7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he would issue a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Flinders in the place of the Honorable Sir William Hill Irvine, resigned, and that the dates in connexion with the election were as follows: - Date of issue of the writ, Friday, 12th April; date of nomination, Monday, 29th April; date of polling, Saturday, 11th May; date of return of writ on or before Saturday, 25th May. . .
– Is the Government aware that its prosecution of the honorable member for Cook on two charges was yesterday dismissed by the magistrate, and that the honorable member is nevertheless compelled to pay nisi own costs? Do Ministers think it fair, the Government having lost its case, that an innocent man should pay the costs of the trial ?
– It is quite true that the honorable member for Cook was acquitted, but it is also true that the magistrate who tried the case declined to award costs.
– The Government could ruin any man in this way. It would only have to got a complaisant magistrate.
– I suggest to my honorable friends, as an easy way to avoid being ruined, to refrain from making such statements as were made by the honorable member for Cook.
– Whom the Court found innocent!
– My honorable friends seem never to be satisfied. As I read the account of the trial in this morning’s newspaper, I saved the honorable member.
– Since the proceedings were commenced in respect of which the honorable member for Cook has been so completely vindicated, has any order been given to the Government Printer regarding the censorship of Hansard?
– No instruction has been issued regarding the censorship ofHansard, but an order of one of my predecessors respecting the use of headlines in reprints of speeches has been varied.
– Is the Treasurer yet prepared to make a statement as to the date of the final payment for the 1915-16 and 1916-17 wheat?
– I am working on the problem, which is not an easy one to settle. I hope to get daylight through it next week, and shall inform the honorable member of my decision as soon as I am able to do so.
Report of the Public Works Committee on the erection of workshops, &c., at the sub-Base at Flinders, presented by Mr. Gregory, and ordered to be printed.
– In view of the urgent need of money, will the Treasurer interview the Committee responsible for the expending of £1,250 on portraits of distinguished members of this Parliament, and ask that the matter be deferred until after the war?
– My old friend is hardly kind in setting such a task for a young Minister. I only know what I have read in the press concerning the Committee’s determinations. The matter referred to has not yet come before me. When it does, I shall have something to say about it..
– Is it a fact that the labourers who went to Englandas war workers were guaranteed a minimum wage of£20s. 6d. a week, and that since their arrival in the Old Country, they have been compelled to insure against accident, although that gives them no more than was guaranteed to them before they left. Under the circumstances, ought not the Government to pay their insurance premiums ?
– I shall submit the question to the Minister for Defence.
– May I add that last week I received from a man whom I know well - Mr. James Dickson - who, before he went away as a war worker was president of the Randwick Labour League - a letter, in which he asks me to contradict some rumours which he believed to be in circulation regarding the underpayment of these men.
– I am not complaining of their underpayment.
– My correspondent told me, among other things, that the menwere able to earn £3 odd a week, and that no man wanting employment need be out of work at those rates. He asked me to make that information as public as possible.
– I hold a letter to the same effect.
– As the Treasurer is in control of the Government Printing Office, and presumably in charge of reprints of honorable members’ speeches, I would like to ask him if it is necessary for honorable members to submit their speeches to the censor before they can obtain reprints of them ?
– The Treasurer happens to be in charge of the Government Printing Office, but he does not deal with the censorship.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence answer the question?
Mr.WISE. - I ask the honorable member to give notice.
-Is it possible for the Minister for the Navy, or the Honorary Minister in charge of shipbuilding, to make some statement to the House in regard to the shipbuilding programme, the class of vessel intended to’ be built, and the orders which have already been given for the construction of vessels?
– I hope to supply that information in a few minutes.
– When does the Treasurer propose to give’ the House an opportunity to consider the Estimates for 1917-18? Does he propose to prevent the discussion of the Estimates by means of the Supply Bill which he has put before us?
– There is no desire on the part of the Government to prevent the House dealing with the Estimates, andas soon as possible they will be brought before the Committee of Supply.
– It is very evident, according to inspired information, that we may close down in three weeks’ time until next October. I would like to know whether the Estimates will be considered during the financial year?
– I know nothing of the value of the inspired information to which the honorable member refers, but if it is agreeable to honorable members, it is the intention of the Government to deal with the Estimates during this financial year.
– In view , of the large amount which we have to raise by way of war loans and by means of direct taxation, I would like to know from the Treasurer whether the Government still consider it inthe public interest to pay all the money so raised into one bank, or whether they could not adopt what I understand is the custom in England, America, and Canada of allowing the money to remain in the banks which find it for their clients until the Treasury need it?
– I find that it has been the practice in connexion with the fivepreceding war loans to shift the whole of the contributions to the loans from the other banks to the Commonwealth Bank. I cannot see my way clear to altering that system as regards the present loan, which was partially arrangedbefore I was intrusted with acting functions concerning it, but I have already discussed the matter with those dealing with these matters, and I propose to re-open the question at the conclusion of the present transactions.
– A telegram which appeared in yesterday morning’s press states that the Minister for the Navy could not definitely say that the delegation to the Imperial Conference would be the Prime Minister and himself. I would like to ask the right honorable gentleman if he has noticed that Senator Millen has stated definitely that the delegates will consist of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy ? Further, if the Prime Minister and the right honorable gentleman are to go to the Imperial Conference, I would like to know if they intend to tell the House what they propose to say or do at that Conference, and what subjects, if any, they propose to deal with on behalf of Australia, and their views thereon ?
– The honorable member asks a very comprehensive question. As to the telegram to whichhe alludes, he will observe that I did what I thought was proper in the circumstances. I said that any communication made on the matter would be first made to the House, and that it would be so made in a few days. As to the other matters contained in the. honorable member’s question, I know so very little about the things that are proposed to be discussed at the Imperial Conference that I am sorry that I cannot tell the honorable member beforehand what will be said or done there.
