7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11a.m. to-morrow.
– Last evening the lights before all the buildings in the city, except Parliament House, were turned down; I ask the Minister for the Navy why this building was treated differently from any other?
– I suggest that my honorable friend should inquire of Mr. Speaker. However, I shall look into the matter.
Mr.RODGERS. - What looks like a quite unjustifiable flutter occurred in the cornsackmarket a day or so ago. There is in to-day’s newspapers a statement on the subject by the Prime Minister. To make assurance doubly sure, will the right honorable gentleman say definitely that a supply of sacks will be available, and that the maximum price will be 9s. 6d. without duty!
– The position is as I have already set it out. Put briefly, it was the original intention of the Government that private firms importing sacks should come to some arrangement, but they failed to do this, and asked the Government to act. Sacks were bought at a price which made the maximum fixed by the Government perfectly fair, as it left a good margin of profit. The price at which they have been bought is plus the duty, which, of course, has to be taken off.
As to freight, the unexpected demands of the British Government, for military purposes, have taken off the coast of India the freight on which we were relying, but we are endeavouring to get other freight. Sufficient supplies are coming forward for our immediate needs, but, should the necessary freight be unprocurable elsewhere, we shall divert steamers from other places.
– Last night the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) made a statement to the effectthat a number of internees had been taken from the Holdsworthy Camp to work in the tramway workshops at Eveleigh, and that, on being informed that a strike was on, they had refused to work. The honorable member said that he made that statement on information which had been given to him.
-I said that the statement had been made, and I asked that an inquiry be instituted.
-The honorable member took the responsibility of asking the question, which is to-day being circulated throughout Australia by the newspapers. I have got into touch with the Military Commandant, and his answer is that there is no foundation whatever for the statement ; that no internees were taken to work as stated.
– What about the other matter ?
– An inquiry is being made in respect to it.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that instructions have been issued by the postal authorities at Broken Hill that Hansard is not to be delivered to postal addresses there to which it is usually delivered? If so, will the honorable gentleman give the reason why Hansard is not to be delivered to these addresses?
– I have no knowledge of what has been done, but I shall make an inquiry, and reply to the question later.
– Has final leave been refused to soldiers from States other than Victoria, after they have been six months or more in camp in Victoria?
– The honorable member gave me notice of his intention to ask the question. The Commandant of the Third Military District reports that no applica-. tions made to him under the above circumstances have been refused; that, on the contrary, he has approved of over 100 applications.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet arrived at a decision regarding the extension of telephone facilities it country districts?
– Having now got the necessary data to enable me to estimate the probable loss of revenue which such a concession entails, I have decided, in view of the peculiar circumstances of the primary producers daily avocations, to extendthe time of telephone communication from 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock in the evening.
Theft of Soldiers’ Parcels
-Will the PostmasterGeneral lay on the table of the House the papers in connexion with the departmental inquiry into the thefts at the South Broken Hill Post-office of parcels addressed to soldiers at the Front ?
– I shall look into the matter, and, if there is nothing to prevent my complying with the request, I shall do as the honorable member desires.
Reports of Royal Commission
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways make available the reports of Mr. Blacket, the Royal Commissioner who inquired into the administration of public works in the Federal Capital?
– The reports have all been laid on the table, and, I understand, printed. It is now a matter of parliamentary circulation.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House when he intends to introduce the measure for the amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– The Bill has been introduced and passed, and is now law.
Pensions and Separation Allowances - Special Leave
– Does the Defence Department intend to make any alteration in the instructions regarding the reduction of, or the refusal of, separation allowances where soldiers’ dependants are in receipt of invalid, old-age, or war pensions ?
– The honorable member gave me notice last night that he intended to ask this question.
– This is a new way of giving notice!
– It is a practice which I have several times asked honorable members to adopt, and which would have the effect of preventing misrepresentations getting abroad. In reply to the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) I have to say that an amendment of the regulations has been approved, providing that, as from the 1st September current, the receipt of an old-age, invalid, or war pension should not render the recipient thereof ineligible for separation allowance.
– At the present time, week-end and month-end leave is given to soldiers to enable them to visit their homes in the metropolitan areas, but those men who live in the country, and, of course, have to travel long distances, have their pay deducted for any additional day’s leave that may be necessary in their case. Will the Honorary Minister for Defence consider the justice of granting pay to these country soldiers during this special leave?
– The honorable member having given me notice that he intended to ask this question, I made representations to the Minister, who informs me that he has given instructions that halfpay is to be allowed during the period of special leave referred to. It must be distinctly understood, however, that it applies only to those cases of men whose homes are in the country districts, and who sometimes find that urgent business and family reasons necessitate their presence at their homesfor a few days. The application in each case is to be forwarded to the camp commandant, who may, if thecircumstances justify, grant such special leave. Camp commandants will personally deal with all such applications, and carefully consider the circumstances of each case. The leave is preferably to be given so as to include a week-end, in order that the soldier may be absent from his training for as short a period as possible.
Returned Soldiers Sued for Rates
– Has the Honorary Minister for Defence seen a statement in to-day’s Age to the effect that returned soldiers in Victoria are being placed on land where it is impossible to make a living, and are now being sued for rates by the local councils? Will the Minister have inquiries made, and communicate the result to the House ?
– I regret to say that, owing to the pressure of public business, I have not had time to read to-day’s Age. I shall, however, read the paragraph, and submit it to the Minister in charge of repatriation.
– In view of the frequent riots which have taken place in Melbourne, will the Prime Minister issue a regulation under the War Precautions
Act to provide that persons arrested as the leaders of such riots should be detained pending inquiry, and also detained in cases where appeals are made against convictions?
– I cannot promise to go any further than we have gone in this matter. Under the law of this State, apparently any justice of the peace - that is to say, the bulk of the population of the State - may grant bail. This appeared to the law authorities of the Commonwealth as carrying a passionate love of freedom to a somewhat ridiculous extent; and the Government, therefore, propose to confine the granting of bail to stipendiary or special magistrates. Personally, I am not in favour of going any further.
-(Hon. W. Elliot John son). - I have to inform honorable members that I have this day issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Grampians, in the place of the Honorable Carty Salmon, deceased. The dates fixed are those previously announced to the House.
Messages recommending appropriations for the following Bills reported: -
Inscribed Stock Bill (1917).
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Appropriation Bill.
Loans Sinking Fund Bill.
Refusal of Crew by Seamen’s Union.
– Is it a fact that the Firemen and Seamen’s Union has refused a crew to the hospital shipKanowna?
– I regret more than I can say that it is true we have been refused a crew for the hospital ship Kanowna.
– Is no reason given?
– No. The union has, I believe, simply refused to provide a crew, after promising that they would do so.
– Is there any excuse?
– I have heard no excuse. I have simply the bald announcement by telegram that the Seamen’s Union has refused to provide a crew for the Kanowna. We are now engaged in advertising for a crew, which, for the sake of the good name of Australia, I hope will be forthcoming.
– Is there no means, in connexion with the administration of the Department in Sydney, by which it would be possible to find some explanation of the statement the Minister has given in regard to this hospital ship? Will he make inquiries as to what reasons are given for the attitude of the Seamen’s Union ?
– All I can tell the honorable member is what is contained in a telegram received this morning from Sydney, from the captain in charge. The telegram reads as follows: -
Unable to provide crew for hospital ship Kanowna. Unions refuse to man her. Am taking special steps by advertisement.
That hospital ship should have sailed today. She cannot sail because the unions refuse to give her a crew. If I were my friend I would stop asking questions and making excuses about a damnable thing of that kind!
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the formation of an association of single eligibles which has been formed in New South Wales, with the object of protecting the interests of single eligibles who have not responded to their country’s call? If so, will he see that the members of this association remain single? Furthermore, will he take any steps that may be necessary to prevent them reproducing their kind?
– I am the representative of the law, but I am not an executioner. I decline to take any such action as the honorable member has suggested.
– In dealing with that suggestion-
– I have pointed out on several occasions that questions arising out of an answer given by a Minister to a previous question cannot be allowed.
asked theTreasurer, upon notice -
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank considers it undesirable that the information asked for should be made public.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Who are the members of the Navy Board controlling shipping, and what are their duties?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Naval Board powers in relation to shipping are laid down in Defence Acts and War Precautions Regulations, and chiefly provide for the protection of shipping.
The commercial side of shipping (for example loading ports,. cargo, &c.) is under the control of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, of which the Prime Minister is Chairman.
The Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Shipping Board is Engineer Rear-Admiral Clarkson, who is also Third Naval Member of the Naval Board.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 2575), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- No more important Bill has ever been introduced into this Parliament, and we are grateful to Senator Millen for the very able and informative speech that he delivered when moving the second reading of the measure in another place. He has any amount of energy and ability, and I am pleased that in this regard the mantle has fallen upon his shoulders. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has contended that the Bill, being mainly a machinery measure, does not give Parliament the opportunity of coming to a definite decision upon what should be done in connexion with repatriation work. As each Government and each individual in the Commonwealth is bound to make proper provision not only for our soldiers who are wounded, but also for their dependants, we should be supplied with as much information as the Minister in charge of the measure in this House is able to give us. For instance, there is some doubt in the minds of some honorable members as to whether the pensions and allowances made to dependants under the War Pensions Act will be continued when the repatriation scheme comes into operation.
– Anything that will be given under this Bill will be in addition to whatever is received under the War Pensions Act by soldiers, widows, and children. The War Pensions Act will remain unaltered.
– At the conference of State Premiers and State Ministers of Lands the Prime Minister made the following statement : -
– In view of what Mr. Holman has said, it is only right I should submit to this Conference some typical instances of cases in which pensions are being drawn by incapacitated soldiers and their families. The following list, in which I will not disclose the names, shows interesting details: - —- receives £3 per fortnight; his wife, £1 10s. per fortnight; eldest child, £1; second child, 15s.; and each of remaining six children, 10s. per fortnight; a total of £9 5s. per fortnight (£4 12s. 6d. per week). —- with wife and six children, receives, in all, £8 5s. per fortnight (£4 2s. 6d. per week). —- with wife and four children; total pension, £7 5s. per fortnight (£3 12s. 6d. per week). —- has lost one eye; no other disability; receives 15s. per week; eldest child receives 5s., and second child 3s. 9d. per week; a total of 23s. 9d. per week (wife dead). —-has lost right eye, and vision in left eye defective. This pensioner, . with his wife and six children, was receiving, altogether, £4 2s. 6d. per week, from 25th March, 1916, until 7th December, 1916, when it was found that he was not totally incapacitated, and each pension was reduced to three-fourths of the maximum. The amount now being paid is £31s. 9d. per week. —- receives full pension (30s. per week), and has two sisters each receiving 5s. per week. —- receives £3 9s. per fortnight, wife receives £1 14s. 6d., six children receive, in all, £3 15s. per fortnight. The family pension is thus £4 9s. 3d. per week. —- granted 30s. per week, and mother granted 10s. per week.
On the whole, it cannot be said that these pensions do not conform to Australian conditions.
The definite answer I received from the Minister to the question I asked a few moments ago will do much to remove the objection to this Bill as a purely skeleton measure. It should be our desire that our returned soldiers shall not be discharged until some occupation is ready for them. There are many ways in which they can be employed. In Victoria there is an arrangement by which the returned soldiers who desire to learn a trade are taught, and are given so much per week during their training. When they are proficient they are equipped with the tools necessary for the carrying on of their trade. That is a very good system of repatriation, especially when it is operated in conjunction with the War Pensions Act. I understand this Bill to be intended to provide something in addition to the pensions already provided, a means by which the men returning to Australia will be able to get into occupations. Many will desire to return to their former trades. But it may be shown by employers that some of the men are not as proficient as they were when they left - that because of their sufferings they cannot do the same amount of work as they could do formerly. I am pleased to find the provision that the Commissioners may make good the difference between what the men are now worth to their employers and what they would have earned had they continued at their employment andnot gone to the Front. No doubt many of those who return will seek to get into employment of that kind. But I am convinced that men who have been living in the open, and have been well trained for the last three years, will have no desire to go into any sort of confinement. They will seek to be placed on the land where they may live an open and free life.
Senator Millen indicated in another place that of the soldiers with whom the Department has been able to get into touch, 40,000 have intimated their desire to settle on the land. No doubt there are many others who will express the same wish, but, if even those 40,000 ace each to receive an advance of £500 to equip a farm, and £1,000 worth of land, about £60,000,000 will require to be provided. That is a matter which demands the serious consideration of honorable members. Some of the States have not been as fortunate as others in getting population and advancing land settlement. Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and New South Wales contain very large areas of first class land, but for many years settlement has been taking place, and there is not as much good Crown land available as in some of the other States. The pick of the land in Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia has been alienated. In Queensland, on the contrary, of 429,000,000 acres only 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. has been alienated. I understand the same conditions obtain in Western Australia. There remains a considerable choice of good land in those States, and the Governments are desirous of getting more population. Queensland has given 160 acres free to settlers in the past, and, until recently, paid the passages of immigrants- I cannot see why we should not adopt in Australia a scheme similar to that carried out in Canada, particularly in Manitoba, where every alternate block was given to a company on the condition that the concessionaires constructed a railway. The Queensland Government could give the Federal Government the same opportunity as is being given in Canada to private enterprise, by setting aside alternate blocks of agricultural land for sale for She settlement of returned soldiers only, on condition that the money given for that land by the Commonwealth should be applied by the Sta’te in constructing roads and railways to these and the alternate blocks. I am not making this suggestion without some knowledge. The Queensland Minister for Lands stated at the Premier’s Conference that in the North Burnett district of my electorate there were 1,500,000 acres of land suitable for the settlement of soldiers, and behind it another area of 1,000,000 acres, making a total of 2,500,000 > acres on which 15,000 soldiers could be settled. The same report shows that for an expenditure of £875,000 on railways and roads that land could be made available for returned soldiers.
Like those of the other States, the Queensland Government have not the money, and cannot now raise- what would be required, to build the railways necessary to open up this land. Iri these circumstances, would it not hd infinitely cheaper for the Commonwealth Government, instead of raising £40,000,000 for the purchase of agricultural land, on which it ‘would be possible, after all, to settle only 40,000 returned soldiers, to make with the State some such arrangement as I .have suggested ? For an expenditure of £855,000, or at the most £1,000,000, it would be able to obtain from ‘ the Queensland Government 1,250,000 acres of land on which at least 7,500 returned soldiers could be well placed, while an equal area in alternate blocks would be served by the same railways and the State Government could settle an equal number of men upon it.
– Is the Queensland Government coming into this scheme?
– So far it has not agreed to do so, because iti does not see its way clear to give the land and finance the scheme. I would appeal to the Government to see if an arrangement of the kind outlined by me could nob be carried out. There will probably be a new State Administration within the next) few months, and I feel sure that, it would consider such a scheme, even if the present Government is not prepared to do so. I have so far mentioned only land available in my own electorate and at the back of it, but I am sure there are many other electorates in Queensland where the same scheme could be followed. The State Government need money to construct railways that would make it possible for our returned soldiers to settle on what is really first-class land, practically equal to anything we have in Victoria, and the adoption of. my suggestion would overcome a very serious financial difficulty.
Unfortunately, the’ present State Government is drawn from a party which, until some two and a half years ago, had never held office, and which has as one of the planks of its platform the substitution of the perpetual leasehold for the freehold system. Very many returned soldiers have gone on land prepared by the State Government, and handed over to them on the perpetual leasehold system; bub of that system they are loud in their condemnation. If the arrangement I have outlined were made, the Repatriation Commission could acquire the land and could secure the freehold for repatriation purposes. Meanwhile, the adjacent blocks could be utilized for the settlement of ordinary farmers or returned soldiers, and even if the leasehold system were retained in respect of the latter, the freehold of the blocks handed over for repatriation purposes would not be withheld.
Why should the Commonwealth contemplate the payment of £10, £20, or £30 per acre for land that is no better than would be open to us under the scheme I have outlined at a cost of about 15s. per acre? This land is not more than from 115 to 200 miles from a well-equipped oversea port, and it would be a great advantage to the men to be able to secure first-class country at this very low price. I understand that at the last Conference it was suggested that any difference between 3£ per cent, and the price actually paid for the money should be borne equally by the State and Commonwealth, so that if it were possible to obtain this cheap land an enormous saving would be effected. I hope that the Government) will cause inquiries to be* made as to whether the Queensland Government is prepared to make available large tracts of country that would settle, I am sure, fully 40,000 returned soldiers on the terms I have foreshadowed. If they were, it would obviate the necessity for raising money on loan for the purchase of land at a high price. My scheme should suit the State Government, inasmuch as it! would furnish n with money for the construction of the necessary railways, and since it has large areas untenanted, it should be very glad to get this area occupied.
From a defence point of view it would also be well to give my scheme very careful consideration. The greatest menace to the Commonwealth to-day is the fact that we have in Queensland and Western Australia tens of millions of acres of firstclass agricultural land with hardly a soul upon it. How long we shall be allowed to hold it without putting it to any use is a question that may have to be settled by the British Empire and its Allies after the war. I think that any such scheme as this would be one of the greatest reasons we could assign when the Imperial Conference sits, that a large area of land was about to be utilized by white men, and that almost immediately.
– Has not Queensland offered to every Australian the same right as it has offered to its own citizens?
– Until the last two and a half years every man could go and select any piece of land open and get the fee simple of it when he had paid the purchase money and put in a residence of five years, but now he is not allowed to get the fee simple but only perpetual leasehold. Several men may take up blocks. One or two of the men may so improve their land that they will get a good return, but others may not do the same thing. When the periodical revision of the rents under the perpetual lease system takes place the men who have devoted most energy and time to the work and expended the most money and energy may have their land appraised at a higher rent. Then arises a fear that they may not receive even-handed treatment in the future. Therefore men like to feel that tHey will be able to handle the fee simple of a block, instead of a perpetual lease.
– What happened to the Government which did that?
– People, especially in new countries, will try experiments, and because gross mis-statements were made such as that the late Government was responsible for the high cost of living, it was turned out. But what do we find today? Instead of the high cost of living becoming reduced it has steadily advanced under the regime of the new Government. I feel that the men on the land will deal with the present Government in a way which, perhaps, they do not expect,, and therefore I expect that in May next we may return to our normal conditions. I hope that the electors will return a Liberal Government, which will steer a course between the two extremes, and see that justice and fair play are meted out to all. That is what we want in Queensland, as well as here.
– Order! I am afraid that the honorable member is getting away from the question.
– I am afraid that I am, sir, but I was drawn off the track by the honorable member for Brisbane.
Although the soldiers may not approve of the class of Government which Queensland has at present - they may think that they will not get a fair deal in the matter of repatriation - I point out to them that in the near future there is likely to be a change which will enable the men to get such treatment as would be acceptable to them and the Repatriation Commissioners. A question has been raised as to whether a Board or Commission sitting at each State capital could exercise a proper control. If men are elected to the Boards who have ability, as well as a kindly feeling for the returned soldiers, they could carry out the business in such a way that it would be distinctly in the interests of the men. It will be no more difficult for a Board to secure a proper inspection of what the men are doing than it is for the directors of a bank in Melbourne or Sydney, who have branches established throughout the
States, to send inspectors from the head office to see that the advances made in the various districts are judicious. The Boards could just as easily take the necessary steps to see that money had been expended in a fair and safe way.
I sincerely hope that this Parliament will do something which will insure that a returned soldier who wishes to settle on the land in Queensland shall have the same facilities for acquiring a freehold as he could have had when he left these shores to fight abroad for Australia.
– The facilities for getting land in Queensland are much greater than those offered in the other States at present.
– It is true that better facilities are offered in Queensland, but settlers now cannot get a freehold. What they desire is a title. When I was a member of the Queensland Parliament a few years ago, legislation was passed by which men who settled on the land could obtain facilities which were not offered in any other State. Suppose, for instance, that a man selected a piece of land and had sufficient money to pay the first year’s rent, which was one-fortieth of the whole. He could apply then to the Agricultural Bank for an advance of £200, to be expended by him in erecting a small dwelling and making other improvements in the shape of fencing and providing water. While he was expending this money, an inspector visited the farm, and the settler then received £1 for £1 up to the advance of £200, which amount, I believe, has since been increased to £500. The settler was also allowed a further sum of £800 on the basis of 15s. in the £1. Altogether, he c&n now get from £1,400 to £1,500 advanced in that way. The interest was fixed at 5 per cent, on a twenty years’ term. The redemption money was payable only after the expiry of the first five years, and for that period the settler had to provide only the interest. These terms exist to-day. It has been held by members of the present Government that the facilities offered to persons to go and settle on the land are quite equal, if not superior to, those which are contemplated by the Federal Government.
– Has the Agricultural Bank made any losses?
– Between the enactment of the Bill and the resignation -of the late Government, about two and a half years ago, the Agricultural Bank advanced a very large sum of money, and there was a small credit balance at the end of the term. What the bank has done since, I cannot say.
The land in Queensland is very good, the price is very low, and the facilities to enable settlers to get their produce to market are good on account of our having made so many narrow-gauge railways. We have 1,000 miles more of railroad than has any other State in the Commonwealth. We were able to provide this long mileage by the adoption of the narrow gauge. It answers admirably all the requirements of the settlers. If lie Federal Government, through the Repatriation Commission, would get hold of some of the land to which I have referred in fee simple for the purposes of the returned soldiers, and arrange that the money paid for the land should be applied by the State Government only in constructing railways and making roads to and beyond the land, the amount involved in securing land would be about £4,000,000, instead of £40,000,000, the cost set down by the Minister of Repatriation in his secondreading speech. I hope that arrangements will be made so that when soldiers return to Australia their pay shall be continued until the Government, whose duty it is to fulfil the promises given to the men here, provide the necessary employment on their discharge from the Army.
It is intended to send to America for experts in the manufacture of artificial limbs. These articles are made in Queensland. To give honorable members an idea of their excellent quality, I may mention that the manager of a large concern who had his leg badly broken, and who, after it had been cut three times, had to get it amputated to the thigh, got an” artificial leg made in Brisbane. Some years ago he went to Denmark, and only recently he sent for another leg, because he said that he could not obtain in any part of the world a leg better than the one which was made for him in Brisbane years before. If the Repatriation Commission can obtain the services of a man who is capable of turnout out artificial limbs of that excellent quality it should do so. The man I re;ferred to had plenty of means, and therefore he was in the position to go to the best place for any article which would give relief. If there is ia the Commonwealth a man who can make artificial limbs’ of high quality, why not employ him to instruct other persons to do the work instead of importing men who might not be able to produce an article so. good as that which has often been produced in Queensland?
– I think that what applies to Queensland applies to most of the other States.
– I can quite understand that, but it is well for sin honorable member to speak only of things which he actually knows, and not from hearsay. No doubt in every walk of life there are to be found just as capable men in the other States, as may be found in Queensland. Perhaps in our State we may be a little more progressive in some things, because we have had to pioneer. In the early days our pioneers were enterprising men, so that since then many energetic persons have carved out a livelihood in the backblocks. Others have come and established new industries, and finding that it was essential to do something better than was done in the other States they have won the necessary notoriety to advance the sale of their’ goods.
I appeal to the Minister in charge of this Bill to make such representations that we in Queensland will not be forced to put returned soldiers on the land, as has been done at Beerburrum, Queensland, where there was no land available except that which could be taken up on perpetual lease. Returned soldiers went to that district, but they are not satisfied with the conditions on which they hold the land. This has had a’ great effect on the success of recruiting, because these men contend that the promises given to them before they left these shores to fight overseas have not been fulfilled* They were promised that if they so wished they would be placed on the land, and it was generally understood that they, would be placed on the land on the same conditions as regards title as were in vogue at that time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We are engaged on an important work. It seems almost superfluous to add that the work has been too long delayed. I take my share of the blame in common with other honorable members. I do not say that the blame attaches to the Government as it exists to-day, but I do say that had the Prime Minister after the election of 1914 taken notice of some of the warnings given by members of the House, he and his colleagues would have set to work’ to prepare for the difficulty in which we now find ourselves. In my humble judgment we should have had our repatriation scheme in operation in some shape or form when the first returned soldier came back to Australia, so that instead of now being engaged on what may be termed the initial effort at repatriation we should be considering’ our amending legislation. Our experience with regard to war pensions has shown that improvements may be made every time the Ace comes before the House for review. Is it not likely, therefore, that’ we shall find the same need for amending and improving our repatriation machinery, affecting as it will over 300,000 returned soldiers? .
I hold in my hand a copy of the Anzac Bulletin of 8th April, 1917, and issued just prior to the recent elections, and I desire to read from iia an extract of the Prime Minister’s manifesto to the soldiers at the Front, because I take it that our soldiers, when they come back, will bear in mind the promises made, not only by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) but also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). In his manifesto the Prime Minister wrote as follows: -
The financial obligations of land settlement and general repatriation proposals to which the Commonwealth is committed involve a considerable amount, estimated at £32,000,000, of which £22,000,000 will he required for land settlement and £10,000,000 for other forms of repatriation. The Government propose to raise £22,000,000 by loan, and the remaining £10,000,000 by a tax upon incomes, spread over a series of .years. They hope to insure that close and intimate interest in the repatriation of soldiers which is essential to the success of. the scheme by also appealing for voluntary contributions in money and kind.
I do not know if there has been a misprint, but I think the latter amount ia altogether too small and insignificant to provide for those who may desire to enter some other avocation than that of land settlement. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, I think, that repatriation would cost this country at least £100,000,000, and I am inclined to the same opinion. In myopinion, hundreds, if not thousandsof those men, who prior tothe war were confined to factory life,upon their return, and after having experienced the benefit of an outdoor life, will not desire to returnto their former occupations, but will express a, wish to settle upon the land. I hope that will be the case, and, speaking as a city representative, I think it is very desirablethat a much larger numberthan 40,000 out of 300,000 should take up rural occupations. We must realize, however, that we shall have a difficult problem to solve, because nodoubt manyof those who may decide to exchange city for rural life will, after 12 or 18 “months’ experience, find their enthusiasm has waned and that country life has lost its attractiveness, and so they will be inclined to return to the cities. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) will bear me out whenI say that although settlement on good lucerne country in his own constituency was attempted, many men who were to be found therethree years ago have since returned totheir former occupations in the city.
Mr.Sampson.-That applies to all forms of land settlement.
Mr.Corser.- Does not the honorable member think that failure may have been due to the fact that theland was too costly for the men to geta reasonable return from it?
– There might be good deal in that suggestion, but the factthat people do return to city life makes this problem all the more difficult.
– The honorable member’s statement would apply equally to settlement on Crown lands.
Mr.Corser.-That is very seldom the case in Queensland.
– A good deal, of course depends upon the class of settlers.As far as I am concerned country life has many attractions for me, although I am a city representative in this Parliament, and I hope, when I get a little more into “the sear and yellow leaf,” I shall find myself back in the country and enjoying its charms. In the case of a returned soldier who, before the war, had been accustomed to the free life of the bush, the music of the trees, and the mystic charm of the wilds, it is likely that after having been in close companionship with his fellows for two or three years, hp will have been weaned from his love of his former life, and will seek to enter acity occupation.
