7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and . read prayers.
Debate resumed from 17th January (vide page 3198), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
Thatthe House protests against -
the repudiation of the pledges of the Prime Minister and other Ministers;
the political persecution of public men and other citizens and the press under the War Precautions Regulations during the recent referendum campaign ;
the deprivation of statutory electoral rights of Australian-born citizens by regulation behind the back of Parliament ;
the general administration of public affairs, and wishes to inform His Excellency the GovernorGeneral that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people of Australia.
– In pursuance of the promise I made in the early hours of this morning, that if the Government would then adjourn the de- bate until now I would curtail my remarks, my speech willnot be so long as I had intended to make it. I shall commence what I have to say by drawing particular attention to the wording of the motion submitted for our consideration by the Leader of the Opposition, because it seems to me that the speakers on the Ministerial side have made no attempt to repel the charges brought against the Government, or to answer ‘the questions therein raised. Able speeches have been made, which might, perhaps, have been convincing had they dealt with the points at issue, but actually they had as little’ to do with the motion as the man in the moon has to do with the conduct of our public affairs.
I approach the first charge, that the Government has broken a pledge given to the people, not in anger, but feeling the deepest regret that public nien, leaders of the community, should have so far forgotten what was due to their position and to themselves as to lightly lay aside the obligation of a solemn promise. Like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I am somewhat old-fashioned in these matters. I have not moved in those, so-called- up-to-date circles in which men give their word and pay no respect to their promises. To my mind, the adage that a man’s word is his bond rings true. When a man has given his word he should stand to it, despite the consequences.
The Government, through its mouthpiece; the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), to bring the people to vote for conscription, said to the electors, “ If you do not give us the power for which we ask, we cannot, and shall not, continue to administer the affairs of the country.” To the ordinary elector, to the fathers and mothers of the boys who are fighting for us to-day, the only interpretation to be placed on the statement of the Prime Minister was that the Government would do what it said it would do. If, as- the Prime Minister stated, Ministers could not continue to carry on without conscription, why are they still in office? He said that without the powers for which he asked the Government could not do what it considered necessary to assist the Empire in its hour of trial. Those who have swallowed their solemn promises stand dishonoured in the eyes of ordinary folk. If Ministers sincerely desired to serve their country, to restore unity to the community, and to repair the damage caused by the discord that they created, they would have resigned, and would have stayed out. of office. Now. however, they say, “We have honoured our pledge by resigning. We went to our death.” That may be true, but they had their resurrection “ all readied up.” “ Though they are dead, yet do they live.” No doubt, at the first opportunity, the electors will see to it that they are not only dead, but properly interred, so that they shall move no. more in the public life of -, the country.
The Prime Minister, in an eloquent speech, said to us, “You may think that what I said to the electors at Bendigo was a pledge, but I call it a threat.” On hearing that explanation, the thought that came into my mind was, “ Ye Gods, what egotism! Egotism in excelsis! With wh’at an awful calamity was Australia threatened. Should he go out of office, the skies would fall, and our national existence cease. Lot him remove his protecting hand and the German Kaiser must rule in this country within twentyfour hours. Hughes alone can govern, Australia !” But the record of the right honorable gentleman since he has- been Prime Minister clearly and distinctly disproves the assumptions underlying his socalled threat. Let me say, in passing, that my criticism of him applies to his political actions, and is in no- sense personal.
– It was the party to whichthe honorable member belongs that made him Prime Minister.
– The egg that struck the Prime Minister at Warwick was at one time fresh and wholesome, though quite otherwise when thrown at him. Similarly, the Prime Minister before he had reached his present position was a good and wholesome man, politically. !Now, the less said about his political reputation the better. Some honorable members opposite say- that the statement of the Prime Minister at Bendigo was- a pledge,, others follow the right honorable gentleman in declaring it to be a threat. “ You. pay your money, and you take your choice.” Some Ministerial supporters think that they can square it with their consciences to vote to keep the Government in power because they did not personally give the pledge, which was made on their behalf. They , contend that the Prime Minister acted, off his own bat. I have here quite a number of documents which prove that that is not so, but, because of the promise to which I have already referred as having been given in the early hours of this morning, I shall not have time to read them. I wish, however to draw the attention of the followers of our brilliant Prime Minister to a circular issued during the conscription campaign by the organization which controls those who sit behind him,
– No organization does that.
– When I have given the name of the organization, the House and the country will be in a position to judge of the correctness of my statement. This circular was authorized by “ Percy Hunter and Archdale Parkhill, Reinforcements Referendum Council, Sydney.”
-i have never heard of Hunter.
– What a reflection that is on the intelligence of the New South Wales statesmen in the party opposite, who took this man out of a fat Government billet and paid him a bigger salary to take charge of their organization.
– Did the honorable member say Percy Brunton?
– Percy Brunton is a gentleman who claims regal honours as a dispenser of peanuts. He is the sort of man who should suit the organization of the party opposite. Percy Hunter is the chief organizer of the Nationalists Association of New South Wales, and Archdale Parkhill is its general secretary. This pamphlet is headed -
Then they burst into poetry. Probably the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) had a hand in it. Mr. Speaker, as you are a judge of poetic effusions, I ask you to listen to this -
Never mind the fancy stuff, never mind the lies, Think, and think, and think enough, and thought will make you wise.
Let us see what they ask the people to think about. Here is one thing -
Nearly a million men of military age left in Australia.
– They say “Never mind the lies.” The Prime Minister goes to the country wearing the white flower of a blameless life, and, placing his hand -on his breast, says to the people, “Here am I, a modern George Washington, who never told a lie; the Lord’s anointed instrument for carrying on the work of seeing that no one shall tell a lie ; and feeling that inspiration from the Lord upon me, as His humble servant and a worker in His vineyard, I take up the task of seeing that no people shall offend by telling lies ; else I shall prosecute them; I shall use the great powers under the War Precautions Act, and have them. One lie and I shall have you.” The pamphlet says that there are nearly a million men of military age left in Australia. On the other hand, the Prime Minister told us that the number is 370,000 of whom not more than 150,000 were eligible under the Government’s proposals. Who is telling lies? Both cannot be right. What has become of that regulation under the War Precautions Act? The Lord’s anointed instrument must have “ gone slow “ on his job, or did he stop to think “Helloa, who said this? Who told this outrageous lie? Percy Hunter and Archdale Parkhill? Shall I prosecute my friends? No. Never let it be said that I deserted a friend of mine. I shall stick to them through thick and thin.”
Now, let me read’ another part of this pamphlet for the benefit of those honorable members who support the Government and say that they are not parties to the pledge that the Prime Minister, as the mouthpiece of the Government and the party opposite, gave forth to the people of Australia. In black type on the back of the pamphlet we have these words -
Think who will rule you. Think whether the Government can escape, even if it should be willing, from its solemn, clear, recorded public pledge to stake its existence- upon the result. Think of replacing the present Government, pledged and bound as it is, by one led by Mr. Tudor.
Could two meanings be placed on those words which appeared in the pamphlet issued by the official organization of honorable members opposite? No. The only interpretation that the men and women of this country could place upon them was that the Government would keep its word if it was defeated on the referendum and get out of office, allowing some one else to carry on the administration of the affairs of the country.
I touch now on some other points. First there is the question of “ honour “ - that poor old out-of-date thing called honour. It has gone by the board. I leave the matter there; but deep down in the hearts of the people of this country is a resentment that will find expression when the day of reckoning comes for those people who have dishonoured themselves and the public institutions of Australia.
What methods were adopted by the Government to have conscription accepted by the people of Australia? First of all, Parliament was closed, and behind the back of Parliament, when’ the mouths of the elected representatives of the people were shut, regulations were adopted for the purpose of submitting the question of conscription to the people. Was it submitted as a straightout question? No. Ministers .were afraid to do that. They were afraid of their own remedy, and so they said, “ We must sugar-coat this. We will not ask the people to give us the power to enforce conscription. We will d.0 nothing so rude. We will ask them to agree to the Government proposals for reinforcing the boys at the Front.” It was a deliberate trick, a deliberate attempt to mislead the people. The question meant only one thing - whether the people were prepared to adopt conscription or not. Ministers in responsible positions should have the courage of their convictions. They believed that conscription was the proper thing to adopt, and that it was & right and just system. Why did they not face the situation like men, and put a straightout question to the people? But no; the question submitted was whether the people would accept the Government’s proposals for reinforcing the boys at the Front - as if every person in Australia was not in favour of reinforcing the boys at the Front. There is no honorable member on this side, and I believe there is hardly a man or woman in Australia^ who is not in favour of reinforcing the boys at the Front. The method adopted by the Government was a deliberate attempt to mislead the people and warp their judgment when giving a vote on such an all-important question.
What was the next step they took? They loaded the dice. They suddenly closed the rolls, giving only twenty-four hours for the people to get their names placed on them, so that they might exercise their rights of citizenship.
– Enrolment is compulsory at all time. The rolls are just as clean to-day as they would be in a month’s time.
– If that is the case, it says very little for them, because when the referendum was taken they were in a’ shocking and disgraceful condition. If they are in .the same condition in a month’s time I wonder what the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), thinks of the very severe rebuke which the honorable member for Oxley has administered. v
– The fact that 90 per cent, of the votes polled at the last general election were polled on this occasion proves, that the rolls were in a wonderfully clean state1.
– As a matter of fact, there were 15,000 more on the rolls in South Australia than on the State rolls.
– Under . the present electoral law the rolls must always be in a shocking condition under any Government.
– They are not in a shocking state.
– They are. In my electorate dozens of men and women who had been living in the same houses for years went to record their votes only to find that their names were not on the roll.People who voted at the general election in May, and who had not shifted their places of residence, found that their names were not on the roll on this occasion. I do not impute motives. I am simply stating a fact, and I say that Ministers loaded the dice against the people by not allowing more than twenty-four hours for enrolling names before the close of the rolls.
Let me endeavour to reply to some of the remarks of honorable members opposite, who come to us, as some one has said, holding out the olive branch in one hand and carrying a bludgeon in the’ other. I am inclined to think that this is not really the stunt they are putting up. What has happened is that they have captured an old vulture that they found knocking about rather the worse for wear since the 20th December last. He had quite a lot of feathers knocked off” him, but they have been nursing him, and have said, “ Poor birdie, we will dress you up in a new costume and see what we can do with you.” They secured some feathers from an old rooster and stuck them on to the vulture in an endeavour to disguise it as a dove of peace. They have sent the vulture to us disguised as a dove of peace.
– With rooster’s feathers ?
– Yes; they have’ so little idea of what a dove of peace really is like that they have attempted to disguise a vulture with rooster’s feathers, hoping to make us believe that it is a dove of peace. It has not been difficult to penetrate the disguise, because every honorable member on the other side who has spoken during the debate, from the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) down, has delivered an address in favour of conscription. I have analyzed their remarks to see what they mean. What did the speech made by the honorable member for Flinders mean but conscription naked and unashamed. He says that Australia is dishonoured by the referendum vote. Other honorable members opposite have said that it is impossible for anything effective to’ be done unless the Government have compulsory powers. Yet the dove of peace is offered to us by these gentlemen.
The people of this country have turned down conscription and will have none of it. Before there can be harmony in Australia, let alone any working together of the two political parties, the question of conscription must be laid at rest for ever. The honorable member for Flinders must come to the penitent form. If he desires to work with honorable members on this side he must give us a definite assurance that so far as he is concerned conscription is dead and buried. Otherwise there oan be neither peace nor harmony in this country. ‘
– Is that not one of the points which honorable members opposite will not discuss?
– Before there is any discussion whatever between the parties that must be clearly and definitely decided. In connexion with all questions there are great matters of principle which are beyond discussion. The honorable member for Flinders has spoken of an equivalent of conscription. What does he mean by an equivalent of conscription? For our part we will have none of conscription, or of equivalents of conscription. We are prepared to do our part, and in one way or another every honorable member on this side is endeavouring to do his part, in this great struggle.” But I repeat that if there is to be any 1 harmony in this country honorable members opposite must definitely state their attitude on the question of conscription. If they will not do so it is useless for us to come together. That is an unsurmountable barrier which must be broken down before there can be any coming together of the two parties in this Parliament.
– Is the honorable member expressing these opinions on behalf of the party opposite?
– No, I am expressing my own opinion.
– That is all that the honorable member for Flinders did.
– The honorable member for Flinders gave his opinion as a private member, and I am expressing mine in the same way. It is just as well that we should be honest and straightforward with each other. There is too much at stake for us to resort to tricks and subterfuges in the attempt to deceive each other. The adoption of an honest and honorable course by all political parties will be in the best interests of the country.
Let me deal now with another point which some honorable members opposite endeavoured to make. They said that because we opposed conscription we put an obstacle in the way of the return to Australia of our boys’ who have been at the Front practically since the inception of the war, and have been wounded many times. That is an absolute misrepresentation of the true position. I shall prove that it is, not in my own words, but in the words of the Prime Minister, whom honorable members opposite support. In order to understand the question properly, we must consider what were the proposals submitted by the Government to the people. We have to take into account, not what honorable members generally were saying, but what the Government and the mouthpiece of the Government said.
– What the pledge amounts to.
– I do not know whether this was a pledge dr a threat, but
I take it that it was a pledge. On the 21st November last, speaking in Adelaide, the Prime Minister made use of these remarks -
The Government’s request for authority to raise 7,000 a month is justified. If the casualties are reduced, and the reinforcements fall to 5,000, then we shall call up to 5,000, and 5,000 only. That position is quite clear, and no amount of lying or misrepresentation by our enemies can cloud it.
Now, what about relieving the boys at the “Front? What about all the talk we have heard of relief for the original Anzac Corps and the boys who1 have been wounded many times and forced back into the trenches? The Prime Minister said clearly’ at Adelaide that, if the casualties were reduced, he would reduce the number of men to be sent oversea by conscription. That shows clearly that it was the intention of the Government only to fill up gaps caused by casualties, and not to make provision for the return of warwearied men from the battle fronts to Australia. Listen to the burning words of the Prime Minister on the matter -
That position is quite clear, and no amount of lying or misrepresentation by our enemies can cloud it.
I do not know whether the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) is to be regarded as an enemy of the Prime Minister, but I should not think that he is. There is the clearly expressed intention merely to secure sufficient reinforcements to make good casualties, and not to make provision for the return of our boys from the Front at all.
Let me refer now to the persecutions of public men. I shall not labour the matter, and will make only a brief reference to it. In my view, and I think in the view of ordinary citizens of Australia, the prosecutions that have taken place have cut across all our ideas of British justice. We have always prided ourselves on the fact that the laws of the land are not -used for the purpose of political persecution, and that men charged with an offence against them are given an ample opportunity to defend themselves and put themselves right before their fellow citizens. But here men were prosecuted for merely placing their views before the people and setting out what they believed were facts and the ideas which they considered the people should have upon im portant matters. We must assume that in this matter the Prime Minister was supported by his Government, as otherwise they would not have permitted him to remain in his position after passing such regulations. Senator Allan McDougall, one of the cleanest and straightest men in Australia to-day, was haled before a Court for expressing an opinion, and not for misstating facts. The worst feature of the case was that one of the Crown witnesses against him was a man of enemy origin.’ Actually, one of the main witnesses used by the Government in an endeavour to obtain a political conviction against a representative of the citizens of Australia in the Senate of this Parliament was of enemy origin. These methods are unworthy of a dependency of the British Empire - unworthy of men who have any pretensions to be leaders of the people in a free country such as ours. And what was the result pf this attempt at political persecution? Senator McDougall came out of the case victorious, and received a cheque for five guineas as costs against the Government. These costs are paid, not by the Prime Minister’ or by the Government, who initiated the political persecution, but really by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
I should now like to say a word or two about the administration of the censorship. When we, the committee which controlled the “ No “ conscription campaign in New South Wales, desired to issue a pamphlet showing how a gentleman named W. M. Hughes, and another gentleman named W. A. Holman, had broken their pledges to the people, we had to submit it to the censor. And what happened? The censor told’ us that we might say that Mr. Holman had broken his pledges, but we must not say that Mr. Hughes had done so. Could there be a better illustration of the political censorship? We must not say that Mr. Hughes, the paragon- - the one pure man, who is above and beyond criticism in this country - themodern George Washington, who cannot tell a lie - has broken his pledges ; but, as to the other fellow, we are told, “ Oh, yes, slate him; ‘ put the boot ‘ into him, for he is no good to us now; you can deal out stouch ‘ to him as much as you like.’’ Then, what military purpose could be served by compelling a campaign committee to submit ordinary advertising “ dodgers “ to the censor ? If I desired to address the electors of my constituency on the question before the country, either I or my representative, before publishing an advertisement or issuing a “ dodger,” had to go and say, “ Please, Mr. Censor, can I have this advertisement printed so that a representative of the people may address them on such and such a night? Please, Mr. Censor - please creature of the present Government - may I inform the people of my electorate that I, as a public man, desire to place my views before them on this all-important and absorbing question? “
On principle, that is against all ideas of fair play ; and a result was that in the . case of many meetings, including my own, the advertising was delayed and hampered under the regulations, and precious time wasted on the door-step of a political censor. However, in spite of all, the people of Australia have given their answer.
The Government have miserably failed to give effect to a win-the-war policy in the matter of shipbuilding.
– Say something fresh ! That goes without saying !
– I am very pleased to have that admission from the Minister for the Navy. The honorable member will recollect that, just about twelve months ago, in my place in the House, I spoke of the submarine menace to our shipping and of the problem that faced us in view of our isolation and dependence on the water for means of communication with the great centres of civilization. In my crude fashion I endeavoured to emphasize the dangers of the position, and to show how to deal with them, pointing out that it was a question of shipbuilding, and suggesting what should be done; and how. I shall not read the speech I made on that occasion, but simply tell honorable members that it may be found in Hansard of 8th February, 1917, page 10358. In th at speech I urged that, at the conclusion, of the war, there would be a great cry from the people of this country for shipping to take our wool, wheat, and other products to the markets of the Old Land. The cry, indeed, is going up to-day; and how are the Government answering it? They are doing nothing.
– Where should these ships be built?
– At every available place in Australia. I cannot think that the honorable member is insinuating that I desire all the shipbuilding to be done at Cockatoo, because, as a fact, I do not. This is a problem quite above and beyond all party considerations, and one on which we could work together. Twelve months have been wasted. Representatives of the unions were brought to Melbourne and valuable weeks consumed in talking to them about breaking down union conditions, and their giving up privileges which they had won after years of fighting.
– The honorable member is now talking of men, belonging to those unions, who are high above him in their appreciation of the position.
– That interjection is indicative of the whole attitude of the Government towards war problems. The people of the country ask for deeds and get talk from the Ministry, from the Prime Minister downwards. I have often wondered that it has not dawned on the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) and his leader to have some of their speeches printed in pamphlet form and supplied to the boys in the trenches to fire at the Germans. I feel sure that if the Kaiser had read some of these speeches - the doughty, wordy deeds of the Government - he would have given up the ghost long ago. Honorable members opposite call themselves the Win-the-war party, but down in my part of Australia that has been paraphrased into “ Windy-war party”; and that title just about fits them. If words could have won the war or built ships the present Government would have been the greatest success the country has ever seen.
I hope that out of all this discussion some good will result to the country as a whole. But, first the Government and the party supporting them must be purged of their iniquities - they must come through the cleansing fires of a censure motion. If they do come out of the fire pure, they can bathe in the waters of the Valley of the Jordan, and we may all stand together in peace and harmony doing the work of our country.
– After the severe attack on him by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), I think he might have concluded with the appeal to the Prime Minister,
While the lamp Holds out to bum,
The vilest sinner may return.
I am glad that an opportunity has been given to the members of the party opposite to have this discussion. In the long run I believe this debate will clear the atmosphere, and possibly be the means of finding a way by which the men who Bit on the opposite benches may join with” us, as representatives of the people, and try, as far as possible, to prepare a policy that will enable us to supply the necessary reinforcements to the boys fighting so well at the Front. From the speeches delivered, it would appear that the great point of difference between us is that of conscription. “We have had two verdicts of the people, and that question now being out of practical politics for the time, some solution of the difficulty might be arrived at between the parties for the purpose of doing what lies to our hands to reinforce the troops; for that, after all, is the one thing essential.
It is rather surprising to me, having regard to the fact that no administrative work is being carried on, that the Government benches should be absolutely empty When a no-confidence motion is before the House. It is true that a Minister at the table is in charge of the Houses but when a motion of this kind, at this critical period of the country’s history, is being discussed by a deliberative assembly, Ministers ought to be present to hear what is being said. No matter what careful attention the Minister in charge of the House may give, he is unable to convey to his colleagues the views expressed here by honorable members.
– I believe you are right !
– Ministers are too busy to read Hansard; and if we are to find the solution of our difficulties, it can only be by Ministers taking a much keener interest in the debate than has been shown during the last few days.
– The honorable member forgets the obligation on Ministers to attend their Departments and receive deputations.
– During the discussion of a motion of want of confidence, all that kind of thing should be suspended. The honorable member , is presuming that every man behind him is going to back him up.
– But members will not refrain from introducing deputations during that time.
– I have been long enough, in public life to know that if the fate of a Ministry is considered to be in the balance, Ministers are not expected to bother about deputations, but to be here attending to their business.
The motion tabled by the Opposition comes under four headings. With the first of those I thoroughly agree. With the other three I do not ; but I am asked to vote upon the whole four. If the first charge had been the only one levelled, I should have voted for it. But I am not going to vote for three charges of which I do not approve because they are bracketed with one charge of which I do approve. The pledge given by the Government was double-barrelled. They resigned, and therefore fulfilled the first part of the pledge. But the second part - that they would not continue to govern the country - they have not fulfilled. They are continuing to govern without the power of conscription. Therefore, in so far as they gave a double-barrelled pledge, the last part of which was that they would not continue to govern without this power, they have deliberately broken that pledge. The ground on which they justify the breaking of it is that the Governor-General exhausted the House. The Governor-General did nothing of the kind. Every man sent for by him, apart from Opposition members, was favorable to the Government retaking office. The party to which I belong is not bound to the Government body and soul. It is not to be assumed that when the Government or the party have carried a resolution the individual liberty and opinions of the members of the party have gone. I have never stood for that during my twenty years -of public life, and never shall. When I cease to be an individual expressing my own opinions, or those of my constituents, I shall get out of public life.
The secrets of the party meeting were given to the press by some one. I do not know who it was, nor do I care. I was one of those who wanted the press admitted, so that they would get the truth in the party meeting without the colouring given to it by the man who under the lap gave the information. That was not agreed to, but the press got remarkably near the truth when they were able to give the names of the men in the party who proposed and supported a National
Government before this wantofcon?fidence motion was tabled at all. , I was one of. them. I believed that some steps should be taken to bring the two parties together, because the all-important point at issue is the- war, and not politics. I advocated those views, but did not get support. When that motion was blown out, I went further, and moved, with a view to inducing the then Ministers to fulfil their pledges to the letter, that an entirely new Government should be formed from among the members of this party. The Melbourne Age said, “ Mr. Boyd moved that Mr. Austin Chapman be asked to form a Government.” That was true. Where they got the information from,. I do not know, but I mentioned other names besides that of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), showing that, in my opinion, there were sufficient men in-the party to form a Government and carry on the work of the country, thus enabling those then constituting the Government to honorably obey the pledges they had made. Public men cannot afford not to honour pledges given to the country. I have- no grievance against a solitary Minister, nor do I want one of their jobs. They are not the kind of jobs that should be envied by any man in times like this. The responsibility cast upon their shoulders is heavy, and at a time like the present not to be run after lightly. I am not a candidate for any of their jobs, but I still say they cannot afford as public men to fail to honour the pledge they made in the spirit as well as in the letter. To say that they could not have fulfilled their pledge, and that the Government of the country could not be carried on by this party, is practically to say that in this party there are no men with sufficient brains to govern the country.
– What will happen if they die?
– Exactly. I asked them that. Although there are many brilliant men on’ both sides of the House, every man can be replaced, and it would be a mighty bad tiling for our race if they could not be. Most of us thought it was a disaster when the great Lord Kitchener died,, but he has been replaced, and the war is still going on. Joffre, the great French Generalissimo, the man who carried the brunt of the war for the first two years, has gone. Some one else is in his place, and the business still goes om. In every Parliament I have been in there has always been the cry, “If the Premier (or the Prime Minister) should be removed there is no one to take his place.” That is because the Prime Minister is advertised throughout every paper in the Commonwealth. His name is in every mouth, and the people take him at the valuation the press give him. How much do we hear now of the Prime Ministers who have gone ? They served their day and generation and have disappeared.
– Big men, too, some of them.
– Yes, but they are forgotten. It is the men of the hour who count. If we took a dozen men from this Parliament” to replace those now in office, I venture to say that in three months’ time you would not know that they wen. not the natural-born governors of the people of Australia.
Some attempt .should still be made to get both parties together in the shape of a National Government. It is of no use to say, as a number of members opposite have said in this debate, particularly my friend, the “ Duke “ of Melbourne ‘Ports, as he calls himself, “ Look at the things you said about us. “ I reply “ All right, we did say things about you> but you said things about us.” Are we so thin-skinned as public men that we cannot -allow people to say things about us? Is that going to warp our judgment in dealing with problems of this kind when the interest’s, of our country are at stake? If it is, we are not fit for our positions here. An offer has been made. Whether that offer is to be accepted or not does not rest with me, but with the gentlemen opposite.
– Who makes it?’
Mi-. BOYD.- The Prime Minister made it.
– And the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) indorses it. If the Labour party accept the offer, and their overtures- are refused, they have my vote against this Government remaining in office a minute.
– But the things done by the Government are different from the things said by the Government.
– That applies generally.
– Have you read Hansard in regard to the statement made by the Prime Minister? It has been altered.
– I have enough to do to put what I have to say into Hansard without reading other men’s speeches. I have never been guilty during my political life of. reacting Hansard. I believe it would be better for all of us, and save us a lot of time, if it were abolished.
– Hughes in Hansard is very different from Hughes in the newspapers.
– I understand only one meaning in this statement - “ I am prepared to stand aside if it will facilitate the formation of a Government that will be able to carry on this war.”
– He has altered that somewhat in Hansard.
– If that means anything, it means that the Prime Minister ‘is prepared to give up his position as Prime Minister, and allow the whole House, through managers, or in the way suggested by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir “William Irvine), or in some other way, to arrive at a conclusion as to how the new Government should be constituted. If the Labour party do not accept that offer, the . responsibility must rest with them, and not with me.
I have done now with what I have to say against the Government. The GovernorGeneral sent for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and also for the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).- I do not know what advice they gave him, but they could not possibly have advised him that they were able to carry on without a dissolution.
– “Why not? Your policy being defeated, we assumed that you would support us in our policy. At least I assumed it.
– The honorable member assumed that without consulting us. If the party opposite had consulted us, and found that in certain circumstances we were prepared to support them, they would have been entitled to say to the GovernorGeneral, ““We can carry on, because we can get a majority.” But, so far as I know, they consulted nobody on this side.
– How many on your side are prepared to enter into a combination, apart from the men we want to “ shoot “ ?
– Does the honorable member see any green in my eye?
– Is not Parliament the place to decide whether we should carry on or not?
-Yes. But in the circumstances, if the Leader of the Opposition had been commissioned to form a Government, we should simply have gone through the farce of his choosing his Ministers, meeting the House, immediately having a want-of-confidence motion tabled against him, and being displaced.
– I do not think it would have been that long. I think it would have been “ Out.” The other fellows said “ In.” With us it would have been “ Out.” .
– At any rate, the debate has shown that there is just as great a division of opinion in the Labour party to-day, at any rate,’ among the members who have spoken, as there was ‘before certain members over here left them. How many subscribed to the only declara- tion of policy made - the policy laid down by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). He quoted the policy of the Labour party, and it was interesting to watch the faces’ of those honorable members opposite who did not believe in it.
– He did not quote the policy of the Labour party.
– You dare not indorse it.
– I am sorry if I am responsible for all this noise, but as there are other speakers to follow, and our time is limited, I wish to conclude at quickly as possible. The only declaration of policy made by the Opposition during this debate was that put forward by the honorable member for Barrier, who said that it was the policy laid down by the Labour party of New South Wales andindorsed by the Labour Conference in Victoria. Although the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) was absent when the honorable member declared the policy he, too, has indorsed it.
-. - Yes; I was only trying to obtain, in the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), another recruit.
– Order! These interjections must cease.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) both indorse this policy.
– I did not know what it was.
– The honorable member never knows anything when it is brought against him. The honorable member for Capricornia and the honorable member for Batman indorsed this policy which the honorable member for Barrier declared to be the war policy of the Labour party.
– He had no right to say so.
– Whether the honorable member had or had not the right to make this statement, it cannot be denied that he did make it. He said it was the war policy of the Labour party.
– Only as far as I was concerned.
– There was not one sentence in it indicative of a war policy in any shape or form; it was, indeed, a purely peace policy. It is not the policy of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), or others who want to do something to carry this war through to a successful issue. It is the policy of the Peace party - the men who have done nothing to help us in this war. When the Opposition are faced at the next elections with this “war policy of the Labour party “ they will get a bit of a shock.
– Why squeal?
– I never squeal. Do the Opposition indorse the further remarks made by the honorable member for Barrier that they want to see the policy of the Bolsheviks carried right through Europe ?
– And it would not be bad either.
– The honorable member for Bourke says that “ it would not be bad either.” Any man who reads in the press reports of the conditions prevailing in Russia must know they are such that if a man ventures to offer an opinion against the Government it is a case of “ off with his head.” That is the policy which has converted an Ally from a useful fighting unit into a chaotic community, in which no man knows where he stands. That is the policy which the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable member for Barrier, and the honorable member for Batman wish to see distributed over
Europe. The honorable member for Barrier says, “ Hear, hear.” . I am glad that he stands by his guns. His is a fair admission. There are, however, in the Opposition ranks many who do not indorse a line of that policy.
We were told also in this declaration of policy by the honorable member for Barrier - indorsed again by the honorable member for Bourke - that when the people own the land they will fight for it, and not before.
– I did not know that that had been said.
– When that statement was made I. inquired ‘by interjection whether the honorable member for Barrier and those who shared that view with him would fight for their country if the enemy came here. His reply was, “ No, not till we own the land. We, the 5 per cent., who believe in this policy, will teach you aristocrats who smile - we will teach the 95 per cent, who do not believe in it - something that they will be ashamed of and afraid of in the future.”
– I did not say that.
– Turn up Hansard. The honorable member also read certain resolutions which are to be the “ war policy n of the party. Imagine reading resolutions to a ravenous tiger! Fancy reading to the Kaiser such peace resolutions as representing a war policy ! Such a procedure would be all very well if the enemy were going to take your resolutions at their face value. But if he is going to brush them aside with his sword and his gun you will have to deal with him in the only way possible. You must deal with him as he is dealing with you.
The honorable member for Bourke said last night that wars had continued from the beginning of time, and that as long as we were constituted as we are they would continue to the end of time. Any of these ideals for distributing peace broadcast throughout the world, although they might appeal to our finer sentiments, did not coincide, he said, with our common sense. Land surely is not the only property that people own. There are other things for which men have to fight. But since it seems to , be the wealth of the community that honorable members opposite talk so much about, because they do not possess it, and want to attack those who do, let me quote a few figures bearing on the subject.
There are in this community 1,793,676 people who own £642,338,723 of its wealth, or an average of £363 per head. The Savings Bank returns for the year 1913-14 showed that out of a population of 5,000,000, including men, women, and children, 2,108,496 were Savings Bank depositors, and that their total deposits - which represent the assets of the poor - amounted to £83,541,224, the ‘average per head being £39 12s. 4d. Four hundred and twenty-eight persons out of every 1,000 in the Commonwealth have a Savings Bank account.
– Not one-half of the total population.
– But one-half of the population consists of children. These figures show that only 16 per cent, of the population have no assets. Even under the best conditions that could be established there would always be a percentage of people who were indolent, thriftless, and careless. We cannot hope under any conditions to make all people thrifty. In these circumstances to talk about land as being the only wealth that exists, and to assert that unless you own it you will not fight for your country, is to assume that land is the only kind of property worth having. I know owners of land who would be glad to hand it to some one who would . take over the liabilities associated with it. I happen to be one of the number. Other people could have the land if it was of any use to them. But what would some of these people do if they got land? If, say, the land of Australia were divided equally among the people - if my share comprised a holding of 150 acres, and I was told to go on it and make a living out of it, I should be in a state of starvation in less than a fortnight. What do I know about farming? Of what earthly use would the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) be on a block of land?
The second paragraph in this motion of want of confidence complains of the political persecution of public men. I hold that when any man deliberately makes statements that are prejudicial to the interests of his country, at a time when his country is at war, , he ought to be prosecuted. He ought to be prosecuted before the ordinary Courts of the country.
– That is fair enough.
-In the third paragraph of the motion we have the complaint that
Australian-born citizens - that is to , say, descendants of Germans - were deprived of statutory rights. This refers to the disfranchisement of descendants of Germans on the occasion of the referendum. I am speaking in the presence of a number of lawyers, and I am prepared to say that, the law of naturalization carries with it the citizen rights of your country to the third generation. During the FrancoPrussian, war there was a typical case in which a French solicitor, born in Paris, whose father was also born in Paris, was called up under the Conscription Act. He pleaded that he was a Britisher; that his grandfather, who was a Britisher, had come over to Paris, but had not been naturalized, that his own father had not been naturalized, and that, since he, too, had not been naturalized, he was enabled to claim British citizenship. He submitted his case to the British Ambassador, who, in turn, brought it before the British Government, and his claim was upheld. That case is on record. There are German settlements in this country in which the second generation of men - the descendants of Germans, who were disfranchised at the recent referendum - are a great deal more bitter in their antipathy to the British Empire than if they were natural-born Germans.
– There could be nothing worse than some of the Britishers in this country.
– I believe that the honorable member is quite right. I have always said there are good and bad.
– I was referring to imported men. If your imported men would compose your differences, Australia would get a chance.
– The honorable member knows where I stand.
Coming to the question of conscriptionI think I was the first in this House to advocate it. I first did so in January, 1915.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) advocated it in this House long before then.
– I was not aware of that. In 1915, when there were plenty of recruits, I started on a campaign for conscription because I believed then it was the duty of every man, not only men of military age, but every man from the age of 21 years until he became physically unfit, to enter into the service of his country.
That is the view I held then, and that is the view I hold now, and if it had been given effect to there would have been a regular inflow of reinforcements. We would then have done as America is doing to-day; though if any country on God’s earth could have relied on the voluntary system, surely it was America. But the United States Government adopted conscription, and resolved that all men should serve in their proper order. Honorable members opposite - and I think the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is one of the most prominent - seem to fear that once we get conscription it will be battened and fastened on Australia for all time. They know, however, that this is not correct.
– We believe it anyhow.
– There is a vast difference between conscription under an autocracy and conscription under a democratic form of government, though I know honorable members opposite do not want to perceive the difference. Under an autocratic form of government a Minister’s word is law. I stand as the representative of a constituency that has put up an Australian record by giving a majority of 16,000 votes in favour of conscription’, but do honor- able members believe that I could hope to maintain my seat if I advocated conscription after the war ? Of. course, they know I would not get a look in if I were to adopt that policy after the war.
– The honorable member would not want to do it then,
– But I would not be so stupid as to advocate that course of action, and I am only supporting conscription now to meet the pressing needs of our time. Let me remind .honorable members that the United States adopted and. dropped conscription. During the America civil war of 1861-64 the voluntary system served the North for nearly two years. but the Southern States adopted conscription from the start, and when, in the course of time, Lincoln was faced with the ^difficulty of filling up the gaps in the ranks, he did not hesitate to conscript the available manhood, though the arguments that are being used now in Australia were employed at that time. Nothing that has been said lately is new.
– Did conscription last in America?
– No, and that is the point I want to make. As soon as the war ended the conscribed army of the United States Government was disbanded, and that Republic had practically no standing army when it came into this war. The men who declare that once we grant the power of conscription to the Commonwealth Government it will be fastened on Australia for all time either do not know history or they do not believe what they are saying. They have also talked about the prosecution of public men, and on this point I remind them that during the American civil war a gentleman named Clement Vallangingham, who represented Ohio in the United States Congress, boasted, when the conscription proposals came on for debate, that he had never voted a man or a dollar for the war. He was tried by a court-martial - how they were able to court-martial a member of Parliament I am unable to understand - but that cannot be done here.
– Yes it can; the Government can do anything.
– Nothing can be done in the way of punishment for what happens in this House. In the case of the American to whom I refer, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment, but Lincoln declared that this was not fit punishment for a representative of the people who had boasted that he had never voted a man or a dollar to the war. “That man,’’ he said, “is not working in the interests of his country. His place is with the enemy.” And so Lincoln conducted him across the line, and left him with the enemy. That is what I, too, would do with many people who are standing for the interests of the enemy in this country.
– Then start with the Prime Minister.
– This is good Bolshevik stuff.
– The problem now seems to be how are we going to get recruits.
– By giving them a better wage.
– Does the honorable member for Melbourne suggest that the men who have gone to the- Front offered their services because of the wages they were to receive, or that an increase of pay would get a solitary recruit? Does he think the men considered for a moment whether they were going to get 6s. or £6 a day ?
– I say that if the Go,vernment looked’ after their women and children they would get more recruits.
– The honorable member seems to have that subject on the brain.
– And I hope I always will have it if the Government are in the wrong.
– The honorable member trades on that subject.
– And the honorable member trades on his fat professsions of loyalty.
– Order ! These interjections which lead to personalities must cease.
– Well, I apologize to the honorable member for Melbourne.
Our method of getting recruits has been wrong from the start. It is quite true that we have merely followed Kitchener’s advice, which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has adhered strictly to, but I remember that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) strongly urged the Defence Department not to take away the kilts from the local .Scottish regiment. There was something in that.
– Hear, hear! I agree with you.