-Will the Honorary Minister in charge of the importation of American vessels undertake to see that the wooden ships being built there and coming to Australia are equipped with centrifugal pumps, because the last vessel that arrived here built in the American States was making 6 feet of water in twenty-four hours? It is very essential that these things should be looked into before the vessels leave, seeing that thelives of the crews are in danger.
– I shall be very pleased to have inquiry made into the matter in order to see if it is necessary to take any steps in the direction which the honorable member indicates.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence noticed a cablegram which states that, in future, promotions in the British Army will be based on merit, and not on seniority, and can he state whether that method will apply also to the Australian Forces ?
– I will bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first time.
Alterations of Pay
– On Thursday last, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) submitted the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware that considerable delay occurs in forwarding from abroad official advice in regard to alterations made in the payments to our soldiers, and that consequently there is a good deal of dissatisfaction on the part of dependants? Will the honorable gentleman take action to expedite the receipt of such official information ?
The answer is as follows : -
Isolated cases of delay in the receipt of amended allotments have come under notice, and in such instances steps have been taken to ascertain the cause. A further direction to expedite the transmission of allotments has been issued to the Australian Imperial Force Headquarters abroad. It has been noted from communications received by the Department that some allottees are under the impression that an allotment is automatically increased on promotion of a member of the Australian Imperial Force. Such is not the case, though the Chief Paymaster takes steps to see that higher allotments to dependants are made by the soldiers. After an amended allotment has been completed, it is necessary that it should be forwarded to the Chief Paymaster, London, or the Staff Paymaster, Cairo, before it can be authorized for payment and forwarded to Australia. It therefore follows that dependants generally receive from a soldier information of the alteration of the rate before the allotment form arrives. The period of transmission will be reduced to the minimum.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways, when he issues the little publication by Mr. Knibbs, or the publication issued from the Department itself, see that there is contained therein the addresses of the different Government departmental buildings in the city, with the names of the controlling Ministers? There have been so many changes in these respects that it is now almost impossible to find a Department or a Minister.
– The honorable member was good enough to intimate that he intended to ask this question, and I can now inform him that I shall take steps to have his wishes complied with.
– Is it the intention of the Government to commence the housing system which was suggested some time ago for Lithgow ?
– Yes. Steps to that end have already been taken, and the matter is in progress. Land has been acquired and designs are being prepared,’ and when. I vacated the office of Minister for Works and Railways the work had advanced to a satisfactory stage.
– If it is not the intention of the Government to close down Parliament at an early date, what is the object in introducing a three months’ Supply Bill to cover expenditure to the end of the financial year?
– I do not presume to teach the honorable member the business of finance, for he has been Treasurer longer than I, and knows the advantage in war time of having ample supply. The question raised can, I think, be discussed when the Bill is before us.
– I can give you one.
The following papers were presented : -
Corn Sacks and Australian Wheat Harvest, Season 1917-18 - Report by the Common wealth Prices Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
High Court Procedure Act and Judiciary Act - Rules of Court - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 51, 52.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Caboolture, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 28, 36, 39, 44, 56, 74, 76, 77, 81, 85.
– We are very sorry to hear the cause of the Prime Minister’s absence, but it ought to be remembered that these questions have already been postponed.
Y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
R asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
At first the Department estimated that it would require about 6,000 tons of beef for the season, its calculations being based on the number of men then in camp, and that figure was suggested to the Queensland Government as the probable requirement.
A communicationwas received from the Queensland Government in May to the effect that 6,000 tons of beef would be made available at 41/8d. per lb. f.o.b. Queensland, subject to certain conditions, of which the following was one: - “ In the event of any works closing down operations with meat in store On your account payment to be made by you in full at once, and if not taken delivery of, any storage incurred to be paid for by your Government.”
To this communication the Department replied that as far as could be seen about 4,000 tons would be sufficient to meet requirements, and that, while the conditions suggested would be acceptable, some reduction in the price named was requested. Further, particulars were also asked for as to the probable rate chargeable for any storage under the condition set out above.
On the 15th July, the Queensland Government telegraphed that they would supply 4,000 tons of frozen beef at 41/2d. per lb. all the conditions enumerated in their communication of May to stand, and on the 21st July a reply was sent accepting their offer, and asking them to load the s.s. Wyreema, then in Queensland waters, with beef for Melbourne. The s.s. Wyreema was loaded, and a continuous supply to Melbourne was maintained until November of that year.
Subsequently, the Premier advised that the rate of charge for storage would be l-16d. per lb. per week, but storage would only be charged in the event of his Government being called upon to pay it.
The diminished number of recruits coming forward, and the defeat of a conscription referendum on 28th October, 1916, materially affected anticipated and’ actual requirements, and it became apparent that the actual requirements would not nearly approach the 4,000 tons which had been reserved.
Accordingly, on the 13th November, 1916, the Premier of Queensland was asked to reduce the quantity of frozen beef from 4,000 tons to 1,800 tons, but in his reply, dated 27 th November, he merely pointed out that the meat had already been reserved in full fores and hinds, and that there was still 2,705 tons to be lifted.
Upon receipt of this reply, the whole matter was carefully considered, and, as freight difficulties and other circumstances made it impracticable to continue the use of frozen beef for troops in camp in Australia, the Premier of Queensland was, on 22nd December, 1916, asked to cancel the whole of the undelivered portion of the 4,000 tons.
The Premier replied by letter, dated 4th January, that he had considered the whole position, but regretted that, as the beef was all stored awaiting shipment, he could not cancel the undelivered portion of the order.
Subsequent representations to the Premier, asking for the cancellation of the undelivered portion of the order, proved futile, and in a letter dated 1st April, 1917, the Queensland Government submitted a claim for the value of the beef not taken delivery of, together with storage and interest charges. In a later communication the Premier again declined to recede from the position taken up by his Government, and demanded payment of the claim rendered.
