7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and rend’ prayers.
– It is my melancholy duty to move -
That this House desires to record its profound regret at the loss which the Commonwealth . suffers in the death of the Honorable Charles’ Carty Salmon, who was at one time Speaker of this House, and was one of its members at the inauguration of the Parliament, and also for many years afterwards, and who was at one time a member of the Victorian Ministry, and expresses its sincere condolence with hit widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.
One rises on an occasion like this overpowered with the sense that he stands under the very shadow of death. Before the majesty of that dark presence, ‘ how petty and futile appear the ambitions and struggles of men 1 This our colleague, our companion, our friend, who but a little while ago was with us, is now gone, and we who knew him well sincerely mourn our loss. He played a conspicuous part in the political history of Victoria, and of the Commonwealth, and his kindly disposition endeared him to all men. It can be truly said of him what can be said of few, that he was a man who. did his duty fearlessly as he saw it, without arousing the enmity of others. His geniality and kindness of heart were such that all men felt drawn towards him. He has been untimely taken from us, and we deeply mourn him. He has crossed that dark stream over which, sooner or later, we must all travel, and we who remain feel it to be indeed true that 1 1 the wings of men’s lives are plumed with the feathers of death.” I’ speak for, I am sure, every member of the House when I say that we sincerely regret Dr. Salmon’s death, and extend to those whom he loved, and who loved him, our sincerest sympathy in their hour of great grief.
– It is with the deepest regret that I rise to second this motion. I was acquainted with Dr. Carty Salmon for many years, and knew him before we both, entered this Parliament. We belonged to different political parties, but he was a man beloved, honoured, and respected even by those who differed from him politically. In him the Commonwealth has lost one of its best citizens. Dr. Carty Salmon was never afraid to do what he thought to be right. Occasions like the present have been all too frequent in the life-time of this Parliament. I could not help thinking so when the Archbishop said today in the Cathedral that the late member for Grampians was a martyr to public duty. It is possible that many of us will find later that the life here has been too strenuous for our health, and what happened to Dr. Carty Salmon will happen to others. They will find that their constitution has been undermined by their efforts for the public welfare, and that they are thus unable to stand the strain of illness. Regret for Dr. Carty Salmon’s death is felt by all of us. I desire, on behalf of honorable members on this side of the House, to sympathize with his widow and relatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit the foregoing resolution, and a copy of the addresses delivered thereon, to Mrs. Charles Carty Salmon.
– . I suggest; Mr. Speaker, that, as a maTk of respect to the late member for the Grampians, the sitting be suspended until 8 o’clock this evening.
-I take it that it will be in accordance with the general wish of the House that I act. on the suggestion of the Prime Minister, and I, therefore, out of respect for the late member for the Grampians, suspend the sitting until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 3.8 to 8 p.m.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Freight Arrangements Bill.
Sugar Purchase Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
WarLoan Bill (No. 2).
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning.
– Pursuant to the request of the Leader of the Opposition, I desire to lay on the table papers showing the personnel of the various Boards acting under the Commonwealth Government.
Mr.FENTON. - Can the Minister for Works and Railways’ inform the House when the east-west railway will be completed, and whether a date has been fixed for the opening of the line ?
-I am afraid that I cannot definitely fix a date. Work is being resumed on the eastern rail-head, and I expect that a plate-laying gang will be at work shortly laying ‘ a mile a day. The gap is now about 30 miles* and I am hopeful that we will have completed the link within a month, after which we can open the line as soon as possible.
Treatment on Train Journey :Settling on the Land.
– In their efforts to prevent soldiers returning to Sydney from obtaining drink at the various railway stations on the journey from Melbourne, will the military authorities endeavour to see that proper provision is made for supplying the men with food, so that a recurrence of the regrettable incident at Seymour last night may be avoided?
– I am not aware of the facts in connexion with the incident to which the honorable member has referred, but. Iwill bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence obtained the information for which I have asked as to ‘ the number of soldiers who have been settled on the land in the State of Victoria?
– The honorable member’s request has been referred to the Minister who, for the time being, is administering repatriation matters, and he has promised to obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister obtained the information that I asked him to supply in reference to the prices fixed for goods, and the changes “that have taken place in those prices ?
– The matter has escaped my notice. I will endeavour to supply the information to the honorable member at the earliest possible moment.
” THE FIDDLER “ : CENSORSHIP.
– Has the Prime Minister the answer to the question postponed from Friday relating to the censorship of a booklet, called The Fiddler, issued by the Temperance Alliance?
– I ask the honorable member to let his question stand over until to-morrow morning.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Montague Miller, an old man, eighty-five years of age, a hero who fought for civil liberty in Victoria many years ago, has been sentenced, in New South “Wales, to six months’ imprisonment, with hard labour, under the provisions of the “Unlawful Associations Act? If the Prime Minister is aware of the fact, will he make representations to the Government of New South Wales with^a view bo having the sentence annulled, or with a view to having Mr. Miller released on parole or otherwise?
– The matter is wholly within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and, having looked into the facts, . I have made a certain recommendation to His Excellency the Governor-General, about which, of course, I cannot speak, but which will take effect immediately.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that H.M.A.S. Brisbane has been rejected by the British Admiralty as unsuitable for war purposes?
– No, there is no truth whatever in the statement.
– With a view to making Hansard still more popular - and it is popular, if I can judge by the letters that I am receiving offering congratulations upon the giving of members’ names as well as their constituencies - I ask you, sir, whether you will give consideration to a proposal that has been put forward in one communication that I have received-
– To have it illustrated ?
– If squatters cannot read, others can. The proposal is to add an abbreviation of the word “ Government “ or “ Opposition,” as the case may be, after each honorable member’s name, so that the readers of Hansard may know the position occupied by the honorable member who is addressing the House.
– If the honorable member will let me have the letter in which the suggestion is made I will give . the matter consideration.
– I ask the Honorary Minister whether it is possible to announce a day beforehand the arrival of a troopship, so that friends of returning soldiers may be able to meet them ? A timely notice, without indicating itihe location of the vessel, would obviate a great deal of confusion that now exists ‘ relative to the arrival of these vessels.
– I am underthe impression that relatives of soldiers who are returning on troopships are always advised well ahead of the arrival of each vessel, I understand that the honorable member’s remarks apply to friends of men who are returning. I think tthere are certain difficulties in the way, but I shall pulti his representations before the Minister for Defence.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Transfer of New South Wales Recruits to Victoria: Dental Corps
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Commonwealth Representation on Repatriation Board.
asked . the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the Commonwealth Government are providing the State Governments with considerable sums of money in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers, have the Federal Government any representation on the Board appointed, or have they any control over the expenditure of the money?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: -
The Minister in charge of repatriation is Chairman of the . Board. The expenditure of the money advanced by the Commonwealth is determined by the agreement arrived at at the Premiers’ Conference of January, 1917, and which may be modified from time to time by the parties to the agreement upon the recommendation of the Board.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If so, will the Prime Minister please state -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
No publicity officers have been appointed to act on behalf of Ministers, but in certain Departments officers have been appointed to perform publicity work. 2. (a) See answer to No. 1.
Control by Commonwealth.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Prime Minister, make representations to the Imperial Government respecting territories in the Pacific, additional to those being administered prior to the outbreak of war, being brought under the control of the Commonwealth?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Unlawful Associations Act - Regulation Amended- Statutory Rules 1917, No. 219.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 190, 194, 196, 210, 222, 223, 224, 231, 232.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-16.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 23rd August, ‘ vide page 1413) of motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a tax be imposed on incomes derived from sources in Australia . . .
– Tax Payable in Certain Cases by Male Persons between the Ages of Twentyone Years and Forty-five Years.
There shall be payable by every male person . . . who, on the first day of July, 1917, . . .
was unmarried or a widower without children; and
was not under the age of twenty-one years and was under the age of fortyfive years, income tax to the amount of Ten pounds or 10 per centum of his taxable income, whichever is the greater …
The preceding provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner - [For full text of motion see page 1411.]