– These uniforms were prohibited because the military authorities wanted one drab uniform. All honorable members have friends or relatives amongst the troops, and under the present system the address of a soldier might be the “6th Battalion of the 21st Reinforcements of the 5th Division.” Who, apart from friends and relatives, knows or cares what all that means?
– It is an absurd system.
– Of course it is.- I am confident that if we had regiments recruited from a particular district, like Kensington, in the Maribyrnong electorate - because I notice Kensington stands almost at the top of the list in regard to casualties - and that if those regiments were known by their constituencies or districts, interest would be aroused among the people of that particular locality, and thus the ranks of our boys oversea would be maintained by a steady flow of reinforcements. If also the censorship regulations were handled in a common-sense manner, and if we were able to get news from the Front as to what the different regiments were doing, we would not lack reinforcements.
– Henty would not supply very many regiments, then.
– I tell the honorable member that Henty stands third on the list.
– Not in proportion to population.
– It stands third on the list, and in proportion to population, is equal to any other district in. the Commonwealth.
– No, it is not.
– The honorable member represents the centre of the city, which gets credit for recruits who come from many other districts of the State.
– Wrong again.
– No, I am not. I repeat that better recruiting results would be obtained if our regiments were known by the districts from which they were raised. We had no difficulty whatever in enlisting the Sportsmen’s Thousand, because all men of military age, and interested in sport, felt that was the place for them, so in they went. I can give another illustration.. The 5th Battalion, I think, was made up chiefly of public school boys, and nearly every public school boy wanted to get into it. I do not want to be egotistical, but I cannot help a feeling of pride when I think of the regiments from my own country, and how they have made indelible records on the history of this war. In the reports of Battles they ‘have always been reported by their distinctive names, indicating the districts to which they belonged.
– At first the names were not allowed, but subsequently they were reinstated.
– We are now accustomed to read of the London Territorials, of the men from the West Kent Regiment, the Black Watch, the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, the Inniskilling Dragoons,, and many other well-known regiments,, and if we had the same system here I am sure good results would follow,. If wehad a Brunswick Regiment I would not be surprised to see the honorable member for Bourke at the head of.it.
I want now to say a few words with regard to the censorship, and to make some reference to the prohibited publication of Queensland Hansard, No. 37.
– You might get into gaol if you read it.
– Not while I am in this House.
– Look out! He will have you.
– After I have read the extracts I will ask honorable members to form their own opinion of the censorship. The following is portion of a cable sent by the Premier of Queensland to the AgentGeneral, but which was not allowed by the censor : -
Please transmit to Philip Snowden, M.P., following message for Queensland Labour party : - Feeling iii Australia very much divided on conscription question on which referendum is to be taken at instance of Hughes Government on 28th October. Conscription opposed by all Australian unions and Labour organizations. Conscription support only comes from Conservative parties and press and a few Labour politicians, since expelled from Labour movement. Conscriptionists say it is necessary to secure reinforcements numbering 16,500 per month, and that they can only be obtained by compulsion. Anti-conscriptionists claim that voluntary enlistment system has enabled Australia to do her part iri the war, and that ample reinforcements under voluntarism will be forthcoming to supply needs of Australian divisions at the Front.
Here is another statement, portion of which was disallowed by the censor -
We must now decide whether, under the present system, we can meet the immediate future requirements and also fulfil our food contracts with the Mother Country.
The last ten words were struck out. Here is another short extract -
Beyond the promises of the Prime Minister you have no protection.
The censor cut out the words “ you have no protection.” This kind of censorshipis absurd.
– The censor did worse than that to me.
– I want to turn now to another publication, styled the Nation, 3rd December, 1917, in which appeared the following, for which the honorable member for Bourke was responsible, and which was passed by the censor : -
The bucket outside contains hands and feet, pieces of jaw, and the rest. Have you seen a butcher after a day’s killing? Well, that is how the surgeon appears. Their aprons are saturated with gore. In a field at the back the dead are lying. The first has no face, the 0next has bled to death. The corpses are pulled about as a slaughterman pulls a dead sheep. Intestines and peices of lung, are in a bucket outside the tent, so that the young surgeon may get good practice. ‘
When matter such as that is allowed by the censor to pass, and the Hansard matter is cut down, it looks as if the censorship has run mad. I do not know whether the honorable member for
Bourke was responsible for the publication of this ghoulish matter.
-If that sort of matter is allowed to be published without a prosecution, I wonder what the censors have to complain about in regard to that special issue of Hansard.
– If that matter, which was republished in the Nation, had already appeared in England, we could not regard it as likely to StOP recruiting.
– The very nature of the matter is sufficient to show the absurdity of allowing it to be published whilst cutting out the other statements that were published in the Queensland Hansard. Criticism of the censorship is no new departure on my part. I have complained of it at every opportunity, and I think, if the public knew the facts as they are, they would not be so weak in the stomach as to shirk their duty and responsibility to the Empire. Even pacifists like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) have admitted that while we are in the war we must see it through, and that Britain would have been lacking in her duty if she had not stood by the pledge she had given to Belgium. That being so, it is the bounden duty of every representative of the people to do all he can to bring the war to a successful conclusion, and that can only be done by providing more men. C
– I do not admit that for a moment.
– Perhaps the honorable member would terminate the war by wind. Australia plays only an insignificant part in the war, because we are a small people, but we have played our part well up to now. At any rate, those who have gone abroad to do their duty to this country have created an imperishable record of which future, generations will be proud. And I hope some means will be devised by which public men will escape being branded in future as men who were recreant to the pledges they had given.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) said that I stated that when the 5 per cent, of the people achieved control of affairs, we would deal with the aristocrats. The statement I made, as reported in Hansard, was -
It is because tlie gentlemen opposite me are out of touch with the working-class people of this country, because they have got it into their heads that it is only a handful of agitators, or walking delegates, as one of them calls them, or, as the Prime. Minister has said, about 5 per cent, of the workers, who are causing all the trouble, that they pay no heed to what we say. But I tell them that it is not the 5 per cent, that is causing the trouble. It is the 93 per cent, that are pushing the 5 per cent, ahead.
– The speech delivered by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) was in refreshing contrast to the others delivered on the Government side,- because he alone made -an attempt to reply to the charges that have been levelled at the Government. He has clearly indorsed the first charge in reference to the breaking of the pledge, and he has admitted the justification for the second accusation in regard to the censorship. Other speakers on the Government side have preferred to evade the charges and to talk upon the general aspect of the war. I desire, if possible, to avoid recrimination and friction, which I do not think should exist at such a time in the political history of the Commonwealth. But, as public men, we have a duty to deal with the position as it appears to us. Not alone by our criticism, but by the criticism of their own supporters, and of the Nationalist press, ‘throughout the length and breadth of the country, the Government stand condemned in the eyes of the people.
The honorable member for Henty said that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) had put forward the policy of the Labour party in regard to this war. In that statement he was not fair to either the Labour party or the honorable member for Barrier. The latter deliberately stated that the proposals he was putting before the House had been adopted by the Labour Conferences in both New South Wales and Victoria, and he personally indorsed them.
– And he said the party opposite did, also.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member expressed only his own opinion. I am assured by him that the Inter-State Conference has not dealt with -those proposals at all, but I think the honorable’ member did an injustice to himself in stating that those proposals represented the war policy of the great body of working men in the Commonwealth. As I understand the position, the delegates at the Conference felt, as the House of Commons and the President of the United States have felt, that the time has come for the Allied Powers to state their war aims, and let their enemies know what they regard as the terms of a just peace. Those ideas were expressed, not as the working- man’s method of conducting the war, but only as the delegates’ views regarding the desirability of stating our war objectives.
– The honorable member does not think that those are the opinions of the working men of this country? “
– I say that they are not put forward as the methods which the working nien favour for carrying .on the war, but I believe that the working men believe with the Conference delegates that terms should be stated on which peace might be established.
– The honorable member does not believe that the working men are in favour of revolutionary methods.
– I do not.
– As a matter of fact the Conference resolutions stated that, in order to enable the country to do its part, certain things should be done.
– That is so.
The workers of Australia have nothing to be ashamed of in regard to their record since the commencement of the war.
– No thanks to their, leaders. The Official Labour party has turned down even the voluntary system.
– The Labour party has joined in every war effort.
– At the commencement of this war the workers did not re*gard it as a capitalistic war- in the sense that other wars have been. Together with other sect-ions of the community they felt that an attack had been made on the Empire, and they jumped into the fray as readily as, if not more readily than, any other class of the Australian people. They sent their hundreds and thousands of men to the Front, and at the end of 1916, the year in which 338,000 men had voluntarily left these- shores to fight abroad, they were told that recruiting had failed. In December of 1916 9,000 men had been recruited by the voluntary system, and in no month during the twelve had the number of recruits beenless. In the following twelve months recruiting did not reach its former standard, and even though harm had been done, and the people who ‘had done so well had been angered, the recruits continued to be in excess of the casualties during the same period. Yet the very people who, of all others, were to blame for the falling off in recruiting ask us to come forward and assist them to resuscitate the voluntary system - not so much to get recruits, I think, as to reinstate them in favour with the people- whom they have so greatly offended. If recruiting is a failure to-day the blame lies at the door of those men who angered the people, who divided families against themselves, and in every way thwarted the voluntary system. .
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– -When the sitting was suspended I was attempting to explain the attitude which has been adopted by the working classes of this country towards the war from its very inception. I am one of those who whole-heartedly believe that it is our imperative duty to prosecute the struggle to a satisfactory conclusion, so far as the Allied forces are concerned. At the same time I deny that voluntary recruiting has failed in this country. It would be more correct to say that it has been injured by the division of opinion amongst the people and by the distrust which has been engendered in their minds by reason of the treatment which has been meted out to returned soldiers, and to the- dependants of lads at the Front. Complaints are daily growing more frequent in respect of the pensions payable to our maimed heroes, and other matters. ‘ Such maladministration must tend to prevent recruits rallying to the colours from time to time. <
There is still another reason which militates, against recruits being obtained at the present time as freely as they were during the early stages of the war. It is only common sense to recognise that the more men we send overseas the les3 there will be left to draw upon. I maintain that the Government should have measured their cloth before cutting their suit in regard to the number of Australian divisions that were to be created. Had that course been adopted it would have, been possible for us to provide adequate reinforcements for a compara tively large Australian army, irrespective of whether the war lasted twelve months or twelv<e years. But under the system which has been followed the exhaustion of our man power was inevitable within a measurable period. I repeat that something is radically -wrong in connexion with the treatment of many of our returned soldiers, and the parents of lads who are still serving at the Front. I propose to quote a few instances in support of my contention, and to illustrate the difference which exists between the treatment which is meted out to soldiers and their dependants by the Defence Department, and the lavish promises which were made to the men prior to enlisting. I know of one returned soldier who was refused a pension on the ground that his injuries had not been caused by war-like operations. He is a married man with two children. After some time it was convincingly proved that this soldier had been injured by a shell explosion, after having served six months in the trenches, and thereupon he was granted a miserable pension either of 15s. per week or 15s. per’ fortnight - I do not know which - with which to maintain his wife and family. Yet when the recruiting campaign started eligibles were assured from every platform in Australia that if they were injured while on active service they would, as far as possible, be restored to, at least, as good positions as those which they, occupied prior to enlistment. That promise, I regret to say> is not being honoured in a great many cases. This breach of a most definite understanding urgently calls for a remedy. Those who have made the biggest sacrifices in connexion with the, war have not been fairly treated. Many of the dependants of our soldiers are to-day receiving insufficient allowances to enable them to properly maintain themselves, Whereas the profiteers of the community are making larger profits than ever.
Before resuming my seat I desire to say a word or two in regard to the hope which was expressed in the brilliant speech which was delivered yesterday by a member of my own party that peace would be brought about in a particular way. I do not believe that it will come in that way at all, and I regret the expression .of the hope that it should do so. Whilst I admit that most of the wars of the past have been waged in the interests of capitalism, I absolutely deny =that that is the case in regard to- the present war. At the same time I recognise that this great struggle has been utilized by many capitalists, both here and in England, for the purpose of exploiting the people, and, so far as the ‘Commonwealth is concerned, I do not hesitate to say that sufficient steps have not been taken by the Government to check that exploitation. I freely acknowledge that the Germans had been preparing for war for the past 40 years. But the outbreak would not have occurred when it did had not the Socialist Democrats of Germany at the previous election almost upset the Kaiser’s plan.
– And yet, unfortunately, a majority of them, immediately on the declaration of war, went over to the Militarists.
– I am quite aware of that. I believe that at the. election to which I refer many persons who were paying heavy taxation on account of militarism, joined the Socialist Democrats of Germany with a view to upsetting the Junkers. And they very nearly succeeded in doing so. The latter at once saw that their plans would have been frustrated had the election gone in the other direction. It is true that directly Germany declared war, outside of a few daring spirits amongst the Socialists in the German Reichstag, all joined in the fight for Prussianism. I nave it at first hand from a member of the Reichstag that had the Socialist Democrats remained solid, they could have prevented the outbreak of 1 this war. All these circumstances point to the fact that whilst capitalists have taken advantage of the war to augment their profits, they were in no way responsible’ for its origin. Our position to-day is this: We admit that the struggle is one which must be waged to a successful conclusion. But the time has arrived when equal sacrifices in the true sense of the word should be made by the people of this country, and I unhesitatingly affirm that those who are lending their money to the Commonwealth at 4£ per cent, would not, even if they made that money a free gift to the nation, be sacrificing as much as does the individual who risks both his life and his capital.
– The wealthy classes, to whom the honorable member refers, have given as big a proportion of their men to the war as have the other classes.
– I beg to differ from the statement of the honorable member. The largest number of recruits have come from the industrial centres of the Commonwealth where the people are violent anti-conscriptionists.
– Our public schools and universities have contributed the highest percentage of recruits.
– According to the Director-General of Recruiting, the electorate of Newcastle, in which the referendum vote was about 22,000 against conscription and only 8,000 or 9,000 for it, has furnished more recruits since the last referendum than any other electorate in Australia. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) says that rich men have given their sons in the same way as poor men have done. I do not deny that that is so in many cases, but there are many amongst the wealthy of the community who have given neither sons nor cash to assist the Empire, not even donations to the Red Cross Society. We have been told that ‘the proposal submitted to the people by the Government provided for equality of sacrifice. On the occasion of the first referendum it was proposed to exempt only sons. As a rule, there ‘are not “only sons” in working-class or artisan families. Men were to be exempted, too, upon the score of conscientious objection to warfare. I say that there is no room for conscientious objectors when it becomes necessary, in order to save the life and property of the country, to compel citizens to fight. A man plead* ing conscientious objections would have less quarter from me than one who was game enough to admit that he did not wish to fight, and would do so only if compelled. The conscientious objector was not to be exempted under the proposal of the Government submitted at the last referendum, but was to be given noncombatant duties. He would be put in a safe place somewhere between the Defence Department’s offices, in Australia, .and the camps on Salisbury -Plain.
– All the non-combatants have hot safe jobs.
– No ; but I think that it was intended that the conscientious objector, if conscripted, should be kept out of danger.
The charges which have been levelled at the Government have not been answered by any speaker opposite, and have been admitted by at least two speakers, who, nevertheless, intend to vote to keep the present Ministers in office. Members on both sides know that the charges are true in every particular, and that’ the Government stands condemned in the eyes of the people. Under these circumstancs, I mustrecord my vote for the motion.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle is to be congratulated on the moderate tone of his criticism, which was refreshing after the violent indictments of others. If similar self-restraint were generally exercised, there would be’ a better spirit shown in this chamber. It was fully expected, when the Governor-General recommissioned Mr. Hughes to form an Administration, and the party acquiesced in the retention of their offices by the members of the last Government, that a motion of censure would be moved. The party has, indeed, come in for a good deal of condemnation from supporters outside, who maintain that the promise of the Prime Minister should have been kept, and that the members of the last Government should not have taken office again. I admit that in ordinary circumstances the promise that was made should have been kept ; there would have been no excuse for breaking it. But the circumstances are not ordinary. The world is at war. The Empire, of which Australia forms a not unimportant part, is standing like a lioness at bay, .in defence of all that makes life worth living. Consequently, we cannot sit in judgment on this matter in the cold judicial frame of mind which w© should ordinarily desire to exhibit. I supported the retention of office by Ministers, and, when next an appeal is made to the people, shall have to accept responsibility for what I have done. Should this mean .my political extinction, I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I did - what I honestly believed to be in the best interests of Australia and the Empire.
Still- my reason for speaking this afternoon - and I shall be brief, because of the arrangement that has been made in respect to the taking of the division - is not to justify my actions, nor that of the party nor the vote that I intend to record, but to make an appeal to my friends on the Opposition benches to bury the hatchet, and to accept the offer of the Prime Minister, which was indorsed by the Minister for the Navy (MrT Joseph Cook) to form a Government that will be National in the truest sense of the word, a Government representing every shade of political thought, conscriptionists and non-conscriptionists alike, united to maintain the supremacy of that flag under which Australia has progressed, while her people have lived in peace, contentment, and prosperity. A small section of the supporters of my honorable friends would oppose this course, but the large bulk of them - the right-thinking portion - would hail the creation of such a Ministry as the only effective way of dealing with the many difficult problems with which the country is now confronted. During the conscription campaign both sides fought hard, but the people, rejected the proposals of the Government, and that being so, I have no sympathy with the suggestion that compulsion should still be a burning question. ,We must bow to the will of the majority. But the great problem remains, how to get sufficient men to reinforce the troops in the trenches. In the near future, Germany will make an effort on the Western Front compared with which all previous efforts will pale into insignificance. There will then be hundreds of thousands of casualties, and Australia will suffer with the rest of the Allies. We have definitely decided that men are not to be sent by compulsion, and consequently must concentrate our efforts on getting recruits by the voluntary system. In my opinion, the best way to do this is for both parties to join forces, applying their combined wisdom to solve this most difficult problem. Unfortunately, the referendum campaign created unprecedented bitterness throughout Australia. It brought about the severance of friendships of years standing. It set family against family, and created discord where harmony had existed. But if we close up our ranks here in Parliament, we shall set an example to the people at large which will be most beneficial. Let us rise above party politics, as one united party welded together to secure the safety of Australia and the solidarity of the Empire. I earnestly ask the members of the Opposition to favorably consider the offer of the Prime Minister, made in all sincerity, which has the support of many members on this side. It, I believe, provides the only effective means for dealing with the difficulties that we have to face.
– I am fully convinced that my proper course is to do all that I can to remove from power the Government and the party supporting it. Every line of the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor)- has my approbation. We have been told that there are Ministerialists who would vote for certain portions of the motion, and I am sorry that I am not in a position to move amendments which would give them an opportunity to do that. No one possessing ordinary knowledge of political matters would deny that the party on this side would have failed in its duty as an Opposition if it had not moved a motion of no confidence in the Government. It has been said both here and outside that the Opposition has not acted in accordance with its pledges. I deny that. Both in the manifesto of 1914 and in that) of 1917 we plainly told the electors that we would do ‘all we could to assist in the conduct of the war. The manifesto issued by Mr. Tudor, when we appealed to the electors last year, stated that, whether in opposition or occupying the Treasury benches, we would do everything possible to assist in bringing the war to a successful conclusion. We did not succeed at the polls, but, though we have been in opposition, we have done our best to assist the Government in conducting the business of the House. Ministers cannot complain of our action- No Ministers since this Parliament began have ever had such lenient opposition. No Government has ever been more deserving of stern opposition. Some years ago I had the opportunity of sitting in the gallery of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and I heard the debates on many no-confidence motions moved by Sir William Robertson, Sir Henry Parkes, Sir Patrick Jennings, and others; but never have I known of an instance in which the moving of a motion of no-confidence has been more merited than this.
No utterance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and no action of his party, will bring the people back to the frame of mind they had on the 5th May last. How did honorable members opposite gain their victory? They won because during the State elections in New South Wales, and during the Federal campaign, the State Government and the Federal Government told the people that they were out to win the war, and would not bring in conscription under any circumstances. Both Governments gave binding pledges. No stronger pledges have ever been given by men seeking the suffrages of the people. . The Prime Minister, at Bendigo- and elsewhere, in that emphatic language which’ he knows so well how to employ, said, in regard to the recent appeal to the people, that Ministers would not continue to occupy the Treasury bench unless they had tie power to enforce conscription. Their position was shown to be hopeless from the very first returns that came in, yet they are sticking like limpets to office. I have not seen a limpet, but I understand that it has no backbone, so the comparison applies very aptly. If opportunity is given to the people of Australia, the majority that Ministers obtained on the 5th May will vanish absolutely, and honorable members sitting on this side will gain a thumping victory, such as they obtained in 1913. The people of Australia are very determined, and when they find they have been deceived by their public men, they will give them their due reward. There is no greater crime in the political calendar than attempting to deceive a free and enlightened Democracy, such as the people of Australia are.
After the referendum, meetings of the parties were held. The Prime Minister “ whipped “ his party, and two resolutions were carried. The first was, that in no circumstances should those sitting on this side of the House be given the opportunity to change over to the other side. The. second was that the Prime Minister possessed the confidence of the party. Cannot we see the object of carrying these two resolutions? Honorable members opposite are very keen nien; some of them are pastmasters of the art of political jugglery. The resolutions were passed with a specific object. ‘ I am satisfied that the Governor-General reads the newspapers, and one can well understand what his mind was after he had read the press reports of the meeting of the party.’ After meeting his party the Prime Ministerwent to Government House, and I suppose he said, “ Good morning Your Excellency. I have to place my resignation in your hands. My party has decided that I must not make. any comment, but must simply hand my resignation to you.”
Then fourteen gentlemen, twelve from the Government side and two from this side, walked out to the Governor-General’s door-mat for the purpose of giving him information, and I suppose His Excellency got his mind quite muddled with so much walking backward and forward, just as any other person’s mind would be affected in the same circumstances. The Governor-General had interviews with the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and I dare say they gave him very good advice. I do not know what it was, and I do not wish to know, but I want to point out the ordinary practice which is followed by State Governors. A’s soon as the Prime Minister failed to carry on the government of the country, the Leader of the Opposition should have been sent for. That is the usual practice in the States.
– He was sent for.
– But he was not sent for and given a commission. I maintain in ray humble opinion-
– The honorable member must not criticise the action of the GovernorGeneral.
– I am not criticising him.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon him.
– I am not reflecting upon him. I am praising- him. In the States in similar circumstances the Leader of the Opposition is always sent for. As for his position afterwards, that is a matter for the Parliament to decide when he meets it with his new Ministry, but if he fails to get the confidence of the majority of honorable members, he can go back to His Excellency and ask for a dissolution. He cannot do that until he has first tested his position in the House. That is the constitutional position, and it is the course that should have been followed in this case. The Leader of the Opposition should have been given a commission, and opportunity should have been afforded the House to decide whether he should remain in office. However, the right honorable member for Bendigo was given a free commission, and the old team returned to office. It is a reflection ‘ on honorable members opposite. Do they mean to tell me that no other team could have been formed from amongst them? Are they all dumb? Let them answer me. Could not another Government be formed from amongst them?
– . Why not ask them to put up their hands?
-.- If I asked those honorable members opposite who thought them” selves, capable of filling Ministerial positions to hold up their hands, there would not be a single hand down.
I am a member of the State Recruiting Committee of New South Wales, and have done my best in that position to secure recruits. Unfortunately, last January I had to undergo a serious operation, which prevented me from being as, active in the matter as I desired. Let me say that- I believe that if the Government and the party opposite had spent the same amount of money on the work and had shown the same spirit and determination to make voluntary recruiting a success that they displayed in their efforts to impose conscription upon Australia, we should have had no difficulty in securing all the recruits needed under the voluntary system. I find that in the period from October, 1916, to October, 1917, the number of recruits enlisted was 56,470. The total casualties during the same period was 38,066, leaving a surplus of 18,404. I understand that a division consists of about 18,900 men, so that during the period referred to there were sufficient recruits offering to form a separate division. Again, I find that from October to October the embarkments numbered 46,085, and as the’ total number enlisted in the same period was 56,470, that left a surplus remaining in camp in Australia of 10,3S5. Honorable members must admit, that that was an excellent position for us to be in. In Australia we have been able to get men prepared to voluntarily enlist to go 12,000 miles in a troopship to defend the Empire. Why, in the circumstances, was there so much anxiety shown by the party opposite to place the blot of conscription upon Australia? All those who have been expressing so much anxiety for the adoption of conscription have been belittling Australia and the noble work she has done in connexion with the war. I make no doubt that whoever later writes the history of our country will fittingly acknowledge the great and glorious work she has performed in the despatch of such a noble army over such a distance to fight for the Empire. The statements made throughout the country by those supporting conscription, belittling the efforts of Australia in connexion with the war, had no foundation in fact. In my place in the Parliament of the country I say that I am proud of the position we occupy under the voluntary system. Why should any one endeavour to put a blot, upon Australia by asserting that Ave could not get the men required to fight for this country except by conscription? The men who put forward that contention were not friends of Australia or the Empire, or the race from which we sprang.
In the short time at my disposal I am. unable to put my case as effectively as I should like to do, but I want to deal with the reasons for the vigour and determined spirit exhibited by those who advocated conscription. Let me tell this House and the country that what they wanted conscription for was not to secure men to go to the Front. No ; there was an ulterior motive underlying their efforts which they did not dare to make known to the country. I challenge honorable members opposite to tell the country their real intention iia supporting conscription. I know what it was.
– The honorable member was himself one of those strongest for conscription at first.
– I ask your protection, sir. A man has told a wilful lie about me, and I appeal to you to ask him to withdraw his statement.
– Order! I do not know to whom the honorable member refers’, but if any honorable member has said anything offensive to the honorable member for East Sydney, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I merely said that when the. honorable member for East Sydnev was in the room upstairs early in the period of the discussions upon conscription he was one of the strongest in favour of that system.
– I was . nothing of the kind. The honorable member must withdraw the statement; it is not a fact.
Mr.- SPEAKER. - The language used is not unparliamentary, and I cannot deal with questions of fact.
-r-The honorable member said I did something upstairs that I did not do. Get outside, old man, and I will settle it!
– Order !
– I never did a dishonorable tiling .in my life, and never asked a penny from any one to assist me. I have made the statement that the proposal for conscription was brought forward from ulterior motives, and I shall prove that statement. Mr. Heitmann, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie’ - I do not know of what nationality he is - said he would send every man out of the country and would import black, brown, and yellow labour to do the work of the country.
– That is a falsehood, and the leader of the honorable member’s party knows it.
– It is absolutely true.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to cease these frequent interjections across the chamber.
– I find that employers in Canada applied for Chinese labour to do the work to be done there. Mr. Lloyd George, speaking in 1915, said that conscription was not wanted so much for the Army as for the workshops. That is a very strong statement to make. Speaking in the Senate in 1915 Senator Bakhap said he- would have conscription and would pay the conscripts ls. 2’d. a day. He is one of the senators from Tasmania. Conscription has been turned down in this country. I do not know what the intelligent Democracy of Australia think of the public men who made statements like these and who asked them to vote for conscription. Mr. Fuller, who has “ Fullerized “ the unions of New South Wales, said at Rose Bay on. the 31st October, 1917, that the time was ripe for bringing’ in martial law. Let me tell honorable members that the powers which the Government would possess under martial law and the War Precautions Act would be nothing to the powers which they would have possessed if conscription had been carried to penalize those who toil for their living. In the face of such statements as those I have quoted the Government asked the people to give them the powers under a solemn pledge that they would not retain office unless they were granted. Yet the Leader of the Government met the GovernorGeneral with his resignation before he had his breakfast and before he could get his tea in the afternoon the right honorable gentleman was back in the same position.
Some time last year we were informed that the Government were very anxious to establish the shipbuilding industry. I honestly believe that they had no real intention to do anything of the kind. My reason for saying so is that they proposed first of all to impose the pernicious system of piece-work. Not satisfied, they asked further for the dilution of labour. I am a tradesman and learned my trade after apprenticeship, when I was twenty-one years of age. I was considered so smart that I received more than journeyman’s wages. I loved my trade, and if I were turned out of this House to-morrow it would not be necessary for me to walk about without anything to eat. I am proud of my calling and belong to the union representing it. I am one of those who started the union in New South Wales, before some members of this House were born. I did so to make the trade and calling dignified, to maintain its privileges, and if possible to improve the conditions of those engaged in it. The Government, in connexion with their shipbuilding scheme, proposed that men who are not tradesmen should be engaged in the industry, and, doing only a portion of the work, call themselves tradesmen. I ask the legal members of this House to say what they would think of a Government that asked the legal profession to dilute their labour. Mr. Beeby, of New South Wales, took an active part in connexion with this matter, and I wrote him a letter reminding him that the introduction of piece-work meant the degradation of every trade and calling. When I pointed out what would be the result, Mr. Beeby replied that he could quite understand how the tradesmen felt. I asked him whether he would, for the duration of the war, so arrange that people could get easier and cheaper laws, but that, he told me, could not be done. He was quite prepared that tradesmen should sacrifice all the principles of their trades and callings, but could not consent to the legal profession being interfered with in any way.
– Cheap law is bad law !
– And half-tradesmen are a damned scourge in the community, and, unfortunately, in Australia we have a good many. Men who know their calling are a great public benefit, and the only object, of the introduction of halftradesmen is the reduction of wages.
During the recent campaign I took a strong view that the best way in which to assist our unfortunate brothers and sisters in other portions of the Empire was to supply them with food. I have letters from friends and relatives in England informing me that they have to pay 5d. and 6d. for eggs,1s. 2d. a loaf for bread, and 5s. a lb. for tea, while they may have to wait for a long time in order to get a quarter of a pound ofthe latter. The Government have had a fine opportunity to take some steps to get foodstuffs sent to the Old Country, and if they had put their energy ana money into a scheme with that object, they could have found a road through America to Liverpool. But nothing has been done - nothing beyond endeavouring toget the industrial section of the community within their grasp. The following is an extract from the Argus of 22nd March, 1917: -
A strong appeal was made by the Premier of Victoria (Sir Alexander Peacock) to producers to help in winning the war by greatly increasing the output of foodstuffs. He said that we could help in a very material way by increasing primary production. Australia could help the Empire by- growing more foodstuffs, because they were as essential as men. Every bag of wheat, every carcass of lamb, and every pound of butter overseas assisted the Allies, lightened our taxation, helped us to obtain a favorable trade balance, and put an extra nail in the enemy’s coffin.
That is a lovely passage in reference to the lightening of taxation. Those honorable members who are directors of public companies or banks should realize that they cannot serve two masters; they must either fail in their duty to the public companies, or in their capacity as representatives of the people. In a newspaper article Sir Joseph Carruthers said -
The question of conscription is being acutely revived. I candidly admit that I am in doubt as to whether Australia will be taking the right course to-day if she adopts the conscription of men to go to the Front, without a simultaneous and similar organized effort to furnish the Allies with food and other essentials. I have always held that war efficiency should be the aim of Australia, and that there are more ways of rendering effective service than that one upon which attention has been mainly focused.
The Rev. Dr. Ingram, Bishop of London, who, spiritually and socially, has the respect of all, has drawn the attention of the Empire generally to the fact that if there is a desire to assist our brothers and sisters in Great Britain, we cannot do better than . provide foodstuffs. No doubt my remarks under this head will be criticised, but I contend that if we can obtain ships to convey troops we can obtain ships to convey foodstuffs. I challenge anybody to contradict that reasonable statement. -
Certain gentlemen opposite have recently held out a kind of olive branch. I am known as a» easy-going man, and I do not think any one can accuse me of being unreasonable; but I ask honorable members opposite whether, if they were in our place, they could join with the Government after what occurred during the last two campaigns, and after what has been said regarding the Labour party by men who had spent a lifetime in its ranks.And how can the Labour party join hands with those representing vested interests, considering that we represent the manhood and womanhood of the country ? We cannot have Parliament made a kind of mutual admiration society. At any rate, we have had enough of the same Government going out and coming in. If there were an arrangement of the kind suggested, it would stifle our criticism of the finances, which demand the closest attention, because there is no member of the House who has a clear idea as to our true position-. We shall have to meet an outlay of £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 in interest. I do not know whether that has to be met out of loans; but, if that is the intention, the Government should remain no longer in power. Where is the money to come from? The Government talk about win-, ning the war, but I should like to see legislation of a practical character with that object in view. The present Opposition is, perhaps, the humblest that Australia has ever had; and we have treated’ the Government with every respect, “so much so that we have sat like dumb dogs and allowed business to go through, in spite of the fact that there is much” that could be said as to the conduct of elections. Of all the sacred things - revered by a free and enlightened people, the ballot-box is the greatest, and it ought to be absolutely innocent of interference or contamination; but we cannot say to-day that the ballot-box is above reproach. This Government endeavoured to fix a certain polling day, although previously another day had always been appointed, and this with the view of . gaining some ulterior object that could not be realized by means that are fair. I had hoped that the Government would introduce some win-the-war measures; but, in the greatest crisis in the history of the world, we are to be sent back to our homes for two months, and thus rendered helpless to interfere. I am quite certain that if we could get to the people and explain the position the Government would have little opportunity in the future to commit any wrong or injustice; bub; as it is, Ministers will go down to future generations as men who stuck to office like limpets to a rock.
– I “ have been occupied with business affecting my own State, and on arriving here I was informed of the desire of honorable members generally to close the debate in order to allow a large number of members to catch their trains home this afternoon. Believing that noth- ing could be said at this stage of great utility for or against the motion, I was prepared to fall in with that idea, and refrain from speaking; ‘but I crave just a few minutes in order to make an explanation and reply to statements of the previous speaker. , I” have here a ‘ ‘ dodger ‘ ‘ which was spread broadcast throughout Australia containing the statement that I said, at a meeting at Wedderburn, that I would send every man out df Australia, even if I had to import black, brown, or brindle labour to do their work. The Leader of the Opposition made that statement in his opening address of the campaign
– I did.
– I corrected the statement in the columns of the Argus, and denied having made it. I do so now, but in order to make my position cleary it is necessary to repeat exactly what I did say. During the course of my remarks at Wedderburn, as elsewhere, I was replying to the statement often made that Australia had done enough. I said that, in; my opinion, although Australia had done remarkably well under the voluntary system, as long as the Germans remained undefeated and there was a man in Australia able to carry a gun, it was the duty of Australia and the duty of that individual that that gun should be shouldered. That was, and is still, my attitude. Later, I replied to the oft-repeated statement that it was the desire of conscriptionists to reduce the standard of wages in Australia and introduce black labour, in making that statement anti-conscriptionists have pointed to France as a country where that has already been done. I replied to that statement also. This is exactly what I said : In France, where the people are just as much in love with a White France as we are with a White Australia, they have been fighting for some time with their backs to the wall. They discovered that, in spite of the fact that men, women, and children were all doing something in connexion with the war, they were unable to keep up the supplies for the civilian population as well as for the military; and, much in love as the French people were with their principles, ‘ rather than pull down the flag to Germany and admit defeat, they imported some of the labour from their own colonies in order to increase their production. I stated, and state quite openly here now, that if ever Australia finds herself in the position that France had to face - unable to keep up supplies, and fighting against a mighty enemy with her back to the wall - rather than that she pull down the flag, I would import labour of any colour to keep up the supplies. ‘
– Did you not say in your statement in the Argus that you would import black, brown, or yellow labour?
– I said that if ever Australia found herself fighting with her back to the wall, and unable to keep up supplies, I would, rather than pull down the flag, import labour - blacky white, blue, or brindle. That is not the statement contained in this “dodger,” and I defy any member of the Official Labour party to say that it is.
I crave the indulgence of the House while 1 refer to another matter, to which I would specially direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition. He complained bitterly of the “ dodgers “ circulated in this country, and of the fact that no action had been taken against their authors; but the “ dodger “ I nave here is not even signed by the people who sent it out. Ostensibly it comes from the Official Labour party somewhere in Victoria. It says, “ Sir. Heitmann, Nationalist member for Kalgoorlie, son of a German, speaking at Wedderburn, said,” and so on. I have long had to put up with this, and it seemed to be one of the chief planks of thb platform of the anticonscriptionists that Heitmann was a German. They seemed to appeal to the people, because Heitmann was the son of an alleged German, to vote against the adoption of a compulsory military system. I am not ashamed of what I am. I adopted conscription almost from the beginning of this war. To make the matter clear, I desire to’ state what my nationality is. It is true that the Government of this country have proclaimed that my father was of enemy origin.
– Do you indorse that?
– It is hardly necessary for me to say whether I indorse it or not. The Government in their wisdom by proclamation said my father was of enemy origin. I disagreed entirely with that, but did not complain, knowing full well that in time of war regulations had to be passed which inflicted great hardship and heart burning on many. But I wish to make it clear that my dad was bom in a country under a king of the Royal House of England. He left there and was in Australia when his native country was afterwards attacked by the Prussians and taken from his people. My dad was never under a Prussian monarch. While he was in Australia his people were fighting against the representatives of those who are the Kaiser’s^ people to-day. If in those circumstances I am blamed for being of enemy origin I cannot help it, but it seems to me that my crime lies, not in being the son of a man of alleged German origin, but in being a conscriptionist. The allegation about my nationality was never brought up until I claimed for myself the right to say just what I thought should be Australia’s policy in regard to this war. In 1914, after the war had begun, I contested an election at Geraldton. The same question was brought up, and the man who took my place as editor of a newspaper and defended me against that charge was a Labour member, and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly at that time. He was a conscriptionist along with me, but had not the* back-bone to stand up to it. When later I stood against the Official Labour member at Kalgoorlie he was the first to make the accusation against which he had defended me previously. The joke of it is that in Western Australia during the referendum while they endeavoured to crucify me for quite a considerable time, while they shouted, from every platform in the West, that Heitmann was a German, they complained bitterly that another alleged German, my own brother, had not a vote.
– Will you support the Government that did that?
