
– I am indicating that inquiries in that direction- might show the inspiration of the offer that is said to have been made. At any rate, my impression is that the administration of the Northern Territory under Dr. Gilruth has not only been on wrong lines for securing the best results, but has also been carried out in such a fashion as to irritate the people who have gone to the Territory. After all the money that has been expended and the efforts that have been made to settle the very fine land along the
Daly River, there is absolute and complete failure. I have my own ideas regarding the development of the Northern Territory, which I may state during the Budget debate. It seems to me that not only does Dr. Gilruth find ways and means for tine development of the Territory along the lines not likely to lead to success, but that he has a penchant for irritating those who are desirous of developing it. Whether he is seeking to help Messrs. Vestey Brothers, as perhaps, the only means of developing the Territory, may be open to argument, but that has been the effect of his administration. Not even the building of railway lines or other developmental work seems to him to offer like opportunities for development. I think that the mining industry should be encouraged equally with the pastoral industry. Dr. Gilruth’s conduct generally is well set’ out in a letter which was published in the Brisbane Standard on the 19th July. It is therein stated that -
The administration of the Northern Territory during the term the Federal Government has controlled it has been on the lines of the German Crown Colony. There’ has been in the Territory an absolute autocracy, no. popular representation of any kind whatever, no means for the people to voice their grievances (as there is in a subdued way in the Legislative Councils of British Crown colonies) ; there has been a system of espionage, accompanied by victimization .of every official or private individual, worker, or business man who ventured to express his disapproval of the brutal Hunnish ways of the administration. “ Black listing “ of workers who were not potential scabs was openly practised by the Administration, and instructions sent to the Departments not to employ those who were black-listed. Men who scabbed on the unions were shown favours and given preference. In every way Hunnish methods were followed.
Let me dwell briefly- on the administration of the Northern Territory from the financial point of view. The figures that I propose to give have been, obtained from the summary of Australian financial statistics recently issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. This officer shows that the deficiency in the accounts of the Northern Territory was, for the year 1910-11, £166,856; for the year 1911-12, £364,368; for the year 1912-13, £388,658; for the year 1913-14, £458,878; for the year 1914-15, £391,862; for the year 1915-16, £642,512; and for the year 1916-17, according to the information given to us by the Treasury yesterday, £690,555.
– Does that include the railways ?
– It includes the Port Augusta and the Pine Creek” railways. On the 30th June the total deficiency was £2,778,265. This matter calls for serious and close attention. On the average, we have lost £500,000 in the Territory every year.
– That is a legacy under the agreement with South Australia.
– No. In 1910-11 the deficiency was only £166,000, and it has grown under Dr. Gilruth’s administration to £690,000.
– I have prepared a memorandum analyzing the position, which I shall lay on the table to-morrow.
– The Minister told me some time ago that he was preparing a memorandum, and I hope that this discussion may induce him to give attention to matters which might otherwise be overlooked. As only a minute or two of the time allowed to me under the Standing Orders remains, I must pass over a good many matters that I had intended to mention regarding the detrimental effects of Dr. Gilruth’s administration. I submit that the remedy for the present position can be stated under four headings. The first thing to be done is to immediately recall Dr. Gilruth. Every one was disappointed that the Government, when it had an opportunity to get away from the experience of the pas* few years, did not appoint to the Administratorship some one with better qualifications for the position. Very few in the Territory wanted Dr. Gilruth back, and people generally down here did not expect that he would be re-appointed. As I said on the 11th July, the only comfort we have is that the re-appointment ia for a short term, and I suggest Dr. Gilruth’s immediate recall. I suggest, too, the combination of the administrative and judicial offices. I do not know why the Administrator should not also be the judicial officer. The population is so small that, with proper administration, there would not be- too much work for one man if the two offices were combined. Then all the Northern Territory Departments ‘ should be reorganized. I am informed that these Departments are notoriously over-staffed, and exist more for the sake of the officers than for their use to the State. Lastly, I suggest the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into- tine administration of the Territory, and to advise Parliament as. to the possibility of reform. One of our most important - and most humane - obligations in the Northern Territory relates bo the aboriginals. It is one of the worst features of Dr. Gilruth’s administration that the treatment of the aboriginals of the Territory has been rather a duplication of some of the .worst previous experiences of Australian history, and not on the lines that modern humanity would desire, or that this House would wish to be followed.
– That is rather a serious statement. Can the honorable gentleman state facts in support of it?
– Yes, if the honorable member will move for an extension of my time. I have piles of documents here.
– Will the honorable member vouch for the statements contained in them?
– They are over reliable signatures. The office of Chief Inspector of Aboriginals has just been abolished. and Mr. Beckett’s statement is that the administration of the Territory with regard to the treatment of aboriginals is not such as any member of this House can be proud of. I am certain that every member will be glad to see an alteration made in this matter. It is ‘ a duty that we owe to the aboriginals.
.- In adding a word or two to what the honorable member for Brisbane has said, I shall begin by referring to the matter with which he was dealing when the Standing Orders compelled him to finish his speech, that is, the treatment of the aboriginals in ‘the Northern Territory. One of the saddest things in Australian history is the fact that the aboriginals of this country have been degraded and debauched by their association with civilization.
– The only alternative is to keep the white man out of the Northern Territory.
– This state of things does not; reflect much credit on our civilization. I view with the greatest regret the withdrawal of the Chief Inspector of Aboriginals consequent upon the abolition of his office. Mr. Beckett was a most conscientious and able officer, whose experience of Australian aboriginals is equalled by few, if any, in Australia.
– Did he know anything about aboriginals before he went to the Territory?
– Yes, a great deal. He had »had a long and intimate acquaintance with them .as the result of his travels and observations from the north to the south of Australia. This is a delicate matter, and if there are any within hearing whose, duty does not. compel them to -remain while I mention what I conceive to be certain facts in connexion with the aboriginals and their relations - with the white men of the Territory, they should take this opportunity to retire. I wish to put it on record that it is one of the very gravest things in connexion with, our responsibility to a subject race that it is stated by the Chief Inspector himself that there have been men in the employment of the Commonwealth termed protectors of aborigines who have openly carried i on immoral intercourse with them.
– The honorable member is making a very grave charge now.
– He will not make it outside.
– It is a charge which may be made outside as well as inside’ Parliament, because the facts have been admitted by the departmental head, and are capable of conclusive proof by the Chief Inspector. It is a known fact’ that there are children being reared and looked, after by the Northern Territory Missions, and others, who owe their shameful origin to officials paid by the Commonwealth. If honorable members wish to challenge serious statements, I will make them, and proof of them can be easily obtained. There is an- acknowledged traffic of this disgraceful and disgusting character going on between a regrettably large number of white people and the blacks in the Northern Territory. It is within the knowledge of every self-respecting resident of the Territory that male blacks in and about Darwin are selling their females to white men. I would be quite prepared to support a Bill providing for the penalty of imprisonment, or such a substantial fine, for immoral intercourse of that kind, as would remove so disgraceful a stain from this country. Proof of all these statements is forthcoming if an opportunity be offered for producing it in greater detail. It can be easily understood that, in the. short time at my disposal; it is impossible to deal adequately with it.
Let me turn how to another subject. One of the Ordinances” of the Northern Territory provides that no Chinese may employ aboriginals. Notwithstanding that fact, I have very strong evidence - into which I wish the Minister to make inquiries - that the Government Secretary put his signature, or, at all events, officially consented in some way, to the employment of aboriginals by Chinese. I have the very strongest evidence that, as the result of that consent, given in contravention of an Ordinance of this Parliament, four Australian blacks were employed by a Chinese on a lugger, or like vessel, and that while so employed they were drowned.
– When was this done?
– I have no* time to refer to the correspondence, but it is quite recent history. I come now to another matter. We have in the Northern Territory a Supreme Court Judge - Judge Bevan - a gentleman whom I know well, and have always respected. It is on record that Judge Bevan quite openly - and apparently, he believes, and would have us believe, with propriety - entered into acontract with one Mr. Hope for the purchase of a copper mine in the Northern Territory from the Government. Such an action on the part of the’ Judge of the Northern Territory ought to be deprecated; I certainly deprecate the highest judicial officer in the Territory entering into big commercial contracts with the Government that he is serving in a judicial capacity. In this contract there was a condition, so I am informed, that only white labour - and no Chinese - should be (employed. As a matter of fact, however, . Chinese labour was employed on the mine. A little later, when the matter became public, it was urged in defence of the action of the owners of the mine in employing Chinese labour, that there had been a variation of the solemn agreement entered into when the mine was sold to these gentlemen. The file was then turned up, and a short document, signed by Judge Bevan and another, was discovered. It was in the form of a letter, and that letter is also on record. I have a photo of it, and, speaking from memory, its terms were somewhat as follows: -
Following upon our telephone conversation, I now repeat that the condition in the agreement as to the non-employment of Chinese, is to be read subject to there being a sufficiency of other labour available for that purpose.
– Who wrote that letter ?
– It was written by Judge Bevan for himself and Mr. Hope, his co-purchaser of the mine: This letter, which is on the file, was repudiated by Dr. Jensen, who said, “I have never seen it before.” It was not minuted by the Administrator as having been received by him, nor was it minuted by Df. Jensen as having been received by him.
What I desire to criticise - and I think it is in this regard that Judge’ Bevan should be asked for an. explanation - is the fact that, as the Chief Judicial Officer of the Territory, he purports to vary a most solemn agreement by a short, hastilyprepared memorandum written on a piece of notepaper, signed, by himself and his co-partner in this enterprise, and placed upon the file, although no record is now available as to whether it was ever seen by the men to whom it was addressed.
– Is there any evidence as to whether that letter reached the file quite properly, so far as the Judge is concerned ?
– On this point I am not absolutely certain, but my information is that it bears no minute of any kind. ‘
– No receipt stamp?
– Neither a receipt stamp nor <any other stamp, nor any other kind ; but it will speak for itself.
– Who was the other party to the contract?
– The contract was as between Mr. Hope and Judge Bevan on the one hand, and the Government on the other. In dismissing the matter for the present, I submit that it was most improper to purport to vary such an agreement. At the root of the whole incident is the question of whether it wap right to employ Chinese labour. I am viewing the matter, however, noi from that stand-point, but from the point of view as to whether or not a considered agreement should be dealt with in that way by any person, and particularly by a gentleman of the eminence and the reputation - which I am glad to acknowledge - of the Judge of the Northern Territory.
On the general question of the reappointment of Dr, Gilruth, I think that a very reasonable protest was addressed to this House some little time back by the honorable member for Wakefield when he urged that that re-appointment might well have awaited consideration by Parliament, especially in view of the fact that Dr. Gilruth, at the time it was made, had been in Melbourne on full pay for some eight or nine months. I think it was almost an affront to this House to make a re-appointment in those circumstances and at that time, in view of the general knowledge that it would receive far from the unanimous approval df this House, and would be the subject of very grave criticism from both sides. Dr. Gilruth, however, was re-appointed, and in war time,’ at a salary of £1^700 a year. I deliberately assert - and I am not attempting to make any party capital out of this - that it was an affront to the people of this country to re-appoint that officer, however excellent he may be, at such a salary, and to add to it an entertainment allowance of £500 per annum.
– I was not in the House when the honorable member for Brisbane first raised this question, but I understand that he said that Dr. Gilruth had informed the Government that he could obtain from a chartered company, or some other body, an offer to take over the Territory. I can only say that no such offer was ever made to me or to any other member of the Government.
When I was last in office, some three years ago, I was anxious to cut down expenditure in the Northern Territory, and I then discussed with Dr. Gilruth the necessity for curtailing its increase. I also raised some questions about the position of the farms, and as to whether agriculture could profitably be carried on up there. As he rose from his chair at the end of the interview on that occasion, Dr. Gilruth remarked, “Well, would you hand over the Territory to a chartered company? “ He, at all events, used words to that effect, but I shut down the matter at once, and there was no further re ference to it. I do not think our conversation on the matter extended over more than half a minute, and certainly the remarks as to handing over the Territory did not extend over more than a few seconds.
What led Dr. Gilruth to make such an observation I do not know, but, later on, when it reached the importance of a news- paper statement on the subject, it occurred to me that Dr. Gilruth was endeavouring to emphasize his optimism as to the future of the Territory. When I heard of this newspaper criticism, I asked Dr. Gilruth what it all meant. He then told me that he met Mr. Randolph Bedford on the occasion of a visit paid by the latter to Mr. Bamford-
– And Mr. Randolph Bedford is a reliable Labour journalist.
- Dr. Gilruth, from his occasional proximity to politicians, perhaps, was rather sensitive to criticism, and he told Mr. Bedford that he thought he had reason to complain of his continual attacks on the Territory. He disapproved of this destructive criticism, and thought that there should be, on Mr. Bedford’s part, a better recognition of the difficulties in the way of the development of the Territory. That conversation led up to some statement by Dr. Gilruth to Mr. Bedford, to the effect that he had some two years previously told .the then Minister for External Affairs that the Territory could be managed by a chartered company.” I believe he mentioned to him that some such company as that which managed a part of the British Empire in South Africa - the Rhodesian Company - could be formed, but he assured me that he had no particular company in his mind at the time. He made no offer to me, and I placed not the slightest significance on his passing remark about the possibility. What, probably, was unconsciously in his mind was the financial position when we took over the Territory. When the Territory was taken over on the 1st January. 1911, by the Commonwealth, I had myself to go into the facts a good deal, and I- also took occasion, when settling the terms of the measure, to examine the finances. I found that an offer had been madeto Sir Frederick Holder, who was then Premier of South Australia; by a company, or a number of capitalists prepared to form ‘ a company, to take over the Territory for about £10,250,000, on the condition - this is the point - ‘that they ‘ were allowed to introduce coloured labour. At the, time of the transfer the indebtedness of the Territory was about £6,000,000, including the Port Augusta railway and all other works. Further, we entered into an obligation, not yet carried out,, with South Australia to continue’ the transcontinental line up from Oodnadatta and down from Pine Creek. To do this would have cost an additional sum, bringing up the total to about £10,250,000. The figures that have been referred to to-day principally have to do with the payment of interest and redemption from year to year. South Australia’s plan was not to redeem loans as they fell due, but to add them to the debt and consolidate them. In our case we acted from a much better point of view, and when we have money it is just as well to spend it in one way than, perhaps, squander it in another. In other words, we paid off our debts as they fell due, and in one year no less than £500,000 was liquidated. When honorable members talk about the figures being increased, their statements may be qualified by the fact that when I was in office about 1914, the deficit in the annual accounts on ordinary expenditure and works - which is the test, and not the redemption fund and interest - was £202,000, and the expenditure £274,000. I reduced the expenditure to about £208,000 at one stroke, and the deficit to £135,000 during my term of office; and I can show that there has not been an increase of £60,000 since the Territory was taken over. It is the redemption that causes the trouble; and, as the honorable member for Franklin has asked for a statement on the point. I shall to-morrow, if ready, read one that has been prepared.