On 19th June, 1917, an interview took place in Melbourne between the Hon. J. M. Hunter, Secretary for Public Lands for Queensland, and officers representing the Prime Minister’s Department and the Defence Department. At this interview the Chief Secretary stated that the storage charges claimed, amounting to £19,71716s. 2d., had alreadybeen paid by his Government, and that if such storage charges were paid without delay by the Commonwealth, his Government would be prepared to relieve the Commonwealth of the obligation of taking the undelivered portion of the order, and to waive the charges for interest.
The circumstances appeared to be such as to afford no alternative but to accept the proposal, and on 21st June, 1917, the Premier was advised that the Commonwealth Government agreed to pay the storage charges provided his Government took over all the meat in store on Commonwealth account and waived the claim for interest. The sum of . £19,717 16s. 2d. was accordingly paid over to the Queensland Government on 28th June, 1917.
Subsequently, the Premier was asked to forward certified copies of vouchers showing the payments made by his Government to the several meat works for storage charges incurred, but on 12th September, 1917, the Premier replied: - “ . . . . that the settlement of storage claims against this Government for meat he’d on State and Commonwealth account was adjusted when the new agreement for meat supplies was drawn up, without any actual cash transaction, and, therefore, no receipts were exchanged between the parties.”
Home Service details, 28 (average) (cooks, grooms, storemen, clerks, &c.).
If they were already holding noncommissioned officer rank they received the pay of that rank.
Y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister have inquiries made regarding the arrest of a returned soldier named Walter Farnham for illegally wearing his uniform, which resulted in his being imprisoned for nearly three days and then fined1s., with a view - (a) To amend the regulation so that proceedings in such cases should be taken by summons instead of arrest; (b) to find out who was responsible for the arrest and imprisonment of this man; (c) to prohibit “cold footers “ from wearing a uniform which a returned soldier is not permitted to wear?
Mr. WISE. - Inquiries arebeing made into the case, which occurred in Western Australia, and the Honorable member will be furnished with replies as early as possible.
N asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
T asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
N- asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Minister is not aware of having made such a statement. 2. (a) Yes.
N asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
gs) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. WATT. - I have been supplied with the following replies: -
Mr. FENTON (for Mr. Higgs) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. WATT. - I have been supplied with the following replies: -
Both these amounts are subject to adjustment when the exact payment on account of war-time profits tax has been determined.
R asked the Minister of Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether the reciprocal arrangement in existence between the various State Railways Commissioners, providing free passes annually for railway officials, extends to the Commonwealth railways ?
Mr. GROOM.- No.
Y asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Mr. JOSEPH COOK. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are. as follow : -
d. - It would be better for the Treasurer to make his statement now instead of on the Bill.
T.-I had intended to make my statement on the Bill, but to meet the convenience of honorable members I shall make it now instead. Supply is being asked to cover the period from the present time to the 30th June next, the end of the; financial year, practically a period of three months, though not exactly that period, because of the fortnightly pay arrangements. To cover our expenditure to the end of the financial year; we ask for £5,068,484, basing the request on the assumption that the estimate’ of my predecessor, Lord Forrest, regarding expenditure, is correct. As honorable members will notice when they get the Bill, one schedule bears on another in a manner that is unusual, though necessary under the circumstances; and I shall explain it at a later stage. Lord Forrest, at page 5 of his Budget paper, estimated the revenue for the first three-quarters of this financial year at £20,500,000, but the amount received up to the 31st March last, as approximately as it can be ascertained, is £19,209,000, or £1,291,000 less than was anticipated. The estimated expenditure for the same period was £25,000,000, and the actual expenditure approximately £22,953,000, the expenditure being less than was expected by £2,047,000. The Consolidated Revenue. Fund is therefore at present in a better position by £756,000 than was anticipated at the beginning of the year. But when the balance of £2,077,427, which was brought forward from last year, for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, is taken into account, the figures show a deficit of £1,666,573 on the 31st March, which is being met, in accordance with previous custom, with parliamentary authority, temporarily from the Notes Fund. It must be borne in mind, however, that the bulk of the revenue from direct taxation comes into the Treasury during the last quarter of the financial year, and the expectations of the Taxation Office, based on operations brought as up to date as possible, are such that we hope, notwithstanding the present shortage, to close the financial year with a moderate surplus. What that surplus will be is at the present time conjectural, and I should not be warranted in putting it into - figures, but I should notbe surprised if it grove something above £750,000. But while, if that anticipation is correct, we shall close the financial year satisfactorily, considering the enormous pressure that has been upon us, it is perfectly plain, looking ahead, that we must not only continue to exercise economy, but also bring into existence new systems of economy, if we are to live as the Australian people wish us to live. The prolongation of the war will necessitate the raising of a large additional sum of loan money, and thus the Commonwealth will be involved in an increasing charge of interest, while at the same time the cost of war pensions is rapidly rising. Thus honorable members, who may be comforted by the assurance that we shall probably close with a surplus the year of heaviest pressure that the 11 Commonwealth has had, must keep in view the increasing load that is immediately ahead of us. I propose to submit to the Government, as early as possible in the new year, proposals for new taxation, because new taxation will be necessary.
T. - If the expectations of the Taxation Office are correct, we shall, on the estimates of receipts and expenditure prepared by the late Treasurer, close the vear with a slight surplus, leaving loan money out of consideration altogether. One class of loan money is devoted exclusively to war purposes. It was estimated by the late Treasurer that our loan indebtedness for this financial year would amount to £84,000,000, but it will probably be a million or two less than that. The Government appreciates the fact that, in addition to extra taxation, it will be necessary to carefully scrutinize the expenditure of every public Department, so that a larger sum than may be needed may not be- placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayer. I have nothing to add to this brief statement, and I do not think that more will be expected from me, v seeing that I have been only a few days at the Treasury. I wish to say, however, that although we ask for Supply for the remaining portion of the year, there is no intention to close the mouths of honorable members in regard to the Estimates.