– If I were like some people in this country, because a certain regulation which did not suit me was drawn up I would say, “ I am not’ going to fight. I am not going to assist this country.” In spite of that, whether I had a vote or not, I would still have been on the public platform advocating the policy under which only I believe Australia can do her duty. I had a vote. I did not complain of the regulation. While these people, the anti-conscriptionists, make capital out of the fact that my father was born in a country proclaimed to be an enemy country, they will accept my services to fight, and they will accept the services of my son, a boy of eighteen, to fight for them. Where is the fairness of this? While naturally I was not going on the public platform to protest against the proclamation, because it would have been thought it was a personal matter, I still say that, when in a time of war, by regulations of that kind restrictions are imposed upon the liberty of the individual because of his’ nationality, or because of some disability under which he lives, due consideration should be given to the liability of that individual to serve his country in the military forces. Although the Leader of the Opposition expressed sympathy for the sons of enemy-born subjects his sympathy seemed to be that of the hypocrite, if I may say so without being offensive, because he knows full well that his party has endeavoured to crucify me throughout Australia. Why have pamphlets of this sort been circulated ? Where is the real sympathy when by a “dodger” of this sort a party claims support for and tries to prejudice the voters in favour of the cause it advocates on the ground that so-and-so is an alleged. German? I ask honorable members to judge me, not on what my grandfather might have been, but on what I have been in my public life in Australia up to the present time.
– I am neither a pacifist nor an ‘ anti-militarist. We are in this war and have to get out of it in the best way we possibly can, and I am going to do my best to get recruits to go overseas to fight our battles. If there is one thing more than another that has made me an anti-conscriptionist it is the last campaign. When the war’ census card system was introduced I stated, as some of the members then in my party, who are sitting behind, the Government, will remember, that it was the first step to conscription and the thin edge of the wedge. I said also that I would tell every individual in my electorate not to fill those cards in, and to let the Government do their worst. Many thousands in the Maranoa and Kennedy districts took my advice, and did not fill in the cards. They were threatened arid threatened; they are still being threatened,, but nothing more has been done.
I hold that conscription is one of themost cruel measures that could be introduced, particularly in a’ young country like Australia. This conscription refferendum has separated me from men who were my life-long friend’s. Men at ,whose tables I have sat - men with whom I ate and drank - pass me by to-day because on this particular question I -am opposed to them. It is with me,, however, a question of life and death. Because I happen to be a member of Parliament I do not pose as being, something above the stock from which I sprang. In my young days I had to work very hard for every crust and “ bob “ I got. I do not forget the troubles and trials through which I then passed in this fair country of ours, and I- shall be one of the last to introduce into Australia the system that prevails in the Old Country, and prevailed there prior to the war.. No man in this land need go hungry. If I were dumped down penniless in Queen-street, Brisbane, to-morrow, I undertake to say that within twelvemonths I would have in my pocket a hundred “ quid.” So much for my faith, and that of many others, in Australia.
Mr. Holman has let the “ cat out of the bag “ as to what conscription in, Australia would have meant. I said at the very inception of the proposal that it meant industrial conscription. I recognised that it meant not only industrial conscription, but the tearing down of all that we hold most dear in connexion with trade unions. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), who grew up with the Labour movement, knows how we were treated and how we suffered from the first day that he became secretary of a trade union. It is idle for any honorable member opposite to say that we, as industrial unionists, have «not suffered. But. what is the trouble, after- all? The present-day in dustrialists wanted something like this question to stir up the “ possum ‘* in them. Of late years they have been getting along . too comfortably. They have been lining their kidneys too easily. They have not had to battle as the older industrialists had to do. I remember when we were shearing in Queensland for lis. 6d. and 12s. 6d. per 100, a Chinaman on either side of us, and with niggers” “ picking up “ for us. To-day shearers receive 30s. per 100. What sort of a time must the squatter have been having at my expense? He owes me a lot of money, and I cannot get it. I have the satisfaction of knowing, however, that the workers have returned me to this Parliament to assist - and I have assisted - in passing laws that give them, not only the right to live and work, but the right to obtain something more than bread and butter. Only a few years ago a squatter said to me - “ Page, what are you doing with these fellows? You are educating them very nicely. The latest demand on the part of my workers is that I shall provide them with a shower bath!” Paney a shower bath in tropical Queensland being regarded as a luxury ! Led by the honorable member for Darwin, who knew full well what was wanted, we have succeeded in passing arbitration laws under which, instead of being treated as beasts of burthen and mere dumb-driven cattle, the workers get something like fair consideration. Thanks to the Australian Workers Union and the arbitration laws passed by this Parliament, shearing, shed, and general station hands throughout West Queensland to.-day are living in what is a Paradise compared with what it was when I was grafting.
– But the price of wool is higher than it was in those days.
– I hope it will go still higher. Had the squatters in those days suggested co-operation - had they said to us, “ When wool goes up wages will go up; when wool goes down wages will go down” - we would have had a give and take policy. Instead of that, the policy of the squatters in those days Was “ all cop and no give.” I am out of the industry now. To-day I sit back on these benches, and very nice and cool and comfortable they are! Thanks to the men who are grafting out on the western plains of Queensland, I belong to-day to one of the finest clubs in Australia.
The Government have tried twice to induce the .people to vote for conscription. If an affirmative vote had been obtained on the occasion of the first referendum, would it have been possible for those on the “ No “ side to secure a second appeal to the people - to have had another “ win, tie, or wrangle ? “ Not much. Men would have been taken by the back of the neck and run out of Australia at the earliest possible moment. The authorities might have taken them in batches only as far as Colombo, Durban, or Capetown., and sent back for more; but they would have taken care to get them out of Australia at the earliest moment. The people of Australia, however, have not only rejected the conscription proposal; they have given the Win-the-war Government one of the greatest beatings any Administration has ever had. During the referendum campaign, I was asked, “Well, what has the Win-the-war crowd done since they have been in power?” I. replied, “I know of two great public services they have rendered to the people. They have done two things to help in winning the war, and to put thousands of pounds into the Treasury coffers. They have passed a Daylight Saving Act ‘Repeal Bill, and they have also introduced a Bill providing for marriage by proxy, so as to give all the old “ never-wases “ and “ the old never has-beens “ a chance to run a harem while the men are fighting at the Front. These are the two achievements of the Government!
We have heard of the letter written by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), after he had had a heavy Christmas dinner, in defence of the Prime Minister. That letter was published in a newspaper with the introductory statement that it had been forwarded “by Mr. Webster in defence of Mr. Hughes.” If there is one man in this House who can defend himself it is the present Prime Minister. The Postmaster-General, however, did not wait for him to’ defend himself from the calumnies of his one-time pals. The Po8tm.aster-Gener.aI was consciencestricken. In conversation he told me that on the night in question he could not sleep. His brain was at work; something was working in his mind. And so he put a wet towel round his head and roused his sleeping wife and daughter. His daughter provided him with a mustard mixture in which to place his feet, and his wife, seizing a sponge and a lump of ice, rubbed him up and down the back to keep him cool while he wrote this letter in defence of the Prime Minister.
– When was this?
– At 3 o’clock in the morning. He concluded this letter with the words, “ Ye gods and little fishes !” He set out to defend the Prime Minister against the attacks of his one-time “ cobbers” “Davy” Hall and “Billy” Holman. These men and the Prime Minister had been friends from the inception of the Labour movement, but at 3 o’clock in the morning the Postmaster-General proceeded to defend the Prime Minister against their attacks. Instead of doing so, however, he attacked old “pals” in the Labour movement who had fought side by side with him, and who had deliberated and debated with him at our party meetings. He left Mr. Hall and Mr. Holman alone, and proceeded to attack his old “ pals.”
– At what hour was this ?
– At 3 o’clock in the morning. I honour the man who stands up for a friend who is attacked in his absence. But we are told that “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and we have in this letter a monument to the Postmaster-General’s capacity as a writer. The more you read it, the more you can see in it.
As to the attack made by Mr. Holman and Mr. Hall on the Prime Minister, I want to say straight out, that if there is in Australia one man who is wholehearted in the desire to provide men and munitions for this war - if we have in Australia one man who is obsessed with the war, from an Imperial point of view - it is William Morris Hughes. I honestly believe he is doing his very best in this regard, and that his heart and soul are in the business. Had he brought off his conscription coup, the very men of his party who are blaming him to-day would have acclaimed him a hero from one end of Australia to the other.
– That is the breed.
– The breed must be bad. I hope, above all things, that I shall never die a “ scab.”
If there is one thing more than another that I treat as a religion, it is the pledge and the platform of the party to which I belong. Will any one say that nine-tenths of the Labour party, no matter what our abilities may be, would be in this House today if it were not for the working men and the working women - I do not forget the true-hearted Labour women - who stand behind us? But for those men and women, not one of us on this side of the House would dare look through the portals of this chamber, let alone have the chance of reclining on these soft cushions. I well remember reading a statement made at, I think, the Adelaide Convention, by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), that “Federation is going to bring about a rarer political atmosphere; no Labour man can enter the Senate, and very few Labour men will enter theHouse of Representatives.” He forgot that Australia was a Democracy. He forgot also that we were going to have the wide franchise which we are enjoying, and that anything would be possible under such a Democracy. If anybody had said that within ten years, of Federation there would be a Labour Government in power with a majority in both Houses they would have been advised to get their heads read and their brains brushed.
I notice that Mr. Holman has been describing Mr. Hughes as a pledgebreaker, and in all seriousness I ask if there is a greater pledge-breaker in the world than the Leader of the present Government in New South Wales. Members of that Government ought to hide their heads in shame. They gave a written pledge, printed and circulated by hundreds of thousands of copies, that they would have nothing to do with conscription even in the event of the Federal Government submitting the issue to the people again. What happened? They had a conference with Mr. Hughes, and I have been informed, on the most reliable authority, that they told the Prime Minister, “ Unless you put all in, as we have done, we are lost.” Now, I am acquainted with the Prime Minister as well as any man in this House. I know that he has a heart as big as a bullock, and in order to save those people he risked, not only his own reputation, and the reputation of his Government, but also the reputation of his party on the throw of the dice, “ Yes “ or “ No.” Well, we have seen that “ No “ won. The Prime Minister went down. That is all right. If members of the National party stand behind him in his leadership of the Government now, that is their business and their funeral, not ours. I have no personal animus against the Prime Minister, or against any man in this House, for this place is big enough for us all, and what may be the funeral of honorable members opposite to-day may be our funeral next week.
– But this is a birthday party.
– Well, all I can say is that honorable members opposite do not seem to be too happy. As a rule, when a young man attains twenty-one years of age, and has a birthday party, he looks forward to a good time and a pretty wife; and, so far as I can see, honorable members opposite are not looking like that to-day; but, on the contrary, they are very glum indeed. I am not going to prophesy what is going to happen one way or the other, but I do say it ill-becomes those gentlemen, those pledge-breakers in New South Wales, to attack other men for this offence, especially when they were prompted by a desire to assist the State Government in their foul design to hold on to the New South Wales Treasury benches. Now I say that the Prime Minister has been the best organizer wehave had in Australia.
– I query that statement.
– There is no need to query it, because he has been the best organizer we have ever had. Every time he addressed a gathering in Queensland we got supporters for the “‘No’” cause. His most fatal mistake was committed when he deprived the Australian-born citizens of their votes. Do honorable members know what has been the effect of that action in Queensland ? Do they realize that, as sure as I am standing here, the effect will be to brine back the Ryan Government ?
– Do not prophesy.
– The honorable member will get the greatest shock of his life after the next election.
– I think Mr. Fisher said something like that about the referendum proposals.
– All I can say is that it was rather fortunate for the honorable member that Mr. Fisher went away, because the honorable member would never have been heard of here otherwise. I feel satisfied that sooner or later we shall have Mr. Ryan here whether honorable members opposite like it or not. We on this side of the House are a happy party, and are all right. It is honorable members opposite who’ are in the juice. They have been talking about the olive branch which, they say, has been held out to members on this side, but I could not help thinking that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), when speaking last night, was holding this olive branch, as it is called, in both hands, and at the same time he had three squirts,so that if one misfired the others would be sure to bring the bird down. That is the sort of olive branch that has been offered to us. I think the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) said it was not an olive branch but a tree, and so far as I could see there was not a single olive on it. I have no desire to detain the House for long, because I know honorable members want to get to the vote. I am sorry the PostmasterGeneral (Mr.. Webster) is not- in the chamber, because I should like for a few moments to speak of his Department, but perhaps I shall have an opportunity to do so on Supply.
In all seriousness I ask honorable members opposite if they do not admit that the party to whichI belong had a most glorious victory in the referendum..
– I am aware that nothing that the Labour party can do, and that nothing on our platforms appeals to the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– That shows your want of knowledge of me.
– As an old bushman. I do not want to see a bird to be able to describe it. So long as I hear it chirping I can give it a name, and when. I hear the honorable member for Wide Bay chirping I know he has nothing to say in our favour. But here is the position. We are up against one of the toughest propositions we have ever faced, and instead of submitting the conscription referendum to the people, and by that means rending parties and friendships asunder, as well as raising the sectarian banner, it would have been better if the Government had taken counsel with members and had then offered the olive branch to them. Had this been done I am confident that recruits would have been forthcoming in sufficient numbers. Honorable members. must realize, however, that it is impossible to get out of a tank any more than is in it. It is said that voluntarism has failed, . but against that I quote from a circular issued by the Recruiting Committee of Victoria, which states that possibly meetings would be called to form local committees all over Victoria, and it adds -
Possibly at the meetings some persons may express the opinion that it would be futile to proceed with the present system of recruiting, and that those who intended going have gone. This is an entirely wrong conclusion, and it may be refuted by the weekly enlistments being quoted.
I want to tell honorable members that I intend to put my shoulder to the wheel and do the best I can to get reinforcements for our troops. I am not tied or bound by any clause or agreement, and I am going to do all I can, because I believe so strongly in voluntarism. I feel sure that if we all put our shoulders to the wheel we shall get sufficient reinforcements. But we cannot expect to enlist 7,000 a month, as the cream of Australian manhood has already gone, the area is getting larger, and the men scarcer.
I want to warn the people concerning the attitude taken up by Mr. Holman, as set out in his secret Cabinet dossier, and published in theDaily Telegraph of 19th December last. Mr. Holman, according to that secret memorandum, wants to get all the young men out of thecountry. He said that the employers of the States should be got together and asked -
The industries of the State to be reorganized upon this footing. When this is done the employers should be invited to, as far as possible, dispense with men who ought to be defending the country.
This would be economic conscription of the worst type. Can any honorable member, opposite say how many single men are keeping homes together in this country by supporting their widowed mothers and rearing the younger members of their families ? Yet in Mr. Holman’s secret memorandum there was no provision . for young men occupying this position. Single men were to be cast out of employment, and older men or women put in their places. If one thing more than another made me an anti-conscriptionist it was that secret document issued by the New South Wales Government.
– It was the best thing you had in the campaign.
– I am glad the honorable member for Illawarra has made that interjection, because I am sure he does not believe in that sort of thing. I have known him. for many years. Even supposing many men have left our ranks there is still a trace of Labourism in their hearts.
– Do not say “ left your ranks.” Say, “fired out.”
– The honorable member for Herbert knows very well that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) sat at the end of the table in the Caucus room and said, “ I intend to leave the meeting, and anybody who believes as I do will follow me.” The honorable member for Herbert was one of those who followed the Prime Minister, so how can hesay now that he and others were “ fired out.”
– We were expelled before that.
– If honorable members were expelled, then what business had they at the meeting ?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, a statement has been made from the other side that some utterances of mine are a deliberate untruth, and I ask for a withdrawal.
– In consequence of the number of interjections, I did not hear the remark, but if it was made, I call upon. the honorable member responsible to withdraw it.
– I am not aware of anybody having made the remark, but I apologize, if necessary.
– I have no desire to say anything unkind of the honorable member for Darwin. He was the chief official of our union, and he was expelled.
– I was expelled in Sydney, before the time of which the honorable member, speaks.
– I have no knowledge of that.
With regard to the proposal that the two parties shall come together, my view is that oil and water will not mix. Our platforms are as wide apart as the poles; but with regard to recruiting, I think we can arrive at some agreement to do the best we can for those boys who are fighting our battles overseas.
Mr. LISTER (Corio) T4.17].- I have never risen to speak with greater diffidence than I do this afternoon. My mind reverts to May, 1916, when out on the Egyptian desert, letters and newspapers reached us from “Australia, telling as of the dissension amongst our people while we were hazarding life, and all that life holds dear, for the sake of maintaining the honour of our country. The experiences of the last few days have confirmed more strongly than ever the opinion I have held for a considerable time that the people of Australia are not alive to the fact that a war is in existence. If they were, there would be no scenes such as we have witnessed in the House. When one takes into consideration the reason for the scenes enacted this week, when representative men have stood on the floor of this House and accused each other of breaking pledges, it makes one wonder where we are drifting.
A great deal has been said regarding the pledge of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at Bendigo. I, personally,- am far more concerned with the pledge I gave to my constituents, and that which the people of Australia gave to me and my comrades when we left these shores in 1914. I stand here to-day to testify that the bulk of honorable members .opposite have broken their pledges to us. They cavil about what the Prime Minister has done, utterly regardless of the fact that the obligations into which they entered when we left these shores in 1914 have not been fulfilled. I am here as evidence that when reinforcements were required, they were not forthcoming. It is because of that fact, and because a majority of the people have broken their pledges to me, that I am a member of this House. Had the necessary help been forthcoming, in all probability, I should have’ been today with my unit somewhere on the other side of- Jerusalem. The pledge which was given to us is infinitely more binding on members of this House than is the pledge given bv the Prime Minister regarding his occupancy of the Ministerial bench binding on him. It is that question of getting the necessary^ reinforcements for our men oversea with which I desire particularly to deal. No man in this House has taken a keener interest in recruiting than I have done. By conviction, I am a conscriptionist, as a result pf the experiences I have endured, and the things I have witnessed since I returned to Australia. Some months ago - 1 had an opportunity of perusing the records of voluntarism in the State of Queensland, and I found that of the last 873 enlistments, 297 represented single men between the ages of 21 and 45 years; the remainder were boys - though with the hearts of men - of from 18 to 21 years of age, and married men with families. Amongst them there were ten men who left behind- them 88 dependants, and one who had left a wife and 14 children. . When we read of such things, and see tens of thousands of single eligible men about the city streets, many of them living by their wits, and not by honest toil, one must realize the seriousness of the position in which this country is placed as an integral part of the Empire, and take a decided stand for the legitimate and proper defence of this country. I realize, as I think all honorable members do, that conscription is dead. I am -prepared to abide by the verdict of the people.
I repeat that no man in the House has taken a greater interest in recruiting than I have done. After my return from the Front, and after having been pronounced by the medical officers to be unfit for further service, realizing the need that existed for men to reinforce my comrades, I did what little I could to urge the manhood of Australia to do its duty, and I travelled this State at my own expense, with so much success that when the system of recruiting by means of war films was inaugurated at the instance of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), I was chosen as the first official lecturer to accompany the films. It was because of my success on the platform in the first electorate which I toured that I am a member of the House to-day. As conscription is dead, I am prepared to again do the best I can for voluntarism. As an evidence of that intention, I approached the very people who have been loudest in their advocacy of voluntarism in my electorate with the request’ that they should give the necessary assistance to make this great .movement a success. On 29th December, I wrote to the secretary of the Trades Hall Council, in Geelong -
Dear Sir, - Our troops overseas need reinforcing, and the need intensifies with each passing week. It has been decreed for the second time that men shall he procured only under the voluntary system, and as your Committee, through its platform representatives, have repeatedly expressed the conviction that all the men required can he obtained by this means, I naturally approach yow in confidence, seeking your aid in this matter of national importance. The men who have gone from the C(n io electorate should, if at all possible, be reinforced by men from Corio, nnd having this end in view, I propose calling a meeting of citizen* in Geelong to make arrangements for the prosecution of a vigorous campaign. It is desirous that this meeting be held at as early a date as possible in the New Year, and I shall be pleased to hear from you as to what date would nuit the convenience of your members to attend such a meeting, excepting the 3rd and 9th prox., these two nights being taken up -with Parliamentary duties.
Upon receipt of your letter I will call a meeting per advertisement in the Geelong pap(;rs.
This is the reply I received dated the 9th January -
Dear Sir, - Adverting to your correspondence of 29th December, 1917, in which you invite representatives from the above Council to a meeting that you intend to .call at an early date for the purpose of procuring recruits under the voluntary system, I beg to inform you that the same was considered at our meeting, held last evening, and the following resolution was carried unanimously: -
That in the opinion of this Council any recruiting scheme initiated by such a bitter conscriptionist and antagonist of voluntarism as Mr. Lister would naturally be viewed with suspicion by the people, and would be more likely to injure than benefit recruiting.
I replied to that letter in the following interview published in the Geelong press -
When seen by our representative,- he (Mr. Lister) stated amongst those who called upon him were Lieutenant Maxwell and Mr. A. H. Harding, of the local recruiting committee. The question of the proposed meeting was discussed, and in view of the attitude of the local Trades Hall Council, whose opposition to assisting in the voluntary campaign- is, apparently, to j’udge by the motion they unanimously carried^ solely on account of the member for Corio being such a “ bitter conscriptionist,” he (Mr. Lister) feels that in the circumstances he should stand aside, and will be quite willing to do so, conditionally that the Trades Hall Council take an active interest in this work, which is daily becoming more urgent. “ I would not for one moment,” said Mr. Lister, “think of stepping aside from what I conceive to be my duty to the men overseas were it not for the fact that the interests of the. country, under the peculiar position in which we find ourselves placed, demand it. My greatest concern is to do what is best to procure the requisite number of men, and if my standing aside is the price asked by the Trades Hall Council if they are to assist, well, I will not be an obstacle to them taking their rightful share of this work. They may start in right away, and may good luck attend their efforts. A meeting of citizens will, in all probability, be called by His Worship the Mayor, and * the stumbling block ‘ in the person of myself will play no part in, or take any credit for, the effort, which must prove successful if anything like the same amount of energy is put into the recruiting campaign as was expended by them during the recent anti-conscription fight. With myself out of the way they will then have an opportunity to prove their bona fides in this matter.”
In the interests of this movement I have decided to stand aside, at any rate as far as the recruiting campaign in my own electorate is concerned. But only yesterday I received from the Chairman of the Central Recruiting Committee in Melbourne a request to resume a position which I had frequently occupied prior to the inauguration of the conscription campaign. By standing aside in Corio I have no desire to relieve myself of any obligation to my mates overseas. I shall still be prepared to do what I can in their interests, because nobody recognises the urgent nature of the need for reinforce-, ments more than does the man who has suffered for lack of them. I appeal, therefore, to honorable members to put aside all the party considerations and all the bitterness which have been engendered between the opposing political sections in this Parliament. It is not to the credit of the House that we have listened to the acrimonious speeches that have been delivered here during the past few days. It is a crying shame that at a time like this, when our nation is at war, we should be fighting amongst ourselves. The defence of our hearths and our homes is obviously of greater importance than our party politics. Let us, therefore, sweep aside all party politics and concentrate upon winning the war.
.- I shall not delay the House very long. But one or two matters have been mentioned by honorable members during the course of this debate to which I desire to make some reference. In the first place, I invite attention to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in reply to that which I made in submitting this motion. Of course we all recognise that nobody can possess the abilities of .the right honorable gentleman. Even when one does his best, that best is of no account according to the Prime Minister’s dictum. Amongst other things, he declared that if he had made such a poor showing as I had done, in presenting the motion, he would give up being the leader of a political party. He stated that my speech was ineffective. In reply, I merely wish to say that so long as I continue to be elected as the Leader of the Official Labour party I shall do my best in the interests of that party, and shall remain quite indifferent to such criticism as is involved inhis statement that my speeches are “ ineffective.” The right honorable gentleman made no reply to the very definite charge which I formulated against him, namely, that of breaking a pledge which had been deliberately given on every platform throughout Australia. He stated that one pledge which he was alleged to have broken was a threat, not a pledge. Here is a new conundrum which’ may be put to the people, “When is a pledge not a pledge?” I suppose that the answer will be, “When it is made by the National Win-the-war party.”
– Is this a bid for the party’s vote?
Those who have watched the finessing that has been going on in the Ministerial corner during the past half hour -
– And the sand-bagging.
– I do not know anything about the sand-bagging. But it is significant that the honorable member who had intended to move an amendmentto this motion has been taken out of the chamber.
– I do not know whether he has been chloroformed or not. Of course it is still possible for him to submit an amendment to reduce the proposed vote under the Supply Bill, with a view to preventing the Government from carrying on. I was anxious to hear the amendment which was projected launched against the Government. But any honorable member with five minutes’ experience of parliamentary life, must have known what was going onin the Ministerial Corner only a few minutes ago. They could see the excited condition of the Government Whip, who was arguing the point with the author of the projected amendment. One could almost read what he was saying by the movement of his lips. Evidently he was telling a certain honorable member that the National party was already in sufficiently bad odour, and that it would take it all its time to win through. One can also imagine the Whip affirming that any such amendment would mean the downfall of the Government. We all know that the Prime Minister is being attacked by members of his own party, and that but for the casting vote of his particular friend, Mr. Holman, a resolution would have been carried in New South Wales denouncing his leadership.
– That is not so. I said that the motion for the adjournment of the discussion was carried by the casting vote of Mr. Holman.
– Oh! Then had a vote been taken it would have been all up. If the adjournment was carried only by one vote there was a poor chance of carrying the resolution dealing with the substantive matter.
I repeat that the Prime Minister affirmed in Brisbane that a statement made by him in this House was a threat, and not a pledge. Let me read his speech, which has notbeen quoted during the course of this debate. He said that he had been accused of breaking a definite pledge by stating in Parliament that under no circumstances would he agree to send any man out of Australia against his will. That he said was not a pledge. It was merely a’ speech in Parliament, as if a definite statement is not binding on every man irrespective of where it may be made. The right honorable gentleman made it appear that he was the only man in the Ministry who counted- the only man who stood between the people and the enforcement of conscription in Australia. He also said -
There had not been a day since the 5th of May that he could not have done anything he liked.
A nice position for the Ministry and the National party to occupy, when a Prime Minister is able to say, “I can do anything that I like.”
– By Jove! he does.
– Hulloa ! has he been getting to work on the honorable member ? The Prime Minister continued -
Did these men who said he could not be trusted realize that it was only his word which stood between them and industrial and military conscription? They could not deny it. What was it that stopped him? It was that he had pledged himself to the electors not to attempt by regulation or by Statute to introduce conscription behind the backs of the people. What greater proof of the sincerity of his pledge? He asked them, to give him the powers which the Government sought. If they did not, he, for one, would not attempt to govern this country. Without that power it was impossible to govern the country. What they were asked to do was to accept the pledge of a man whose word alone stood between them and conscription.
It has been said that the Prime Minister has been so busy that he has been unable to attend in this chamber during the course of this debate. It has also been whispered that his health is so indifferent that he has been unable to do so. If the latter statement be correct I am prepared to make excuse for him. But the absence of Ministers from the chamber during the discussion of this motion has been most noticeable.
– I have been present.
– The Postmaster-General himself missed a very great speech this afternoon when he missed the deliverance of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page).
– I am going’ to copyright iti.
– At what time - a quarter to 5 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning? If Ministers have been carrying on their Departments while this motion has been under consideration, they have adopted a very unusual course. Had they plainly intimated that the motion was of no account, and that they intended to conduct their Departments as usual we should have understood the position.
The Prime Minister made a statement here last Friday afternoon which was in the nature of an offer. Now, I am prepared to accept the word of any man who keeps his word. But I am entitled to ask for something more than a mere statement made on the floor of this chamber from a man who deliberately breaks a pledge which he has- given to the people.
– What does the honorable member want ?
– I want the Prime Minister to get out. That means that the whole Ministry will go with him.
– I am glad the honorable member makes that admission.
– What was the nature of the Prime Minister’s offer? As I remember it, it was this -
If Mr. Tudor were prepared now to say he would work with the party, they would be prepared to help him. If he (Mr. Hughes) were the man who stood in the way he would go out of it. As representatives, of the people they should in some way try to do the work they had been sent there to do and help Australia. Let bygones be bygones, and let them begin to put Australia first.
He made that statement publicly, and in the most unambiguous way. That is the statement as it appears in practically the whole of the press of Australia. It is a definite offer that he would get out of the way if I, on behalf of the party which I lead, could assure him that its members were prepared to help him. Let us see how the Prime Minister’s offer appears in Hansard. It is generally under-, stood that members have the right to revise their speeches only to the extent of rectifying errors. Let us see what qualification the Prime Minister has added to his offer.
– He has made the offer more clear.
– The Hansard report, page 2942, column 2, makes the right honorable member say -
If my honorable friend will say to me now that he is prepared to work with this party, I, for one, will be prepared to help him. If I am the man who stands in the way, and he will only work with the National party upon the condition that I am not Prime Minister, I will stand aside.
That agrees with the newspaper reports. Then follow these words - if he is prepared to agree to a policy, acceptable to the Nationalist party.
I ask honorable members - there are still some honorable men in the party opposite^ - whether that qualification was attached to the offer when made? Were we plainly asked to come and be swallowed ?
– Do you charge Hansard with having falsely reported the Prime Minister?
– The Prime Minister did not utter the qualification which appears in the Hansard report of his “speech. There is not a member who can deny that the speech has been deliberately altered by the insertion of this qualification. Does any one think that we on this side would for a minute consent to be swallowed by. the National party; that we. would indorse everything that it had done, including the breaking of pledges; that we would support a system of taxation ‘which allows no exemption to the poor bachelor, but gives an exemption of £1,000 to the business man? The Prime Minister’s offer, coupled with the qualification that he has added to the
Hansard report, is the invitation of the boa constrictor. I am sorry that neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) is now present. I do not think that the qualification which I have read will be found in the report of the speech of the Minister for the Navy. I have read the reports of the Prime Minister’s speech published in the Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane newspapers, as well as those published in the Melbourne newspapers, to ascertain whether this qualification had been uttered and we had not heard it, but it is not in any of those reports, and every member will admit that it was not attached to the offer which was made. Yet for the past week the newspapers have been speaking of the generous offer of the Government to the Labour party. The qualification inserted by the Prime Minister changes the offer altogether. He said that he made an open offer to stand aside, but in the Hansard report of his speech he is made to say that he will stand aside if we will come and be swallowed. The original offer, coming from men who have broken every pledge, was not acceptable, but with the condition that has been attached to it, could not be listened to for a second.
– The action of the Prime Minister has been the trick of a spieler.
– The offer has been altered. The newspapers during the past week have denounced me and this party for not accepting a bond fide offer to share responsibility with the Government. They may tell another tale to-morrow.
– The newspapers have been giving the Prime Minister something to go on’ with.
– During the past hour I. have been expecting the honorable member to move an amendment, and to hear the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) make some such remark as that of Sir George Reid, who, when he was being supported by Mr. Deakin, and the latter moved against him, said, “ Here is the dagger.” I was here last night until a quarter .to 3 a.m., and those who have spoken to-day would not have had an opportunity to do so had I exercised my right of reply when called by Mr. Speaker about an hour earlier than that.-
– What is all this about ?
– The Treasurer is the picture of innocent ignorance, but he knows that an amendment has been successfully side-tracked.
– An hour ago I had not heard of the intention to move an amendment.
– =Bub the honorable member has known within the last hour of the intention to move an amendment.
– I heard a little rumour.
– How many new Ministers are to be appointed upon the reconstruction of the Ministry^
– I do not know whether it is intended to appoint new Ministers upon a reconstruction of the Ministry.
– It is intended to put the acid on the Opposition.
– Honorable members have a right to do that. I do not object to any attempt to show me and this party in our true colours. What I ask is that Ministers should keep their definite pledge.
– It was not a pledge - only a threat.
-I dealt with that excuse when the honorable member was out of the chamber. It is not necessary to take him out again now. I should have liked to hear the wording of the proposed amendment, but I prefer a straight-out vote on the motion submitted. I want to make it plain that those who oppose the motion are the supporters of pledgebreakers.
Some honorable members have said that we should work together in regard to the voluntary system of recruiting. Before that can be done there must be in power a set of Ministers in sympathy with voluntarism, and not in sympathy with conscription, and we should have the definite statement of men upon whose word we can rely that conscription is absolutely dead, and will not be brought forward again under any circumstances. Let the party opposite show that it realizes that Australia has turned down conscription for the second time. Public morality .will become a by-word in this country if pledges made by Ministers and members are something to be laughed at by the people. The action of Ministers in making believe to resign, and resuming office without any break, justifies public scorn. To assist recruiting, we must have the definite statement by men on whose word we can rely, that in no form will conscription be introduced into Australia. Then our soldiers must be paid an amount which will make their wages to-day equal in purchasing power to the rates fixed in 1914. At the present time 9s. will not buy more than could be bought for 6s. when the war commenced,- Yet soldiers’ wives have to struggle to keep their families on an allowance of 4s. a day and 4£d. for each child. It has always been a difficult thing to rear a child on so small a sum as that, as those who have brought up families know. Undoubtedly, I was a member of the Government which fixed the present rates of pay, but, as I said when speaking on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, we should always be prepared to learn by experience. Let the Government seriously consider the question of raising the soldiers’ pay.
– If they do so, will the honorable member help?
– I have always helped. I have always done my best for voluntarism, much to the annoyance, probably, of many honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member is not doing himself justice.
– That is no concern of honorable members opposite. There are some honorable gentlemen on the other side who are annoyed when an honorable member on this side renders assistance. About twelve months ago, when there were three parties in existence - the Hughes party, consisting of the Prime Minister and about three supporters, the Liberal party, and the Labour party - the Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Joseph Cook), as Leader of the Liberal party, and I, as Leader of the Labour party, were requested to address a most important meeting which was to be held in the Melbourne Town Hall for the purpose of giving recruiting in Victoria another fillip. The Prime Minister attended, and so did I, but as the Liberals had a very important party meeting in progress at that time, their leader was unable to attend. I was howled down. Some of the aldermen who were there said that it served me damn well right, although Sir Alexander Peacock said that I was unfairly treated, because I had always done my best for recruiting. It was my advocacy of voluntarism that was objected to. After addressing many meetings in my own electorate in the meantime, I was again asked to go to the Melbourne Town Hall and address a meeting outside. It was on the King’s Birthday. Mr. Donald Mackinnon spoke, but when * got up to speak my experience was that which befell some honorable members during the recent campaign. One says,, “ Mr. Chairman,” and that ends it. So inside and outside the Melbourne Town Hall I was prevented from speaking for voluntarism. The objection to me was that I was an anti-conscriptionist. Previously I had spoken in Martin-place, Sydney. I must say that the Sydney people treated -me much better than the Melbourne people did.
I repeat that I am prepared to do my best for the voluntary system. But the feelings of bitterness that were engendered during the recent campaign must not be kept up. The press must cease to inflame the people. During the campaign they said that every honorable member opposing conscription was opposing reinforcements - was, in fact, a traitor to his country. The fact that the Prime Minister . has . asked honorable members on this side to join him in the administration of the affairs of the country is an admission that we are not traitors, or it would seem that Ministers are willing to work hand in hand with traitors.
The first steps toward doing something for recruiting must be a definite statement from men whose word can be taken - that the question of conscription is absolutely dead. Frankly, I admit that this condition wipes out the whole of the present Government, with, perhaps, the exception of the Treasurer, who says that he did not give the pledge. Another requirement is the bringing about of a better state of affairs with regard to trade unionism. The Government must not lend themselves as a sub-branch of ‘the Employers Federation for the purpose of smashing unionism, as was done during the recent strike. The unions must be restored to the position they occupied in October, 1916, before the first referendum was taken, and there must be no victimization of men because of their membership of trade unions. The next requirement is that the soldiers’ pay and pensions must be -increased. After the last general election a Federal Recruiting Committee consisting of members of this Parliament was appointed, and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), after a month’s notice, moved in that Committee a series of proposals which were unanimously adopted. Those proposals were sent on . to the Government in September, and that was the last that was heard of them.
These are the requirements that I lay down. Conscription must be abandoned; the soldiers’ pay must be increased to at least the standard of the purchasing power of the money they received at the outbreak of the war ; trade unions are not to be deregistered or smashed, but must be put back to the position they occupied before the first referendum on conscription was taken - they must be allowed to apply again to the Arbitration Court for registration - and the victimization of members of trade unions for no other reason than they are trade unionists must cease.
Voluntary recruiting has fallen off for three reasons - 1, the first referendum; 2, the general election ; 3, the last referendum. “When the last referendum was mooted, when the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) was carrying his sword throughout the country asking for the imposition of conscription, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie), who is chairman of the State Recruiting Committee, said that it would injure voluntary recruiting. He spoke with a full knowledge of what he was speaking about. He knew that the advocacy of conscription was injuring voluntary recruiting. He pointed to the effect in different constituencies represented by honorable members who were strong advocates of conscription. He pointed out that during four months the enlistments for Henty did not number more than forty-five. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) is one who called loudly for the imposition of conscription. He showed also that during the same period there were forty-one enlistments in the electorate of Flinders, and forty in the electorate of Kooyong.
– I was speaking of the four months immediately preceding.
– The honorable member said that the threat of conscription in the first place, and the holding of the first referendum, had engendered an illfeeling. Ill-feeling has also been en- , gendered by the statements made about honorable members on this side. The honorable member for Henty said that we should take no notice of them, but if he had been called a traitor nearly every day in the newspapers would he be prepared to listen to any one who said to him. “ Let bygones be bygones. Take no notice of those remarks. We have given you a good walloping. Now let us work with you.”
– The honorable mem: ber is sulking in his corner.
– I am not.
– His party is.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral ready to retire?
– On what conditions? Within twenty-four hours? “Let conscription not be carried,” the PostmasterGeneral said, at Yass and Armidale, “And this Government will not remain in office for twenty-four hours.”