Thus will our difficulties of repatriation increase.
Land settlement schemes, in Victoria at all events, have not been an unqualified success, possibly because people have been required to pay too much for the landin some cases. I hope, therefore, the Commonwealth Government will exercise some control over land purchase negotiationsby the States for repatriation purposes for soldiers. It is well known that many landholders are already approaching the Stages with a view to disposing of their properties.
– That difficulty has been got over in New Zealand by the Government acquiring the land for settlement purposes.
– I am aware of that Some of the land available is no doubt very suitable, but it is quite likely that some people are unpatriotic enoughto try and palm off on tothe State Governments land not in any way suited for the settlement of returned soldiers or anybody else. Therefore, the greatest care should be exercised in these negotiations..
According to figures supplied to this House and to the Senate, about 40,000 of our soldiers will upon their return be applicants for land, so that the great bulk of our soldiers will have to be provided for in some other way.
Mr.Corser.- The cards which have been returned indicate that 40,000 soldiers will apply, but it is likely that a great number ofcards did not reachour soldiers.
Mr.FENTON.-Even so,the honorable member knows how people feelon this matter, and judging byour experiences of the past, it is probable, that 40,000 is a fair percentage ofour overseas Forces likely to enter upon land settlement. That being thecase efforts should be madeto provide for the other men. One man may be set up as a tobacconist, and another as a greengrocer, but, if so, those men will be entering into competition with other people already in the business, and who,” perhaps, are merely eking out an existence. Thus, instead of the repatriation being a benefit, it will bring disaster on the community. I desire “Parliament to do all that is possible for our returned soldiers; and my complaint is that instead of having applied ourselves to the establishment of new industries during the past few years, so as to provide further avenues of employment for our returned soldiers, we have been absolutely neglecting this duty altogether. Although the Prime Minister said that from a Tariff point of view it would be difficult to deal with our industries in Australia, he solemnly promised that, as far as other means could be evolved, something would be done for the purpose of reviving languishing industries and of establishing new industries. It is true that a Bureau of Science has been created, and that it has undertaken certain inquiries. But that is altogether too slow a process.
In this connexion. I wishto quote the promise of the Prime Minister, embodied in his manifesto to the soldiers at the Front, and which is set out in the Anzac Bulletin. He said -
The aftermath of the war will create problems most complex and difficult. Amongst these is the repatriation of soldiers. The policy of the National Government is directed to the organization and development of all our resources to win the. war, to hold the fruits of victory, and to grapple with the problems that peace will bring in its train.
That is the very full and ample promise which was made to the soldiers at the Front. Thousands of them have read it, and they are eagerly looking forward to the time when they will return to Australia, under the impression that they will be received in a handsome way, and that full employment will be provided for them. But what have we done in this direction? Beyond a few little tiddlywinking things, what have we done to establish new industries in Australia ? Instead of establishing new industries, imports are flowing in freer than ever. Only yesterday honorable members received Mr. Knibbs’ monthly summary of Australian statistics, and from page 27 of that summary I gather that, for the nine months of the year 1916-17, our imports represented the value of £61,436,000.
– To a great extent the increased prices account for that.
– It may account for a small proportion of the increase, but only a small proportion. Here we are in war time, with hardly any freight available. Those who wish to bring goods to Australia, whether from Britain or anywhere else, with the exception, perhaps, of Japan, occupy the worst possible position in the matter of exporting goods from their own countries.
– Hear, hear! There is nothing coming to Australia except what is absolutely indispensable.
– I do not agree with the honorable member, and I am sorry that the lessons taught by this war have not rid his mind of his antiquated Free Trade ideas. I am glad to know that other men who have been. very strong in their Free Trade leanings have, as a result of the war, brushed those leanings completely aside.
– The honorable member will admit that the withdrawal of 150,000 men from the industries of the country must result in decreased production.
-I am not discussing that phase of the matter. I am speaking of the way in which we are putting our hands into our pockets to encourage the establishment of new industries elsewhere whilst we are doing nothing to foster similar industries here.
– Our industries are paying better than ever they did, and yet they cannot make us all that we want. What must we do?
– To what lines does the honorable member refer?
– To every line.
– Now that we have, to a large extent, ceased to manufacture uniforms for our own soldiers-
– We are manufacturing them as much as ever we did. The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– I would like the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Groom) to pay a visit to the Exhibition Building and see the rolls of cloth which are piled up there. I know that, to a great extent, our woollen mills have been freed from their obligation to the Government-
– Our troops are still being supplied with uniforms. We are sending uniforms away now.
– How many uniforms?
– As many as are necessary.
– The time was when we could not supply 200,000 uniforms.
– But we have been building up these stores whilst the factories have been working.
– I am endeavouring to point out that if we establish new industries in Australia we shall be in a better state of preparedness to receive our soldiers upon their return than we shall be if we neglect those industries.
– The honorable member should endeavour to start a new industry, and see how he will fare.
– The establishment of new industries is one of the essential things of to-day. I am sorry that a great hindrance is being placed in the way of new activities being started by a gentleman at the Treasury. We are practically under a Czar in that connexion.
– That is not the great stumbling block.
– It is one of the stumbling blocks that we have to encounter. Hundreds of thousands of pounds would be invested in Australia today but for the fact that somebody at the Treasury says, “ I do not consider that is an essential industry.”
When I was interrupted I was about to quote some figures relating to our imports with a view to showing how we are neglecting to establish industries here.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing that.
-The honorable member has had a very fair innings.
– I think so, too.
– Is not the honorable member for Fawkner in favour of establishing new industries?
– We all are.
– Then is there any harm in an honorable member urging Upon the Government the wisdom of adopting that course?
– We are all agreed as to that.
– It is not often that the honorable member is subject to crossexamination.
– If the honorable member calls his questions cross-examination he does not know what cross-examination is.
– I confess that I could not hear the replies of the honorable member for Fawkner. I have no desire to canvass your ruling, sir, but I felt that it was necessary to direct attention to one of the most complex problems that will confront us when the war is over. The Prime Minister in his manifesto declared that the Government would do all they possibly could to establish industries and to exploit the resources of Australia.
– Does not the honorable member think that we had better get into Committee?
– I do not know that the honorable gentleman’s own supporters are prepared to permit of that being done at present.
– The honorable member’s own side is tired of the job. He has only one listener now.
– Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are very busy answering their correspondence. But their attendance here will compare very favorably with the attendance of honorable members opposite.
We all desire to do what we can on behalf of our returned soldiers, but unless we can establish new industries there is a sad time ahead. Only a very small percentage of these men will go upon the land. I regret that circumstance, because I think that every one of our cities could, with advantage, unload thousands of its population into rural areas. In this connexion I may perhaps expect a little more sympathy from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Groom) than I may expect from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook). We need to do all that we can to establish new industries, and thereby to avoid sending our money out of the country. By adopting that course, we shall be making provision for the men who are returning from the Front.
Wo are all anxious to assist the Government to do the best that we possibly can in connexion with this repatriation scheme. The Bill is not a party measure, and for that reason I thought that the interjection which I made while the honorable member for Wannon was speaking, and which he so warmly resented, was of a helpful character rather than otherwise. I told him that although hesat on the Ministerial side of the chamber he was free to move amendments in the Bill without embarrassing the Government, and without his allegiance to them being called into question. There are some amendments which I intend to support, and I hope that they will find a place in the Bill. I appeal to honorable members to unite in Committee in an endeavour to formulate such proposals as will have the effect of materially improving the measure.
,- Like other honorable members, j desire to congratulate the Government upon hay-: ing at last brought this measure before the House, in order that we may as speedily as possible get, to work upon the vast organization that is required on behalf of our returned soldiers. We all admit that this is the paramount duty of the Government at the present time. The repatriation of our soldiers is a Commonwealth matter, and the Commonwealth can only control it adequately by pressing into ite service the whole of the forces and organisations, within- our borders. In the fine, speech he delivered in introducing this Bill in another place, Senator Millen covered most of the ground which this scheme pf repatriation opens up, and rendered it unnecessary for this Chamber to enter into a very long discussion upon this matter,’ however important it may be. But it is nevertheless necessary that honorable members should express their views upon the Bill, as well as upon some aspects of it, which may have q. local bearing upon .their own constituencies. “
Whatever obligations may be, cast upon us consequent upon the war-, the money that is required must be raised from taxation and from borrowing if we are to build up an adequate fund for repatriation purposes. The Sill aims at accomplishing this. It has been urged that the measure is merely a skeleton one, and that it does not lay down a. full scheme of organization that is necessary to. give effect to. this gre.at project. I do npt think that any Bill could embody in detail the whole method pf organization that is necessary to. deal with all the various trades and processes of trade, with a view to insuring that our returned soldiers shall, as speedily as possible, be restored to such a state of efficiency and contentment as will enable them once more to resume their places in the. civil life pf the community. The. Bill, therefore, can only deal generally with the. powers, which it is proposed tq vest, in the Central Commission, in order that, the whole pf the details connected with the scheme may be worked out by that body with a view to, meeting the varying circumstances, as they arise It. should be quite possible (or the R&?patriation Commission, with the advice, of men experienced in business, crafts, §nd industries, to evolve a scheme which will do justice to our returned soldiers.
The objectives of the Bill were fully explained hy Ministers in .another place and in this House. It is proposed that men shall be trained in various industries and crafts, and that the partially incapacitated shall be grained in Government institutions in such a way as to enable them to earn a comfortable living, as well as the sympathetic treatment of those permanently disabled. I was impressed by one statement made to the effect that in the training of returned soldiers advantage will be taken of existing establishments, and that it is neb’ intended te set up separate establishments for their special training, or in the matter of land settlement to establish them in separate colonies. If any other course were foi’ lowed it is possible that the atmosphere created by the settlement or establishment of the soldiers in separate groups would militate against their success. I believe that it is. wise to make use of the expertence and advice of those already engaged in industrial occupations and land settle-. ment. “We have important establishments in all pf ‘the States, branches of which might be taken advantage of to secure the training of our soldiers. The question from the industrial stand-point naturally will be a matter for development.
I hope that the Repatriation Commission will be constituted of men of the highest character and experience. In the appointment of the Commission we should take advantage pf the services pf men pf large experience in industrial and commercial organizations. If it were proposed to appoint a Repatriation Commission of officials we. might have a body of men of little practical experience who could claim ne considerable achievement in the industrial er commercial world. By taking advantage of the experience of captains of industry in different parts of the. Commonwealth we should be able to concentrate! the best ability of the community for the perfection of this important scheme. Later it may be found advisable to. place in control of the scheme, when it has been properly formulated, men who will be able to give the whole pf their time, to the work of putting it into operation.
One of the most difficult questions, with which we ha.ye to. deal is that of the land settlement of our returned soldiers. The.
Leader of the Opposition (Ms. Tudor)reminded us that it would not be reasonable to expect returned soldiers to make a success of land settlement if inordinately high prices were placed upon the lands allotted to them. That is a phase of the discussion which must be seriously considerednot only by the State Boards, who will have much to do with this part of the business, but also by the Repatriation Commission.
– It is better that the soldiers should be placed on land upon which they can makea living, even though a high price may be asked for it, than that they should be settled upon worthless land which may be obtained very cheaply.
-I quite agree with the honorable member that much will depend on the quality of the land upon which the returned men are settled. Some consideration will have to be paid to their preferences for different forms of land settlement. We may hope that the Local Committees, who in this matter will have large powers in the recommendation of suitable lands for settlement by soldiers who may have gone to the war front their own districts, will be able at the same time to assist the general scheme by promoting local interest in the work and raising local funds to supplement the assistance provided by the Repatriation Commission.
The Repatriation Commission will have control of the industrial side of this great scheme, and I have no doubt will make use of existing establishments throughout the Commonwealth. An effort should be made in connexion with the settlement of our soldiers on the land to provide land for them in the neighbourhood of or in the midst of rural settlements already successfully established. To give an illustration of the importance of the master, I may mention that the State Government have recently established a settlement that is rapidly becoming successfulMerbeinwithin a few milesof the successful settlement at Mildura. The new settlement was established on lands held by the Victorian Government, and the overwhelming majority of those who went to that, settlement in the first place is likely to be permanently and successfully established there. There is between these two successful settlements an area of very valuable land which has already been’ subdivided by the Victorian Government with a view to the settlement of returned soldier’s. That should be an ideal position for the purpose, because the returned men would have the benefit of the experience gained by the two successful settlements on either side of them, and the people of the already established settlements might be confidently expected to take a lively interest in their welfare.
– Was not Mildura a failure in the initial stages?
– The settlers at Mildura had, by experience, to work out their own salvation. All sorts arid conditions of men went there at first, and they had to gain their experience.
–The success of that settlement was due to Mr. Chaffey, the one man who held on.
– Yes. Mr. W. B. Chaff ey, who may be regarded as one of the great men of the Commonwealth, was not deterred by the difficulties, of the initial stages of the settlement, and was successful, with those who remained with him, in developing at Mildura one of the finest examples of intense culture to be found, not only in Australia, but in any part of the world.
– Is not that settlement supported by having its own packinghouses ?
– Yes; and they have a complete co-operative system in connexion with the grading and marketing of their fruit. I hope that it will be possible for the Repatriation Commission to maintain some supervision over land settlement by returned soldiers. The different State Governments must have control verylargely in the matter ; but I hope that it will be provided that the approval of the. Repatriation Commission will be required before moneys are advanced by the Commonwealth for this purpose.
– There is no provision to that effect in the Bill.
– I am aware of that. It is hot possible by a statutory enactment to exercise control over State authorities, who possess sovereign powers, but it should, I think’, be possible for the Repatriation Commission recommending the advance of money for the purchase of land for the settlement of returned soldiers to exercise some supervision in respect of . the quality of the land secured for the; purpose, and, generally, the progress of this form of repatriation. If this connexion, we have had the extraordinary spectacle of members of
State Parliaments who have been most persistent in their efforts to prevent the acquisition of reasonable powers by the Commonwealth Parliament, declaring that the Commonwealth should take over the whole work of the settlement of soldiers on the land. That is impracticable, because the Constitution does not permit of this Parliament hold-, ing land for settlement purposes. We have no power to acquire land for the settlement of soldiers, although we may hold it for certain purposes, such as ‘the building of post-offices.
– We could seek an amendment of the Constitution.
– That is quite another matter. If we . are going to ask for power to deal with land settlement in that way, we shall have to go in for a complete scheme of Unification, such as was formulated by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) some time ago. The lands would have to be handed over to the Commonwealth, and with them would go water supply, which is the life blood of our agriculture in the arid areas, and probably the means of transport, that is, the railways. - _ _
– Are we not drifting* in that direction?
– Although I believe that certain constitutional amendments are necessary, I am not in favour of going anything like so far as the honorable member indicates. We ought to be able to work in harmony with the State Parliaments, which have Land and Agriculture Departments and control the means of transport. - They are the bodies best qualified to carry out land settlement, but I hope it will be possible, when the scheme gets into practical operation, for the Commonwealth to advance the money and have a general supervision over the land settlement to be carried out by the States.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) referred to the high prices paid for land throughout Victoria. Too high a price has been paid in many cases under the Closer Settlement Act, and in a number of instances land not altogether suitable for the purpose has been bought, but mistakes are bound to be made even in private business in launching new projects, and, notwithstanding those drawbacks, the closer settlement scheme, as now operating in Australia, has given a tremendous impetus in the matter of placing people on the land and the increase of useful production from small holdings. There is a way by which we can avoid the payment of too high a price for land. Senator Millen, who will have the administration of the great scheme of repatriation, has made a considerable study of the question of land purchase, and we have in the Commonwealth all the material necessary for the purchase of land for closer settlement at prices which will not be beyond its value. The Land TaxDepartment has valuations and the necessary machinery. Every owner of land over £3,000 in unimproved value must send in his own valuation to the Land Tax Commissioner, and this is checked by valuations by the departmental officials.
– You know the New Zealand experience?
– Yes. The first Act passed in New Zealand provided that the State could purchase land at the owner’s valuation plus 10 per cent. That was done in the case of a big property adjacent to Canterbury, upon which scores of families are now settled.
– It was found in New Zealand that owners would put no valuation on the poor land.
– We have the valuations upon which the tax has to be paid, and in our Act there is a penal section that renders a man’s land liable to forfeiture if he undervalues it to any considerable extent. If the State and Federal Department coalesces in this matter - taking the owners’ valuation as well as that of the officials - we shall have in this closer settlement business all the machinery and material necessary to insure that land is not purchased at too high a price.
– Do you not think we should devote some attention to other industries ?
– I quite agree, but I thought, in dealing with this vast question of repatriation, it would be advisable for each honorable member to make some reference to particular classes of industry.
No rule can be laid down other than that) foreshadowed by Senator Millen himself with regard *to industries - that we should reinstate the men in those callings of which they acquired some knowledge before they went away, and make use of existing establishments in the shape of technical schools, in order to give them the best possible training and practical experience in the atmosphere best fitted to restore their over-wrought nerves and brains to a normal state.
A good many pessimistic forebodings have been uttered about the raising of the money required to carry out this scheme. Senator Millen gave only a vague idea of what it was likely to cost. He said that according to the number of applications received for land, a sum of something like £60,000,000 might be involved. Whatever the cost is, we must always bear m mind that it will not be money thrown away. If the scheme is carried out efficiently, it will mean a considerable increase of production to the St’ate. If the returned soldier is successful, the scheme will be a success to the State, and if the scheme is not successful for the State it will not be successful for the soldier. We have abundant taxation resources in Australia. We anticipate very heavy taxa” tion, bub whatever the future taxation may be, the money must be found. Previous to the war Australia had a public debt of £337,000,000. That was really not a debt at all, considering the assets we had to cover it, coming, I think, within £20,000,000 of the total. These assets were represented by railways, water-supply works, bridges, telephones, and buildings, so that before the war we had practically no debt worth mentioning. Our war debt will involve a considerable sum per annum in interest. Notwithstanding this heavy burden, we must raise the money necessary to repatriate our soldiers. We must find whatever is required to do our duty to the men who have defended Australia, and to insure the future de- ^velopment of this great Commonwealth. I propose to deal’ with the possibility of closer settlement in relation to that portion of my district which abuts on the Murray.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– I have mentioned that in Australia we can easily provide cheap land for our returned soldiers, and in this connexion I wish to say a few words about the possibilities of the Murray Basin. Under an agreement entered into by -the Cook Government on behalf of the Commonwealth’ with the authorities of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, a scheme of water conservation was provided for which, when completed, will add 1,500,000 acres of irrigable land to the area already under occupation. It will take some years to complete this scheme; indeed, the sites of the proposed dams are not yet fixed. I hope that at an early date the Minister for Works and Railways will tell us that these sites have been chosen, and. that, in addition, storage will be arranged for on each side of the Murray in lakes and other natural depressions. Those who have gone to the war will return to the States from which they went, and will generally desire to settle within those States. But in the Murray River Basin ample provision exists for the settlement of all who have gone from New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. In New South Wales the Government has established the Murrumbidgee irrigation settlement; in South Australia, at Murray Bridge, provision is being made for the settlement of soldiers on cheap irrigated land, and there is also the Renmark irrigation settlement; and in Victoria we have irrigation settlements at Mildura, Nyah, Swan Hill, Cohuna, and other places. It will be unnecessary therefore to purchase much land for the purposes of settlement, but where it may be necessary to purchase in order to provide settlement areas close to land already in successful occupation, the Governments of the States should make the purchases. It has been estimated that 40,000 returne’d men will take up land. That, i think, is almost too large an estimate. The number of returned men will probably be about 300,000. Of these, it is estimated that about half will resume their ordinary occupations, and employment of one kind and another will be found for the rest. After the provision of land for those who want to settle on the soil, the big problem to be faced will be the provision of training and instruction and the finding of occupations in the various industries of the country. This work must be undertaken by the .central Commonwealth Commission. Its function will be to see that trades are taught and special training given to men more or less incapacitated and positions found for those wanting employment, and sometimes placing men in business. It will have great opportunities for this work. In the Public Service of the Commonwealth and of the State preference must be given to returned men, and many openings will be found for them. Similar openings will occur in the railway workshops, and in
Government -factories* alien: as bur woollen, harness-,, and clothing factories.) and in technical branches -like the telephone branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Mr.Fenton.- tlas the honorable member referred to the need for training farmfe?
– There are a . number of State Government farms which ‘Could be use’d for in&tau’ctibnal purposes. My advice is that we ‘should Settle our ffdidfers ; asija’ceht t» districts in which farming hai been successful, both ‘districts in which root anfl /fodder ‘crops have been grown with ‘the help of the natural rainfall, an’d districts artificially watered by. irrigation.
To -show that closer settlement is not the failure ‘that some critics would have us believe it to be; I wish to put on record some figures that I have taken from the Y ear-Book. . In1911 therewere 42 acres of orchard for every 1,000 of population, and in19 15 . 47 acres, the area under orchard increasing during the years that I have mentioned, from 185,000 acres to 232,000 acres, and the value of the fruit grown from £524,000 to £724,000. ‘The area of land under cultivation for the production of green fodder, which is largelythe . test of closer settlement and irrigation,increasedfrom 85acres to 1,000 of the population in1911 to274 acres in 1915.
The scheme which we are now launching, is m’erely a scheme in outline. 1 can understand that some may think. that we should specify in . greater ‘detail the work of the central Commonwealth Commission, but there is danger that if we load the scheme with too much detail we shall limit too greatly the . powers of those intrusted with a very complex. problem. We must be. content to bestow broad general powers, to be exercised to . meet . varying conditions, and with sufficient elasticity to enable cases affectin’gr all_ classes of industry to be dealt with as they arise.
Therepatriation of our soldfers is -a national task -and -a national “du’ty. Should it be necessary to provide compulsion in any direction to secure -attention to the interests of returned -m’en, we must riot hesitate to doso. . -The scheme which has been -formulated gives genius, ability, arid experience every opportunity to p_royide efficient -organizatioVi-. On thead’mini-‘ stration of the Act, . -Parliament -nVust ‘keep a watchful eye, so that -in the ‘interests of our returned soldiers the measure may achieve- as much suceess a’s is humanly possible. The men who, while we have been resting at home in comfort, have taken on their shoulders th’e burden of the defence of the Commonwealth and the vindication of the cause for which the nation is at war, these men who have shown themselves able to stand side by side with th’e most highly-trained soldiers on the battle-fields ‘of Europe, -have elevatedAustralia -into the position of a nation. They have won imperishable fame -for this part of the British ira’ee, and more than any other influence are responsible -for drawing closer tjhe Imperial bonds of Empire which we. hope have been ma’de permanent and indestructible.
.- It is a pity ‘that we should be discussing an important measure of ‘this kind in what are practically ‘the last days of a session, when there is a tendency ‘to rush things through ‘the House. We can hardly discuss a matter of this kind, at sufficient length. -It is quite true that this is a skeleton “measure; and it has been objected that it requires a good deal of flesh on its bones to make it satisfactory. -That objection has a good deal of force, but, on the other hand, as the. honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has observed, there would be danger in running into the opposite, extreme of creating a measure that would to some e-xtebt limit the freedom of action and tie the hands of those who will have to carry out the ‘detailed work proposed under the scheme. There is no doubt. that that, will be a very difficult task in’deed-. When one looks round on the efforts ‘of the various State Governments in regard to closer setfelement, and discovers -how much criticism, and how much complaint, -has -arisen in connexion with the settlement of, pferhap’s-, a few hundred persons at a time, >n’e can easily understand the difficulties that will meet ‘those who have to . handle so many thousands . Looking a’t ‘the principle that underlies the proposals o’f the ‘Gbvemnfen’t, t feel ‘that they, perhaps, have erred in the right direction in leaving considerable freedom of action to those who will ‘be intrusted with ‘the work of repatriation.
JIt is a matter for -surprise that out ‘of the large number of Soldiers, there are only about 40,000, as I understand ‘from the -official -figures-, likely to ‘settle on the land. That is a very poor advertisement as regards land settlement in Australia - -rather suggestive of the unattractiveness of land settlement in this Commonwealth - and I am very much afraid that it indicates a difficulty that will have to be faced through the work of repatriation. Many of those who have entered the Army are from the country, and will desire to go back, but many of those who have indicated -their willingness to go on the land, are probably least acquainted with it. I do not for a moment say that a man who has had no practical ‘experience in connexion with land will necessarily make a bad. and unsuccessful settler ; en the contrary, I know men who, having no knowledge whatever of rural life, have gone on the land and made a decided success. But these are men who would probably make a success of almost anything they undertook. Those of us who have any knowledge of farming, and especially of taking up land in a virgin condition and bringing it to a profitable ‘stage, .know that those who ordinarily undertake a ‘task of the kind with limited means require to have the heart of a -lion, and -almost the brain of a Solomon, to -make it a real success-. It is no wonder, when one knows the difficulties that have to be confronted, that so many have failed, and that land settlement, in Australia is f ound ‘to be not by -any means the best method of acquiring ‘an easy ‘competency that many of us We’re a% One time ‘given to understand it was.
There is one ‘thing I -‘am very anxious to impress on the Minister; that, while it is highly desirable that ‘the finance should be rigidly controlled by a central organization, the actual work of settling men on the land should be carried on under “a decentralized ‘system. In othe’r words, I believe that the men best qualified to Carry <out the actual settlement are the men ‘of the particular -district in which the settlement is .proposed. I ‘consider that the various local -committees - many of which are now an -‘existence in connexion with the -old repatriation ‘scheme
Would., in a very large , number -of .in- stancses, make ‘splendid organisations for land settlement. ff am very apprehensive that if ‘such settlement is left in the :ha*nds ‘of the larger bodies, whether >of the Commission or of the State Boards, there will ‘be an amount of red tape, and a Jack of practical ‘sympathy which will seriously militate against the -success ‘of the scheme
Speaking as one with some knowledge of land settlement, .and with some experience on the land, I feel sure that we can do nothing wiser than hand over the intending settlers to the local, level-headed men who themselves have gone through the mill. They have the practical experience, and will also be moved by practical sympathy in helping the settlers on their way towards success.
There is another point -that occurs to me. It is idle to suggest land settlement in those portions of the Commonwealth where the price of the land is so high as to necessitate a very large proportion of the money allotted to the returned soldiers being used in its purchase. That would be a severe handicap to the men to begin with; and, therefore, I hold that we must look to the outlying States; where suitable Crown lands are still available, as affording the best facilities in connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers; Undoubtedly, there may be special reasons’ why settlement should take place in some of the more closelysettled and better-developed States; but if we can find approximately the same conditions elsewhere, with cheap land and a satisfactory climate, it is our duty to take advantage of the opportunity.