T. - I assured an honorable member, when questions without notice were being asked, that there was no intention to prevent honorable members from having an opportunity, before the year closes, to fully discuss the Estimates for the present financial year. I hope that honorable members on both sides will accept and be satisfied with that assurance.
t. - The Arsenal site stood alone in that promise.
– Ministers in their wisdom, as they would phrase it, though the step wag a very unwise one for them, had a referendum in December last. I do not know how they got the money with which to carry on. It was promised that after the opening of the east-west railway, we should re-assemble before the end of the year. I suppose that the Arsenal site question is hung up all this time. This Government is supposed to be concerned with the conduct of warlike operations, and yet this most important matter is left unsettled.
R.- I have heard Ministers say that an arsenal is all -important to us, and that its establishment would have an important bearing on this war. Ministerial supporters will vote for whatever the Government like to bring down. If the Treasurer had brought in a supplementary Supply Bill to take us into the next financial year they would vote for it. They are prepared to sink their rights as honorable members because they trust the Government. The Treasurer has told us that the Estimates will not be considered.
R. - The Treasurer has told us that this Supply Bill will be passed, and then, I presume, we will have no opportunity of passing the Estimates.
R.- Will this be the same as the Arsenal promise?
R.- Our opportunity will go when this Supply Bill is passed. Honorable members know that every promise made by Ministers has been broken. I exempt new Ministers from that condemnation, but as supporters of the Government they have acquiesced in the breaking of promises. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the Government have the right to make any promises they like, and break any promises they like. The Treasurer has now given us another promise.
R. - It is always the intention of a Government to have its Estimates discussed. This time last year it was the intention of the Government then sitting on the Treasury bench to have their Estimates discussed during the last financial year, but they forced on a dissolution, and went to the country in May. The consequence was that we discussed the last Estimates on the very day on which the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply lapsed. We were brought back after the tea adjournment to discuss Estimates, every penny of which had been spent.
R. - I do not remember that.
R. - If it was wrong not to do it then, it is equally wrong not to do it to-day. However, I protest against Ministers doing again what they did last year.
R.- I know it. I have always been prepared to give the fullest opportunity to discuss the Estimates of any Department over which I have had control. Honorable members should not be called upon to discuss Estimatesafter every penny has been spent. Nine months of the present financial year have already gone.
R. - It is, and it is getting more of a farce every year. We have the strongest party behind the Government that has ever supported any Ministry. It is so strong that it will accept anything.
R.- In the sense in which it is understood by many people in my electorate. What will be the value of discussing the proposals of the Government when we have already voted the money enabling them to do as they like? Directly they get this Supply Bill out of the road, Ministers can do as they have done on every other occasion - adjourn Parliament and get into recess. In January last we were told that although a Supply Bill covering three months’ Supply might be passed, Parliament would still be sitting for the purpose of dealing with legislation, but as soon as the Supply Bill was out of the road here, this House adjourned for a week to enable another place to discuss the measure, and as soon as we received the Bill back we shut up shop.
R. - At any rate honorable members would have the opportunity of discussing expenditure before the money was spent.
R. - At any rate, what we are doing to-day is an absolute farce. I remember Sir William Irvine and other honorable members protesting on a former occasion against the passage of so many Supply Bills. I have said on every Supply Bill during the present session that the amounts we are asked to pass are too great. I see no reason’ why the Government should ask for three months’ Supply at the present time”. In debating the Ministerial statement we will have the opportunity of dealing with the visit of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy to England - I suppose that we are asked to pass three months’ Supply for the purpose of enabling them to get away - but anything we may say will have absolutely no effect. The discussion of a Supply Bill does not provide a proper opportunity for bringing forward many small matters upon which honorable members may wish to speak. I wish to deal with several of those matters on the Estimates. I may mention one or two of them at a later stage, but I do not intend to do so now. In the meantime I ask the Treasurer for a definite statement, in addition to the one that he has already made, that we will have during this financial year an opportunity of discussing the whole of the Estimates, as well as an opportunity to debate such matters’ as the Arsenal site and further expenditure on Naval Bases.
n. - We are already in a state of chaos!
– The honorable member is quite right; the finances are in a state of chaos, and I am glad that the honorable member realizes the fact, as I trust the present Treasurer may, so that some remedy may be found. I am not blaming the present, or any former Treasurer, but merely drawing attention to a most undesirable practice which has grown up. In the latest report of the Auditor-General, that for 1916-17, presented on the 19th January, 1918, there is, on page 203, the following statement: -
Supplementary appropriation is still required for the expenditure made from the Treasurer’s Advance on account of the year 1915-16, namely, for the sum of £622,407 on account of ordinary expenditure, and £ 16,972 for expenditure on additions, new works, and buildings, making a total of £639,379.
D.- The AuditorGeneral finds it necessary to include such a paragraph as that in his latest report. Would anybody have imagined for one moment that this Parliament would illegally spend £639,000? It seems to me a most extraordinary thing, and I cannot understand how .it has been allowed to take place.
I do not propose to go through the whole of the Auditor-General’s report in regard to the purchase of shipping, but urge that it is eminently desirable that there should be some inquiry, and more information given, in regard to that transaction. If the proper course had been followed, and the Prime Minister had introduced an Indemnity Bill to cover his action in London in the expenditure of some £2,000,000 without the sanction of either the Cabinet or Parliament, we should have had a full explanation, and should have known exactly where we stand. At present, however, there seems no disposition on the part of the Government to afford us any explanation. The amount was passed in the Estimates at the tail end of the session, when millions were voted in a few minutes-
Lord FORREST. - That was your own Government, you know !
– I do not caro what Government it was, but the right honorable member must not forget that he himself supported the men who did it, and that his leader and chief of that day is his leader and chief now.