– I retired before the twenty-four hours was up.
– Apparently the Minister retired to bed, and on the following morning, when he woke, he decided not to retire, and to withdraw the resignation that he had proposed to tender.
Honorable members on this side have given instances of the unfairness of the censorship, pointing out how Labour papers were prosecuted for publishing what they considered to be fair statements. The other day the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) read a statement by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and there was immediately a chorus in the Government corner, “ What is wrong with that?” The honorable member for Barrier said, “There is nothing wrong with it except that when I stated it during my election, and the Barrier Daily Truth published it, they were had up to Court and fined £100.”
– I do not think that the honorable member’s statement is quite accurate. It was on account of the comments of the honorable member on Mr. Chamberlain’s statement that the newspaper was fined.
Mr.Considine. - I quoted the statement by Mr. Chamberlain to explain my attitude to the electors, and said, “ That is my reason for taking up the stand I do.” The Barrier Daily Truth published that remark and were fined £100.
– I do not think that that is very much different from what I said. However, no doubt the honorable member’s amended statement will go on record.
The Prime Minister said that, in my speech, I did not’ refer to Mr. Lloyd George’s speech, or to that of President Wilson. The Labour Conference in Sydney ‘adopted certain peace proposals which were afterwards adopted in Melbourne. I spoke to them as is reported in the Argus. Those proposals differ very little from the speeches recently delivered by Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson. Honorable members with any degree of fairness will find that that is the case if they compare the two. I will say of the speeches made by Mr. Lloyd George and’ President Wilson that I welcome them, and my only regret is that they were not made years ago. If they had been there would have been a better chance of something effective being done to bring about peace than there is to-day.
– Instead of the Paris Conference.
– Yes; it would have been better if they had been made at that time than that the Paris Conference should have been held. There can be no doubt that in Mr. Lloyd George’s speech two things stand out prominently, and they are - first, that he has abandoned the Paris Conference resolutions and all idea of restricting Germany’s trade; secondly, it was said at one time that the Allies would deal with a re-organized Germany, with a Germany that was democraticized, but Mr. Lloyd George now admits that the German people are themselves entitled to say what form of government they will have.
We have been” told that many misstatements were made on this side with the object of influencing the votes of the people at the referendum. When it was stated from many platforms that letters had’ arrived in Australia from soldiers at the Front expressing the hope that when the referendum was taken the majority would vote “No,” it was asserted that no such letters could have been received from the Front after it was decided to hold the second referendum. On the 20th December, the day on which the vote was taken, the Prime Minister said -
The latest malicious story which they have circulated is that letters have been received from soldiers at the Front asking their friends to vote “No.” The best answer that can be given to this fabrication is that the last soldiers’ mail to arrive in Australia left England on 31st October last, or eight days before the determination to hold another referendum was arrived at.
I have here a copy of the Geelong Advertiser., which the honorable member for Corio will admit ‘is a good solid conscriptionist newspaper.
– Quite so.
– I find that this newspaper published a letter from a soldier at the Front on Monday, 17th December, in which the writer says -
We all hope the referendum will be more successful on the 20th than it was last time.
Yet it was a malicious fabrication for honorable members on this side to say that letters had been received from soldiers at the Front asking people here to vote “No” at the referendum.
– The statement the honorable gentleman has quoted can be read in two ways.
– The honorable member misunderstands the point I desire to make. The . writer of the letter says -
It is very trying on our nerves, and sometimes I feel very staggery; but do not let this worry you, for I soon get over it with a few hours’ rest. The trouble is we are often overdone. Our terms of action are too long, not by fault of any one, but our reinforcements are insufficient.
This man was evidently in favour of conscription, but the point I am making is that when we published letters claimed to have been received before the referendum, and referring to it, we were told that they were fabrications; yet the writer of the letter I have quoted must have known that the second referendum was to be taken.
– Is the letter quoted signed by any one?
– Its publication in the Geelong Advertiser is introduced in this way- _
Extract from letter received by Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, Ryrie-street, Geelong, from their son, No. 6434, Sergeant Wm. Wallace, D.C.M.
I have another letter here, published in the same newspaper, from a gunner, who, I presume, is an artilleryman. We know that there are no . Australian artillery in Egypt. They are all sent to Great Britain or the West Front. I do not know whether that is a Defence secret which should not appear in Hansard, but if it is I shall have no objection to its omission. This letter was published on the 20th December, the day on which the Prime Minister said that if we claimed to have received letters from soldiers at the Front referring to the referendum, and asking the people of Australia to vote “ No,” they were fabrications, because the last mail for Australia left Great Britain on the 31st October. This is a letter from a nephew of Mrs.F; D. Hood, of Mannerim, in which the writer says -
I have joined my unit again.
The Australian soldier who joins his unit again in the artillery can only do so in one of two places - at a training camp in England, or on the WestFront. That is a certainty, and yet this man, apparently, had hews of the referendum in time to senda letter referring to it before the 31st October. It is clear, therefore, that the Prime Minister’s , statement was wrong, or that there was a mail leaving Great Britain for Australia at a later date than the right honorable gentleman mentioned. The writer of the letter to which I am now referring said -
I hope some are sent after the 20th, as we cannot hang on much longer.
It is evident that he knew that a referendum was to be taken on the 20th December. I put these letters in in opposition to the statement of the Prime Minister. I have other evidence of its inaccuracy. It will be remembered that the right honorable gentleman issued a manifesto to the soldiers in connexion with the referendum. We could not have it cabled, or, at all events, it did not appear in the Australian newspapers; but it was cabled from London ‘to Canada. . Why ? Because they were going to have a vote on conscription in Canada.This is the account of it taken from the Montreal Daily Star, one of the leading’ Canadian newspapers supporting Borden and conscription in that country. It is stated that a copy of the manifesto was cabled from London, and published in all the leading Canadian journals favorable to the Borden Government about a fortnight prior to the date of the Canadian elections. Referring to the Government, the manifesto contained these sentences -
It considers this power essential to the good government of the country, and the fulfilment of its obligations to the Empire. If you refuse to indorse its policy on this question, then it will have no option but to hand over the reins of government to the extremists who are opposing it in this fight. These extremists have already made their policy clear.
Have they handed over the reins of government ? What have they to say to the soldiers who voted for them on the strength of their belief that the word of the man who wrote that manifesto could be trusted? Now they are fold that it was not a pledge, but a threat. It was a distinct pledge. I am satisfied that 999 out of every 1,000 thinking people in this country know that it was a pledge; and though they may hate the party on this side, they have absolutely lost all respect for the Government who are hanging on to office, the limpet Government, the most useless shellfish–
Mr.Finlayson. - The “ Scabinet
– I will not call them the “ Scabinet.” They are hanging on to office, and by the vote that will be recorded presently we shall learn whether their action is indorsed by honorable members opposite or not. The Minister for the Navy, when speaking on this motion, and dealing with the question of the Sixth Division, said that he had exploded the statement made concerning it. He said that the Christmas card, a copy of which was produced by the honorable member for Cook,’ was shown to him in Adelaide, and that a man who claimed to have been in the Sixth Division asked the question in Adelaide. The Minister said, “ But I exploded it. I said to him, ‘ What battalion were you ‘ in in that division?’ He replied, ‘I was in the 4th Battalion,’ and honorable members know that there are twenty battalions in a division.” I have every reason to believe that there are only twelve battalions in a division, but, in any case, the Minister for the Navy was absolutely wrong.
– It was like his statement about the “River” boats.
– Yes ; he at one time referred to the Parramatta, Swan, Yarra, and the other destroyers of the River class as river boats. He was under the impression that they would be used up and down the rivers. I suppose that if one came into my electorate, it would go up the Riley-street drain as well.
– What has the honorable gentleman against the Yarra?
– I have nothing at all against either the constituency, the river, or the boat.
I wish now to refer to a statement that was made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann). I am sorry that the honorable member is not present. I should be the last man in this
House to do any honorable member an injustice. Mr. Jacka, of Wedderburn, the father of Captain Jacka, V.C., the first Australian soldier to win the Victoria Cross, and of two other single sons who are at the Front, told me that at a meeting in connexion with the Grampians election addressed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, he heard that honorable member make the statement which I attributed to him. I took it absolutely for granted that Mr. Jacka was accurate in what he said to me. The honorable member explained in the Argus, as he did this afternoon, that what he said was that if Australia ever finds itself in the position that the last man has to go, he would not object to import black, brown, or yellow labour.
– “ Black, brown, blue, or brindle “ were his words.
– The honorable gentleman is not quoting the honorable member for Kalgoorlie quite correctly now.
– I have no desire to do him any injustice. If he complains of the interpretation put onhis statement by myself and other honorable members, I am prepared to accept his explanation that he had no intention of applying it to Australia, although the explanation he has made this afternoon would lead honorable members to believe that he is still of the opinion attributed to him.
The honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) said he thought that honorable members on both sides should work together. He thought there should be a meeting of a certain number from each party, with a view to seeing whether recruiting could not be placed on a better footing. There are other things besides recruiting which require to be placed on a better footing. There is the question of taxation in this country. That should be placed on a better footing. There is the question of the cost of living. That should be dealt with, and it should no longer be possible, as has been the case, for sworn declarations to be made by people before the InterState Commission that they took no notice of the prices fixed by the Pricefixing Commissioner.
Unless the Government or their successors - and I honestly believe that they will have successors of some sort when we meet again - are prepared to deal with the question of taxation,the cost of living, and the question of redress and restitution of rights to the trade unions as they existed in October, 1916, before the first conscription referendum, it will be absolutely impossible to make recruiting as successful in Australia as I earnestly hope it will be.
Question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
– There is a large number of questions on the noticepaper, but I regret that Ministers have not the replies here. I suggest that the questions be postponed until the next sitting.
Questions on notice, by leave, postponed.
Postal and Telephone Facilities in Country Districts - Loan Investments : Exemption from Taxation - Auditor-General’s Report : Budget - Amalgamation or Federal and State Taxation and Electoral Departments - Commonwealth Expenditure : Supply : Contingencies - Commonwealth Police Force : Censorship - Commonwealth Bank - Uniform Land Valuation - Soldiers’ Pensions: Allowance to Dependants - Supply of Wheat Bags: Wheat Pool - Adjournment of Parliament: Private Members’ Business - Reform of Parliamentary Machinery - Wheat Growing Industry - Australian Workers Union : Awards in the Pastoral Industry: Strikes: Mr. Justice Higgins - Conciliation and Arbitration Act: Exemption of Agricultural and Pastoral Industries - Cost of Living - Central Wool Committee - Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and Messrs. S. W. Whiddon and Company Limited - Scarcity of Shipping: Load Line of Australian Shipping: Increase of Freights; Reported Sale of s.s. “ Victoria “ - Industrial Development - Commonwealth Line of Steamships - Non-delivery of Cargoes : s.s. “ Elsass “ - Price Fixing: Methylated Spirits - Censorship : Prohibition of Queensland “ Hansard “ - Disfranchisement of Citizens - Broken Hill Mines : Foreign Labour - Reported Japanese Purchase of Mineral Leases - Public Service : Rejects and Returned Soldiers - Diseased Meat on Transports - Australian Imperial Force : Enlistments and Casualties: Treat-‘ ment . of Soldiers Abroad - Federal Capital Administration : Commissioner Blacket’s Report - Defence Works: Arsenal and Small Arms Factory : Naval Bases - Old-age Pensions: Inmates of State Institutions.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there , be granted toHis Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1917-18 a sum not exceeding £2,284,037.
The Supply Bill that was submitted on the l0th January was for three months, and the total amount asked for was £3,449,972. By arrangement at the time that Bill was reduced to cover the requirements of one month, the amended total being £1,211,615, and the measure was passed. The Supply Bill now submitted is to cover the requirements of the Government for the months of February and March, and the amount asked for is £2,284,037. From the 1st. January, 1918, the system of actual fortnightly payments of salaries was substituted for the bi-monthly payments hither-‘ to in force. This results in a pay day falling due on the 5th April next. Provision has, therefore, been made for the additional amount required to cover pay falling due on that date. The amount of the extra provision is £45,680. With this exception the total of the Bill for one month, which was passed by Parliament last week, and the Bill now submitted, agree with the total of the three months’ Supply Bill originally introduced. I make this explanation because there was an arrangement that the Supply Bill now beforeus should be for two months. I consulted the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the additional sum that was required in order that the salary payments which fall due on the 5th April might be made. It was thought that it would be inconvenient, in the Easter holidays, to hurry members back here, simply in order to get provision to cover the 5th of April, and I am glad to say that the Leader of the Opposition and others acquiesced in the suggestion I made. I think the arrangement reasonable, because it simply means giving £45,680 more in order to enable the Government to meet the requirements of the Service on 5th April. It will have this good effect that when we meet again - I do not know when that is to be, but I suppose somewhere about the date I have mentioned - we shall not have to hurry on Supply immediately the House meets, because the next pay will be due on the 19th April.
– When does the Treasurer propose to take the discussion on Supply? Probably an arrangement for a general discussion at one stage of this Bill will save time which would otherwise be taken up in discussing the votes for different Departments.
– Since the honorable member asks my advice I should say that the best thing would be to have the discussion on the next Supply Bill somewhere between the 5th and 19th April.
– It is due to the House and the country that statements should be made by the Government under one or two very important headings. Any one who takes even a slight interest in the financial condition of the Commonwealth must be aware that the time is fast coming when not only the Commonwealth Government, but the State Governments, will be in a very peculiar and tight position. While we were led to believe that during the war there would be at least some attempt at economy, we find on looking up the records that the expenditure on the Public Service is increasing by leaps and bounds.
– We are taking over more utilities.
– I quite appreciate that the functions of the Departments are increasing daily, but there is growing up in the Commonwealth Departments what may well be called a lavishness in the expenditure of money.
– It grew up long ago.
– Then it is high time the House and the Government considered some steps for preventing it growing further. The States are clamouring for financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth expenditure is increasing enormously under the heading of pensions, and will have to increase considerably more. The Government must also make a statement very soon as to the methods they are going to adopt to enable them to meet their huge and growing interest bill.
– We do that on the Budget.
– I want it done at the earliest possible moment.
– Why could not the House sit on now and deal with the matter ?
– I am prepared to do that. The taxation proposals of the Government up to date have been entirely unsatisfactory, and if some attempt is not) made in the near future to increase our taxation and improve its incidence, basing the proposals on a more equitable foundation, it will be up to the members of this
Chamber to express their strong disapproval. Undoubtedly we must increase our taxation. There are avenues in this country that can well afford to pay the increase. There are people here making money by this war, some of them directly out of the war.
– Will not the Wartime Profits Tax touch them ?
– By the time’ this
Chamber had finished with that Bill, I and other honorable members hardly knew whom it was going to tax. I admit the difficulty the Government had in framing that proposal, but the time has arrived when the Government should say to wageearners of all kinds in this country “ We are going to bring in an increased income tax and a graduated tax at that.” There are men in this country drawing very large salaries and incomes who can well afford to pay a little more, especially as the Government must at once take into consideration the necessity of an increase in our soldiers pay, or at least in the allowances to their wives and dependants.
– You will have us all with you on that.
– It must be done. Only this morning an Arbitration Court award was published under which the Western Australian railway employees received increases all round-, some to tile extent of 2s. 6d. a day. Every one who has to pay household expenses knows the cost of living is going up tremendously, and has been doing so ever since the beginning of the war. If we do not increase the soldiers’ pay we should at all events materially increase the separation allowances, for those are the people who, after all, are bearing the increased cost of living. I am not complaining on behalf of the private soldier with no dependants, but in the case of the soldiers’ dependants, we must no longer shut our eyes to’ the fact, which is recognised all round, that the purchasing power of £1 to-day is not nearly equivalent to what it was when the war “began. Unless increased taxation on an equitable basis is imposed, and the soldiers’ dependants are recognised as they should be, ‘ it will be high time for this House tb select a Government which will recognise the justice of these claims.
– I indorse the remarks of the hon.orable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heit-mann)’. I rose to call attention to some of the alleged economies in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. When Ministers’ Estimates are before the Committee, they should at least pay us the compliment of being here to answer criticisms, but their absence should not prevent us from saying what we would say if they were present. There has been a great deal of jubilation recently in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department over the fact that the Department has at last been made to pay. I should hail the announcement with a great deal more satisfaction if the methods by which the accounts have been made to balance were more equitable, and more in the interests of the people in remote parts of the country. I have recently had experience of incidents where, to save a few shillings a day, or a few pounds ‘a year, the Department has cut off people from that easy communication with the centres of population near them that it ought to be the policy of the Government to provide throughout Australia. Instead of embarking on a policy of reducing the attractions of life in remoter settlements and villages, the policy of the Government ought to be to extend the postal facilities so that there may be some evening up between the easy life of the cities and the harder conditions which the pioneers have to face. Instead of that, we have the most trivial and irritating reductions of long-established facilities, with the result that many country people are in a state of revolt. It is easy to make the Post Office a profitable branch of Government activity by making those who are getting exceedingly valuable privileges, particularly in the telephone service, pay a somewhat greater proportion of the amounts they save by installing the telephone in place of the old system of message delivery. I enter a strong protest against- the continued reduction of the facilities in the smaller country centres. It is not economy, but parsimony, and is calculated to make country life less attractive, whereas the aim of the Government in these days should be to add to the attractions of life for those who dwell in the remoter parts of the Commonwealth.
.- It is time the Government took into serious (consideration the question of abolishing, when the next loan is called for in August, the provision whereby the income derived by investors is exempted from income tax. I do not suppose any thing can be done in that direction now as regards the loans that nave already been raised, but if we do not take some step in the near future in this regard to apply” to all subsequent loans, we shall simply be holding out an inducement to people who command great wealth to withdraw their money from other investments and put it into war loans, thus avoiding the higher gradations of tax on their large incomes. On the other hand, a man with only £1,000 or £1,500 in the War Loan may find that it pays him to draw that money out, because the rate of interest outside will probably be fairly high, and invest it in mortgages.
.- In what year will it- be possible for us to hear the Budget Speech, and is there any. possibility of obtaining the AuditorGeneral’s report within a reasonable time?
– The Budget Speech has already been delivered. The Auditor-General’s report is to be tabled to-night.
– What steps has the Treasurer taken to push forward the amalgamation of the State and Federal Income Tax Departments which has been promised for so long ? The amalgamation of the Electoral Departments was also promised. What has been done in that matter ? We are drifting into a very bad position, incurring tremendous expenditure, and not trying to meet it by taxation, or to do anything by way of economy. A little while ago I called the attention of the Treasurer to the tremendous extravagance that was going on. He met me with the cry that we had voted large sums for defence. We are prepared to vote anything for defence, but there must be a great deal more curtailment of extravagant expenditure than there has been so far. I am told that large sums have been voted for the Federal Capital, but in this Bill I find a large expenditure for the Kalgoorlie desert railway, and have looked in vain for any expenditure on the Capital. It is of. no use for the Treasurer to try to side-track me. I shall have a definite answer from him before he gets a vote on this Bill.
– The Treasurer’s Conference is sitting on the question of the amalgamation of the taxing Depart.ments
– Unless some definite steps are taken we will sit on gentlemen like the Treasurer, who are responsible.
– We cannot do what the honorable member suggests, except with the consent of the States. The States are now considering the matter, and I hope that it will be brought about.
– Try what the Prime Minister can do under the War Precautions Act. The statement was made last week by a responsible Minister in the New South Wales Parliament that they were waiting for the Commonwealth to take action, whereas the Treasurer tells us the Commonwealth are waiting on the States. The people are sick of this business, they are sick of the system under which the Commonwealth runs one Department and the States run another to do the same work.
– Then the honorable member wants Unification?
– Even that would be better than the system of government we have had of late. It is simply a system of drift and extravagance. Many farmers and small income tax payers have to pay more for the preparation of the two sets of Federal and State income and land tax papers than they are, called upon to pay by way of the taxation itself. And all the satisfaction we can get from Ministers is the statement that they are dealing with the matter. It is our fault that we do not drag these men from the Treasury bench and the responsibilities attaching to it.
– Why do not the Govern ment supporters take that action?
– Unfortunately we are faced with a very bad alternative. The Treasurer must tell the Committee what steps he proposes to take in this matter, otherwise I shall call for a division. We cannot go on with the system under which we have State and Federal Income and General Taxation Departments covering practically the same ground. What has become of the war taxation imposed by the Government? What has become of the bachelor tax which the Government passed with great pride last year and for protesting against, which I was nearly put out of the House ?
– Forrest. - The honorable member was one of those who were responsible for the passing of that taxation-
– I was not; I protested against it at the time, and urged fair exemptions, and the Treasurer promised that the Government proposal, as passed by this House, would be . amended in the Senate. That promise was not fulfilled. We are getting tired of such promises, and are looking to the Government for some- per- ‘ formance. Honorable members who have reached the Treasury bench seem to think they are to be there for all time. They will wake up some morning and find they have had a very ugly dream. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has referred to the Postal Department. I wish to deal with the position in regard to the postal service at Nerrigundah, which is. in my electorate^ Over £1,000,000 in gold have been taken out of the mines in that district, which was at one time very prosperous, but has fallen away considerably. The revenue of the local post-office is going down, and the storekeeper, who has been conducting it, and providing, privately, attendants for the telephone, and so forth, for many years, recently received from our heavenborn Postmaster-General, who gushes about the savings he is making, a letter to the effect that the Department could not afford to go on paying him £50 ‘ a year, and that unless he was prepared to accept £46 per annum as his remuneration the office would be shut up.
– I have had experiences of that kind long ago.
– I am not going to stand it ; I would sooner shut up the Government. It is instances of this kind that show that the Government are allowing the work of the Departments to drift.
After passing this Bill we are to go into recess, although we have really done nothing. We were solemnly promised some time ago that the site of the Arsenal would be fixed before Christmas; surely that is a matter of importance. Surely we want to develop our Small Arms Factory and to establish a Commonwealth Arsenal.
– I did not make the promise to which the honorable member refers. ‘
– The right honorable gentleman is responsible for the promises of his leader. I want the Arsenal to be established on the best possible site, and I hope the Government will keep its promise. A little while ago there was a strike in New South Wales, and I wish to refer to a sequel to it. As every one knows we have many small mail contracts of £50 a year and upwards. Tenders are invited for the services, and are secured at bread-and-butter, if not starvation, “ rates. Owing to the want of coal following on the recent strike the railways were held up, with the result that small services were cut down, and, notwithstanding the contractors were under the same expense with staff, horses, plant, &c., the Postal Department are now reducing the amounts of subsidy paid to these small mail contractors.
– Surely the honorable member does not blame the coal-miners for that?
– No ; I blame the Government. What are the Government going to do with these mail contractors who are receiving, only about £1 per week for work that is worth £2 or £3 per week? When we inquire the only answer we receive is, “Everything is all right.” I am tired of the promises of the Treasurer. We all have the greatest respect for him, but I regret to say that the record put up by the Government so far is very poor. The Postmaster-General secures the publication of laudatory paragraphs setting forth that, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the telephone, service has been made to pay. He forgets to mention that he has doubled the rates. It is easy to make the service pay when yon cut down conveniences and increase charges. The Postal Department was never in a more rotten condition than it is in to-day.
– It. was on one occasion.
– Did the honorable member hold office as PostmasterGeneral at that time?
– No; but some one else did.
– Will the Treasurer give us some information in regard to these postal matters?
– I know nothing about the Postal Department.
– The right honorable member ought to know something about it. He is the Minister in charge of the public purse, and should control these matters. I shall insist on some information being furnished with respect to my questions before this Supply Bill is passed.
Then, again, will the Treasurer tell us what is being done to improve the electoral arrangements? Some time ago we heard that something was to be done in regard to one staff for Federal and State, and preferential voting, and improvements in the electoral system. Have the Government done anything in that direction? It seems to me that what we require is business management in our public Departments. Departments are being overrun with public servants; we have too many public servants in this country, some overworked, others unnecessary, practically doing nothing. In every part of Australia there are officers who spend much of their time in writing minutes to each other. I could get one of the most expert! business men in Australia to take control of the Postal Department for a remuneration of 10 ,per cent, on the savings exceeding . £500,000 a year ma’de by him in the Service. He would have no difficulty in making the Department pay, besides giving greater efficiency. I would stress the point that we should avoid any extravagance. We shall have our noses on the grindstone so to speak, before long because of the war expenditure, and the Treasurer should tell us how we are to meet the increased burden of taxation.
– I dealt with th« whole question in my Budget statement.
– I want a clear explanation as to the intentions of the Government. I am not going to be “ bulldozed.” Will the Treasurer give the Committee some information in regard to the Commonwealth Bank ?
– The Bank is controlled by the Governor; the Treasurer really has nothing to do with it.
– I gather from the balance-sheets of the Bank, that it is making large profits out of the Government. We hear rumours of the Bank holding many millions of Commonwealth money and paying no interest on it, .while, on the other hand, it charges the Government interest on advances.
– I have already told the Parliament that last year there was in the Commonwealth Bank an average of £20,000,000 of Commonwealth money hearing no interest.
– While, on the other hand the Commonwealth is paying the Bank interest for money advanced ?
– We are not.
– At any rate, the Commonwealth Bank is making a lot of money out of the Government by way of exchange, and so forth.
– The Governor of the Bank is putting the money to profitable use.
– I wish to say nothing against him. He is a good man, but his powers, in my opinion, are too wide. There is too much mystery attached to the whole institution. When it was first established I understood that it was to help the farmers and the small men in the country. The Bank is not on a satisfactory basis, and, though I have nothing to say against the present Governor, I do not know what may happen if in the future we have an unsatisfactory official in that position. I should like to know if the Treasurer approves of the manner in which the Postal Department is conducted.
– I do not know anything about it.
– Then, why does not the Minister send for the Postmaster-General? If the Government want to get this Supply Bill through, that Minister should be here. It might not interest some honorable members, very much to learn of the difficulties confronting the small mail contractors and postal officials in small country offices, and an election two and a half years hence might seem a long way off, but, after all, we might have an election before then.
– Is that a threat or a pledge ?
– I think that an election is a long way off, myself. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), who appears to be in a jocular mood, does not appreciate these difficulties, because he could walk almost all round his electorate any day before breakfast; but I want him and other honorable members to understand that the present position is a serious matter for the small mail contractors; who have to provide food for their horses and tucker for themselves. It is time we had a change in administration, and the Treasurer will not be doing his duty unless he insists on the presence of the PostmasterGeneral, so that we may have some explanation^ I want to know, also, what the Treasurer is going to do about the amalgamation of the taxation Departments.
– It is most desirable that there should be an amalgamation of the Commonwealth and State taxation Department’s, but delay in effecting this change has been due to the fact that the Commonwealth have no power to do anything without the consent of the States. Early last year a conference was held between Commonwealth and State taxation officials, and certain recommendations were submitted to the various Governments concerned. I had a confidential copy of the report, but for some reason or other the State Governments - particularly the “Victorian Government - urged that it would be not advisable to publish the recommendations. I do not think the Victorian Government have yet come to a decision, but eventually the recommenda-tions were published, and it was proposed to place a copy of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, based, to a large extent, on the recommendations of t£e Inter-State Conference, on the table of the House to-day. Yesterday, however, the Conference of State Treasurers passed a resolution asking the Government not to place the proposed Commonwealth Bill on the table until they had an opportunity of discussing the whole matter. It was thought that this course, would expedite the amalgamation scheme, as we would know, before we submitted a Bill to this House, whether the States would agree to the proposal. That is the position. I have presented to the Conference, confidentially, a copy of the Bill which the Government had intended* to place on the table of the House to-day for the information of honorable members. Some differences have yet to be settled with regard to this matter. Some of the States want to collect the tax, and it is our desire that the Commonwealth Department should collect both Federal and State taxation, and thus effect a considerable economy.
– Perhaps they are afraid that you. will take the lot.
– I hop© not. Considerable delay has been caused because we could not have the report of the Conference made public- I am not sure whether the report is on the table of the House yet, but, if not, it ought to be.
– I have received a copy.
– What is the position in regard to uniform valuations’?
– That is a matter of arrangement with the States, and we shall endeavour to come to a satisfactory agreement. I can quite understand that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) should feel a little irate about the matters he mentioned, but he must remember that we have not been long in office, and we have been lately concerned with elections and referendum proposals.
– But I was speaking of the old Government.
– Even the old Government was delayed by elections, and really we have not been sitting long here.
– Is there anything to prevent the Government coming to an agreement with one State for the collection of taxation, and thug save money?
– If that could be arranged it would save a good deal of annoyance to taxpayers, because then one taxing Department could supply all the forms.
– We would probably save £250,000.
– I believe we would save a good deal. With regard to the proposed uniformity of electoral laws and rolls, I mighty say that the Minister for Horn© and Territories (Mr. Glynn) has the matter in hand, and that everything is ready.
– The trouble is, you always have these things in hand.
– But I put it to the honorable member that for the past week the Government have had a sword of Damocles, in the shape of a censure motion, hanging over our heads. I am just as earnest in this matter as any honorable member, but these things are not so easy to do. I agree that it is too bad that we should have separate electoral rolls for the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, as well as a multiplication of valuations for taxation purposes. There Ls the municipal valuation, Federal and State land tax valuation, Federal and
State income tax returns, and so on. We must try to amalgamate the Departments, and thus save money and obviate annoyance to the taxpayers. We shall endeavour to do something in this direction during the recess, and I hope .to be able to say something on the subject when next we meet. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro thinks I want to keep anything hack, he is mistaken, but I have not had very much time lately, as I have had to spend several weeks in Western Australia in connexion with the recent referendum. I can assure him, however, that I will second his efforts to bring about the reforms he mentions.
.- I should like to know if the Treasurer can state what is to be the policy of the Government with regard to soldiers’ pensions, le it intended to review them?
– I have not done anything in that direction. The matter’ has not been brought under my notice.
– Well, I am bringing it under the notice of the Minister now.
– I know that it is an immense trouble to find the money.
– Whenever I see a man maimed or mutilated as the result of the war, my heart goes out to ‘him, and my money, too. The least we can do is to make the lot of these men as light as possible.
– But your party brought in the Bill dealing with pensions.
– It is all very well to say that we passed’ the Bill, but this is a House of reform, and if mistakes have been made we ought to put them right. My view is that the Government should endeavour to put every man who is maimed and mutilated beyond repair into the same position, from a financial point of view, that he occupied when he left Australia. The other day I went down to see one of the hospital ships returning, and I had one of the saddest experiences of my life, for when the vessel came alongside I saw a host of men being led or brought down the gangway. Some were totally blind, others had lost two arms, some had lost two legs, some two legs and one arm, and so on. These men are all useless so far as earning their living again is concerned. The position of the blind men is particularly sad, and I appeal to the Treasurer to do something for them at once.
– They will all receive a pension. Is it not enough? I understand that the blind men will also be provided with an attendant.
– These men will get a pension of 30s.- a week, and the blind will receive 10s. additional for an attendant. Is that enough? Amongst all the men I saw there was not one over twenty-six years of age, and I ask honorable members to imagine, if they can, what it means for a young man, twenty-six years old, to be deprived of his eyesight.
– They will be able to learn a trade, so I understand.
– Never mind about that. Is there any man in this House who would lose his sight for 30s. a week and an attendant ?
– We must, of course, do the best’ we can for these men. I think provision has been made for them to learn a trade, and I understand some of them are doing very well in Sydney.
– But 30s. a week is not enough. We should treat these men more liberally.- Not one of us would lose our sight for untold wealth.
– I have not heard of any particularly hard cases1 up to the present.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the pensions of soldiers who are totally blind, and the Treasurer informed me that the Government intended to investigate the matter during the coming adjournment.
Another matter to which the ‘Treasurer should give some attention is the promise given by the Government and the candidates who were supporting them during the last election, that they would increase the pension to £2 per week. The Nationalists have been in possession of the Treasury bench for seven or eight months,- and not a word has fallen from the Government as to what they intend to do with regard ,to that promise. The Leader of the Opposition, when replying on the motion of censure this afternoon, mentioned that the purchasing power of the sovereign is much less to-day than it was when the war started. Is it, therefore, the intention of the Government to do anything in regard to the increase of pensions? This is a matter that requires attention, because . we told our soldiers when they were leaving Australian shores that Parliament would look after their wives and families. Since their depar ture almost every class of employee has received an increase in wages, with the exception of the men who are making the great sacrifice for us. I know that the Treasurer will ask where the money is to come from to increase the soldiers’ pensions, and my reply is that if there is no money with which to carry out this pro1mise the Government should not send the men away.
– If men volunteer to go we must send them away. Many would go for nothing rather than remain in Australia.
– The Government must keep their promise. If men did serve at the Front for nothing I do not know what would become of their wives and families. I know of one case in which the Government are allowing 4£d_. per day per child to grandparents, who are keeping the three motherless children of a soldier. The mother died after her husband had left for the Front.
– Will the honorable member give me the name and particulars of that case?
– I am already in communication with the Defence Department in regard to it, but I dare say there are many others of a like nature, and some procedure should be laid down for dealing with them.’
– There are regulations dealing with them, I think.
– In cases such as the honorable member Has mentioned consideration is always given.
– I have reported the matter to the Defence Department, and have been promised that the case will be inquired into. In the meantime, how are the kiddies to fare?
– What about the allotment money ?
– The allotment money is for the wife, and she is dead. The Government will allow the grandmother only 4½d. per child per day.
– The honorable member will find that the practice is to continue to allot money to whoever is looking after the children.
– That may be the practice, but it is not being followed in this case. The grandmother and grandfather are. in poor circumstances, and they have these three youngsters dumped on their care with an allowance of 4jd. per day for each.
– Have they made any representations to the Defence Department!
– They have written, but they might as well have saved themselves the trouble.
– I promise the honorable member if he will give me the name I will look into the case.
– I will do that. My contention is that the grandmother should receive the allotment money when the mother is dead.
– Wherever a female relative takes the place of a mother in these cases the Department treats her as the mother, and gives her the allowance.
– How long has this grievance continued?
– For months. It was brought under my notice during the referendum campaign. I have no intention, of resting until justice is done in the matter, but I am concerned not alone with this case; I think there must be a defect in a system which allows such injustice to continue.
– I do not think the system illiberal. I have not heard any complaints.
– The Act and regulations should be reviewed.
– I do not blame the Government in this regard, because cases of this kind will always arise after an Act and regulations have been passed. .
– Parliament took a lot of trouble with the Act and regulations.
– All I ask the Government to realize is that there should be a system whereby, in the event of the death’ of the mother, the money should automatically go to the relative who takes charge of the children.
– The gravamen of the honorable member’s complaint is that his communications have not been answered1.
– No. I have received an answer, but it is in line usual stereotyped form. When I personally inquire about a matter I get satisfaction quick and lively; but when I am in Queensland I cannot come to Melbourne every day, and to my letters I receive a reply that the matter will receive due consideration. After waiting a fortnight I send another reminder, and am informed in reply that the matter is being considered and has been referred to Brisbane, from which no answer has been received. Several times I have travelled 500 or 600 miles from my electorate to Brisbane to ascertain what has. been happening, and have been told that the letter has been dealt with and sent on to Melbourne. Again I communicate with Melbourne, and finally the matter is fixed up. However, taking things by and large, we have not very much to grumble about. There are thousands of cases to be dealt with, and each must be considered on its merits. I can imagine the Treasurer seeing these three children at Christmas time, when all other youngsters are getting toys and enjoying themselves, whilst these sons and daughters of a man who is at the Front fighting for us are in want of clothes.
– The honorable member’s representations in this case ought to have been answered at once.
– The children look well and healthy, but we know what_ can be done on 4½d. per day for a child. The grandfather is a workman arid the grandmother has to cast about to find money with which to clothe and feed the children. I can say of the Defence Department that anything I have brought under its notice has received sympathetic attention. Injustices only need ventilation to be rectified.
My next complaint .is in regard to the Postal Department. Ever since I have been in this House I have been fighting for the rights of the country districts. It appears to me that .any big city which has a large number of members looking after its interests is able to bring to bear enough pressure to get four or five postal deliveries per day, and . telephone and telegraphic extensions, whilst we who represent the backblocks have to rise year after year and tell the same tale of woe, which always falls on deaf ears.
– The latest development is to take away some of the old privileges.
– That is my complaint. Seme parts of my electorate receive a mail only once a month, and yet inspectors are out there inquiring if they cannot curtail even that privilege. At the same time, the Government ask people to go on the land and settle the country. The Postmaster-General says that because this is war time everything must be cut to the bone ; but it is a peculiar fact that all the cutting is at the expense of the people who are least served. I have in mind particularly the grievances of dairy farmers, who have taken up acres of pricklypear land along the Moonie River and out from Dalby, towards Tara. There is a branch line of railway running 60 or 70 miles, and there is a telegraph wire used by the Railway Department. But the Postal Department asks the people of the district to provide hundreds of pounds before they will run a telephone line along those telegraph posts. There is not one trunk line in the whole of the Maranoa electorate, which is very nearly as large as the State of New South Wales. Some time ago the Department stated that before the particular line to which I have referred could be erected a guarantee ‘would need to be forthcoming of £1,200. Owing to drought conditions the settlers did not think that they could provide that guarantee, but as soon as the drought broke and things improved, they expressed their willingness to raise the money by voluntary contribution, and thus to help the Government over the stile. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when only the other day I received a letter from the Postal Department intimating that owing to the increased price of wire and the additional cost of erection the guarantee now required would be £2,860, or more than double the amount of the original estimate. I do not think that that is the way in which to treat the residents of our remote rural areas. If there is one man more than another who ought to extend to ‘the country sympathetic treatment it is the present PostmasterGeneral, because there is nobody who understands better than does he the disability under which its residents labour.
– Did he not get his own electorate provided for when he was a private member?