No offer was made to me, nor would I at any time entertain one, to barter away to any company our obligations. Only about three weeks ago a capitalist came to me in Adelaide, who was prepared to construct the transcontinental line. He asked me, “ Is there any chance of any offer to construct that Une being considered ?” and I replied, ’ There is none, if you mean on such terms as were embodied in the South’ Australian Act.” These are the facts in regard to the offer. The honorable member has referred to a number of grievances ; and in this connexion I wish I could remember the words of a missionary writer in a very neat periodical called *The Inlander, issued, I believe, by- the Methodists, or one of the religious, bodies, which are doing such good work amongst the blacks in Central Australia. That missionary said he regretted to have to express an opinion at all, because he was sure that there would be immediately three or four other opinions expressed to controvert his; and that is the case with the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Brisbane referred to two cases, and, apparently, the honorable member’ for Batman has recently been given a political brief in the’ matter of Mr. Beckett. It is rather significant that I should have met Mr. Beckett, and I then asked him to reduce to writing the complaints - some of the very complaints we have heard here to-day. I felt that in justice to Mr. Beckett, and those whom he impugned, the charges ought to be madein black and white, and I was expecting such a document, with a view to making inquiry. I do not wish to go into Mr. Beckett’s case, or to say one word against that officer. I spent many nights going through the files of papers - which, by the way, have gone to Darwin - and with the scrutiny of a lawyer and a Minister, who ought to keep his mind unbiased, I made a complete analysis of the evidence and the judgment of the Judge, almost acting as a defender in case of any possible injustice. I made a minute on the matter, which was sub judice at the time, that the vacancy created in his’ office was not at all affected by that case. Nor do I see that Mr. Beckett, or any one else, has come badly out of it.
– That is why I think he is a good witness.
– I have not a word to say against Mr. Beckett, but, with due respect to him. I do not think that’ it is quite fair, nor in accord with the finest sense of members of the House, that, when allegations are made on ‘ one side, and the Minister is waiting for definite evidence, the matter should be raised in the House. All’ we have as yet is Mr. Beckett’s version; and, as I told him, I hoped he would not expect me to assume a thing proved against another officer, considering that I would not accept anything against him until I had heard what he had to say.
I read both sides of the correspondence. I do not believe there is very much in the statement of the aboriginal position at the present time. Unfortunately, contact with whites has to some extent a degrading effect on aboriginals, and they present a very difficult problem. I have considered the matter with Professor Spencer and others; but, do what we may, the trouble seems almost insuperable. I read the charges about the aboriginals and made inquiries; but I do not think that the House is the place in which to discuss them. Only a few cases are mentioned; and nearly always, when a man leaves office, some disputes of the kind arise.
Dr. Jensen made a series of charges, which were reduced to forty-three in number, principally against Dr. Gilruth,
– How many charges were there at the start?
– I was not in office, and I. do not know. I myself gave Dr. Jensen’ a certificate of competency as a man who had done good work in the mining branch in the Territory. It is true that Dr. Jensen did not leave his appointment when I was in office, but I thought that, in justice to him, he was entitled’ to the certificate. In these matters you can never get absolute accuracy, for opinions will differ. The charges made were inquired into by a Sydney magistrate, who found every one of them disproved. What is a Minister to do ? Is he to listen night, after night to reiterated charges? If so, how can he be expected to carry on the administration? I really do not know whether it is worth while referring to any other point. The Aboriginal Department has been presided over for a time by Professor Spencer.
– The honorable member for Batman said that a document of a very important nature had found its way on to a public file, without any notification of how it came, there.
– In connexion with the Judge ?
– Varying a contract which the Judge ought not to have made with the Government.
– I do not think there was anything in that, speaking from memory, and the impression made on me at the time; but if the honorable member will ask a formal question on the subject, which did not arise during my term of office,I shall tell him the facts from the departmental point of view. As far as I saw at the time, there was not any justification for the attempt to throw disrepute on the Judge, for the transaction seemed to have been a bond fide one.
– As the . statement has been made it ought to be cleared up, in fairness to the Judge.
– I shall look up the file.
– I took it for granted that the matter would be looked into. I assumed that the matter haying been, raised, and the fact of this document pointed out, -the Minister would take the trouble to make inquiry.
– So far as I could see, there was no justification for imputations that were being made; it was simple repetition.
– Assuming that there was a contract, does the Minister agree that a Judge should enter into contracts ?
– Not at all; and I made a note ofthe matter the moment I heard of it. I do not wish, however, without refreshing my memory, to express an opinion,’ but I shall be pleased to do so at some future date if honorable members wish. One of Mr. Beckett’s complaints was that Mr. Carey, his chief, did nottry him. Technically, I think that Mr. Beckett was right.
– I had not time to” go into that matter.
– The honorable member went into as much as he could. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the question, but simply to point out that Mr. Carey refused to sit as a Judge, because he thought he was, to some extent, affected by certain charges, and he feared that, he might afterwards be said to have acted in a case to which he was a party.
– Would not Judge Sevan have been the only court of appeal ?
– That also was one of Mr. Beckett’s cases, and honorable . members seem to have been very well primed up. I am not attempting to form any opinion against Mr. Beckett, who, in my view, has not suffered at all by the inquiry that took place.
– It is very seldom ‘ we can get any information from the Territory, and when we do,- we wish” to verify it.
– Nearly all the information is supplied from outside, and fivesixths of it is destructive criticism. I very much regret that a little more optimism is i not displayed in reference to this damnosa her edi tas of ours. When a lease is put up for sale in the Territory in country adjoining Queensland, at a lower ‘rental for equally good land, some fatality prevents it being taken up; and that, I suppose, is the fault of Dr. Gilruth. He may be 800 miles away, but stall his second person is there all the time. An objection has been raised that Dr. Gilruth is paying too much attention to pastoral matters; but, really, the last complaint was that he was not attending to them at all. We are told, to speak colloquially, that this is a pastoral proposition altogether. I do not think it ie an agricultural proposition.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised that the Minister did not tell us that the people up in the Territory are’ much like helots, without votes or citizen rights. There is no0 Judge so dominant or ‘powerful as the Judge at present up there; and if “the recall were in operation, as in some of the States in America, he would be dragged from the Bench if they considered him unworthy.
– There would have to be the initiative as well.
– Exactly ; but I am sure that the honorable member, if he had to be tried in .the Territory,- would not like to be tried without a jury. .
– I resisted every attempt to vary the jury system.
– Then I take it that the Minister agrees with me that the same jury system should operate there as in other parts of Australia?
– Do you want to make the Territory a State?
– I wish to give the Australian in the Territory the ‘ same rights that he enjoys elsewhere.
– That can only be done by giving the people there members to elect.
– Why should not the Territory be attached -to some Federal constituency ?
– Does not the honorable member for Grey represent the Territory?
– The honorable member jeers while I am fighting for the workers up .there. I am presenting the case of 90 per cent, of the population; and I venture to say that if a vote of the white people were taken, Dr. Gilruth would be swept out of office.
– There are people who always try to sweep out strong men.
– As a doctor of veterinary science, Dr. Gilruth possesses the highest diploma given in his profession, and I could recommend him for an opinion on stock; but there are Aus.tralians who know more about land than he does. Dr. Jensen, on the other hand, is a doctor of science, and I doubt if you could count doctors of science by the hundred where you could count doctors of veterinary science by the thousand.
I am very glad that the honorable member for Batman brought under the notice of the House the brutal treatment of the aborigines. I have never met Mr. Beckett, but the Minister seemed to suggest that an opinion given by that gentleman to Mr. Brennan should be put aside.
– I was in the Northern Territory some years ago, and I have a fair knowledge of what Mr. Beckett was doing there at that time.
-. - I say nothing against him, nor does Dr. Gilruth.
– I know that in the treatment of those terrible diseases known as the “ red plague “ proper’ assistance was not given. I make that statement on the authority of his lordship the Bishop of Carpentaria - Dr. White. When I was on Thursday Island, I found there was the greatest difficulty in getting drugs. Although in Victoria men, women, and doctors are being penalized in fines of from £10 to £100 if they do not give proper attention to the treatment of these diseases, yet in the Territory, where the missionaries were willing to give their services free to cure suffering humanity, obstacles were thrown in their way. I can hardly say that I should like a Royal Commission appointed to investigate Northern Territory affairs, for any one conversant with the history- of the Territory knows - that the reports of Commissions are filed yards high. But, in God’s name, what is the use of paying a man £44 per week to administer the Northern Territory and keeping him in Melbourne for nine months! Some honorable member, interjected that the only industry in the Territory was pastoral. Dr. Gilruth assured me that rice is being cultivated there, and for the first time in the history of the world is being reaped by machinery.
– That is upland rice, not swamp rice.
– It ‘is paddy rice. In countries where I have seen rice growing, the land is terraced, and the use of machinery is impossible. But in the Territory, owing to the climate ‘and the quick drying of the soil, the ground is hard enough ,f or machinery to be used. Dr. Gilruth was certain that if future experiments in rice growing proved successful, they would be able to reap it by machinery and employ white labour at- white man’s wages. But why does not this man, who draws a salary of” £1,750 and an allowance of £500, set an example to other residents of the Territory by employing white people in his own house ? It may be said that if white girls are sent to the Territory they marry. Do we not want them to marry, and rear children to populate the Territory? I urge the Minister to see that any girls who are sent to the Territory travel first class, and not in the steerage. I have been an officer on the boats trading to the Orient, and I would not put’ a Newfoundland dog in the steerage. It is a scandal that a man with an income of £44 per week will not employ white labour in his house.
– White girls will not go into the back country.
– Give them a chance. It is infamous that when an Australian citizen goes to the Northern Territory he ‘ has no citizen rights as a voter. When the Territory was controlled by South Australia, residents of the Territory had the right to vote, but their franchise has been taken from them. Another urgent reform is the institution of trial by jury, and neither this Government nor any succeeding Government will be acting justly unless they give to all men and women in the Territory the right of trial by a panel of their fellow citizens. Mr. Glynn. - Trial by jury exists there.
– Only in a modified form.
– It has never been modified. The principle is the same, although in some States it is governed by a majority verdict and in others it is not.
– Is itv the English system?
– It is the English system of trial by jury which we have never tried to alter.
– In answer to an. honorable member who made a sneering reference to Mr. Bedford, I say that, al- . though that gentleman has his faults, as we all have, there is no better’ Australian than he. He stands- for Australia first and always, and after Australia for the Homeland. I will back his opinion on the Northern Territory against that of any member of the House. If the Age will only give its attention to the Northern Territory, the present Government may be compelled to do something for its development. Until the citizens have trial by jury, and the same right to vote as other Australians have, I shall, continue to protest. When it suited the present Government, the people in the Territory, and also in Papua and the Federal Territory, were allowed to vote. I speak as one who advocated the cause against which the people of the Territory voted in connexion with the last referendum, and I say that they should be al- ‘ lowed the franchise on all occasions. Of the personal honesty of the Minister for Home and Territories no man has a greater Opinion than I have, and even with his legal training I would trust him in every way as head of his Department. But I ask him to put aside his legal training in dealing with the demand of these people for justice.
When I am speaking on the Budget I shall show how the Territory can be kept as a meat reserve to supply the whole of the, Australian people. It is the last great Territory that the Commonwealth has in its possession untrammelled by State rights. We. can manage that Territory in our own way, and it is the duty” of the Government to the future millions of people to reserve that vast tract of country, so that it may become the meat emporium of the Commonwealth, insuring the Australian people meat at 1 a fair price .for all time. Buffalo meat, thousands of carcasses of which have been destroyed, is appreciated by many people after their palates have become accustomed to it, and is sometimes preferred to the meat of the domestic ox, but in the past the buffalo has been killed only for its hide. Why should not that meat be preserved and sent south to help to feed the people in times of scarcity? Next to water conservation, the Minister has to handle, in the development of the Northern Territory, the greatest Australian problem with which we are con- fronted.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I ;do not intend to discuss the treatment of the aborigines of the Northern Territory from the stand-point of the honorable member for Batman, but I do believe that the time is long overdue when this Parliament should take some action to found a broad policy for dealing with the natives. I have had an opportunity of visiting the Territory, and I am convinced that the treatment of the aborigines has been too long neglected. It has never been taken in hand in a way calculated to do justice to them. I believe that if the Minister were to call for special reports from his medical offi.cers and the administrative staff in the Territory it would be possible to found without great expense a policy that would deal out greater justice to the thousands of aborigines, large numbers of whom are coming into contact with the white population to their serious detriment.
The charges made by the honorable member for Brisbane against the Administrator are chiefly founded on statements by Dr. Jensen, who was at one time an official in the Territory, and by Mr. Randolph Bedford. My observation, when I was in the Territory, was that a big contest is in progress between Mr. Nelson, the head of the labour organizations at Darwin, and Dr. Gilruth, and, as the leader of the labour organizations has a majority of people behind him, necessarily he can make things very hot for the Administrator. I ‘do not wish to defend all Dr. Gilruth’s acts of administration. Like every human ‘ being, lie has made mistakes, but the failure of the Northern Territory so far has been very largely due to this Parliament. An Administrator was ‘ sent to the Territory to face difficulties that no human individual could overcome, and he has been left without any proper direction from the National Parliament in regard to a continuous policy. Since the Territory has been taken over by the Commonwealth, there has been only one Minister who has made anything like a real attempt to outline a policy for it, and that is the Minister who is now controlling it. He has introduced some good development work. He has put down bores in the interior, thus providing water supplies which help the pastoral industry; and his agreement with Vestey Brothers is the only really substantial development work that has been carried out with a view to increasing the popula-% tion, as well as the productivity of that northern country. In fact, these are the only two pieces of work that can be claimed by this Parliament as having anything of a permanent nature about them, or as dealing in a comprehensive way with the development of the Northern Territory. .
– It is only fair to say that the .agreement with Vestey Brothers was the development of a proposal put forward by a Labour Government.
– I do not say that the completion of the agreement was the matter of an hour or a day. I do not intend to go into the history of the transaction. I merely say that the completion of the agreement, which had been developing for some time, was achieved under the direction of the present Minister.
The failure of the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to the Northern Territory lies in the fact that, during the “period when taxation was , being imposed, and our revenue was largely increasing, and we had millions to spend, we did not lay down a strong, broad, comprehensive policy of development covering a period of ten, or even twenty, years, and meaning an expenditure of, perhaps, £20,000,000. . If that had been done, the Administrator, when he arrived in the Northern Territory, would have known exactly what he had to do. He would have been charged with the specific task of carrying out the Government policy.
The honorable member for Brisbane has quoted Dr. Jensen. The Minister has already pointed out that, so far as his indictment of Dr. Gilruth was concerned, Dr. Jensen left the Northern Territory a discredited man, whose charges had been found by a judicial tribunal to be utterly groundless. The honorable member should not have quoted Dr., Jensen unless he was able to back up, by indisputable evidence, in other directions, the statements of one whose charges had been tried and found wanting by a judicial tribunal.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the inquiry held into Dr. Jensen’s charges was a satisfactory tribunal?
– The honorable member could ask for nothing more conclusive than the fact that the forty-five charges brought by Dr. Jensen against the Administrator of the Northern Territory were tried before a police magistrate sent from Sydney for the purpose, and every one of them failed. Dr. Jensen was certainly put “ out of court “ as an indicter of the Administrator.
But the honorable member for Brisbane was on sound ground when he’ indicated the existence of divided, control. In this great Northern Territory, several thousands of miles away from the Commonwealth Seat of Government, there are all sorts of different authorities in conflict. The Post Office is ruled from one branch, the railways are under another control, the Land Titles Office is under another control, and, on top- of all, the Administrator is supposed to exercise a ‘general supervision over the Territory. All this division of control necessarily means conflict and warfare, and it has been brought about by the failure of the Commonwealth Government to place some individual or body of men in control of the Territory. I do not care whether the control is exercised by an Administrator, or whether some body which is partly elected and partly nominee exercises control, or whether some Commission is appointed. Whatever authority be constituted, it should- have vested in it general supervision over the whole of the Public Service in the Territory.
– I offered to hand over the postal work.