– In my remarks on 23rd August I indicated briefly the features of this resolution. I intend to propose its amendment by the addition of subdivision H, which will provide that the winner of a cash prize in a lottery shall pay in respect of such cash prize income tax to the amount of 10 per cent, of the gross prize money. I shall ask the Committee to approve of two or three further small but very important amendments. I propose to include amongst the persons exempted in subdivision F, which imposes a tax in certain cases on male persons between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years, persons on active service outside Australia on ships of war, and persons who have been prevented by order of the Governor-General from enlisting in the Expeditionary Forces raised for service outside Australia or from serving outside Australia on ships of war. There are sure to be some cases that will deserve exemption, and it is necessary that the GovernorGeneral should have power to grant exemptions. Amongst tha persons prevented from enlisting for active service outside Australia are the men garrisoning our forts, who are required to remain at their posts for the defence of the Commonwealth.
– Do the Government propose to exempt those people?
– We propose to give the Governor-General a general power to grant, exemption in any case where that course seems to be justified. The power is wide, and necessarily so.
– Why not give the Commissioner power to grant exemption?
– There is no doubt that some such power must be given in order to avoid the infliction of hardship, but I do .not think that the power should be given to the Commissioner.
– I thought that the Government intended to honour the conscription referendum.
– I propose later on to deal with the very phase of this tax which the honorable member has in mind. Subdivision F imposes a tax in certain cases on* male persons between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years, and I am very glad to have this opportunity of expressing my own views on this proposal. I make no apologies for it. I am willing to take the whole responsibility for this tax if necessary. But it is the policy of the Government as a whole. Honorable members who have been in public life for a long time know that Ministers are not always in complete personal accord with proposals that they advocate in the House. A Minister is only one member of a Cabinet, and expresses the corporate decision of the Government. But however that may be in other cases, I have no reservation to make in regard to this tax. I am in absolute accord with it personally as well as in my capacity as Treasurer.
– Does that remark apply to all Ministers’?
– I believe it does. At any r,ate, I have no knowledge of dissent on the part of Ministers. I wish to say very briefly, but definitely, the object of this special tax. It is considered by the Government that those who are unmarried or are widowers without children, and are physically fit to go to the war, but have elected to stay at home and attend to their personal business, may fairly be asked to specially help in the repatriation of those who, at the call of duty, voluntarily left their homes and kindred, forsook their personal businesses, and went abroad to fight for the protection and freedom of the peoples of Aus.tralia and the Empire.
The law does not) compel any person to go to the war, and this Bill will not do so. It will, however, impose an obligation on unmarried men and widowers without children, who are physically fib, and within the prescribed ages, but! who have not gone to the war, to specially help in the repatriation of those who have returned from the war.
– Will the money be ear-marked for that purpose?
– It will. Subdivision F will apply to every male person, whether .in receipt of a taxable income or not, who, on the 1st July, 1917, was (1) unmarried or a widower without children; and (2) was not under the age of twenty-one years and was under the age df forty-five years, those being the ages within which persons are accepted for service abroad. The tax is to be £10, or 10 per cent, of a person’s’ taxable income, whichever is the greater, and will be additional to the ordinary income tax. When the Commissioner is satisfied that, by reason of the support given by a person to his dependants, the payment of the full amount of the tax would impose hardship on him, the Commisisoner may reduce the amount of tax payable by that person to such an ‘ amount as he in his discretion may determine. I shall read the list of exemptions in the amended form to which I propose to ask the Committee to agree -
The preceding provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner -
The last three exemptions appear in the Defence Act. There are a good many more exemptions in that Act, including the exemption of members of Parliament, but the Government do not propose to include any but the three I have just read- Then comes a proposed new sub-clause, which I shall move to insert -
I have already explained that the tax is to be £10, or 10 per cent, of the taxable income, whichever is the greater, and that it will be additional to the ordinary income tax. We make the further provision that -
There will no doubt be cases where persons liable to taxation may have justifiable reasons to submit claims for exemption from the tax, and the power given to. the Governor-General in . this paragraph - a provision which was not arrived at hurriedly, but after a good deal of consideration - is sufficiently wide, the Government think, to cover’ all such cases.
I wish to say - and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catt’s) will find here an answer to -his question - that this proposal has nothing whatever to do with compulsory service in time of war. An effort will probably be made by the Opposition to associate it with, what is termed “ conscription.”
– Economic conscription.
– The public are already associating it with conscription.
– I am speaking, not of what the public may say, but of what honorable members opposite will do. I wish to inform the House and the country that the compulsion proposed in this measure is not to force eligible persons to go to the war, but to compel those who have not gone to specially assist in repatriating those who have done so, on (their return to Australia. That is the only compulsion which we seek to exercise.
Honorable members of the Opposition will find that I shall deal with this matter very briefly, but fairly, although perhaps in a way that . will not please them. In regard to military and naval service in time of war, there are three classes of people at least in communitywho will not be affected by this measure - (1) those who favour voluntary military, and naval service in time of war; (2) those who favour compulsory, as well as voluntary, military and naval service in time of war ; and (3) those who have already gone to the war, or have offered to do so, None of these three classes is affected by these provisions.
– It is purely class legislation. It shows the vindictiveness of the whole thing.
– I take no no tice of what the honorable member says, and I am sure he does not expect me to answer him.
– The right honorable gentleman has the numbers on his side.
– I have right and justice on my side as well, and that is better than mere numbers. The objections to the measure must come from those who have not offered to enlist for service abroad, and who object to specially pay to help the repatriation of those who have been doing their duty in a distant land in defending them as well as Australia and the Empire.
In regard to compulsory service in time of war, the National party, represented by the majority in this House, gave a distinct promise to the electors at the general election on 5th May in these words, which I take from the declaration of the Government -
It accepts the verdict of the electors on 28th October, 1916, and appeals to the patriotism of the people to uphold the honour of Australia by maintaining the Australian divisions at their full fighting strength by voluntary enlistment.
The verdict of the electors on 5th May - which ought to be a day of glorious memory - was clear and unmistakable, and their mandate we are determined to respect and adhere to.
The objection that this proposal is contrary to that mandate can come from only two classes of persons - (1) those like the members of the Opposition and their supporters who rarely see much virtue in the proposals of “the Government; and (2) those who are opposed to the decision of the people by the referendum of the 28th October last being accepted, and who wish the Government not to adhere to it. The declaration of the Government on the 5th May, and the verdict given by the people on that day - the mandate we received then - we intend to adhere to.
The Government is actuated by two principal reasons in bringing forward this proposal. The first is that we believe it will stimulate and increase recruiting, not so much, we hope, by the fear of having to pay the tax, as by bringing prominently before those who have not yet volunteered for service what is not only their duty to their country, but their paramount duty to. themselves. The second reason is to provide funds towards the repatriation of those who have returned from the war after having served their country. Is that not agood object? I hope that honorable members will bear with me for a few moments longer, because I desire to say something very earnestly before I sit down. It is difficult to understand why such a glorious opportunity of doing their duty, by serving their country, has not been embraced by every qualified person. Nelson’s stirring call, made over one hundred years ago, is as inspiring now as it was then - “ England expects every man to do his duty.” One would have thought that” to be one of those brave men who first placed Australia on the pinnacle of greatness and renown, to be one of those who fought for liberty and freedom at Gallipoli, in Egypt, in France, in Mesopotamia, and other places, to be one of those “ hallmarked “ as brave and patriotic men for the rest of their lives, and to be one of those “ whose triumph will be sung by some yet unmoulded tongue, far on in summers that we shall not see “ - one would have thought that all these feelings and sentiments would have been an inspiration and an incentive that would have outweighed every other possible consideration.
I believe the view taken by honorable members on this side of the House - and by the people of the country - in regard to those who have decided not to go to the war is : “ We do not want to be ungenerous - we do not want to ignore any real and valid reasons for not going - but our general feeling is the same as that so strongly expressed in the imprecatory words of Macaulay in his lay of Horatius -
Shame on the false Etruscan
Who lingersin his home,
When Porsena of Clusium
Is on the march forRome.