I am not able to speak with authority as regards Queensland, but my own State of Western Australia, in my opinion, offers very exceptional advantages in connexion with a repatriation scheme of -the , -kind. Im the first instance, we have in -the south-western portion of the State an area, roughly speaking, about the size of Victoria, where there is .a large area of Crown lands still available for settlement. I know that in .another place, a few years ago, a very ignorant and presumptuous individual informed Parliament and the country that all the best land in Western . Australia had years ago been taken up. Speaking from my .own knowledge of the State, I .give ‘that a very emphatic denial. Even after many .years of settlement, there is still .sufficient suitable land in Western Australia to settle all the repatriated soldiers who wish to go on the land. While I do not suggest that- all -the men should go .to Western .Australia,, I hold the opinion very strongly that the Government could not improve ;on the conditions that -can .be afforded toy that State to returned soldiers. In Western Australia, 160 acres is given now, practically as a free gift, to any one who cares to settle; and in the south-western portion of the State the conditions are distinctly favorable for the taking up of small areas, and for the development of a policy of closer settlement. It has always been to me a matter of great regret that land settlement throughout Australia has taken place on a diffused principle. One man takes up a block in one district, and another man takes up a block in another, with the result that scattered all over the country there are people living isolated’ lives, unable to give their children schooling, unable to have easy access to a doctor, and, in short, practically unable to enjoy the advantages of civilization. If land and climate permit of closer settlement on areas of a reasonable size in a given district, that undoubtedly ought to be the policy, of the Government; and I have not the slightest doubt that such a policy could be carried out in Western Australia. In the southwestern portion of the State, of which I have spoken, there is one industry for which the country is admirably adapted; in fact, I have no knowledge, either from personal experience or from reading, of any other country in the world that offers such exceptional facilities for fruitgrowing. The soil and climate are admirably adapted for the purpose; there are no droughts, but a long, warm, genial summer, and the quality of the fruit has already been proved in the markets of the world. We have not yet developed this industry very far, but the few shipments of fruit sent Home by way of experiment topped the market by several shillings per case.
– I know it is agreed that the Western Australian apple is the best sent from Australia.
– I am much obliged for the honorable member’s opinion, which is correct, and which I appreciate, both for its correctness and for the reason of the source from which it comes. There are other small farm industries that have exceptional opportunity for development in Western Australia, such as the production of pork and butter. These industries could very well be carried on alongside an orchard ; in fact, “ smallholders’ industries,” as they are called in Great Britain, can with special advan tage be utilized to give an immediate return while the fruit trees are gradually reaching the productive stage.
While that is the position with regard to those who settle on the land, I am afraid that an even more difficult problem awaits the Government, and those who will work under this Bill, in repatriating men who do not desire to go into the country. There are, undoubtedly, many avenues of employment in Australia that will be utilized to the fullest extent. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) this afternoon found an opportunity, in reply to an interjection of mine, to suggest! that I am entirely hostile, by reason of certain fiscal proclivities, to the development of manufactures in Australia. Let mc tell that honorable member and the House that I am as anxious as he is to develop these, only I think that my method is rather better than his. I dq not wish to begin at the wrong end. I wish to begin at that necessary condition without which no industries of a secondary character can exist; that is, the creation of a market. Having created the demand, secondary industries will come along in their natura] course. The honorable member rejoiced at the prospect of the destruction of those old and out-of-date Free Trade ideas with which he was good enough to credit me; but I remind him that the industrial and commercial situation created by the war will probably mean an end of high Protection in many countries which have hitherto adopted that fiscal policy. We have to realize that we are living in a larger world than our own,, and that Australia owes some responsibility to the country from which it derives its origin, and upon which it depends for its safety.
– We owe some responsibility, also, to our own country.
– Quite so ; but we cannot afford to ignore the larger responsibilities that have been revealed by the war to many people in Australia. While many soldiers who do not wish to go on the land will be taken back into their old employment, and many will be absorbed in work for which they have had some training, the untrained worker, the casual employee, the handy man, will give a good deal of trouble. I am afraid that it will be very difficult to get many of this class into civil occupations again. The majority of employers will strain a point to take back returned soldiers wherever it is possible to do so, but others -will look askance at them, preferring to have in their employment men who have shown less of a spirit of adventure, and have, perhaps, grown up in a particular business and are better acquainted with it than a new man would be. The Government should have some mandatory power in order to deal with those employers who will not show a very marked preference for returned soldiers. It would do no harm ; in fact, it would be a useful power to hold over the heads of those who might hesitate in doing their duty. It would certainly facilitate the work of the various organizations.
– I am afraid that the man who would be callous enough not to employ a returned soldier could not: be compelled to keep one in work, even if he were compelled to take him on.
– We can probably find methods of inducing such employers to adopt a more patriotic attitude. I suggest to the Government that it might be advisable to divide their forces in regard to the two classes of returned soldiers - the men who wish to go on the land, and the men who will look for employment in our big towns. The body or bodies that will deal with the former class should consist of persons who are acquainted with rural settlement and all its conditions. A different class of superintendence will be necessary in dealing with the soldiers who do not wish to go upon the land. In my opinion, there should be organizations in each of the larger cities confining their attention exclusively to securing employment for the latter class.
Special consideration should be given to the soldiers who return crippled and permanently broken in health. While all returned soldiers are entitled to our consideration, some have a stronger claim than others, and those who axe deserving of our very best are the men who are maimed and disabled. They should not be left to their own resources at any period of their career unless they so wish it. We should make a special effort to train them in occupations at which their mutilations will allow them to work. Afterwards it should be our duty to provide them with employment, if they so wish it, for the rest of their lives. If the Government do this, if they create organizations which will settle all those who wish to go upon the land under circumstances which will give them a chance to make a living for themselves and their children, if they open avenues of employment in our towns for the remainder, they will deserve the thanks of the community. In view of the importance of the work, I hope that every energy will be devoted to making a success of it. I am very pleased to know that the control of the scheme- will be in the hands of Senator Millen. No better man could be found for the task. I hope the result will prove that this Parliament is not forgetful of the men who have faced death and mutilation so that we and our families may live here iri Australia in the peace and happiness which we now enjoy.
.- It seems to me that too much pessimism is displayed in connexion with the problem of repatriating our soldiers. A more hopeful tone should be taken. The men who have left our shores filled various, positions and occupations before they enlisted, and if there was room for them in Australia before the war broke out, surely there will be room for them when they return. They will come back with a broader view of life, and instead of their being a burden on the community, the useful experience that they have gained on ‘the other side of the world will make them a better asset to the Commonwealth. They will not return- to be drones. Their manhood will be broadened. They will give a very good account of themselves. I do not see, therefore, that there is cause for any feeling of pessimism.
I am rather surprised that the contentions of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) have not received more support from honorable members. The honorable member is deserving of great credit for having devoted much time, thought, and consideration to the question of repatriation. He has been associated with a scheme which has done a great deal for returned soldiers, and his recommendations should receive more consideration when we are dealing with this subject. The scheme outlined by Senator Millen has my enthusiastic indorsement, and if it is carried out on the lines that he has indicated, it should achieve a great success. I recognise that the Bill is purely a machinery measure, on which the whole organization will be built up, but it seems to me that the Commission which is provided for should receive more guidance from this Parliament. Honorable members are the paid representatives of the people, and they are not entitled to pass on to a voluntary Commission the work of initiating a scheme of repatriation. Surely we can devote to it the time necessary to create the broad outlines of the scheme. It is quite right that the Commission should work out the details, but this Parliament should accept the responsibility for the broad outlines of the scheme, and set .them forth in the Act which the Commission will be called upon to administer. I would like to know what would happen when any recommendations forwarded by the Commission are not approved of by the Government. I cannot conceive of the Commissioners under such circumstances continuing to hold office. We must remember that the present Government will not always be in power, and that Senator Millen will not always be Chairman of the Commission, and,- therefore, it seems to me that this Parliament should give the Commissioners a lead, so that they may have a satisfactory basis on which to carry on their work. I am pleased to know that the Commission will be a voluntary one. Experience has shown that better work is done by voluntary effort than by paid Government officials. We know this from the -splendid work that has been done by hospital committees, Red Cross societies, and committees controlling various patriotic funds. During the last two and a half years many men and women in Australia have devoted a great deal of time to patriotic work. Their successful efforts indicate that the voluntary system of Commissioners set out in the Bill ia likely to meet with great success. I hope that in Committee the Government will be prepared to ‘ include some reasonable amendments which will enable the Commissioners to carry out their functions without unnecessary delay. If they have to meet and develop a scheme of their own, time will be wasted’, and the work of repatriation will not be expedited.’ I quit’© approve of the scheme outlined by the Minister, but in order that it may be carried out in the quickest time possible its principles should be stated more clearly in the Bill. The first care will necessarily be for the afflicted and incapacitated. I feel certain that the majority of the men will return full of health and strength, and ‘will not require to be nursed through all their movements. Many will come back with broadened ideas, and will be quite prepared to face their own troubles. Of course, if any man needs assistance, he should be able to get it, but it is a mistake to think that it will be necessary to look after every soldier who returns.
The question of land settlement, which is one of the features of the scheme, might fairly claim the careful attention of this House. It has been said that about 40,000 men are likely to go upon the land, but we have no very definite information in that respect to guide us. Having regard to the efforts all the States have made to get men to go upon the land, without very’ great success, iti is a mistake to assume that, simply because certain men have taken part in the war, they will suddenly develop a desire for the rural life. Probably a number of those who worked in offices and factories will wish to strike out on new lines, especially when they are promised the active assistance of the Government; but there will be many disappointments in this respect. Even if 40,000 soldiers do engage in land pursuits, the assistance rendered them should be on a generous scale. It has been said that £500 will not go far in giving a man a start on the land. In Queensland, many men who came from other States with barely enough money in their pockets to pay their expenses have taken up land, and by thrift and industry have made good. It does not take a great, amount of money to make a success on the land in Queensland. That State has 429,120,000 acres of Crown lands, of which 21,091,000 acres have been alienated, or are in process of alienation. A lot of the land is of inferior quality, but there is also a great area of good land that might be utilized for the settlement of returned soldiers. Some of this land is distant from a railway, bub if a policy of railway construction and water conservation were adopted the great majority of returned soldiers who are desirous of taking up land could be settled in Queensland. The Government should certainly offer every inducement, and should be careful that the men are not required to pay abnormal prices for the land. For ordinary purposes of settlement land varies in price from 2s. 6d. per acre ‘ for homestead areas to 25s. and 30s. per acre. Iti would be a mistake for the Government to buy high-priced land when so much Crown land is available in all the States. When the honorable member for Melbourne Forts (Mr. Mathews) was speaking last night, an honorable member asked where the vacant lands in Victoria were. We are inviting settlers to come to Australia from overseas, and a statement in this Parliament that no land is available is a poor advertisement of our la.d resources. In all the States there is plenty of Crown land still unselected, and there is no need for the Government to buy land at high prices. There is no more certain way of courting disaster than by putting inexperienced men on expensive land. A man will stick to his holding if he sees any possible chance of winning through, and he will have that prospect if full use is made of the vacant Crown lands, and men are induced to go into industries that do not require a great deal of study. Both dairy farming and fruit-growing are simple industries to learn. In my opinion, £500 will be more than sufficient for the majority, of men who are likely to take up land. It is not to be supposed that we can place men on large areas to engage in wheat-growing and wool-raising. That, I take itr is not the intention of the Government. The idea is to give men a start in a small way, so that they may have reasonable chances of success, and be able to build up an asset for themselves. When the Bill is in Committee, I hope the Government will give consideration to the matters that have been mentioned by honorable members, particularly by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), because I feel sure that the people .expect this Parliament to take, some responsibility for the scheme. An honorable member on the opposite side stated that the Queensland scheme of repatriation was the most successful yet evolved . I have no wish to decry that scheme. At Beerburrum, in my electorate, the Queensland Government established thirty farms, and planted 5 acres of pines on each, and soldiers’ have been settled there. The men are quite satisfied with the land, and believe that they will mate a success of it. The only dissatisfaction I have heard expressed is in regard to the title. A perpetual lease does not give the holder any hope for the future. A man has not that feeling of security which he would have if he possessed £ little bit of parchment. I do not suppose the Commonwealth can do anything in regard to the Queensland title, but when they get the opportunity the duty will devolve upon the people of that State of returning a Government who will amend the land laws so that holders may be able to convert their leases into freehold. If only/ for the sake of the returned men the Queensland Government should make some effort to give the settlers a title, which I believe they would prefer to their leases. I hope the Government will throw all their enthusiasm into the matter of repatriation, and give the Commissioners that will be appointed every encouragement to administer the scheme thoroughly, and treat our soldiers as they deserve after their sacrifices and the valuable services they have rendered to Australia.
Mr. ARCHIBALD (Hindmarsh) [3.251. - The Government are to be congratulated on the measure they have submitted to Parliament. An objection has been made that the Bill is only a skeleton measure, and that there are not embodied in it principles that will be of any value for the object which the House and the country have in view. In my opinion, the very fact that the Bill is merely a framework constitutes its value and importance. ‘ Honorable members have had their attention directed to the matter of repatriation for the last two years, and naturally there is a great diversity of opinion. If we attempted to embody in any Bill all these differences of opinion, we should have a remarkable measure, fearfully and wonderfully made. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) remarked on the similarity between this Bill and the Act passed last year, and he pointed out that very little progress has been made. Neither the Government nor honorable members have given enough credit for the work already done in connexion with repatriation. The authorities who have been dealing with the question in the various States have done a great deal of good work. I know that to bc so in South Australia, and I do not think that that State’s experience is any exception to the rule.
We talk a great deal about the necessity for putting the returned soldier upon the land, but if he does not desire to go there, is he to be forced to do so? That question is suggested by the, experience we had in South Australia. The men who were in charge of the work there were certainly men of ability; the idea that the work had been left to men who had not the requisite knowledge is erroneous. Their experience was that only a small proportion of the men who applied for aid desired to go upon the. land. That being so, I am not at all surprised that the land settlement phase of the question has not been given the prominence that some honorable members think desirable. It is impossible to drive the soldier on to the land if he is not anxious to go there. The disability connected with the existing Act consisted in the fact that the Prime Minister was practically controlling the whole machinery. Whatever the faults of the right honorable gentleman may be, he is certainly not a lazy man; the quantity of work he manages to get through is simply marvellous. But he had not the time . to devote to the question of repatriation that he would have liked, and there was, in consequence, an absence of driving force behind the scheme. It is true that the measure we are now discussing is a skeleton, and that it leaves a great deal to administration, but it is equally a fact that the scheme is to be controlled and directed by a Minister of full Cabinet rank. Senator Millen is to be appointed Minister for Repatriation, and even his greatest enemies will admit that he is a man of ability, industry, and level-headedness. I do not know of a man who is better fitted for the position. He will devote the whole of his tame and energy to the work, and there is every reason therefore to anticipate that the scheme will be placed upon a sound footing. In these circumstances it will not be open to the objection levelled at the scheme which it is supplanting. I do not know whether we shall hear any talk of a profligate waste of public money in creating this new portfolio, but those who are acquainted with recent events in the Allied countries know full well “that the importance and urgency of the new work thrown upon Governments as. the result of this war has made the creation of several new portfolios absolutely imperative. The fact that this Department is to be presided- over by a Minister who will devote all his time and energy to it is one of the best guarantees we can have for its success. We have certainly every reason to hope for better results than were obtained under the Act we are now repealing. Some honorable members’ have said that as it stands the proposal is all very well, but that the present Ministry may not always be in office, and that we do not know who is likely to succeed Senator Millen. I do not think that Australia is a one-man show. It was said that the Old Country would not be able to successfully prosecute the war after the loss of. Lord Kitchener, but it has done so; and the idea that Australia is a one-man country is quite absurd. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We can face the situation with the material at present available to us, and face it, I believe, with some confidence.
I wish now to refer, briefly, to the schemes that are suggested in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. We can hope to place on the land only those who are anxious to follow farming and pastoral pursuits. It would be undemocratic in these days to attempt to force a man - and especially a man of the class to whom Australia owes so much - to do work which is objectionable to him.
– There is no question of forcing our returned soldiers to go on the land,
– I do not think there is, but I fear that too much importance is attached to this side of the scheme. Many returned soldiers, no doubt, will take up mixed farming, and if a man has any leaning in that direction I do not see why, with the assistance which will be given him under this measure, he should not make a success of it. We hear a great deal of talk as to closer settlement and intense culture for returned soldiers, but, so far, the experiments we have made with intense culture in Australia have been only a qualified success. It is not likely to be a great success in Australia, where we still have enormous areas of virgin soil and no pressure of population. The experience of the world is that intense culture is resorted to only when the agricultural areas have been entirely alienated. There can be no doubt that Australia is a wonderful country, and that we can do much that cannot be done elsewhere. I heard an old man say recently that this is so marvellous a country that the man in the moon in southern skies stands on his head. Far be it from me to say that intense culture in Australia will not be successful ; but I think we are disposed to attach too much importance to it in connexion with this repatriation scheme. No doubt many of our soldiers have seen intense culture as practised in other lands. Many of them, no doubt, while roaming about in the neighbourhood, of Paris have seen the wonderful market gardens, the production of which per acre holds the world’s record. I do not know whether the cursed Germans have obliterated everything in Belgium, but it is an historical fact that before the war there was more intense culture in Belgium, and more prosperity on the part of those who practised it there, than in any other part of the world, with the exception of that part of France to which I have just referred.- Those of our men who have seen what is done in the Old World in the way of intense culture may be disposed to attempt it here. I am inclined to think that a man is more impressed by what ho actually sees than he is by reading reams of printed matter in regard to it.-
I would not condemn the authorities for attempting to induce returned soldiers to practise that form of culture. I merely sound a note of warning so that we shall not expect too much in that direction. In connexion with irrigation settlements, our experience has been that blocks have not been taken up as readily as we anticipated.
– Because, as the honorable member said just now, there is not the pressure of population here.
– Exactly. That is a consideration that we must not overlook. As guardians of the public purse we must be careful not to launch out upon expenditures that are not likely to be successful. There is one branch of. primary industry to which I think those in authority might well turn their attention in connexion with repatriation. We talk in an academic way of the necessity for creating new industries in Australia. I have long held the opinion that Australia should be the largest exporter of pork in the world. As it is, we have to convert it into bacon and ham before we export it. We ought to rival the United States of America in its exportation of hogs. The honorable member for Wide Bay (MrCorser) and other representatives of Queensland have been pressing the Prime Minister to make some provision for the export of our maize. We know what we can do in maize production in Australia, and would it not be a sane and intelligent thing to turn it into hogs? The hograising industry should provide profitable employment for many returned soldiers. I may be asked, “ Why should we try such an experiment at the hands of returned soldiers? “ I do not wish to experiment with them, but hog raising would not require a great amount of capital, and I believe it would be attended with- success. I do not claim to be an expert on agriculture.’ -All I know concerning it is what I have gathered from the experience of others, and I certainly do not think that mixed farming, and particularly sheep and cattle raising, can be carried on without the expenditure of considerable capital. With a certain amount of luck and pluck a man who undertakes mixed farming may pull through with very little capital. Many do, but it seems to me that in the raising of hogs nothing like the same amount of capital would be required. After a returned soldier had been successful in hog raising, hie could sell out if he desired, and take up mixed farming, or any other branch of the agricultural industry. I do not know what the position is in England at the present time, but in the “’ seventies “ tremendous quantities of pork, bacon, and ham were imported from America and sold, at a profit, at simply ridiculous prices. That was because the Americans, at that time, were realizing what could be done by turning their maize into hogs. The. man who grew maize in the United States of America did not sell it, but turned it into hogs, and did well.
– Lucerne is also good feeding.
– I should not like to try the experiment.
– It is being done.
– I should not think much of the pork that had been fed in that way. I want to show the possibilities in this direction. I think that there will be many men willing to take up the work, and they will not, need a great amount of capital. It will be a new industry, and within five years after the war Australia ought to be one of the biggest exporters of hogs in the world. But those who raise the pigs must grow the maize to feed them. There should be no middlemen, nor should it be possible to interfere with the industry by speculations in maize. Interference of that kind means ruin and bankruptcy to men cf small means. It may be said that pigs will not thrive in all places where maize grows well. Possibly pigs will not thrive in parts of Queensland where maize grows luxuriantly-. But there is nothing ‘to prevent the person, or group of persons, interested in hog raising from keeping their hogs in One district ‘and growing their maize in- another. ‘some of bur most successful squatters owe their success to the fact that ‘they own and work two properties, ‘shifting stock from one tb another as the occasion may require. It behoves u’s bo :do all we ‘can to increase our experts, with, ‘a view to meeting th’e heavy liabilities that we have brought upon ourselves by assisting the Empire in the war. This can be done only on line’s ‘such ‘as that m which I ain referring.
This is a machinery Bill, and I hope that the Minister will stick to it as closely as possible, not allowing it to be overloaded with innovations. The Bill provides only the frame-work of the scheme. Those of us who have “sat in State Parliaments know ‘that there an amending Land Bill is brought in nearly every year ; I expect that we shall have an amending Repatriation Bill every vear for the next seven or eight years. After this measure has been passed, those intrusted with the responsibility for its administration will End that they need more power. Flaws will be discovered, and places in which provisions should be tightened will be indicated. Parliament -must, therefore; be asked to amend the Act. Some .persons are opposed to legislation of this kind, but I am not, because I believe it to be in accordance with the true principles of Democracy. Th’e more* the people are left to govern themselves the better it will lie for them.
As to administration, I have referred to the powers which the Minister for Repatriation will exercise. The Act will fee administered by a man -possessing strength of will, sound judgment, and a wide general experience and knowledge x»¥ the world. But, in my opinion, it will be better if the members bf the Central; Cona - mission, as well as -the members of the State Boards and of the Local Committees, ‘do their work without payment. I have not had much acquaintance with, the boards of management connected with commercial undertakings:, but from “what I have heard I believe that most of these big private concern’s are “really managed by a managing ‘director or secretary, the boards of ‘directors meeting from time ‘to time, and, ‘as a rule, ‘sitting for very short periods. ‘Under the Bill, ‘the managing director is the Minister. He will have, I trust, one of the most efficient secretaries that S’t will be possible to get, and, if necessary, an assistant -secretary also. In addition j the ‘Central Commission should consist Of the ablest business men, who will be prepared to- ‘devote an hour, or two hours, a week tb giving advice to the Minister. We should rely on the ad-
Vice and experience of men in the front rank -of the various professions and ‘Callings. Their mature judgment will be of great value in the administration of the scheme. But the actual ‘direction of affairs “must be left to the officials an’d to the Minister. We must feel ‘our way in this matter. If, in “the first instance, we appoint ‘th’e members of the Commission and of the Boards to positions carrying high Salaries, and we find that We have made a mistake, it will not be easy to get rid of them. -It is not a pleasant job, when men are filling lucrative positions, to discharge them, Of to ask them to resign, or even to give them the friendly hint that they are not needed. If the best Australian’s cannot be obtained to give ‘their services gratuitously, we ‘shall be able to fall back on paid men. It is not easy to get the men you want merely by offering to pay high salaries. I haveknown men receiving £800 or £1,000 a. year who were not worth £300 a year. Good men, however, are worth high .salaries. Cheap labour is always bad, and never so expensive as in the higher grades of the Service. What is needed is efficiency, and -a good man drawing £2.000 a year can save that amount to ,-his employers where another man would allow waste ‘to ,proceed continuously. I would have both -the Commission and the Boards honorary at first. Should the ‘honorary system fail, we still have the paid system as “ Hobson’s choice.” I would also have the members of the Local Committee to give their services gratuitously. In every district two of three -men will be found who are ‘head aird shoulders above their neighbours. If ‘you ask why they have succeeded so ‘conspicuously you will be told ‘sometimes that their success is due to luck, but, as a rule, it is due to their brains and general capacity. Tlie advice Of such men would be of great service tb soldiers ‘setWed on the land, ‘and there ‘are ‘few of them who ‘would not be willing, if ‘asked, to ‘give friendly, tactful ‘advice, though theywould fee averse from worrying, feossiiigj ‘and annoying the men with ‘directions.
Not only Shall we have to settle returned soldiers on the land, we must also nhd employment for skilled artisans and mechanics. Therefore, on the Commission and Board’s there must be men capable ‘of dealing with that difficulty. No uoubt the majority of the returned ‘men will wish tp take up again the employments which -they . left to go t’6 the war. But all -softs of obstacles stand in their way. Some men are suffering ‘severely from shell sh’o’ck Case’s have ‘c’ohie undtei* my notice in which men who have ha’d to lie oh ‘the battle-field f’or twelve or twentyfour hours beforfe being picked up have -received such a shock to their nerves by the experiences that they have undergone, and the sights they have seen, that they will never’ forget what has come before their ‘eyes. It is absolutely essential, i’f we are to ‘do anything for these men-, to find them employment in trades that will give them an interest and occupy their minds to the exclusion of their dreadful nerve-racking recollections of the war. The onlyway in which I can see this can be done is to judiciously subsidize employers who are willing to employ such men-, and thus make up the -difference between the va)ue of their work and the valueof the work of their more fortunate fellows. . Here, again, the carrying out of the scheme could best be done by some voluntary body ; and. in every city of Australia ‘there are people familiar with the employment of labour, and well able to handle men, who would’ gladly give their services. But such people would certainly very much resent their time being wasted by red-tape and circumlocution; and the skeleton character of the measure affords full opportunity to avoid such disadvantages. A skilled cabinetmaker, for instance^ who has been to the war, an’d has had his nerves shattered, would find much to divert his min’d, and restore him to normal health, in th’e artistic ‘interest afforded by his work; and this diversion, as I have already suggested, would prove one of the best curative means that could be ‘adopted.
– Surely the honorable member would not consider these rh’eh as amply- compensated by making up thiB. full amount ‘oftheir wages ?
-Even if we gave eachmana pension of £5 per week that would prove no compensation for what he h’as gone through and is suffering-; and I liepeat that what we have to do is to create an environment that will distract their minds from this scenes of the ‘war. What can be fdbn’e With money is nothing in comparison with what -may be done by real sympathy, and the creation of a cheerful and -interesting environment. Of course-, I do not suggest that this plan is easy of accomplishment but Australians are not afraid of difficulty. I hope that the Government will, as far as possible-, adhere to the measure as i’t has been presented. There is . a ‘tendency, I know, fo insert ‘explicit directions; bilt I prefer the greater freedom ‘afforded by the skeleton measure, and hope that it will be passed-. Doubtless next year there will have to be an amending BilL but, if the Government stick to their proposals, we shall have fewer mistakes to -remedy in the future.
.- When we realize the far- reaching effects that this measure will have, “not ‘only on’ our soldiers and their dependants, but on Australia a-s a whole, we must agree that it ought not to be approached in any -carping spirit. This is too big and too important a subject to he made the toy of any party political game. Cur object is to do the best we can in the interests of the soldiers, always keeping -in view the future welfare of Australia.