– Something of the sort should be done. I do not say that Dr. Gilruth’ has not made mistakes. No individual could go into that Territory under the industrial conditions obtaining there during the last four or five years and please all the people with whom he had to come into contact. In fact, as was remarked from these benches a little while ago, a strong man must necessarily come into conflict with the industrial organizations in the Northern Territory. Here is an example of what the industrial conditions obtaining there have meant. The estimated cost of building the meat works was £250,000, and when allowance was made for certain increases of material because of the outbreak of the war, the estimate was increased to £300,000, but it is well to know that be- . fore the works are completed the cost will considerably exceed £500,000.
-The cost will probably be £750,000.
– I do not say that labour troubles have been responsible for the whole of the increased cost of these works, but I know that one’ season has already been lost owing to them, and that they have increased the expenditure to an enormous extent. I do not say that every workman in the Territory is prepared to go out on strike, or is not prepared to do his duty; but I know that the industrial organizations there have had the same kind of leadership as has been in evidence in the southern parts of the Commonwealth, with results well known to the community in the shape of industrial loss to Australia as a whole, as well as loss of wages and comforts to’ the workers themselves. I know that it is impossible for the Minister to lay before this House anything like a broad, comprehensive policy, owing to the heavy expenditure incurred by the war, but I hope that it will be possible for him to give special attention to the matter of dealing with the aborigines. I hope that he will obtain reports from his officers, and see whether some improvement in that , branch of the administration cannot be . carried out without any further delay.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will give the following information : - - 1. The names of the shareholders of, and the number of shares held by each on the 1st March, 1917, in the Colonial Combing and Weaving Company Limited, Of 82 Bitt-street, Sydney, _ with which the Government has entered into- an arrangement to share in tb.9 profits accruing -from the export of wool tops.
The names of persons for whom shares are held in trust.
The names of the directors of the company.
The amount of the paid-up capital of ‘the company.
The date of the formation of the company and the purpose for -which it was formed.
Similar information concerning Whiddon Bros. Limited, Reiby-lane, Sydney, and the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company Limited, 62 Pitt-street, Sydney.?
– The information is not available. The companies are registered under the Companies Act of New South Wales, and the list of shareholders, directors, &c, may be inspected under the provisions of the Act.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the present necessity for the exercise of national economy, . will . the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that the appointments of highly salaried directors and staff of the proposed Bureau of Science will be deferred until such time as the House has had opportunity to discuss the Government’s proposals as to the scope of the activity of the bureau, its cost for establishment and upkeep, and the possibility, or otherwise, of its being of practical value to the nation commensurate with the expenditure?
– The whole question can be discussed on the Estimates. Nothing will be, done before such an opportunity is afforded to honorable members.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state the total area of cold storage space within the respective States of Australia, and the amount of such space occupied by - (1) Beef; (2) mutton and lamb; (3) butter, cheese, and poultry; (4) rabbits; (5) the total amount of space still available for storage of perishable products?
– The information is not available. I shall endeavour to ob-“ tain it for the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - ,
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
askedthe Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he regards the following letter as one which should have been sent by a public institution to a soldier who has fought for his country and returned with an honorable discharge to Australia. The letter, which -was received from the manager of the Commonwealth Bank in one of the Australian capitals, reads - “ Referring to your letter of 22nd instant (June), applying for a position in the service of this bank, I regret to inform you that we have none to offer you.”?
Does the law governing the management of the Commonwealth Bank preclude the intervention of the Treasurer in respect to the - carrying out of the Government policy of preference to returned soldiers within that institution?
-.If so, will the Treasurer be good enough to’ forward this question to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, with a request for a reply t
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The Treasurer does not control the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-^
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion .by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom for Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. Act 1904-1915.
Debate resumed from 25th July (vide page 466), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to make one or two observations with regard to criticisms that have been levelled against the Bill. By section 26a of the Act, which was assented to on the 13th September, 1915, it was provided that preference should be given in appointments to members of the Expeditionary Forces. The paragraph reads as follows: -
In the making of appointments to the Public Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, preference shall be given to those persons who have served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915.
During the debate objection has been taken to the Bill on the ground that it deals only with the Clerical Division of the Public Service. The Bill refers particularly to that division because it is necessary to provide for preference in regard to it. But the measure must be read in conjunction with .the existing legislation. There is at present no limit to the age at which persons may enter the Professional Division of the Public Service, and any person may enter the General Division whose age on his last birthday was not less than sixteen nor more than fifty. Therefore it is not necessary to mention the Professional and General Divisions in the Bill.
– I understand that at present any person not more than fifty years of age can enter the General Division, and that, under certain circumstances, a person not more than fifty-five years of age may be allowed to enter that. division, but that no person over twenty-five years of age can get into the Clerical Division.
– That is so, and we have therefore extended the age limit applicable to the Clerical Division to pro? vide for preference to returned soldiers. It has been questioned whether Army nurses will be able to take advantage of the proposed preference., Consideration was given to that matter before it was mentioned in the debate, and an instruction was issued for the preparation of an amendment which would make it clear that nurses may take ‘ advantage of the proposed preference. Then, again, the BiU ‘ refers only to the Expeditionary Force raised under the Defence Act, and “we therefore propose to move an amendment which will make it clear that the men serving in the Navy, who are entitled to as much, consideration as those serving on land, shall be treated in the same way.
– Is the Government going to continue the preference to members of disloyal unions?
– ^Suppose returned soldiers’ belong to disloyal unions, will they be given preference?
– I am, possibly, prevented by the Order of Leave from referring to. those matters. We shall do better to keep to the problem with which we have now to deal. I shall have circulated the amendments to which I have referred, so that honorable members may see how far they carry out the expressed intention of the Government. I have no desire to discuss the general question of temporary employment which has been raised during the debate. I think it will be acknowledged that the amendments will give effect to the intentions of the Government, and the desire of the House to provide effective preference for returned soldiers and sailors.
– I am sure that the measure meets with the approval of every member of ‘the House. Our soldiers have been prepared to sacrifice everything for the country, and we should do what we can to show our gratitude for this sacrifice. Unfortunately ;> it is beyond human possibility to fully repay them. At the same time, we must guard against any action which may be to the detriment of the public interest. I was called out of the chamber during the Minister’s explanation, and therefore I ask him whether the Bill limits the preference that is to be given to the Clerical Division of the Service!
– I have explained that no legislative action is necessary to provide for preference in regard to the Professional and General Divisions.
– My desire is that there shall be preference in regard to all the divisions of the* Service. As to clause 3, it seems to me that without an amendment, it may do some harm to the public interest. I am sure that no returned, soldier wishes to be taken on as a casual employee, and retained permanently, but as the clause stands, soldiers temporarily employed may become . virtually permanent employees. At the present time, temporary employees are appointed for six months, when they are supposed to make room ‘for others, and at the Public Service Commissioner’s office there arelong lists of the names of those waiting for such employment. But. returned soldiers appointed as temporary employees will not be affected by any limitation of time, and this may work public injury. It may happen that some thousands of temporary employees will be replaced with returned soldiers, who, instead of being kept on merely for six months, may be retained much longer, to the detriment of the public interest.
– Why should they not be retained so long as they do their work capably ?
– There may not be the work for them to do.
– The honorable member is afraid that the clause may tend to cause congestion of the Public Service.
– Yes. After a few years, custom will obtain its usual power, and the longer these men are in the Service the harder it will be to get rid* of them.
– The honorable member suggests that they will become virtually permanent employees.
– Yes; though not in the sense in which those who obtain positions in the Service by passing examinations are permanent. I wish to know if the Government is prepared to move an amendment to prevent this.
– Has- the honorable member in mind the fact that married men with families, who have volunteered, are being turned out of the Service to give preference to returned soldiers ?
– I was not alluding to that matter. No doubt there will be s hard cases, but as it is the policy of the Government to give preference to returned men, every effort should be made to remove single men before married men when displacements are necessary to find positions for returned men. This has not always been done. I do not blame the Minister or those in high authority for what has occurred ; it is generally the result of the stupidity of some lower placed official who has carried out his instructions in a thick-headed way. I am satisfied that some public servants - some of the men in the Defence Department more particularly - are responsible for much of the trouble and friction, of which we hear so much in this House. I believe that the failure of a public servant to carry out the instructions of his superior officer is among the occurrences that are detrimental to recruiting.
I wish to know whether the Minister is prepared to bring forward a proposition so to limit the effect of clause 3 that the men coming under it will not necessarily be made permanent officers of the Service indefinitely. While it is. reasonable to provide that returned soldiers who obtain temporary employment shall not be affected by the existing time limit, we should, at the same time, make it clear that because of that fact they are not to expect permanent employment.
– That is what is proposed in the clause as it stands, and the first men to return will obtain the positions.
– That would be unfair. If a returned soldier obtains temporary employment in the Public Service he should be prepared at the end of twelve or eighteen months to make way for another returned soldier.
– Has the honorable member ever come across a man who would be prepared to do that T
– I have not, and that is the danger I see in clause 3. After these men have remained’ in the temporary employment of the Commonwealth for two or three years, it will be much harder to remove them than it would be if at the end of eighteen months’ service they were called upon to make room for other returned soldiers. Under the Act as it stands, a man can be employed in the temporary service of the Commonwealth for only six months at a time. . Ait the expiration of that period, however, his employment may be renewed for a further term, and we know that in many cases the period of service is extended. The officers responsible for such extensions cannot be blamed, because these temporary employees have become accustomed to the work required of them, and with the entrance of a hew set of employees the work of training has to be commenced once more. I hope that the Minister will endeavour to limit clause 3 in’ some reasonable way.-
– The Bill does not provide that a man shall be kept in the Service unless his services are required.
– Quite so, but the limitation of temporary employment is removed in the case of returned soldiers, and the longer they remain in the Service the harder it will be to remove them when there is no work for them to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. ln Committee:
Clause i agreed to.
Section thirty-two of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) thereof the following proviso : - , “ Provided that any person who has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915, and whose age at his last birthday previous to appointment was not more than fifty years, may be appointed to the Clerical Division upon passing the prescribed examination.”
– I propose so to amend the Bill as to enable a special examination to be held in the case of .returned soldiers, and to make it perfectly clear that it need not necessarily be such an examination as is prescribed, for instance, in the case of youths of eighteen, fresh from school, seeking to enter the Public Service. I move -
That after the word “years,” line 0, the words “ and who has passed, whether before or after the commencement of this proviso, the prescribed examination “ be inserted. The clause, as proposed to be amended, will enable returned soldiers up to fifty years of age to submit to an examination to be prescribed.
– How will this affect a man who, after passing the necessary examination, has joined the Public Service, but later on has left it altogether, and has joined the Australian Imperial Force?
– I am having a clause, draf ted to the effect that where a person has previously passed an examination for admission to the Public Service, such examination shall be taken as the equivalent of the “ prescribed examination.”
– I should like to have from the Minister some information as .to ‘%e character of the examination which it is proposed to prescribe. A few weeks, after the outbreak of war, an examination was held for linemen, or instrument fitters, in the Electrical Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Fisher Government, which was then in power, realizing tha’6 men who volunteered after passing that examination would be placed at a disadvantage, decided that no permanent appointments should be made during the war. I understand that with some exceptions that decision has been rigidly adhered to.
– It has practically been carried out. (
– I know of some men who passed that examination three yes rs ago.
– Men outside the Australian Imperial Force?
– Yes; and their right to appointment to the Service still remains. Some of these men are too old to enlist, and I wish to know whether their chance of entering the Service will be prejudiced by this Bill.
– Does the honorable member know of any of these men who are over 45 years of age ?
– Yea. The examination to which I refer was open to men under the age of forty-five years. I know of one man who was well over forty when he passed it. He came out very high in the list. He had been a temporary employee and made a special effort to qualify. He is now “anxious to know whether the fact that he is forty-five years of age will prevent him at! this stage from entering the permanent Service of the Department.
I “should like now to put before the Minister, as I did on the motion for the second’ reading of the Bill, the position of married men with families who volunteered for active service but were rejected, and who are in the temporary employment of the Commonwealth. I urge that such men should not be turned adrift, before their six months of service has expired, in order to make room for single men. I yield to no one in my desire that justice shall be done to those who have gone to the Front to fight for our country. But I do not think that these married men-r-‘ and some of them to my knowledge have as many as three, five, and six children - should be burned adrift until at least their six months pf service has expired, even to make room for a returned soldier who is unmarried. I am not asking for any extension of the period of six months in respect of which a temporary servant may be employed.
– The honorable member merely says that if there is work for these married men to do they should have an absolute right to remain in the Service until their six months’ has expired.
– Yes. If there is no work for them to do, then I do not suggest that they, should be kept on. We know that in some Departments temporary hands are sometimes employed for only three days at a time. ‘ For instance, when steamers come down to Sydney or Melbourne from the East, temporary watchmen are employed by the Customs Department, and the Department takes care to select men on whom it can absolutely rely. These watchmen are employed for only two or three days at a time. Then again, in the Postal Department, there are temporary letter-carriers employed in Melbourne and suburbs to fill the places of men who are away at the Front. I introduced a deputation to the Postmaster-General some little time ago in regard to their position. Some of these temporary hands are married men who have been rejected, and my ‘contention ‘ is that’ if there is work for them to <do they should be kept on for six months.
– In other words, that these married men shall have preference over a returned single soldier ?
– Yes. Provided there is’ work for them to do, they should not be dismissed before their six months’ term has expired merely because they were not accepted for service with the Australian Imperial Force. I do not know how many of these men there are, but they cannot be very numerous; and, in view of the greater difficulty there is now in obtaining employment, some consideration should .be extended to them. If an unmarried soldier returns, he finds his pension doubled if he marries.
– There are many soldiers at the Front who would like to get married.
– I believe that there are some soldiers in Europe who are marrying there, much against the wish of their friends, including many young- ladies in Australia. __
– According to section 12 of the Act passed in 1915, those who were eligible for appointment when that Act came into force continue to be eligible until nine months after the termination of the present war, whether they go to the Front or not. Instructions were given that no permanent appointments should be made while the men were at the Front ; but, in view of the fact that a number of youths and young men, who have gone to expense in preparing themselves for examination and qualification, would have found their labours wasted if the war continued, say, for eighteen months, that section was passed. As to the nature of the examination for the returned soldiers, I am afraid that will have to be left to the discretion of the Commissioner; and we shall propose a clause to empower him1 to have a special examination.
– I presume it will not be as difficult as the ordinary examination.
– It will be an examination to show the qualification of the candidate for the position for -which he may be appointed, and will be more adapted to men advanced in years than is usually the case at Public Service examinations.
– The examination ought to be, as far as possible, more practical, and less educational, than at present.
– That is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the Minister, beeping in view the fact that a candidate isto be appointed to perform certain duties. The third point raised by the honorable member for Yarra goes to the very root of the Bill, and raises the question - should returned men have preference or not ? The general principle of the Bill gives preference, and the honorable member agrees as to the principle, but suggests a limitation. He says that if a man is married, has a wife or family, and has offered himself for the Army and been rejected, he shall not be dismissed from his temporary position in preference to the returned soldiers until the period of six months has expired. That, I say, is not necessary to provide in the Bill, for it is action which may, or may not, be taken in administration.
– The Public Service Commissioner will be guided entirely by the Act.
– The permanent public servants at the present moment could not be replaced by returned soldiers, except as vacancies occur, and as to temporary employees, they are dealt with, not in this clause, but in clause 3.
– What more can a man, with a wife and family, do than volunteer?
– It is a matter of administration. The Bill does not say that such a man shall be dismissed.
– But such men are being dismissed.
– I repeat that it is a matter of administration, and not legislation. The Act of 1915 gives preference, and this Bill carries out the principle by giving returned soldiers an opportunity of becoming eligible for appointment.