Those who would ask us not to propose this measure ask us, in effect, to say that those who have not gone to the war, but have remained at home attending to their own interests, have no obligation resting upon them to specially help to repatriate those who have voluntarily done so. This House. I feel sure is prepared to. emphatically say the opposite.
Extension of time granted.
– In conclusion, if I may venture to express my own opinion, those who do not go to the war are acting most unwisely and foolishly from their own personal stand-point. They are storing up for themselves a miserable old age,a gnawing feeling of regret, for neglect of duty in a great emergency when their country was in danger. Each one will feel, in the words of the immortal bard of Avon -
And that which should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, 1 must not look to have.
Whether honorable members are in favour of or are opposed to compulsory service in time of war has nothing whatever to do with this proposal. We can all unite in declaring that those who are eligible to go to the war, and do not do so, should specially contribute towards the repatriation of those who have returned from the war, having risked everything they had, including their lives, in order to serve their country.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, which is entitled a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act of 1903-15, is more one for consideration in Committee than for discussion on the second reading. It is intended to amend a number of defects which experience has disclosed in the working of the existing Act, and a memorandum has been prepared, and will be immediately circulated, showing the various amendments proposed. Honorable members will realize that the Defence Act was framed, and that it operated for many years, before war conditions arose; and the practical experience of the war has shown the necessity for amendments in order to remove doubts concerning several of the provisions. In consequence of the large number of troops sent to the Front from Australia the authorities have found it necessary to take action, in regard to which some question has arisen, and it is necessary to set all doubt at rest by making explicit declaration, and, as it were, validating that action. In illustration, I may mention that section 31 of the original Act gives power to the GovernorGeneral to appoint and promote officers of the Defence Forces, and issue commissions to them. Honorable members are aware, however, that it has become necessary to make promotions and appoint officers overseas; indeed, altogether some 5,400 promotions have thus been made from the ranks, and , some of the men have risen to very high positions indeed. The power to make appointments has practically been delegated, and clause 3, providing a new section 8a to the principal Act, enables the GovernorGeneral to delegate to the officer in command of anypart of the Military Forces, when beyond the limits of the Commonwealth, power to appoint or promote officers to acting rank in the Military Forces. Of course, all those provisional appointments are subject to confirmation by the GovernorGeneral. A sub-clause of clause 3 provides for the validation of any appointment already made, or powers exercised, in pursuance of the delegation. . I mention this as an illustration of the class of amendment with which the Bill deals; and another illustration is contained in clause 5. The men of the Expeditionary Force will be returning, and it is desirable that the Commonwealth should reap the benefit of the experience of those who have fought abroad on behalf of the Empire. Many of these men were privates in our Citizen Forces, and power is taken under clause 5 to enable the GovernorGeneral to appoint, for distinguished service in time of war, or for exceptional gallantry on active service, any person to be an officer or non-commissioned officer, or promote an officer or non-commissioned officer in the Citizen Forces without his passing the prescribed examination. Many who went abroad as privates have been promoted to commissioned rank.
– They have done better than the passing of any prescribed examination.”
– Their fitness has been proved by a very practical test.
– Do such men now retain their commissions after they return?
– The rank conferred on them is retained as honorary rank. The provision about which I am speaking empowers us to incorporate in the Citizen Forces, without examination, so many of these men as may be needed, and may be willing to serve.
Clauses 14 and 15 deal with the application of the Army Act and its incorporation in our defence, law. Our Act now incorporates the Army Act by providing that the Military Forces shall, at all times, while on active service, within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject to the Army Act, except so far as the provisions of the latter may be inconsistent with our Act, and regulations under it may prescribe that any provisions of the Army Act shall not apply to our military Forces. It has been found necessary, however, not only to apply the Army Act to our Forces, but also to adapt it to Australian conditions.
– When our men come under British officers, are they not immediately controlled by the British Army Act?
– They may be under the British Army Act here in Australia, except so far as any of the provisions of that Act may be inconsistent with our own Act.
– Why not incorporate in our legislation so much of the Army Act as may be needed ?
– The Army Act may be amended from time to time, and if we were to adopt it as it is to-day, the result might be, when a portion of our troops was serving with Imperial troops, that the law applying to them was different from that applying to the others.
– The British Army Act is being modified, and is being made to apply, not only to- Australian Forces serving outside Australia, but also to men on their way from Australia to serve abroad, or on their way back. Then subclause 3 of proposed new section 54a says, “ This section shall be construed as amplifying, and not as restricting, any of the other provisions of this Act.” That is phr.aseology that I have not seen before.
– There are Australians serving in Mesopotamia, Egypt, France, and elsewhere; some of them are serving with New Zealanders, and many are fighting side by side with Imperial troops. It is essential under these conditions that the provisions of the British Army Act shall apply to them on active service. But we are taking power to modify and adapt the provisions of the Army Act in its application to the Military Forces. For instance, “certain Courts are specified by the British Act, and we are taking power to apply it to corresponding Courts here. We are also applying the Act to war service.
– Will the Minister explain paragraphs b and c of proposed new section 54a ?
– I shall deal with that matter later, when speaking of the definitions of “active service” and “war service.” Roughly speaking, “ active, service “ is service abroad according to the definition in the Army Act, and “war service” covers service after the w-,ar has ceased. These, however, are matters for Committee rather than for the second-reading debate.
Clause 17 makes provision for the granting of preference in the employment in the Department of returned soldiers, giving effect .to a policy already announced.
Clause 21 makes it an offence, to personate a returned soldier. Men have been found unscrupulous enough to obtain money under false pretences by passing themselves off as returned soldiers, and a penalty is provided for that offence.
A series of clauses punishes the trafficking in and the improper wearing of military decorations.
– Would any of those provisions prevent the wife of a soldier from wearing her husband’s medals ?
– A special clause deals with the wearing of medals by female relatives.
– But the pawning of medals would be stopped ?
– Provision is made to prevent the disposing of medals.
Clause 42 remedies a defect of the present law. Section 134 of the Defence Act is contained in Part XII. of the Act, and imposes a penalty on employers who prevent employees from serving in camp, thus interfering with the training required by law. It was thought that that provision applied, to other parts of the Act, but on the matter being referred to the officers of the Crown Law Department, the opinion was given that it applies only to the universal service training. Under Part III. and Part IV., however, employees may be called up, and have been called up, for military work.
– Men were called up on the outbreak of war, and many of them lost their jobs in .consequence.
– That is so. Clause 42 enacts that an employer shall not prevent an employee, or a parent or guardian a son or ward, from rendering personal service under Parts III. and IV. of the Defence Act, and penalties are provided for any infringement of this provision. This is necessary for the protection of employees who are called upon to do service on behalf of the country.
It is desirable to alter the law relating to the training of cadets. The training of the Senior Cadets is an important part of our compulsory service. The regulations fix times for the training of the cadets at night and on Saturday afternoons, but there have been many objections bv parents to the taking up of so many evenings in training, and it is felt that the Saturday afternoon drills often restrict unfairly legitimate opportunities for sport and recreation. Clause 49, therefore, enables the Government to provide for the training of senior cadets during hours when they are really in the service of their masters.
– How much of such time will be taken ?
– Only part of the training will be done in such time. Action will be taken after consultation with the proper officers. Our present concern is to get power to provide for the training of cadets in part, during the time pf service with their employers.
– I suppose that not more than an hour a week will be taken ?
– Probably not so much, on the average, during a year. But the desire is to take power to do it. I do not think that any employer will object to the provision. Drills for the most part will be held on Saturday mornings, in the employers’ time, but in certain towns Saturday afternoon is not a half -holiday, and the drills may be held during the afternoon. The proposal is to make the Act more elastic, and to make the training easier for the boys, and at the same time to meet the wishes of parents.