– The discussion has been very -free from . party spirit.
– And that is a matter on which the House is to be congratulated. We have to keep clearly before our minds the fact that the soldiers and their dependants are not seeking charity. I am just a little afraid that there are many people “in the community prone to regard the assistance proposed as of a charitable character; but it is justice, and not charity, that we are seeking to accomplish.
– Who is suggesting that it is charity?
– There is an idea prevalent that we should deal with repatriation from, as it were, the stand-point of relieving deserving distress, but that is the wrong, stan’d-point altogether.
– The taking of returned men into ‘the Departments is regarded ‘as a charity.
– There are cases that bear ‘that cbinpreiibn, bu’t weought to seek to .avoid any idea of the kind. Our soldiers, when they return, will desire to get as nearly as possible into the occupations which they followed before the war. We have to remember that a large number of them know nothing about farming or pastoral pursuits; and it would be madness to place such men indiscriminately on the land, and thus court inevitable failure. Even with the limited knowledge that I possess of country life, I know that experienced men find its pursuit a heartbreaking occupation; and how much more so would it be in the case of inexperienced soldiers ? The mere placing of men on the land will not solve the problem ; they must have a reasonable chance of success, or we shall only create more difficulties for them and for the community generally. It should be the aim of the Government, if men desire to go on the land, to find them holdings as nearly as possible in the districts from which they enlisted, so as to insure them the assistance of sympathetic relations and friends in surroundings with which they are familiar. This would, I think, enable us to deal with some success with men who have a primary knowledge of farming.
But we also have to deal with men who have no knowledge of the land, and have no desire for country pursuits; and they represent the most important problem. However, the solution is even simpler than that in. the case of the country soldier. It is to build up and establish industries in Australia, and thus absorb their labour. Interwoven with this question is one of the most serious problems with which Australia is confronted, and which must be tackled comprehensively - that is the problem of how to defend and hold Australia. Under the scheme before us we have an opportunity to assist the returned soldier, and, at the same time, pave the way to a policy which will enable us to hold this country, if ever we should be called upon to do so. With that end in view, one of the most important undertakings we could start with would be the alteration of our railways to a uniform gauge. It is a work of national importance. Every one admits that for the purposes of defence it is absolutely imperative that it should be taken in hand as early as possible. It would absorb thousands of our returned soldiers who are desirous of following that particular class of work, so long as they are fit to undertake it, and at the same time it would be rendering a national service, because the safety of the nation demands that the work should be taken in hand.
Another important work that the welfare of Australia demands is a system of water conservation and irrigation. If we are to make agricultural pursuits really successful, if we are to go in for that intense culture to which the honorable memberfor Hindmarsh’ (Mr. Archibald) has alluded, and if we are to -make two blades of grass grow where one grew before, and at the same timo provide our returned soldiers with an opportunity to settle on the land with success, we should take in hand this gigantic scheme. It would prove of lasting benefit to the community. When engaged ‘in this way, while earning a living for themselves, our soldiers will be doing just1 as big a national work for Australia as they performed on the fields of Flanders or on the heights of Gallipoli.
One of our greatest needs to-day, and one that will be of pressing importance when the war is over, arises from the scarcity of shipping. It is unnecessary to dwell at any length upon the advantages to be gained by the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia for the purpose of building vessels to convey our produce to other countries and bringing their pro-‘ ducts here in return. We were told a little while ago that it could not be done, but the spirit that has actuated the men who have fought the battles of Australia and the Empire at the Front will also actuate them and their fellow Australians in building up this industry here. Thousands of mechanics have enlisted and gone to the Front, and the shipbuilding industry will provide them with employment. At the same time they will be rendering a service to Australia. We can also render a .service to the defence of Australia by a policy of fleet construction. Australia’s first line of defence is on the water. Our returned soldiers could be engaged in no better work than in the building of warships.- No better scheme of repatriation could be adopted than that of giving our men work that will be of lasting benefit to the country. I hope that the Government, in’ carrying out their scheme of repatriation, will give returned soldiers the opportunity of doing work that will help to build up this country and place its defence on a firm basis.
We should eliminate altogether any tendency to regard the assistance to be given as in the nature of charity. Let us employ the men who come back fit to work on undertakings of a national character. Those who come back physically disabled; having given little short of life in the service of their country, we should not deal with in a charitable spirit. Let us say to them. “ You have done your work for the community nobly, and you have earned from the nation as a right that which will enable you and your family to live in comfort and beyond the pale of want.” I hope that it will never be said or written of Australia that its Parliament left its heroes and the dependants of those heroes to the tender mercies of cold, callous, commercialism, which, I am sorry to say, is so rampant in our community to-day. I hope that it will be written that no veteran of the Australian Army ever knew the pangs of want upon his return to his home land. The most tragic page in the history of Great Britain is that which tells us that some of the men who won the greatest distinction on the field of battle fighting for their nation ended their days in the workhouse. I hope that the day will never dawn when the same can be said of Australia. Let us go to work manfully to build up this country, and let us give our soldiers the opportunity to work in that manly fashion in which they performed their duties at the Front.
– I cannot express very much enthusiasm over this Bill. It seems to repeat the errors of the last measure, of which it is almost a replica. The fault of the last Bill was due to the fact that Parliament gave no lead to those intrusted with the task of carrying out the work of repatriation. The present Bill certainly removes the control of the work from the Prime Minister to a new Minister for Repatriation, and constitutes Commissioners in place of the Trustees who have been carrying on the work for the last .twelve months, but otherwise it differs very little from the measure now on the statute-book. The objects of this Bill, as set out by Senator Millen in his speech, were the objects sought to be achieved under the old scheme. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has spoken of red-tape. I am afraid that red-tape will kill this measure. No matter how careful the men occupying honorary positions in connexion with this scheme may be, they will not be able to move without consulting the Minister for Repatriation. At the present time red-tape leads to so many delays that the Trustees become weary awaiting a reply to any suggestion forwarded to the Central Administration.
– The present scheme is much more complete.
– I cannot see that it is. At any rate, there is no scheme set out in the Bill. There should be, for example, a definite proposal of land settlement in the measure, and each State should adopt a similar Bill. If each State pas3 a distinct measure, there will be no likelihood of securing uniformity. On the contrary, there will probably be a lot of heart-burning. Soldiers in one State will be placed on the land under much better conditions than those applying to men settling on the land in other States. If any such discrimination is shown, complaints must inevitably arise. I. can see nothing to prevent this Parliament from framing a Bill which will give us some control in this matter, and if any State would not follow the lines we lay down, we could withhold the necessary funds. Of course, we could not undertake the whole responsibility of land settlement. The States have the machinery for that form of settlement, and that machinery should be utilized, but we could very well set out the maximum amount of money to be advanced, and the conditions as to the rate of interest and the period for which the money would be free of interest. Each State could then adopt similar legislation, and we should have uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. I expect within twelve months to see another Repatriation Bill before Parliament. Some of the brainiest men in Australia were connected with the old scheme as Trustees, and the absence from the Act of any real guidance nearly broke their hearts. They could not move without consulting the Minister. The conditions will be the same if this Bill becomes law. Having indicated the general lines of policy, it would pay to employ the best brains in Australia for the administration of the scheme. Trustees from New South Wales and .South Australia came to Melbourne time after time for consultation in regard to various matters, and found that, for some reason or other, they were helpless to do anything. I do not expect so much land settlement on the. part of returned soldiers as some honorable members believe. In Victoria the percentage of applicants for land from amongst the men who have returned is very small.
– There is a big percentage of applicants for land in Queensland.
– In South Australia, too, the percentage is small. Some soldiers prefer to take the money allotted to them in the form of a house, or furniture, and others as capital with which to set themselves up in a small business. One of the most numerous applications is for financial assistance to start a greengrocery, or some other little business, in competition with other people. Already a number of these men have failed. In the existing Act there is no detailed scheme, nor is there any in this proposal. This Bill follows as nearly as possible the lines of the existing law, and I cannot see that it can be amended to give a scheme that will offer any likelihood of success. A lot of platitudes have been talked about what is to be done for the returned soldier, but the matter must be approached with common sense; we must have a practical scheme. For two years we have been talking about what we will do, but no matured scheme has yet been evolved. It is a remarkable fact that practically the first payment to be made in connexion with this scheme is the salary for a new Cabinet Minister. In that respect I do not think the project will start under the best auspices. I had hoped that Senator Millen would have brought before Parliament a concrete proposal setting out in the Bill itself the main principles to guide those who will have the responsibility of administering it. The trouble in each State has been that the existing law gives the Trustees no guidance. Even the central body of which I was a member had nothing to guide it, and naturally we hesitated about giving instructions to’ others when we, in turn, had to await the dictum of somebody else. The same limitations will bo imposed by this Bill. The Boards will be hamstrung bv having to wait on the decisions of the Minister. Perhaps when a new portfolio has been created the Minister will have more time to attend to repatriation, but unless there is a great improvement on the conditions which obtain under the existing Act, the Government will soon be asking Parliament for a further amendment of the law. I quite agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Wannon in regard to voluntary effort. By our apathy we have lost a grand opportunity of getting assistance in the financing of this scheme. The Minister hopes to get some funds for repatriation by voluntary contributions, but in that respect the Government have never yet adopted any definite line of policy. The proposal to have a “ Repatriation Day,” like, the “ Soldiers’ Day” in South Australia, was deferred from time to time, and finally the idea of making any public collection was disapproved of.
I cannot appreciate any scheme which proposes to borrow money for repatriation purposes. If we borrow for this scheme, the very men whom we assist will be taxed to pay the interest on the money with which we have set them up. The scheme will not Cost anything like the estimated sum of £60,000,000. In all the estimates that have been made as to the cost, we have been groping in the dark. The second estimate made . by the State Governments in regard to land settlement was not more than half the first estimate^ and I predict that even that estimate will be found to be considerably in excess of actual requirements. But whatever the Cost of repatriation may be, it will be a mistake to debit it to loan account. There is no sense in taxing our children and our children’s children, and the soldiers themselves, in order to finance a repatriation scheme.
– Is not the war being waged for the advantage of posterity ?
– We are debiting posterity with the cost of the war ; but that expenditure is not on all fours with the cost of repatriating our soldiers-.
– What does the honorable member estimate that the total cost will be?
– Nobody Can tell. The amount of £23”,0000’00 which has been mentioned as likely to be required for land settlement will not be a gift to the soldiers; that money is to be repaid. Of course, a fair amount of the repatriation money will never be returned to the Government. There will be a considerable number of failures amongst) the men assisted, and then- there will be the expenditure on training soldiers for various trades, and in making good the difference between the wages they are at present able to earn and what they would have been able to earn had they not gone to the war. It is not fair to ask an employer to reemploy a man -who is not as efficient as he was before he went away, unless the employer is to receive some assistance from the Repatriation Fund. What right have we to compel an employer to re-engage a man, and pay him a minimum wage, whether he is capable of doing his work or not? The money expended in helping such men, in training others, and in the housing of the widows will not be recovered .i I should like to sea the Commonwealth buy or build houses for the widows, and not charge interest, or expect any repayment. In South Australia, houses are being obtained for returned soldiers with the assistance of the State Bank. The men are allowed the money for so many years free of interest, and then they repay it at a nominal rate per week. In some cases repayment will take fifty or sixty years. I do not believe in borrowing money for repatriation, and asking the soldiers as taxpayers to pay the interest bill as well as the ordinary interest on the money advanced to them, I can see nothing in this Bill to induce enthusiasm in any honorable member. It is merely a recasting of the original Act, which has proved a failure, notwithstanding the good work done by voluntary workers. I am sorry that I have heard no commendation of the men who did that work.
– Senator Millen has publicly acknowledged it on several occasions.
– I know that the Repatriation Trustees did an enormous amount of work without fee or reward. They were hampered because there was no scheme with which they might proceed. No scheme is provided for under this Bill, and I am afraid, therefore, that it is doomed to failure. It is our duty to give it a trial, but I think that, within the next twelve months, we shall have an amending Bill before up.
– I am disposed to be pessimistic in regard to the success qf this measure, and I believe there is some ground for pessimism. So far, we have had rather too much talk and too little work in connexion with repatriation. We have had many heated discussions on the subject, but we have not yet started on the road to repatriation. I am satisfied that every honorable member is most earnest , in the desire that a successful repatriation scheme should be launched. We seem, however, to have clouded the issue with talk, and to have blinded ourselves to the fact that returned soldiers are waiting for us to do something for them. Quite a number of men have returned, and we have not yet attempted to deal with them. Here and there, through the instrumentality of philanthropic institutions, amelioration committees, and local associations, returned soldiers have been supplied with perhaps a motor car, a horse and dray, or sufficient money to enable them to purchase a small business. Such efforts, however, cannot be classed as repatriation. We cannot hope in that way to efficiently reinstate these men, or to restore them - as I trust we shall do - to an even better status than they held when they left our shores.
Land settlement ought to be the greatest factor in repatriation. I fear, however, that it will be but a minor one, owing chiefly to the lack of the facilities offering in the different States. It is estimated’ that 16 per cent, of our returned soldiers will avail themselves of opportunities to go upon the land. While that percentage might have thought of going on the land had it been available to them before they enlisted, I think, as has been pointed out by almost every honorable member, that they will return with changed ideas, and a very different outlook upon life. We must be careful that, because a man does not avail himself of this opportunity to go upon the land immediately upon his return, he is not denied an opportunity to do so later on. It may be two, three, four, or even five, years after their return that many will be disposed to go in for land settlement; and we should provide that, even after that lapse of time, they shall be able to do so. It will take some years for many of them to return to the harness they were wearing when they left.
While it is true that 16 per cent, of those who have .gone to the Front stated before leaving that, on their return, they would like to go upon the land, I do not think that 10 per cent, will be ready to do so. At the very lowest estimate, 85 per cent, will require to be provided for in other industries. Work will have to be found for them. None of us desire that these men, upon their return to Australia, should enter into competition with those already here for such work as is available ; and it is, therefore, absolutely necessary that we should encourage the establishment of new industries. Unless there is an expansion in the present number of our industries, the experience of our returned soldiers will be that of the men of other countries - they will have to enter into competition with those already here for the jobs that are available.
Most of those who returned from the Boer war seemed to be regarded by the general public of Australia as being something in the nature of criminals. They were not looked upon as being very desirable individuals, and they received absolutely no consideration from the Federal or State Governments. That should not be possible in connexion with the men who return from this war. I am pessimistic, however, with regard to this particular project, because, notwithstanding that the best brains of the political business and commercial world of Australia have been directed to this subject, we have not yet propounded a scheme, nor have we, to any extent, repatriated our soldiers.
– There have been some good schemes propounded; that put forward by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was a magnificent one.
– I agree with the honorable member. The point) that I wish to make is that no effective scheme has yet been brought into operation. According to computations already made, it will cost something like £35,000,000 to place 40,000 of our returned soldiers upon the land.
– Sixty million pounds.
– I am speaking only of the cost of land settlement.
– Senator Millen, in introducing this Bill in another place, said £60,000,000 was the financial liability involved in the proposition to provide farms and to find working capital for the men. That, I think, is the estimated Commonwealth and State liability.
– At the Conference of State Premiers, held in January of ‘this year, it was estimated that up to 30th June, 1919, 27,000 soldiers would be placed on the land, at a cost of a little over £18,000,000. According to that estimate, it should not cost anything like £60,000,000 to repatriate 40,000 soldiers. I think that something like £35,000,000 should be sufficient to provide for the settlement of 40,000 men on the land, assuming that that number avail themselves of this opportunity for land settlement.-
– What is wanted is organization. We have the land, the stock, and the implements here, and all we want is the organization necessary to link them up with our returned soldiers. Everything is here, and the money will not go out of the country.
– That is so, but we must not ‘ depend upon land settlement alone for the success of our repatriation scheme.
– It . is one of the branches, and a branch in which the most capital is involved.
– It is an important branch, bub I do not think more than about one-tenth of our returned- soldiers will avail themselves of the opportunity which this measure will afford them to go upon the land. The condition of these men upon their return will not be such as will fit them to go on the land for some time, and they will not be content to do so. I do not estimate that land settlement will provide for anything like the number which many honorable members suggest. Facilities for land settlement must be available to the returned soldiers after they have, as it were, found their bearings. That, as I have said, may be five, or even six, years after their return. If Australia is willing to do that - if we are willing, as it were, to take their names and await their pleasure - then the scheme will be of lasting benefit, not only to the returned soldiers, but to Australia as a whole.
– And during the four, five, or six years which must elapse in many cases before the men return to their normal condition, the States must nurse them.
– Exactly ; and it must be done by the creation of new industries. Shipbuilding is one of the new industries that should absorb many of them, but the manufacture of our raw material into finished products is probably the most important means of absorbing them, and one which will need to occupy the attention of, not only the Commission, but all the State Boards. These men will have -to be absorbed into our society. We cannot allow them to remain idle. Idleness would be the worst thing that could happen to them. They must be absorbed by our industries, so that their minds may be diverted from the experiences through which they have passed ; it is only by hard work, unselfishness, and sacrifice that Australia can efficiently repatriate her soldiers.
– There never was a measure before this House which admitted of more impartial treatment than does that now under discussion. Something has been said during the debate of the obligation upon us to abstain from any party treatment of the question, but I do not think any one has yet suggested that the Bill is even capable of party treatment. I notice that a number of speeches have consisted of suggestions as to the occupations which the men might follow. The criticism is so varied that one is forced to go back to first principles, and to ask what is the object of this measure? I take it that the object is that we should do our utmost, by means of the money and influence of the Commonwealth, to reward the ‘men who have gone to the war on our behalf, and to treat them in such a way as to afford generous compensation at least - it can never be adequate - for the risk they have run, for the great work they have done in helping to save our Empire.
The variety of the criticism to which this Bill has been subjected convinces me that some at least are losing sight of the nature of the effort that we have before us. There is no precedent for a measure of this sort; and criticism to the effect that it is but tentative should be made with sufficient consciousness of the fact that we have to feel our way. I agree with those who have said that the Bill is merely a skeleton. At first sight it appears to delegate to a number of Commissioners work which Parliament should do; but, on reflection, I am satisfied that it would be impossible, with the meagre experience we have of what is required, to evolve, not merely a perfect scheme, but even a moderately perfect scheme, to serve the purposes of the people in regard to our returned soldiers. That being so, the Minister, I take it, has considered it desirable, in the first instance, . to create a number of tribunals composed of men possessing the confidence of the public, who will begin by investigating cases as they arise, with a view to seeing how justice can be done to those who have placed us under this great obligation.
We can never completely discharge our indebtedness to those who have gone abroad and have risked - many have lost - their lives for the preservation of the great heritage which is summarized in the word “Empire.’’ As one of the trustees for the public who constitute this Parliament, I am ..prepared to do all I -«an to make just and generous provision for these men ; but the more I think about the project, the more difficult it seems to be. Although, at first sight, the measure may appear a mere foundation, to be built on as experience directs, ‘the Minister has made a step towards evolving a system by proposing to appoint capable and well-known men to investigate cases as they arise. The character of these cases will be as varied as human nature itself. One has only to look through a list of the occupations of those who have offered for service, or have returned from the Front, to know that it is impossible to lay down any one or even any fifty general principles for guidance. Above all things we must bear in mind that what is to be done is not to be regarded as charity. We are not conferring a favour on these men; we are not making them a present of anything; we are merely trying to discharge the great debt that we owe to them for their service as soldiers. General principles cannot be laid down for the guidance of the Commissioners. The one great characteristic of young Australians is individuality.
I dare say that among our enemies most of the men could be grouped and provided for as if they were chessmen ; but in Australian natives, and in those who have adopted this country as their home and lived in its’ atmosphere, there is a spirit of independence which, in my opinion, is one of the chief , causes of their great success in the war. They are not merely men who can be drilled, and can do their work in groups; they are possessed of that valuable characteristic known as initiative. Their individuality has shown itself wherever they have taken part in the operations at the Front, and when they return we must provide for a great variety of human aspirations, needs, and even .doubts, as to the proper- occupation to fellow. We.’ shall npt be, *Wo to solve, without experience, the difficulties that this, will create;. If we were about tq hand oyer the work- tq an individual,, however competent, we should instruct him, te find put first pf all. what was to be done with these persons. There is a fashion of speaking of returned soldiers as though, like draughtsmen, they can be. put down on this square, or on that, and be regarded as satisfactorily placed. I believe, with one honorable member who speke te-day, that the pro.portion of returned soldiers who will wish to go on the land is small. It would be absurd to put an inexperienced man on a patch of ground, and, haying built him a habitation, to say to him, “ Now make your own living.” Unless a man has had experience and training, ^ and sp obtained a knowledge of the means to induce the earth to yield for him marketable ccmmoditd.es, hie cannot usefully be placed on the land. As a ‘cardinal principle, we should remember to so administer whatever money is to be disbursed that each man may be called upon to cheese his own occupation, the State helping him. We cannot say to the men, “ We propose to make you a painter, or a carpenter, or a bricklayer.” We must find out their individual proclivities, training, and traditions; we must know where’ they have lived and been reared, and what their ideas are regarding the occupations which they should follow. Then there are what may be called imaginative young- men, whose reading may have made them think that certain occupations, of which they do not know the true nature, are most suitable. We must guard them against such employment. To dp all this we need very capable men for the administration pf the movement, and shall have to make many trigs before we pan arrive at a complete solution of the riddle.
– =What the honorable member- speaks of will fee very much the work of the Local Committees, who will be in the closest touch with the returned men.
-J think se. I am familiar with the great work that the honorable member has dene, but there is this difficulty about local administration, that the man who is well known may be treated with partiality te the detriment of others who are not so well known. But there must be local knowledge qf the ability and capacity qf each man. It i? useless fer us to speak at length about particular occupations. The honorable member for Hindmarsh gave us. an in.:teresting dissertation on pig farming, but it is npt desirable that, time should be occupied in this, way ; it will be. for the Commissioners “to deal with the difficulties as they present themselves. We must net attach too much importance to the idea of placing men on the land. When a young fellow who has been reared in the country says that he understands rural pursuits, and wishes te be given a. piece pf land- by all means. let us treat him as he desires; but do not let us. place on the. land men who have been carpenters, or procers’ assistants, thinking that the possession qf a plough and harrow will enable them to follow the business of farming.
-It is wonderful how our forefathers got on.
– They had the divine curiosity and the tiger determinaMon to make their- way ; but their experiences were hard, even when they had brought to this country the necessary knowledge. The industries in which they engaged were then in a more primitive condition -than new, and furthermore others were struggling as they were.
– We shall have a debt qf about £400,000,000, and require the. creation cf new wealth to meet iti.
Mr-. BRUCE SMITH. - I dp not wish to discuss the economics pf the subjectNothing is to be gained by each member estimating the cost of this scheme,, We must discharge” our obligations, helping these men in a variety of ways too numerous to be enumerated, and the cost will be the consequence, not the cause.
– The work is to be done regardless of cost.
-=Of course. We have to do it, as wisely as possible, and as little as possible by rule of thumb, endeavouring to place each man in the groove for which he is best suited. I admit that there are no principles laid down in the Bill. When I spoke to Senator Millen the other day on this point, he said, ‘“Well,’ you try to lay out some principles which should guide the Commissioners.’’ Then I began to think about the matter, and though it is not my business, I felt that if we could embody in the Bill some general principles as a guide to these men, on the assumption that they do not know as well as we do what is wanted, we would give some substance to the measure which it has not now. I began in this way-
The following general principles should, as far as practicable, be observed by those charged with the administration of this Act,, as guides in the distribution of the funds placed at their disposal.
I had not got very far then ; ‘ but one characteristic in the Australians which stands out, in my estimation, is one I have mentioned more than once, namely, individuality. I went on -
Every effort should be made to safeguard the individuality and spirit of initiative of the returned soldier for whom provision is to be made, and to prevent the impression that such provision is being made in al spirit of charity.
That principle, no doubt, will be observed without being set out in the measure ; but it would have given the measure a little more substantiality in the eyes of those whose imagination does not carry them as far as the stage at which it reaches the Commissioners. My next point was -
Care, should be exercised, in each case to ascertain the former calling of the soldier whose case is being considered, in order that his pre-war experience and training may be utilised in making provision for him.
I do not desire to take a biased view of the Bill, in which we are all interested, and which we are all anxious to make as perfect as possible; but I do think it would have been better if the Minister, in the light of the experience he has already had of repatriation work, could have evolved a number of general principles of the sort which, while not binding on, the. Commissioners, would have served as guides to them.
– Are not these more in the nature of a series of instructions, rather than principles to be embodied in the Bill?
– If we could have agreed on a number of broad principles of the sort, and embodied them in the Bill, they would have been a very useful series of guides to the Commissioners. But I do not attach much importance to this.
– I do, in the direction of suggestions.
– I believe that if the Government are careful to appoint a class of men who really have business knowledge and the philanthropic spirit, and who are willing to give a great deal of their time to the careful and detailed consideration of the work - who can put themselves in touch with the great, variety of human nature to, be found amongst our returned soldiers-they themselves will embody some principles, pf the sort in their adjudication.
– That is the crux of the whole thing.
– Quite so.. And we shall have this advantage, that from time to time - and I do not dread this, as one. or two others seem to do - we shall be asked to amend this Bill; because, as the Commissioners, gain knowledge, they will ask for their powers to be either widened or amplified, or for some more definite directions to enable them to carry on their work. I look on the Bill merely as a tentative measure - as a first attempt. It confers powers which, no doubt, will be carried out in the right spirit. Far from deprecating the connexion of a Minister with the Commission, I think it is an admirable step, because it will keep him in close touch with the Commission, and with Parliament, and maintain an intimate relationship between the two.
Some objection was .taken by the honorable, member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) to the idea of using loan money for this work ; but, if one applies one’s mind to the matter, it can, I think, be seen very clearly that it would he unreasonable to ask one generation to pay for the salvation of the Empire in which posterity is as much interested as axe the people today. This great war, which I take to be for the preservation of the Empire, is not for us, but also for all who come after us. My honorable friends opposite seem, though T am not sure, to take some exception to what I say. They have children, or will have children, whom they will leave behind, and who will benefit by this war. We are preserving this Empire not for ourselves; and the proposition is a very simple one. There are hundreds of generations to come after us, and the Empire will have been preserved for our descendants-men and women-. - for generations to come. Why should the money necessary for repatriation not be provided by loan, and the interest paid from generation to generation, with a generous sinking fund, by means of which the indebtedness will gradually disappear ?