D. - I can assure the honorable member that he was told about it. In the same Auditor-General’s report, page 205, paragraph 50, which deals with this purchase of shipping, we are told-
The acting manager in Australia (Colonel Oldershaw) advised that the well-known firm of Turquand, Young, and Co. were appointed auditors in London by direction of the Prime Minister, and that all accounts were checked there. It is understood that the London transactions are to be brought into the public account through the medium of the Trust Fund, and the transactions outside the Commonwealth will thus be included in -the public account. In the meantime, the Treasurer has charged the War Loan Fund with the original cost of the steamers, namely, £2,052,476 16s. lid., the Commonwealth Bank’ being credited as shown by the Treasury balance-sheet (included in the amount £2,381,514 7s. 5d.).
The report of the firm of auditors referred to above has been called for, and it has been promised that it will be submitted to me when it is received. No vouchers accounting for the purchase of the ships, nor for the London transactions since, have been submitted to me, and endeavour has been made inorder to obtain these accounts through the Treasury.
This is most interesting reading, and, without taking up too much time, I should like to give this other sample -
It appears desirable that legislation should be effected in order to define the powers and functions of the general manager in connexion with this account, for the establishment of the shipping office, for the appointment of officers, and to insure properTreasury and audit control of these accounts generally.
We do not hear anything about the Government bringing down a Bill, which the Auditor-General says is absolutely necessary before he can properly audit his accounts; but I feel confident that the present Treasurer, for his own reputation, will see that something is done in the matter. There ought to be a thorough investigation into the transaction, and all vouchers in relation to it should be laid on the table of the House, so that we may know what commission was paid, and where it went. We cannot suppose for one moment that the arrangement for the purchase of these ships was made and completed without a certain amount of commission being paid.
D.- That is so. We do not know mora than that we passed an amount to cover the expenditure, and I do not think there was one member in the House at the time who knew that these items were “in the Estimates. If I remember rightly, these votes were passed on the night before Parliament was prorogued.
D . - The honorable member is “ on a good wicket,” and if he moves a motion embodying his suggestion, it shall have my cordial support.
D. - The honorable member is quite right. If an inquiry were made into the shipping transaction, I think it would be found that things did not go along so smoothly as we were led to believe.
D.- I tell the honorable member that there are rumours about. There is a rumour that a certain firm sent a telegram to the effect that a certain person was going to London, and that meant £80,000 to the firm concerned.
D. - I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these rumours; I merely hear them in travelling about as a public man; but they are one reason why the fullest inquiry should be made. I regret very much that the Prime Minister is not here this afternoon, so that we might have from him a full explanation. When we find a Department in which £10,000 in loose cash is lying about - as was found by the Royal Commission in the case of the Defence Department - we may rest assured that things are pretty rotten so far as the finances of the country are concerned ; and the sooner a complete inquiry is made into the financial position of the Commonwealth the better it will be for the people of the country. . I hail with delight the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann) that there should be a Royal Commission similar to that that inquired into the administration of the Defence Department, appointed to investigate our financial position. I do not hesitate to say that such a Commission would reveal loose financing to an extent that would startle the community. I trust that the present Treasurer will take steps to have the procedure of this House so altered that honorable members may be able to obtain a better idea of the state of the finances. I venture to say that there is not one man here, not even the Treasurer himself, who has any clear conception of what the Supply Bill before us really means, beyond the fact that we are invited to vote certain sums of money for certain Departments. As to whether the expenditure has been conducted wisely or unwisely, we know nothing, and we can obtain no information. It was bad enough in the old days, when our expenditure involved only £8,000,000 or £9,000,000.
r. - We put one of those Bills through in one minute!
r. - It was in order that we might reach’ the no-confidence motion.
– The Treasurer says that we have had five opportunities to discuss Supply Bills; but what have been those opportunities ? If the Government desired Supply, say, on the 14th of the month, they came down with a Supply Bill on the 12th. In such circumstances there is no opportunity to discuss the Bill, and any honorable member who attempted to do so would be accused of delaying the payment of old-age pensioners and the Public Service. If the press of this country had been honest enough to put before the public the Auditor-General’s report in regard to some -of these matters, there would have been such a public outcry that we should have had at once a big change in our system of dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth .
D.- Quite so.
tts.- Not at all.
– If any honorable members are smarting it should be those who voted for a certain motion last week, in view of the decision of the Court in regard to the proceedings against the honorable member for Cook. That decision places this House in a most humiliating position. .
Another item of expenditure, although small, is worthy of attention. I refer to the item of £70 expended by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the hire, of motor cars in the course of a week or two. I do not know whether the cars were used for electioneering or legitimate departmental purposes. Although the expenditure was not very large, the AuditorGeneral considered it of sufficient importance to be dealt with in a special paragraph.
D. - I do not agree with the honorable member. If Ministers require the use of motor cars in the conduct of their departmental duties they should be supplied with them. If, however, these motor cars are used for other than departmental purposes it is a scandal.
D.- That is quite a different matter. I ask the Treasurer to state whether the Government intend to introduce an indemnity Bill covering the purchase of steam-ships in the Old Country, and, if so, when it will be brought down.
d. - Is it not under the control of the Government?
e. - But only in an advisory capacity.
d. - Has not the British Government done the same thing ?
n. - Would the honorable member have all the States represented on the Board ?
t. - Both sides of the House should be represented on it.
n. - Every State is suffering.
n. - We might well ask them whether they will get justice in this country by not doing their duty.
– I do not propose to answer that question. I am stating my own views, and I wish to avoid the introduction of any party element into this question. My purpose is to reveal to the House the existing conditions which, in my opinion, are largely responsible for recruiting having fallen from the high level it attained in the past.
N. - I am not speaking about their position merely from the monetary point of view. The workers are not getting what they consider to bo their rights. Does the honorable member think that because a man is getting a certain wage he ought to submit to any conditions that are imposed on him? If so, he makes a grievous mistake. In regard to this matter we must not be misguided by what is published in the daily press. The fact must be remembered that those who control the daily press are not in a position to judge this matter as clearly as are the men who mix with the workers and know their feelings. After all, the newspaper article emanates from the brain of one man, the editor, whose environment keeps him in entire ignorance of the feeling existing in the big industrial centres away from the metropolitan areas. He writes of things as they appeal to him: in some matters he may be right, but in others he is undoubtedly wrong. Therefore we must not permit our opinions to be formed for us by what is published in the daily press. We must study the actual facts.