Clause 51 modifies section 148, which provides -
No person who is not a graduate of the Military College as prescribed shall be appointed an officer of the Permanent Forces: Provided that this provision shall not take effect until the .expiration of five years after the establishment of the College.
That provision was made in the Act in accordance with the recommendation of Lord Kitchener, but there were certain classes of officers, for instance, veterinary officers, for which training is not given at the College; and as it is desired to make appointments to the permanent staff from such officers, clause 51 has been inserted in this Bill. It provides that members of the Permanent and Citizen Forces, or persons who have served with satisfactory record in any expeditionary force raised for service outside the Commonwealth, who are not graduates -of the Military College, may, subject to such conditions as are prescribed, be appointed 6r promoted to be officers in the non-combatant branches of the Permanent Forces, including the Medical, Veterinary, Ordnance, Survey, and Clerical branches; and that warrant and non-commissioned officers of the Permanent Forces may be appointed to commissioned rank for the position of quartermaster to units of the Australian Military Forces. This provision will meet a necessity which is now felt in connexion with the’ administration of the Department.
– What about the death penalty ?
– There is no proposal to alter the law in that regard. This is a Bill more for consideration in detail- in Committee, but my .remarks will have given honorable members an indication of its contents.
.- Is the Minister anxious, to go on with the Bill at once ?
– Yes; it has been a long time before the House.
– I thought that we might deal with the Railways Bill, though I understand that honorable members opposite consider that there is some contentious matter in the amendments sub- . mitted by the Senate. I would like to understand whether we can discuss provisions of the principal Act which are not touched bv this amending Bill.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– The Minister has assured us that the provisions relating to the death penalty are not being altered, but I am anxious to know whether there has not been some alteration effected by placing our soldiers under the Army Act. Honorable members are at a disadvantage, because until a few minutes ago they had not received copies of the memorandum showing the alterations proposed to be made in the principal Act. The memorandum was before another place long before the Bill was introduced; but, of course, amendments were made in the Senate, and it has been necessary to have a reprint made. Apparently, the Government propose still further alterations.
– There are two minor amendments, necessitated by what the war has produced.
– Apparently, the experience of the past few days has shown the necessity for amendments. Honorable members are at another disadvantage, in that they do not know the provisions of the Army Act. The Minister has told us that all of our men will be placed under that Act.
– They are under the Army Act to-day.
– Iunderstand that this Bill goes further in that respect. The Minister has pointed out that we have phraseology in this Bill which has not been used in any other measure. For instance, the proposed new sub-section 3 of section 54a reads as follows: -
This section shallbe construed as amplifying, and not as restricting, any of the other provisions of this Act.
I would like to hear some of our legal members on the effect of that provision. It seems to mean that we hand over, not to a law Court, but to some officers, the power to deal with our men who are serving abroad in whatever way they consider the Army Act should be observed.
– The proposed sub-section does not extend the provisions of the Act. It merely amplifies.
– If it does not do more than can be done without, it seems to be unnecessary. I am heartily in accord with some of the proposals in the Bill, particularly with clause 5, which will enable the Governor-General, for distinguished service in time of war, or for exceptional gallantry on active service, to appoint any person to be an officer or non-commissioned officer, or to promote an officer or non-commissioned officer in the Citizen Military Forces without his passing the prescribed examination. I interjected when the Minister was dealing with this provision that these men had passed the toughest examination in being promoted at the Front. I did not like to hear the interjection from the Government side that, in all probability, not one out of a hundred of these men will get promotion when he comes back.
– Even now they are not recognising promotion on the field.
– Then the honorable member can help us to amend the Bill. If the Defence Department claim that some are not entitled to the promotion they have earned abroad, let them say so.
– Let us make it definite.
– I will go as far as any one to make sure that men who have won their spurs at the Front, and obtained high rank, may retain it. I have heard men speaking with pride of starting as privates and getting eleven promotions in a certain time.
– They are required to pass examinations abroad.
– I understand that they pass examinations in the Old Country, but, beyond that, they have stood the fire test on the field, and come through it. They have demonstrated to their superior officers that they are capable of doing the work which has been intrusted to them. There is always a suspicion that favoritism is rampant in the Defence Department.
– It is quite unfounded.
– Possibly it is; but, unfortunately, many people believe it is true. We should make it mandatory that those men who won their spurs at the Front should have their rank in the Citizen Forces. We have been endeavouring to give privileges to the men who have returned, but this is not a privilege; it is a right to which these men are entitled.
– There is a clause which deals with the question of preferential employment in the Defence Department.
– If a man wins his spurs on the field of battle, and gets promotion, he should be able to retain his rank in the Citizen Forces.
– They could hold honorary rank in the Citizen Forces. I wish to be sure that the returned soldiers will be able to retain recognition of their rank. We have tried to insure that returned officers shall receive appointments as Area Officers.
– Nearly every Area Officer is a returned soldier.
– That is as it should be. The returned men have had practical training.
– I know of Area Officers who are not returned soldiers.
– I do not mean to say that we should find military positions for every returned soldier, because there may not be positions for them ; but all’ should have the right to retain honorary rank and be given preference in connexion with appointments in the Permanent Forces. I am glad that the Minister has gone a certain length in that direction by providing that certain persons who have served with a satisfactory record in the Expeditionary Forces and are not graduates of the Military College may be appointed or promoted to be officers in the non-combatant branches of the Permanent Forces.
– Those are only certain branches for which the Military College does not provide training.
– Will the men who have proved themselves in the field be eligible for any appointment, even’ if they have not passed through the Military College ?
– The law in regard to training at the Military College will remain the same. We must not alter that, because that condition was recommended by Lord Kitchener.
– In regard to the training of the cadets, we compel a boy to undergo training, and we insist that the employer shall continue his pay while he is in camp. I do not know to what extent that provision will apply to boys who are employed on piece work. The honorable member for Hunter has several times mentioned the cases of boys employed as wheelers in collieries, and who are employed on niece work.
– I think, under the new Coal Mines Act of Victoria, wheelers must be over eighteen years of age.
– We are insisting that the employer shall pay senior cadets of from fourteen to eighteen years of age during the timethey are engaged in military training. Why should we not make the same provision in regard to cadets up to twenty-one years of age ?
– The cadets receive no military pay, but the Citizen Forces do.
– That seems a valid reason for the differentiation. I agree with the Minister that this is a measure for consideration in Committee. But I should like to hear from him some statement as to how far it is necessary for us to follow the British Army Act, about which we know comparatively nothing.
– This Bill will give us power to adapt the Army Act to Australian conditions.
– Certain provisions in the British Army Act in regard to courts martial and punishments may be inconsistent’ with our own Defence Act.
– Whenever the Army Act is inconsistent with the Australian Act, the latter prevails.
– I wish to be certain upon that point. We know that some Australian soldiers who kicked over the traces have been punished out of all proportion to their offences, and for that reason we should be careful about binding ourselvesto follow the Army Act.
.- This Bill is principally one for consideration in Committee. But I ask honorable members on both sides to assert the principle that there is no man more deserving of consideration than he who has won his spurs and has been promoted on the field of battle. I feel sure that every member of this House will be only too pleased to insure that the returned soldier gets everything that is due to him, and it behoves us to see that he enjoys the same rights and rank as men who have merely passed prescribed examinations. It is all very well for a Minister to say that this Bill will apply only to the Citizen Forces. We know that the men best fitted to set an example to our youngsters are those who have been under fire, who have stood the test of battle, and have both practical and theoretical knowledge. We could get no better instructors and leaders for our Citizen Forces than the men who led the Australian lads at Gallipoli and in Flanders and Mesopotamia, and I should like the Minister to frame a clause that will insure that returned soldiers get full recognition and opportunity. We know that we cannot employ in the Citizen Forces every returned soldier, but it is our duty to specially safeguard the rights of those who have done heroicdeeds on the field of battle.
– We will repatriate them all right.
– We oughtto do more than that. We ought to see that they are given the premier positions in the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, so that they, may be able to set an example to the youngsters on whom we shall depend for the future defence of the Commonwealth.