How has England conducted ber great wars for the preservation of the Empire? She has built up, from time to time, a national debt, varying by hundreds of millions. During the Trench wars, in the time of Pitt, the debt which England built up seemed one that would overwhelm her ; but, bit by bit, it was brought down, until the whole was, I think, only £600,000,000. The Boer War added £250,000,000 to the debt;” but that also was being gradually wiped off, until we were faced with the present conflict. That is the principle on which all judicious men would conduct a great enterprise of the sort before us. If we attempted to levy on the people of this generation for the debt which is being incurred in the Mother Country to-day, and incurred here on account of the war, and for the compensation of our men for the obligations under which they have placed us, we should simply swamp the present generation. There can be no doubt at all, therefore, in my opinion, about the propriety pf paying for work of this sort out of loan money, provided a generous sinking fund is created, so as to cause the indebtedness to disappear as history moves on.
I am very glad, as I have said, that the Minister is to be associated with the Commission, because he will bring us into continuous touch with them and their work. He will learn from time to time where the present provision is found wanting, and give us an opportunity, by this intimate communication, of amending the measure, so as to meet the altered conditions which will develop with experience.
The States have been interfering in this matter in a manner which I think is to be deprecated. When we federated, we intended that Defence, in all its forms and incidence, should be handed over to the Commonwealth. It is very unfortunate that the States - whether for limelight, or with a desire to dispose of their surplus funds - should begin to take this matter in hand in conflict with the Commonwealth. It is very difficult to administer a work of this kind when there are two powers, each acting independently of the other, attempting to discharge the same obligations. I can quite understand that, where land is required for some of these soldiers, as we have very little of our own - in fact none, except the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital area - it would be very difficult for us to act without the States. But the Federal Government should exercise extraordinary care in seeing to the character of the land which is being provided by the States. I do not know at present- and whether there is an opportunity for my knowing I cannot say - what authority has been given by the Commonwealth to the States to obtain land for this purpose; nor do I know what sort of criticism is being exercised in regard to the land which is being bought by the States on the understanding that it is provided for by the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth is not paying for any land, but merely making advances for improvements and so forth.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) the other night, expressing himself in a rather warm manner, alleged that in his constituency some land was being disposed of to the State for settling returned soldiers - land of a character which, he said, would not “ feed a bandicoot.”
– The same thing is being done in South Australia, where land, all under water, is being sold for this purpose at £19 per acre.
– The honorable member only gives another instance.
– Some of these facts are most valuable.
– All I wish to say is that if the Commonwealth is satisfied that the best recompense to some of our soldiers will take the form of putting them on the land. I hope the Repatriation Minister will see that the land is of a quality to do more than “feed a bandicoot.” It would be a thousand pities to allow our soldiers to go on land unfitted for settlement, and there waste a year or two or more of their lives trying to get “blood out of a stone.” It will become a very necessary part of this project, even if the Commonwealth is leaving the States to provide the land-
– The Commonwealth provides the money - we lend the States the money. °
– Only for advances for improvements.
– In this conflict of opinion it is difficult to find out the facts, but I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is right, and that we are allowing the States to find the land, the Commonwealth lending the money to buy it.
– That is not correct; the money advanced is only for improvements, and the plant and stock necessary for carrying on.
– As part of this project, what guarantee has the Commonwealth that the land which the States are providing on these terms is of a character worthy of being used for the purpose of settling soldiers? At all events, if it has no guarantee, it should have one. The Commonwealth should not leave the matter to chance. It should not leave it to the States, untrammelled, to select what land they like for the purpose, unless it is eminently fitted for the object which the Commonwealth has in view.
– Surely the States are as much interested in these soldiers as we are. They are not likely to provide any sort of land.
– I do not think that the States will be able to give to the matter the concentrated attention that the Commonwealth can give to it. No measure has been before the State Parliaments which has led to detailed discussion. I do not think that the States are giving, or will devote, the same attention to the difficulties of the situation as we are giving to them.
– The .States .say that the matter should be left in their hands, because they can give it more attention.
– The States may give more land; but success in the settlement of soldiers on the land will not be brought about by making big areas of land available, unless those areas are made up of good land. The Commonwealth Government should exercise its judgment in seeing that what it is advancing its money to buy is of such a character as to be quite fitted for the purpose for which the money is advanced.
Like other honorable members, I have complete confidence in Senator Millen as the man to administer thi” scheme; but I believe that the Government will have to come back to the House from time to time, as difficulties develop, and as requirements reveal themselves, in order to have this Bill amended. We know the maxim, “ Who gives quickly gives twice.” We should act rapidly, I have heard honorable members say that we are too sluggish iD the matter ; that very little is being done; and that we are not acting as promptly ot as generously as we should in this direction. I recognise that there are great difficulties in the way. Some men will ask for help who do not deserve it. Others will be asking for help of a kind which, if given, would be of no assistance to them. All these and uncountable other difficulties will have to be met ; and from time to time the changes brought about will need to be represented in some amending Bill. I should like to know what is to be done in the case of a man who has a pension which, capitalized, would probably represent a pretty large sum.
– If there is necessity to give help in addition -to the pension, it will be given under this scheme.
– I do not think that this difficulty has been fully considered. I presume that it will be open to the Commissioner to say to a man with a pension of £100 a year, which, capitalized at 5 per cent., means £2,000, “You have already £2 a week ; we cannot, in addition, advance money to enable you to go into business and earn another £100 a year.” The point will have to be considered by those who will be honoured by being appointed as Commissioners. These gentlemen will have to advise the Minister of the difficulties as they encounter them, and, instead of deprecating any amending Bill, I shall welcome it, if it provides improved methods ot administration, based upon the experience, gained during the first year of the working of the scheme. Some honorable members say that there are no principles in the Bill. I hope they will ‘ endeavour, as I have done, to arrive at some principles which may serve as guides to the Commissioners. If they bring them before honorable members when the Bill is in Committee, we may be able to build up a little code of directions which will give the measure more substantiality, and make it serve as a better guide to the Commissioners. I support the Bill, and I shall do my best to put it into better shape, if suitable amendments can be moved as we go through Committee.
.- We have before us the Bill so ardently looked forward to by the country ; and while I am somewhat disappointed because it has not come up to my preconceived ideas, I recognise the disabilities under which the Government have been working, and that possibly the wiser course has been pursued in making this a purely machinery measure. If I could have got my particular ideas embodied in it, the opposite policy would commend -itself to me, but honorable members might consider my ideas far tooutopian. Some may think that there should be greater co-operative action between the States and the Commonwealth, and we can plainly conceive, on the other hand, that the duty of repatriating our soldiers must be a divided one. The States will compete among themselves for settlers, and as they are in control of land settlement, they can give to the matter a far greater amount of consideration . than the Commonwealth can give to it. This question of land settlement will apply only to the smaller section of our returned soldiers, and if land settlement were our only concern, the matter could very well have been left to the States with financial assistance from the Commonwealth; but the more numerous body of soldiers will be those who will not settle upon the land, and on this account the Commonwealth have taken the right step in accepting the full responsibility for repatriation work.
There seems to be a consensus of opinion, not onlyin this Parliament, but also throughout the Commonwealth, that no better man could be chosen to administer this measure than Senator Millen. His high capacity fits him for the position, and he will not disappoint the expectations of his friends; but his position will be rendered very difficult because Parliament has not seen fit to accept the responsibility of laying down principles for the guidance of those who are administering the scheme. He will be dependent on a central Commission, with Boards in each State, and various Local Committees throughout the Commonwealth. I am not very much in favour of unpaid boards or Commissions. Some one has said that legal advice given for nothing is worth just what it costs ; and in many instances, but not in all, voluntary services may be placed in the same category. The success or otherwise of this scheme will depend entirely upon the amount of sustained interest - that can be maintained among the Local Committees. They will be the pivot upon which it will revolve. I was recently engaged, with two other gentlemen, touring New South Wales on a Royal Commission which inquired into the best means of increasing the number and prosperity of persons engaged in rural industries. We inquired specially into share farming, and the various conditions under which the primary producers were working; and we took care to ascertain in each district what facilities were available for the settlement of returned soldiers, and what inducements could be offered to the Commonwealth to settle soldiers in any particular locality.. To the credit of the various districts, it must be said that the people were unanimous in their desire’ to assist in settling soldiers on the land. It is true that many of the estimates that we received from practical men as to the area which could be considered a living area varied considerably, and that the value placed upon the land which could be made available for the purpose would far exceed the means of any Government who wished to purchase it in connexion with any scheme for the settlement of returned soldiers. From £1.500. to £10,000 was mentioned as the value of a living area, and we received suggestions’ from some of the ablest and best men in -their district - men who had won their spurs by a long life of struggle, which resulted in ultimate success - as to what part the Local Committees should play in the placing of soldiers upon the land. To give the House an idea of the average suggestions, I will read one proposal. Honorable members will see that in it the principle of local help is strongly emphasized. I sincerely trust that the powers conferred upon properly organized Local Committees will not be limited altogether to the administration of moneys collected in their own district, but that some recognition of the value of their work will be shown by enabling them, under proper safeguards, to also assist in the expenditure of a sum of money advanced for the purpose of repatriating soldiers in their midst. The following suggestion came from the Winthewar League at Burrowa, and was adopted unanimously by the recruiting committee in the sub-district of Werriwa, with head-quarters at Goulburn : -
After some discussion it was decided that in such districts as Burrowa, the part of the scheme which most interests us is the settlement of men on the land, as there are very few openings for other kinds of employment. We should also see that the land is suitable for such settlement, and that the area is a living area.
The best way to bring this about would be by the appointment of district committees or boards, and for this purpose the league suggests that the State be divided into districts. That each district be asked to elect a board of, say, five practical men in whom certain funds be vested, and whose duty it would be to inquire into each application for assistance and report as to the suitability of the applicant for the work he wishes to take up. If the applicant could show that he had a reasonable chance of succeeding, lands could be allotted to him at the value fixed by the Crown. The board could then purchase stock as required, and loan them to the settlers on the share system - that is, the settler would return to the district board half the increase of such stock, or half the produce, in such case the land was cropped, or half the value of such increase or produce if he wished to purchase same each year until he has paid back to the district board in such way an amount equal to the value advanced to him by the board, plus 4i per cent, interest. Then the stock and plant would become the property of the settler, and by that time have proved his fitness as a settler, and be given his clearance hy such board. This league thinks that large land-holders could, and would, materially assist this scheme if allowed to do so by placing at the disposal of the district board the surplus stock which they have to dispose of each year, and for which they could afford to take bills for a term of years. These could be loaned to the settlers, and would save a large expenditure of public money.
These district boards were a great success in South Africa, and were instrumental in settling a large number of men on the land- who would otherwise have drifted into the towns, or out of the country. The expense of these boards to the Crown would not be very great. Many practical men would give their time free to such a work, and the only expense would be that’ incurred for clerical work and outofpocket expenses, as in the case of shire councillors, stock board directors, or aldermen. These men who acted as members of the boards would be of great value to the settlers by being a&le to advise them in re the working of their holdings, because they would possess an intimate knowledge of the district and conditions the settlers had to live under, what stock would be suitable, and what crops could be grown.
If inexperienced men applied to the board, they could be placed with experienced farmers in the district in which they wished to settle for practical training and experience, that will fit them for the. work which they wish to take up.
This league would earnestly commend these suggestions to the Minister in charge of the repatriation scheme for his careful consideration.
I have quoted that suggestion in order to show the spirit that animates the people in the farming districts of New South Wales, and their anxiety to assist in the great work, of repatriation. I feel confident that if the Local Committees are not given more power their enthusiasm will cool somewhat, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) predicted, and any such effect would certainly be detrimental to the object we” have in view, namely, to do our best, consonant with the means of the country, not only for the brave men who have fought for us, but also for their dependants. We also desire to make this country self-sustaining and worthy of the sacrifices our soldiers have made. It is clear that the vast majority of the men must be settled in employment which the Commonwealth can largely control. It is true that a vast number of the men will go back to their previous employment, but it is the absolute duty of the Commonwealth and the States to develop new industries, manufacturing and primary, so that we may be able to find profitable employment in which we can give to the returned soldiers a preference that will not only mean a special advantage to them, but will also give to the community that increase of wealth and progress which is essential if we are to keep our obligations to the soldiers and their dependants.- It is of no use our promising, like a man intoxicated, wondrous things when our capacity for performance is, after all, very limited. We must devise methods by which new production’ can be brought about, and the preference of which I speak can be given without any wrong being perpetrated on any other class of producer. On the contrary, an impetus of this kind to the development of industries in this new Commonwealth will be beneficial to all. ‘
I am a great believer in the principle of self-help; I think it is of pre-eminent importance. Whatever our fiscal beliefs may be, we were elected to this Parliament to do the very best possible thing for the country in the most distressing circumstances which have ever confronted it. We have to sink our individual beliefs, even if they are the growth of a lifetime, if it can be shown that in doing so we can advance the idea which all of us have at heart, however much we may differ in other matters. Stated in the plainest language, even if we have to patch our old clothes and wear them, we must do that to maintain our independence and the progress of the country. If we cannot honour our obligation to the soldiers, their dependants, and the people of Australia, and at the same time indulge in luxuries, entertainments, and pleasures, especially if those luxuries are imported, we must cut them off at the tap. I realize that is a most difficult thing to do. I shall not enter’ upon any disquisition regarding the merits of Free Trade and Protection. Doubtless, as a convinced Protectionist all my life, I regard Protection as the right policy. But I do say that Australia, having practically a monopoly of one of the great raw materials essential to the industries of all countries, namely, wool, is in a particularly strong position. In a large measure, we can pay our foreign indebtedness by the export of wool, the production of which, having regard to our almost untouched, because unimproved, hinterland, is possible ‘ of immeasurable expansion. With wool and minerals’, and other wealth-producing factors, we have something which the world cannot refuse, even if we decline to take in large measure the goods we have been in the habit of buying. We shall be compelled by our own necessities to do much that ia disagreeable to many, but surely the essence of this contract which we all have been so glibly talking about from one end of Australia to the other is self-sacrifice, and surely we will not ask that that self-sacrifice shall be all on one side.
Land settlement is appropriately being kept to the. forefront of the repatriation scheme, because .the State Governments and the people alike are fully convinced that we must have more settlers, and perhaps an opportunity of securing a great accession to the ranks of settlers will be offered by the return of our soldiers. In all humility, I claim to have some little knowledge of the question of land settlement. I commenced on the land about twenty-eight years ago without any money, and perhaps more by good luck than good management, I have succeeded to some extent. I had to battle during some years against the rudest and roughest conditions that settlers have to face. I know that,much depends upon a man’s adaptability for work on the land ; but I assure the House that, on the average, the Australian laws relating to land settlement have been a failure. Many years ago, Sir William Lyne, speaking in the New South Wales
Parliament, pointed to the fact that, although up to date, 230,000 selections had been made in that State, ostensibly for the purpose of promoting permanent settlement, only 28,000 of the original holders remained upon their blocks. At one time, dummying might be said to rank as a national- industry in New South Wales. I know that this opens up a big and disputable subject. I have my own ideas concerning it, but I am afraid that this House will consider them Utopian rather than practical, although I hold them with all the fervour of my being. The fact that although we have a mere handful of population on our 3,000,000 square miles of territory, the State and the Common- . wealth Governments are compelled to adopt a re-purchase system to provide for the settlement of returned soldiers, and have been compelled to do so for many years, to provide for the few men who are ready and willing to face the difficulties which confront the man upon the land, is one of the most serious indictments that could be levelled at our land systems. The Age, in its issue of the 8th August last, stated that under the operation of Closer Settlement Acts - I am speaking now not of the conditional purchase system, but of the closeT settlement laws of this State - only 4,300 settlers had been added to the population on the land in Victoria during the last twenty years. For many years I was a member of a Land Board, assisting, as an ordinary layman, in the land administration of New South Wales, so that I know what the closer settlement system of that State - whether it be that provided for by the original Closer Settlement Act, the amending Acts, or the Settlement Promotion Acts - amounts to. On those Boards we used every means at our disposal to see that no unworthy or incapable man. was admitted to the ballots for closer settlement holdings, but the figures in regard to the progress of closer settlement in New South Wales are by no means encouraging. I have not been in touch with them quite recently, but I believe that over 60 per cent, of die men so placed on the land in New South Wales would be “ on the rocks “ if the law were enforced against them. And this notwithstanding that much of the land purchased for closer settlement purposes is of good quality, and that the majority of those chosen by the Board were good men. Is it reasonable to suppose that a larger proportion of returned soldiers would succeed than has been the case in respect of the share farmers and others - inured to the hardships of land settlement, and with none of the nervedestroying experiences of war - who have availed themselves of the closer settlement law?
Whatever may be the generosity of the Commonwealth or the States, we cannot go beyond our means. This land will have to be paid fcrr by the production of the soldier-settler, or the liability must be met by the Commonwealth and the States. The money must be found in one way or the other, and I therefore think that the Minister controlling the scheme is wise in not attaching too much importance to the proposal to settle a large number of our returned soldiers on the land to engage in wheat or mixed farming under present conditions. I say from experience that if the proper class of men can be obtained, and the right conditions developed, the industry is one in which men will make progress. I understand, however, that the Minister is inclined to favour small subdivisions for the raising of pigs and poultry, and for the planting of orchards.
Various opinions have been expressed during this debate as to the probable results of intense culture in Australia. I am satisfied that it will pay, but to insure success it requires something which is not a characteristic of most youngAustralians - it requires a constant, persevering effort and a readiness to accept sometimes, in respect of protracted periods, little or no return. It means Sunday and Monday work, perhaps not very laborious, but continuous, and it also requires those settled habits and that persevering industry which are rather a characteristic of the people of older countries, and are displayed even by the people who to-day are our bitterest, enemies. The problem of permanent land settlement in Australia, which is, as yet, unsolved, is the problem that confronts us if we are going to induce our returned soldiers to go on the land.
– They may not want to go on the land.
– Unless some go on the land, then our obligations to those who do not cannot be maintained. New production will have to be stimulated, and new development will have to take place, to enable us to meet our obligations. We cannot for ever meet them by means of IOU’s.
– I -was referring to the fact that, according to the honorable member, 60 per cent, of our farmers who have gone in for closer settlement find it impossible . to carry on.
– I am putting forward these views with the object’ of urging caution on the part of the Government. The Commonwealth and the States should be slow to commit themselves to the purchase of large estates, involving an expenditure of millions, until we see how far it is possible to evolve and elaborate a better system. Our attempts at’ permanent settlement have been almost a complete failure. In support of that statement, I propose to quote a few figures. The Royal Commission to which I have already referred found, in the course of its inquiry, that 81,531,984 acres of land in New South Wales had been alienated, and that over 77,000,000 acres were held under long leases. In other words, nearly 160,000,000 acres out of a total of, roughly speaking, 200,000,000 acres in New South Wales would not be available for the purposes of this scheme except by re-purchase or resumption. Doubtless, the portion remaining unalienated is, with the exception of a few million acres’, unfit for the purposes of a repatriation scheme. These figures show clearly that we have failed to bring about permanent settlement. Even those who went on good land had to put in a long and protracted struggle, in many cases, until railways were built in their vicinity, markets developed, and better systems of production, especially in regard to the cultivation of wheat, introduced. In the case of those who have made good, the tendency is to retire to the towns, or to the sea-board cities. Very few of the young people remain on the land. Because” of the higher standards and classes of education given to them, the sons and daughters have not the “ old man’s” capacity, or taste or desire, for the struggle oh the land. Where it is undertaken, where you find the “ old man “ doing what we speak of as the right thing - letting the son have his holding at one-half of its value - we find them taking one-half of the capital employed in the production from the land, and building terraces in the cities. For those who are compelled to carry on the work of production - I mean the workers - the struggle is never-ending, and stagnation, if not ruin, very often follows the effort. Even in connexion with those whom we speak of as the ordinary working farmers - the men who have progressed and have got beyond the working stage - the tendency is to no longer make use of their ability and capacity. Long before their working life is spent, or their energy exhausted, they relax their efforts. A small section become too well off to work, even in this hour of the nation’s trial.
Iri this great work of repatriation, the spirit of sacrifice - the spirit we are asking the people to become imbued with in order that we may maintain our part in this war - will have to permeate every section of the community The people will 1 have to give up the. idea that it is possible to go on financing this country by means of borrowed money - that we can go on meeting our huge obligations in that way, and that property values will remain. We have, ‘ in short, to take off our coats and get to work. I made a few suggestions in this House some time ago as to what we should do. I said that if we were to do our duty, it would be necessary for us to institute what I termed a system of conscription of wealth and energy; that we should compel every man possessing wealth or salaries above £500, and not exceeding £2,000, to pay per cent, or 2 per cent, for a number of years, in equal yearly instalments, into a repatriation fund, or what I described as a war wealth fund I suggested that of all wealth over £2,000, including mortgages, at least 10 per cent, should be conscripted ; and that land should be actually taken over as required, the owners to hold it at a nominal rental until it was required.
There was no need, I pointed out, for any liquidation. The interest could be paid until the money required could be gradually taken out of the property. The land could be used to meet our obligations to returned soldiers, and the moneys to keep down the huge indebtedness which we see crowding upon us. As a land-owner, I held that it would be better to sacrifice some few hundred acres of my land in that way, if it was capable of supporting a returned soldier, than it would be to have huge taxations in the way of income tax, and especially land taxes - which would destroy half, if not more, of my property value - heaped upon me. This could be done without paralyz ing any industry, and would bring a fresh producer, or perhaps several new producers, on to my holding.
– What is the value of the holding ?
– I am not going into details. I invite the honorable member to read in Hansard the speech which I made in this House on 14th December, 1916. That system would mean a greater return tlo even the biggest capitalist, whose capital was legitimately employed in this country L whilst it would help the legitimate worker who does not want to shirk his obligations either in the workshop or anywhere else. I believe the majority of our people in every walk of life are desirous of doing their duty. They have now the opportunity. On another occasion I dealt with particular principles, which I believe would mean the cure of the land evil if applied, not only in the Commonwealth, but all over the world, and suggested that the Commonwealth Government should institute a land system that would help us to solve, not only the Northern Territory problem, but assist us in some measure in dealing with the Federal Territory problem. We have in the Federal Territory nearly 900,000 acres, but, in respect of it, there is a very lax system of administration. Had it been properly administered, the Federal Capital Territory would have been almost self-supporting to-day. If one of those hard-headed Scotchmen to be found out West were placed in charge, and given full and plenary powers, he would make the Federal Capital pay without interfering in ‘ the slightest degree with the- beautiful marble castles and artificial lakes, to cost a million or more, that are to be established there in the “sweet .bye and bye.” But I shall not deal with that particular aspect of the subject. It is essential, in my opinion, that the railway should be continued from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, through the middle of the Northern Territory, and I think it would be possible for a commission, composed of hard-headed business men, of wide pastoral and agricultural experience, to control the expenditure of £500,000 or £1,000,000- it has become the fashion to speak glibly of millions - on the improvement of pastoral and agricultural properties, on which selected lads, of ages ranging from seventeen to thirty-five or forty years, returned soldiers and others, would be trained for a number of years, half their wages being withheld until they could be pub on land to do for themselves. Thus you would have a system which- would be almost self-supporting. I know a gentleman who last year sold £70,000 worth of cattle. Inasmuch as one man, with the assistance of a few capable managers and some black boys, can control so huge an enterprise, we are not doing what we should to further scientific production and distribution when we allow our young men to remain helpless and inert in the cities, terrified lest the imposition of a tax of £5 may force them to go where they do not wish to go. t
– Did not the honorable member vote against that proposal ?
– Yes, because I did not believe in the principle of it. I do not believe in class dependency. Labour standing aside until Capital has given it the right ‘to work is repugnant to those, who are imbued with the spirit of the bush. . Although Capital can be deflected from its legitimate work, which is the giving of all necessary assistance to production, and may become tyrannical, unjust, and destructive, so, too, may Labour. The relation of the two will be clearly defined, and their inter-dependency become evident, when true principles are promulgated. It is by the education of the masses, not by the arousing of bitter feeling and the stirring up .of passions, but by showing how the tyranny of both may be averted, that true co-operation will be brought about. All Commonwealth Governments* have failed to face the problem of the settlement of the Northern Territory, and the penalty of this failure of duty towards Australia may be the future loss of this continent to us. Now, while the public spirit of the people is animated, and the desire for self-sacrifice has been kindled in the minds of most, the initial steps should be taken to do those things which it is essential to do if the country is to develop and our control of it is to continue. I do not wish to say a word against water conservation, because the conservation of water and irrigation are essential, but if we expend countless millions on huge schemes, in addition to our present monetary obligations, we shall create a debt which this country cannot survive. It is to fly in the face of Providence to adopt huge experimental schemes for the stimulation of production by irrigation when there are already wide areas on which millions could make a living with the assistance of the ordinary rainfall. Until the natura] opportunities have been exhausted, and we have a population of teeming millions, huge schemes of water conservation should be dealt with as sparingly as possible. To pin our faith to them as children give credence to fairy tales may insure much loss to this country. I put before the Government of New South Wales, in my addendum to the report to which I have referred, the principles on which I considered that progress should be made towards the permanent settlement of that State, and those principles apply to all the States. What I said was by way of preliminary to clear away the obstacles raised by the maintenance of false premises. When that is done, we can apply truer and higher ideas which it may be considered too Utopian to voice just yet. In conclusion, I say that, although we have this obligation to repatriate our soldiers, and although the Government are confronted with the necessity of carrying out, in collaboration with the British Government, huge schemes for the control of wheat, wool, metals, and other commodities, stagnation should not be brought about, and’ we should be careful to see that financial progress is made, that the prospector wishing to seek a new mining show is enabled to do so. Essential as these large schemes are, they must be subservient to the .one great idea of progress. Away and above everything else, we must realize that, unless we can establish in our people the spirit of cooperation, friendship, self-sacrifice, and mutual dependence, we shall lose the driving power that will enable us to attain the great aims in view. No section of the community should claim the right to dominate or hold in subjection any other. We must try by true co-operative effort to do our duty to returned soldiers and their dependants and to the country, which is worthy of every sacrifice. A broad outlook will not rest upon a blemish here and there, but will have faith and confidence in the future. When self-sacrifice is truly part of our nature, it will compel us to yield the best that is in us, satisfied to go on to the end, knowing that we have done our duty, and assisted to some extent in the world’s progress. Notwithstanding the defects in the measure, and although I, like others, would like to have had my way in the framing of it, I think that the wisest course has been proposed, and the Government must be complimented on its efforts to keep its ^pledge to the people. It will be by its administration that the measure will be justified or condemned.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 8 p.m.