– I have given notice of an amendment to do away with the medical examination of returned soldiers before their admission to the Public Service.
– The honorable member has raised one or two points to which I should like to refer. The desire of the Prime Minister was to extend the Act to nurses, and in any measures passed we have found it advisable to specifically mention them; a clause has been drafted for this Bill to carry out that intention. As to the medical examination, the honorable member appears to be afraid that such an examination as is at present insisted on would practically exclude wounded and injured men. I remind the honorable ‘ member, however, that a regulation has been drawn up providing that a candidate may. be appointed though not free from physical, defects, provided it is certified by a proper medical officer that he is free from such defects as would incapacitate him from the efficient discharge of the duties of the position for which he is nominated.
– In view of the fact that the Government have prepared a clause to specifically include nurses, and that a further amendment is to be made giving the Public Service Commissioner power to institute a. special examination for returned soldiers, it will not be necessary for me to proceed with the amendments of which I have given notice on these two points.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words “upon passing the prescribed examination “ be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 40 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (4) the following sub-section: - “ (4a) The provisions of this section which limit the time for which a person may be temporarily employed in the Public Service shall not apply in the case of a person who has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915.”
– The Minister has already intimated that hard cases, other than those of returned soldiers, will be dealt with as a matter of administration; but I feel that we should have a definite assurance from the Minister, or a specific provision in the Bill. If we are not careful, we shall inflict serious hardships on very deserving men who have made a bond fide attempt to go to the Front, but, owing to physical defects, have been rejected.! Some of those men are responsible for the upkeep of a family, and a man in that position stands on almost identically the same plane as a single man who has been to the Front, and has not the same family responsibilities. I have here a letter written by a returned soldier who was one of the first to land at Gallipoli. He is a re:putable citizen, upon whose word I can thoroughly rely, and he writes as follows on behalf of .another man : -
A man who for the past two years has_ been employed as a temporary letter-carrier has just enlisted (after trying to do so three times), and has been accepted. It has been said that the idea of economic conscription is all “ bunkum.” This man, as I say, has for over two years been temporary letter-carrier, and who, the officers would report, was an exceptionally good man. Though he had volunteered and had been rejected twice, he was informed that his services would be dispensed with, and he finished up last week. The reason was- that he had to make room for a returned soldier. Since then he has volunteered for the third time and been accepted. If that is not a “ fight or starve “ policy, I don’t know what is.
That letter shows that .it is possible, under a Bill of this kind, to do a grave injustice.
An Honorable MEMBER - Is the man referred to married?
– I do not say that he is. But I do not agree with those who argue that, because a man is single, he has no domestic responsibilities. Every honorable member knows that there are some single men who have a greater load of responsibility for the upkeep of’ a home than have many married men. Sometimes the eldest son of a family, the father of which has died, has to maintain his mother and four or five younger children. Their feeding, clothing, and housing are dependent on his earnings; and, in passing, I should like to express the hope that the Government, in framing their taxation proposals, will see that some discretion is allowed in dealing with cases of this kind.
– The support of the family would not be interfered with in the case you mentioned, because a lettercarrier could earn as much at the war as in carrying letters.
– That man was turned out of the service to make room for a returned soldier. He is now in Camp ; but, in recent times, men in Camp have been found, on final medical examination, to be unfitted to go to the Front; and it would not surprise me if this man, having been twice reported unfit, is finally rejected. I trust that any man who is contributing to the support of a family, and taking the part of a father as head of the household, especially when he has been rejected for active service, will not be called upon to give place to an unmarried returned soldier.
– Whether he has volunteered or not, provided he is supporting a family
– I agree with the honorable member. In this fair land ^ of Australia, life is a battle for thousands of people all the time, even when no war is in progress, and we need to be careful that, in passing ameliorative legislation for returned soldiers, we do not do a distinct harm to men who are acting as gallantly., and playing their part as citizens almost as well as men who are fighting at the Front. I hope we shall have the assurance of the Minister that, although this Bill is passed to open wide the door for the entrance of returned men to the Public Service, we shall not do a grave injustice to other deserving men in the community.
– If the man you mention had been in the Service as a temporary hand for over nine months, he was liable to be dismissed at any time.
– That is a stupid regulation.
– I say so too.
– But, according to the Act, he would have to go sooner or later.
– I admit that; but, in the last resort, the man was discharged to make room for a returned soldier. That is done under existing circumstances, and when we are operating a law which gives still larger powers to act in that way, a number of injustices will be’ committed; We should safeguard ourselves against that possibility, even to the extent of inserting a specific clause, so that those administering the Act “will clearly understand the intention of Parliament. I would prefer the insertion of a clause that will insure a square deal all round.
.- -This clause brings under notice one of the most important sections in the Public Service Act. In my opinion, the increased cost of running the/ various Departments is largely caused by that section. For many years I was employed in the electrical branch of the Telegraph Department, and I had experience of the inequitable working of the section relating to temporary employment. “We would train a man for six months, three of which would be occupied in getting him to understand the technical names of the instruments he was operating. . Just when he was well trained, and fit to be sent to do work alone, he would be dismissed, because the Act did not permit him to remain in the Service longer than nine months. To overcome the Act, we had to discharge men for a few days, and then re-employ them. I cannot understand why we have so many casual employees in the Public Services of Australia. Is not the Commonwealth to grow, and population to increase? The greater our population, the greater number of civil servants there must be. There are in the mechanical branch of the Postal Department many temporary- employees who should be in ‘the permanent Service.
– The greatest trouble in the Australian Public Service is that there are too many permanent officers.
Mr. -LAIRD SMITH. - I do not agree with the honorable member. The officers in charge have an excellent opportunity of learning the capabilities of casual hands, and if those casual hands are able to pass a certain examination, they should be passed into the permanent Service. Hundreds of electricians-and men of other occupations - throughout Australia are merely casual employees, although they have been trained at - great cost to the Department. How can foremen be expected to maintain the efficiency of the Service if they are continually training new men? No private firm would operate such a system. We have engineers in charge of the technical branches of the Service, but we refuse to give them a permanent staff. Every day changes are taking place in electrical science,. and only in the Service can men receive proper training. Within the last few days we have had demonstrated clearly the advantage of having men trained in the Service from their youth upwards to take responsible positions. Men who are said to have great capabilities have made statements which no trained civil servant would dream of making, because he has been trained on certain lines. These men must be trained if they are to be competent. Otherwise no Minister could run his Department. I am wondering where we are to get our future heads of Departments if this policy of the continuous dismissal of men and the appointing of women proceeds. I do not object to women being employed, but we must have regard to the fact that we must have men to assume the responsible positions that are now being filled by heads of Departments. We have heads of Departments who are responsible for the expenditure of millions of pounds every year, and who are doing invaluable service, and we must train others to take -their positions later on.
– Do not forget that the same remarks apply to private employment. *
– They do; but private concerns are more careful of their servants, and do not pass them out. Unless a civil servant has very great capabilities, he cannot go out at the age of forty or forty-five years ‘ and take up positions in competition with men who have been trained outside the service. That is why we should see that the service is properly manned by men who know that their positions are permanent provided they serve the country faithfully and well. It Will pay the Commonwealth to employ men permanently instead of temporarily. If any one is entitled to a place in the Public Service it is the man who has gone away to fight our battles, and., to whom we owe our existence to-day. Not only is he fighting for our very existence; he is also d©imonstrating to the Old World, which never knew it before, that the Australian is capable. Hia wonderful initiative has . been a surprise to the Old World. An * American authority said quite recently that the day had gone for the speciallytrained officer to lead, and that every soldier now must have initiative. The
Australian soldier has that initiative, and a’s a result he is a much more capable man. When the gold-fields in Western Australia broke out, and the postal service was paralyzed, men were imported from Victoria and South Australia, and from Great Britain ; but whereas the telegraph operators drawn from the southern States could do their forty words .a minute on the quadruplex line men from Great Britain could not work up to that standard.
– One of the best telegraph operators in Western Australia was imported from Great Britain.
– He was an exception. I know what I am talking about. In the damp climate of Great Britain the lines are much slower. In Australia men who are sound readers and splendid penmen can work for hours on the quadruplex instrument, doing their ‘forty words a minute. It is due entirely to the ‘ training they receive, and that is why I wish to see this class of men retained in the service. It is a! hardship for them to be only temporarily employed. We should not encourage men to enter the Service for six months, and then compel them to leave and look for some other work. Men should be encouraged to apply themselves to their work in the knowledge that, they will have a permanency of occupation.
There is nothing to be afraid of in the clause before the Committee provided we have the ‘assurance of the Minister that nothing will be done resembling what was done in the Department of Home and Territories when the father of a number of children was dismissed to make room for a returned soldier. I interested myself in the case of that , man, as I am of opinion that he should not have been dismissed.
– -I understand that he has not yet been returned to the Service.
– I was under the impression that something had been done for him. He should not have been put off. If nothing has been done, the sooner something is done, the better it will be for the Service and for all concerned. Some provision must be made for returned soldiers to enter the Commonwealth Service, where they can earn their living, and do good work.
.- The clause really deals with returned soldiers, but a wider discussion, which is not strictly relevant, but to which I do not raise objection, seeing that it gives an opportunity of ventilating a certain matter, has taken place in regard to the- whole question ‘of temporary employment. The intention of. the Public Service Act was to have permanent employment in the professional, clerical, and general divisions under certain clearly defined conditions, but it was realized that it was possible that certain classes might be employed who, strictly speaking, might not come under the regular machinery of the Act, and therefore power was given to declare certain men to be “ exempt officers.” There are many men working under the Act who are known as exempt officers. It was also realized that on specific occasions men showing certain adaptability and skill might be employed. Power was given to exempt those men. Then it was realized that a Department might find occasion to employ from time to time a number of casual men on temporary employment only. At the time the Act was passed, this was regarded as a general class of work, for which no particular qualification or skill was required, and as there were many persons in, the community who would be anxious to get this work, Parliament insisted that it should be divided up by stipulating that persons employed in this way should not serve for more than six months. It was also provided that the period could be ex- ‘ tended for three months on a special report from the head of the Department, in which a casual hand was employed, being supplied. It was never intended that that class of temporary employment should be engaged upon any particular kind of work the Commonwealth required for its service. If any mistake has been made it has been that there has been too much tendency to rely on temporary employment in cases where permanent hands should have been employed. The Public Service Commissioner may have erred on the side of trying to prevent the undue swelling of the Commonwealth Public Service, which in bad times might necessitate severe retrenchment. In this clause we are dealing with that class of temporary work which does not require skill. Returned soldiers are already being given preference for temporary employment, and the object of the amendment is to enable him to be retained in such employment for a longer period thansix months.
– Will any person temporarily employed not be dispensed with until he has served for six months ?
– A temporary employee may be dismissed at any moment. Honorable members are desirous of giving preference to returned soldiers, and are of opinion that the limitation of six months for temporary employment should not extend to them; but, it is said, do not summarily dismiss ‘existing temporary employees such as have been mentioned - one case was that of a man with five or six children, who had volunteered several times and had been rejected, and another case was that of a father well up in years with several sons at the Front- in order to find positions for returned soldiers. I recognise that cases such as have been mentioned are fit subjects for consideration, but this is a matter not for legislation, but for administration. The right to dismiss must remain with the Minister or the permanent head.
– Will the Minister say that men shall not be dismissed merely to create vacancies?
– Each of such cases as those specified will be considered on its merits, and I do not think that injustice will be done in cases such as have been cited.
– Will the heads of departments accept the Minister’s view if there is no indication in the Bill of the wish of Parliament in this matter?
– I think so.
– They are not doing so now.
– It is impossible at the present time to enumerate the cases which may require consideration. It will not follow that the only position to which a returned soldier can be appointed will be that held by a temporary employee, whose six months’ period has hot expired and who has claim for consideration. All that we are doing now is to propose that a returned soldier, who may be appointed temporarily, shall not be limited to a term of six months. The honorable members for Flinders and Wilmot have pointed out that we must be careful lest, in removing this limitation, we convert temporary into permanent employment. They contend that some safeguard against that should be provided.
– Is a temporary employee retained for six months, whether needed or not?
– No; he is retained only so long as his services are needed, and’ that will continue to be the case even after the . limitation of the term of temporary employment has been removed.
– Is there any reason why a man whose services are required, and who is giving satisfactory service, should not be made a permanent employee?
– If the particular work on which he is employed is, permanent in character, the office might well be made a permanent one.
– But a man in temporary employment will have the opportunity of qualifying for permanent employment in any division of the Service?
– Yes; if he is a returned soldier.
– And will still have preference in regard to the permanent service?
– Yes; and special examinations will be provided for.
– I hope that we can accept the assurance of the Minister that the equities of the case will be considered whenever temporary employees are to be dispensed with to make room for returned soldiers.
– A permanent official will always be indisposed to recommend the removal of a man who suits him.
– The Minister, as he represents a large and populous constituency, must from time to time receive complaints of inequitable treatment from men with large family responsibilities, whose services have been dispensed with. What we all desire is that the equities of each case shall be considered, and that men with large domestic’ responsibilities shall not be removed merely to provide for returned soldiers who, taking everything into consideration, have not so great a claim to the positions as those who are occupying them. Certainly, men with heavy domestic responsibilities should not be removed until their term of temporary employment has expired. One of the reasons why the Public Service is not the success it should be is that temporary employees have to be dismissed after certain periods of service.’ Just as a permanent head has got a temporary man properly trained for the work that he is doing, that man has to make room for another, and then, perhaps, a third follows. No business could be successfully conducted on those lines.
– In any case, something must be left to the administration.
– That is so. But it must have occurred to the “Minister that the present system of temporary employment is unsatisfactory. When, as a member of a deputation from the Victorian Public Service, I waited on the late James Munro, then Premier of the State, and informed him that there were in the service men who had been temporarily employed for periods ranging from five to ten years, he asked j “ If the services of these men have been required for so many years, why have they not been put on the permanent staff?” My reply was that that was what the men themselves claimed should be done for them. The Government Printer puts on one side the restrictions of the Public Service Act relating to temporary employment. He could not afford to have his office upset by the provision which requires the dismissal of temporary employees after six months’ service. There are men in the Printing Office who have been there, as temporary hands for five or six years.
– A number of good men cannot get into the permanent service because they were too old when they entered the temporary service to he eligible for permanent employment.
– In the Victorian Public Service Act it was specially provided, “by way of amendment, that men who had proved themselves efficient in technical employment could he admitted to the permanent service. I should like to have it inserted in the Bill that, as promised by the Minister, the equities of the case on both sides shall be considered, and that men deserving consideration shall not be ignominiously pushed out of their places to make room for returned soldiers whose claims may not be so good as their own.
– That would whittle down the principle of the Bill. Such eases are very rare.
– If some provision is not put into the Bill, I am afraid that heads of Departments and the Public Service Commissioner may consider that, without regard to the equities of the case, returned soldiers must be appointed to all temporary positions available to them.
– The honorable . member does not object to the preference to returned soldiers?
– No, but I object to the dismissal of men who deserve special consideration. The officials complain now that they have ‘to replace competent men who have serious responsibilities with men who are not equally efficient. I trust that the law will be administered as the Minister promises, and that even-handed justice will b© dealt out in accordance with the equities of the case.
Honorable members are agreed that preference should be given to returned soldiers, and that it is wasteful, and leads to inefficiency, to limit the period of temporary employment to five or six months. No doubt, if the Public Service Act were now under review, honorable members would be inclined to sweep away that limitation.