I candidly confess that I am mystified as to why men returning from the seat of war should be kept under the discipline of the Army Act instead of under the Australian Defence Act. The Army Act is very irksome in many respects, particularly to Australians.
– The Defence Act does not operate beyond Australia.
– When the Old Country is finished with the men and is returning them to Australia, why should they not come under the Defence Act fromthe moment of embarkation?
– We are not proposing any amendment of the law in that respect. We are only re-embodying the section that is in the present Act.
– Very well, that removes the fear I had in regard to the provision. I can well understand why our Act is being brought more into line with the British Army Act. It would never do to have at the Front one set of men serving under the Defence Act of Canada or Australia, another under the Defence Act of New Zealand, and yet another under the defence laws of Newfoundland or South Africa. The British Army Act operates just as readily as does any defence law of the Dominions, and when our men . are serving with the Imperial Forces abroad, they must be all under the one law. My only fear was that this provision was specially intended to hold our men while they were returning to Australia from the seat of war. It is further provided in this clause that-
This section shall be construed as amplifying, and not as restricting, any of the other provisions of this Act.
Why do . the Government propose to amplify rather than to modify these provisions ?
– Does not that provision apply to promotions on the field ?
– No. The honorable member is referring to proposed new section 22 as provided for in clause 5 of this Bill, and which reads -
The Governor-General may, for distinguished service in time of war, or for exceptional gallantry on active service, appoint any person to be an officer or non-commissioned officer, or promote an officer or non-commissioned officer in the Citizen Military Forces without his passing the prescribed examination.
I think that it would be better to provide that the Governor-General “shall,” not “may,” make these appointments.
– They can be appointed only when a vacancy occurs. Promotions made at the Front are always recognised. We are gazetting such appointments practically every week, but the provision to which the honorable member has just referred is merely designed to enable us, when vacancies occur in the Citizen Forces, to appoint such men to them, and so to gain the benefit, of their experience.
– And I desire to see such men appointed to positions in our Citizen Forces. That is why I would substitute the word “ shall “ for the word “ may.”
– The word “ may “ is satisfactory.”
– I prefer the other.
– I think the honorable member will find that the provision will carry out all that is desired.
– It is better to makequite clear what we desire. If we state in an Act of Parliament exactly what we want to do, there can be no escape from it.
– If the honorable member’s suggestion were adopted it would be necessary to define in the Bill itself exactly what was meant by “ distinguished service.”
– Then by all means let us do so, if it will safeguard the interests of those who have done heroic work for us.
Coming to the provisions dealing with the position and pay of young men who have to train for our Citizen Forces, I think the Government are acting wisely. We call upon the young men of this country, just at a time when they like to devote their Saturday afternoons to sport, to give up some of their spare time to the work of training themselves to become efficient in the defence of Australia. That being so, their employers should be called upon to shoulder some of the burden in the way proposedby the Government. This is not a Bill which calls for a lengthy second-reading debate, but I hope that when we go into Committee we shall re-fashion some of its provisions so that it will leave our hands a far better Bill than it was when sent down to us from another place.
. -The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has urged very strongly that we should so amend this Bill in certain directions as to reduce to a minimum the . possibility of any misunderstanding. I think it would be a mistake to depart too widely from the laying down of general principles, and to proceed to emphasize details. As my honorable friend knows very well, very large discretionary powers are vested in the authorities under the British Army Act, the assumption being that the British Parliament will always keep a watchful eye on the state and condition of the Army. We may rest assured that, whatever may have happened in the past, future Houses ‘of Commons are not likely to forget the gallant deeds of British soldiers during this terrible war. I think that the right view for this House to adopt is that in this measure we should not go beyond the affirmation of general principles, since we may rest assured that future Parliaments of the Commonwealth will always be careful that the interests of officers and men who have served at the Front are in no wise neglected. I do not think there is any chance of a future Parliament of the Commonwealth allowing mere carpet knights to be promoted at the expense of men who have been on active service. Our legal friends will tell us that when in an Act of Parliament we depart from the affirmation of general principles and proceed to particularize, we very often defeat the very object we have” in view. I think it would be well in the circumstances for the House to be largely guided by the view of the Government in this matter. Neither the Government nor any of its supporters can have any object but that of doing the best for the officers and men who have done so well for Australia.
– I do not think any one would say otherwise.
– I am sure the honorable member would not. We should exercise care in dealing with the question of promotions. All civilized countries, with the exception of Germany, recognise the principle that where men are , promoted for deeds of gallantry on the field, they should not be required to undergo any examination. When we were building up our Citizen Forces, however, it was very necessary to provide that a strict examination should be passed by those seeking commissioned rank. In time of peace, care must be taken that an Army does not degenerate because of its control by half-educated officers. That is why we have insisted upon candidates for commissions in our Citizen Forces passing certain prescribed examinations. We established Duntroon Military College to provide for the proper education of our officers, but scientific training is not the Only desideratum. A man who on active service shows that he has tact, judgment, and initiative is quite as serviceable to his commanding officer as is any man who has passed the highest technical examinations). Some of the greatest generals of bygone days were masters of strategy - they had completely mastered military science, but they never won a battle. On the other hand, history tells us of others who were deficient in these respects, but were among some of the most remarkable in the armies of Great Britain and France. The promotion of men for deeds of gallantry while on active service is a recognised practice in the British Army, and we must see that the principle is respected and upheld here. That, I think, is one of the objects of this Bill. As to the clauses which provide that our troops while returning on transports to Australia shall continue under the operation of the Army Act, I am inclined, to agree with a good deal of what the honorable member for Maranoa has said. But there can be no harm in calling upon our men on their way to the Front to submit to the discipline for which that Act provides, and to which they will be subjected as soon as they land. In conclusion, I would urge honorable members to recognise that those who succeed us inthis Parliament will, in view of the happenings of this terrible war, be just as zealous in guarding the interests of the men who have put up so splendid a record for Australia as are the members of the present Parliament.
– I have to complain of the . failure of the Government to circulate the explanatory memorandum now before us when the Bill itself was first presented to us. As it is, I do not think that 10 per cent, of the members of this House understand the measure. Dealing as it does with the prospects of men who have fought for us, and whose praises we . are always sounding, and rightly so, I do not think that we should be called upon to vote for it in the dark. With the memorandum we should have been able to discuss the Bill on its merits, but, under the circumstances, I confess that- 1 cannot follow the provisions. I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister the case of a lad who passed very highly in an examination at Duntroon, and went across the seas as a first lieutenant. He fought at Gallipoli and in Flanders, and won his captaincy on the field of battle; but, becoming disabled in one arm, he desired to remain abroad and “do his bit” even as an instructor. Against his will, he was sent back to Australia, where he has been given very important work to do ; but only to find that a second lieutenant, with whom he had worked here, had been promoted to major, and was drawing major’s pay, while he, on arriving, had his pay reduced to that of lieutenant. Is this Bill intended to remedy, or to tolerate, that sort of thing? Such instances are certainly not calculated to encourage young men to thoroughly qualify in the Army.
– I do not know the facts of the case the honorable member has cited. This Bill provides that if the Government desire to take advantage of the services, in the Citizen Forces, of men who have served abroad, they may do so; that is the object of this Bill.
– Where there is a vacancy.
– If thereis no vacancy, of course, a man cannot be appointed; but if the Bill will give preference in the Citizen Forces to practical soldiers, it shall have my support.
– This Bill also gives power to appoint them to positions in the Defence Department.
– Of course, I cannot expect the Minister, offhand, to decide .such a case as I have cited, and I shall forward him the names and details.
– When a man returns to Australia with a certain rank, he is put on the reserve with that rank.
– The case I have cited is that of a Duntroon graduate, who was one of those who did so well at Gallipoli that Ian Hamilton said they were worth their weight in gold. This officer won his commission on the field, and then found a “ stay-at-home “ placed over his head. I confess I do not understand the Bill, nor do I think any one else can, without the memorandum.