.- It is not my intention to emulate the example of previous speakers, and discuss the various phases of the proposed repatriation scheme and the several suggested methods by which returned soldiers may be usefully employed. With other honorable members, I am of opinion that there is very little in the Bill of a contentious nature to discuss. It consists almost wholly of proposals for administrative machinery, so that we cannot, even if we so desired, criticise it from a party stand-point. In listening to this debate I notice that, after all the word-painting of the last few years, and which is even now being indulged in, with regard to returned soldiers, the fine promises apparently boil down to the prosaic fact that we are to find employment for, injured men. A variety of work on which returned soldiers might be employed has been suggested, including the transcontinental railway, the Oodnadatta-Pine Creek railway, water conservation, shipbuilding, and so forth. I may have some difficulty in grasping the point of view of honorable members who have preceded me, but it perplexes me somewhat to reconcile the plaudits and admiration expressed so glibly for the men who have gone across the seas and fought, for the Empire, with the very little that, according to the speeches we have heard, is to be done for them. We have been told that it is not fair to ask employers to take such men back, in view of the fact that their labouring power is impaired, and that they cannot do as much as previously; and to meet that position it is suggested that employers should be subsidized to the extent that the returned injured soldier is lacking in efficiency. To me it appears that it is the duty of the Government to look after the injured SOdier, and for those who have been so loud in their protestations of gratitude to him, to see that he is not the sufferer - that, instead of talking about subsidizing the employers, the community should see that the injured soldier is placed beyond want. I fail to see that anything is being done for such a man, when we say that we will give him so much as a pension, and that he must go to work just as he did before he rendered such great service to the Empire and Australia, and that if his injuries have made it impossible for him to earn the same amount as before, we will kindly allow him to produce sufficient, plus a pension, to enable him to live. I cannot, for the life of me, see that that is a recognition of the great services rendered by the Australian soldiers.
– That is what the lawyers call the status quo.
– It is not the status quo, because nothing can compensate the man for the injury he has received. The honorable member for Parkes has said . that we never can adequately repay these men for the services they have rendered to Australia; but honorable members in their speeches suggest nothing more than that returned injured soldiers shall be put to work precisely as they were before the war.
– What do you suggest in regard to the returned soldier who isnot injured ?
– The man who is not injured, in my opinion, does not need or expect, and will not be disappointed if he does not get, any more assistance from the Government than he got before he went away. Those men were well able to look after themselves prior to the war, and I have not such a bad opinion of them as to believe they will hang around asking the Government to do things for them. I am referring to the fact that honorable members, who have emphasized the great services the troops have rendered, and have declared that we never can rep.ay them, do not talk of taking these men off the labour market, but propose that the injured soldier shall be returned to his old job, or a similar job. If honorable members were genuine in their protestations, they, instead of talking about subsidizing employers, would declare that those who have gained by the services of the men must make it unnecessary for injured soldiers to go on the labour market.
– Do you think it is an> injury to train an injured man’-s capacity to the utmost ?
– I have no objection if the honorable member means treatment in curative -workshops; but a soldier who is incapacitated should not be sent to private employment to have his wages supplemented to the extent of his incapacity. He ought to be compensated and placed in the same position or in a similar one to that in which he was prior to going away, or he is not benefited at all, in spite of the loud talk.
– Do you suggest that a partially disabled man ought not to be en- ‘couraged to do any work ?
– There are different methods of encouragement.
– I mean legitimate encouragement.
– J. do not think there should be encouragement, but that men who are incapacitated should be kept at the expense of those people who have benefited as the result of the war.
– That is proposed in the case of permanently incapacitated men.
– Those who are injured ought to receive a sufficient pension, and if that has to be supplemented, it ought to be done by earnings in the employment tff the Government. If it is necessary to provide work, it ought to be in workshops of a curative character, so that the men may mot be left to private employers. I do not believe in placing men, who are not able to earn a living in the ordinary way, in the hands of private employers, and subsidizing the latter to the extent that these men fall short in their capacity.
There is ‘one point to which I should like to refer, and that is the personnel of the Commission and the State Boards. I agree with other honorable members tha ti it is necessary- for the people who administer this scheme to have an intimate knowledge of the hopes, aspirations, and needs of the men who are to come under the provisions of the Bill. There is nobody more thoroughly acquainted with those hopes, aspirations, and needs than the soldiers themselves; and I submit that, on the Commission, and on each State Board there should be at least three representatives of the men, selected through their own organizations. Some years ago, I was a representative of the “Miners’ Accident Relief Fund at Broken Hill; .and the system, of representation there adopted ought to be embodied in the
Bill. The soldiers, through their representatives, would be able to keep a watchful eye, and see that their interests were safeguarded; and if the Minister cannot see his way to accept the suggestion I have made, I shall move an amendment to that effect at the proper time. Except in that regard, I see no further use in discussing the Bill. Everything will depend on administration. We have heard various views of honorable members as to how the men can best be employed on their return, but I do not propose to go into that matter. That will be the task of the Commission. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) that the money which will be required should not be taken from loan funds, but should be got by direct taxation on incomes. I also favour his proposal that those who hold a monopoly of the land of Australia should show their patriotism in a practical manner, and translate into action the protestations we have heard them voice so loudly as to what they are prepared to do on behalf of the returned soldiers.
.- I regret that other duties kept me away from the chamber when several important speeches were being delivered on this Bill. I regret “that I did not hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) speaking, because .no one in Australia has made greater efforts than he has made in regard to repatriation. I tender him a tribute for the magnificent work that he did in connexion with the scheme which he organized, though there was one feature about it that I did not like. He wished to obtain the money for his scheme voluntarily, while I believe that every person in the community should be compelled to give according to his means. However, the details of his scheme were well worthy of note, and I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity of hearing his views on this important Bill. We had a similar Bill before us during the last Parliament, but I think that we must look upon this question as an entirely new one. It presents enormous difficulties. During the last election every candidate made distinct and definite promises in regard to repatriation. Throughout the country the feeling is that we owe a debt of honour to those who have made sacrifices for us at the Front, and this Bill must be regarded as being merely a first instalment towards the repayment of that debt. It is a sort of promissory note that this Parliament signs when the measure goes to His Excellency the Governor-General for assent. I would like to have seen a little more set out in the Bill itself. As it now stands, everything is to be left to the Government, to the Minister in charge of repatriation, or to the Commission and Boards that will be appointed. I know that it is a very difficult matter. No legislation is in existence which can guide us. It is all new work. I do not think that this country will tolerate the thought that the men who have made such great sacrifices for us should ever be placed in the position that, soldiers occupied after the Crimean war, or even after the Boer war. /
The two great difficulties facing us in dealing with this question are finance and method. I do not see how we can deal with the financial aspect of this matter at the present time. It is idle to talk of raising so much money by means of taxation until we have some idea of what this scheme will cost. The war will cost us an enormous sum of money, and the payment of war pensions will also require a great amount. It would be absurd to extract millions of pounds from the pockets of the people at the present time for the purpose of a repatriation scheme when we have not the slightest idea of what it is going to cost us. “We have heard various estimates of what a land settlement scheme will cost. Some honorable members have mentioned a sum of £30,000,000, others have spoken of £40,000,000, the Honorary Minister has given us £60,000,000 as an estimate; but we do not know how many men will be anxious to go on the land. My opinion is that not more than 10 per cent, will be desirous of taking up an agricultural life ; but we must remember that many of those who were formerly employed in factories, or were engaged in clerical work, may prefer to live an open-air life rather than go back to their work-shops or their offices. Many of these men may return with shattered nerves, and an open-air life may be essential for them. We must remember that they will have been living an open-air life for some time.
– That will not give them sufficient experience to warrant them in going upon the land.
– That is where expense will come in. First of all, Committees should inquire into the capabilities of any man who is anxious to settle on the land, and decide whether he should be given assistance to enable him to do so. It would be absurd to give every one who asks for it a piece of land and an advance of money. A man’s qualifications to make a success of an agrarian life should first be ascertained. It may be necessary to place some of the men on farms to gain experience - we were thinking of such a scheme in Western Australia - and then, when a man has gained1 experience, he can be given assistance to go upon a piece of land of his own. Above all, we must avoid putting absolutely raw and inexperienced men on the land, or else there will be failure after failure. Of course, no matter how careful we are in the choice of men there will be a certain number of failures. That has been the experience of every State in connexion’ with land settlement schemes. In the early days in Victoria, when the farmers commenced operations about Rochester and Echuca, fully 25 per cent, proved failures. There have been many failures in Western Australia. The manager of the Agricultural Bank in that State, Mr. Paterson, was a very fine man, who devoted the whole of his life to his’ work, yet he was not able to choose absolutely the right class of man to settle on the land.
– There is no better scheme in Australia than the ‘Agricultural Bank system in Western Australia.
– It is a splendid scheme, and perhaps I may be pardoned for explaining it to honorable members. The Government of Western Australia, through the Agricultural Bank, make advances to settlers, but only according to the value of the work done by them. If a man is anxious to have his land ringbarked, the inspector of the Agricultural Bank fixes the cost of the ring-barking at, say, ls. 6d. per acre, and the Bank advances ls. 3d. per acre to the settler for the work he does.- If “fencing has to he undertaken, the Bank advances so much per mile for the work. It advances po much per cubic yard for the excavation of a dam. When the settler wants work done upon his block the Bank decides what class of -work is to be undertaken, and as he goes along the settler practically earns the money that he is putting into the land. When the clearing operations are sufficiently advanced, the Bank advances money for the purchase of machinery and stock. The money is repaid on very lengthy terms. So successful have been the operations of the Bank that until a few years ago it had sustained no loss through failure to make repayments; but recently there have been losses because of the exceedingly bad years that have been experienced in the western State, when special assistance had to he given.
If we are to undertake the work of preparing men to go on the land, money will have to be provided to assist in what may be termed the incubatory period, and other things with which I shall deal later will cost us a great deal of money. Some may hold that the necessary funds should be provided from revenue. I hold that a certain amount of revenue should be allocated for the purpose, but we can only do that when we know what the scheme will cost. It would be stupid on the part of any Treasurer to come forward at this stage with a financial proposal for repatriation purposes. I do not think that the Minister in charge of the work has the remotest idea , of what the scheme will cost. We must always bear in mind that there will be a big financial exhaustion after the war because of the enormous sums of money which will be needed for rebuilding the areas of the Old World that have been devastated by the war. This will create a very difficult time in regard to finance in Australia, just at the time when we may expect to have from 200,000 to 250,000 men returning to our shores. There is one aspect of this matter of which we have too much in this Parliament. The Government are committing us to an expenditure, and we have not the remotest idea of what it will be.
– The honorable member says that it is impossible to estimate it.
– What I am saying is that the Government are committing us to the expenditure before we have the remotest idea of what it will be. Until the Bill is passed, and the Commission and Boards have been appointed, and regulations have been framed, we can have no idea as to what the Government will require to do in the direction of purchasing land and giving assistance to those who are to settle on it.
– Does the honorable member say that we should not commit ourselves to the Bill before we know what the scheme is going to cost?
– No, but . I think that we should have more information in this measure. The kernel of the Bill is contained in clause 8.
– What particulars could the Bill give us ?
– It could set out the proposals of the Government in regard ‘to land settlement. That is the most important question of all. The balance of the scheme is mostly administrative machinery.
– The States are taking over the land settlement, and the Commonwealth is lending them the money.
– I have not. been able to follow closely the legislation introduced into the State Parliaments, but the Commonwealth must have a big say in regard to land settlement. Of course, it would be absurd for us to attempt to take control of land settlement, but we ought to know that fair and equitable provision is being made for those who go upon the land. I desire that we shall be just and generous to the men when they return, and it is essential that there shall be no further delay in deciding upon a definite scheme. The war started over three years ago, and it reflects no credit upon this Parliament that to-day we have before us what is really a blank cheque, the filling in of which is to be entrusted to Ministers. The work of repatriation should have been put in hand long ere this. We know how enthusiastic the people of Australia are in regard to this matter, and we are well aware of the magnificent work that is being done by the Red Cross Societies in caring for the sick and maimed. Any one desirous of getting information about a prisoner can obtain it through the ‘Red Cross Society much quicker than through the Defence Department.
– The society has special facilities for obtaining such information because of the international character of the organization. It has done good work.
– T hope that before long our soldiers will be returning from the Front, and we must have provision made in readiness for them. Our experience up to date teaches us -that, whatever is to be done should be done quickly. Parliament ought to have a definite promise from the Government that an opportunity of reviewing this , measure will be given within a reasonable period. We have not the remotest idea of what the regulations to be issued under this law will be, but we know the difficulties that stand in the way of any alteration of the measure.
I appreciate the efforts of Senator Millen. I had the pleasure of listening to his speech on this Bill, and there is not the slightest- doubt that he has gone most exhaustively into the whole Question, and that he is keenly desirous of building up a scheme which will not only reflect credit on himself and the Government, but will be of great value to the soldiers. On the other hand, I cannot help coming to the conclusion that there is an element of hypocrisy amongst many men who are in responsible positions. We do not find that generosity being shown to returned soldiers which we might1 expect when Government appointments are being made. I doubt whether one returned soldier is connected with the administration of this repatriation scheme, and even about this Parliament building, and in the Government Departments, a “great number of eligible young men are employed, whilst at the same time many returned soldiers are unable to get work. The same state of ‘affairs is evident throughout all the States. In the Defence Department, every position should, as far as possible, be filled by returned soldiers, but eligible men in khaki are controlling that Department, and they take good care nob to go near the Front, although they try to induce other young fellows to go. I have noticed the same sort of thing in connexion with the Railway Departments of the States, and it seems hypocritical of Governments to employ eligibles when they are asking other men to go to the wai.-
This repatriation scheme is one of great complexity and magnitude, and I confess that I like the proposal of the Minister in regard to the method of administration. I have always expressed the belief that, whilst retaining Ministerial, control in this scheme, we should destroy political (patronage as far as possible. The public should feel that their boys will have the same chance of getting justice as the son of any member of Parliament, and 1 believe that the system oi control outlined by the Minister, whilst retaining Ministerial control, will minimize the opportunities for political patronage. It must be realized that we shall be dealing with soldiers who have come from all parts of the continent, from the distant parts of the North-West and Kimberley, and from Northern Queensland, and it would be impossible for a centralized depot to deal fairly with men who came from, and will probably return to, parts so remote from tie head administration. The Bill provides for control by the Minister, and the issue of all regulations by Cabinet. Then there is to be an Advisory Commission, on which I hope there will be fair and equitable’ representation. I do not approve of the suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that there should be three soldiers upon the Commission. We must obtain the services of men who are experienced in finance and business, and understand land settlement.
– Such men can be obtained from amongst returned soldiers.
– We may be able to find them amongst returned soldiers. Of course, the soldiers must have representation. But it is essential for the success of the scheme that we should have on the Commission men who have made a success of their own business, and who, by reason of their commercial ability, will be able to see that the money is expended honestly and fairly, and that the soldiers get the best possible value. My desire is that every activity connected with the returned soldier should be under the control of the bodies to be appointed under this Bill. Nothing should be left to the Defence Department. I have no wish to reflect upon the Minister for Defence. In -the administration of that huge Department he has more work than any man can be expected to cope with. Therefore, all such activities as the manufacture of artificial limbs and the building of sanatoria should be removed from the control of the Defence Department and placed in charge of the Repatriation Commission.
– That is the general principle of the scheme. The only point at which the Defence Department and the Repatriation Department will meet will be the military hospital, where we are dealing with men who are not discharged.
– The Minister for Defence is too busy a man to be able to worry over all these details. For instance, we desire that men who are suffering from mental breakdown shall be placed where they will receive careful and generous treatment, and the Repatriation Commission will be able to attend to such men much better than could the Defence Department. Directly under the Minister will be the Central Commission dealing with the framing of regulations and -‘general administration. Then there will be State Boards, and in connexion with’ land settlement we must have the co-operation of the State Governments. Except in regard to the financing of the scheme it would be absurd for the Commonwealth Parliament to interfere in land settlement. Every State has its Lands Department, its Agricultural Bank, and its staff of inspectors and surveyors with a thorough knowledge of all matters pertaining to land settlement. While the Commonwealth was building up a Department to deal with land problems, the hopes of the soldiers would be ruined.
– Do you not think that the Commonwealth should take a lien over the land?
– That is a financial question to be dealt with by the Minister. We have no knowledge yet of what the Government proposals are. Under the State Boards will be the Local Committees, and I would be prepared to go further than the Minister has proposed in regard to that matter. When a man returns from the Front he should be able to meet the Local Committee in his own township, and those gentlemen would take a far greater interest in his welfare than would a Committee in a town 40 or 50 miles distant. Therefore the scheme should be elaborated so that the Local Committees may be more numerous than the Minister at present contemplates.
Mention has been made of the liability of the employer who has promised that work will be given to an employee on his return from the war. If a man returns partly incapacitated, how can we ask any employer to engage him at full wages? By putting that obligation on the employer, we should be subjecting him to a special tax. He might be keenly desirous of re-employing the man, but the condition of the latter might be such that he would not be able to earn one-half or one-third of what he was previously worth to his employer. If a returned soldier is so handicapped, the loss should be borne by the Commonwealth until we are able to build him up and to fit him to do his work with all his former ability. In the main, the response of employers has been magnificent. In some instances, they have paid thousands of pounds by way of insurance premiums on the lives of men who have gone to the Front. In almost every State the response from them has been very fine. There may be a few unsatisfactory cases, but I feel that, speaking generally, very few would refuse to honour” their obligations, and we should not be unfair to employers as a class.
While the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was out of the chamber, I pointed out that my objection to his scheme was that it was based oh voluntary effort, whereas I consider that every person should be compelled to pay according to his means. I have known men worth tens of thousands of pounds to absolutely refuse to contribute to Red Cross funds, whilst others have always been willing to do so. A scheme like this, and, indeed, any matter pertaining to the welfare of our soldiers, should, be financed by money obtained compulsorily, and not voluntarily from the people. No matter what the Government may do, we shall find that in dozens of our small communities assistance in various forms will be given to any man returning from the Front. In Sydney, for instance, there have been working bees for the building of cottages, and to provide various comforts for the widows of men who have fallen.
As I pointed out at the outset of my speech, we made certain promises during the last election campaign, and we have in this Bill a promissory note ready for our signatures. There is very little in it except a proposal to appoint a Commission, coupled with the fact that we know the method by which the Minister is going to administer the scheme. I approve of that method, but should have liked to see in the Bill something solid, so that we might be able to say that we had helped to create a scheme which we felt sure would be of advantage to those who have made such great sacrifices for us. I hope we shall have from the Minister the promise that in the near future - when the Government have been able to outline their scheme, appoint their Commission, and prepare their regulations - the House will have another opportunity to deal with the whole matter.
.- I think I shall be perfectly justified in saying that there is a unity of desire on the part of honorable members to insure the best interests and welfare of our returned soldiers, although there are very legitimate differences of opinion as to how those interests can be best served.- I intend to vote for this Bill, but I am not satisfied that it is by any means the best that gould have been suggested.- I am inclined to think that in its actual working it will break down by reason of its own weight. One of the features to which I object is the divided responsibility which will be created under it. First of all, we are to have a Repatriation Commission, and the Minister for the time being, whoever he may be, is to be chairman of that Commission. Then we are to have State Repatriation Boards and Local Committees. In the actual working of the scheme, the majority of the applicants for assistance will probably come, first of all, under the notice of the Local Committees. Those Committees will have to work under prescribed regulations ; and it is questionable, having regard to the wording of the Bill, whether the State Repatriation Board will not also have to work under prescribed conditions issued by the Minister. The result will be that when returned soldiers present themselves, the Local Committees will have, of necessity, to submit their cases to one of the superior bodies before they can be finally decided. I fear very’ much that many returned soldiers will thus become greatly discouraged before their applications are attended to, and their needs supplied. That is the position to-day. We have a Repatriation Board in existence; and I received to-day a letter from a returned soldier who is one of four brothers who went to the Front, one of whom so distinguished himself as to receive the honorable distinction of the Victoria Cross. This returned soldier has set his mind upon the acquisition of a certain piece of land. He went to the proper authorities to have hia desire satisfied, but he writes to me -
It is just a month since I lodged my application for the Clayton farm, and so far the Land Board have maintained an unbroken silence. I am getting impatient. Have called in once, but can get no satisfaction.
– Is he wanting a piece of Crown land ?
– No; it is alienated land that he desires to purchase. We have a divided authority at present, and we cannot say Who is responsible for the condition of things that is aggravating this particular soldier. His case is only typical of hundreds of others. During the dinner adjournment, I met a returned soldier whom I knew very well, and when I inquired whether he had succeeded in doing anything with the Repatriation Board, he said, “ Don’t talk Repatriation Boards to me. I went to them until I was tired, and found that I had to do something without any assistance from them. In the future they can go hang, so far as I am concerned.” That is a deplorable condition of things. We should inaugurate under this Bill a system that will enable us to locate the responsibility for any failure. If a responsible officer treats with disrespect any soldier who has fought for us, that officer should at once be brought to hook.
Instead of providing for a number of Commissioners, the Government would! have been better advised in proposing a system somewhat similar to that adopted for the management and control of our State Railways. There they have a Commissioner who is responsible to the Government for the due fulfilment of all the duties and obligations of his position. Under the Commission for which this Bill provides, I do not think we shall be able to make any one responsible to us. Let us adopt the State railways system and have one Commissioner. Let him be, if necessary, a highly-paid man, and I certainly think that we cannot pay too well the man who will have to handle the huge sums of money that will be controlled by the Commission. In connexion with our postal system, we have a central executive, under whom are our Deputy PostmastersGeneral, who are responsible for the due fulfilment of all the obligations of the Postal Department in their individual States. We can thus attach responsibility for any serious lapse in the services of the Department in any of the. States. But, under the system of voluntary service for which this Bill provides, I do not think we shall be able to attach responsibility to any one. How can we hold an unpaid Commission responsible for anything? I do not suggest that we should have a paid Commission of six members. We should have, first of all, under the Minister, an officer of the highest standing - having financial knowledge, ability, and capacity as a manager - and we should make him responsible for the main administration of the scheme. Let the Minister be the mouthpiece of the ‘ Commission in this House. Let him have under him one Commissioner in each State, and say to him, “ You are responsible for the administration of the fund in your State, while the subsidiary Committees will be responsible for the working of the scheme , in their particular districts.” It is outrageous that any returned soldier should, be able to point with scorn at the efforts of this Government to properly repatriate him.
If we are to have a MinisTerial head, I do not think we could have a better man than Senator Millen.- I have the utmost confidence in him ; but, unfortunately, for all we know, the next election might bring about a reversal, and we might have in charge of this scheme a Minister with new ideas and new methods.
– That is very likely.
– Can any one imagine the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) administering this fund?
– He would be a good man.
– The honorable member for Cook has not one idea in common with Senator Millen so far as politics are concerned, and he might have totally different ideas as to the way in which this scheme should be carried out. If. he became the Ministerial head of the Department he would naturally seek to impress his views on the Commission, and we should thus have no continuity of action.
– That is what the Government have done in this case. The Prime Minister was in charge under the Act we are now repealing, whereas, under this Bill, Senator Millen is. to be at the head of the Department.
– My point is that we should not have more changes than are absolutely necessary in the control of this scheme. We should so establish the Commission that we shall be able to fix responsibility for any failure, and to say to the officer concerned, “ Because of failure on your part returned soldiers are suffering, and for your failure you shall suffer.’’ Unless we do something in that direction we shall not accomplish the great results which we anticipate from this measure. We cannot do too much for the returned soldiers; we are under an obligation to them. If we permit. a system to grow up which discourages them-
– Why not give them representation ?
– The honorable member is too new in this House. When he has been here for a few years, and has gained experience, he will know that it is necessary that those in charge of a scheme like this should be disinterested persons who will administer it equitably and fairly, without regard to personal considerations.
– Give the men at the Front assistance before giving them representation.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) might consider that suggestion.
– It comes from those who will not, or cannot, go to the Front themselves.
– A comparatively small number of our returned soldiers will desire to go on the land, and I hope that no special effort will be made to induce any of them to do so; I know too much of farming from practical experience. It takes more capital to work a farm properly than many people are aware of. With the limited amount of capital which we shall be able to place at their command, the best and most experienced of our returned men will have an uphill fight. I wish to make a suggestion with .regard to the settlement of soldiers on the land which I think is practicable ; it is that they should be settled in communities; that their holdings should be close together, and that the community within a certain radius should be placed for a time, at least, under the control of a manager of farms.
– That is being done in New South Wales now.
– It is one of the proposals of the Minister.
– I hope that effect will be given to it. If you get an experienced man, a returned soldier who has been for some years on a farm, he may, perhaps, be intrusted with land dissevered from that of other returned soldiers; but, broadly speaking, returned men should be placed together, so that a community of interest may arise, and the men may be able to work together more or less for their mutual benefit. One of the difficulties in connexion with farming - it applies even to those who are well established - is that it is almost impossible to procure effective labour. I feel satisfied that there is a reasonable hope for the success of the scheme if the men are settled in communities. I cannot conceive of anything more discouraging to the men, or more unsatisfactory to the Commonwealth, than that those who go on the land should waste their energies, and expend the small sum of money which will be advanced to them, becoming at the end ruined men. We must, by every means at our command, seek to prevent that from happening. There are many other things which I should like to say,, but the Minister has already received so much instruction from honorable members, that perhaps he will be unable to give due consideration to further representations.
.- There has been a discursive debate this afternoon on the subject of repatriation. Judging from the speeches that I have heard, no one seems to know where he is going, or what he is going to do. Some honorable members are skating on .very thin ice in the promises that they are making. The last speaker (Mr. Palmer) and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) spoke of the machinery of the Bill. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) says that the scheme of repatriation cannot be defined, and that the cost cannot be estimated. There is no scheme formulated in the measure. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) dissected the speech of the honorable senator who is to be the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and showed that all the proposals which he put forward are already being given effect to in the States.
– By the State organizations.
– Seeing that this is a measure to constitute a body to administer the repatriation scheme, I ask what is wrong with the suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that the soldiers should be directly represented. It is a fair request. Those sobbing sisters of the soldiers - the honorable gentlemen who always speak of them with a tear in their eye and their handkerchiefs ready to wipe it away should no one be looking - do not grab at the suggestion that the soldier should be given an opportunity to look after himself.
– Does the honorable member think that he should run the whole show?
– Of course I do not. Those who are staying at home, keeping the wheels of industry going, should have a say. If all went to lie .war, what would there be to fight for? Japan, or some other nation, would step in and grab Australia. I do not want to have none but soldiers on the Commission, but the soldiers should have fair and adequate representation. It is a libel to say that none among those at the Front, and among those who are prepared to go when the Minister for Defence finds means to send them away, possesses land and financial experience.
– Any number of them have experience.
– I agree with the honorable member. I have come into touch in camp with three former bankers who once managed branch banks in South Australia.
– Bankers are not always business men.
– But they are men who understand finance. You would not expect a shearer to take charge of the affairs of a bank. If bankers do not understand finance, who does ? Two of these men ‘ came from agricultural centres in South Australia, and have had to deal with farmers wanting accommodation. I spoke the other day of a man who jumped on his motor cycle and rode 45 miles within the hour to get to a bank to consult with a manager as to what he could squeeze out of the farmer, as to how much he could bleed him for. These young fellows when they come back will, if they are chosen to represent their “ cobbers,” to use the camp word, see that these are given a fair deal. There are also among the soldiers agricultural men. I know two or three who are in camp at the present time. When the Defence Department wakens up - if I might emphasize the matter - and sends them abroad, they will be among the fighters.