– His own constituents obtained more from him when he was a private member than they, get from him now tha* he is Postmaster-General. He has an intimate knowledge of every one of the. applications which are made to him from his own electorate, and I occupy an exactly similar position, seeing that our constituencies are only separated by a river. The honorable gentleman generally gives to those who have votes all that they want, but tells other people that we are living in war times, when iti is imperative that we -should economize.
– And this comes from a man for whom I have done more than any other member of this Parliament.
– Then I’m hanged if I . know where the Minister has done it. Since he has been Postmaster-General he has not provided a new telegraph line or a new post-office in my constituency; but he has dismissed a number of individuals and curtailed a number of the mail services. If 1” am the best treated man in this Parliament, then God help the rest! My contention is that the residents of the’ remote areas of the Commonwealth are entitled to just as much consideration as are the residents of our cities. The lot of the man on the land in West Queensland, whether he be a squatter or a small grazier, is a most unenviable one, particularly in times of drought or flood.
I hope that the Government! will take into consideration the amount which, is being paid by way of pensions to injured soldiers, and particularly do I wish to impress on the Treasurer the desirableness of looking into’ the cases of those poor fellows who returned to our shores absolutely blind. I can conceive of no worse affliction. In many cases I believe it would be better, particularly in the case of young men, if they were dead. I hope that before this Parliament reassembles the Government will have done something in this connexion.
.- I. was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa, especially in regard to our soldiers. I think that he struck the right note when he ‘said that if we wished to encourage voluntary recruiting it is absolutely imperative that we should treat our returned soldiers well. This afternoon the honorable member for Yarra said practically the same thing, and I endeavoured to interject with a view of reminding him that on one occasion in this House he had failed to do his duty in this matter. Honorable members will doubtless recollect that one night the question was raised as to whether the children of men who died at the Front should not be granted pensions of 10s. per week. Upon that occasion those who voted against the proposal included the honorable member for Capricornia and the honorable member -for Yarra, who were members, of the Government at the time.
– I voted with the honorable member.
– Now they belabour the Government in that connexion, although at the present time we have- twenty fatherless children to provide for where previously we had only one. I repeat tha* the proposal was turned down by the present Leader of the Opposition.
– It was a Cabinet matter.
– I voted for the proposal, and would do so again. We cannot do too much for our lads at the Front, and for the children who, as the result of the war, are fatherless. I was triad to hear the honorable member for Maranoa criticise the Government in connexion with the administration of the Postal Department. I think it is wrong to cut down the paltry wages that are paid to persons in charge of allowance post offices, and to mail contractors. We have to recollect that in times of drought many mail contractors are obliged to work for a year or two at a loss, yet in good times the Government remorselessly cuts down their wages. Only the other day I had an instance of this supplied in connexion with the carriage of mails from Cookamidgera to Eu’gowra. Owing to the big strike which recently obtained this service was dispensed with for a period of something like three months, and the contractor’s allowance was cut down by something like 25 per cent. Yet that man had to keep his horses, maintain his harness, and have his capital lying idle the whole of that time. Of course, as soon as the strike terminated his services were again requisitioned.
There is just another matter to which I desire to direct attention. It is high time that the States and the “Commonwealthformed a national land valuation bureau. In New Zealand there has been such a bureau since 1890, and it has worked well. But in Australia there are at least five separate public authorities engaged in the valuation of land - Federal and State Taxation Departments, shire and municipal councils, and the probate offices. A piece of land can have only one value, but under this system may be assessed at five different valuations. That is not right, and economy would be effected by having all public valuations done by the one authority.
– That has been recommended in a report recently issued.
– I brought the matter before the Treasurer some time ago, and I am glad to hear that my representations are likely to bear fruit. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did well to suggest the substitution of one National Taxation Department for the Commonwealth and State Departments now in existence. What the country people object to is not so much the taxes that they have to pay, but the number of the returns that they have to fill up.
During the no-confidence debate, members of the Opposition asked what this Win-the-war Government has done to assist the country. The honorable member for Macquarie complained that no silos had been built. Let me inform the Committee, however, that tenders for the erection of silos have been called for, sites have been fixed, and money has been made available, and the silos will be erected in time for the next harvest.
But I must condemn the Government for its inaction in the matter of cornsacks. There has been, a shortage of sacks, and for the last five or six ,weeks I have done little but send telegrams in the endeavour to ascertain where bags could be obtained.
– An. inquiry is now being held.
– The shortcomings of the Government officials are to be inquired into by a committee of officials, and thus it may happen that men may be called upon to report concerning matters in which they themselves have been at fault. Far better than this would have been the appointment of an independent board of investigators, say, a committee of six farmers. I do not know who controls our shipping at the present time; but I wish to bring under notice the fact that the steamer Dorset, which arrived in Sydney towards the end of December, was about ten days waiting to have her cargo discharged. Many farmers were forced to come to town in their motor cars to see what could be done towards the getting of bags. In the cities it is the rich who own cars; but in the country, where many men live 40 or 50 miles from a railway station, cars are necessary conveniences. Many men, on the strength of the Government statement that second-hand bags could be used, ordered such bags, and then found that they could not be used. For a month the conditions in the Calare electorate were very bad. Hundreds of farmers had to leave their grain in heaps in the paddocks, covered with tarpaulins as a protection against rain. It was not right that this should occur, particularly after the promises which had Deen made in this House by Ministers. I have repeatedly questioned the Government on the subject of the supply of bags, and was told that everything would be right; but, on the contrary, everything was wrong.
– Say something about the good things that we have done. What about the 3s. a bushel that we are advancing on the wheat?
– I have referred to the silos, and I am sure that the farmers will be grateful for the advance that they are to get. But they would also like to be paid the 4d. a bushel that is owing to them on the 1915-16 wheat, and the ls. 6d. a bushel owing on the 1916-17 wheat.
– On Monday next we shall advance £16,000,000 on wheat that we have not yet arranged to sell.
– We are grateful for what is being done. The Treasurer has played an honorable part in this matter.
– All the banks have done their share, too.
– Generally, it is the Commonwealth Bank that gets the credit for any big public financing. The other banks are ignored.
– I thank them for what they have done.
– I remember an occasion on which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) referred to the big advance made by the Commonwealth Bank, but on looking into the matter I found that that bank had advanced only £200,000, whereas the other banks had advanced nearly £12,000,000. The ordinary banks have done good service to the country during this time of difficulty. I hope that the Treasurer will pay attention to the matters that I brought under his notice, and that next year there will be an adequate supply of bags available for the harvesting.
.- During a long debate like that which has occupied, the past three days, members have devoted considerable attention to questions arising out of the war, and to the general necessities of the country; but during such debates the speakers are largely influenced by party considerations, both in the opinions that they express and by the votes that they cast. Consequently, a Committee of the whole,
Wl which the Standing Orders apply less stringently, and where members are at liberty to express their views shortly and frequently, provides a better opportunity for the giving and receiving of suggestions, and the creation of . workable arrangements for dealing with matters of importance.
I protest against the proposed long adjournment. It is suggested that we should sit late to-night, and sit again to- . morrow, in order, that Parliament may be closed for a couple of months, although we have just had a recess of some months. Indeed, since the outbreak of war, both under the Labour Administration of Mr. Fisher, and under Mr. Hughes’ Governments, the country has been governed practically without reference to Parliament. All sorts’ of suggestions have come from the opposite side of the House that the Leader of the Opposition should join with the Government in some way or other in carrying on the affairs of Australia.
– I do not think that all of the party here have given that invitation.
– The honorable member is quite right. The whole of the party has not joined in the invitation. There has been such an ominous silence that the evidence is convincing that the socalled offer to the Leader of the Opposition was a purely strategic move. I would not have raised the point at this time but for the honorable member’s interjection. If the offer was sincere it meant that the Leader of the Opposition was qualified, by his experience and ability, to take part in the administration of the country’s affairs. That being so, quite apart from the question of whether there are others on this side similarly qualified, it is ridiculous that one whose assistance is sought in the conduct of the country’s affairs is to remain in idleness for two months until the House meets again, and so on, with periods of enforced idleness, in all taking up the greater part of the year. I made a similar protest when my party was on the Government side, quite as powerful as the present occupants of those benches.
In addition to the fact that the country is deprived of the services of the men sent to represent the people in Parliament, our Standing Orders are so designed as to make it almost impossible for a private member to submit any business to Parliament. All sorts of. rules, etiquette, usages, and customs prevent the great bulk of members of Parliament from submitting any business for the consideration of Parliament. The Government have asked us for suggestions. I venture to say that every honorable member has some suggestion to offer in regard to some phase of the war and problems arising therefrom. Why not give honorable members an opportunity to put forward their suggestions ? Yet these opportunities are denied to them.
– In what way ?
– There are twentyfive notices of motion on the businesspaper, many of them dealing with some of the greatest problems confronting Australia to-day. These have been on the paper for months, yet we adjourn time after time for long periods without being allowed to deal with them.
– Has the honorable member ever known a Minister to refuse to entertain a suggestion put to him?
– Yes. They are referred to officials, and the Minister forgets all about them. Suggestions have been made regarding inter-party discussions at private conferences, but at a time like this public discussion and public inquiry are essential. Let us see the men who have suggestions to offer.
– Let us see those who haveno suggestions to offer. That would be better.
– Yes, let us see those who have no suggestions to offer. To-night it is within the power of one honorable member representing the Government to say when the House shall adjourn. Though every other honorable member may desire to go on with business, if the Treasurer sees fit to move “that the House do now adjourn,” his motion will be carried, because under the party system, and by the practice of Parliament, if some one moves an amendment to his motion the Minister will at once stand on his dignity, and it will be regarded as’ a challenge to the authority of that Government,.
The same remarks apply to questions concerning the adjournment of a debate and the order of business.
Honorable members may consider that the question under consideration is of paramount importance to ‘our soldiers oversea; it may be a question of recruiting, a question of unemployment, a question concerning the cost of living, or one of the hundred and one questions which are agitating the public mind to day; but no matter how much they may desire to put proposals before the House, and make the country acquainted with their efforts, it is impossible for them to bring anything forward for the improvement of the conditions of the people or for the purpose of providingfor the better safety of the country. All avenues are closed to them.
– Not at all; every day the adjournment of the House may be moved, and two hours devoted to the discussion of any particular subject.
– That is perfectly true, but no opportunity is given to take a vote and to reach finality on a definite proposal.
– If an honorable member succeeds in carrying a motion of adjournment he precipitates a crisis.
– If Ministers find from the expression of opinions of both sides of the House that there is a probability of such adjournment being carried a crisis is precipitated; they go to their supporters and say, “ A greater principle is at stake than the matter before the House ; if you vote for this you challenge the authority of the Government; the fate of the ruling party is at stake.” I have already protested against this practice, On the 15th July, 1915, I said-
I invite consideration of -
The special circumstances and problems the people elected us to negotiate.
Our obsolete parliamentary machinery should be reformed to remove the obstacles which prevent the great ability of the people’s representatives being fully devoted to public service.
The ancienttheories of so-called responsible government should be modified and modernized to provide for the abolition of irresponsibility in Parliament.
The National Parliament should not be closed until its responsibilities and its obligations have been discharged.
It is not possible under existing circumstances to abolish our party organization, but honorable members know that the great bulk of business done in Parliament does not affect any party principle. I do not remember any instance since the outbreak of the war when any party principle has been challenged by any legislation before this Parliament. The great bulk of business which does come, and should come, before the House can have absolutely no party significance unless the power of one side and the authority of the Government inject into it unnaturally some party principle. In my speech of the 15th July, 1915, after pointing out how impossible it was to abolish our party organization, I said -
It is, however, both possible and desirable to maintain our party systems and principles intact, and, at the same time, arrange our parliamentary machine, as distinguished from party political methods, so that every electorate may usefully submit its quota to the directing national intelligence. The plain fact is that, without re-adjustment, our up-to-date party systems and the ancient customs and practices of parliamentary procedure are mutually obstructive.
I urged the establishment of a system which- 1 understand is working very satisfactorily in America, conforming it to Australian conditions, namely, that of dividing the whole of the Parliament into a series of committees which have no party significance whatsoever.
– That system was adopted in Great Britain last year.
– Does the honorable member know that it has resulted Sn legislation being done by the committees and not by the House of Commons ?
– We can alter that if necessary. We would have no trouble in adapting the system to our own needs and wishes.
I suggest that any honorable member might submit a notice of motion to Parliament on any subject he thought of sufficient importance to engage its attention. Such motions could be classified under headings corresponding to the various public Departments. There should be established a non-party Committee representative of both sides of the House for each of the existing Departments. When any motion came first of all to be discussed by Parliament, if honorable members generally were in favour of the principles embodied in it, it could be adopted, and then forwarded to the Committee concerned to be dealt with in detail. The proposal made could be returned from the Committee to Parliament in the shape of a Bill, or in some other form, for final consideration.
The advantage of this would be that Parliament need sit only one or two days in each week. Ministers on the spare days could attend to the administrative work of their Departments, whilst the Committees went on with their duties, perfecting proposals for final consideration. When Ministers met the House they would have before them the proposals as perfected by the various Committees. It would always be understood that Government measures should take precedence of the work of the Committees. That would be only right and proper. It would give work to the Committees to do when members would otherwise be idle. It would place a series of expert Committees, representative of both sides, at the service of the Government.
When measures, as perfected by the Committees, came before Parliament again they should not be subjected to a party vote unless some party principle was at stake, and as I have already pointed out the great bulk of the business dealt with by Parliament has no party significance. Party shackles being removed, the discussion of these proposals would be free, and they would be decided by the majority after . they had run the gauntlet of a general discussion, had undergone consideration by small Committees, and had been returned to the House to decide whether Parliament was prepared to adopt them in the form in which they were prepared by the Committees.
There are matters of the’ most urgent importance that I wish to put before Parliament. I have been in trouble outside because I have sought to discuss a matter which I consider affects the very safety of Australia. It is a matter to which I have given detailed attention and investigation for the last two or three years. I know that I have evidence on the subject that is possessed by probably no other member of this Parliament, including the members of the Government. I have sub- mitted some matters to the Minister for Defence, which up to that time he had absolutely no knowledge of. Evidence and facts that I have put before the Government have moved Cabinets to the holding of meetings to decide what they ought to do in view of the facts I submitted. At the same time I am denied the right either in Parliament, or from a public platform, to inform my own constituents, and the country generally, concerning some of the gravest facts which could be placed before the people, and which they have a right to know.
If this matter was discussed in Parlia-‘ ment in a friendly way, it might, in such manner, be ventilated with benefit >to
Parliament and the country, and without any disadvantage. When members are denied an opportunity to refer .to it, it is necessary to adopt stronger measures to bring the matter to public notice than one would be disposed to adopt if. there were some generally-accepted means of submitting it to the consideration of Parliament.
– Why talk in parables? let the honorable member say what he means.
– The honorable member should know that the other day, when I sought to reduce to concrete terms what I am now referring to, the Government took steps to close my mouth and the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), who did not challenge the accuracy of what I said, urged that it was treasonable to put such matter into Hansard.
– It is a great misfortune that it ever appeared in Hansard.
– Yet now the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) says that I should speak more plainly. I do not wish now to challenge the Chairman or the Government by direct references to this matter, but! let me say that the majority of honorable members have come to Australia from Great Britain. The preponderating force in this Parliament is not Australian sentiment, but British sentiment. That is a most extraordinary position for a National Parliament, to be in. Whilst all my forefathers were British, I am myself an Australian.
– Is it wise to introduce this?
– I am pointing out that I am denied an opportunity to deal with a matter which. I regard as of vital importance to my own country and the place of my birth.
– And to the Empire?
– It is of importance to the Empire, also. Something has been said of my attitude on war matters. It is perfectly well known that I work very hard when I set out to do anything, and when I was in charge of a recruiting campaign I worked every hour that) a man could keep his eyes open.
– The honorable member has done good work, too.
– It is acknowledged that I have done good work. It is very irritating to me to feel that while every drop in my veins is British blood, I am pilloried throughout this country for party purposes as a man who does not desire to see Australia stand in the best light before’ the world in regard to the tragic events that are occurring to-day, and the great principles that are being contended for. I do want to see Australia stand in the best light before the world, but I believe that there is a matter of the most vital concern to this country which members of Parliament refuse to take any notice of, and which I have no opportunity to submit to Parliament. I know as well as “that I am standing in my place here that this matter ought to’ be considered. I have no knowledge that it is being considered by those in “authority, or that it is being provided for in any shape or form. How can I be expected to do work to assist in connexion with the war oversea if I am not given an opportunity to resolve my doubts and ease my mind as to what is being done in connexion with this important matter of vital concern to my own country in these southern seas? All this is denied to me.
– What does the honorable member suggest ?
– There might be a sub-Committee appointed to put the matter in proper form for the consideration of members of this National Parliament, and in some way which should provide against any danger arising from its discussion.
Since I retired from the recruiting cam- ‘paign of New South. Wales, I have been violently and wickedly misrepresented, though the Minister for Defence and the Government know the reasons for my action.
The first thing with me, and the thing which is absolutely before anything else on earth, is the defence of Australia. I want an opportunity to do something about that.
I called a meeting of my own constituents, and sought to discuss the matter with them. I am their representative in Parliament, and they look to me to protect their interests. I came to them to discuss the matter with them, and I found that the Government had two detectives present at the meeting in plain clothes taking shorthand notes of every word I said. Nothing that I say is challenged. I have been brought before a Court upon four charges. Though it is not’ suggested that the statements I have made are not true, I have been taken up for making them. Every word that I have uttered has been true. I have not been challenged as to their truth. The truth of my statements is admitted. It is demanded that I shall not make them.
Very well, I want some opportunity to discuss these matters somewhere, and I say now that I shall do my level best to avoid running myself against the multitude of laws and regulations that have been woven around myself and other men to prevent us doing what we believe to be our duty to our country; but while I shall keep within those bounds, whenever I can get the opportunity I shall gd up and down this country, and if this Parliament will not deal with this matter, or will not give an opportunity for its consideration, I shall, I hope, be able, within the restrictions to which I have referred, to put the matter in such a way that Parliament and the country will be compelled to take notice of it.
The TEMPORARY ‘ CHAIRMAN (Mr. Charlton). - The honorable member has now exhausted his time.
.- I also, as the representative of a large country constituency, wish to say a word with regard to country grievances. I shall not labour the question of the miserly attitude adopted by the Post and Telegraph Department in the matter of country mails, and postal and telephonic communication in country districts. It would appear that the Postmaster-General, whose efforts to reduce the deficit of the Post and Telegraph Department, we must all admit, is, whether he knows it or not, being made a party not only to the infliction of hardships upon people who have carried our mail services for years for almost nothing, but also to assisting in the work of depopulating our already sparsely-settled country districts. Telephonic communication is now an absolute ^necessity for the country farmer and * grazier, but these people are being called upon to pay huge sums towards the erection of telephone lines, whilst the very meagre allowances hitherto provided for receiving offices are being cut down. A sort of stand-and-deliver attitude is being taken up in the interests of economy. We know that those in charge of public De partments must try to carry them on in a business-like way, but it should be admitted that unless country lines are developed, and facilities afforded to people to. live under reasonably civilized conditions in country districts, there will be a further aggregation of people in our cities - an evil which has become too pronounced already - even if there were no other abnormal reasons, with which I shall shortly deal, to bring about that lamentable result. Where people are able to pay for postal and telephonic facilities they should pay full value for those services, but where it is a matter of life and death, and the development of settlement, it is surely not asking too much of the Federal Government, who are interested in the welfare of the back-blocker equally with the State Governments, that they should do something to extend these services, even though the extension should involve a temporary loss, which will be returned fiftyfold by the advance of production and settlement if the wiser and saner policy is pursued. I can assure the Committee that this is one of the most urgent grievances, and it should be redressed. As the representative of a great wheat-growing constituency and a wheat-grower myself, I desire to thank the Government, through the Treasurer, for the action they have recently taken for providing for a 3s. payment on f.a.q. wheat.- We thoroughly understand the difficulties of the Government. We are becoming reconciled to the fact that we are face to face with conditions which threaten the very existence of our industry. We know that the States of the Commonwealth stand to lose even millions in their attempt to keep the industry going, and what is being done is, of course, something in the direction of trying to meet the necessities of the moment. I impress on the Committee that never before in the history of Australia^ was the wheat-growing industry so seriously challenged. During a number Qf years we have developed share-farming, which is undertaken by a class of able and capable workers, and dependent on them are people who minister to their wants, and all are threatened with absolute extinction. The Commonwealth and State Parliaments should interpose before it is too late, and do something to keep those people in the country, because they are amongst our most valuable workers. They are people who have had the courage to take the responsibility of their own existence.’ They may, perhaps, have worked as labourers in order to get a few pounds together to buy horses and agricultural machinery, and then they have struck out on their own in the creation of new wealth. They have not been too well protected in the past in regard to the manifold robberies perpetrated on them while they conduct their industries. What inducement) have landowners now to continue to employ these people? I am not amongst the carping critics who urge that the growers ought to get 4s. or 5s. for their wheat by way of advances; but the uncertainty in regard to the future of wheat growing has already caused a large number of those people to be dismissed, while a still larger number are so dissatisfied and disappointed that they are selling their plant for what they can get, and crowding into the cities to compete in the already congested labour market there.- I interviewed at least about twenty of them last week, and they say that their families will be able to get some employment in the city stores and factories. But is it not true thatthe cities, like the country districts, are being kept alive with borrowed money - a sort of hand-to-mouth’ business, for which we shall be called upon to seriously suffer? If it could be shown that these people are going into the cities to carry on reproductive work in the factories, and thus tend to make Australia self-supporting, then, much as I regret the depletion of the country districts, I would be reconciled to the fact. I am afraid, however, that their removal will simply create still greater trouble.
We realize that in a year or two, or sooner, we shall be confronted with the biggest problem that ever confronted the people of Australia. We shall have hundreds of thousands of young men coming back from the war, many of them broken in health, and the necessities of their condition and infirmities will, for the time being at any rate, compel most of them to remain in the cities. Are we going to allow this avalanche of affliction and difficulty to come upon us without making proper provision, the only solution being to raise a few millions somehow or other, and lavish it about, when we should realize that prevention is better than cure. It is necessary that the Commonwealth Government should consult with the State
Governments, and form committees of practical men to evolve methods by which these difficulties may be surmounted.
In the report of the Royal Commission on Rural Industries, published six or eight months ago in New South Wales, an attempt was made to deal with these questions. We, the Commissioners, endeavoured to show that developments at the other end of the world will probably revolutionize our . rural industries here, because, with the experience of the present shortage, almost famine, the Old Country will never again allow their agriculture tobe neglected. We pointed out that Australia would have to compete in the world’s markets, even if those markets continue to exist, with a severe handicap on account of the freight problem, and that we ought to develop a system of production to make us as nearly as possible a self-supporting community. We must not shut our eyes to these problems of the future. Is nothing to be done until there has been almost a complete revolution in the old order of things, and our already poverty-stricken country districts are further depleted and the cities more acutely overcrowded than ever? As a man who has had twenty-seven years’ experience on the land, and who started on a 20-acre wheat patch, I say that unless we move quickly, we shall lose from the country a class of men on whom largely depends the hope of our redemption in the trials before us.
.- I desire to deal with a phase of industrialismwhich discloses an attempt on the part of the pastoralists of this community to evade their responsibilities. It will be remembered there was a good deal of dissatisfaction and disappointment evinced by the pastoralists because the Australian Workers Union did not go out on strike. For some reason or other unknown to me, the Prime Minister deemed it his urgent duty to issue what I call the “ step-on-the-tail of my coat “ regulation, No. 213, on the 29th August, 1917, as follows : -
Amendment of the WarPrecautions Regulations.
After Regulation 40c of the War Precautions Regulations the following Regulation is inserted: - “ 40d. Any person who by word, deed or ptherwise -
Intereferes with, impedes, prevents, or hinders shearing operations or any work connected therewith, or incidental thereto, or the loading, carriage, unloading, handling, or storing of wool, or
Interferes with, or impedes, any per son or body of persons engaged in, or dissuades, prevents, or hinders any person or body of persons from becoming, or continuing to be, engaged in shearing operations, or any work connected therewith, or incidental thereto, or the loading, carriage, unloading, handling, or storage of wool, shall be guilty of an offence.”
If the presentaward in connexion with the station hands was not in operation it would mean something like £4,500,000 a year into the pockets of the pastoralists, and no less than £7,000,000 per annum more is dragged from the pastoralist by virtue of the fact that the union is registered, and has other’ awards under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, making the cost to them of the present conditions no less than £11,000,000 per annum. Whether these facts were responsible for the regulation - whether there was a hope that some of the members of the Australian Workers Union would unwittingly take some action to precipitate a crisis, or that some one would be paid to plunge the industry into a strike - I do not know. One thing I do know, however, and that is that there was not the slightest suspicion of trouble when the regulation was issued; and, in my opinion, it was intended to precipitate a strike, so that the union, like others, might be deregistered. If the pastoralists could use the laws or the judiciary of the country to their own ends, or if they could get rid of one member of the judiciary, the prize “in view would be worth fighting and worth paying for.
During the past year sinister circumstances have arisen almost every month, all having a bearing on the awards enjoyed by the Australian Workers Union. The drama first opens with the regulation issued by the Prime Minister without any provocation whatever; and then the honorable member for Barker, on the 21st September last, asked the following question in this House: -
When was Mr. JusticeHiggins appointed a Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court?
When does his appointment expire?
Will the Government before his reappointment give the House an opportunity to discuss it?
The Prime Minister’s reply was as follows : -
This evidently did not satisfy those who prompted those questions. From the time the regulation was issued right up till the 27th September and thereafter, I have had no less than seven letters from branches of the Farmers and Settlers Association within the Darling electorate, asking me, first of all, to represent to the Prime Minister that the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should not apply to the agricultural or pastoral industries. I have every reason to believe that this was not confined to New South Wales members, but that systematic pressure was brought to bear upon almost every representative of a country constituency in Australia, to urge the Prime Minister to exempt the agricultural and pastoral industries from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and to remove Mr. Justice Higgins from his position as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Pressure was being brought to bear upon, to my own knowledge, at least five honorable members, that they should make representations to the Prime Minister to have the awards cancelled, and to have Mr. Justice Higgins removed from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court bench. On 26th September last, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) came on the scene with the following question, which he put to the Prime Minister in this House: -
As the second term for which Mr. Justice Higgins was appointed does not expire until September, 1921, will the Government give sufficient time this session to enable the House to consider the desirability of dispensing with that gentleman’s services as President of the Arbitration Court?
The Prime Minister replied as follows: -
I have not read the whole of the judgment, of Mr. Justice Higgins, being too overcome by what I did read to proceed further. Should the last part of it be as bad as the first, I may, in the near future, fall in with the wish of the honorable member, and afford him an opportunity to make such suggestions as he evidently has in his mind.
On the following day, Senator Gardiner, in another place, asked the following question: -
Is the Leader of the Senate aware that a question has been asked in another place as to whether it was the intention of the Government to give honorable members an opportunity of considering the advisability of dealing with the term of Mr. Justice Higgins’ appointment, and that an answer was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) reflecting upon a recent decision of the Judge and in ti-, mating that the House would be afforded an opportunity of discussing the curtailment of the period of his appointment? Has the Minister seen that statement in the press, and, if so, is it the intention of the Government to take any steps to invite Parliament to deal with the matter foreshadowed?
Senator Millen replied as follows: ; 1 have seen the statement, and it is a correct indication of the attitude of the Government on this matter.
For some reason or other - apparently because the people of Australia had been aroused, and. many resented this move to get rid of Mr. Justice Higgins as President of the Court, and also to have the agricultural and pastoral industries exempted from the provisions of the Act, the matter was dropped. Finding that they could not induce the Prime Minister to practically crucify Mr. Justice Higgins, and to remove him from the Arbitration Court, the pastoralists have now decided to take the bit between their teeth and to refuse absolutely - I am speaking now of a fair number of pastoralists - to obey the award made last year by the learned Judge. The station hands’ award, which I have already mentioned, means something like ?4,500,000 to the pastoralists of this country, came into operation on 1st January. The pastoralists are apparently above the law, however, and refuse absolutely to obey that award. I want to know from the Minister in charge what the Government intend to do. I want to know whether it is their intention to compel the pastoralists to pay the rates of wages laid down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. If, after we have paid ?7,000 or ?8,000, and have fought for three years to obtain an award - if, after we have secured it, after we have paid huge fees to counsel, and incurred the expense of bringing station hands as witnesses from all parts of Australiathe pastoralists are not to observe the award, then there is an absolute farce. In the Coonamble, Nevertire, and Bourke districts - in the case of one-half of the stations of Australia - the award, which came into operation on 1st January last, is not being observed.
– Are not these pastoralists members of a registered association?
– Some are members of the Pastoralists Union, and others are not.
– Why does not the honorable member’s union bring them before the Court?
– I want to know what the Government intend to do. We shall bring these men before the Court as fast as we can, but to cover the stations of Australia means a good deal of expense. It cannot be done unless we have an organizer to visit every station to ascertain whether the award is being observed. We shall bring these pastoralists before the Court as fast as we can, but we ask the Government to compel them to observe the law.
– Without any knowledge of the facts?
– I have instances where pastoralists have refused to pay these awards. I have nothing more to say at this stage. Later on I may return to the subject. Meantime, if the Government are earnest in .their professed desire to bring about that harmony which is conducive to the good government of the country they should compel the pastoralists at least to observe the laws of the Commonwealth in regard to the payment of wages.
.- I desire to add my protest to those already uttered regarding the gradual diminution of privileges granted by the Postal Department. I hope that what has been said during this debate will be brought before the Postmaster-General, who ought to be in attendance when such a Bill as this is before the Committee. I can assure honorable members that there is a growing feeling of discontent. There is a feeling that country interests are being seriously interfered with by this continual reduction in the number of postal services which, in some cases, have been in existence for years. These reductions are being made at present on the score of economy. I question whether they represent true economy, however, since the solid prosperity of this country depends very largely upon the production of wheat, wool, butter, and other staple products representing the wealth of the community. Slowly, but surely, and in a somewhat parsimonious way, the Postal Department is cutting off advantages which have been enjoyed in country districts. In these circumstances we can hardly wonder that people gravitate towards the cities. The Postal Department ought to increase its facilities as much as possible in rural districts if that wise policy which we often urge, but do not seem to be carrying into effect - the policy of decentralization - is to take any practical effect at all. I urge the Postmaster-General to adopt a more liberal policy in this regard. The saving he is effecting in this way cannot be large. It is, indeed, a twopenny-halfpenny saving, and the loss to the country is in the aggregate very considerable.
I should like now to offer a few comments on the speech just made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) . The honorable member expects the Crown Law authorities to adopt towards unionists an attitude altogether different from that which they take up in regard to any other section of the community. It is the function of government to promulgate law. If there is a breach of the law it is the privilege of any one injured thereby to cite those responsible for that injury to appear before the Court and to have them dealt with. The honorable member for Darling, who is quite a young man, has entered the House enthused with union ideas, and thinking that he is going to set the Thames on fire by his windy utterances, of which we have had specimens during the last day or two. He desires the Government, in this case, to take up an entirely different position, in the interests of unionists, as compared with their attitude towards other offenders against the law.
– They desired to gaol me, anyhow.
– I dare say the honorable member would have graced that institution if he had got there. There are some people intended by nature to adorn certain positions, and I am satisfied that my honorable friend would have adorned a position in Darlinghurst.
– Some of us have, and might have to do it again before long, if the -honorable member had his way.
– The man who preaches sedition, as does the honorable member who has just interjected, may find himself in gaol before long. We want a Government sufficiently strong to prosecute the law-breaker and seditionmonger as soon as he evidences himself. We must watch very carefully any honorable member who will stand up in this chamber and say that what is going on in Russia is permeating Australia, and likely to have the same influence here, and the fact that he is an honorable member ought to make him more careful of his utterances. On the question of the need for these regulations, the production of this country in those things which mean wealth to the community, has been seriously interfered with and curtailed through a feeling of dread in the minds of those carrying on primary industries. The. regulations will .give the rural producers a sense of protection, because they will know that if unionists or others do certain things they will be punished. The producers in isolated places require special protection because of their very isolation, and regulations of the nature I have indicated ought to be framed to give them the necessary confidence. I am astonished at the attitude of the honorable member for Darling, who comes here avowedly as the representative of a section of the community. There is hope that as he gains experience here he will discover that other people besides unionists have some rights, and are entitled to some protection, and that it is not sufficient to say that one section in the community shall have constantly increased wages and reduced hours of labour through successive awards of a Judge whose capacity to judge in the matter is very doubtful. These things are having a very depressing effect on our primary industries.
– Would you suggest cutting out arbitration altogether, for a start?
– I am not prepared to do that. An Arbitration Court where decisions are arrived at by those who have the necessary knowledge to reach sound conclusions is right and proper; and I commend that South Australian Judge who, the other day, voiced the opinion that a Judge whose business it was to study law and abstruse theoretical questions, but who has no knowledge of trade and commerce or general conditions, is not the proper person to deal with Arbitration
Court matters. There is a happy medium which could, and should?- be struck, giving equitable conditions for labour, and entirely abolishing anything in the nature of sweating; but the conditions are not right when a man sitting on a beach, taking into consideration the increased cost of living, decides that therefore wages must go up. The result of his action is an all-round increase of wages, which eventuates almost immediately in a still greater ‘ increase in the cost of living. The honorable member for Darling might take note of the fact that, according to Knibbs, although the efforts of the Labour unionists have resulted in a material increase of wages, the cost of living has gone up in a still greater ratio, and the purchasing power of the money the workers earn now is less than the purchasing power of the money which they earned some years ago. The sum-total of what has been done is to artificially increase the cost of living, with no corresponding benefit to the workers. Those are facts which Labour agitators never think it necessary to put before their victims.
– What about your going to Broken Hill and Considine to Echuca?
– I have no desire to go to Broken Hill, if I am to judge that town by the character of the gentleman sent here to represent its people.
– Broken Hill is about the highest on the list of recruits in Australia.
– There is nothing surprising in that, in view of the large number of virile men there. I am not of those who say the Labour party has not done a fair share so far as recruiting is concerned, but there is a dangerous section in the community who are fattening themselves, receiving large salaries to become disturbers of the- peace . . When the wheat glut took place we had the walking delegate whose business it was to go from place to place and render dissatisfied any body of men he saw working away contentedly and doing good for themselves and the country. It is just as well to let these new members know that there is more than one side to a question. The workmen whom they essay to represent specially have their rights. We concede them their rights. Possibly under certain political conditions they have got more than their rights, with the inevitable result that the general prosperity of ‘the community is reduced and in a very short period the very men whose interests those members profess to work for are jeopardized. In many cases those agitators instead of helping on the great and noble cause of promoting the best interests of the great multitude of the people are doing them a deep injury.
.- 1 wish to bring before the Committee the question of wool tops, with special relation to the Central Wool Committee, the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company, and Messrs, S. W. Whiddon and Company Limited. I was led to. take this matter up through a short article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17th March, 1917, entitled “Wool Tops and Profits.” In it it was stated -
A matter that gave rise to some comment in the trade this week was that part of the statement of the Prime Minister (the Hon. W. M. Hughes) on Wednesday last, wherein he referred to ( the recommendation of the Central Wool Committee with regard to the Government control of the manufacture of wool tops during the war period. . . . Doubt was expressed as to the propriety of a member of the Central Wool Committee acting in that capacity, and yet being engaged in business transactions by which he, and probably one other firm, are to divide profits with the Government. “Wool tops” is the name given to wool after it has undergone a process of scouring and combing. The dictionary meaning of the word “ tops “ is - “Balls of combed wool from which the noils or short and tender fibres have been taken out in the process of combing,” which is essentially a separation of the long fibres from the short.
Tops, briefly stated, are “ combed wool,” and are manufactured in the worsted trade. A wool top signifies a quality or degree of fineness in the “yarn,” which it is possible to produce from the top. The. quality is known by the spinning count or number. Technically speaking, lib. of 60’s top represents 60 hanks of yarn, each of 560 yards.
I have endeavoured with great difficulty to get from the Prime Minister the whole of the facts about the contract entered info by the Government with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and Messrs. S. W. Whiddon Limited. I asked first what were the details of the agreements entered into by the Government. The Prime Minister answered - “ The Wool Committee has been asked to supply the information, but it is not yet to hand.” Why go to the Wool Committee? Copies of those agreements were in the Attorney-General’s office, where they were prepared. That was on the 27th July last. On 1st August I succeeded in getting from the Prime Minister some of the main features of the agreement. Upon that date he said -
The agreement with the two wool top manufacturers is dated 1st March, 1917, hut its provisions were settled about two months earlier.
Two months earlier would be about the time the Hon. J. C. Watson joined the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company, a sister concern. The Prine Minister continued -
This agreement provides that, in consideration for permission to fulfil existing contracts and to carry on their business, the top-makmg companies shall -
Pay (not the appraised prices for their supplies of wool as provided in the Wool Regulations War Precautions Act, as is the case with other woollen manufacturers), but the full actual flat rate, whatever addition to the appraised price that might mean. (This addition now turns out to be 9.5 per cent., or, on the quantity of wool that will be consumed to fill the contracts so far entered into, about £70,000 sterling. On purchases made to date, the amount is £17,000 sterling.)
Pay to the Commonwealth Government, practically as a licence-fee, 50 per cent, of the profits. The agreement further provides that, if a war-time profits tax is levied, the controlled companies shall not have more than two-thirds of their profits taken from them under the levy imposed under the agreement and the war-time profits tax.
I asked the Prime Minister whether it was possible for any other company than those two to have the same privileges. He replied - “ An agreement! cannot be made to cover persons who are not parties to it.” It will be observed that that was not a reply. He added -
By no device in the law can that be done. The honorable member is in error in saying that the agreement gives a privilege to the top-making firms mentioned. In reality it takes privileges from them.
I ask honorable members to remember those words because I will come later on to the question of how much profit those companies are likely to make and what are the privileges taken from them. The Prime Minister added -
It takes half their profits, and compels them to pay in the aggregate £70,000 per annum more for raw material than other manufacturers.