Honorable members will recollect that at the time of the industrial crisis I expressed the view that at a period when everything was in the melting pot, it was the duty of the Commonwealth Government to intervene; that that great industrial upheaval was not a State matter, but a national problem to be handled by. the National Parliament. No less an authority than Sir William Irvine, who was perhaps as high a constitutional authority as any man who has occupied a seat in this House, concurred in my view. He held that it was the duty of the Commonwealth Government to intervene in that struggle. However, the Commonwealth Government remained passive, and left all action to the State Government of New South Wales. I say deliberately that the action of the State Government, which was applauded by the press and by certain sections in the community, has done more to hinder Australia’s part in the prosecution of the war than anything ever done by the present Federal Government or any other Government that has held office in Australia. The New South Wales Government have never yet kept faith with the workers. We have heard Mr. Fuller talking about letting bygones be bygones, but instead of doing that his Government have “put the boot “ into the workers ever since the industrial trouble ended. The result has been the creation of a very bad feeling, not only amongst the workers in the coalmining districts, but in every industrial’ centre throughout Australia. The State Government promised that they would give preference of employment to the men who were out of their jobs when the mines resumed work. Putting aside entirely the merits of the question, one would expect that in a time of national crisis the Government would honour such a promise, but they did not do so. I have here a statement which shows that over 270 men in the Coal and Shale Workers’. Federation are still unemployed, and that ever since the resumption of work the miners in the Maitland and Newcastle districts have had to contribute 2 per cent, of their earnings to keep from starvation some of their brethren who were being victimized. Those facts are circulated throughout all industrial centres, and honorable members know what must” be the result. The people whom I represent have done their best in connexion with this war. They have sent their sons to fight for our liberty, but it was never’ expected that while their sons were absent their fathers would be denied employment, and mothers and children could starve but for the levy paid from the earnings of the other workers. It is time that these things were stated in Parliament.. ‘
N.-r-I wish to avoid the introduction of any strong party feeling into this debate. In view of the fact that there is to be a conference for the promotion of recruiting, my remarks may be of some assistance. But, in any case, I feel that a duty devolves upon me, as a man knowing the actual condition of affairs, to give publicity to the facts. The Colliery Employees Federation has been endeavouring for some time to get this trouble settled, but so far without success. The State Government dodges the settlement in every way possible, and I desire to remark, in passing, that while some of the members of the Federation are not able to get employment, it is a strange fact that the New South Wales Government went out of their way to secure coal contracts for one colliery proprietor, Mr. John Brown, in order that employment might be found for men who were not members of the Miners Union, and in a mine where there are more former employees out of work than in any other colliery in the district. It is remarkable that the State Government should try to arrange a contract for this particular gentleman, who, apart from his business, seems more concerned in sport than in anything else. That gentleman receives the benefit of the biggest price that was ever paid by the Victorian Government for coal, andwas assisted to get that contract by the State Government of New South Wales.
While the dispute was in progress, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), Mr. Kearsley, and I endeavoured to interview the Acting Premier, Mr. Fuller. On the first occasion he was unable to see us, and he fixed an appointment for the following day, and because of that appointment I refrained from coming to Melbourne. But while we were waiting in the receiving room outside the Premier’s office, Mr. Fuller came out and said that he was sorry he could not keep his appointment to see us that day, because he was engaged with the employers of labour. We were compelled to take a back seat, whilst the Government were in conference with the employers, and I think that incident indicated that something needs rectifying. The officials of the Miners Federation have been endeavouring to settle the existing trouble, and on the 23rd March, 1918, the following letter was sent to the Prime Minister : -
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
n. - It is his own fault. Why does he not distribute the work?
– I notice .that the headquarters of the Commonwealth constabulary are to be removed from Queensland to Sydney. How long is this farce going to last” Hitherto the force has been established in Queensland, and if a Commonwealth constable arrests a, man he must have him tried in the State Courts and confined in the State goals. It is quite a farce to keep up a constabulary which has no force behind it except a mere War Precautions Act. Ministers say that they are anxious to forget the past, yet they still maintain this very expensive police force. Its abolition presents an opportunity , to save money. I cannot find any reference to the force in the Supply Bill before us, but I protest against wasting money on such a useless thing. The men are doing nothing but walking about Brisbane. Is it proposed to extend the force to all the other States? If so, I should like to see Ministers look into the matter. Though it is something which is under the control of the AttorneyGeneral there is no reason why Ministers generally should not look into it.
I have heard some very nasty rumours in Sydney about commissions having been paid on account of the purchase of ships made by Mr. Hughes while he was in England. I do not say there is anything in them, but I would like to see the matter cleared up. As representatives of the people of this country we have a right to have a statement presented to Parliament showing where the ships were bought, what was paid for them, whether or not any commission was paid, and if any commission was paid, who received it. It is a fair request to make. I am not criticising the purchase. I believe it is the best thing possible to do.
Y. - The ships have been paid for, and I understand that a big commission was paid to a certain gentleman in Sydney ; therefore I ask’ the Minister for the Navy to try to clear things up, so that we will not get into the habit of saying that there are “fishy” things being done. We ought to be able to get at the bottom of these rumours, which are not creditable to the Government or to this Parliament.
A gentleman, has been brought out from the Old Country to build a new style of ship. I wish to know whether these vessels are to be built on a percentage basis or on contract, and how they are to be built. I understand that this information will be supplied when we are discussing the Ministerial Statement, but there are several matters in that direction on which I would like to get information.