– The honorable member is at the Defence Department again.
– I have suffered enough from the apathy of the Department; it is up to me to put in a word for myself. The suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) should receive more’ consideration. Among those whom I have met at Maribyrnong and at Mitcham are practical farmers, whose farms are now being managed for them while they are away. I also know a man who was a chaff merchant in one of the most prosperous agricultural centres in South Australia. I know another man who is the son of a squatter, and understands cattle. Thus to my knowledge there are among the soldiers men with experience in banking, farming, squatting, and the produce business. To those who say that nothing is too good for the soldier, I say, ‘ Give the soldier an opportunity of seeing that the promissory note that is now being offered is not dishonoured when the scream of battle is no longer heard and the smell of smoke is gone from our nostrils.” Let us put some one in authority who will see that the soldiers will get what they are entitled to. Five or six years hence the war will be over; then this repatriation scheme will be tested. A hundred and one technical difficulties will arise, and will prevent men from getting what they should get. Complaints will be made by the wives of fallen soldiers and by children who are not receiving a fair deal. Unless there is a soldier on the Commission, those who are aggrieved will have to go with their complaints to members of Parliament, who will interrogate the Minister, and will be obliged to accept the de- .partmental replies to their questions. But if the soldiers are given fair representation, matters will be better managed.. It will be easier for the Minister, and the intentions of Parliament will be carried out.
– The Minister has promised to give them representation.
– I should like to see the promise made tangible by an amendment of the Bill. There is another phase of the question which will come home to roost. It must be remembered that when these 240,000 soldiers return, as I hope they will, they will still have their votes, and the opportunity of making and unmaking Parliaments - they will still have the opportunity to judge on. acts and not on words, as to what has been accomplished in fulfilment of the promises made. Then, of course, Parliaments will be made in such manner that they will be insured a fair deal; but we ought not to have to wait until that time.
The Bill is simply a machinery measure embodying the form of administration; there is nothing in it to show what is to be done for the soldiers. Nearly every previous speaker has talked about placing soldiers on the land, and, according to the figures quoted by one or two honorable members, a return has been given by the Minister, showing that there are only 16 per cent, of the men who desire to take up country pursuits. From my experience in the military, and what I have learnt from others, I should say that the 16 per cent, is well represented by those who were on the land previous to enlistment, and are already interested -in farming ventures. In their cases there will not be repatriation, for they will simply go back to their usual avocations. How many of the 16 per cent, will be found not to have been connected with the land before ? There may be farmers’ sons with no land of their own, and who may desire to take up farming, and they may number possibly about half, which leaves 8 per cent, of new men who desire to go on the land. “We hear much talk, but very few speakers are prepared to place a concrete proposal in this connexion before us. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) .very nearly did so when he spoke of the necessity for building houses, but we have had no proposals whatever. as to what land shall be bestowed, or how. In South Australia, the Government have made one of the biggest purchases of land ever known in that State. The amount involved, if I remember rightly, is £293,000.
– The land has not been bought yet.
– It has been recommended for purchase by the Government Surveyor.
– That gentleman said that out of 370,000 odd acres, only about 100,000 acres could be used for cultivation, and even that would have first to be drained. It would appear as if it were intended to put the returned soldiers on land on which a dog could not live. I am merely giving an illustration of what is being done under the guise of repatriation. This transaction so reeks of suspicion that there is an inquiry into it going on at the present time; and it is taking the Government land valuator all his time to justify his valuation of £21 per acre.
– In the purchase to which the honorable member is alluding, the price is only 12s. 6d. per acre.
– The land to which I refer is, . I think, between Salt Creek ‘and Millicent, and I believe the .price is “£21, though possibly I am mistaken.- However, the point is that the purchase has become a scandal.
– It is the Pinery land that was £21 per acre.
– At any rate, this transaction shows the methods that are being adopted, and would be continued if not stopped. Soldiers, when they have lost their physical fitness, and are suffering from shell shock, ought not to be sent out to the Never-never. People talk about doing everything possible for the brave fellows who have fought and bled for us, and yet there is a suggestion to send them to the edge of the unknown land.
During the discussion to-day, I interjected that some of the land bought in South Australia was inundated during the last flood, and an honorable member replied that some of the best land in the country was periodically inundated. That, I admit; but that is not so in regard to the land which is called the Pinery, and which has been purchased by the South Australian Government on behalf of soldiers from the Front. ‘ The evidence given in the inquiry to which I have referred would be interesting reading for honorable members; but Heaven knows what the South Australian Government purchased the land for if it was not for their own personal aggrandisement. As a matter of fact, the State Government purchased no fewer than three sites for a Mental Defectives’ Home, and one of these is bigger than the city of Adelaide itself. Those who carried out_that transaction are all lily-white conscience, win-the-war patriots; and after all their talk about the soldiers, who are preserving their lily-white freedom, this is what we find.
– That is hardly fair, seeing that the inquiry is not finished.
– I am only pointing out that the Government bought three sites for a Mental Defectives’ Home. Mr. Owen Smith, when giving evidence at the inquiry, was asked what he said when he saw this land, and he replied, “ It was, - .” I forget his phrase, but I know he stigmatized the fact that he was asked to purchase three sites. However, let me get back to the question before us - the purchase of land for the purposes of repatriation. The Government valuator, Mr. H. M. Addison, was called in for his valuation, and the following was published in the Daily Herald of 17th September as the opinion of that gentleman : -
The land is unsuitable for dairying, pig raising, or poultry raising. About one-third of it is subject to inundation of tidal waters, and about one-twelfth of it to inundation by flood waters. The remainder of the land is undulating, hungry sand, ready to drift badly when disturbed. I am reliably informed that no man has yet been able to profitably use the land.
If the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) is right as to the price being £21 per acre, it was paid for land that no man has hitherto been able to hang on to. That is the method of repatriation as disclosed by this transaction. If those who speak so highly of our soldiers are honest, it is up to them to see that land for the purpose of repatriation -is compulsorily purchased adjacent, not only to the cities, but to the railway lines that have been built to open up the country. No one can say that there is not ample land to be obtained on which amateurs could make a fairly decent start, and which would repatriate the whole of our soldiers. I know that when travelling from Launceston to Hobart ‘ I saw .large tracts of land held by certain persons but not used, and the same may be observed in every State in the Commonwealth. It is our duty to see that this land is secured and our returned soldiers placed upon it. No soldier should be in want so long as he lives on this earth. And this reminds me that the other night we on this side were challenged about our liberality in the way of repatriation. All I can say is that we must not be challenged too much, or we will show how far we are prepared to go. I have often said that if land is not utilized there should be no talk of taking it at its taxable value, with 10 per cent, added, but the holder ought to be told to “ get out.” The land of Australia ought to belong to all the Australians, and not to a few. Sometimes I am called a “ red-ragger;” but I do not mind that, for my ideas, if they were carried out, would be for the benefit of the general community, though’, worse luck, I have not the power to get them realized.
When the war broke out, and we were suffering so much from drought and unemployment that it wasnecessary to feed people at the Trades Hall, Adelaide, a meeting was held in order to obtain suggestions as to what could be done to absorb the unemployed. The suggestions I made had all to do with the land. And I remind honorable members that from Port Victor up to Clare there is a lovely belt of fertile hills. Travelling on one occasion in a fruit district I met a grower, who had visited Tasmania, and, in conversation, he assured me that the area I have mentioned is the best apple country in the world. At the time of the drought we had a Labour Government in South Australia, or what was known as a Labour Government until they were found out, and when suggestions were asked for, I put forward one which was considered rather revolutionary. We must be revolutionary if we seek to bring about successful reforms, A great quantity of the hill country back from Adelaide is virgin ground, and my suggestion was that the Government should forcibly resume all that was not being put to use, and employ men in clearing it and fencing it, and in building . cottages upon it. My idea was that those who chose to take up the blocks could do so, for I knew that the drought could not last for very many years, and that if we could have that land developed in this way, it would be rendered productive within two or three years, while in the meantime we would be absorbing the unemployed, and staving off bad times. But my suggestion was considered to be too much of a wild-cat proposal for the Government to entertain, and that land still remains untouched.Had the scheme that I outlined been carried out, the present prosperity of the environs of Adelaide would be wonderful.
It will be to our undying shame if we ask any soldier to go upon land upon’ which another man cannot exist. We should make good land available for him, particularly in . the neighbourhood of cities or close to railways, and if it is necessary, we should have no qualms in asking a strong, healthy man to move off the place that he now occupies, and go further back, in order to make it available for one who is more deserving of it. But I am hoping against hope, because there is nothing tangible in the Bill before us; there is no assurance in it that the returned soldier will get that to which he is said to. be so justly entitled. We have had promises, but I do not place too much reliance on promises that aregiven when there is a wave of patriotism pulsating through the country, and making people’s brains work at twice their normal capacity. The Bill should state what ought to be done for our soldiers, but I am afraid that nothing in a tangible shape will come out of this measure until the soldiers themselves have an opportunity of voting upon the composition of the next Federal Parliament.
I am most anxious to know what is to be done for those who do not wish to go on the land - shearers, miners, men employed in tramway services, in factories, and in offices. The majority of our returned soldiers will represent that’ class which isbled every week by the landlord. What is the suggestion of the Government in regard to these men to whom the landlord is the biggest bugbear? The right honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Joseph Cook) has not forgotten his former days, when he was a land reformer and a revolutionist, and when he had the fire of battle that is not to be seen in his eye to-day. He knows thetroubles of. the man on a daily or weekly wage, out of whose wages the capitalist can cut huge junks each week, and on whom the landlord calls every Monday, and cannot be denied. What are we going to ‘do in regard to those men, in order to release them from that thraldom under which they have lived for so many years - the thraldom of rent laws, and the necessity to scratch along on a minimum wage? I hope that the Government will be generous in their treatment of them. Honorable members opposite have spoken of their desire to do a fair thing to the soldiers. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) has given notice of his intention to move some amendments, and I challenge honorable members to vote against them. If they do, I shall direct the attention of the returned soldiers to their speeches as justification for their attitude. At any rate, I think that i can claim the support of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) when we come to those amendments. His speech indicated it. ‘Cottages must be built, ‘but not in slum areas. We should copy the Cadbury ‘and Rountree ideas. We must remember that the soldiers are human beings, who will like a little pleasure in life, and will wish to rear their children as robust men and women. It is said that posterity will bear the burden of the cost. It has always had to carry it. I like the way in which some honorable members talk about the cost being merely £60,000,000. “ What is a million or two?” they say. Iti is something that must be paid back. I like the glib way in which they talk about posterity getting the advantage of all this expenditure. We were told that the whole of the public debt of Australia was to be paid by posterity; but I challenge any honorable member on the other side of the House to tell me how much posterity has paid.-
– What has posterity done for us?
– Posterity bas not done much for us, but we are the posterity of those who commenced borrowing in Australia. The first loans fell due years ago , but what have we done to repay them ? Read the Budget speech of the heaven-born Treasurer of South Australia. I do not mean to be disrespectful when I speak of him. in this way, because he is one of the best financial men that South Australia has had; but every Treasurer, when he has been in office for a few years, seems to imagine that he is a heaven-born financier. The honorable member for Grey felt his wings sprouting before some one chopped them off. The Treasurer of South Australia has told us of the 4£ per cent, loans that are falling due, and’ must he redeemed next year at 6 per cent.
– There is a corresponding asset in the shape of railways for the greater portion of the loan money spent in South Australia.
– I do not doubt that the asset exists, but I do not believe in this system of handing on a debt to posterity,. Nor does any honorable member believe in it when he applies it to his own case. It is the desire of every one to leave something to his family when he dies. I have never known of a man who tried to get into as much debt as he could in order to leave it for his family to liquidate after his death. Yet in our public life that is what we are doing. We are calling the tune and not paying the piper. It is time we returned to honest methods of government. The pocket patriots of Australia have increased their bank ‘deposits by £49,000,000.- It is no wonder they say, “ Nothing is too good for those brave fellows who have gone to the Front to fight for us.” And every time mother takes the kiddies to the pictures in the hope of seeing Dad in some of the battle scenes, the Government take a 1/2d. for every ticket she buys, but they will not take the £49,000,000. When the soldierscome back, and find that whilst they have been heroes in fighting for their country the other fellow has been exploiting their dependants, there will be a change in themethod of finance, and we shall discontinue undertaking things the payment for which is left to the kiddies. It is immoral to suggest that in order to repatriate the soldiers we should borrow, ahc? put an interest burden on their children. In conclusion, I hope the Government will think, not only of the soldier goingupon the land, but of the man who gaveup a good job, and is returning incapableof earning more than half of what he earned, before he went to the war. It isfair to say that he shall never want owing to the incapacitation which has resulted’ from doing his duty, and that anythinghe gave up in order to go to the Front shall be returned to him in full measureIf we do not do that, we shall not be acting honestly as a Parliament, and asmembers we shall have ‘no right to occupy our positions unless we honour to the full every promise made in regard to what thesoldier would get when he returns.
– I welcome a Bill of this kind, although it makes a belated appearance. Most of us recognise that this measure should have been introduced in anticipation of the men re- . turning, and that its appearance should not have been deferred until a lot ofwounded soldiers are back in our midst. However, most of the prophecies in regard to the war have been inaccurate, and we have had to learn as we went along. I have no desire.- to enter into the- general principles of this measure, beyond expressing my acceptance of the sentiment expressed by every member who has spoken, that the men who went away are entitled to everything we can give them. They should receive, not only as good a position as that which they left, but, owing to their services and the fact that if they had remained they would probably have improved their positions, we should endeavour to place them in better circumstances than they were in when they enlisted.
The outstanding feature of the scheme appears to be the great distance that lies between the Minister and the soldier administratively. This Parliament has accepted the responsibility of repatriating the soldier and replacing him in civil life, and its representative the Minister will be at the head of the organization for administering the scheme, but there is a very long cry from the Minister to the soldier. When the soldier returns and desires help, whom shall he approach? Shall he go to the Minister or to one of the Committees? If he goes to the Minister, has the latter’ to inquire through all the different bodies until he reaches the ‘Local Committees, or is the soldier to go direct to the Local Committees, who must refer back to the Minister through the various channels before a definite reply can be given?
– The matter will not come back to the Minister at all.
– The soldier may never see the Minister.
– This Parliament having accepted the whole responsibility and agreed to provide the money, we should have complete control of the administration. I have nothing to say against the proposed Minister for Repatriation. I believe that Senator Millen is a very suitable man. But when the war is over, the Repatriation Department will be the big Department of the Federal Government, and probably it would be better if the Minister in charge were a member of this Chamber. Members of this House will come into more direct contact with the soldier than will members of another place, and, therefore, should be in closer touch with the Minister. I also think that the Commonwealth Parlia- ment should be more directly connected with the Local Committees, and that a member of ‘this House should be chairman of each State Repatriation Board. In fact, the Minister might simplify his scheme and obviate the appointment of one body by making the chairmen of the State Boards the central Commission. During the debate representation of the soldiers on these different bodies has .been advocated. Senator Millen, in his speech, gave a direct promise that on all these bodies the soldiers would be represented, and the Honorary Minister in charge of the Bill in this House explicitly stated that two soldiers would be appointed to each State Board. Therefore, we have a definite promise that the soldiers will have representation, and I commend the Government for that decision. Honorable members opposite who were adversely criticising the Government for not giving the soldiers representation must have overlooked those promises.
– Surely as an old parliamentarian the honorable member knows that such promises do not last long.
– As an old parliamentarian it has been my experience that a direct promise in the speech of a Minister is kept, and as that promise is supported by the opinion of every honorable member in this House, as well as by the people outside, there seems to be no likelihood of its being broken.
A scheme of repatriation must have several phases, but most honorable members have dealt principally with land settlement. If we were asked what is the best avocation to which the returned soldiers could be put, every man would say that we should add to the wealth of the country, and be acting in the interests of the men, if we settled them on the land. But anybody who has studied the psychology of the soldier knows that his work and experience unfit him temperamentally for life on the land. Even those men who were on the land when they enlisted, haying enjoyed some of the privileges of civilization, having mixed with large bodies of men in camps, and tasted some of the pleasures of the larger world, as well as experiencing the excitement of the campaign, will be unfitted for a return to rural pursuits. I have had a lengthy experience in land matters, and I realize with regret that one feature which militates against men remaining on the land is the monotony incidental to waiting for results. A man sows a crop, and has to wait six, eight, and sometimes twelve months before he gets a return. And that waiting will go against the grain of a soldier who has been receiving a daily wage. My conviction is that land settlement will play a very small part in repatriation. If “we can” encourage settlement on the land well and good, but we must not expect very big results in that direction. The Minister has estimated that at least £1,500 will be needed to settle a man on the land, and it seems to me that for the same expenditure four or five men could be settled industrially. I believe the Government will find it necessary to absorb 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the returned soldiers in secondary industries, and that they can turn their attention more profitably to that avenue of employment than in spending vast sums of money in trying to settle on the land men who are temperamentally unfitted for that occupation.
I have been struck with the speeches of some honorable members, particularly those of Victorian members, who have decried the failure of closer settlement in their own State. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) said that there was a big area of Crown lands on which returned soldiers could be placed. Everybody knows that all the best land in Victoria is already alienated. There is left nothing but out-back blocks. I shall be no party to placing a returned soldier on such areas, where he will not have a fair chance of enjoying the decencies and comforts of civilization. Some honorable members seem to be impressed with the possibility of the Murray Waters scheme. I believe that a certain number of men may be placed on closer settlement blocks along that waterway, but the area of land that will be made available is not unlimited. During the debate on the Murray Waters scheme in the Victorian Parliament, the fact was elicited that thb scheme, in addition to making safe the existing closer settlements which had been jeopardized by the droughts, would only provide for intense culture under irrigation an additional 200,000 acres in Victoria.
– Has the honorable member considered the extent to which the scheme will benefit South Australia?
– It will make available approximately 1,000,000 acres of additional land.
– I am aware of that, but honorable members will see that there is a limit to the possibilities of that scheme. Irrigation, like ‘everything else, must grow, and the irrigationist must create a market for his goods. Already in Victoria the market for some products, which are the result’ of irrigation, is over- stocked, and people who planted some classes of fruit trees a few years ago in the hope of getting big returns find that, even if the usual export were taking place, there would still be a big glut in the local market. Therefore, irrigation must proceed slowly, and we must create a market for our products as we progress. In the fields of industrialism, however, there is big scope for useful repatriation work. The absorption of men into their original occupations is not sufficient. We should endeavour to give the men better jobs than they had when they left Australia, and if the same amount of money is spent in the industrial field as is proposed to be spent on land settlement, as good, if not better, results will accrue. For instance, a large number of men went to the war from the Newcastle and Lithgow coalfields. Many of them are returning. They are men trained to follow the occupation of coal miners, and we should not be content to simply replace them in the mines. I suggest to the Government the desirability of purchasing coal-bearing land, and subsidizing returned soldiers to develop new mines. I do not propose that the Government shall buy mines that are already established, but that they should acquire a coal-bearing area, provide the necessary equipment, and allow the soldiers to work it. If they make any profit above their wages, they should be entitled to keep it.
When the Minister for Works and Railways was moving the second reading of the Railways Bill, I was impressed with his remarks regarding a big lake of salt deposits. There should be a good outlet for this commodity. The salt has cost the Government nothing, and if the Government spend money in developing the deposits,, and handing them over to returned soldiers to work, a useful and profitable field of employment may be provided.
As I have pointed out on a previous occasion in this House, I believe that, instead of spending very large sums in purchasing estates and in other directions, it would be, in the long run, a good thing if the Government! created monopolies in certain trades which should be entirely for the benefit of the returned soldiers, and in which they could work for themselves.
– Existing trades?
– Either existing trades that have not yet been developed to any extent, or new trades such as will undoubtedly be established here after the war.
I hope the Minister is taking steps to see that those of our men who are now in Great Britain awaiting their return to Australia are receiving instruction in some of the trades that we have nob yet established here. If he is not, then he is not doing his entire duty. In return for what Australian soldiers have done for the Empire iti should not be difficult to arrange for a certain proportion of them to receive a thorough training in various trades that have not yet been established in Australia, and for which there is an undoubted opening here. I ask the Minister now whether he has a record of the occupations of the men who went away ? Does he know, for instance, how many engineers have gone to the Front, and how many will be likely vo avail themselves of this repatriation scheme ? Does he know how many carpenters or unskilled labourers have enlisted, or how many students will need technical education when they return? All these particulars should be available in the office of the Minister for Defence, and I would advise him to obtain them. We should then have some idea of the classes of trade in which we shall have to reinstate our men, and what opportunities are offering for their reinstatement.
I feel that the debate on this Bill has been more academic than practical. I congratulate the Government on having at length accepted the responsibility of re- patriation, and of bringing down a Bill to provide for it.- Their scheme might be improved by giving to members of this Parliament a bigger share in the carrying out of it. There has been a lot of talk as to the necessity of appointing only successful business men on the Boards and Committees to be created. I generally find that the successful business man, because of his success, is so busy that he has little time for anything but his own business. The consequence is that his outlook is not so broad nor his sympathies as wide as we should like, them to be in connexion with a scheme of this kind. The Government must be careful not to put too many successful business men on these Boards unless they are known to have the requisite breadth of outlook and sympathy.
One of the vital defects of this Bill, to my mind, is that* it will not enable the Parliament to keep in its own hand more of the control of its administration. I may be wrong; I can only say that the Government and their supporters are to be judged by the .success or otherwise of the results of this measure. The Minister is being given, under this Bill, an absolutely free hand. We will thus be able to say to him, “ lt will be your fault if this scheme is not a success,” and we can mete out punishment if it is not. But since the Minister has accepted the responsibility for this scheme we look to him to make good. It is the desire of this Parliament and of the community as a whole that our returned soldiers shall receive from this country generous and sympathetic treatment in the very best sense of the term. The Parliament and the people ask that they shall not be burned down merely because they may be, at the start, a little unruly or a little upset because of the trying experiences through which they have passed, but that every sympathy shall be extended to them. The community looks for that; they ask it, and will insist upon it.
,- I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill. Our soldiers have given us their best, and it is tip to us to do the best we can for them. As one who knows something of land purchases, I think it would ‘be a grave mistake if large blocks were bought indiscriminately by the Government for the settlement of returned soldiers. Every proposal to purchase an estate should be referred for report to the Local Committee. The evidence of the local district council as to the value of the land should also be obtained, and where an agreement cannot be arrived at, the Minister should act as referee. We desire to obtain for our soldiers the very best land. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) say to-night that a number of those who have gone to the Front are farmers or farmers’ sons. Such men will not want the Government to purchase land for them. Many of the men have land of their own, to which they will return, while others will go on the holdings of their fathers.
We ought to have iu every little town in Australia rest homes at which our soldiers can reside for two or three months after their return. Directly a soldier returns to Australia, he will make for his own home, or for his own district, where there will be people ready to welcome him with open arms. I do not hesitate to say that a soldier who returns to any part of our State will receive a welcome. If there is not a rest home in the district to which he goes, he will find there some one *who will look after him and provide a home for him.
Returning to the question of land puT * chases, I suggest that those having suitable land for sale should be invited to notify the Department as to the price they want for it. Many of our soldiers know the value of land, and will take good care to expose any unsuitable purchase made on behalf of the Commission. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Adelaide say that the soldiers would be represented on the Commission. They are already represented in this House. But for their votes, some of the best men in this Parliament would have lost their seats. One of the ablest statesmen in Australia, the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) was saved to this House by the soldiers’ votes. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and several others, retained their seats by the votes of the soldiers at the Prout; and I am glad to know that they are doing the best for our boys.
I believe that when our soldiers return they will practically take charge of the country, and, with their broadened outlook as the result of the experience they have gained in other lands, they will be fit to take charge of it. Then, again, thousands of people will follow them to this free country of ours. Thousands who have met them in other lands will say, ‘ “Let us go to the country from which these fine, free men come.” Thousands interested in various factories in the Old World will follow them, and new industries will spring up here. We have the finest producing country in the world, and its raw products should be made up by our own people. Many who have been driven out of their homes by the war’ will come here, arid we shall have new indus- tries springing up on every hand. The more we have, the better.
Wherever our returned soldiers settle, there will be people to help them. Every man practically will say, “ Here is a returned soldier, and I am going to give him my help.” I disagree with those who think that we can settle returned soldiers on the land at comparatively little cost. It will take’ from” £1,000 to £2,000 to buy a block on which a man be comfortably settled, and when he has been settled, he will need to be supplied with suitable stock and implements purchased by men who understand his requirements. Then, again, those who do not wish to go on the land should be provided for, and I am sure they will be. Those who do not desire’, to secure a block should be provided with funds for the purchase of a business, or portion of the money raised under this scheme should be devoted to the establishment of new factories, in which they can be employed, and the profits from which should be distributed amongst them. Every district should have its particular class of manufacture, just as is the case in the United States of America. Those who do riot wish to return to the calling they were following at the time of their enlistment should also be afforded opportunities for learning other trades.
I was sorry to hear the statement made during this debate that employers are not doing their duty. I do not know of an instance where an employer has not done his very best for a returned soldier. Large firms and banking institutions are making up the difference between the wages formerly received by their employees who have volunteered and the pay they draw in the ranks. The money is being accumulated, and will be ready for them on their return. T1 e employers, for the most part, are doing all that mortal men can do, and they would be unworthy of the name of men if they were not.
The Government need to be very careful in their appointment of Local Committees, since grave duties will be imposed upon them. Any responsible person who consents to the purchase of unsuitable land under this scheme should be adjudged guilty of an indictable offence and severely punished. .1 recognise, of course, that there are many difficulties associated with the valuation of land. In
South Australia, for instance, every block of land has to be separately valued. We have had to drain thousands of acres in my State, but I do not see why the fine fellows who return from the front should be placed on land which has to be treated in that way. We should give them the best of our land, and I believe we shall do so. Whether I am a member of a Local Committee or not” I shall do my best for the returned soldiers; my services will always be at their disposal. I shall take care to inspect every block of land that it is proposed to purchase in my electorate, and where I believe a mistake is being made, I shall not hesitate to expose it in the House.
There are many avenues of employment which should be open to our men; our railway and telephone services should provide employment for . quite a number. Some of the best men in the South Australian Railway Department volunteered, and when they return their former positions will be open to them. Any man who shuts the door in the face of a soldier will have a bad time, and rightly so, for he would be unworthy of respect. But for our men at the Front we should not be here in peace and comfort to-night. . Every mind is now turned towards securing the preservation of the Empire. Australia ha3 done its duty nobly and well, and should it cost even £2,000 a mam to replace our soldiers in comfort, we should be glad to spend the money. If it had not been for our soldiers, we should have nothing’ at all to give them. Sir Rupert Clarke said re;cently that if it had not: been for them we should have had to take to the bush, and we should have been as .badly treated in the bush as our poor Belgian friends.