Having got so far, I tried to get copies of the agreement. I had to appeal to honorable members on 1st August to help me to get a copy, and on 3rd August I again . brought the matter up, and asked the Prime Minister whether he intended to produce the agreements, and he said “ No,” but that he “ would furnish them as soon as possible.” A fortnight elapsed, and I got them laid on the table on the 15th August.
Then I desired to get a list of the shareholders in these companies, but do honorable members think that I could? No. The Prime Minister said -
The information is not available, but that the companies were registered under the Companies Act of Hew South Wales, and the list of shareholders and directors can be inspected under the provisions of the Act.
I had asked for the names of the shareholders in the various companies, the names of persons who acted as directors, and the amount of paid-up capital, and so forth; and it was not true that the information was in the Registrar’s office in Sydney - nor was it true that it was not available, because, under the agreement of the Prime Minister, the Central Wool Committee had the list of shareholders in their own possession. Finding that the list was not registered I brought the matter up again.
– It must be registered.
– It is now, but it was not at the time of “which I speak, and for five months this information was kept out of the Registrar’s office in Sydney. Then I asked the Prime Minister whether he was aware that a complete list of the shareholders was not available at the Registrar’s office in Sydney, and that there was a clause in the agreement with the Government to the following effect: -
The company shall supply the Commonwealth with the list of its shareholders and of the real owners of shares of which the registered proprietor is not the beneficial owner, and shall not transfer any shares during the continuance of this agreement without the consent of the Government.
I asked also if the Government had in their possession the list of shareholders, and would they allow any person, firm, or company to undertake the manufacture, sale, and export of wool tops on the same terms and conditions as those granted by the Government to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited ? In his reply the Prime Minister said the matter had been referred to the Central Wool Committee. Then, on 29th August, following the matter up, I was informed that the Government had a list of the shareholders, and that they were willing to permit another company to manufacture the tops. But they regarded the lists as confidential.
I’ next brought the matter up on the motion for adjournment, when the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) was in charge of the House - the Prime Minister, as usual, being out of the chamber.
– As all the other Ministers are now.
– No, I am glad to know that the Treasurer is here. He has been a great man in his day.
– He is better than ever.
– No doubt; but sometimes I think he does not allow modern notions to impress him as they do younger men, especially in regard to State loans and the question of raising loans in London.
When I spoke on the adjournment, the Minister for the Navy, who was in charge of business, said he knew nothing of the relations of the Government with the company referred to. Is it not strange that the acting Prime Minister of this Government should know nothing of an important contract like this which the Government have entered into? I know an endeavour was made to induce the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) to say that he knew something of the facts, because when I asked the Treasurer how much revenue the Government got from the contracts he said -
I am informed as follows: -
In reply to my question whether any employee, not being a member of the Commonwealth Government, had received the custody of moneys, the Treasurer said “ No,” and when I asked how long had the said agreement been in the (possession of the Treasurer, he said -
The agreements in connexion with wool tops were prepared under the direction of the Central Wool Committee by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. The agreements are in the possession of the Central Wool Committee.
The officer in the Prime Minister’s Department who prepared the reply for the Treasurer wanted him to say, “ And I was consulted regarding all details,” but the Treasurer cut that out.
– I could not say that, because I had not” been consulted. And how do you know those words were omitted ?
– The Treasurer very wisely declined to commit Himself because he was not consulted. This fact supports me in my view that very few members of the Government knew anything about the agreements. In fact, I believe only one member of the Cabinet knew anything about the matter.
– Who was that?
– The Prime Minister, of course. On 12th September I asked the Prime Minister the following questions : -
Wool Committee is largely interested financially in the arrangement by which the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing and Weaving Company Limited share in the profits accruing from the manufacture, sale, and export of wool tops?
I ask honorable members to note particularly what follows -
Mr. F. W. Hughes, managing director of the
Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Co. Ltd., is a member of the Committee, but benefits, indirectly only-
Honorable members will please note the words, “ benefits indirectly only.” in any profits made from the wool tops contract, because all profits accruing to his company from such contracts must, according to the agreement, be invested in the development of the business, and not divided amongst the shareholders.
Let us now inquire into the history of this Mr. F. W. Hughes, who has been a leech upon the Commonwealth ever since 1908. He it was who formed F. W. Hughes Limited, manufacturers of wool tops, and that gentleman, to my knowledge, used irregular methods in trying to get the Commonwealth to pay a bounty on wool-tops. I challenge Him to make an affidavit that he did not offer to any person free shares, and that when those free shares were refused, that he did not persist in sending the man cheques for the dividends - which that man refused to accept - hoping by that means to get that man’s influence for the continuance of the bounty.
– Is he a member of Parliament ?
– No, and I hope that all members of Parliament would act as this gentleman did, and refuse to be bought.
– Was he ever a member of Parliament?
– No. This Mr. F, W. Hughes also made certain statements before the Tariff Commission, and which were mildly referred to by the Commissioners as an exaggeration, or words to that effect. This firm of F. W. Hughes and Company received the bounty for a considerable number of years. It was stopped on 31st December, 1915, and F. W. Hughes and Company went into liquidation on 23rd July, 1915. It is said that the firm went into liquidation to enable them to break contracts entered into with Japan, and it may be that they wanted to impress people with the fact that they could not carry on because of the withdrawal of the bounty. But a company called the “ Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company “ was formed, and took over the business of F. W. Hughes and Company .
– They were born again, as it were.
– And that is the company that asked unionists to sign declarations that they did not belong to a union.
– This is the same gentleman and the same company. It might interest honorable members to know that the total bounty received by F. W. Hughes and Company was £58,476, and by Whiddon Brothers £11,523, or a total of £70,000, -in round figures. And this is the amount which the Prime Minister said we were. going to make out of the new agreement with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and Whiddon and Company.
By the way, most of these wool tops went to Japan, the quantity sent to that country having been no less than 16,227,017 lbs. The total export of wool tops from the 1st January, 1908, to the 31st December, 1915, was 19,469,871 lbs.
The directors of F. W. Hughes Limited were F. W. Hughes (chairman) P. H. Moreton, and D. McMaster. The directors of the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company are P .H. Moreton (chairman) Peter Leslie, J. C. Watson, F- Y-. Wilson, and F. W. Hughes (managing director). It will be observed that the directors of the two companies are in the main identical.
Mr. J. C. Watson was brought into the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company in the early part of last year, just about the time when these contracts were entered into by the Government. What he knows about the meat business, or the combing and weaving trade, I do not know. As to his business capacity, as”k of those who intrusted him years ago with £100,000 to start in Sydney a Labour daily newspaper which is not started yet.
I have succeeded in getting a list of the shareholders of the .Colonial Wholesale Meat Company, which is a limited liability concern, with an authorized capital of £100,000 divided into a similar number of shares. Included in the shareholders are F. W. Hughes, 2,900 shares, and J. C. Watson, 100 shares.
In spite of the refusal of the Prime Minister to supply the list of shareholders of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, I have managed to get the list made up to the 30th November, 1916. This list will be most interesting to financial members of the House, and I ask them to give it their attention. A summary of the capital and shares of the Colonial’ Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company Limited, made up to the 22nd day of October, 1917, shows -
Nominal capital, £100,000, divided into 100,000 shares of £1 each, namely -
The directors of thiscompany are F. W. Hughes and J. C. Watson, and the acting secretary is G. P. Carson. Now we come to the list of shareholders -
The shareholders who had transferred or sold their shares were Duncan McMaster, Morven, Blackheath, Grazier, who transferred one share on the 16th January, 1917, and Peter Leslie, Edgecliffe-road, Woollahra, Grazier, who transferred one share on the 14th September, 1917. Of the nominal capital of £100,000, only £5,008 has yet been paid up; and Frederick Wm. Hughes, who. the Prime Minister said in reply to my question benefits only indirectly in the profits, this company holds 20,001 shares out of a total of 20,008. I now come to the contracts, and what I consider’ the extraordinary concession which has been given to this company by the Central Wool Committee and the Prime Minister.
– I have the agreements. They are too long to be read : but, briefly, the Commonwealth Government agreed to enter into a partnership with these companies provided they did certain things, and gave the Commonwealth 50 per cent, of the profits. The date of the agreements is the 1st March, 1917, but the Prime Minister has said that the contract was entered into earlier, at about the time when J. C. Watson entered the company. And I have no doubt whatever, having regard to the history of Frederick William Hughes, that Mr. Watson was brought into the company because he could get an ‘interview with the Prime Minister quicker than most men in Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I understand that honorable members are willing, in order that my speech may be continuous, that I shall exercise now my second right of speech.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I ask honorable members to bear in mind the fact that the paid-up capital of thiscompany is £5,008. The contracts are between the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, on the one part, and certain Japanese firms on the other part, and this is a sample of one of them -
Memorandum of agreement made the day of , 1917, between the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, of 62 Pitt-street, Sydney in the State of New South Wales (hereinafter referred to as “the Manufacturers”) of the one part and Bowden Brothers and Coy. Limited, of Bridge-street, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales on behalf of F. Kanematsu, of Kobe, Japan (hereinafter referred to as “the Buyer “).
Now this agreement witnesseththat in lieu of any other contract or agreement the manufacturers hereby agree to sell to the buyer and the buyer hereby agrees to’ purchase from the manufacturers 190,200 lbs. of wool tops, and delivery of such wool tops shall be made during the period from the 8th day of March to the 30th day of September, 1917, in the approximate monthly proportions of 27,171 lbs. upon and subject to the following conditions : -
Type (3) 47,550 lbs. at 72d. per lb.
Type (4) 114,120 lbs. at 71d. per lb.
Type (6) 28,530 lbs. at 70d. per lb.
That covers a period of about six months. There are about four of these contracts, and the sales have been -
Sales totalling nearly three-quarters of a million of money have been effected by a company with a paid-up capital of £5,008.
– Is this frenzied finance ?
– It is get-rich-quick finance.
– It is friends in finance.
– Does the agreement provide for the Japanese firm making any advance? ‘
– No; but there are clauses making provision for prompt payment.
– Many woolbuyers purchase to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds with very little capital.
– But the honorable member will see that it must be an extraordinary concession that allows a company with a paid-up capital of £5,008 to operate contracts -amounting to a sum of £721,000.
– The company may have great credit if not great capital.
– There must be great credit and great profits, as I shall show from the prices these gentlemen have received. The price of wool tops for 1913 was 2s. 4d. per lb., and in 1914-15, 2s. 5fd. .per lb. The “all in “ cost of making wool tops from scoured wool is 4½d. per lb. In France and England the cost is 2d. to 3d. per lb. The average price of tops sent to Japan in 1913-14 was 2s. 5d. per lb., and the price the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is now getting is 6s. per lb. Those figures would go to show that on a very conservative estimate the profit made on these contracts must approach £250,000 in a period of six months.
It is very difficult to know how much profit these gentlemen will make, because there are certain clauses in the agreement, and Certain loopholes, which will enable Frederick William Hughes to mop up a considerable amount of the profits. Here is a factor that increases the value of the concession. The Colonial Wholesale. Meat Company buys stock, and sells to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company wool off the green skins. That wool does not go into the woo] pool, and does not come under the examination of the appraisers, so that Frederick William Hughes, who is a director of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company may place a value on the wool sold by the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company, of which he is also a director, and he may be able in that way to give the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company a bigger profit than it ought to get, and so diminish the Commonwealth Government’^ profit.
Here is another objection to the contract : The Colonial Wholesale Meat Company are engaged in the meat business, and the enormous concessions which they have received from the Central Wool Committee enable them to cut in and compete with other people engaged in the meat industry in this and other towns.
The Central Wool Committee is a body’ of gentlemen who are gratuitously giving their services to the Commonwealth Government. Its members are: - Mr. Edmund Jowett, Mr. F. B. Falkiner, Mr. Walter James Young, Mr. Andrew Howard Moore, Mr. William Stevenson Fraser, Mr. Burdett Laycock, Mr. Robert Bond McComas, Mr. Frederick William Hughes, and Mr. John Michael Higgins. That honorary Committee really occupies the position of a Cabinet. And what would be thought of a Cabinet if one of its members were called upon to report on a matter in which he was personally interested ? It would be a scandalous thing. And it is a scandalous thing that Mr. Frederick William Hughes should be a member of this Committee. He it was who, in conjunction with Mr. Joncquel, reported to the Committee on the wisdom of granting this concession to. the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. The agreement, amongst other things, recites -
And whereas the Central Wool Committee constituted by the said regulations has recommended the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia to execute these presents, and when so recommending had before it the estimate of probable results marked “A,” the statement of Fred. Wm. Hughes marked “ B,” and the letter of Victor Joncquel marked “ C “ (which, for the purpose of information, had been marked for identification, and handed to the chairman of the Central Wool Committee).
Now, the idea underlying the wool scheme waa- that the Commonwealth Government should act as broker for the British Government, and acquire all the wool crop of Australia. Under it the profits arising from any wool sold other than for military purposes were to be shared between the British Government and the wool-growers. That is exactly where an injustice has been done, to the men whom the Central Wool Committee is supposed to represent. What . justification was there for breaking this agreement with the British Government? Clause 24 of the War Precautions Wool Regulations says -
The general law to be observed in connexion with these regulations shall be equality of treatment.
But there is no equality of treatment observed here, inasmuch as these two firms receive advantages that no other firms in the Commonwealth receive. This partnership cuts into three vital principles of the wool scheme. It bestows privileges upon two firms, and it admits of huge profits being made by two companies during the continuance of the war.
The Commonwealth ought to have called for tenders in connexion with this matter, after making it known that it proposed to allow certain companies engaged1 in t/he Manufacture of Wool-tops certain privileges. But, instead of doing that, the thing was fixed up privately. Why, we actually advertise the humblest billet that is vacant in the Commonwealth Service - for instance, the proposed appointment of a telegraph messenger. Tenders for the purchase of stores and contracts for stores are always advertised publicly. But this agreement was arranged privately. In my judgment, a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the matter.
Then there is another aspect of it to which I desire to invite attention. It is that Japan, which is our Ally, has been refused greasy or scoured wool in the interests of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company.
– I do not think that she wants that wool. Previously these people were agents for the Japanese.
– Japan is the only country which has been singled out for differential treatment in this matter. Other Allies are allowed to buy greasy and scoured wool. In this matter we certainly ought to treat the Japanese as well as we are treating other nations.
The agreement of which the Prime Minister has boasted so much provides that, as regards war-time profits taxation, the Government should allow this company at least one-third of its excess profits. In other words, while other firms will be required to pay 75 per cent, of their excess profits to the State, the Government will demand from this particular company only 66§ per cent, of its excess profits. The Government will therefore be 8^ per cent, worse off than if it had no agreement whatever with the company. Mr. Higgins, the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, has taken very strong objection to the questions relating to this subject which I have asked in Parliament. In a letter addressed to me under date 13th August of last year, he says -
Personally, I feel very hurt and annoyed to have to reply to such questions as you,’ recently, have asked in Parliament re wool tops. . . .
The Central Wool Committee welcomed the minutest and most searching analysis of the contracts : the more exhaustive the investigation the better the Committee will be pleased.
Before the Central Wool Committee recommended the Prime Minister to accept the contracts, a sub-Committee was elected to conduct an examination into the constitution of each company, .its shareholders, directors, and every one and everything connected with the corporations.
I have endeavoured to ascertain from the Prime Minister the personnel of this subCommittee, but have been unable to do so.
– Would not Mr. Higgins supply it?
– Mr. Higgins is under the direction of the Prime Minister, so that I could not ask him to do so. Mr. Higgins went on to say -
If you know anything to the contrary, why do you not furnish the Central Wool Committee with the particulars? Surely, as a member of a responsible Parliament, that is the only fair method to adopt. On behalf of the Central Wool Committee, I resent most strongly the insinuations contained in your questions, and call upon you either to make a direct charge or cease what is not criticism but actual persecution. I much regret having to write in such a strain, but feel that the reputations and integrity of my colleagues and myself are being attacked, and I cannot, and will not, tolerate this state of affairs any longer.
I am sorry for Mr. ‘ Higgins, but that kind of language will never deter any old politician from discharging a public duty. Mr. Higgins is a clever man, and, I acknowledge, rendered very great assistance to me when I filled the office of Treasurer. But he must have been caught napping by another very clever man in the person of Mr. Frederick William Hughes, who contrary to the canons which should guide a man in his position, misused his place to procure this . concession from the Commonwealth Government, probably with the assistance of Mr. J. C. Watson. The latter gentleman seems to have been for some time the Prime Minister’s “man
Friday.” He was actually allowed to enter the Premiers’ Conference, although not a member of Parliament, and without responsibility to the electors. He was sent there, no doubt, to look after the interests of the Prime Minister, who has an inordinate idea of what is due to his position. If a deputation is asked for, the PrimeMinister demands that it must be representative of every State, and he also insists that he shall be chairman of every organization that is formed. Thus he is chairman of the Science Committee, of the Wool Board, of the Shipping Board, and of the Wheat Board. He wanted also to be head of the repatriation arrangements. Mr. Watson was sent to the Premiers’ Conference as an honorary organizer. A private meeting with the Ministers for Lands was desired, and some one suggested that Mr. J. C. Watson should be present.
– Was it not a proper thing, seeing that Mr. Watson had been in communication with them, and had been engaged in the work of organizing?
– No. These Ministers for Lands and Agriculture knew more than Mr. Watson could know. If anyone wants Mr. Watson to report on the value of a landed property, on a dredging, proposition, or on anything of that kind, he is willing to do it. He was present at the Premiers’ Conference, and actually discussed with the Premiers questions with which only they could deal.
– I did not hear the honorable member for Capricornia protest against Mr. Watson’s appointment as organizer of the repatriation movement, although he was in the Government at the time.
– I was not a Minister at the time.
– The honorable member has in his time made valuations. There is no degradation in that.
– No. My point is that Mr. Watson appeared to have been appointed to the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company because of his political pull, so to speak.. As the Prime Minister is now present, I draw his attention to his reply to me that Mr. Frederick Wm. Hughes would benefit only indirectly in the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Com pany’s profits. This gentleman holds 20,001 of the 20,008 shares in the company, there being only seven other shareholders, each holding one share. The motion which I had intended to move, but which I have not had the opportunity to move, is as follows : -
That in the opinion of this House a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
The agreements entered into on behalf of the Commonwealth with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and E. W. Whiddon and Company Limited.
The bona fides of certain persons interested in the said agreements.
– I had not intended to speak during these sittings of the House, but since the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has dwelt somewhat adversely upon the actions of the Central Wool Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, I wish to explain as briefly as I can what was done by the Prime Minister and the Committee. I knew nothing of Mr. Frederick W. Hughes until I first met him twelve months ago last November at a meeting of the wool trade summoned by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman then announced that he had been requested by the Imperial authorities to receive an offer of the unsold portion of the Australian wool clip. The meeting was a large and representative one, which included all sections of the wool trade. The Prime Minister asked us if those representing the Australian wool-growers were prepared to sell to the Imperial Government the unsold portion of the clip, and if so, at what price. Realizing the Imperial necessities of the position, we did not hesitate a moment to reply that we were ready to meet the wishes of the Imperial Government, and taking into consideration the needs of the Empire, we were actuated by a liberal and generous spirit in naming the price. That price was accepted by the Imperial Government without any haggling or bargaining, or any attempt to beat us down.
– You would have got a good deal more for the wool had not that price been fixed.
– The moment is not opportune for discussing whether we could or could not have got more. Then came tie question of administration. Of course, it was an enormous undertaking. Great financial operations were required, and an immense organization had to be built up for the purpose of administering this purchase and sale efficiently; because wool is not like wheat, the price of wheat can be fixed immediately; the position of wool is totally different. At any rate, a committee had to be formed. The Prime Minister said to me, “ In this scheme I wish to enlist the best brains in the trade in order to make it a success.” That was the spirit in which the invitation was made, and in which it was met, and there was not one gentleman who was nominated to act on the Central Wool Committee who refused the appointment.It was decided that the Committee should consist of eight representatives of the trade and the sixty or seventy who were present at the meeting proceeded to nominate the Committee from those present in the room. They did me the honour to nominate me as a representative of the wool growers. I was nominated in some other capacity, but I declined any nomination that did not come from the wool growers. Mr. James A. Campbell, a large wool grower on the Barwon River, was also nominated. Unfortunately, he has since died, and his place has been taken by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner). Neither the honorable member for Hume nor I were in politics at the time of our nominations, and I had not the remotest idea of entering politics ; neither do I think that the honorable member for Hume had any idea of doing so.
Now comes the question of the nomination of Mr.F. W. Hughes as the representative of the fellmongers of Australia on the Central Wool Committee.
– Was he nominated by the fellmongers?
– Yes, by the fellmongers in that room. He was nominated as their representative. After his nomination was agreed to, not only by the fellmongers, but also by the whole room, had the Prime Minister refused to give his approval it is more than possible that his action would have been open to question here and elsewhere.
– Will the honorable member say whether all the fellmongers had received notice of the meeting?
– I could not say.
– Some of them say that they did not receive notice.
– The meeting was called very hurriedly. I was in Sydney at the time, and I received an urgent message by telegraph at four o’clock in the afternoon. I had to catch the train the same night to come to Melbourne in time to attend the meeting on the following day. There are fellmongers all over Australia, but those who were at the meeting controlled the largest establishments, and fully represented the trade. They, and! not the Prime Minister, nominated Mr. F. W. Hughes as their representative on the Central Wool Committee.
Now I come to my friend, Mr. John Michael Higgins. If the meeting had been left to itself, no doubt I would have been asked to act as chairman of the Central Wool Committee; but I realized my inexperience in those matters and that in Mr. Higgins we had a man with experience in administering a similar concern, namely, the metal control. He has made a success of the metal business - there may have been criticism, but I have not heard of it - and I regarded him as the most capable man that could be found in Australia to act as chairman of the Central Wool Committee and to administer this great scheme. Therefore I asked the Prime Minister as a favour whether he would request Mr. Higgins, his friend and mine, to accept the nomination as chairman of the Committee. The request was made publicly at that meeting of the wool trade, and was supported by every man in the room. In response to our request, or that of the Prime Minister, Mr. Higgins is now chairman of the Committee. That is the history of his appointment. If any one suggests that there is anything sinister in the presence of Mr. F.. W. Hughes or Mr. J. M. Higgins on that Central Wool Committee, then he is under the greatest misapprehension possible.
– No one suggests that there is anything sinister about Mr. Higgins’ presence on the Central Wool Committee. I have not suggested it.
– I accept my honorable friend’s explanation. I was anxious to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Higgins’ presence on the Committee was due to my request, as the representative of the wool-growers of Australia, publicly made to the Prime Minister before that representative gathering of the wool trade.
What the paid-up capital of the Colonial Wool Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company may be, or what the number of shares in the concern may be, is of absolutely no concernto me, or any business man. I have been in business for forty years in Australia, and when I have any transactions with a firm, no matter what their magnitude may be, I consider not what its paid-up capital may be, not what its banking account may be, not who its shareholders may be, but what is the reputation of the firm for carrying out its contracts. I have made” no inquiry whatever, nor have I interested myself in any way, as to the paid-up capital of the Colonial Wool Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company; or as to who the shareholders are; nor was it a matter that concerned the meeting convened by the. Prime Minister. We were faced with the situation that, long before this wool scheme came into operation, Mr. F. W. Hughes and his company, under whatever name it was known, were engaged in the business of making wool tops. At times business firms of the highest possible reputation find it advantageous to make re-adjustments of capital and changes of name. There is nothing sinister about it, nothing to which any business man, citizen, or banker could take the slightest exception. All we knew was that Mr. F. W. Hughes and his partners, whoever they were, had established a wool-combing business at Botany at great risk to themselves. I have been connected with wool growing and the wool trade nearly all my life, and I have come into contact with people who have been carrying on the woolcombing business in America, England, and France. As we know, it is a business that has enormously developed at Bradford, in England. I merely mention this to show that there is some justification for Mr. F. W. Hughes and his friends receiving some reward for their enterprise. Knowing the vicissitudes of the wool-combing business, and the; greatly increased cost of carrying it on in Australia, I never would have put one farthing into a wool-combing establishment, nor advise any friend to do so. However, Mr. F. W. Hughes had more faith, more courage, and more enterprise than I had, and had established the business in Botany many years previously. The hon orable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), in whose electorate the company is working, knows the value of it to the Botany district -in the shape of wages distributed among his constituents.
What is the position? For years Japan has been a very large purchaser of Australian wool.
– And tops.
– Yes, and tops. Mr. F. W. Hughes had not found it an easy matter to sell his tops in Europe - there are old established wool-combing businesses in Europe - but he had found a market in Japan, where tops were not so largely made. His trade was very largely with Japan. That country had been a very large purchaser of Australian wool, both scoured and greasy, for many years past, when suddenly the Imperial Government said, “ We must have every bale of your wool.” The honorable member for Capricornia said that we had placed Japan in some way under a disadvantage by not supplying her with raw wool, but he quite forgot that from last November twelve months we have not been the vendors of wool, since every bale of wool grown in Australia is sold to the Imperial Government. If Japan has not been able to get our raw wool it is not by us that she has been debarred. That is a matter entirely between the Imperial Government and Japan.
We found that the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company were carrying on a very large business in. which an enormous amount of capital had been sunk. They gave employment to a large number ofhands, and practically their only market was Japan. Honorable members may understand that wool tops are a half manufactured form of wool. Japan was cut off from her supplies of raw wool, and was exceedingly anxious to obtain wool tops. We found Mr. F. W. Hughes with a business to carry on and works to keep going. There is nothing in connexion with which a man is likely to lose so much money as by the stoppage of a large wooltop manufacturing concern. Here was an industry of enormous value to Australia, and it had to be carried on. We were approached and asked what we could do.
I do not wish to do any injustice to my honorable friend opposite, but I think, it has been implied in this discussion that, in some way or other, the Prime Minister,. through his friendship with Mr. J. C. Watson, a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, did something which was not quite right in connexion with this wool-top business. I have to say as regards that, that in all these matters, the Central Wool Committee, of whom I am one, and the chairman is Mr. J. M. Higgins, takes full and entire responsibility. I know nothing of many things that have been said with regard to the Prime Minister in the course of a recent debate; but I do know that the right honorable gentleman has not taken one step in connexion with the Central Wool Committee, or with wool tops, except upon the practically unanimous recommendation of the Committee and its chairman, Mr. Higgins. If anything wrong has been done, and I assure honorable members that it is perfectly certain that that is not the case, then the Central Wool Committee, Mr. Higgins as its chairman, and myself are to blame, and not the Prime Minister. No shadow whatever of any blame in connexion with the matter attaches to the Prime Minister. All that was done in this connexion was entirely our doing, or that of the chairman, Mr. Higgins, whom we all support.
We are asked why we allowed Mr. F. W. Hughes to make an agreement with the Japanese Government to sell his wool tops? We had to face the possibility that the works of the Colonial Combing Spinning, and Weaving Company, and those of Messrs. Whiddon Brothers, at Botany, might be thrown absolutely idle. We saw that these two firms, who have contributed so much to the building up of a great Australian industry, might be absolutely ruined, and that our ally, Japan, would be unable to obtain wool tops. She could not get them from Yorkshire, from France, or from America; she could only get them in Australia from Mr. F. W. Hughes and Whiddon Brothers. If she did notget them some of her spinning mills and weaving sheds would be idle, and could not go on making cloth for her own troops, or the troops of the Allies. Faced with that position, can any man of commonsense and fairness say that we could have done anything else but allow Mr. F. W. Hughes and Whiddon Brothers to enter into contracts with the Japanese for the sale of wool tops, and thus continue in operation a most important Australian industry?
To have hindered them in any possible way would have been grossly unfair and unjust, and would have struck a fatal blow at an exceedingly important industry. We, therefore, decided to approve of them entering into a contract. The most careful investigation was made into the terms of the contract. At least two members of the Central Wool Committee, Messrs. Laycock and McComas, are familiar to the minutest detail with the wool-top manufacturing industry. They know all costs, and everything connected with it. They scrutinized the proposed contract in the closest possible way. There can be no blame attached to Mr. Higgins here, because the members of the Central Wool Committee, to whom I have referred, know as much about top making as do the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company or Whiddon Brothers. Mr. F. W. Hughes, although nominally a member of the Committee, was absolutely out of this business. He was treated absolutely as an outsider in all of these matters.
One contract has been completed. There evidently is going to be a very large profit indeed. That is quite obvious. We may have been wrong in the matter, and, if so, I must take my share of the blame. There was a large sum of money to be obtained, which would go either to the wool-growers or to the Commonwealth Government. I took the view that the Commonwealth Government, having in its wisdom and generosity, paid out a considerable sum of money by way of bonus for the encouragement of the wool-top industry, it was a fair thing on the part of the wool-growers of Australia to allow the Commonwealth Government, and the people of Australia, who had put money into the bonus given for the establishment of the wool-top industry, to get that money back. If that be a crime, against whom has it been committed? Is it a0 crime against the Treasurer, or the Parliament, or the people of Australia, to whom we will be the means of securing the return of a large sum of money? If it be a crime, I take the blame for it. The only persons who might take me to task in this matter are the woolgrowers of Australia. They might say, “ No, Mr. J owett, you had no right to let the people of Australia get back that £70,000, which they advanced by way of bonuses. You ought to have paid it into our pockets.” That is the position in regard to the allocation of that profit.
I do not wish to detain honorable members any longer, except to say that it is also charged that Mr. F. W. Hughes and Whiddon Brothers obtained some advantage in that they secured their wool at a low price. That is not so. As a matter of fact, taking values into consideration, Mr. F. W. Hughes and Whiddon Brothers paid more for their wool than Australian woollen manufacturers have paid.
– Did the honorable member explain how this money came back to the Commonwealth?
– I do not feel called upon to disclose any of what may be called the internal arrangements of the Central Wool Committee. It has to be remembered that the Committee has been in existence only for twelve months. When these profits are realized and ascertained they will be placed in trust, and handed back to the Commonwealth Government, as I have indicated. At the present moment they are not ascertained.
– Has the Commonwealth benefited to any extent so far?
– No; the money has not been handed back, because, as I have said, the profits have not been ascertained. I have been fairly busy during the last few months, and I confess I have not attended very closely to the affairs of the Central Wool Committee. This matter has been sprung upon me at a moment’s notice, and I am making the best reply I can to what has, been said. If I had waited for a few days I could have secured facts and figures, but I felt that the moment the charge was made it should be replied to.
Under this scheme, the first condition which the Prime Minister made, when he consulted these gentlemen, and the committee was formed, “was that Australian manufacturers should ‘have the first preference for all wool. Australian manufacturers, including the Government factories, have been given that preference; and I ask whether there is one Australian wool manufacturer who has a word of complaint against the Central Wool Committee? The manufacturers have not been restricted in the sale of their flannels, tweeds, khakis, or blankets, and the Committee has not demanded that they should hand any share of their profits to the grower or the Government. The industry with which Mr. F. W. Hughes and Mr. Whiddon are connected is a manufacturing industry; and, so far from their having had any favour, they have actually been placed at a disadvantage as compared with other manufacturers. It gave me considerable concern as to what justification there was for interfering at all with their contracts with Japan; but, after full consideration, we came to the conclusion that we had some right, as they were exporting their commodity, whereas others were not to any extent. Had we adopted any other course, they would have been placed at a great disadvantage, and one of the most important manufacturing industries in Australia would have been practically crushed out of existence.
– What other industry does Mr. F. W. Hughes represent on the Committee ?
– There is no representative on the Committee of the carcass butchers. Mr. F. W. Hughes is there as an individual representing the fellmongers of Australia, not as representing the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, or the Meat Company. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) suggested-, and it has been said outside, that as Mr. Hughes buys very large numbers of sheep and fellmongers the wool himself, he has some great advantage over the carcass butchers and others.
– There is a lot of opposition to him.
– There is a lot of opposition to him on that account. There are only two points on which there is any great difference of opinion, and one is that Mr. Hughes has some advantage. It has been the. effort of the Committee to adjust any differences of the kind referred to, but where a man of enterprise carries on, not only wool combing, but meat freezing, carcass butchering, and fellmongering, there may be some point on which he gets an advantage over competitors. As I say, however, the Committee has honestly desired to adjust all such differences. Whatever drawbacks may arise it must be remembered that if Mr. Hughes is able to give more for sheepskins - though it has not been clearly shown that he can - the whole of the money has gone, not into the pockets of the Central Wool Committee, but to the graziers and farmers throughout Australia. There are many more details into which I might enter, but, speaking as I do on the spur of Mie moment, I think I have said everything that is necessary.
– As the House will not be meeting again for a couple of months, I desire to refer .to Statutory Rule No. 250, which has reference to the payments made to the dependants of our soldiers, and to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence to give me some information thereon. The difficulty which I feel in’ this connexion is caused by the varying interpretation of this rule by the Department. Constituents have approached me on the subject, and in one case it was a widow who, when her son enlisted, had two lodgers, and was. doing fairly well. After a little while, however, her lodgers left, and she found herself in financial difficulties. When she applied to the Department for relief, she was informed that, as she had been keeping lodgers prior to her son’s enlistment, she was not wholly dependent on the latter at the time, and, therefore, no assistance could be rendered to her. I personally interviewed the officers of the Department, and contended that the woman was entitled to relief ; and I think it better to raise the matter here, and obtain definite information. I have had three cases of the kind, and in each case a different decision.
– Will the honorable member privately hand to me the names in the cases to which he refers?
– I shall be glad to do so, but I raise the question here so as to avoid in the future departmental misconstruction of regulations which are plain and definite. There must be something wrong in the Department, for in one instance when I wrote the matter was settled, while a similar case was not settled. However, as the Assistant Minister has promised to look into the matter, I shall not press it further.
In yesterday’s Age I noticed that one of the motions set down for consideration at the Treasurers’ Conference expresses the intention of ship-owners to apply for the raising of the load-line on account of the scarcity of shipping in Australia. The Commonwealth Treasurer, I believe, will be represented at that Conference, and I hope that in the interests of the seamen of this country the request of the ship-owners will not be ‘complied with’; indeed, in my opinion, they have no right to prefer a request of the kind. In 190^ the load-line was raised, and the result was that hundreds of seamen were drowned off Great Britain, and two ships were lost off Australia. Already we know that, owing to the scarcity, ships that are really coffins have been pressed into service, and if the load-line be lifted these vessels will not even float down a river. The seamen of Australia will oppose ‘the proposal by every means in their power. The lateness of the hour prevents my going into the matter in detail, but it certainly requires deep consideration. The scarcity of shipping may give rise to more economic ways of management, but it does not justify the lifting of the load-line. The occupation of .seamen is perilous enough in any” case, and if the proposal is agreed’ to it will simply mean that men will be sent to sea to drown to make profits for the ship-owners. This war, has been themeans of returning huge profits to ship-owners, and the Australian owner has done just as well as his colleague on the other side of the world. It was stated in yesterday’s Age that it was freely rumoured in Sydney and Melbourne that the well-known Inter-State passenger steamer Victoria had been sold to Chinese buyers. The Ag,e added that -
In the absence of Mr. W. T. Appleton, managing director, Mr. Webb, a director, was consulted on the matter last night, and stated that “ the report is premature.” From another reliable source we learn that the negotiations for the sale are almost complete.
In yesterday’s Argus appears a statement from Engineer Rear-Admiral Clarkson^ chairman of the Commonwealth Shipping Board,, dealing with the lack of shipping. When questioned regarding the possibility of additional vessels now engaged in the Inter-State trade being released for the carriage of wheat and other produce overseas, he said that no more could be. spared. While the ship-owners are prepared to raise the (load-line on their vessels they are willing to deplete the Australian coast of its shipping. We believe . that the Gabo has been sold to outside buyers, and now comes this news about the Victoria. A man well connected with the shipping industry told me to-day that the reports are perfectly true, and that it will be only a matter of time when the matter will be engineered, and the Victoria sneaked out of Australia to China. This should not be allowed to. happen.
The two things that Australia imperatively needs are the development of her industries during the war, and ways and means of placing her products overseas at the termination of the war. That can be done only by shipping. Georgraphically situated as we are, it would be of no use for us to go in for primary industries or manufacturing commodities without the shipping necessary to carry the results overseas when the war ends. At that time the shipping combinations on the other side of the world will charge so much freight to carry our goods overseas that it will be impossible for us to compete with any other nation. This is shown by the large amalgamations and combinations of shipping concerns that have taken place during the war. The Cunard Company, the Leyman Line, the Blue Anchor Line, the Blue Funnel Line, and, in fact, all the principal lines trading to Australia prior to the war have entered into amalgamations. The Union Company have amalgamated with the Peninsular and Oriental Company. They have all come now into one big amalgamation, and at the termination of the war, when there will be a dearth of shipping, the combination will control the fares and freights of the world. We will get no better treatment than any other country, and it will cost as nearly twice as much .to get our goods across the seas as it will cost the Argentine or the United States of America, which are situated so much nearer to the world’s markets. The Commercial Shipping News, of the 14th of this month, under the heading, “ Increased rate of freight on foreign meat,” made the following announcement:-^
It was reported yesterday that the rate of freight for frozen meat from Australia to London has increased by more than 100 per cent, in one jump.
Until a few days ago the cost of transporting a ton of meat to London was £3 12s. 6d. a ton, that being the rate paid by the Controller of Shipping by the Imperial Government. The shipments which are now being loaded are fixed at £7 10s. a ton, the highest yet paid.
Though no official reason has been given why there should be such a big increase, it is understood that it is due to the controller having to meet higher costs in the running of steamers.