– It is rather difficult to under– , stand the position. According to the Defence Act, when there are enough officers turned out of Duntroon, they are to be the only officers to hold staff appointments in the Australian Army.
– Is not that altered by this. Bill ?
– In certain branches only.
– What I have stated is laid ‘ down in the Defence Act. The Bill provides that men who have done conspicuous work on the battle field may be selected and given certain appointments.
– Provision is made in regard to the Citizen Forces.
– At any rate, it means that, no matter what may be provided in this amending Bill, no man can be given a staff appointment unless he has been through Duntroon College. Precisely similar conditions prevail in the British Army. The officers are divided into two classes, and no man, unless, he has passed through Sandhurst or Woolwich, is given a position on the permanent staff, but is placed in the special reserve. The result is that a great proportion of the junior officers fighting in the British Army at the Front are in the special reserve ; and men out of Sandhurst or Woolwich practically go over the heads of those who have done the fighting from the start. In my opinion, the men who return from the Front should hold the rank they have won there.
– Their rank is being recognised now.
– That is something that has been settled; but the circumstances disclosed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are not satisfactory. A man who has been -promoted on the field of battle, and in a school of instruction behind the lines, has received all the training necessary to make him a leader of men, and has a perfect right to retain the rank he has won overseas. If a man under the age of twenty-five returns, it may be with the rank of captain or major, he has to go into the Citizen Forces as a private. He may be good enough to fight for the Empire and for Australia; but when he returns, unless he has been through the, Duntroon College, he has to go into the Citizen Forces as a private.
– The Minister says that such a man will retain the rank he has won.
– The Minister does not say anything of the kind. If a man on returning with commissioned rank, has to go into training in Australia, he ought to be allowed to retain the rank he has won.
– What is the position of a returned officer in relation to another who held a commission prior to the war, yet never has been to the war?
– Some commissioned officers may not have beenpermitted to go to the war; but if an officer has had the chance, his billet should be available for the man who has done the fighting.
As to the cadets, I think that they ought to be trained in time given by their employers on other days than holidays. There is no doubt that for this, hot an hour, but half a day is necessary, and it is not too much time to devote to the work. In the country districts, where cadets have to travel long distances, their training may occupy more than half a day, and in spite of what honorable members opposite may say, it will be found that honorable members on this side are quite in favour of the training being done in the employers’ time.
.- I should like some enlightenment from the Minister as to the operation of the clause dealing with promotions on the field. I have in my mind a case where a non-commissioned officer, after winning the rank of captain at Gallipoli, was invalided to Australia, where he reenlisted. His desire was to have the same rank that he had won under actual war conditions. He was informed by the Defence Department that, in order to obtain commissioned rank on going abroad a second time, he must pass through an officers’ school at Duntroon. As a consequence that man went away as a private, under the orders of an officer who was a mere theorist.
– Some of the officers who returned retained their rank. The son of the Minister for the Navy did so.
– Perhaps the man to whom the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) was referring was discharged.
– He was discharged, and, on becoming medically fife again, reenlisted. I am led to believe that his is not an isolated case.
There have been innumerable instances in which men have gone away as noncommissioned officers, and, while away, have fulfilled satisfactorily the duties of their rank, ‘but, because through some oversight their appointments were not gazetted, they have not been given the pay and privileges of the rank in which they have been serving, and, notwithstanding that evidence hasbeen available to prove their service, they have obtained no redress.
We have had many assurances from the Minister for Defence that, where possible, returned men will be put into home service positions. No doubt the Minister is actuated by the best) of intentions, but often his instructions are not carried into effect. I know of eleven officers in New South Wales, between the ages of twentyfive and thirty-five years, who are occupying soft billets in connexion with the various camps, and whose work might well be done by returned men.
– That sort of thing needs explaining.-
– Yes. Returned men say “ The Defence Department promises to treat us fairly,and yet it gives good positions to men who will not go abroad, many of whom have also excellent private positions.”
– If the honorable member will give me the names of those to whom he refers I shall have the matter inquired into.
– When a man comes back with honorable scars and an excellent record he should receive preference for any soft home-service billet. It is disheartening to returned men to find that other men can occupy good positions for fifteen and eighteen months, and even for two years, without going abroad. Some of those who have not gone abroad have stated that they will be satisfied to remain where they are until the war is over. Such men should not be retained in the service.
The arrangements under which promotions are made abroad have their defects. At the present time great dissatisfaction exists with the method of appointing commissioned officers in Egypt. Noncommissioned men who have served with the utmost ability have been passed over and privates without experience as noncommissioned officers have received commissions. I have this on reliable authority - the statements of men who have returned Some inquiry should he made into the matter.
I wish to draw attention to the manner in which officers in London are neglecting their duties. For the past two years the delay in forwarding “ non-effective statements “ has been a burning complaint. On my return from Great Britain last year, I brought the matter before the Minister, and certain cablegrams were sent to London, with the result that 3,000 non-effective statements arrived by one mail. Evidently they had been accumulating in the London office. In many cases the non-receipt of these statements had delayed the settlement of the estates of deceased soldiers, whose families were in actual need. I have a case in which a widow whose son was killed more than twelve months ago cannot obtain a settlement of the estate because the noneffective statement relating to him has not yet arrived, and. I am sure that hundreds of such cases have been brought before various members. The almost criminal carelessness and indifference of those in our London office to the claims of the dependants of men who have sacrificed their lives on the field of battle should not be permitted to go unchecked. I advocate the sending Home of a special officer to inquire into the delay regarding non-effective statements. Unfortunately, the number of these statements will increaserather than decrease. We ask eligible men to enlist, but when the extreme hardship endured by the families of many men who have been killed becomes known, the forces operating against the success of recruiting can well be understood. I hope that the Defence Department will see whether the London office cannot be galvanized into life, and those employed there made to realize their duty to the men who are actually fighting and to their dependants.
.- I am sorry that it is not proposed to amend the Defence Act to deal with appeals. A case has come under my notice - I have all the papers, and shall place them before the Minister later - in which a private attached to a veterinary corps in Egypt got into trouble with the authorities for some neglect of duty, and was ultimately marked down as a venereal patient and sent to an isolation ward. Subsequently a doctor regarded him as mentally deficient, and he was told that he had been wrongly sent to the isolation ward. But the medical officers connected with the case did not agree either as to his being a venereal patient) or as to his suffering from mental disability. He was asked if he would return to his unit, and he refused ‘to do so unless his case was investigated. He was placed on the Suffolk and sent home, and he states that he was wrongfully put into the isolation ward on board ship. There should be some process whereby such a man would have an opportunity to clear his character. This man and his wife are so ashamed of the charges made against him that they cannot go back to the town where he was attested. Provision should be made for an appeal in such cases. I think that a Board of Inquiry should be constituted.
– I am glad that the Ministry has seen its way to move in the direction of making the training of cadets a little more attractive to the lads. I am informed by officers who have taken a great deal of interest in the cadets, that the greatest cause of insubordination among them is the objection that all healthy young persons have to being deprived of opportunities for taking part in sports. This has been accentuated recently by the fact that our cadets have been called upon to attend more drills than has been the case in the past, because some time ago the Department suspended all training. I would like to have heard the Minister speak a little more definitely as to the extent to which it was intended to press this reform. He seemed to indicate that there was not to be full recognition of the right of the boys to the Saturday half-holiday, and that an indefinite number of hours would be arranged which might still call upon them to drill on some Saturday afternoons.
– In some districts the Saturday afternoon is not a half-holiday.
– I have no more to say if the intention is that the cadets shall not be asked to drill on half-holidays. It is in the interests of efficient training that the lads should not be required to give up their holidays in order to fit themselves as soldiers.
Apparently, it is still the intention to compel those members of the Australian Imperial Force who are not beyond the compulsory age provided in the Act to resume their training in the Citizen Forces on their return from abroad. It is an absurd proposition, and I hope that the Minister will give it further consideration. The men who have gone to the Front have had quite sufficient training to obviate their being called upon to do further services in the Citizen Forces.