– When the Act was passed the feeling of the House was that so many persons would be needing work that it would be fair to give as many opportunities for appointment as possible.
– We have now come to ‘ realize that industry is getting every day more technical, and that to dispense with the services of trained men merely because they have been employed -for a certain length of time, and not because the need for their services has ceased, is foolish. I hail with satisfaction even the introduction of this thin end of the wedge, which will mean in ‘the long run an alteration of the provision in the Public Service Act with regard to the limitation of temporary service to six or nine months. Under the existing law, a man is employed for six or nine months, and must then go, notwithstanding that he may really be needed in the Department in which he is working, and that it would pay to keep him on.
As to the point raised by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Wilmot that we are really going, by this Bill, to establish a permanent service under the name of temporary employment, I think it ia well met by- the provision in the principal Act under which a temporary employee is subject to immediate dismissal, whereas a permanent employee has certain guarantees that his employment shall not be interfered with, except by certain definite methods. I am sorry that the Minister cannot give us more than his assurance that men whose responsibilities are great, and whose efforts to enlist entitle them to consideration, are going to be protected.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be . dangerous to attempt to frame a clause to meet their position?
– There is great danger to be feared in attempting to meet’ individual cases by a general rule. “ I am sorry, that the Minister cannot give us more than his assurance that such men will receive consideration, but I realize that it is about all he can give. We wish, however, to have it declared by the Minister as definitely as possible that men who havetried to enlist, butwho, because of . unfortunate physical deficiencies, have been rejected, as well as men whose parental responsibilities entitle them to some consideration, shall not be penalized and dismissed under this clause in order to make room for a returned single soldier. I hope that the honorable gentleman’s assurance will not be forgotten in the administration of this law.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section 70a of the principal Actis amended -
– I move -
That after paragraphc the following paragraph be inserted: - * and d, by adding at the end of that sub-section the words ‘ or on active service in the Naval Forces.’ “
– Is not the same result arrived at under section 34c of the Act of 1915?
– No. The section which is being amended by this clause deals only with leave of absence to persons who are called up for service. The amendment is intended to bring within its provisions members of the Naval Forces on active service.
.- This matter was brought under my notice when I held office as Minister for Trade and Customs. Men who had served in the Naval Forces were found to be particularly well suited to carry out- for the Department certain duties connected with quarantine and lighthouse work, as well as the duties of Customs watchmen and searchers. We therefore provided in the Public Service Act of 1915 that-
Any person not more than fifty years of age, who has served in the permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth for the full period for which he enlisted or engaged, and has a satisfactory record, shall, without passing the prescribed examination, be eligible for appointment to any office in the Department of Trade and Customs which is classified in the General Division of the Public Service.
That provision was limited to employment in the Customs Department, because these men were specially suited for the work of the Department.
– Quite so. But this clause simply amends section 70a of the principal Act, which deals only with the question of leave.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 1a. Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (2) References in this Act to persons who have served in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915 shall be deemed to include members of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service accepted or appointed by the Director-General’ of Medical Services for service outside . Australia and members of the Naval Forces who have been on active service outside Australia.”
The proposed new clause, if agreed to, will form part of the definition section of the original Act, and it will practically define the words “those who have served in the Expeditionary Force,” which occur several times inthe Bill, as including nurses, and also members of the Naval Forces, who have been on active service. Shortly put, the object is to extend the provisions of this measure to nurses accepted or appointed for active service outside Australia, and to make it perfectly clear that members of theNaval Forces who have been on active service outside Australia are also covered by it.
– The proposed new clause is very satisfactory, except for the last two words, “ who have been on active service ‘ outside Australia.’ “ Quite a number of Naval men have been sent on active service to North Queensland, Thursday Island,’ and Papua, and these men, under the clause as it stands, will be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. In short, there will be no recognition of their services. I’ do not think it can be the desire of the Minister to exclude them from any of the rights and privileges which are to be enjoyed under this Bill by. men who have served abroad. The fact that these men, who volunteered for active service, have been detailed for service in Australia - a number of them have been detailed for service on garrison duty in Australia - should not exclude them from the benefit of this Bill.
– And many of them were kept on garrison duty against their will.
– Quite so.
– This Bill deals only with returned soldiers.
– Surely the men to whom I refer should come within the category of returned soldiers and sailors! I know of men who have returned from service at Port Moresby and Thursday Island, where they suffered just as much from malaria as any man at the Front has suffered from trench fever.- Are they to receive no consideration ?’ One’ of the men whom I have in mind wasemployed as a chauffeur by the State . Commandant in Brisbane on the ground that he was a returned soldier, but under this provision he will be excluded from the benefits of the Bill. He will not be recognised as a returned- soldier. Those who are doing active service in Australia are just as much entitled to consideration as those who are doing active service outside Australia. This war is being won, not only by the men who go to the other side of the world to fight, but by others who have volunteered and who are doing splendid service within the Commonwealth.
– There must be a limit somewhere.
– I do not think it is fair to exclude these men, seeing that they have been, in many cases, detailed, against their will, for service in Australia.
– This Bill will not prevent us from treating them well.
– Most of the men in the Navy are members, of the Permanent Naval Forces, who are doing lengthy service. As soon as -their ships are ordered outside Australian waters, on active service, those men will come under the provisions of this Bill, Under this clause the Bill will also apply to nurses belonging to the Army Medical Corps nursing service, who have gone abroad on active service. There is the case of those nurses who have been accepted and have not gone to the Front.
– I think the proposed new clause will include them, since it refers to nurses and doctors “ accepted or appointed “ for service outside Australia.
– That is so; but the general clause will apply to all those who are sent on active ‘ service outside Australia, as I understand practically all go to the Front. The intention is to put members of both the Naval and Military Forces, as nearly as practicable, on the same footing. This clause was only drafted this morning, and I have just received it from the Government Printer.
– This is “ rush “ work.
– Not at all. This amendment has been rendered necessary, as a matter of fact, by a defect in the honorable member’s Bill of 1915. The assumption was that it covered everything desired in this direction, but it was found that it did not. I give the honorable member for Brisbane my assurance that I shall ask the Parliamentary Draftsman to examine the clause closely, and see that it provides, as far as practicable, for identical conditions in respect of both the Naval and Military branches of the Australian Imperial Force.
.- The Minister states that this Bill is to cover an omission, which, apparently, was made in the Act of 1915. But any one who has been connected with Parliament must admit that no Act is perfect, and must be amended from time to time; and no person could then foresee what legislation we should have to deal with in 1917. We provided in the War Pensions Bill that only those persons should benefit who. had volunteered for active service abroad, and who were injured while on service, and this prevented pensions being given to men who were injured or . contracted disease when in camp in Australia. I know the case of a young doctor who enlisted for active service abroad; but he did such good work at the Base Hospital in the meningitis outbreak, that he was kept here by General Fetherston. This young man was extremely anxious to get to the Front, hut he performed the duties allotted to him, with the result that he contracted the disease and died. That young man died as much in the service of the Empire as if he had been killed in Gallipoli orFrance; but there was great difficulty in obtaining a pension for his mother, simply because he had not gone abroad, although there are letters in the Department winch show that he applied time after time to go on active service. Then, again, there are men who, in the early days of the war, were. brought from South Australia and other States, and sent to Thursday Island and New Guinea, and such men are as much entitled to the benefits of the Act as are those who went overseas. I trust the Minister will consider the point I have raised.
– I promise you to see that there is equality of conditions between the Army and the Navy.
– There are at present about 600 or 700 of our seamen not actually in the Navy, but engaged in war work, inasmuch as they are employed on transports outside Australia. There are some twenty Inter-State boats manned by Australian seamen engaged in this work, and, in addition, some twenty-two interned German vessels, also manned by ourown men. I take it that, at the termination of the war, these ships will have to be returned to their original owners, and that these men, as a consequence, . will be unemployed. Their claims, I think, ought also to be considered.
– These men are doing the same class of. work as is being done by other civilians in the community outside Government employment; the only difference being that they are employed by the Commonwealth.
– All the same, I submit that the claims of these men ought to be recognised, as the claims of similar men are recognised in Great Britain. The men engaged on the trawlers in the North Sea, looking for mines, aire merchant seamen; and what sailors call the “dummy fleet” is also manned by men of the merchant service; and- all these come under the Naval Act of Great Britain. Last week there were men returned to Australia who have been employed for fourteen months running troops over the Channel-; and surely these men must be regarded as ‘having been engaged in war work, pure and simple. As I say, I suppose these German vessels engaged in transport work will have to be restored to their original owners at the termination of the war.
– Will they?
– I hope they will not; but if they are, it will mean that about 700 men will be without work. Some of the vessels which will be returned to their owners were previously manned by lascars, and, with the ship-owners’ weakness for cheap labour, it is possible that our men may be replaced. If we had- an assurance that black labour would not be re-employed, the circumstances, would, of course, be different; but, in any case, the men to whom I have referred ought to have preference along with, men who have been actuallyon active service.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 1b. After section twenty-one of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 21a. Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section any person who has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915, and who is eligible for appointment tothe Clerical Division, may be appointed to such class and subdivision as the Commissioner determines.”
– The Commissioner should have certain discretionary powers, but this provision is altogether too wide, inasmuch as it would enable him to put these men into any section of the Service, and thereby deprive others, who have been in the Service for many years, of their opportunity for promotion.
– What is your alternative - that they should be appointed only to the lowest positions?
– Not to the lowest; there should be a certain minimum. We all know what a great thing seniority is in the Public Service.”
– The basis of the Public Service Act is efficiency.
– Promotion and annual increments do not always go by efficiency, but very often by seniority, and this clause would not give a fair deal.
– Would this clause give the Commissioner the right to put returned soldiers over a number of other men already in the Service?
– If there is a. vacancy, and the returned soldier is qualified, he would be eligible for appointment.
– Would the Commissioner be able to appoint soldiers as letter-sorters oyer thousands of letter-carriers who are qualified?
– He could put them ahead of every letter-sorter.
– What is the honorable member’s alternative?
– It ought to be provided that this power shall not jeopardize the promotion of any man now in the Service.
– That would mean no preference at all.
– Honorable members opposite seem to desire to whittle down the clauses until there is nothing left in the Bill.
– I cannot imagine that the Minister for the Navy really means that.
– I do really mean it.
– Then I strongly dissent from the suggestion.
– It is a fact, whether you dissent or not.
– It is certainly not my intention, for I am quite sincere in my wish to give the returned soldiers first consideration. Surely the Government do not mean to take away the privileges of those men who are now in the Service?
– This is not taking away their privileges.
– The clause gives the Commissioner power to fill every vacancy with returned soldiers, to the detriment and exclusion of men whose services have been continuous, and who are entitled to consideration.
– If first you settle in your own mind that the Commissioner is a fool, it may be so.
– I do not suggest that for a moment.
– How would the honorable member give preference to soldiers?
– There should be a provision that preference is subject to the recognition of the rights of the men now in the Service.
– What rights?
– Well, the right of promotion.
– If every man had that right, a soldier could not be appointed, and the result would be that every one would have to start on the lowest rung at the lowest salary.
– That opens the way to the other extreme view, that a returned soldier could be appointed to the highest offices over the heads of others.
– Do you not think that the Commissioner will exercise his powers with reasonable discretion?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Repeatedly public servants have represented to me good reasons why the Public Service Commissioner . should not have as much power as he has at present, but the Minister is now proposing to give him greater power. I admit that there might be a returned soldier who is a very able man, and who had occupied a position outside the Service equal to that to which the Commissioner might appoint him. But the placing of men over the heads of others who have been in the Department for years, and understood fully the routine work, is bound to lead to dissension. No doubt the Commissioner may usediscretion in the matter, but Ithink we should adopt the suggestion made by public servants in the past that before a junior is appointed above his seniors the latter should have an opportunity of objecting.
– They can do that now.
– What is the use of objecting after the appointment is made and gazetted? I have known of dozens of cases of men appointed overthe heads of others, and the appointments gazetted before anybody knew anything about them, and by that time the new appointees were fixtures, and could not be moved. Thus men get seniority over others who have been in the Service for a greater number of years. A Judge of the Supreme Court who was overlooked when a Chief Justice was being appointed was heard to say that in future he would do only his bare duty. When so high an official as a Judge felt hurt at being overreached by a junior, and announced such a resolve as that I have mentioned, we can readily understand that the same feeling would result in other walks of the Public Service. If the Commissioner is given the further powers proposed in this Bill a feeling will be created that it is useless to try to make oneself fit for promotion, because the Commissioner may at his own sweet will, advance juniors above their seniors. I have no objection to doing everything possible to make things easier for the returned soldier, but I shall vote against this clause just as I would if it were an amendment dealing with public servants other than soldiers. I suggest that when promotions are intended the intention to promote should be gazetted, and thus allow an opportunity for objection by those officers who have been overlooked. ‘ If the objection were a trivial one in the opinion of somebody considered capable of dealing with the matter, nothing further need be done. We must remember that the Public- Service is a huge machine,- and the less irksome the conditions the. better the result that will be obtained.
– The honorable members who ‘objected to the clause seem not to understand the facts of the case. I am astonished a’b the efforts put, forward in the interests of those who have not made any sacrifice for their country such as has been made by the men who have been on active service. We have stated in Parliament, and the country has indorsed our view, that the returned soldiers should be dealt with not only justly, but generously. The Minister is now proposing that if a vacancy occurs the Public Service Commissioner may appoint any returned soldier whom he considers fit for the job. I cannot see that the returned soldier will get much benefit out of this provision, and it seems to me that the objectors are making much ado about, nothing. These desperate efforts in be: half of the cold-footers are rather amusing. The Civil Service is a pretty compact body, and heads of Departments generally are anxious to get through their work as quickly and efficiently as possible. I believe that, «as a body, the Public Service do their work efficiently. Naturally the heads would prefer to have trained men about them. A leading civil servant told me that ten years of training was necessary to render a man any good to the head of his Department.
– Any man who has occupied fen years in becoming’ efficient ought to have been sacked long ago.
– The head of a Department should not have to instruct his subordinates in every detail of what he requires; they should be sufficiently acquainted with the Department to almost anticipate what the head wishes done. And as a rule, departmental heads will be reluctant to have new trained men introduced into the Service. So, too, an active Minister who is taking a live interest in his Department will naturally desire to have his work done as quickly and smoothly as possible, and if representation is made to him that the influx of returned soldiers is in’terfering with the efficiency of the Service his tendency will be not to open the door any wider than he can avoid. The more efficient the Public Service is made the greater will be the handicap of the returned soldier; therefore, the danger honorable members have anticipated seems very remote. On the other hand, we have’ a pledged duty to the returned. soldiers. We have talked about what we will do for them, and if, when the opportunity -arises, we close the door against them, we shall brand ourselves as a band of hypocrites. I hope the Minister will adhere to the clause as drafted, because, so far as I can see, only the exceptional men will be admitted to the Service.
Returned soldiers ought to be in two classes, the men who have actually fought and those who have merely been abroad, and have been returned invalided without having been actually to the Front. A man may have been to Egypt or France, and because of illness have been sent home without even having heard a shot fired. He has had a trip at the Commonwealth expense, and doubtless when the war medals are issued he will get one. We shall have returning directly a lot of soldiers who have been nothing but drawingroom knights, loafing round Westminster, near head-quarters, and who have been absolutely as safe from shot and shell as any of us in this chamber. We ought to draw a distinction between them and those who have gone to the Front and risked their lives for their country. A classification of that kind should be made before we go any further with the Bill.