If. the shipping ring are permitted to raise freights by over 100 per cent, at this juncture, when they have absolute control of the shipping of the world at the termination of the war Australia will be absolutely at their mercy. The whole of our energies should be devoted to conserving the shipping we have, and adding to it as far as practicable. I hope Parliament will seriously consider the necessity not to allow any ship trading in Australia to pass out of our hands, and to add as far as practicable to the number of our vessels. I trust, in the name of mercy, for the sake of the men of the mercantile marine, who have done all that could be expected of them, and who are the. men that have really made it possible to fight the war, that the Government will, not tolerate the proposition to raise the. load-line of ships in Australia.
Mr. SINCLAIR (Moreton) [11.28 1.- I regret very much the indecent haste in closing Parliament, seeing that we have not met for ‘ three months, and much water has passed under the bridge since we met last. I wish, to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) on the regulation dealing with inciting of strikes. I am afraid the honorable member has notmade himself thoroughly acquainted with all the facts connected with the regulation. He began by saying that shearers, rouseabouts, and others had benefited to the extent of about £11,000 per annum through arbitration awards. One would imagine that men in that position were prosperous compared with their previous conditions; otherwise their previous conditions must have been very bad . We may take it for granted that he has established the fact that there was no necessity to strike for more wages. There was a strike in Queensland at the time, and if the honorable member could obtain from members of the Australian Workers Union an honest expression of their opinion regarding that regulation, he would find that thousands of them thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for having brought it into force. The whole shearing industry of Queensland was held up by half-a-dozen men - not by the Australian Workers Union, but by the Industrial Workers of the World. The Australian Workers Union was anxious to get on with the work qf shearing. Our wool industry was being threatened with the depredations of the blow-fly and its ally the Industrial Workers of the World. The shearers were being. held up, and representations were made to the Prime Minister by the Pastoralists Union and the
Australian ‘Workers Union to issue a proclamation preventing people from inciting to strike. That is why the regulation was issued.
– Does the honorable member say that representations were made by the Australian Workers Union to secure that regulation ?
– I do. What is more, the Australian Workers Union was very much opposed to the strike in Queensland. Its members were held up by a few of the Industrial Workers of the World,- whose names were sent to the Prime Minister, but as soon as the regulation was passed the strike was terminated.
We have in the schedule to this Bill an item of £166,000 in respect of “ trading vessels.” I do not know whether it is for the purchase of vessels, or is a contribution towards the working expenses of the Commonwealth line of steamers. It is time Parliament knew something about the working of those vessels. I believe they are making a profit, as we are told ; if they could not, with freights as they are, we should have little hope of their ‘giving us any return under normal conditions. The industry is a big one, and this House should have the right to review the operations of our vessels, and, indeed, the whole operations of the Shipping Department. I do not know whether this item has anything to do with the Elsass, one of the steamers interned at Honolulu.
– I do not know.
– Ours is a phantom fleet, of which we know very, little. I wish to call the attention of the Government to the fact that Queensland has about 750 tons of cargo held up at Honolulu, Newcastle 200 tons, and Sydney 300 tons. I do not know what control the Shipping Department exercises over those goods, but the people of Queensland think that all should be placed on an equal footing so far as they are concerned, and that they should be landed at their destination.
– The honorable member is referring to a complaint made by the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce with respect to certain goods that have not been sent on to their destination?
– I am.
– That matter is receiving the attention of . Colonel Oldershaw.
– Apparently, it is not receiving quite enough attention. I want to know whether the Government have any control over the vessel in question, or whether it is privately owned?
– I cannot tell the honorable member.
– Is it not time that the Committee had some information on this subject? We are told that the Commonwealth Fleet has made a profit of about £500,000, and surely we should be placed in a position to check its operations.
– Did the honorable member refer to the closing of Parliament, and suggest that we should keep business going ?
– I said I regretted the adjournment of Parliament.
– I do not see why those who are prepared to work should not continue in conference and do some business.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), I think, suggested that the Government should take advantage of the services of men of varied business experience not only in Parliament, but outside it.
The honorable member for Cook will indorse my statement that the Pricefixing Committee was just getting into its stride, and was starting upon a very good career when it was abolished. ‘
– There was no loafing on its part.
– No. Since then the duty of price-fixing has been handed over to a Commissioner in each State. These Commissioners have much power and perhaps a fair measure of business experience. Evidently, however, they do not get all the help they might from the business community, or, if they, do, they fail to make the very best use of it. Price-fixing in Australia is becoming chaotic, from not only the purchaser’s point of view, but in many instances from the point of view of the sellers. The Government would be well advised if it adopted the suggestion thrown out by the honorable member, that either members of this House or of the general community should be called together under conditions that would enable them to advise the Government with regard, not only to price-fixing, but industrial matters and trade and commerce generally. Only to-night I was told that the Government had commandeered the whole of the supply of methylated spirits in Australia. At any rate,’ there is a general impression abroad that they have, and I want to point out that as a result of the disorganization of trade through lack of shipping facilities, thousands of people who have been accustomed to use methylated spirits for heating primus stoves and similar domestic conveniences have now to pay about 400 per cent, more for this article than was charged until recently, and even then they have to go to chemists for it. I understand, however, that there is any quantity of methylated spirits in Queensland, particularly in the district of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser).
– There is a large distillery at Bundaberg.
– Probably there are also large supplies in many other Queensland districts. If the Government are responsible for this inconvenience to so. many thousands of people in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and other places, I hope that the matter will be looked into and remedied at the very earliest date.
– T should like to emphasize and support the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) concerning the transport to Australia of cargo which had been held up at Honolulu. There is a possibility, if not indeed a certainty, that the Queensland importers will have to pay an extra rate of freight to that paid by importers in other States, and I take special exception to this injustice. If the Commonwealth Government are bringing this cargo, which is long overdue, to Australia, it is only fair and reasonable to expect that the Brisbane consignees should not be handicapped by increased freight charges for the transhipment of their goods from Sydney to Brisbane, as the Victorian consignees will not be penalized bv an additional rate on the cargo from Sydney to Melbourne. I hope the Minister will see that the Queensland importers are not placed at a disadvantage as against importers in the other States.
There is only one matter I desire to refer to in ‘connexion with our financial affairs. It is obvious that a discussion on finance, either at this time or in the present temper of the House, would be useless ; but one cannot overlook the fact that we are drifting into a financial position that is serious in the extreme. This matter is receiving no attention other than from the Government, and even oversight from that quarter seems to be largely perfunctory. The financial future of Australia is seriously mortgaged, and as this House, which is supposed to keep a close eye on public expenditure, is not having any reasonable opportunity ‘to discuss the subject, one wonders whether, after all, Parliament is fulfilling its function. I know of no stronger reason why we should strenuously object to an adjournment at the present time than the urgent necessity for a searching discussion and a most critical examination of our finances. I only want to call attention to one feature, and I am somewhat at a disadvantage, because the Bill circulated this evening has been altered in consequence of an arrangement made last week. When the Bill was submitted last week it provided for three months’ Supply, and I scrutinized one or two items that struck me as peculiar. I took out the amounts provided in each Department for salaries, and compared them with the amounts for contingencies. The Bill, covering three months’ Supply, totalled £3,449,972, and out of that amount £1,802,574 was for salaries, and £1,647,398 for contingencies, the latter amount being only about £150,000 less than the allotment for salaries. Obviously, if in a three months’ Supply Bill over £1,500,000 is asked for contingencies, in regard to which the Government are not required to give an account to Parliament, there- is evidence of slackness somewhere either in the presentation of the amounts, or in the oversight of expenditure. Of course I am aware that these claims must come before the AuditorGeneral, but of late there has been such a large expenditure of .public money in order to procure political results, that I look with a suspicious eye on the enormous amount of money asked for in the vote for contingencies. What are those contingencies? Nobody can tell us. Nobody knows, and we have been given no information on the subject. Unfortunately, the two Departments particularly responsible are those of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. In the former Department the allotments for salaries is £19,837, and for contingencies, £21,546; while in the Treasurer’s Department salaries will absorb £51,015, and contingencies £49,800. Those two Departments are easily the worst of all. It is unfortunate that the amount for contingencies in the Prime Minister’s Department should be larger than the sum Bet down for salaries. Altogether, over £1,000,000 is asked for for contingencies in regard to war service.
– This matter has been going on for years.
– I am aware of that, and the practice is growing. Honorable members who are now behind the Government called attention to this subject when they were in Opposition, and I remember that I also objected to a request by the then Treasurer (Mr. Fisher) for £1,000,000 to cover contingencies in all the Departments in a four months’ Supply Bill. But in this Supply Bill, which covers only three months, the amount asked for is £1,647,000, and it seems to :me that we are drifting into a serious position.
– We have a war on, you know.
– That is aU the more reason why we, as controllers of the public purse, should be more vigilant than ever in regard to the expenditure of public money.
– It is” impossible to estimate what money is required at a time like the present.
– That is so, but this growing expenditure under an unspecified and uncatalogued heading is not a good sign.
– There is some explanation in the Estimates. This expenditure on contingencies is not excep.tional
– I doubt that, but the disease is getting worse, and we have no opportunity for a discussion of the finances. I am not saying that the present Government are worse than Governments who have preceded them. Ever since the war began this House has not had an opportunity of discussing financial affairs.
– The Prime Minister has promised to give us a day or two for the discussion of finances when Parliament reassembles.
– I hope we shall have that opportunity, because the present position is most unsatisfactory. I do not identify the present Government particularly with this state of affairs; all of us are neglecting our first and obvious duty in connexion with the control of money at this juncture. When the House reassembles after the adjournment there will be less than three months before the annual votes are expended and a new financial year is entered, upon, and if we do not get a fair chance then for a free and full discussion of the finances it will be a most unfortunate and unreasonable thing.
We are faced with very heavy expenditure. Both public and private expenditure to-day is a serious item, and I am one of those who view with a good deal of alarm the possible financial troubles we shall have to face after the war. In war time, unfortunately, there is a feeling that money must be spent, and one’s ‘ mind is apt to reason that because a war is in progress there is no reason to inquire into increasing expenditure. But this is a time when we should study economy wherever possible. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) has repeatedly called attention to the necessity for economy in connexion with the expenditure of public money. I remember, four years ago, hearing the Minister for the Navy inviting the attention of honorable members to the alarming growth of public expenditure. Unfortunately, instead of effecting economies where they are possible our expenditure is ever extending; new avenues of expenditure are being created and useless things are being done which are increasing our liabilities. I shall call attention to a couple of items, not alone because of the financial objection to them, but because of their moral defects. I refer first of all to the establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force. I have no wish to make a party argument out of this matter, and I shall not inquire to-night as to the reasons for the Prime Minister, in an unfortunate attack of hysteria, appointing that force. To what extent any reason existed for the establishment of a Commonwealth Police Force I leave to the judgment of honorable “members. But now that the referendum campaign is over we may reasonably as sensible men face the facts, and do the best we can for the country and the Empire. The reason for the es- tablishment of this forte, if it had any justification, has disappeared. The Prime Minister is no longer in danger, if ever he had been. He has had time to cool down, and the Cabinet, if they were ever consulted on the matter, will agree that this Commonwealth Police Force must be abandoned in order to save unnecessary expense, and also to avoid the irritation caused by having a Commonwealth Police Force doing Commonwealth work which is also being done by a State Police Force. In the establishment of this force in Queensland we are only on the fringe of an innovation that may extend and cause no end of trouble, and as I wish to avoid anything that will further disintegrate the people instead of encouraging mutual harmony and a good feeling, I urge that this police force should be disbanded so that we may save money and remove a cause of irritation.
– There is another side to the question.
– If there is so we should hear it. If there is justification for the establishment of a Commonwealth Police Force such appointment should not be confined to two or three towns in Queensland, but must be extended throughout the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear !
– Surely an important departure like this should be explained to Parliament.
– To my mind this new expenditure is entirely unjustified, and the Government should either explain the reason for it or disband the force, and so relieve a good deal of the tension which exists in some places where the belief prevails that the force was appointed for a specific and unnecessary purpose.
Sitting suspended from 12.0 to 12.80 a.m. (Saturday). ‘
– There is one other item of expenditure which I regard, not only as unnecessary, but as an irritating item which might well be dispensed with - I refer to the expenditure of £60,000 per annum on the censorship. Since the debate on the no-confidence motion during which the censorship was discussed, I have received various proofs from newspapers published in Melbourne illustrating the foolish and unreasonable action of the censor. But I particularly wish to call attention to a most reprehensible action and regrettable exercise of the censorship in regard to Hansard of the Queensland Parliament. On the 20th September, 1916, I asked the Prime Minister the following question: -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the speeches of the members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland dealing with the matter which is now so prominently before the country are being heavily censored, and that the question of reprinting the Mansard report has been referred to Melbourne, the speeches not being allowed to be published .in Queensland ?
The reply of the right honorable gentleman was -
I have no knowledge of the matters referred to, and am not aware that Parliamentary speeches are being censored anywhere. Mr. Speaker is alone responsible for any censoring that may be done in connexion with the reports of speeches delivered in this House, and the Speaker of the Queensland Legislative Assembly has a similar responsibility. I know of no other authority who can interfere.
On the motion for adjournment that evening I again called attention to the question, and since then the Prime Min’ister has repeatedly emphasized the fact that only certain limitations are imposed on the censors. The right honorable gentleman visited Brisbane on the 22nd November last, and it- is rather a coincidence that on that very evening the Government Printing Office in that city was raided by the military police, ‘and copies of Queensland Hansard, No. 37, were seized and confiscated. I have to complain that, although the copies of the Queensland Hansard which I get usually reach me in good time, this particular number did not do so. The raid to which I have referred was evidently such an unwarrantable assumption of power that the Queensland Government thought it advisable on Tuesday the 27th November to issue a Gazette extraordinary dealing with it. That publication is as follows: -
Chief Secretary’s Department,
Brisbane, 27th November, 1917.
To the Public of Queensland, -
I deem it my duty on behalf of the Government of Queensland, a sovereign State of the Commonwealth of Australia, to inform you that Ilansard No. 37, containing a report of the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of this State on the 22nd instant, has been denied transmission through the Post Office by the Federal Government.
Further, on the 23rd instant, the Queensland Government Printer received the following memorandum from the Censor: -
Commonwealth Military Forces.
Censor’s Office, G.P.O.,
Brisbane, 23rd November, 1917
Memorandum from the Censor to the Government Printer, Brisbane.
Take notice that I, the undersigned, being duly authorized in that behalf by the Deputy Chief Censor, do hereby forbid you, as Printer and Publisher of Parliamentary Debates of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, to print or publish in contravention of the War Precautions Regulations, 1915, any matter being or purporting to be a report of a debate in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland on the 22nd day of November, 1917, on the question of Military Censorship, without the permission of an Officer of the Censorship Staff. (Signed) J. J. Stable, Captain.
Censor, 1st Military District
Government Printing Office,
Brisbane, 24th November, 1917
Proposed Censorship of “ Hansard
Sir, - I am in receipt of your memorandum of yesterday. I must express my complete surprise at its contents.
It is apparent that you are unaware of the opinion expressed by the present Federal Attorney-General that the Censor has no power to censor the Official Report of the Parliamentary Debates of any of the States. For your guidance, I refer you to Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, . 1914-15-16, p. 8763, where this opinion is referred to. You will observe that the Federal Attorney-General considered that the censorship of speeches is under the control of the Speaker exclusively.
You are reminded that in September, 1916, the Censor was obliged to withdraw his claim to censor the Official Report of a certain speech delivered in the Queensland Legislative Assembly by Mr. Charles Collins, MIA.
In any case, the Official Report of the debate referred to in your memorandum had been printed and published before I received your memorandum.
I suggest that the proper course for you to take in the circumstances is to apply immediately to the proper Court for an injunction to restrain the further publication of the Report complained of, and so test the validity of the claim set out in your memorandum. As far as I am concerned, i will do everything in my power to facilitate the hearing of such an application.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) A. J. Cumming,
Captain J. J. Stable,
Censor, 1st Military District
No reply was received by the Government
Printer, but late last night the Military
Authorities made a raid on the Queensland Government Printing Office, and seized some thousands of copies of Hansard.
This morning I wrote to the Prime Minister, as follows: -
Chief Secretary’s Office,
Brisbane, 27th November, 1917
Sir, - On behalf of my Government, I desire to know whether you are aware that the Federal Postal Authorities in Queensland have failed to transmit copies of Hansard No. 37 containing the report of a debate on “ Military Censorship,” and that last night (Monday, the 26th instant), the Military Authorities raided the Queensland Government Printing Office, and seized some thousands of copies of the same Hansard intended for distribution to the public of Queensland.
In view of theopinion which you expressed in Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates 1914-15-16, that the Censor had no power to censor the official report of the Parliamentary Debates of any of the States, and that you considered that the censorship of speeches was under the control of the Speaker exclusively, I cannot think that the above action was taken under your direction; but if such action was taken under your instructions or under instruction from any member of your Government, I desire on behalf of my Government to protest against such an invasion of the rights of a sovereign State.
Further, I request that you, as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, will at once give instructions to the Postal Authorities in Queensland to transmit those copies of Queensland Hansard No. 37 in their possession, and that the Military Authorities shall forthwith restore to the Government Printer those copies of Hansard taken away last night from the Queensland Government Printing Office by the Military Authorities.
I am sure you must realize the great necessity of avoiding anything in the nature of displays of military force which may inflame the public mind at a time when feeling is already running high.
Thanking you in anticipation for the courtesy of an immediate reply,
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant, (Signed) T. J. Ryan,
To this letter I have not yet received a reply.
My Government will take the necessary steps with the legal means at its disposal to inform the public on the matter, and in the meantime may I express the hope that all citizens will respect the law and maintain the strictest order.
Premier of Queensland
The opinion of the Prime Minister and Attorney-General of the Commonwealth is as follows: - “ Mr. Speaker is alone responsible for any censoring that may be done in connexion) with the reports of speeches delivered in this House, and the Speaker of the Queensland Legislative Assembly has a similar responsibility. I know of no other authority who can interfere.”
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) got to Sydney he made the following statement : -
There is absolutely no political censorship in Australia to-day. Every .elector is. perfectly free to say or write what he pleases for or against the Government’s proposals. This applies to platform, leaflet, pamphlet, or the press. . . . Discussion is as free as the air. Every man may say what he pleases, but he must take the full responsibility of everything he says or does. Similar statements relating to military or naval matters, or reflecting on our Allies, to those in the so-called Hansard, the circulation of which was prevented by the Commonwealth Government, may be spoken from the platform and published in the press, but every person making a false statement will be liable to prosecution.
During the past few years a fine national spirit has been growing in Australia. Great strides have been made towards the realization that Australia is not a mere Federation of States, but is becoming a nation. Despite the fact that our population is under 5,000,000, we have bulked large in the eyes of the people of the world ; we have been well advertised, and have become well known and highly respected. To my mind, the States have still too much power, and should long ago have surrendered to. the Commonwealth a large part of the powers they possess. But an interference by a military censorship with the sovereign rights of a State, no matter what the subject may be, strikes a serious blow at national sentiment. The saddest thing in connexion with the seizure of the Queensland Hansard, and the raid on the Government Printing Office at Brisbane, was its effect on that sentiment. If at any time there should arise the necessity for asking for increased powers for the Commonwealth Government, I shall find it extremely difficult, in view of these recent experiences, to go on a platform to advocate the surrender of the powers asked for. To take advantage of the War Precautions Act, whish was to be used for war purposes only, to strike vindictively against political opponents was reprehensible, and not calculated to foster the harmony, peace, and goodwill which we wish to develop in this community. The suspicion has been implanted in the minds of the people of Queensland that the Commonwealth Go vernment, having abused a power temporarily given to it, might similarly abuse permanent powers surrendered to it. This I regret exceedingly.
What was it that really happened? The Premier and Treasurer of Queensland addressed a public meeting in Brisbane in support of the anticonscription campaign. They were as much entitled to do that as the leading politicians of the other States were entitled to advocate conscription. But the reports of their remarks were heavily censored. . The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) yesterday drew attention to some of the expressions that were deleted. The censorship was stupid and partial, and carried its condemnation on the face of it. Sentences were cut> in half, and the arguments of the speakers were so manipulated that they thought it reasonable to take advantage of an opportunity that was open to them to have their remarks reported in full. Consequently, the Premier moved in the Legislative Assembly -
That this House emphatically protests against the manner in which the censorship is being abused to suppress reports of the views of those opposing the Commonwealth Government’s conscription proposals, and condemns it as an unwarrantable interference with the right of free discussion on the platform, and in the press, upon one of the gravest issues ever submitted to the public, and a flagrant infringement of the time-honoured rights of a free people.
In the debate which followed the speeches which had been made outside were repeated, including the censored statements, and subsequently the military raided the Queensland Government Printing Office and seized the issue of Hansard in which the report appeared.
– It is a monument to the - Commonwealth Government’s abuse of power, which will exist for all time. Do not those who support the Government think it time to stop this unreasonable censorship, and to allow full and free discussion?’ Truth can be discovered only by free investigation, and its dissemination cannot be stifled by mere obstruction. I hope, therefore, that the Government will so minimize the censorship as to give less cause for irritation, and thus promote a better, happier, and more united feeling throughout the Commonwealth.
– I desire to address the Committee upon the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as it affects the outback portions of my electorate. Every other day since I have been a member of this Parliament I have received complaints, or protests, or memoranda dealing with complaints respecting the hardships from which my constitutents in these outlying districts are suffering. Here is one letter -
Pretty Pine, 22nd November, 1917
Dear Sir, - I want to bring matters about our local post-office under your notice, and would beg you to assist us or advise us what to do in regard to our difficulty.
Mrs. Vagg has been postmistress here for twenty years, and has always given satisfaction. Latterly she has been getting ?50 a year salary, but has been notified that her salary is reduced by ?10 a year, consequently she has sent in her resignation, to take effect from 31st December. Nothing has ever been allowed to her during those twenty years for rent of room for office or for use of hall for telephone, nor has any allowance been made for lighting, though Mrs. Vagg sometimes has to stay up till midnight waiting for mail, if late.
Mrs. Vagg would keep on the postoffice and telephone if her salary is not reduced, and surely the free use of postal premises all those years should count for something.
I believe the post-office and telephone have been offered to the hotelkeeper here. The residents and people who use the telephone very much, object. It would mean a great reduction in telephone revenue, as so many people would not go to the hotel for various reasons, and about half a dozen would be put to the expense of a private bag, whilst others would have the mail addressed to Deniliquin. So if you could help us to retain Mrs. Vagg at the post-office and telephone you would be conferring a great benefit on the people round here, and we would regard it as a great favour.
I quote this letter in order to show what a ‘craze there is in the Department for what I term misdirected economy. Whatever our differences may be in political matters, no one will deny that those people who live in the outback portions of Australia already undergo enough hardships in their fight with nature, and should not be cut off entirely from communication with their fellow men. Unlessthe people of the Commonwealth accept the responsibility for the expenditure which is necessary to. secure an adequate, if not a continuous mail service, to those producers who are engaged in the outlying districts, many of them will be absolutely isolated. Instead of encouraging these people the policy of the Postal Department seems to be to discourage settlement on the land, and to place every obstacle in the way of settlers. Here are other communications which I have received - 11th December, 1917.
I have to intimate that Mr. J. D. Warren, . postmaster, Studley (about 30 miles from Pooncarrie), having tendered his resignation on account of leaving the district, and there being no suitable person willing to succeed him, there is no alternative but to close the office. It was closed accordingly as from the 17th ultimo.
I may add that the question of establishing a new post-office between Wentworth and Pooncarrie, in lieu of the offices formerly at Studley and Lethero, is receiving consideration. 19th December, 1917.
I have to inform you that a communication upon the subject mentioned below has been received from Messrs. A. Kirkpatrick & Co., G. T. Killen, E. L. Crayford, and others, Buckanbe, via Wilcannia.
The matter will receive attention, and you will be further advised in due course.
Subject: - Objecting to the proposed curtailment of the frequency of the Wilcannia-Tilpa mail service from twice to once weekly. 3rd January, 1918.
I have to intimate that the allowance postmaster at Mallan, near Moulamein, having submitted his resignation, to date from the 31st ultimo, inquiry was made with a view to obtaining a suitable person to take charge of the office, but without success, and action has accordingly been taken to discontinue the office as from the date mentioned.
Mr.Webster. - Where there is no person qualified to take a post office the honorable member should not complain because the Department has not been able to locate one.
– I am merely showing that in this one electorate there has been constant complaint after complaint from people living outback. I do not care what reason is advanced by the Department. I claim that there was no adequate reason for not providing the facilities required.
– Is it not an adequate reason that there is no suitable person available ?
– The Department say that there is no man suitable, but the residents say otherwise. Here is a further communication - 4th January, 1918.
Sir, - I have to intimate that the only offer received for the continuance of the BarhamThulc mail service from the 1st March next is at the rate of £85 10s. per annum. Based on the revenue derived from correspondence passing over the line, the Department would be justified in contributing £66 7s. 6d. (which amount represents the whole of the revenue plus half the difference . between the revenue and the ascertained cost, plus 10 per cent, thereof) towards the continuance of the service, and itwill therefore be necessary for those concerned to find some one willing to perform the service for the sum of £66 7s. 6d. mentioned, or make goodthe difference between it and the lowest tender, i.e., £19 2s. 6d. per annum.
The Barham branch of the Farmers and Settlers Association and the manager, Thule Station, Barham, have been advised accordingly.
I have another communication here, dated 7th January -
With reference to my communication of the 21st August last, relative to the invitation of fresh tenders for the performance of the BalranaldMonkem Grange mail service from the 1st January, 1918, I have to intimate that, as the residents failed to submit a tender at the amount (£60 per annum), the Department would be justified in expending on the service, or to agree to make up any excess required by a tenderer, the service has been discontinued as from 1st January, 1918.
In addition to those I have mentioned, I have received numerous communications which I forwarded to the Department, from the Murray Shire Council, with regard to the telephone service at Mathoura, with regard also to Deniliquin, and, if my memory serves me right, with regard to Wilcannia, where the residents asked for a continuous service or the extension of the service from 6 to 8 p.m. When I mentioned this last matter to the PostmasterGeneral, he will remember that he replied that he did not contemplate bringing back the employees without paying them overtime.
– No; I told the honorable member that I had reverted to the 8 o’clock closing in the case of all offices at which it had previously prevailed.
– That did not refer to the case I am mentioning now, which Was an application for an extension from 6 to 8 o’clock. The request submitted from the residents pointed out that the people engaged in agricultural work were at some distance from the place where they could get to the telephone in the ordinary hours, and it was in their interest that they should be permitted to use it after those hours. The requested extension of two hours would have benefited them’ considerably.
The Department is not giving any encouragement to either employers or workers outback, All who have had any experience of the outback settlements will admit that the people in those remote districts have enough hardships to put up with without having to suffer the additional inconvenience of having their means of communication reduced by the discontinuance of mail services, and the shutting up of post-offices, in the pursuance of a cheese-paring policy. In my opinion, the country as a whole should bear the cost of maintaining these services for the people outback.
– At any cost?
– Yes, at any cost. The great bulk of the people concentrated in the large cities enjoy all these facilities. I have travelled and worked outback, and know something of the conditions.
– I suppose the honorable member is the only man who has travelled outback,
– No, I am not; but let me say that before many months have passed over his head the PostmasterGeneral will find that I am not the only member of this Parliament who will insist upon getting a better deal for the people outback in the matter of these facilities. This is not a party political matter. It gives rise to no controversy except on the part of the PostmasterGeneral.
– We will have two-thirds of the members of this House with the honorable member on this matter when we meet again.
– I shall be satisfied if something is done. I am a new member of the House, and because of the general election, the strike, the meeting of Parliament, and the referendum I have not had an opportunity to go through my electorate to find out the grievances’ of the electors, but I have been deluged with complaints from various parts of the electorate upon the curtailment of postal facilities. The documents I have read show that the action of the Post and Telegraph Department is not calculated, as it ought to be, to encourage people to settle on the land and stop on it. The interests of workers outback and their employers are identical in this matter if in no other. The disabilities under which the people outback are suffering in this connexion will raise such a tornado that the Postmaster-General will ©ave to go, or something will have to be done by the Department to remove those disabilities.
– The honorable member’s threats are not of much consequence.
– I am riot making a threat, or giving a pledge either.- I have no particular axe to grind in this matter, as my constituency is mainly industrial. However, it is my duty to consider, not merely where the bulk of the votes are to be found in my electorate, but to try to secure as fair a deal as possible for all persons in it. Grievances of this kind should not give rise to discussion, but should receive prompt redress.
There is another matter I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members, and that is the employment of foreign labour in the mines of Broken Hill. I understand that in Western Australia there is a restriction upon the employment of foreign labour in mines. Persons who cannot speak English are prevented from going underground.
– That is not a Commonwealth matter.
– In view of the fact that the production of lead and zinc, which is recognised as an essential war industry, is carried on at Broken Hill, the Federal Government have power to deal with this matter. After the late strike, twenty-two or twenty-three men presented themselves for employment at one of the mines. All of these men but one were enemy subjects, and they were accepted, with the exception of that one, who was a married Australian. I was in Sydney when this matter was brought under the notice of Mr. Puller, the Acting Premier, who stated that the action taken had been without his knowledge and authority, and he promised to inquire. I have received from many of my constituents complaints with regard to the engagement by certain mining companies of large numbers of Maltese, and I think that, seeing the Government are so busy turning out War Precautions Act regulations, they could help the workers at Broken Hill in a very effective manner by pro hibiting the employment underground of all who cannot speak English. Such a regulation is absolutely necessary-,- for these men endanger not only their own lives, but the lives of others.
– Is there any considerable proportion of miners who cannot speak English ?
– When I was associated with the unions, there was a number of people employed who could not understand a word of English.
– Is it true that the Japanese are buying up mineral leases and mining interests there?
– I have received a letter from a friend of mine, who tells me that Japanese syndicates are buying up mining leases for miles surrounding the Zinc Corporation at Broken Hill, and are also interesting themselves financially in copper mining on the York Peninsula, in South Australia.
– The South Australian Government would not grant leases under such conditions.
– Does the honorable member know that the State Government have not done so ? ,
– It is a State matter, and not a Federal matter.
– It is a Federal matter so far as concerns the retaining of control by the Australian people of these particular industries. If we are interested in eliminating foreign control in the essential industries of Australia, I fail to see the benefit of substituting one foreign control for another.
– The York Peninsula copper mines are in my district, and this is the -first that I have heard of the matter.
– That may be; but I am giving the statement for what it is worth. I am informed. by my friend that, as regards Broken Hill, the statement I have made is true, and he mentions that the Japanese are said to have taken up copper “shows” on York Peninsula. I cannot say whether or not the latter statement is true, but as regards Broken Hill, I believe the information to be accurate. As the honorable member has said, it is a State matter, but I have no doubt that, if the Federal authorities exercised themselves, the New South Wales Government would be susceptible to their influence. I would be the last to, object. to any man obtaining work, whatever his nationality might be; but something ought to be done to prevent people who do not understand English from working underground, and, as I say, endangering not only their own lives, but the lives of others. The industries to which I am referring are essentially war industries,- and the Federal Government ought to do something in the matter.
I emphasize the remarks I have made in regard to the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department in the outback districts, and I hope that the Postmaster-General, who is now, in a measure, free from worries, ought to devote his attention to the grievances. My constituents may be particularly unlucky, but if their complaints are representative, the state of affairs is very regrettable. The whole of the community should bear the cost of providing postal facilities for the people in the outback portions of the country.
– So it does, to a large extent. In each case the general community bears 50 per cent, of the loss incurred .
– But, in my opinion, the principle laid down in this connexion is entirely wrong. If the population is sufficiently large, and it pays the Department to provide the facilities, then everything is right; but when the people are numerically weak, the stand is taken that,because they have nothing, they should receive nothing.
– No Railway Department, or any other institution of the kind, performs services free of cost. You ask the Post Office to do something that must end in bankruptcy.
– The loss should be met out of the public funds; the people in the outback districts, who are trying to turn the wilderness into a garden, ought not to be penalized, but helped.
– So they are.
– By closing the post-offices ?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It seems idiotic that Parliament should be doing work at this time, and I feel it my duty to apologize to the officials whom I am assisting to keep here. I have just come from a meeting, and in all my experience I have never seen a meeting so vibrating with resentment at what they consider the infamy of the conduct of the present Government. There is not one Minister but was accused very severely. I was asked, “ Are you not paid well enough to carry on the work of Parliament? What are you going to shut up for?” I said, “It is the Ministers who are doing it.” They said, “ We do not blame you personally, but is not £12 a week good enough for you ? Why do you not carry on?” I know no social organization so well paid as this Parliament that does such little work. We have a minimum, wage of £12 per week, rising to a maximum of £48 per week. One interjector said, “ We are fighting for the King; it is time for us to appeal to the King against the GovernorGeneral.” The Standing Orders would not allow me to say in this Chamber what the public are saying outside.
– I suppose you were as happy as Larry ?
– I was never sadder in my life than to see the people who pay the honorable member and pay me so justly angry.
– The pay is more than you are worth.
– The people outside do not think so, but they also pay the honorable member, and he is glad to take the money. An influential business man of large experience in this city has sent me a letter which seems to put the whole case very well. He enclosed the following cutting from the Melbourne Herald of the 10th instant -
In commenting upon the possibilities of the political situation in Australia, The Times characterizes Mr. F. G-. Tudor, Leader of the Official Labour party, as an experienced administrator. It adds that his direct methods, honesty of purpose and sturdy loyalty to convictions during his Parliamentary career have earned him a large amount of public confidence.
That was published in The Times, which is owned by Lord Northcliffe, the man who made Mr. Hughes with all his daily papers in England. Perhaps Lord Northcliffe did not see that paragraph before it went in. My correspondent’s letter, dated 15th January, is as follows: -
As my representative in Parliament, I trust you will strongly impress on your party the importance of keeping Parliament, sitting and working, and if Mr. Hughes insists on locking Parliament House that your party shall continue to meet, debate, and pass resolutions, which, though without legal force, will have moral force. Not a sitting should pass without abuses being attacked and their authors as well. Parliament is paid; it should work.
This will prove to the public that there is work which should be attended to, and that those who neglect it abandon the State to the autocrats, and so sell their constituents. There are not nearly enough public meetings led by Opposition members to demand attention to public affairs. Silence is itself criminal now.
Be Mr. Hughes’ offer to Mr. Tudor, the offer should be made so that it shall be clear that it cannot turn out to be any sort of catch or bribe. Mr. Hughes may have something up his sleeve. which he wishes the Opposition to be trapped into opposing.
Until Mr. Hughes’ and his Government keep the pledge they have already broken; and also clear up the suspicious matters in connexion with the Senate,surely no offer by Mr. Hughes could be considered genuine or as of higher value than if it had emanated from those “ scrap of paper “ Germans, who are better known as Prussian militarists.
The Opposition would- be discredited in the eyes of the people if it allowed itself to be tempted into a false attitude by Government now. The Government hopes the Opposition can be held up as condoning the Government treatment of the public. In that case at the next elections the papers would be able to keep the present Government in power, and cause many of the present Opposition to be rejected, as if both sides were equally tricksters on getting the opportunity. But if the Opposition will be neither tempted to silence nor to sharing of billets, then at the next elections the public will standby the Opposition. Public meetings should show the true attitude is that Hughes is now impossible, and that whether for war or for peace the country can do far more and far better without him.
Mr. Hughes has asserted that Mr. Tudor was incompetent in handling his opportunity on making his no-confidence speech, and, therefore, not worthy to hold office. In reply, your party should let men speak who have nearly as much oratorical ability as Mr. Hughes himself. He once discredited Anstey as an orator, but surely the people are not to be kept down for want of a voice.
You might ask -Mr. Tudor to show you his copy of the letter I sent Mr. Hughes - especially my last paragraph. Mr. Hughes has replied thankingme for my outspoken letter, and not denying what I say. Mr. Hughes has always been very polite to me, but I have never succeeded in getting . him to act competently, or even, as I think, honorably in matters of importance in the Attorney-General’s Department, as to which he is, of course, responsible as a paid officer. The Opposition does show far more honesty than ability in fighting, I fear. If Hughes were on your side what an outcry he could and would make, and how he would keep it up until the Government kept its pledge.
– Who writes that?
– A gentleman whose name I have for the present decided to withhold. If he gives me permission tomorrow I will supply Hansard with his name.
– You do not usually read anonymous letters and put them into Hansard without the author’s names.
– It is not an anonymous letter. The Postmaster-General is as inaccurate’ as he was when he said he would resign in twenty-four hours.
– But there is no signature to the letter.
– There was one, but it is at present in my possession. In any case, the honorable member is not the keeper of my conscience.
The Electoral Department has been mismanaged in an infamous way. A viler slur has never been cast upon the nation than the action of this Government in robbing citizens of the right to vote. It is an infamy that will never be forgotten, and the like of which I have not known in my twentyseven years of political life. As a member of the Australian Natives Association, and a former director of it, as one who was the first to move that women should be permitted to join the Association, and, as a lover of my country, I resent this action on the part of the Government. The Australian Natives Association must have lost its old fighting . power, otherwise its voice would have been heard throughout the country denouncing the vile act of the Government in robbing men oftheir citizenship. I cannot describe my loathing and detestation of the act. The members of the Government, whose lips move in silent prayer every time this House meets, saw fit to do this injustice.
Coming to the question of economy, I should like to know why we cannot have uniform Commonwealth and State rolls. The Commonwealth rolls represent the highest type of citizenship. Even those in receipt of eleemosynary assistance are permitted to exercise the Commonwealth franchise, but under the State law, to the disgrace of the State be it said, they are unable to vote.
Returning for a moment to the action of the Government in depriving Germans and the descendants of Germans of the right to vote at the recent referendum, I have here a reproduction of a fine old photograph in Truth, th© letterpress attached to which states -
The above historic group consists of three Germans, two Swedes, two Norwegians, one Russian, one Welshman, one Cockney, and one Irishman. The man in the white pants and nan-nan is the Welshman.