There have been several prosecutions of alleged members of the Industrial Workers of the World, and two men in my electorate have been imprisoned. One of them, a man named Vilson, who worked for Stewart Brothers, a big firm of builders in Sydney, who say they will take him back directly he comes to ask them for employment, and a decent man with a wife and family, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. He has now served his term, but he has not been released. I have sent telegrams to the Prime Minister and to Sir Robert Garran, the Solicitor-General, and Senator Gardiner has also sent three or four telegrams about the matter, but the man has not been released. Nothing worse than this could happen in Germany !
Y. - There has been no reply to our telegrams. The whole thing is a scandal.
Y. - There is another similar case in my electorate. How can we get recruits in the face of such things as this? I would not go on a public platform and advocate recruiting in face of these facts - women carrying babies ‘ in their arms and crying, coming to a member, and asking him to get justice for their husbands, and the member being unable to get any satisfaction or any reply to his wires.
Y. - I live in Sydney. I sent wires to Melbourne, but could get no reply.
Y.-He would not see us. He was too busy with theelite of the Stock Exchange.
There is a small item on the Estimates for an Arsenal. That work should have been commenced long ago. In the interests of the country we should not dillydally with it any longer. If Australia is to have any say in regard to the settlement of the war it should be in a position to protect itself. It cannot do so seeing that it has neither artillery nor explosives. All that we can do is to manufacture rifles, and neglect to go on with this urgent work is acriminal action on the part of any Government.
There is an item of £100 on the Supply Bill for oil paintings to hang in Queen’s Hall. I do not know whose portraits are to be painted, but surely it is expenditure that could be postponed until after the war. While we are advocating curtailment of expenditure in all the Departments’ we build it up in a direction over which we have full control.
I would like to know what the Government have done to regulate the price of commodities. If anything helped to bring the Labour party back to power in the recent Queensland elections, it was because the Labour Government had endeavoured to bring down the price of meat.
Y. - I know nothing about that. All I know is that the State Government acted in the interests of the community. The present Federal Government have been in office for over twelve months since the last election, and they have done nothing to regulate the price of commodities. The number of Boards which are being appointed is quite a farce. Sir Owen Cox, of the Shipping Companies, and Mr. Brookes, of the Stock Exchange have formed a board, and they can regulate prices to suit themselves. We on this side have nothing to thank the Government for so far as representation on these Boards is concerned, except, perhaps, on one or two of the smaller boards. It is the people who support the Governmentwho dominate or control these boards, and as long as interested parties have the power to fix prices, the public will have grave doubts about them.
y. - The honorable member knows that the Inter-State Commission has been chloroformed.
– We have a Parliament and Government called into existence on a win-the-war policy; and yet we have an outsider, the Governor-General, stepping in and usurping our functions in summoning an outside conference - a conference on the very question with which this Parliament was elected to deal. It is a shame and a disgrace that, when we have a Government returned to power in order to win the war, a man appointed By the Imperial Government is impelled to call a conference because the Government have not done their duty.
Y. - That theconference will not do, because it is not representative - it is not elected or instructed to do anything.
Y. - Is your party prepared ?
Y.- What is it that the Government offer us?
Y. - Not whilethe present Government are on the Treasury bench, and administering the country as they are doing.
Y. - Not when I see the injustice that is being done. What is the good of a country in which the Government ignore its laws?
n. - Surely you would not sink the country because of the Government ?
– The Government are sinking the country. Why do the Government not take some responsibility, and do something to win the war, instead of allowing the Governor-General, a representative of the Old Country, to usurp their functions by calling a conference? The Government are shirking their responsibilities.
Y. - Look at the shallowness of that remark ! The Government, before the referendum, declared that, under no circumstances, would they govern this country unless they were given certain powers, but, as we all know, they went through the farce of resigning, and then accepting office again. Were any members oh this side asked to join that Ministry, and to assist in governing the country? If we had been asked, we should have been justified in turning the proposal down ; but I ask whether, even when four new Ministers were appointed, any portfolios were offered to this side?
Y. - Certainly; and we do not want to lose this war; make no mistake about that. My complaint is that the Government, have failed to rise to their responsibilities. I hope we shall hear less cant and humbug about “ winning the war.” Why have the Government not come down with a policy after, being twelve months in office? The Opposition have placed no obstacles in their way. I must say that the administration of the Defence Department is doing a good deal to hinder recruiting. I have dozens of cases brought under my notice, but I have ceased applying to the Department, which* seems to have a stereotyped reply to the effect that the matter referred to has been “ fully investigated,” and it is “ deeply regretted “ that the request made cannot be complied with.
Y. - I hope not; at any rate, I am sure it would not if the honorable member were in the Cabinet. I trust that the infusion of new blood in the Cabinet will lead to the removal of the present great anomalies in the administration of this Department. There is now a backwash, and women are wishing to have their husbands back from the war - people are getting war weary.
Y. - As to recruiting, I do not think that the honorable member for Nepean will be a success as the head of a movement. On the platform he looks young and fit enough to go to the Front himself; and I fancy that a better selection for this position would have been the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), who is an older man with sons at the war.
Y. - Then he does not look it. I hope that when the opportunity presents itself we shall have a statement from the acting Leader of the Government as to what our representatives at the Imperial Conference propose to say and do, and pledge this country to, in London. Then how many officials are to accompany Ministers? For instance, why is Sir Robert Garran going? He is in a high position in the Public Service, and is surely not going as a messenger? I protest against a whole army of hangerson going with Ministers, who ought’ to be allowed to simply take their secretaries.
Y. - If the legal advice that Sir Robert Garran gives in regard to prosecutions under the War Precautions Act is a sample of the advice he is capable of giving, he will be better away from England.
Y. - I suppose so, but I hope he is not going, any how.
n. - Is he breaking an award of the Court?