The Northern “Territory lias been spoken of. We must not run down the Northern Territory; it is a great country. When Australia wakes up, as she will when the boys come home with their knowledge enlarged, the railway will be made across the continent, and the Territory will become one of .the finest countries in the world. We shall have there one of the finest military stations on the face of the earth. Our soldiers will find it a good country in which to breed horses. I do not suppose that I shall live to see that development, but it will come, nevertheless. Having this great country, we must hold it with our own people. If we cannot, we shall lose it, and shall deserve to do so, for not doing our duty. For years past we have not, done our duty in this regard, but I believe that we shall do iti now by helping our soldiers. When this Government promised to bring back the boys who had been away at the war for three years, I thought that every eligible man who was still here would say, “ Let me go in the place of one of them.” One of these days I hope to see a great rising of eligible men. They do not yet understand the position. I do not want a. rising like that which occurred in Melbourne the other night. The damage done then might serve to illustrate, in some degree, what could be done by an enemy man-of-war. No country is so exposed as is Australia. All our principal cities could be razed to the ground within a few minutes by the bombardment of hostile battleships, if it were not for the protection of the British Navy. Long may the vessels of that Navy protect us. Once that protection has gone, God help us. I hope that every man in this country will do his duty as he gets opportunities. This is the greatest producing country in the world. No other produces such wool, wheat, and other products. Thanks to the Prime Minister, we have got money for our commodities. Had it not been for him, we should now be very poor. I hope that he will long remain in power, inspired man that he is, to .assist Australia.
.- As one who recognises his limitations, particularly in regard to ability to give expression to his opinions, I address myself to this measure with considerable diffidence. I have been pleased to listen to the debate, and compliment the Leader of the Opposition upon “the temperate address with -which he opened the criticism of the Bill. i am pleased, too, that his splendid example has, been fallowed by members on both sides, and that the discussion has been free from party bias. We have all been told that we in Australia have our part to play in this war. We acknowledge the part that the men for whom we are legislating are playing. The honorable member for Adelaide made a reference to promises. I recall one given by the then Leader of the Government in 1914. Speaking, I believe, at
Colac, he used a phrase that has become historic. He said that Australian loyalty to the Mother Country was not to be judged by the sending away of a division of men, and that Australia would stand behind the Mother Country to the last man and the last shilling. “We have to play our part. “We feel proud, of what out men have accomplished on the other side of the world. I claim as one of them that it is up to the people of Australia to be as good as their word, which they gave to us when we left these shores in 1914. I have heard of She promises of politicians, and the .breach of a promise that was made eighty years ago, guaranteeing the neutrality of the small, but grand, nation of Belgium, has been much spoken of. When the fire got into the blood of the Kaiser and his satellites, he, in a fit of anger, tore up that treaty, designating it a “ scrap of paper.” We must be careful not to treat our promises in that way. Some of the promises that have been made have not been kept. We have not made good the promise to assist those who went ‘away. Surely we are not going to fail to look after them and their dependants when they return.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his excellent address, referred to individual responsibilities. It is a thing which should be seriously reflected on. We are apt to throw the whole burden on the State. We recognise that we have a most difficult problem to face in .providing the wherewithal for repatriation. In my opinion, it ‘Will be possible to do a great deal by securing the aid of private enterprise. I propose to read some figures from the last annual report of a Victorian company which has taken an interest in the welfare of returned soldiers. Last night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the failure of Victorian schemes. The .fact that we have in existence in this State a company .which is taking an active interest in settling the soldier on the land has ‘been overlooked. Considering its limited capital, this company has made excellent progress. It has been in operation for four or five years only, and during that time it has purchased three estates, the total area of which is 20,700 acres, and the purchase price, including cost of irrigation and drainage works, £135,200. The number of purchasers from the company has been 153. Although it is said that failure is written largely on Victorian schemes of this nature, the number of those who have forfeited is only four, and the number of sales by original to other purchasers eight. The number of settlers who, for various reasons, it is thought will not succeed, is twelve. Deducting the doubtful cases and forfeitures, sixteen in all, from the total number of purchasers, that is 153, it will be seen that land settlement schemes are not altogether a failure in Victoria. The gentlemen who control this company are prepared to obtain further assistance, to place more men on the land. This proposal should be very carefully considered by the Government. Personally I do not view with too much favour the dual control, under which the Commonwealth Government find £500 per man, or, approximately, £20,000,000, and hand the whole of the land responsibility over to the States. I should prefer to see the Commonwealth purchase the land for the settlement of our men, whom they desire to benefit under this scheme.
There are many other matters to which I would like to refer, but I cannot enter into any lengthy discussion to-night. There is, however, just one phase I should like to touch on, namely, the establishment and encouragement of our secondary industries. In Australia we produce considerable quantities of wool, which, in the main, has to be sent to England, and returned to us in its manufactured form. In this connexion, I think employment could be found for a considerable number of men. I have in my hand a proposal for the establishment of a textile institute in connexion with the Technical College in Geelong. I cannot enter fully into the details, but I shall be pleased to hand the document to any honorable member who may desire to see it. At present, we have to import skilled workmen from the Old Country to take the management and control of our woollen factories. I believe that many of our returned soldiers could be trained if a proper scheme were formulated; and a number of managers of mills and others interested have met in conference and carefully considered the matter. As a result of their investigations, I am in a position to state that for the sum of £9,500, plus £600 a year for salaries, provision could be made for the technical training of 50 returned soldiers. The sum mentioned would provide for the whole of the machinery and other requirements; and it is allocated as follows: - For woollens, ?4,790; for worsteds, ?2,180; sundries, ?1,030; and motors, shafting, pulleys, &c, ?1,500. These figures have been compiled by practical men, who. are deeply interested in the movement, and who are prepared, if the Government will take the initiative, to erect and supervise the erection of the necessary factories, so that work may be commenced forthwith.
There is one point that seems to have been overlooked by every speaker.’ Much has been said about the repatriation of the returned soldiers, but I wish to put in a plea for that noble band of women, the nursing sisters, who are equally deserving of consideration. So far as I can gather, no provision has been made for the future of these women when they return to our shores.
– The Bill is framed in such a way that we can devise means to assist not only the returned nurses, but also the returned sailors.
Mr. LISTER. ; I am pleased, indeed, to hear that, because I know of no more deserving class. The fathers, mothers, sweethearts, and wives of thousands of our soldiers to-day have every reason to be grateful for the work these women have done at the Front, and I should be lacking in a sense of appreciation were I to allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my personal obligation to them. As one who has been invalided home, and has had the attention of quite a number of these noble women, I recognise the value of the work they have done and are doing; and it is very gratifying to me that their future is to be provided for.
Mention has been made of the composition of the Commission, and the Boards, and I submit that amongst the soldiers who have returned, and who will return, there are many competent to occupy positions on these bodies. By the very fact of their association with the men, these returned soldiers must have more sympathy for them; and I fail to see why they should not be given equal representation on the Commission and the Boards. Senator Millen, when introducing the measure in another place, remarked that our soldiers are not like the soldiers of the olden times, but are also citizens. The soldiers will have to share the responsibility in the administration of the funds, and will, in proportion to their means, have to contribute; and, in my opinion, not only should they have equal representation, but they should be paid for their services. How many returned soldiers are there who could give the time required for the administration of a measure of this kind ?
– Or any one else.
Mr. LISTER. Quite so. Voluntary work is all right for a little while, but we cannot expect it to continue for ever. We know of instances where business men of proved capacity have willingly given their services in the carrying out of measures for the amelioration of the condition of the soldiers; but they cannot, and should not, be expected to continue those services for an indefinite time. Every man is worthy of his hire; and by providing for payment, we increase the chances of obtaining the best men, particularly so far as the soldiers’ representatives are concerned. Generally, the soldier has not too much of this world’s goods, and cannot afford to occupy positions without remuneration. .
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) referred to himself and others as prepared - I forget his exact words - to assist financially any proposal that might come from the Government for the repatriation of the soldiers. I regard that as a challenge; and I propose to test the honorable member’s loyalty and patriotism, because, after all. patriotism does not consist in getting, but in giving. If the Government is not prepared to move -an amendment, I shall do so at the proper time, to the effect that member’s of this House, for the period of the war, or for the period of this Parliament, consent to their salaries being reduced to ?400 a year, the balance to go towards remunerating those soldiers whom we desire to see on the proposed Commission and Boards.
– You positively give me a pain !
– I can get rid of my ?600 a year, or others can for me, very easily; but, as I stated on the public platform, I believe that the policy of economy should commence at home - should commence in this very House.
– You are advocating astrike!
– Personally, I think that it would be in the interests of the community if the bulk of the members of Parliament were to strike, and refuse to draw their pay. However, I thank honorable members for their very patient hearing; and I trust that the measure will prove to be what is desired, namely, a Bill to give proper assistance to the men who have done so much for Australia.
. -The importance of this Bill thoroughly justifies any honorable member in rising, even at this late hour, to express his opinion upon it. It is by far the most important measure that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. None of us yet comprehends its magnitude. Therefore, I regret that it comes before us in such an emaciated form. It is really little more than a skeleton. When we compare it with the existing Act we see that almost all its provisions are those which are already contained in the measure that was passed last year. In view of the magnitude of the subject with which the Bill is dealing, the provision that is being made for the appointment of honorary officers to carry on the work of repatriation can result in nothing but absolute failure. The work of the Commonwealth Bank is not nearly so gigantic from a monetary aspect, as are the financial functions to be performed by the Commissioners and the various Boards and Committees provided for in this Bill. If we take the figures given by Senator Millen in the admirable speech whichhe. delivered in another place, we see that the measure prepares the way for the expenditure of at least £100,000,000.
– Do not let us exaggerate.
– These are not my figures. Senator Millen has estimated that it will cost about £60,000,000 to place soldiers on the land, and as it is considered that we will have to make provision for settling about 40,000 out of a total of 240,000 on the land, it is an exceedingly mild estimate to say that another £40,000,000 will be required to make provision for the balance of the 200,000. To place a sum of that magnitude in the hands of honorary Boards and Committees can result in nothing but failure. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) that if the work is to be done well it will call for the whole of the efforts of the very best men in Australia. I do not think that a greater mistake could be made than to place a Minister of the Crown in charge of the work.
– Is closer settlement such a difficult matter, seeing that it is in existence all over Australia at the present time?
– If what one read in the newspapers this morning is to be accepted as a specimen of the method followed in settling soldiers on the land, it is time we revised our system. It was painful to read that a shire councillor had proposed that the rates of returned soldiers should be remitted because they were not in a position to pay them, and that, speaking with a knowledge of the country, he had declared that it was impossible for these men to make a living on their holdings.
– Where is that land?
– I do not know exactly, but it is somewhere in Victoria. One thing that is absolutelv essential for the proper administration of a repatriation scheme is continuity of policy and methods. Had the schemewhich has been outlined been in existence eighteen months ago, we would’ have had three different Ministers in charge of it within six months. Nothing is more calculated to bring chaos and failure upon a scheme of this kind than to have in sole charge of it a man who is subject to the vicissitudes of every general election. For the first three or four years whoever is controlling this great work will have to devote to it the whole of his time and the best that is in him if it is to be carried to a successful issue.
– Does not the honorable member agree with the principle of having a Minister in charge of the work ?
– No. The work of the War Council did not proceed so satisfactorily either to the Government or to the Council itself when a Minister was in charge as it has proceeded under the presidency of the gentleman who is in charge of recruiting. I do not say this with any desire to reflect upon the Minister. He performed his duties on that Council as well as any one else could have done, and he was as regardful of the opinions of the members of the Council as any one else could be, but an unfortunate position is created when Cabinet rejects any proposal that is put before it by the Council in which the Minister has concurred. He comes back to the Council a discredited man, and has no longer the influence that he formerly had.
It will not be possible for a Minister to give the work the close attention that will be needed from the man who is in charge of such _ an important undertaking. Senator Millen is Leader of the Senate, and necessarily he must be in his place in the Senate for three days in the week for six or eight months in the year. The work of repatriation must be carried to a successful issue unless this Parliament and the people of Australia, are to be absolutely discredited. On every platform in Australia the pledge has been given that returned soldiers shall, receive every consideration and that their future shall be assured. The people -do not wish for a repetition of what happened after the Boer war. One soldier described it very aptly when he said, “ It was all right when we were fighting, but within six months after the war khaki was kicked off the footpaths.” I am sure that it is the determination of this House, and of the people of Australia, that such a thing shall not occur again. For that reason we should insert in this Bill some provision which will accentuate the desire of honorable members in this regard. For years we have been drifting into a system of passing skeleton measures and governing by regulation. The system has grown to too great an extent, and it is time we cried a halt. All the work to be carried out under this Bill is> to be done under regulations. The only alteration to the existing measure is that by which one Minister takes the place of another as presiding officer.
I am thoroughly in accord with the honorable member for Corio that at least two returned soldiers should be placed on every Committee. Among those who have gone to fight for the Empire are some of our best commercial men. They have been drawn from our banks and commercial institutions. It is a sine qua non that we should have on the various Boards men in close touch and in thorough sympathy with those for whom we are making provision. I hope that in Committee the Bill will be amended in order to provide for this, as well as for every other, principle that we have enunciated in connexion with the scheme. Some honorable members say, “ Let us trust the Minister.” I trust the Minister, but how do we know who will be in charge of this work in six months’ time, or in two years’ time? I hope that the members of the various Committees will be appointed for a given term. It is not advisable to appoint men for an unspecified time, because if they are not paying attention to their work the Minister is placed in a very invidious position by having to remove them, a task that he will be very loath to undertake. The members of these Committees should be appointed for three years and no more. If they do good work they can be reappointed. If they fail to do good work they need not be re-appointed - if they have not previously been removed.
The pay of no soldier should cease until his pension is available. We have all had cases brought under our notice in which there has been an interregnum between the cessation of the soldier’s pay and the payment of his pension. I should like to see a provision incorporated in this measure which will state that on the day on which a man’s pay ceases his pension shall commence. I do not intend to delay the House at, this late hour, but I urge on Ministers and the House generally the very serious need for having a permanent Commissioner in charge of this work instead of a Minister, and for appointing the very best men in each State to the State Boards. The pick of them could be centralized in Melbourne to form the Central Commission. But they should not be honorary appointments. Some honorable members contend that equally good men can be got to do this work in an honorary capacity. That may be so whilst the first glamour is on the undertaking; but the magnitude of this scheme is so enormous that we cannot expect business men to give sufficient attention to it in the evenings, which will be the only time that they can make available for it.
An enormous amount of work will be involved in dealing with the future of 240,000 men. About land settlement, perhaps, more nonsense has been talked than about ‘any other phase of the scheme. Those who have studied the history of land settlement know that ito place on the bush lands of Australia men who are not accustomed to farm work, and expect them to make a living, is to condemn them to failure and disaster. We would do better to deport them, and give them an opportunity of making a living in some other country.
– That depends on the quality of the land they are given.
– A great deal depends on that. A small block of good land is infinitely better than a large area of inferior land. In passing, I suggest to the Minister that it might be advisable to settle the soldiers in communities. That, however, is a detail into which we need not go now ; ‘ but there are several large and important principles which ought not to be left to regulation. I am afraid, if this work is left to honorary workers, to whom it will be merely a subsidiary employment for their time and industry, we shall have nothing but chaos and failure; and the repatriation of our soldiers is the last thing in connexion with which Australia can afford to have failure. I hope in Committee the Bill will receive very careful attention, and that what is now merely a skeleton may be moulded into a living form.
.- In considering this Bill, we must not forget that we have the honour, of the people of Australia in our hands. It is their measure as much as ours, and in dealing with it at this time we are simply living up to one of our pledges. I am not one of those who think that this is the time to discuss in detail a Repatriation Bill. Those honorable members who have’ stigmatized the measure as a mere skeleton, and regretted that it has not flesh upon its bones, have taken a wrong view. The time for us to legislate in regard £o repatriation will be after the scheme has been working for some time, and we know what we are talking about. At the present time, we are discussing things which are largely problematical. We are estimating the number of men who will go on the land without having any basis upon which to rest our calculations. The people of Australia have told us that the soldiers must be cared for, and we have before us the machinery by which that can be done. We have a provision for a Central Commission, State Boards, and Local Committees ; and if we get the right men on those bodies, everything will be well. If we do not get the right men,, there will be chaos, I do not agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that there should nob be a Minister at the head of this scheme. The honorable member argued as though this were a party project, and the outgoing of one party would mean a change of policy. I do not take that view.
– A change of party would mean a change of Minister.
– ‘But not a change of policy, because this is the policy of the Australian people. Nor do the people wish us to place any limit to the amount at the disposal of the Minister for placing soldiers on the land and re-establishing them in industries. They will be generous to a fault, and the Minister need never be perturbed as to the amount of money he will have at his disposal. He is to be given complete charge of repatriation, and upon him, the Commission, the State Boards, and the Local Committees, will depend the success of the scheme. A year, or two years, hence, when we have seen this scheme working, and tested it, will be time enough for us to go into details, and, if necessary, legislate. For the present, let us provide the machinery proposed in this Bill, and let all of us see what we can do to keep the machine well, oiled. If we do that, I shall have no doubt as to what the outcome will be.
.- Much of the discussion on this Bill has hinged round the question’ of land settlement, and many suggestions have been made, some based upon theory and others upon practical experience. In my opinion, the least difficult phase of repatriation will be the land settlement, because it has this advantage, that even if the soldier fails the land will remain as an asset. Therefore we may regard land settlementas likely to be the least expensive portion of the whole scheme. However, most of our energies will require to be devoted to men who will not be capable of being placed on the land - men whose health has been undermined, and who will require to be helped, not only to make a living, but to regain their strength. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) took exception to the proposed employment of partially disabled men. I predict that such men will appreciate some kind of employment which will keep their minds occupied and divert their attention from their ailments. If. we can keep them employed, not for the sake of earning a living, but in order to facilitate their return to physical and mental health, we shall be rendering them a great service.
In regard to land settlement, I totally disagree from the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) that the soldiers should be settled in communities. If one thing more than another has been responsible for the failure of attempts to settle unfit men on the land, it has been the placing of them in groups.
– All the men are not unfit. Amongst them are farmers and farmers’ sons.
– Such men will be able to take their place anywhere on the land. We shall do well to settle as many men as we can, but to place them in groups would be a mistake. Nothing appeals to the man on the land like the example set him by some successful farmer alongside him. Farming is not an occupation of which any fool can make a success. There are men who appear to do very little work on their farms, and yet make them pay, whilst others do a lot of work and never make a profit. Successful land settlement is largely a matter of careful and intelligent management. The scheme, as outlined by Senator Millen, makes provision for giving returned soldiers representation on the Board, and I think we shall be acting wisely if we leave the appointment of those members to the Government. I agree that men should be appointed for only a fixed term, at the expiration of which they - can be removed if they have proved unfitted for their responsibility. If we leave the selection of their representatives on the Board to the soldiers themselves, we shall be affording opportunity for a good deal of bickering and discontent.
Of the Bill itself there is little to be said unless we take . exception to its skeleton nature. But we are entering upon something new in our experience,, and possibly we are justified in making the measure more of a frame-work than is usually the case. Its purpose is to legalize some form of organization for repatriation purposes, and a duty devolves upon each of us to carry out the pledges made to the people that the care of the. returned soldiers will be our first, consideration. The Bill must necessarily leave much unsaid, but a great deal of work can be done under the authority it gives. We must take power to act in a large way in order to meet the requirements of the soldiers as they return. No doubt there will be a number of failures on the land and in other avocations, but we are taking authority in this Bill to institute a great scheme, and we must make it as liberal as we can, and see that its administration is not hampered. I take it that the Government will welcome any suggestion in Committee that will make the organization more complete and thorough. As we are making a new departure, many mistakes will be made even in administration, and we must be in a position to remedy them speedily. As a rule Government Departments move too slowly, but I hope the Repatriation Department will stand out in bold relief from the others, and do promptly what is required of it. There are wiseacres who think that they could go into a backyard and write up a scheme that would suit every case to be met; but, as men of the world, we know that there are many difficult problems with which we cannot immediately deal. I am conscious of my own inability to suggest a way of meeting every case that will arise under this scheme. We must leave great power in the hands of those who will be charged with the administration. The Boards to be created will be large, and, it may be, unwieldy; but even if that be so, we must give wide powers to those who have to administer this’ law. Under ordinary circumstances, one would hesitate to do so. We shall be working, however, under abnormal conditions, and it is necessary, in order that every case may be met, to give ample powers to the administrators of the measure. We are impelled to do this - to make new departures - having in mind the noble sacrifice that has been made by the men who have gone to fight for our liberty and for the land which we all love. We hope that they will be able to make good when they return. We shall have a heavy financial obligation to meet under this scheme, but will meet it cheerfully. In placing the returned soldiers on the land, -we shall be incurring not the least of the financial burdens in connexion with it, but we shall be putting them in a position to assist us to bear if.,’ as well as the other financial obligations placed upon us by the war. They will go back into civil life, and will help us to carry on the industries of this greatcontinent in a way that will enable us to meet all our liabilities.
One of the first steps to be taken in the administration of this law will be in the direction of effective registration. That will involve much thoughtful organization. The few complaints we have heard up to the present as to the treatment of returned soldiers relate to hardships that have been due to the period of waiting. I hope to see the registration of these men carried out as far as possible while they are still overseas. Of the 2,000 men who returned yesterday, there is not one who knows what he is going to do now that he is back. I think the Repatriation Department should have its agencies at work in -England, or wherever the men are, and find out from them before they return the occupations for which they are fit. It should ascertain what they would like to do on their return, and every preparation should be made to take them back into civil life as soon as they land here.
– Every man has filled in a form stating what he would like to do. They have done that while at the Front.
– Circumstances very often alter cases. Every effort should be made to ascertain what the men are fitted for, and they should not be discharged until there is something ready for them to do. Among those who have returned are many who have not been seriously wounded, but they are nerve-racked, and quite unfit to bear the anxiety of unemployment and of having to battle with the world. After the lapse of a year or two, they will, we hope, be thoroughly restored, and able to take their place with any of their fellows” in civil life; but we must provide in advance for those who return in that condition.
I sincerely hope that the Defence Department will have nothing to do with the repatriation of these men. In saying this, I do not ‘intend to reflect upon the administration of the Defence Deparment as such, but I say, without hesitation, that I have no faith in its treatment of men for which it has no further use. It seems to regard them as mere cogs in the wheel, and, when they are broken, as being fit only to be scrapped. We want to exercise a good deal of humane feeling in the treatment of our returned men, and we must ever have a sense of our responsibility and of our promises to those who have risked their lives to save the Empire. Even if some have contributed to their own wrecking, that is no reason why we should fail to treat them humanely, and try to restore them to the state in which they were before the war. I hope the whole control of this scheme will be removed from the Defence Department, and from men of military training. One is appalled sometimes by the treatment that is meted out to the rank and file by the heads of the Defence Department.
Coming to the State Boards to be created, I appreciate very much the idea that seems to be running through the minds of the Government as disclosed in this Bill. I think the Boards should consist of experienced and successful business men, who will be unbiased in their actions and uninfluenced by remarks made even in this Parliament. Their work,, after all, will not be heavy. There will be much routine work to be done by the officers who will have to carry out the instructions issued from time to time by the head of the Repatriation Department. The principal work of the Commission will relate to cases for which there is no precedent, and on which they should be best able to give an unbiased decision.
There is much that one might say concerning this measure, but I think it well to reserve a goodly portion of my remarks until we go into Committee, where we shall make every effort to improve it. There are one or two suggestions, however, that I desire to offer at this stage. The first has regard to those who will be unable to return from the Front for perhaps eighteen months, or even two years, after the war. It will not be an easy task to return to Australia 200,000 or 300,000 soldiers. I venture to say that it will take at least two or three years, and that means that a number of men«will have to remain in England, France, or elsewhere for some time awaiting shipment. - The period of waiting on the other side could be occupied in providing useful employment for them. If they cannot be employed, they can at least be educated in some useful trade, so that when they return we shall have the advantage of their experience. They will return with minds broadened by their travels and experience. Many will be anxious to show us how to develop new industries, and we should give these aggressive spirits some opportunity to learn all they can while they are in other lands. If any of them wish to remain a year or two in Belgium, or France, in order to learn some of the very fine trades that were carried on there before the war, the Repatriation Department should assist them to do. so, and to learn all they possibly can, provided, of course, that their ultimate intention is to’ return to Australia and to give us the benefit of their training.
– If any of them desire a short furlough, it should be granted to them.
– Undoubtedly, many of them will need a short furlough. I am afraid many will require to be granted a long furlough before they return. Our outstanding desire should be to return them in a good state of health after the terrible strain to which they have been subjected. I have had some returned soldiers residing with me, and have been shocked to observe the extent to which their nerves have been wrecked, and the nervous condition in which they find themselves. When, after the war, they have leisure to realize the terrible scenes through which they have passed, their nervous condition will not improve, unless ihey can be occupied in some useful employment. Should our lads have to remain idle in England or France for six or twelve months after the war, it will be at great risk to themselves, and while I would give ‘them every furlough possible, I urge the Government to see that they have opportunities to get employment and to learn useful trades, so that the Commonwealth may, on their return, benefit by their increase in knowledge. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill. It carries out a pledge that was given to the electors. I am glad that the temper of the House is not to offer carping criticism. We -have had earnest speeches from the Opposition, and I am sure that in Committee members on both sides will assist to make the Bill as perfect as possible. I hope that the administration of the scheme will not be embarrassed by Ted-tape methods, and that through it those to whom we owe such a debt cif gratitude will obtain the benefits that we desire to confer on them.
– I wish to express the satisfaction of the Government at the way in which honorable members have dealt with this far-reaching and important measure. The Leader of the Opposition expressed what I think is the general feeling of honorable members towards it. But, with the consent of the House, I shall continue my speech to-morrow.
Honorable Members. - No. Let us finish the debate to-night.
– Many of us curtailed our speeches in order that the debate might be finished to-night.
– As honorable members wish to finish the discussion without delay, I shall say nothing more at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Message received from the Senate . acquainting the House thatthe following senators had been elected members of the Public Works Committee : - Senators Henderson, Needham, and Newland.
Message received from the Senate acquainting the House that the following senators had been elected members of the Committee of PublicAccounts: - Senators Earle, Fairbairn, and McDougall.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
– I move -
That the House donow adjourn.
To-morrow we shall continue the consideration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. The other evening it was tacitly arranged that we should conclude, if possible, by to-morrow, and I hope that we may do so, but however long the time required for the discussion of the details of the measure, we must give it. . Still, during the debate on the second reading every phase of administration and possible development was touched on, and it may be that to-morrow we shall be ready to give our decisions on the amendments to be proposed in sufficient time to keep the original compact.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170925_reps_7_83/>.