There, is a great deal in the remark of the honorable member for West Sydney, that the men in our mercantile marine have done yeoman service during the war. I do not say that provision should be made for them in this Bill, but after the war is over they will have a strong claim to any positions going on any shipping owned or controlled by the Commonwealth. However, I am not afraid that’ justice will not be done to them by this or succeeding Parliaments.
– I am quite unable to. follow the argument of the honorable member for Hindmarsh for differentiation between returned soldiers. Many, not only on the permanent staff and at the Defence Department, but also amongst those who enlisted from private life, have been refused permission to go to- the Front. Many of these are rendering excellent service, and doing work equally essential to the carrying on of successful operations as those who are actually in the firing line.
– I was referring more to “ cold-footers,” who did not want to go to the Front. .
– These men are not “ cold-footers,” and no such distinction as the honorable member suggests should be drawn. As the honorable member for Robertson interjected earlier, it is not their fault that they are not sent to the Front. Many are put into other branches, and sent to other places.
– And many have volunteered for certain branches so that they should not go to the Front. Any number have got into the artillery for that reason.
– They are # not going into the artillery to avoid risks. They are taking as big risks, and doing as excellent service, as those in other branches. Sometimes there is more danger at the rear than at the front, as is shown by the statement published the other day, that shells were falling 20 miles behind the firing line.
Will the Minister permit me to supplement my earlier remarks about priority of consideration for returned soldiers to the exclusion of those already in the Service? Section 44 of the Victorian De fences and Discipline Act of 1890 provides that -
All persons now or hereafter to be engaged to serve in the Naval or Military Forces of Victoria, and who have served for a period of not less . than five years, shall be entitled at the expiration of such period to be employed in the Non-clerical Division of the Public Service, on fulfilling all requirements as to examination and insurance for persons entering such division, and such persons shall be entitled to be appointed to any vacancy which may occur therein in priority to all other’ persons whatsoever.
That is practically on the lines of the clause the Minister is suggesting to-day, but, in 1893, that section was .altered by section 18 of the Public Service Act, which provided - <
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 44 of the Defences an’d Discipline Act 1890; persons who have served for a period of not less than five years in the Naval or Military Forces of Victoria shall not be entitled to be appointed to any such vacancy in the Nonclerical Division in priority to any officers of the Public Service.
Our duty to returned soldiers is, no doubt, of paramount importance, but it should not be exclusive.
– If you followed that section, you would say to them, “You shall be appointed, but you. shall get no pre- ference.’
– The Minister must distinguish between preference and priority. The Commissioner should not have power to give them priority over men in the Service who have earned, and are entitled to, their .promotion.
– What do you mean by “priority”?
– The basis of promotion in the Public Service is that, so far as divisions within classes are concerned, the. officers automatically move forward, and receive their increments accordingly, without any question of seniority or anything else; but before they move from one class to another they have to show merit. The question of seniority also comes in, but merit is the prior consideration. The clause gives the Commissioner power to place returned soldiers in any grade and in any class, which must necessarily mean the exclusion of men who look upon the vacancies as their only opportunities for* promotion. If the honorable member for Flinders is right, we shall, by this clause, introduce the very danger he pointed out, of having men in the Service without the experience and knowledge of the Service which is essential to enable them to Tender efficient service to the public. There is such a thing in the Service as efficiency, which is attained only by experience. It is a peculiar kind of training, yet, under this clause, the Commissioner has power, because a returned soldier has certain clerical qualifications, to put him in any of the higher positions in the Clerical Division. There is no limit to it, and some limit ought to be imposed to protect* the men in the Service. N ‘ ,
– What limitation do you suggest?
– A proviso that these appointment’s shall not prejudice the claims of men in the Public Service to promotion which they have earned.
– You would give them no preference at all.
– The preference could be limited to certain grades. I would then let them work their way up to the top the same as any one else.
– Then you would not recognise any priority in the lower grades?
– I say “Give the returned -soldiers preference to get in.” We all know that once a man gets into Mie Public Service, he is as difficult to shift as a Presbyterian minister. I have sufficient confidence in the returned soldiers to think that, if they once get a chance in the lower grades of the .Service, they will soon show their ability, and get the experience to qualify them for promotion to the ‘higher grades. “But I would not put the whole of the members of the Service who occupy higher positions, and who are looking forward to opportunities for promotion, aside, and allow an outsider, no matter what his qualifications may be, to step in front of them.
– Do you call a returned soldier an outsider?
– So far as the Public Service is concerned.
– .The ^ object of the Bill is to put him on the inside.
– He should get. in; but it is not fair to those already in to give the Commissioner power to appoint him to any position. In the interests of the men who have given years of good honest service to. the Commonwealth, their privileges should be protected to some extent at least.
– I cannot accept the modification suggested by the honorable member for Brisbane, who says, in effect, “ I believe preference should be given to returned soldiers; they are entitled to it, having made greater sacrifices and run greater risks than anybody else; but that preference must not interfere with the seniority or priority of men already in the Service.” That is practically a negation of the doctrine of preference. .Alternatively the honorable member suggests limiting the preference to certain grades, thus saying to returned men, “ You are good enough to fight and lay down your life for your country, and” so we will ‘ give you preference to the lower grades, but hands off the higher grades of the Public Service of Australia.”
– I would give them a chance to work up to the higher grades.
– What would that chance amount to, if you recognised all the seniority and priority rights of those already in the Service as superior to the claims of the returned soldier ? The honorable member practically tells the returned soldier that he must begin at the bottom rung of the ladder, no matter’ what his age may be. He may have been a lieutenant-colonel, and have discharged the functions of the highest administrative positions in the Military Forces, yet the honorable member would make him start on the lowest stair.
– Perhaps made subordinate to some “cold-footer”!
– Under the Public Service Act a single man over the age of twenty-one ‘must receive at least £126 a year, and a married man £156 a year. Is it desired to make the returned soldier begin at that stage? If the proposal of the honorable member were accepted it would, in effect, negative our attempt to give preference to returned soldiers. Apparently, although the honorable member wishes to give preference to returned men, his concern is rather for the preservation of the rights of those already in the Service. The Bill will enable the Commissioner to appoint men, who become eligible, to such positions as he may think them capable of filling. The Commissioner must be assumed to be fitted for his office, and to have the good of the Public Service at heart. No one “would minimize the work of many of our public servants. During the war the officials in many branches have done most meritoriously, as all who have come into contact with them will admit. One has only to remember what the girl% in the clothing factory have done in giving up spare time to work for Red Cross funds and other organizations for the benefit of the soldiers. The Commissioner will have regard to the efficiency of the men offering, and will appoint to the higher vacancies only such as he is satisfied will capably discharge the duties appertaining to the office. The object of the Bill is not to have inefficient men put into positions in which efficiency is required. The Commissioner, in giving preference, must have regard to efficiency, and to circumstances generally. I think we might leave the matter to his good sense and justice in the application of the provisions of this Bill.
– I hope that he will read the report of these debates.
– Perhaps our discussions are read more earnestly by members of the Public Service than they are by us. I think that the honorable member will find his fears groundless, and that justice will be done to those whose interests he is championing.
– I am not afraid that, I may be misunderstood. It is amusing to see some honorable members waving/ the flag. They seem to think that they can prove their patriotism only by shouting it from the housetops.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that those who disagreed with him were wanting in patriotism. ‘ You did not call him to order for saying that, Mr. Temporary Chairman. , The Minister has not answered the arguments” of those who desire some amendment of the provision under discussion. Some silly asses would regard as a “ cold-footer “ a man who had endeavoured to go to the Front, but was not allowed to do so. The honorable member for Hindmarsh would say that such a man was a “ cold-footer.”
– No. The honorable member for Hindmarsh did not say anything like that.
– I desire that a fair deal shall be given to those in the Service. Those who are likely to be overlooked in regard to an appointment should have an opportunity of protesting beforehand ; it is too late to protest when an appointment has been made. The Minister and those who have expressed themselves as desirous of protecting the soldier should not allow any one to be unfairly promoted over his head by the Public Service Commissioner. The Minister did not refer to that possibility. Like others on his side he is content to wave the flag. He did not deal with the position put by the honorable member for Brisbane, whose contention is that returned soldiers should have preference in the matter of appointment to the Public Service, but, once there, should be required to fit themselves for promotion to higher positions. In my opinion, the provision as it stands may work adversely to many returned soldiers, and to many men who wished to go to the war, but were not allowed to do so.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commissioner will appoint men to positions for which they are unfit ?
– Such appointments have been made many times in the Public Service. When a new member, and young and innocent, I interviewed the ex-Public Service Commissioner regarding a case, and was told that the letter of the law must be followed. On the next occasion that I brought a case before him, he said, “Oh, we have to observe the spirit of the law.” Finally, when I had both the letter and the- spirit of the law in my favour, I was told that I wanted too much. We know that appointments have been made unfairly, and I wish to prevent similar unfairness in the future.
Surely the Minister, or his draftsman, can frame machinery which would do this.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh, like myself, is one of the “ WouldtoGodtheywouldtakeme “ men. He complains of men staying in the artillery so that they may not be sent to the Front. Like me, he would, if accepted, be found where the bullets were thickest, that is, in the ammunition van. I am not afraid that the returned soldiers will not trust me. to look after their interests just as much’ as they would trust those who are waving the flag. It is not proper, when a member wishes to improve a measure, that he should be accused of want of patriotism by those who support the Government.
– I hope that the provision will not be diluted in the least. The object of the Bill is that returned soldiers shall have preference in the Public Service. The honorable member for Brisbane said, in effect, “ I am willing to allow returned soldiers to have preference in regard to the lowest positions in the Service, if care be taken that they shall never get’ any higher.” But the object of the Bill, which gives effect to the desire of the majority of honorable members, and of a still greater majority outside, is that any provision of the Public Service Act which prevents’ a fair preference being given to returned soldiers shall be thrust aside. It is our intention that there shall be no position in the Public Service which shall not be open to a returned soldier. Is a man who has spent two or three years at the Front, and has played a man’s part in defending his country, to be compelled to enter into competition with schoolboys to secure a position in the Public Service ? An objection to the system of promotion which prevails in our camps is that it gives an advantage to boys who have just left school, and in consequence find it much more easy to get up textbooks and pass examinations than it is to men who have been away from school for five or ten years, and yet have a much wider knowledge and a better general education. If the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane, were accepted, the preference offered to a returned .soldier would be like our Tariff preference, nothing but a farce. The wish of the majority of honorable members is that returned men shall have preference in regard to every branch of Government employment; that wherever there is a position for which a returned man is fitted, he shall have preference in regard to it over all comers. He should certainly have preference over men who, by remaining at home, have had time to study subjects of examination.
We give the Public Service Commissioner practically unlimited power in the administration of the whole Public Service of the Commonwealth, but in this one case we. are told he should not be allowed to exercise his discretion; that he should be bound down by hard and fast rules’ which will make it impossible for- returned soldiers entering the Service ever to get very far beyond the lowest grade.
Neither the Federal nor State Governments have gone far enough in this direction.. There are many positions, such as those of ticket collectors at railway gates, and -tramway conductors, which might well be filled by maimed men who have returned from the Front. I say deliberately that the eligible who has stayed at home, and has not offered to go to the Front, should make way for the man who has volunteered, and has done his bit for the Empire. Instead of weakening this Bill, I would strengthen it very considerably in the direction I have named. If there is one class to whom preference should be given every time, it is that of the men who have gone to the Front - in many cases, they have thrown up good positions in order to do so - and who, after fighting there for two or three years, have returned so injured as to be unable to follow their former occupations.’ If there is in the Public Service an eligible man who has not volunteered, then, be he married or single, he should make way for such a man.
– Would the honorable member treat even married men in that way?
– -A man who has a large family certainly ought not to be displaced, but married men, with practically no one dependent upon them, and who have nott volunteered, although eligible for ‘enlistment, should make way for those who have. My remarks, however, in this connexion apply more particularly to single men in -the Service of both the State and the Federal Governments. - Mr. Poynton. - What about the men outside the Public Service who have not volunteered;?
– We cannot deal with them in this Bill, but we can deal with the eligibles in the Federal Service. I hope that the Minister will not allow this clause to be diluted.
.- There seems to be. a very laudable desire on the part of honorable members to do everything possible for those who have joined the Australian Imperial Force, regardless of how they got there, or why they joined. Every one says to-day, “We cannot do enough for our “heroes!” but ten years after the war it will be a case of, “ You cannot do enough to forget them.” The honorable member for Franklin said that he hoped that preference of employment would be given to returned soldiers in respect of not only the Commonwealth, but the State Public Services. Why not go further, and provide for such preference in private employment? I was going to say, “ Preference to unionists,” and even had I done so, I should not have been far out, since the ratio of workers to idlers in the general community is well maintained in our fighting Forces. . When the men come back from the Front, they will still be unionists, and despite all Acts of Parliament the commercial community will take care .that they are bled just as freely as are any other section.
Why should not this preference be extended to private employment? After all, it is the private employer who is reaping the benefit of this war. It may not be a sordid trade war, but it is a very payable war so far as that section of the community is concerned. A few nights ago, I referred to the increase of deposits in the Associated Banks of Australia since the outbreak of war. As a matter of fact I dealt only with the first two years of the war and showed that in that time these bank deposits had increased to the extent of £35,000,000. The latest figures, however, show that since 1914 the bank balances of the commercial community pf Australia have increased by £50,000,000. That increase is the result of the war, and it does not include the amounts which have been subscribed to various patriotic funds designed to carry on, the work that should be done collectively by the Commonwealth.
This preference to returned soldiers and sailors should be extended to private employment for the reasons I have stated. In my camp there are hundreds, of fellows who have left good jobs to which, should they have the misfortune to be injured at the Front, they will never be able to return with any likelihood of earning their former wages.
-r-This measure will help them.
– I hope so, and if I am spared I shall do my best to see that it is properly administered. I want these men to be helped, not only when flag- waving is popular, but when we return once more to the every-day life of peace time. I fear that it will then ~be a case of ‘’ The devil take the man who cannot swim.” I hope that care will be taken to see that this law is equitably administered. We hear it said again and again, “ Too much cannot be done for the soldier. He should have the best.” But he does not get the best while he is1 soldiering. No one even . takes the trouble to visit the camps to see how the soldiers are getting on.
– We tried to get’ butter for the men in camp.
– We are told that the soldiers in camp cannot be allowed 4 oz. of butter a day because that would mean an expenditure of £625 per diem. But the commercial community can make £50,000,000 in three years out of the war and nothing is said about it. I was told to-day of a returned soldier who has lost an arm, and who, before he volunteered, was earning £6 a week as a glass- blower. To-day he is getting only HQs. per week, and has no hope of making any headway.
– Is it not the very object of this Bill to help such a man ?
– The Bill should assist such men. I trust we shall not be told that a returned soldier cannot enter the Public Service for the reason that he is unable to pass the “ prescribed examination,” or cannot lick stamps because hehas lost half his tongue. Such a man should be found employment if it is only that of drinking water so that he may perspire freely.
This Bill is to apply to those who have served in the Expeditionary Forces.. I should like to have from the Minister a definition of the words “ who is a member of the Expeditionary Forces.”
– We have already dealt with the definition clause.