This Welshman is the present Prime Minister. The children of the three Germans who were hi3 friends when this photograph was taken in 1901, and also the men themselves, have been robbed by him of their franchise. As reported in Hansard, No. 5, of 28th October, 1914, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said on that date -
I wish also to say to my fellow citizens of this country that, whether naturalized or not, they will receive at the hands of this Government a fair and square deal.
A newspaper comment on this statement asks, “What sort of a square deal is this man extending to-day?” At page 384 of the same number of Hansard, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said, in dealing with the War Precautions Bill -
This ‘Bill is not intended to harass any lawabiding person in the Commonwealth, naturalized, unnaturalized, or native-born.
And yet under that Act native-born citizens are now refused the right to -vote.
The present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) succeeded a man who handled the Department much better than he did, and who was more satisfactory to the officers and men underneath him. T have to complain that he gave me a promise which has nob been fulfilled. On the 14th September last, as reported in Hansard of that date, page 2128, the following question was put on my behalf to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence -
Do the instructions of the Defence Department, re preference to returned soldiers, imply that rejected married men, also men over military age, are to be discharged from departmental positions to make way for returned soldiers ?
The answer given by the Minister for the Navy was- -
Married men who have volunteered* and been rejected, and men over military age, will not be discharged from departmental positions to make way for returned soldiers.
That seemed a straightforward answer, and I was content with it. I regret, however, that the promise has not been kept. I have here a copy of a- certificate of service issued by Mr. Bright, the
Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria, to Mr. R. Serpell, of 87 Pigdon-street, ‘ North Carlton, setting forth that he was employed as a temporary postman from 17th May, 1916, to 7th September, 1917, and that his conduct was good. It contains the statement that -
Mr. Serpell performed his duties in a satisfactory manner whilst temporarily employed in this Department, and was required to cease duty in order to give employment to a returned soldier.
On two occasions Mr. Serpell volunteered, a.nd was finally refused because of defective vision.
Another question to which I desire to refer is the placing of diseased meat on transports. This has been for some time, a subject of contention between the Minister for the Navy and myself. Seventeen or eighteen questions on my part were necessary to drag out the truth. Had the right honorable gentleman’s predecessor remained in office for another week I would have learned all that I was trying to find out. I have proved clearly that the diseased meat in question was sent out of certain abattoirs. It was suggested at’ first that it came from the Melbourne City Council’s abattoirs, but, as a matter of fact, it did not.- I have before me a letter from the Melbourne City Council, which, by the way, would not allow returned soldiers to hold a no-conscription meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall. The letter, which is signed by the Acting Town Clerk, reads as follows: - 27th October 1917.
Sir, - I have the honor to inform you that your letter of 8th instant, in regard to the statements made in the House respecting certain diseased meat having been supplied to transports, was submitted to the Abattoirs and Cattle Markets Committee of the City Council at their last meeting.
The Committee desire me to express to you their thanks for the action taken by you in having the Council’s position in the matter placed before the House.
The Committee further desire to repeat that the facts are as follows : -
The Committee consider that it should be a simple matter for the officers of the Government to ascertain the establishment from which the livers were obtained.
I accuse the Minister for the Navy of having stated definitely that the diseased meat which had been supplied by Mr. Angliss had come from the Melbourne abattoirs, and here is my contradiction of that statement. It is something new. This was the gentleman who, when the cold storage contractor was in difficulties and asked for relief in regard to his obligations, amounting to £4,618, took over the works for £2,500, and got an extension of six months on the original term at a time, too, when cold storage was of more value than at any other period in our history. If any honorable members are sufficiently interested, I can procure for them a report by one of the district Judges on this particular person. Diseased meat was supplied to our soldiers on the steamship Benalla. Dr. Jackson, of Bendigo, said the livers were not fit to eat. One of the men on board the ship stated that while portion of one liver was being cooked, he noticed a hydatid cyst burst. This man, who is now a returned soldier with a chance of doing very well, has given me his name and address.
– But were not the inspectors remiss in their duties to pass the meat?
– Perhaps they were. Mr. Angliss is supposed to be under their control, and the meat, is also subject te inspection by the Customs officials; but I point out that once it leaves the abattoirs it may go into consumption; and every man, woman, and child in the city of Melbourne stands in danger of catching that vile disease of hydatids, which in some of its phases is responsible for a terribly high death-rate. I want to put on record the experiences of one gentleman whose boy, aged fourteen years, had been ailing for eighteen months. Specialists said he was suffering from a tubercular disease. The boy was wasting away, but his doctor was not quite satisfied as to the diagnosis,’ and said he would like to have the case X-rayed. He had two consultations and three appointments with the X-ray expert, but still he was not satisfied, and advised the father to have the lad operated upon for the hydatids. In order to save expense, the boy was removed to the Children’s Hospital and aspirated : that is, a hollow needle was inserted, and immediately the fluid escaped. The boy was at once operated upon, and the surgeons removed a huge hydatid cyst. In my opinion, it is highly probable that that boy caught the disease through eating underdone meat impregnated with hydatids.
– But what effect would cooking have on the meat ? .
– Some medical men might say it would be safe enough if it were boiled to Tags, but if the honorable member were to ask a doctor if he would eat it under any circumstances, and if that doctor were of my opinion, he would say, “No.” I do not believe for a moment that these diseased livers were sent from the Melbourne abattoirs.
I want now to say a few words on the question of enlistments. Unfortunately correct data have not been kept by the Defence authorities, but I have taken the trouble to examine the figures from1 time to time, and I find that at the Melbourne Town Hall, on 22nd November, 41 men applied and 15 were accepted; on 4th December, 43 applied and 8 were accepted.; on 17 th December, 51 applied and 22 were accepted. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) had something to say on this subject yesterday, and remarked that Melbourne got credit for recruits that came from other parts of the State. I am glad to know that owing to some little action on my part I have been able to induce a number of men to enlist in Melbourne, but I have never put forward my own district as being in the front rank in this respect. I would point out, however, that Bourke provided 307 recruits over a given period, while, during the same time, Balaclava .provided 124; Henty, which gave a majority of 16,000 “ Yes “ votes at the recent referendum, furnished only 59 recruits; and Kooyong 101, or a total for these three metropolitan districts of 284, as against 307 in Bourke. Moreover, it must be remembered that Henty probably has the largest population of any constituency in Victoria. I am endeavouring, if ^possible, to get the number of enlistments in each district right from the beginning of the war up to the end of last year, so that honorable members, knowing the position, will be able to go into their constituencies and appeal for recruits. I have been careful not to mention my own district for the reason stated, but I have quoted Bourke. Though the district of Mel- bourne is one of the smallest constituencies in point of numbers in the whole of Victoria, I am glad to say that in regard to enlistments, it is well up to the front.
On the question of economy I also desire to say something, but I will not labour my views.
– It is rather late now.
– It is never too late to right a wrong or perform one’s public duty. I should like very much to know why two war vessels, the Sydney and the Psyche, were sent to Brisbane theday after the referendum vote. Was that, in addition to the appointment of the Federal police, a show of force by the Commonwealth. Perhaps they were sent there with . the intention of blowing up the city in the event of riots or anything of that character. It would be hard lines if our own ships of war were employed to do that sort of work.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If no other honorable member wishes to intervene I shall continue my remarks now. Mr. F.C. M. Burn, the police magistrate at Warwick, who fined Paddy Brosnan for having created a disturbance, stated in his evidence - 1 know Paddy Brosnan. He was not the man who threw the two eggs. … I saw the Prime Minister come to the spot where he was to speak, accompanied by SeniorSergeant Kenny, who introduced him to the crowd, and asked the people to give him a fair hearing.
In this matter Queensland has been treated infamously.
Reverting to the matter of enlistments, it may interest honorable members to know that the National life insurance companies have stated definitely in regard to the war claims of the boys who have gone to the Front, that, notwithstanding these unexpected, and, in a. sense, unprovided for, claims the total is only 77 per cent, of the expectation. The average of casualties at the Front has become less every year. In France it has dropped from 5.4 per cent, in the battle of the Marne, to 1.4 per cent, for the last six months for which figures are available. My own nephew has been wounded three times altogether, in seven different places, and the fool doctors in London say he is now ready to return to the Front, but I know that the doctors at the Front will not accept him if he goes there. Orders were sent round to the doctors to pass men even if they were not fit to go.
– That shows that the authorities must be very short of men.
– No, it shows that they mean to press harder on the worker. I could speak for hours on this subject, because I resentthe infamy that is being perpetrated.
Thanks to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) and Mr. O’Malley, an inquiry was held into the expenditure and administration at Canberra, and on the basis of the Royal Commissioner’s report, I accuse the officers of the Home and Territories Department of being absolutely incompetent, and of having wasted money. I know that Mr. Hill is the only one of them who has won his diplomas by actual examination. Colonel Miller never faced an examination, and Colonel Owen received his diploma only because he had worked his way up in the Works Department of New South Wales. The title he received by courtesy from England can only be won by passing an examination, which is one of the most severe in the world. On page 45 of his report, Mr. Blacket said -
Upon all the evidence, and particularly upon that which has been stated or referred to in this report, I find that the reasons why Mr-. Griffin between 18th October, 1913, and 15th November, 1915, performed no substantial part of his duties under his contract with the Commonwealth are as stated in four of the five charges advanced in his behalf, viz., charges 1, 2, 3, and 5, and are as under: -
1 ) That necessary information and assistance were withheld from him and his powers were usurped by certain officers ;
That he and his office. were ignored, his rights and duties under his contract denied, and false charges of default made against him;
That the Honorable W. 0. Archibald and members of the Departmental Board endeavoured to set aside his design and to substitute the Board’s own design; and
That there was in the Department a combination, including the Honorable W. O. Archibald and certain officers, hostile to Mr. Griffin, and to his design for the Capital City.
In the opinion of University and scientific men the Government officers were guilty of grave maladministration, and the white-washing of them by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr, Watt) was one of the most deplorable occurrences in the public life of Australia, having been equalled only by that gentleman’s action in robbing 100,000 citizens of Victoria of the right to vote. The Town Planning and Housing Review (England) of January, 1913, said -
The new plan is evidently the product of a Department whose personnel is utterly untrained in the elements of _ architectural composition, whose mind is a turmoil of confusion as regards the association of different buildings, and whose ideas on the simple logic of street composition, have resulted in a road scheme which is simply a reductio ad absurdum. Indeed, the whole lay-out is so entirely outside the pale of serious criticism that we feel that it cannot be put into execution. The perspective sketch which accompanies the plan, with its innumerable kiosks and its irregular distribution that is everything undesirable, reminds us of a third-rate Luna Park or the Christmas production of a toy factory. When compared with Mr. Griffin’s plan, th« defects of which are, after all, æsthetic rather than functional and technical, it is obvious at once that the “ final plan “ is the work of an amateur who has yet to learn the elementary principles of laying out a town.
That paper is a technical organ, with a substantial, standing in England. Its criticism was supported by a petition signed by 260 leading architects and engineers of the Commonwealth, and sent to the Minister for the Navy. I personally thanked the honorable gentleman for his action in, at any rate, preventing Mr. Griffin being crucified on the cross of jealousy by departmental officers who have not the ability to appreciate his plan, but only ability enough to mar the idea of a great man by substituting an abortion of a plan of their own. But for the action of the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Home Affairs of the day, Mr. Griffin would have been sent away from Australia in disgrace. That would have seriously injured him in his profes’sional capacity in America, where men are judged, not by what they have done, but by their success. Paragraph 7 on page 5 of the Royal Commissioner’s Report on Federal Capital Administration reads -
Another remarkable item is the Administrator’s residence at Acton. The original estimate for this building was £3,900, and Colonel Miller demurred to this as being excessive. However, the building was proceeded with, and its debit of cost is £6,356. Mr. Hiscock’s estimate of its value is £2,800. Here again it may be that part of the difference is to be accounted for by bad bookkeeping, for £2,310 of the amount debited against this item is in respect of an allocation of a sum of £23,317, and of a further sum of £4,926, standing to the debit of Acton buildings, as stated in paragraphs 14 and 18 of the second part of this report, £2,310 being the amount of those total sums of expenditure assumed to have been expended on the Administrator’s residence. The Commonwealth Bank manager’s quarters at Acton show a debit’ of £1,640. Mr. Hiscock’s estimate is £1,195. The Commonwealth Bank stands at £2,310, and its .valuation ‘ by Mr. Hiscock is £1,970. Fire brigade buildings at Acton carry a debit of £495, and the valuation is £395. The married officers’ quarters stand at £7,118 lis., and stables £711 6s. 9d. in addition, but their cost, according to Mr. Holland, the architect under whose supervision they were built, was £9,502, or £1,188 each. They are valued by Mr. Hiscock at £5,600- £3,902 below their cost.
I regard the- action of the Minister for Works and Railways in securing an official to whitewash these officers as an infamy. It is tantamount to getting an ordinary Police Court clerk to review the decision of a Supreme Court Judge. The men who are responsible for- the blunders at the Federal Capital ought to be dismissed for incompetency. I hope that when the present; turmoil is over the design of all public buildings throughout the Commonwealth will be open to competition, and that the winners of these ‘competitions will be intrusted with the erection of those buildings. I remember asking Mr. Kirkpatrick, the architect of the Commonwealth Bank buildings in Sydney, whether he intended to get any assistance from Mr. Hill, Colonel Owen, or Mr. Murdoch. I shall never forget the way in which he snorted.
– Mr. Murdoch is as good a man as is Mr. Kirkpatrick.
– That statement is absolutely inaccurate. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– The honorable member knows more about diseased livers than he does about architecture.
– It may be information to the honorable member to learn that I have supplied an invention which all the architects of the world missed. He is probably not aware that I hold a letter of commendation from the great John Ruskin in ref erence to architectural adornment, and that I also had an offer from Auguste Racinet to complete his work had I not preferred to come to Australia. I strongly resent the retention in the Commonwealth service of the officers who are responsible for the bungling at Canberra.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, while filling the position of Minister for Home Affairs, signed an absolute untruth owing to the papers which Colonel Miller put before him in reference to a man named Barrett. The present Minister for the Navy certainly did good work in connexion with the Federal Capital, as did also the honorable member for Wentworth. But’ papers have been taken from the official file relating to the works there, so that those files are by no means complete. As a result I was fooled myself, and I shall always be grateful to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) for showing me how I was fooled. I hope that the present Minister for Works and Railways will be succeeded by a strong man who will have the courage to act upon the report of Mr. Commissioner Blacket. Otherwise there is no hope of securing economy in Australia.
– It would be only a reasonable thing if at this hour the Government consented to an adjournment of the debate.
– Not much.
– It must be recollected that Parliament has been doing nothing for three month’s, and that some honorable members represent very large constituencies. In my own electorate there are 100,000 people, including soldiers who have ‘ gone overseas,- their dependants, and a number of wounded men who have returned to Australia. There is a large number of matters affecting all these people, together with the general population, with which I should like to deal. I wish at least to place it on record that I am not allowed an opportunity to deal with them.
– The honorable member can go to the Defence Department.
– I refuse to be shunted off on to an official. There are matters concerning the soldiers which should be ventilated in the National Parliament.
– The honorable member did not ventilate them when on this side of the House.
– I did my level best. These are some of the subjects which I should discuss if I were not being deprived of the opportunity to do so - 1
I was anxious to discuss the nonpayment to the farmers of this country of the money due to them for wheat that has been handed over to the Government agents.
I wished, too, for the opportunity to draw attention to the fact that the Government, having received their wheat in good order and condition, stored it so badly that the Pool has lost about £200,000. As this loss has arisen through Government bungling, it should be made good out of the public Treasury.
Then there is the non-fulfilment of the promise to the farmers that sacks would be supplied at reasonable prices - a promise made by the Prime Minister in this chamber last year. In various parts of New South Wales the farmers have been compelled to leave their grain on the ground because they have not been able to get bags, and are prevented from using second-hand bags. The’ Government should bear the losses which must come to the farmers wherever it can be proven that such loss is the result of Government incapacity to carry out their business undertakings. But, apparently, Ministers desire to prevent the discussion of these matters, because they are afraid of a vote of the House regarding them. They know well that should motions relating to these matters be put before the House they would be carried by overwhelming majorities, and by manipulating the business-paper in a manner permitted under the Standing Orders they are preventing the discussion of these matters.
Those of their supporters who represent farming constituencies are not prepared to insist that the farmers should have a fair and square deal, although they have the power to compel the Government to take heed of the farmers’ interests.
– We do not wish to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. .
– Does the honorable member say that the farmer should not he paid the full amount for his wheat ?
– He should be paid the full amount due to him, but much of the wheat has not yet been sold.
– If the honorable member considers that the farmer should not under present circumstances get the full amount -due to him for his wheat, it is remarkable that a farming constituency returns him as its representative. The purchase of the wheat is arranged, and the credit of the British Government and the Commonwealth is ample to enable it to be financed so as to pay the farmer in cash. Payment for wheat is now being doled out to the farmers. What they receive does not meet the cost of producing the crop. The farmers have run into debt with the storekeepers, who charge them from 8 to 10 per cent, on their accounts, and a further periodical advance of 6d. a bushel on their wheat serves only to reduce the interest charge without wiping off the debt.
– The same thing happened when the honorable member was supporting a Government, but when I referred to it in the House he was silent.
– What I speak of is a rank injustice to which I shall never be a party, and to which I never have been, a party. I ask the honorable member, as the representative of a farming constituency, to help me to see that justice is done.
– I spoke to-night on the subject.
– Let him join me in holding up business until justice is done. Does the honorable member think that the Government should not pay for the damage done to wheat which they received in good order?
– Well, let him support me in fighting for compensation. The honorable member is aware of the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) respecting the supply of sacks. He knows that that promise has not been carried out, but we have hardly heard a word from him about it.
– I spoke to-night for half-an-hour.
– The honorable member did not refer to sacks. He must have little influence as a Government supporter if he cannot get remedied the glaring injustices which are being suffered by thousands of his constituents.
– The farmers’ friend is speaking.
– I am the farmers’ friend. I wish to see justice done to the farmers. I have not time now, however, to deal with these vital matters; and the Government insist upon closing up the House without permitting the motions on the business-paper relating to these farmers’ interests to be dealt with.
There are innumerable complaints coming to hand from our soldiers over the seas, and I offer a suggestion for the consideration of the Government. Seeing that there are members of this Parliament at the Front, one from each party, acting in unison, could go .about among the troops for the purpose of inquiring into these complaints, and having them amicably settled on the spot.
– What is the nature of the complaints ?
– As I am only permitted to refer incidentally to these matters, L- have not brought my papers into the Chamber, but, speaking from memory, I can say that they relate to shortage of food, both at the Front and in the camps in England, to the location of the camps - men are placed in locations where they suffer undue hardship from the cold - and to the treatment meted out by some English officers who do not understand Australians. Many of these matters could be adjusted if my suggestion were carried out.
I must, however, refer to the treatment of our soldiers in military gaols in France. I have here a letter written by a soldier to his wife, who resides in my electorate. In it there are some expressions of hatred towards British officers. I would not mention them, but if the treatment described does take place it cannot but have an effect of that kind. The letter proceeds^ -
The police will get a terribly rough spin if ever they come to Australia after the war, because we have seen what rotters they are. If I saw an Englishman dying and a drink of water would save his life, I would let him die.
Well, darling, the way we are being treated is awful. They shove the Australians in for everything, and then boom them in the papers. Everything you see about comforts in the trenches, &c, arc all . . . lies. We have seen and do see papers nearly every day, and the sketches and photos, you see are lies taken somewhere on a training camp. Wait till the Australians get home, then you will hear the scream. The reason they do not sing out now, darling, is that they cannot get word through, because everything crook is stopped. Even in the military gaol you are treated like a dog, and what I am going to tell you now is the truth, may I never see you again if it is not. When you go there first they ask you what you are, and you say an Australian. Off goes your hat with a stick. These warders that hit you are civil screws in peace time, and have never yet seen the firing line. The spirit of any Australian will not be broken by these mugs. And then, of course, you are put in No. 8, handcuffed and leg-ironed, and they give you not a punch, but a severe kicking, until you are black and blue. You make a complaint to the Governor, who is another- , and works with them. And, for instance, he will say, “You may beat one of my staff, but you can’t beat them all.” If you happen to have a black eye and the doctor passes, the first thing he will say is, “What! have you been playing up ? “ If you complain they tell you they will give you “complaining,” and then you aro in for another bashing. When they are bashing you they say, “ We tame tigers here, not only Australians.” Of course this is done for nothing, and if you are as meek as a mouse they keep on tormenting you until you say something. Well, dear, even the dirty mongrels have to be called “ Staff.” “ Yes, Staff.” “No, Staff”; and a fellow is likely to forget, and you get another bashing.
Well, dear, you double from the time you get in; leg- irons or not, and the leg irons are only long enough to go a yard at a time. If you are in the cells - bread and water for breakfast. Miss dinner. Bread and water for tea for the first seven days. The remainder of the sentence you get the same diet, only porridge for dinner. “ Double “ means running all the time at everything.
Rouen is the name of the gaol I speak of. No. 2 Military Prison, Rouen, and No. 1. The place is full of them. Calais, Havre, and Avoncourt. I don’t know the number of those others; but from what I. can hear from men that come here from there, they are all the same. Tell Dad not to be afraid to mention it, as he has only to ask me, and I can send him a thousand witnesses.
I can give the case of another chap here who had the- disease, who, while in irons, the stuff got in his eyes and. Jio complained. They took no notice until it “was too late, and when he arrived here they took his eye out next day. After a couple of weeks, when that was all right, they put him back in irons in cells again. His number is Private 1777, M. Lomas 13th Battalion, 4th Division, A.I.F. I saw this with my own eyes. He tried, to get a letter through to his sister, Mrs. Boyle, 30 Starling-street, Leichhardt, but they got it, and Mr. Kicking was about the place. 1 saw another fellow from Melbourne by the name of Bloomfield, in the 32nd Battalion, because he would not tell them what he belonged to they had him leg-ironed and in handcuffs for seven weeks, and then they put him under the fourth degree and nearly drove him mad. They took his uniform off; got a bag and cut three holes, two for his arms and one for his head, and a piece of string round the waist. Then they put him on his hands and knees and kept hitting him on the face with a strap from one side and then the other, asking him who he was, and mocking him, saying, “ Do you love me now?” They kept this up for eight hours, and he still on his hands and knees for the whole time. At Inst he had to give in, and they sent him to his battalion to wait for court martial. I also saw this with my own eyes.
– Does not that seem to be an impossible yarn? Eight hours!
– I do not know what the circumstances are. The treatment described seems to be so brutal and so terrible that it is almost impossible to imagine that it could have taken place.
– Then why put it on record?
– Because this man says that’ the gaols are full of similar cases.
– The honorable member might just as easily have sent that letter into the Department and asked for action to be taken.
– These things are going on, and honorable members should not have them pushed off on to officials.
– The honorable member knows very well that when he puts that letter on record, and it is read, it will be a direct discouragement to recruiting; he has no right to put it on record unless he can vouch for the truth of the statements in it.
– How can I vouch for the. letter? I cannot go overseas to inquire.
– The honorable member takes the responsibility of giving it the widest publicity.
– These letters are coming out here, and they are already getting the widest publicity. In one case there are at least half-a-dozen women in the family, and for some considerable time they have been going about searching out their friends and telling them of the treatment that has been meted out to their men. There have been other cases of a similar kind during the last twelve, months affecting the discipline dealt out to Australians in England which have come to my notice. These men have not been accustomed to the discipline of armies in the same way as have the soldiers of European countries) and it is quite apparent to me that the control of Australian soldiers by Englishmen, who do not understand Australians, is leading to unjustifiable treatment.
– That kind of thing, if the statements are true, would account for the soldiers voting “ No “ at the referendum.
– The referendum is over now, but I believe that it would be found that the men at the Front almost unanimously voted down conscription, and those who voted in favour of it were mainly men who were not engaged in the fighting services at all.
– I think the right honorable gentleman need make no mistake about that. I have had letters from Mr. McGrath, M.P., in which he says that there are things happening which ought to he brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Government. He would like to know whether it would be possible for him to be permitted, without interference by the censor on the other side, to send out a statement of matters which,, in his opinion, ought to be brought under the notice of the Government.
– His letters to the Minister for Defence here would not be censored.
– Yes; they would be censored on the other side. He could not get letters through that would not be subject to censorship on the other side.
– Surely there are many Australian soclliers who have been abroad who would have brought some news of this kind of thing to the Minister for Defence if it was happening, because no one could attempt to justify it.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) will see that no objection is raised to his asking for inquiries, but to put such letters on record before they are investigated might have a very injurious effect upon recruiting.
– The man who wrote the letter from which I have quoted may be a happy-go-lucky chap, but, I do not care what he hasdone the treatment he describes was not justified.
– The honorable member is rather apt to assume that what he says is right.
-I believe that the basic facts of the communication are correct.
– -Although the honorable member has not investigated them?
– What investigation couldI make? It is a letter to his wife and family, with the most solemn undertaking as to its accuracy.
– The honorable member could hand the letter over to the Secretary of the Defence Department, and ask that the complaints should be investigated. I know that he is interested in recruiting, and can have no desire to create a false impression.
– I will leave the matter now; but I repeat that the treatment of our soldiers abroad is a matter which ought to be investigated.
– Some 52,000 of our men have returned, and many of them should have some personal knowledge of these things.
Mr.Finlayson.- They are afraid to speak.
– Australians are not afraid to speak.
– I have had different cases brought under my notice, though never anything quiteso bad as those mentioned in the letter from which I have quoted. One case brought under my notice twelve months ago was nearly” as bad. I am not in agreement with the proposal to appoint additional Ministers, but if an Assistant Minister could be spared he could do good work in London, where he could keep a general eye on the treatment of Australian soldiers. It is, however, unnecessary to go to considerable expense in. the matter when we might utilize the services of public men who are already on the other side with the fighting forces. I trust Parliament will be opened again quickly, so that we may go more fully into these matters of urgent public concern.
I do not know whether it is possible for any assurances to be given by the two Defence Ministers present with regard to defence matters in Australia. When the House last met we were solemnly assured by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Watt) that plans were put through for investigations about the arsenal, and that when we met again the House would be consulted on the subject. We have met again, and there is not a word about it. I quote two or three- statements which appear in Hansard from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) and the Minister for Works and Railways, to which I wish to direct special attention. In referring to the expenditure upon Naval Bases on the 21st September, the Minister for the’ Navy was asked by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) whether he had given consideration to that expenditure. The Minister replied that he had. When asked whether he thought the proposed expenditure was justified, the Minister said -
I have satisfied myself on that point; and my only fear is that the items are being cut clown too rauch, in view of the international situation.
Again, on the 26th September, 1917, the Minister for the Navy said -
I want to say, so far as the Naval Bases are concerned, that the only thing I am uneasy about is whether we are getting on with. them sufficiently fast. I intend to be quite clear on that point before very much longer.
Later he said -
It seems to me that all the argument is in favour of proceeding with the construction of vessels and bases as well, and with the rapid multiplication of all our engines of war to the fullest extent, having regard to our position after the war, and the possibilities that may then arise.
The Minister for Works and Railways on. the 13th September last, referring to the establishment of an arsenal said -
But I am entitled to say with the full concurrence of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for Defence, that at present the position of Australia is unsafe.
We get no assurances as to our position in this House, and can know nothing about what is being done. The statement made by the Minister for the Navy recently was not satisfactor y.
– Satisfy the honorable member ! We could never hope to do that.
– The right honor-‘ able gentleman does not try. He says nothing that would satisfy anybody. He talked of what might happen at the Peace Conference. We know what might happen at that Conference. Some people say that it is impossible for anything to be done for the defence of Australia. The statements of Ministers which I have quoted show that it is possible to do something, and that they contemplated doing something, but what is it? One thing I cannot understand is that there should be a National Parliament charged with the safety of this country on its own soil, and, apparently, the matter is dealt with in the most casual way. There are not six members in the House who seem to take’ the slightest interest in what is happening in this respect. If there is any local danger they do not seem to take any notice of it. My attitude on the war, and so far as recruits are concerned, has been for some considerable time past qualified by a growing belief that because of what appears to be the entire neglect of what is necessary in Australia, in view of our geographical position, and the growing menace of international friction in this quarter of the globe, the time is rapidly approaching when probably we ought to stop men from going away from this country. I feel it my duty, at “any rate, to mention this matter from time to time, so that it can never be said, if anything goes wrong, that I, as a member of Parliament, never opened my mouth in an effort to remedy matters.
Finally, I enter my most emphatic protest against the Government, after three months’ adjournment, sending 111 members away for another two or three months, when there are matters of the most vital public importance already overdue calling for attention. For some reason we have got into the habit of permitting the Government to be run by a handful of men under the War Precautions Act: and, in, my opinion, the great majority of members of both Houses are absolutely neglecting the responsibility placed upon them by the people of Australia.
– I -wish to make one suggestion. Some objection Has been raised, and, I think, very properly, to the statements of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) going into Hansard, on the ground that they will undoubtedly prejudice recruiting. ‘ I have letters in my pocket now that are simply astounding in the facts they disclose, and I am prepared to hand them to the Minister for confidential perusal. I had thought of reading extracts, but the very fact that I know the publication of the facts in the letters would prejudice recruiting causes me to refrain. Undoubtedly there is a lot of this kind of thing about in Australia today. Could not some committee, under the chairmanship of the High Commissioner, be appointed in London, and have these complaints or investigations of them referred to itr so that we could, if possible, relieve this unfortunate and regrettable feeling that our men are not getting a fair deal on the other side? I know that much can be said on both sides of the question, but in any proposal for recruiting these matters must receive the most careful consideration of Ministers. There are too many complaints about to be unworthy of notice. .
, - Ministers do not, perhaps, say as much as honorable members think we should, but, if so, it is not . because these matters are ignored. We are perfectly well aware of them, but there are insuperable difficulties in the way of dealing, with them just as we should like. In the first place, never forget that, when the soldiers leave here, they pass into Imperial control. While every care ought to be taken, as far as practicable, to redress all grievances, it is not possible to do, during war time, what it is possible to do under peace conditions, and the distinction must be borne in mind. War upsets everything, and is the topsy-turveydom of peace. That, of course, does not justify cruelty of any kind, if it can by any possibility be obviated. I am afraid that war, in its very nature, means that many of these things must be endured, but, when possible, it is our duty to try to alleviate them.
– Surely the British Government would be quite prepared to meet Commonwealth representatives and adjust matters. Q
– 1 wish the honorable member i.t recollect that there can be no motive, either in the Imperial Army or. our own, for conduct of the kind.
– Apparently there is some friction or misunderstanding between Englishmen and Australians, and that fact ought to be more fully recognised than it is,
– I heard ‘ the letter read, and the statements it contained did not impress me quite in the way they have impressed the honorable member. I am sure the honorable member would not like to stake very much on evidence of that sort, though’, of course, it may be true. I should like some corroboration, because, after all, these are ex parte statements.
– How can you get corroboration when men have to take a chance to sneak ohe letter out?
– It is not for the men to corroborate, but for the other party to be heard. All sorts of charges are made which, in my opinion, are outrageous.
– We are told that they are afraid to make complaints.
– Take that one statement alone - that a Britisher stood over a man for eight hours torturing him. Who would believe a story of that sort? I would not. -
– It is hard to believe any of it. If I could believe the rest of the story I could believe that part.
– You would believe that a soldier of another army would stand over one of our men-
– It is pointed out that these men in charge of the gaols have never been in the firing line at all.
– They are mobilized - they are soldiers; .and can the honorable member imagine any responsible officer putting such men as are described in charge of other soldiers.
– Probably these are improvised military gaols. Why can there not be Australians in charge?
– Is the honorable member npt entitled to assume that an intelligent officer would act as he himself would act ?
– I can understand English officers acting in that way.
– That shows that the honorable member is prejudiced.
– A prejudice is rising in my mind.
– The honorable member has an unreasoning prejudice against everything overseas.
– A prejudice is growing up very strongly in my mind.
– That is quite apparent. The honorable member even goes the length of denouncing men who have lived here all their lives, simply because they happen to have been born overseas.
– Then the honorable member is not a fair judge.
– I do not think Australia is getting a fair deal.
– I am sure you do not. It is impossible to satisfy you.
– Make no mistake - there is a big body of similar opinion in this country!
– I quite believe that, and I am sorry that it should be so.
Mr.Finlayson. - Let us try to mend it.
– This is not the way to mend it.
– I believe that..
– It is the way to foment it.
– There have been efforts to try to mend it.
– I wish to tell the honorable member that these cases are receiving the very serious attention of the Government at this moment.
– That is better!
– I am not satisfied that everything is being done that can be done, and I say frankly that I should like to see a more definite and responsible’ relation established between the High Commissioner and the treatment of our men at the Front. Just what the trouble is, I do not know, but we have Mr. Fisher in London.
– But he has pro- bably a great deal to do otherwise.
– I have no doubt he has; but honorable members must not imagine we can ever straighten out things in wartime so as to make them comparable to other times. Even in my own Department, we are under all sorts of disabilities at the London end by reason of the upset of war. Only yesterday, in my own office, I was complaining on this score - complaining that we cannot get materials, or our business attended to. But this is a disability of war, and a disability of living 12,000 miles away from the centre.
– When you have done everything possible, you have done your best; and so long as that is done, it is all right.
– The honorable member may rest assured that these matters are giving the Government great concern ; but just what form the remedy will take, I do not pretend to say. The honorable member may rest assured that we are just as anxious as he is to clear some of these matters up.
.- I desire to call attention to an anomaly existing at Dunwich, and I presume similar institutions throughout Australia, in the case of certain old people. There are in Dunwich approximately 1,000 men and women who are unable to battle for themselves in the world. Many are in receipt of old-age pensions, but the majority are not, and it is on behalf of these that I am speaking. Many of them are without pensions, because they are too honest to resort to a subterfuge. If they were willing to do so, the pension would be open to them. If an inmate will leave the institution and go elsewhere to reside for a sufficient length of time he can send in an application stating all the facts, and the pension will be granted to him. He can then immediately return to Dunwich, when the State will receive 8s. per week for his keep, and he 2s. per week for himself. Those who are too honest to do this, or those who are without friends outside, . have to go without. Many others have done it and received the . pension. They go to a boarding establishment at Brisbane for a month, and when sending in their application give that as their permanent address. On getting the pension they immediately return to Dunwich.
– Is Dunwich a State institution?
– Yes. Under the amending Old-age Pensions Act of 1916 it is provided by sub-section 2 of section 31 that-
That amendment made provision for the man outside an institution, but many have been in Dunwich for years, and were there prior to the passing of the principal Act. It is for them 1 speak. They should be allowed to receive the 2s. per week, and it should not be necessary for them to resort to dishonest practices to get it.
– It is not necessary in New South Wales.
– That is the ruling of the Pensions Office in answer to those who applied when inmates of that institution. The 2s. is a small enough sum. The inmate of an institution of this kind gets the bare necessaries of life, and the extra amount would mean little luxuries in the shape of tobacco to the men, and an extra pound of tea to the old women. I have received letter after letter from inmates of Dunwich, and the one I have here is typical of many. In it the writer says -
The invalid pension will be granted to me, so I am informed by the Pensions Office, if I take my discharge from Dunwich, and get some place to reside. . . . It is hard for me to find some one outside whom I can help about the place in return for my keep.
There are at Dunwich at the present time scores of epileptics, dements, and others, who, having had friends or relatives with whom they could reside for the necessary period, applied for the pension, and received it, while other people, who have worked hard for years, and found themselves unable to earn sufficient to keep a home together, have been compelled to seek refuge there, and at present receive no pension from the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply reported ‘ and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act -
Finance 1916-17- The Treasurer’s State ment of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1917, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Awards varied or further varied -
On plaint submitted by -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association - Order dated 18th October, 1917, further varying Award dated 19th September, 1916, as varied 27th October, 1916.
Order dated 18th October, 1917, varying Award dated 1st November, 1915.
Australian Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association -
Order dated 18th October, 1917, varying Award dated 4th May, 1916.
Australian Letter Carriers Association -
Order dated 18th October, 1917, further varying Award dated 19th September, 1916, as varied 27th October, 1916. Commonwealth Postmasters Association -
Order dated18th October, 1917, varying Award dated 1st November, 1915.
Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia -
Order dated 18th October, 1917 further varying Award dated 19th September, 1916, as varied 27th October, 1916.
Order dated 18th October, 1917, further varying Award dated 19th September, 1916, as varied 27th October, 1916.
Award further varied -
On plaint submitted by -
Postal Sorters Union of Australia.
Public Service Act - Promotions - PostmasterGeneral’s Department -
Railways Act - By-law No. 1.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended Statutory Rules 1917; No. 289.
Motions (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the report of the River Murray Commission, laid upon the Table of the House on the9th instant, be printed.
That, the Commonwealth Bank Balance-sheet of 30th June, 1917, presented to the House on the 24th September last, be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on a date to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which day of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
– I propose, with the concurrence of honorable members, to suspend the sittings of the House until 3 p.m. on Friday next.
– May Ibe allowed to offer a word of protest against this procedure on the ground that we have a number of important questions on notice, and that if instead of adjourning now we merely suspend the sittings of the House- we shall have ho opportunity, when we resume, to obtain answers to our questions.
– I would remind honorable members that when questions on notice wore called on at the beginning of this sitting, the Prime Minister intimated that Ministers would not answer questions until the no-confidence motion was disposed of, and that when questions upon notice were called upon, after the division, Ministers explained that the answers were not then available, but that they would be given later.
– I understand the proceedings of the House will be resumed at the stage we have now reached, so that questions on notice will not be called oh, and we shall not he able to obtain answers to them.
– I can only say that we will try to give the answers.
– They couldbe posted to honorable members.
– I will consider what should be done, and we shall try to do what ought to be done.
Sitting suspended ‘from3.9 a.m.. (Saturday)to3 p.m. on Friday next.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 January 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180118_reps_7_84/>.