– I desire to indorse the view put forward by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) in regard to non-effective statements. It is time that the Minister for Defence made some better provision in regard to getting that information. The way in which it is delayed is shameful. It brings great hardship on widows and the dependants of soldiers who have passed away on the other side of the world. This most important question has been before honorable members for the last two years, and has been debated in this House on several occasions, yet no attempt appears to have been made to bring about a remedy.. I do not know why the information cannot be forwarded to Australia within four months of the death of a soldier. Apparently, there is some unnecessary delay on the part of those who are administering affairs in connexion with our troops overseas.
A further matter to be taken into consideration is the question of providing for the children of a soldier whose wife has died during his absence. Relatives or friends who take care of the children make arrangements for payment from the State Relief Boards, but they never secure the full amount of the allotment money that a soldier has left for his dependants until they hear from the soldier himself.
– Until a fresh allotment has been obtained.
– I have had a score of cases brought under my notice where the soldier has written to his friends notifying them that he has made with the officials abroad all arrangements necessary for making a fresh allotment so as to put his dependants on a proper footing, but there has been no communi cation from the local military authorities for months afterwards.
– On several occasions I have induced the local authorities to act on similar letters.
– At the present time I am asking them to do so on one letter; but I have had cases where twelve months have elapsed before the requisite information has come to hand through official sources.
I rose chiefly to speak in regard to Saturday drills. The honorable member forIllawarra has just said that he will be satisfied so long as the drills do not take place on Saturday afternoons, but if they are held on Saturday mornings a great injustice will be done to all the lads who are employed in coal mines. Every second Saturday in the coal-mining industry is a holiday, and on those days the lads employed in the mines go fishing or indulge in sport, and if they are asked to drill in the morning the employers will not be called upon to pay. The only method of overcoming the difficulty is to have the drills on days other than Saturdays.
– The Bill will give greater elasticity in regard to the drill hours, and we can hold the drills in the employers’ time without deduction of pay by the employer.
– When exercising that power I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that the lads employed in coal mines have their holidays every second Saturday, and I trust that he will fix the drills for any day except Saturday. The lads object to drilling at night, but they would rather do that than break into their Saturday holidays.
– It will be open to the Minister to adapt his regulations to the customs of different districts.
– I quite agree that it will be necessary to have some discretion. In regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), I recognise that there are many difficulties in reference to the position of men who have been promoted on the field. Though a man may have been promoted on the field of battle, it may be held that his promotion was not due to distinguished service or some act of gallantry. I hope that the case mentioned by the honorable member will be borne in mind. He was speaking of. an officer of the Australian Imperial.Force who was promoted to the rank of captain, but was reduced to the rank of lieutenant on hisreturn.
– I have promised to look into the facts of that case, but I understand that this officer on his return went into the Defence Department to carry out work on the administrative side. Clause 5 deals with the appointment of officers ofthe Australian Imperial Force to commissioned rank in the Citizen Forces.
– It is difficult to frame a Bill to. meet every case, but’ we should do our best to see that men who have proved their worth on the field of battle shall retain their rank on their return to Australia.
.- I would not have risen at this late hour but for the fact that, having had a long association with the men at the Front, I am in a position to know that the question now under discussion is a very burning one with them. At the outbreak of war there was a great deal of discontent among our troops because incompetent men were placed in certain positions, and gave orders which proved very irksome, while others who were competent did not secure the opportunity of proving- their worth. . I think that every one agrees that it is absolutely necessary that our officers should have practical knowledge; but, in my opinion, to become efficient leaders they should also possess a theoretical knowledge. More characteristics than one go to make up a successful officer. A man must have; not only dash and daring; but also brains. Those who possess both qualities are successful officers, and’ on their return to Australia they should be given such positions in our Forces as are open to them.
Two honorable members referred to what they considered the harsh treatment meted out. to some of our men. I. have been in charge of prisoners at courts martial, and I can say from experience that every consideration has been given by Australian officers to the men who were standing their trial. Honorable members must bear in mind that the position of a man on. active service is very different from that of a man. in civil life. In an army in wan time there must be strict dis cipline, and I. do not know of any instance in which our officers have been unduly severe. Only to-day I met in Melbourne a returned soldier on crutches. He was a member of my unit, and when last I saw him he was paraded before his unit and discharged from the Forces with ignominy. He was returned to Australia, and here he re-enlisted. He went to France with the 59th Battalion, and made good. He is to-day suffering from a machine-gun wound in the leg. That man was at one time the terror of his officers and to-day he jokingly referred to “ the hell of a time “’ he had caused them. I am satisfied that the sentence passed upon that man was just, although, excepting the death penalty, it was the most severe punishment that could be imposed.
– How did he get into the
Forces- again ?
– He re-enlisted under his own name, but how he did it I cannot say. He showed me his pay-book, which is entirely free of crime marks. I urge honorable members to be very careful of what they say regarding the punishments meted out to men abroad, because I believe that the average Australian officer is as lenient and just asit is possible for any one to, be.
– Were not the heavy sentences received by some of our men in Egypt imposed byImperial officers ?
– No; they were officers of the Australian 2ndLight Horse Brigade.
– Were they Liberals?
– I believe the presiding officer was a Liberal and a solicitor. This Bill is a very timely measure, because it will serve to obviate many injustices that are caused to-day. I know of instances of men who have carried out, on private’s pay. the duties of non-commissioned officers, and then have been compelled to revert to the ranks without receiving any recognition of the services: they performed. One soldier who possessed special qualifications was withdrawn from the firing line, and’ placed in charge of a hospital over the heads of confirmed corporals who were drawing 10s. per day. He worked seventeen hours per day week after week, and was often called up in the middle of the night. He took the full responsibility of the management of the hospital, and yet was drawing only a driver’s pay. Ultimately he was returned to the ranks, and another man who did not possess the same qualifications, and proved to bo incompetent, was promoted to do the same work with higher rank and pay, and his duties were performed by a private. I trust that there will be no further cases of that kind, because such pin-pricks are very exasperating to the men, and do not conduce to getting thebest possible service outof them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the definition of “active service “ and inserting ‘in its stead the following definition: - “Active service” has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in sub-section 1 of section 189 of the Army Act defining the expression “on active service.”
by adding at the end thereof the following definition: - “ War service means -active service, any naval or military service in time of war and any navalor military service between the issue of a proclamation declaring that, by reason of the recent existence ofa timeof war it is necessary in the public interest that the Military Forces should be temporarily subject to the Army Act,and the issue ofa proclamation declaring that such necessity no longer exists.”
.- I should like some explanation of the alteration in the definition of” active service.” It seems to one that i twould have been better to incorporate in the Defence Act sub-section 1 of section 189 of the Army Act, which reads -
Active service, as applied to a person subject to military law, means whenever he ‘is attached to or forms part of aForce which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged in military operations in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupationof anyforeign country.
Apparently the Minister desires us to be boundby any variation from time to time in the definition of “active service” in the Army Act. We have also a definition of “ war service.’ What is the difference between “active service “and “ war service “.?
Mr.GROOM (Darling Downs- Honorary Minister) [10.57]. - It is desirable to preserve the definition of “ activeservice “ as given in the Army Act. The present definition in the Defence Act has already led to confusion in administration.When our soldiers are overseas, they are under the Army Act, and it is desirable to preserve the same definition for ‘ ‘ active service ‘ ‘ for our menas applies to the British] Army and soldiers from other Dominions.
– Why do we not embody in this Bill the definitions contained in the Army Act.?
– At the present time the Army Act applies to -our administration when it is not inconsistent with the Defence Act. ‘ ‘ War service “ is a wider term than “ active service,” and is referred to in a series of sub-sections of section 189 of the Army Act. It includes active service, and also naval or military service in time of - war, and applies also to the time when warhasceased. The men may be still abroad, and it will be necessary to continue the application ofthe code to them until they are returned to Australia and discharged.
– They are still on active service.