– There are men who have volunteered and who have returned’ in bad health”, although perhaps they have never actually seen the Front. Will they come within that term and so come under the Bill ? Men may throw up their jobs with the object of going to the Front, and yet at the end of the war find that they’ have not been required. My own may be a case in point, though I do not intend to dispose of my job; notwithstanding the honorable member for
Echuca, I shall still hang on to it in the interests of those who have sent me here. Honorable members will see that I am quite frank in regard to the position I take up. I am ,not like some of the Fusionists opposite, who changed their political skins and accepted the vote of Liberals while still calling themselves Labour men,- with the sole object of hanging on to their jobs. I wish to know whether, in the judgment of the Commissioner, such remarks as fell from the honorable member for Hindmarsh are likely to be taken into account? It will be remembered that that honorable member said men had gone into the artillery so that they should not be sent to the Front; and I know that such an idea is resented in the camp where I am placed. In this connexion I wish to make- my own position quite clear to those who are mean and contemptible enough to attribute wrong motives to me, in the hope that some consideration will be shown to others who are similarly placed, and who may have given up their positions in private life. The honorable member for Grey accused me of having made political capital out of my enlistment ; and I should like honorable members to be in possession of the exact circumstances. After an interjection in this House from the honorable member for Grampians, I went straight home, and from there to the recruiting office, without telling even my wife that- 1 intended to enlist. “When I gave my name to the officer’ in charge, he asked me if I was the Mr. Yates who was a member of Parliament, but I said that that had nothing to do with the matter - that I had come there for the purpose of enlisting. I was asked no further questions, and was passed right through. I informed the officials that I would go’ into camp on the 30th October, after the referendum, and I was quite prepared to honour my promise, but circumstances intervened, arid it was the 7th November when I got there. I was not asked into which arm’ of the Force I would go, but, on the 22nd December, was put into the camp where the men are treated for their teeth. I was placed in some unit, but I applied for a month’s leave of absence on account of my appointment as chairman of the Recruiting Committee.
– How does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I wish to ascertain how men, who, through no fault of their own, may not go to the Front, are to be treated under this Bill, and to that end’ I am citing my own case. The fact that I am still -in camp at the present time is not any fault of my own, but the fault of the Minister for Defence, and this I must make clear, or I shall be simply using words and words like those used by the “Win-the-war party. I was due in camp again on 12th February, but nothing having, been done in recruiting owing to the absence of the Governor of the State, I applied for another month’s leave. The honorable member for Grey has often asked what I have done for recruiting, and my reply is that in the month of March there was more recruiting in my district than in any other dis- trict during the same time.
– If you are not very careful, you will, be the last man.
– Not so, because wherever I am the honorable member will be behind. I should like the honorable member to tell us how many recruiting meetings have been held in the Grey district, and for how many recruits he is responsible. ‘ I submit I have a right to give the circumstances of my own case, so that honorable members may have some knowledge of it, though that knowledge may be unpalatable to them. The recruiting campaign was not satisfactory to me ; there was not enough “ ginger “ in it, and we were’ unable to spend anything or do anything.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– This clause deals with members of the Expeditionary Force.
– It deals with appointments to the Public Service.’
-^1 am trying to ascertain from the Minister what will be the position of those members of the Force who are not sent to the Front, for there are bound to be some at the close of the war. I am giving the actual case of a man who has not gone to the Front, and who, according to the honorable member for Grey, will be the last to go. I wish to demonstrate that it is not my fault that I am not sent to the Front; and I think that the circumstances of my enlistment are relevant to the subject before us. In the absence of any recruiting work I went into camp.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must confine himself to the clause.
– I must bow to your ruling, but I submit that the clause deals with members of the Expeditionary Force.
– The honorable member, so far, has been retailing to the Committee what happened to him when he enlisted.
-It is not my fault that the case I am citing is my own. If you rule me out of order, I must abandon my argument, but I desired to place on record the incidents surrounding my detention in camp. I should like your ruling as to what are members of the Expeditionary Force.
– If the honorable member seriously puts that question to me, I must tell himthat I am not here to . interpret the Bill. That is for the Minister and the Public Service Commissioner to do.
– Seeing that the Minister’, in all probability, knows more than you do - with all respect to your position, sir - he, I think, will advise you that I am quite in order in dealing with the case of a member of the Expeditionary Force who, for good reasons, may not go to the Front. I submit that my own is a case similar to many which may crop up at any time. The Commissioner is left with discretionary power, and, in such a case as I have detailed, he may decide that a man is not entitled to preference, and I wish to know the true position. To that end I desire to place on record the case of a member of the Expeditionary Force, named G. E. Yates, and to show the reasons he has not been sent to the Front.
– I must rule that that is quite irrelevant to the clause.
– I do not feel inclined to challenge your ruling, but I wish to place the matter on record, because I have sent it to the newspapers, and the censor has cut it out - an action that shows how much fairness there is in the Censor’s Department.
– Then you know, and you are not asking for information?
– I know where I stand in the estimation of some honorable members, but their attitude is not because of their opinion, but because of their political spleen.
– The honorable member desires to know whether-
– I do not desire to know “ anything. My thirst for information has been assuaged by the Chairman, and I am satisfied. I suggest that some honorable members opposite look eligible, if they are not, and, as there are many ways of becoming members of the Expeditionary Force, I think they ought to go to the enlisting office. Whatever amendments may be made in the Bill or the Act I hope that the generosity of Parliament will be demonstrated by more than these debates - that when . the measure becomes law the men will have the good time that they were promised. But what has the Commonwealth . given to the men ? The women of Australia have done more for the men than the Government have, inasmuch as they have, at least, provided a shelter on the St.. Kilda-road. There are also huts erected by the Presbyterian body and the Young Men’s Christian Association, but it is only recently that the latter has been able to build a chimney and supply a fire. If there had been a genuine desire on behalf of the Government to assist the men there would have been radiators in that place months before now and, moreover, the men would have been given some vegetables to vary their diet.
– If the honorable member persists in evading my ruling, I shall ask him to discontinue.
– I am sorry I wandered away from cases like my own, and from the general administration of the Act as affected by this Bill. However, if this measure does not turn out what it ought to be, our soldiers are progressive voters, with minds broadened by experience; and they will speedily decapitate the present Liberal Win-the-war party.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 1c. . Section 27 of the principal Act is amended by inserting, after paragraph c, the following words: - “and may empower the Commissioner to specify that any particular examination for admission to the Clerical Division is only for persons who have served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence, Act 1903-1915.”
Under section 27 of the principal Act, the Governor-General has power to prescribe regulations for the examination of persons desirous of admission to the Pub- - lie Service. We are proposing this insertion after paragraph c, because it is realized that men of thirty and forty years of age, having left school many years ago, might require to be submitted to a special examination.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the following new’ clause be inserted: - Id. After section 29 of the principal Act, the following section is inserted: - “ 29a. ‘Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Governor-General may by regulation prescribe that any person who has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised, under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915, and who has passed a prescribed examination conducted by a University or other public examining body, notwithstanding that that examination is not competitive, shall be deemed to have passed a prescribed examination conducted by examiners appointed under this Act.U
.- Most honorable members must have read the unwarrantable attack made upon the ordinary Public Service examination by Professor Harrison Moore, of Melbourne University. That gentleman stated that, on account of the way in which the examinations were held, the Public Service was a refuge for the uneducated ; that the public servants, both. State and Commonwealth, were absolutely uneducated, und were not fit to hold .their present positions. If the prescribed examination mentioned in this. new clause means anything at all, it means an examination less severe than that which candidates have to pass to-day, because nobody would propose that an examination paper to be set before returned soldiers should be more difficult than ‘that which is submitted to the ordinary candidates from the State
Mid public schools, business colleges, and the University. This clause affords a fitting opportunity for somebody representing the Government to defend the existing system of examination, if it is right, or, if it is wrong, to announce their intention to alter it at the earliest possible moment. I know that very often the examination is of greater educational than practical value. So far from the Service being the refuge of the uneducated, we very often find that there are in the Government Departments educated persons who are not able to transact departmental business as well as are many persons who have not had a high education. In my opinion, the men who have entered the Commonwealth Service by competitive examination , will compare more than favorably with those who entered it before there was any public examination at all. r Every man who has held Ministerial office will admit that to be a fact. I hope that the Minister will assure the House . that the present examination, although it may not get! the best possible men, does insure that the recruits to the Service do not lack educational equipment.
– The charge made by Professor Harrison Moore should be either refuted or the system should be altered.
– That is my contention.
– The honorable member has sprung this matter- upon me in connexion with a Bill introduced for the sole purpose of dealing with returned soldiers. I ‘know absolutely nothing of what Professor Harrison Moore has said, and I certainly will not undertake tonight to either refute or support Ms statement.
– He made a very serious charge.
– I have not seen his statement; I have been kept busy with other matter’s. I ask honorable members not to raise on a Bill dealing with returned soldiers a general discussion on the Public Service. On another occasion it will - be more opportune to raise this question, and it can then be answered by the Minister in charge of the Public Service Commissioner’s Office. Any such discussion would be quite alien to the purposes, of this Bill. ,
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- “ 6. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act, or the regulations thereunder, any person who has successfully passed any prescribed examination to which this section applies, and. has served with satisfactory record inany Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915, shall be eligible for appointment to the Public Service at any time before he has attained the age of fifty-one years. “ (2) This section applies to any examination for admission to the Public Service for which the maximum age fixed for candidates at the date of examination exceeds sixteen years.”
During the debate on another Bill a very important issue was raised. A- student may have passed the literary examination for the clerical service, and then have gone abroad on active service. This new clause proposes that instead of his having to pass another examination on his return the certificate ‘for the previous examination may be presented and accepted as a qualification.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- r “ Nothing in Gillis Act shall entitle the Public Service Commissioner to dispense with the -services of any employee merely by reason of the fact that he has not been accepted for active service abroad.”
Several times during the consideration of this Bill, fear has been expressed, that in the administration of this law the Public Service Commissioner will assume that it is right that every man, no matter what his obligations!, should be dismissed to make room for a returned soldier who may, and probably will, be a single man. We are told that we may trust to the administration of the Act, but the Commissioner will probably be guided by the definite language of the law. For that reason I am proposing this clause as a safeguard. Ordinary temporary employees can remain in the Service only six months, but returned SOldeirs may, according to the provision to which we have already agreed, be kept in the Service for years. The clause is not meant as an instruction to the Public Service Commissioner, so much as an expression of the feeling of the Committee. Otherwise those who have to administer the Act will say, “ The whole object of the Act is to give employment to returned soldiers, and these men, because they had not gone to the war, must be put off.” All I ask is that while there is employment for them men who have given satisfaction in the various Depart- ments for one, two, or three months should be allowed to finish their six months’ term.
.- I . hope the Government will stick to the Bill, and accept no amendment. I cannot understand the opposition to the Bill or the long delay in passing it. I should like to make it a great deal more .stringent than it is so far as regards a large number that have got .into the Service recently. One has only to go round the Departments,, and see a number of those who are there, to recognise how they have got there. The Departments will be all the better for a bit of cleaning up. If I had my way, I would put in the Bill an amendment which would prevent the Government from giving the preference they have been giving in the past to certain people. It is a lasting disgrace to the Government of the day that a very large section of absolutely disloyal people are getting employment from them “at the present time. I want to refer more particularly to the Clerks’ Union. This organization almost at the beginning of the war sent a resolution to Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, pointing out that a great many of those who had gone to the Front had gone there only through empty bellies, to use their own elegant expression - a gross insult to the men who have gone on active service. It is the members of that body who are getting preference. Since then, we have seen resolutions passed by the same organization stating not only that they would do nothing in any shape or form to help recruiting, but that they are going to use all their efforts for a “’ just and honorable peace.” I have no time for that section, and am hopeful that the Government will insist on seeing that the men who have gone to the Front, and are willing to make the supreme sacrifice for us, get all the preference that it is possible to give them when they return.
– I am sorry that I cannot see my way to accept the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. There may be several reasons why a man in temporary employment ought not to* be dispensed with, but the honorable member is trying to limit his clause to one reason only - that he has not been accepted for service abroad. In any case the Commissioner has no power under the Act to dismiss. The only persons who can dismiss are -the Minister, or the permanent head of the Service. It is quite conceivable that the equities of individual cases may be so strong as to entitle them to ‘ earnest consideration. I gave this afternoon two cases mentioned by members on both sides, one of a married man, a reject, with two or three months of service to run, being displaced to make room for a returned soldier who is a single man. I said a case like that was a matter for consideration.
– I am afraid the Commissioner will read into the Bill a direction to give preference *o returned soldiers in every case.
– It is not the Commissioner who reads anything into the Bill. The other case that appealed to members on both sides was that of a man well advanced in years, who had’ given a few months’ service to the Government, and had several sons at the Front, being displaced by a returned Soldier who was a single man. Iu those circumstances, it would be the duty* of the officer to consider the equities of the case, and try to place the returned soldier somewhere else. While carrying out the distinct^ wish of Parliament that preference should be given to returned soldiers, it will be the duty of the officer to consider the equities of individual cases. That is the spirit in which he should approach the administration of this Bill. I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment.
– You have not met us at all in regard to that matter.
– We have tried to meet the honorable member in every way. To do what the honorable > member wants we should have to draft a clause setting out a number of specific cases and worded after this fashion : “A returned soldier Should be entitled to preference, but this shall not apply (a) in the case of soandso;, (b) in the case of so-and-so; and so on.”
– Is iti not possible that regulations of that character may be framed ?
– I do not think it is advisable to frame them. It is better to assume that the Bill will be administered with good sense and discretion, and with full consideration of the equities of each individual case. It has frequently happened, when it has been sought in Acts of Parliament to make exemptions in regard to particular cases, that the result has been to exclude the consideration of other just cases.
– The effect of the new clause will practically disappear before six months at the outside, because the men in the Service, affected by it are entitled to only six months’ employment. In 90 per cent, of the cases their employment would not be continued beyond the specified six months. The other 10 per cent, would be cases such as the Minister has quoted where special circumstances call for special consideration. Is it fair that the men now in employment should have their work interfered with merely because they have . not been accepted for active service? To many of them the clause is simply a polite intimation that they will be displaced at the end of their six months by. returned soldiers. Mr. Groom. - The clause refers only to rejects.
– It refers to. men who have not been accepted for active service for any reason whatever. They are entitled to this consideration at any rate till the end of their term. Some of us have considerable misgivings that the Commissioner may act in a very drastic manner in order to make room for returned soldiers without considering the interests, commitments,- or domestic responsibilities of those in the ‘Service. I do not think returned soldiers generally desire men to be put out of employment summarily and without) consideration in order that work may be found for them.
.– I cannot help feeling that) the new clause has been very astutely worded. Look, at it how you will, it renders the whole Bill nugatory. It puts on an equality with a returned soldier the man who has not offered for service abroad, and gives him. a leg in.
– For how many months ?
– I do not care for how many. Whether the Leader of the Opposition intended it or not, the effect of the clause is to render the Bill nugatory. I cannot help feeling that it is intended to do by a side wind what the Opposition have been trying to do all night. I never saw such support in my life as has been offered to this Bill by honorable members opposite/ who asseverate with every breath they draw that they are in favour of preference to returned soldiers ; and yet try by every conceivable means to make the whole measure null and void. This kind of thing is not quite honest and above board. Either they are in favour of preference t’o returned soldiers or they are not. If ‘they are they should not be trying all the evening, as they have been, to make the Bill of no use. For instance, there is the proposal that the man who is doing something here shall be brought into this matter. We are told that certain men have gone to Rabaul and other places. Everybody has intense sympathy with the men who have done their duty.
– The man who goes to Rabaul is in it now.
– But the honorable member wants more. He has been asking all the evening that the man who happens to have been at Townsville shall be put in.
– I know men who have contracted malaria through having been sent to Papua, and feel the effects stall.