– No; active service has a limited meaning. We have taken from’ the Army Act such phraseology as is applicable to the AustralianForces in order to frame a definition of “ war service.” After peaceis declared, our men may still be abroad ina country which has ceased tobe anenemy country.Theterm “ active service” willnotthen be applicable to them ; but it is necessary that the Army Act shall continue to applyto them until they are returned to Australia.
– Would it not be much easier for the ‘ordinary military man who wishesto lookup the definition of “ active service “ if that definition were set out inourown Defence Act ?
– It is considered advisable to follow the lines we propose.
Mr.GROOM.- The Imperial Act may be altered from time to time. The Army Act is applied, andcontinues to apply, to our military Forces onactive service, except in so far as it is inconsistent with our Act.
-But theGovernment are confining the definition tothat given in a specific sub-section of the Army Act. There is nothingin this clause in regard to any modification oramendment of that definition.
– We say that the meaning of “ active service” shall correspond with that set out in this sub-section of the Army Act.
– Why make such a fight over this matter?
– Because we think that the course we propose is the right one. We do not want to have We come down to this House with an amending Bill every timethat the definition in the Imperial Act is amended.
– If the British Parliament amends the Army Act, why should we not have the right to say whether we approve ofthat amendment applying to Australian troops?
– We have the right to do so, but we think that this is the best course too adopt.
.- I hope that the Committee will insist upon this clause being amended. I fail to see why we should not insert in the Bill itself the definition of “ active service “ given in the Imperial Act. Unless we do so it will be necessary,whenever we are asked for a definition of the words, to refer to the Imperial Act, which is as big as a bound volume of the Government Gazette. This objection on the part of the Minister to insert the actual definition of “ active service” in the Bill itself is sheer obstinacy on his part. Let us make our laws intelligible, so that ordinary people may understand them. I ask that progress be reported.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I moved the adjournment of the House on Friday last in order to discuss the proposals of the New South Wales Government for working coal mines in that State, and in the course of my speech made certain remarks in regard to the danger attendant upon the working of the Pelaw Main and Richmond Main mines. It has been declared by the Premier of New South Wales, and also by Mr. Hagelthorn, a member of the Victorian Government, and by the Victorian representa tives of Messrs. J. and A. Brown, that the statement I made in regard to those mines has no foundation in fact. The statement I made was, as reported in Hansard, that-
The Richmond Main and thePelaw Main, which are to be worked on behalf of the Victorian Government; are very dangerous mines, because they give off gas in large quantities. Yet the Victorian Government is advertising for gold miners, labourers, and workmen of any sort to man these mines. With inexperienced labour of that character, an explosion might occur at any moment.
I was referring to the danger of working these mines by inexperienced men, because of the gas that is given off in them. I was not speaking of their equipment, but the fact that the mines in question are two of the best equipped in New South Wales lends colour to my statement that they have to be so equipped in order to prevent the ignition of gas. There is nothing better than their ventilation plants, and especially the ventilation plant of the Richmond Main. The owners were compelled to put in the very best appliances in order to keep them free from gas. That in itself bears out my statement asto the danger of working them with inexperienced men. In the New South. Wales Parliamentary papers for 1908, to be found in the Commonwealth Library, there appears the annual report by Mr. Atkinson for 1908. in which it was stated that fire damp had been reported under rule 4 in the Maitland portion, northern inspection district at the East Greta, Heddon Greta, Stanford Merthyr, Pelaw Main, Richmond Main, Hebburn, and South Greta mines. In the annual report of the New South Wales Department of Mines for 1916 - the latest available - we have the statement, at page 134, “ Mr. Humble reports fire damp has been seen and reported under the general and special rules during the year.” Pelaw Main and Richmond Main are mentioned, in addition to some other mines. It is stated, further, that one individual was prosecuted for having matches in the Pelaw Main mine, and that the following collieries, amongst others, are using locked safety lamps throughout : - Stanford Merthyr, Pelaw Main, Richmond Main, Seaham, and Seaham No. 2. These are mines in which the Government are endeavouring to employ inexperienced labour, and, notwithstanding what may be said outside as to their safety, I repeat that they are not safe if inexperienced men be employed in them.
– Do they shoot in these mines?
– Under certain conditions they shoot in every mine in the Newcastle and, Maitland districts. The only exception that I can recall to mind was in the case of the Pelaw Main. Some time ago they were driving two main headings, and the gas coming off was so great, according to the under- manager at that time, that they could not fire a shot; they had to scallop it out for fear of an explosion. Not more than two months ago, if I remember rightly, a fire occurred in Pelaw Main, and the men had to be withdrawn because of the fear of an explosion. Notwithstanding all these facts, I am told that my statements were incorrect. Prom the point of view that the mines in question produce gas, my statement is absolutely correct, and the greatest care must be taken to safeguard the lives of those who go into them.
– I put a question to-day to the Honorary Minister (Mr. Groom) in regard to the administration of the Victorian Patriotic Fund, and was asked to give notice of it. I regret to have to say that, whilst those in charge of the Patriotic Fund in Victoria may be wellintentioned people, they move very slowly, and are doing but little. What makes their slow-going methods harder to bear is the fact that in New South Wales those in charge of the Patriotic Fund are doing excellent work and carrying out the functions for which’ the fund was called into existence. I know that the Government have no supervision over these funds, and that it would be difficult to single out the controllers of the Victorian fund for special treatment. The administration of the South’ Australian fund is even worse, so that the situation is a very delicate one. If the Victorian and South Australian funds were singled’ out for special action on the part of the Government there would be a rumpus, and if, on the other hand, the Government stepped in with regard to the whole of these funds in the several States, it would stop the good work that is being done in New South, Wales, and, to a lesser degree, in Queensland.
– There was a recent conference of representatives.
– I shall refer to that conference. For a long time we have been promised that the allowance to the wives and children of the men at the Front would be supplemented from the Victorian Patriotic Fund.
– And that is being done.
– Up to date they have done nothing in that direction.
– They have.
– Necessitous cases are brought under the notice of those controlling the fund, but they do not deal with them. If it were not for the Victorian State War Council there would be nothing done to meet these cases. The Victorian State War Council, through its officials, is doing splendid work, but it has very little money with whichto giverelief. At the conference it was promised that £1,000 would be handed over to the State War Council to enable it to deal with necessitous cases. According to to-night’s issue of the Herald, that amount has been reduced to £500. No attempt has yet been made to pay out the extra amount that was to be payable as from the 11th instant. I know that the Government have no immediate supervision over these funds’, but they could secure it, and they should do something in the matter. If I were to make statements of this character outside, the War Precautions Act would be applied to me. and I have no desire to adorn a cell, as I would have to do, since I would not have the money to pay the heavy fine which would probably be inflicted. I do not infer that those responsible for the administration of the fund have no sympathy for the wives and families of the men at the Front, but the fact remains that one can get them to do but very little. They have a considerable amount of money, and they should use it in the direction in which it was intended it should be used.
I know from what I have learned from those interested in other bodies that the people responsible for the Patriotic Fund are not carrying out the promises they gave. If something is not done to remedy the existing state of affairs, I shall take the risk of saying outside what may bring upon me the charge of interfering with recruiting. It is up to those in charge of the Victorian Patriotic Fund to do some of the work for which the fund was brought into existence. At present I can only say that this fund is being administered unfeelingly.
– To what fund does the honorable member refer?
– To the Patriotic Fund, supervised by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne.
– Those administering the fund have done wonderfully good work.
– Tell me one thing they have done. They do not attempt to spend the money for purposes for which it was gathered. I do not know what the expenses of administering the fund are, but I am told that the daughter of one public man is getting £6 a week for supervision of some sort. I have no proof, but if that be true, both she and her father ought to be ashamed. I do know, however, that there are enormous expenses, and that the fund is not being expended on the objects for which it was gathered. At a conference a promise was made that the money would be properly disbursed, and I draw attention to the matter now in the hope that Victoria may be placed on a par with New South Wales so far as the administration of the Patriotic Fund is concerned.
– I will take a note of what the honorable member has said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170918_reps_7_83/>.