– So do I. Those men will always be entitled to the generous consideration of the Government; and the Government will do all they can to help them. This Bill, however, sets out to do one thing directly. That is, to give preference to returned soldiers. By “returned soldiers” is meant soldiers who have been participants . in this great world struggle, and have returned from the fighting Fronts. It is felt that they should be given preference over and above those who stay here. Yet the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is to strike away this preference. If it were agreed to, the only course open to us would be to withdraw the Bill. Reduced to its simplest terms, the amendment means that the man’ who has not offered for active service, and therefore has not been accepted, shall have as much right to employment as the man who has gone to the war and returned. t
– The amendment refers only to those now in the Service.
– Then it is most unfortunately worded. A man cannot be accepted if he has not offered .-
– The amendment merely says that the Commissioner shall not dismiss a man merely because he has not been accepted for active service.
– Honorable members are against the proposed preference to returned soldiers.
– We are against economic conscription.
– The Bill says that where two men are applying < for a job, and one of them has “ done his bit,” he shall get it.
– No one on this side objects to that. But we say that a temporary employee who has not served six months shall not be dismissed merely because he has not been accepted for active service ,
– The real desire of honorable members opposite is that no distinction’ shall be made between the man who has. not offered and the man who has served. It would be more honest to declare against the Bill straight out.
– That is what the honorable member wishes us to do.
– That declaration could not be made more clearly than by the amendment.
– That is an exaggerated statement, which the right honorable gentleman would not make if he knew what had been said during the debate.
– I have heard the pleas that have been set up all the evening for the “’’ stay-at-homes.”
– Men with five sons at the Front have been dismissed to make room for single men. I shall fight against that.
– The honorable member has only one case in his mind. I understand that the man to whom he refers has five sons at the Front and five others at home. I do not know his circumstances, but surely his sons are all able to give their bit, and he cannot be the poverty-stricken person that he has been represented to be. Many persons’ are worse off than he.
– And many better -off.
– I have no doubt of that. I say nothing against this man, but in my judgment he cannot be the worst-off man in the community, and the Government are trying to meet his case. On this one case’ honorable members would base a law. Honorable members will find that those now in the Service will be treated as generously as the Government can treat them. It seems to be thought that those concerned in the administration of the Public Service will act like callous fools; but that is absurd. It is my experience that a permanent official is indisposed to part with men who are efficient, even to make way for soldiers. They do not like to have their offices disturbed any more than is possible. Honorable members may rely on that trait of human nature for a sufficiently conservative administration to do justice to those who have stayed at home. I hope that the Leader of the Opp’osition will withdraw the amendment’.
– After the right honorable gentleman has made a violent attack on me!
.- I am not surprised at the attack on the Leader of the Opposition made by the Minister for the Navy. The returned soldier was to be generously treated by this Win-the-war Government, but the only thing it can do for him is to find him a billet by discharging some unfortunate temporary employee who has not been accepted for active service. In every State returned soldiers are complaining that the Government has not fulfilled its promises. No wonder, then, that the Minister for the Navy is angry- when the Leader of the Opposition proposes to deprive the Win-the-war Government of an opportunity to discharge married men in order to put returned soldiers in their places.
– The amendment does not mention married men.
– The amendment is designed to prevent the Government from abandoning its promise to respect the vote of the people , on the 28th October last, when conscription was defeated. This Win-the-war Government desires to bring about economic conscription by discharging temporary employees from the Public Service, and giving their places to returned soldiers. Ministers have been talking of spending £22,000,000 in buying land for the soldiers.
– The honorable member talked about that, too.
– I spoke of the danger df doing that.
– The honorable member talked of it in his scheme.
– The honorable member for Grey was at one time very happy, but, having had to leave the Treasury’ after only three months of office, he has become, as has been said, somewhat soured.
– The honorable member for Capricornia was happy because he was there longer than the honorable member for Grey.”
– I was in the Treasury for twelve months, and should have liked to stay longer, but there are compensations in being out of the position. I do not think that there is a single returned soldier who wishes to get a job by the discharge of some man already in the Service. But the returned men look to the Government to carry out its promise. Has the Minister for the Navy no imagination ? Can he think of no other way of giving effect to the - promises to provide for the returned soldier and his dependants? This Win-the-war Ministry was hailed as a Ministry of. men of talent. Ministers were described as men of great business ability. Yet all they can do for the heroes who have returned from Gallipoli and France is to sack persons now* in the Service to give them a job. I remember the time when the Minister for the Navy used to say that no man was so unhappy as the unfortunate who could not get employment.
– I say that now.
– Why does the right honorable gentleman wish to discharge temporary employees from the Public Service before they have had the nine months’ employment to which they are entitled ?
– I do not wish to discharge them.
– Then the least the Minister can do is to allow the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to be accepted. I trust that the amendment will be pressed to a division, and that the Winthewar Ministry will be compelled to find some other way of giving effect to its pledge to provide for returned men than the discharging of men already in the Service.
– I should not have risen had it not been for the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia, who is a past master in the art of acting. He plays a part in -this
House, so that the people may think that the Government and its supporters form a dreadful party.
– It is splendid comedy.
– Knowing the honorable . member, as I do, to me it is more like tragedy ! The honorable member would have public servants believe that the Government intend to do something for which this Bill really makes no provision. As a matter of fact, all that we do in this Bill is to provide machinery to give effect, to a section in the Act of 1915, which was inserted by the Government of which he was a member,and which really provided for preference to returned soldiers. I helped the honorable member to put in the Public Service Bill of 1915 a clause in which it was provided that no permanent appointments to the Public Service should be made until after the war. That provision was made by the Govern- . ment to which the honorable member belonged in order to show that we approved of men volunteering, and would do our best toassist them on their return. That being so. why should the honorable member for Capricornia endeavour in this way to throw dust in the eyes of public servants? They are an intelligent body of men, and have been too long associated with politicians not to “ have their weight.” A politician may deceive ordinary members of the public, but he cannot deceive public servants. I was for twenty years behind members of Parliament like the honorable member for Capricornia. over whom there has come a great change. When he was in office’ he was a most cautious Minister. What a different man he is when he has not upon him the responsibility of a Minister. No more cautious man - no man with a keener intellect - ever sat on the Treasury bench. I hope that new members will not be tempted by the little baits thrown out. by the Opposition.
– Do not worry ! This will be a party vote’.
– Why should we have a. party vote on any question affecting the welfare of men who have done so much for us?
– I say that every honorable member opposite will follow the Leader of the Government in this matter.
Mr.LAIRD SMITH. - The honorable member for Adelaide this evening made statements which, upon reflection, he will regret.
– They were all absolutely true.
– The honorable member suggested that there was not a manufacturer, a commercial man, or a rich man in Australia who had a son at the Front.
– I did not.
– I have no brief to plead the cause of the rich; but I wish to be just, and I say at once that I scarcely know of a wealthy family one member of which, at least, has not volunteered. Scores and scores of such families are represented at the Front, not by one, but by every son.
Returning to the question immediately under consideration, I would point out that, these appointments will not be made in the first place by the Public Service Commissioner. The Commissioner will merely make a recommendation to the responsible Minister, and it will be for him to make the appointment. Ministers are subject’ to the criticism of this Parliament, and I have yet to meet a Minister of the Crown who would make an appointment, without first giving it careful consideration. Then there is a further condition that returned soldiers must pass a prescribed examination. The majority of returned soldiers who are appointed to the Public Service will only be given temporary employment.
– Is this all the Winthewar Government can do for the returned soldiers ?
– It is doing far more than the honorable member would have attempted to do in the direction of giving effect to the clause in the Bill passed while he was in office. Why should there be all this make-believe on the part of the Opposition? During the recent election campaign I received from a constituent a letter, in which he said he had been informed by the Opposition that if our party were returned to power all Public Service increments would be stopped. We have been returned to’ power, but nothing of the kind has occurred. Is this another ofthe red herrings that the Opposition would draw across the trail in order to make public servants believe that their friends are to be found only on that side of the House? I shall never vote for any Bill that would do an injustice to public servants. For many years I was closely connected with public servants, and trusted by them. Whenever a vote was, taken to select representatives to wait on the Government, I always occupied a leading position on the poll. It was known that I would do my best for them, and I shall still do so.
– The honorable member is now departing from the question’.
– Hear, hear ! The soldiermember was called to order, and it is time the honorable member was pulled up.
– I always obey the Chair. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I am not infallible.
– That is the way with rats; they always squeal.
– The Leader of the Opposition is getting “dirty” and unkind. If the honorable member will try to throw mud at me, one of these days some of it will splash back on him. I could hurt him if I wished, and if he goes much further I shall say things that will make him squirm.
– Go ahead.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition in order in speaking of the honorable member for Denison as a rat ?
– He is not.
– I withdraw the remark.
– Such remarks do not hurt me. The honorable member is protected, because I desire to conform to the ruling of the Chair. I did not hear the whole of the speech made by the honorable member, because at the outset of it I was introducing a deputation of unionists to the Postmaster-General. Many of the unionists still have confidence in me, although I am sitting behind the Government.
I hold that returned soldiers will not, as some honorable members suggest, rush the Public Service. It is not so attractive as some people would have us believe. The members of it are subject to criticism to the like of which no other body of workmen have to submit, and many public servants would be much better off to-day if they had applied to some outside occupation the energy which they have thrown into their work as Government employees. Vor all these reasons I do not believe that returned soldiers will rush for positions in the Service, and we are not likely to have Ministers discharging public servants in a wholesale way in order to find employment for returned soldiers. My experience is that heads of Departments, in most cases, are anxious .to do justice to their fellow servants.
– The honorable member never knew one to be anxious to send away a good man.
– Decidedly not. The honorable member for Franklin said that many eligible men in the Service had not volunteered. On the other hand there are many who would willingly go to the Front, but whose services are considered to be of more value here.
– The honorable member for Dampier made the same remark as the honorable member for Franklin.
– Such statements are not fair. Men cannot be trained in twenty-four hours to fill responsible positions in the Public Service. No one knows that better than does the exMinister for Trade and Customs.
– The Department of Trade and Customs is the one Department in which very few temporary men are employed.
– The honorable member’s success in the administration of that Department was largely due to the fact that he had well-trained men at his elbow, so to speak, all the time he was there. Untrained men might disclose departmental secrets, just as outside business secrets ‘are often talked of in various clubs. The success of our public Departments is largely due to the training our men have received, and ito the sacrifices they are willing to make. I have been surprised to learn of the overtime worked by men in various Departments, who cannot be replaced. I have known £39,250 to be saved in a Department in one year as the result of the loyal co-operation of the staff. I also know of another Minister who was able to get £1,400 back into a Department largely because of the ability displayed by those under him. I realize what these men are doing, and what their value is: and I feel sure that no Minister Would prevent a capable man from being promoted with a ‘view of putting another in his place. I have no fear of the clause, and therefore I support it.
.- I am rather intimidated at the start by the grave exposure of the ex-Treasurer by the honorable member for Denison. That honorable member, and also the Minister for the Navy, have accused honorable members on this side of being against the men who went to the Front, and of not having the courage to openly state our opposition to the employment of returned Soldiers. I have no apology to offer for my position, notwithstanding the remarks made by the’ ancient warriors opposite.
– What is the matter with you ?
– What is the matter with me? I am expressing my own opinion, whether it pleases or displeases the honorable member.
– Mighty convenient opinion !
– Why do you not go to the Front? What is wrong with you now?
– Nothing much.
– The honorable member for Barrier does not express opinions here that he expresses elsewhere.
– The time has been so much taken up by the PostmasterGeneral and others in demonstrating to the House their inherent genius that there has been little opportunity for others so far. The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition only proposes that the Commissioner shall not dispense with the services of any individual employed at the present time, on the ground that he has not been accepted for active service. It has been said by honorable members opposite that the proposal is really meant to apply to those who did not- volunteer, and personally I should have liked to see it that way. The people of Australia have decided that conscription shall not be enforced; and, in my opinion, unless the amendment is carried, the Government will dispense with the services of men, not because they are incompetent, but because they have not volunteered, thus, getting behind the verdict of the people, and giving a lead to private firms to indulge in what is termed outside “ economic conscription.”
– You would let the returned soldiers starve.
– No, I would make the Government carry out the promises they made to the soldiers..
– You did not make any promises to them, anyhow!
– Consequently I shall not be accused of breaking any promises. I .only promise what I can carry out, and I make very few promises.
– I think I would drop the “ I “ if I were you.
– Possibly; but there is such a thing- as teaching by example; and it may be that I am now where the Minister for the Navy was in his Republican days.
– You are a very brave man, there is no doubt f
– Not nearly so brave as I look, and I can assure the honorable gentleman that I am quite harmless, and he need have no fear. Whether the opinions I express meet with the approval of honorable members opposite or not does not concern me in the slightest, because the people who sent me here sent me to express those opinions.
– I do not think your opinions concern anybody else much.
– Possibly not; and there is ‘very little that does concern the honorable gentleman once he gets on those benches. The amendment, if accepted by the Government, would enable them to say that it is not their intention to get behind the verdict of the people on the verdict of conscription: Of course, I know that what we say on this side does not make ‘any difference, whether in regard to this or any other Bill. The Government have the majority, and are able to do .what they like.
– That is exactly what your Government did.
– I am not complaining because you are over there and I am here. If we were over there with a majority, we would put through our legislation. At present I am merely pointing out - though, of course, I may be wrong - that the idea behind this Bill is to force men out of employment because they have not volunteered^ In the face of the decision of the people, it is not competent for this Government or any private firm to so act towards men who have not volunteered, for reasons of their own, -whatever those reasons may be. Private firms will take the lead now offered to them by the Government; indeed, in Western Australia already private firms have petitioned the State Ministry to refuse employment to men who have not volunteered.
– Why dosuch men not go to a country where they need not fight.
– They exercise the right to please themselves, as the honorable member does. It was men who had fought for liberty in other countries, and who came here, that gave us the rights and liberties we now enjoy; and in this connexion no thanks are due to the honorable member or the interests he represents.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– I was pointing out that if the Government accept the amendment they will disabuse the public mind of the idea that it is their intention to exerciseeconomic conscription.
– You do not mind “ jockeying “ the soldier out of a job!
– I am not “jockeying “ anybody out of a job, but it is not right to remove a man from his present employment for the express purpose of employing a soldier. The amendment insures that such a thing will not be done ; and I am sure that it will be, if the amendment is not passed.
– Your doubts and beliefs do not affect our policy !
– No ; and neither will what I say. . For all practical purposes we on this side may save our breath. ; but we have been accused by the Minister for the Navy and others of holding up this Bill all the night, and grave exposures of the apparently foul designs of members on this. side are being made. The whole thing is ridiculous.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Members’ Namesin “Hansard.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Housedo now adjourn.
– I wish to make a suggestion to you, Mr. Speaker, which, if adopted, will be of advantage to honorable members, and also to people outside Parliament. Many of the general public are not aware of the name of the honorable member for Ballarat, or the honorable member for Balaclava, or of any other honorable member who is referred to in Hansard by the name of his constituency. I suggest that when the member for a constituency is mentioned, his surname should be printed in brackets, so’ that a person may read Hansard with more comfort than is possible at present. . It was at my suggestion that we followed the practice of the Imperial Parliament in providing cards to be sent in to honorable members by visitors to the House, and I suggest that we again follow Imperial precedent in the matter I have just, mentioned. Only last week, in referring to Hansard of seven years ago, I had to turn to the front of the volume repeatedly in order to discover the same of the honorable member referred to in the course of debate. The thought struck me that if I, with my parliamentary experience, found difficulty in identifying honorable members by their constituencies, the general public would have even greater difficulty.
– I think the honorable member’s suggestion is one that would meet with the approval of honorable members. At any rate, it is worthy of consideration, and I shall confer with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter with that end in view.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170809_reps_7_82/>.