Mr.- BLAKELEY.- No; he was not cited to appear before the Court. _ As a matter of fact, his company was cited to appear, but a member of it died before « the Court sat. I think the firm is now known as “ T. M. Scott,” whereas it was formerly T. M. Scott and Company. Because of an alteration in the name of the company, the man was contemptible enough to evade the law by saying that the company cited to appear before the Court was different from the company as now existing. Patriotic employers of the Darling electorate, and other parts of western New South Wales, employ blackfellows; they employ coloured children. On one station near Coonamble there is a black boy of ten, and another black boy of thirteen ; and I am doubtful whether they receive any wages. Gins are also employed about the house. In only two instances, so far as I know, is the award being observed; the payment of the required wage is being evaded. As for the employment of returned soldiers, not one is to be found on this particular property, which is one of the largest in New South’ Wales.
During the recent adjournment, I have been investigating the position of Pay Departments in the different military , districts, and particularly in the Second Military District, New South’ Wales. In July of last year it was decided by the Defence
Department that a certain number of certificated accountants should be appointed. That was done, at an increased annual cost of £2,050; but, so far as can be learned, there has been no appreciable improvement in the management, coordination and business methods of the Second Military District. A Royal Commission was appointed recently, and took evidence in Sydney; but, strangely enough, the Finance member of the Board, who should have been called upon to give evidence in regard to this question, was not asked to do so. I think that he was called before the Commission on two occasions, and was questioned in relation to only minor matters. He was not allowed an opportunity to rebut much of the evidence compiled by the Commission. One of the chief recommendations of the Commissioners is evidently designed to create snug billets for out-of-work accountants. The Commission consisted of accountants, and it would appear as if the Defence Department is to be made a refuge for out-of-work and inefficient accountants. What is the use of introducing into this branch of the Department men who must go through practically the whole of its work in order to get into touch with the routine? I am not satisfied that it is the wisest course. Speaking with some knowledge of the Second Military District, New South “Wales, I believe that further inquiry would show that there are in Victoria Barracks, Sydney, an ample supply of non-commissioned officers who can deal with the work of the allotment and allowance branches quite as well as, if not better than, the inefficient, out-of-work accountants recommended for employment there. Having regard to the work of the accountants already appointed there, I am not prepared to accept the view that the change will result in an improvement. The new appointments have achieved no improvements. Even at this late hour, two non-commissioned officers > in the allotment branch have, on their own initiative, discovered overpayments amounting to more than £20,000. That is only one of many illustrations of the inefficiency of the accountants who were brought into the Department to, put it on a good business footing.
Y. - I do not know that it was influenced by ulterior motives, but I do say that the Department should not be made a refuge for out-of-work, incompetent, and inefficient accountants. .An accountant enters the Defence Department with the rank of lieutenant, and with a salary of £250 a year. How many accountants of reputation would be prepared to accept an appointment at such a salary? £250 is only a clerk’s wage. Can we expect to obtain experienced and efficient accountants at that rate of pay? Is the fact that a man holds a ticket issued by the Institute of Accountants, which, by the way, is a fairly strong union, to give him the right of entry into this Department? I repeat that competent accountants cannot be obtained for £250 a year, and that salary cannot be increased without an alteration of the regulations. If the recommendations of the Commission are adopted, and numbers of accountants are engaged, it will be found, twelve months hence, that the appointment of accountants has not resulted in any improvement. There are, in the different military districts, officers who are inefficient, and who are quite unable to give a ruling on many of the complicated questions that come before them. We know from, our own personal experience that we are fortunate if we receive within a fortnight a reply to our communications. -One case has been brought under my notice Where the Department took two months to reply to a letter. I am constantly mixing with men employed in the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and they tell me that, notwithstanding thf* appointment of accountants at an in creased cost of £2,050 a year, the position is as bad as it was twelve months ago. A large part of the Howell-Price defalcations took place under the very noses, so to speak, of the accountants who were introduced into the Department. Is it reasonable that men of the calibre of those who. allowed Howell-Price to steal the moneys of the Commonwealth should be appointed to this branch of the Service? We cannot hope to get competent men at £250 a year, and I object to the Defence Department being used for the benefit of the Institute of Accountants. In the 2nd Military District, New South Wales, there are men employed in the allotment and allowance branches who have been there from the beginning, and inquiry will show that they are more competent than the best accountants to be obtained at £250 a year.
Y.- No; they are clerks, and receive considerably less. The men employed at Victoria Barracks have many grievances which they have endeavoured to ventilate from time to time, but so far they have been entirely unsuccessful. For some months clerks have been compelled to work overtime at night. They object to this, and complain that it is only rendered necessary by the incompetency of some of Ihe accountants who have been brought in. These clerks are sworn in as soldiers. Ordinary business men who compel their clerks to work overtime are required to pay them tea money ; but these military clerks at Victoria Barracks, being rated as soldiers, have no fixed hours of employment, and tea money is not allowed them. I contend that it should be. The Minister representing the Minister for Defence might very well consider whether these men should not be compensated. Many of them live some distance from the barracks, and when they have to work overtime are unable to go home to tea, so that their wages are reduced by at least ls. per day. Colonel Lee conducted an inquiry into this matter some few months ago, and definitely promised that overtime would be abolished. So far, nothing has been done.
Another complaint is in regard to the building in which the allowance section works. Its dimensions are 100 feet by 24 feet, and in it 116 men are employed. They are working elbow to elbow; their feet are touching, and they are constantly jostling each other. The building is badly ventilated, and in the summer months is practically unbearable. If we expect efficient work on the part of our employees we must at least provide them with decent accommodation. Where clerks are working elbow to elbow their papers must be Littered about, and there can be no order. Because the clerks working at Victoria Barracks were not being fed by the Defence Department they were allowed for some time ls. per day as ration allowance. For some reason that allowance was reduced to 6d. per day, notwithstanding that assurances, both verbal and written, had been given to the men that the conditions of their employment would not be tampered with. Not only had the men to work overtime, and by virtue of that fact were compelled to pay ls. or more for their tea, but their ration allowance was reduced. Generally speaking, the feeling of the Defence employees in the Second Military District is one of dissatisfaction. The men are working under bad conditions, in crowded and ill-ventilated buildings, and they do not receive the treatment which private employers would be compelled to give them. There is also dissatisfaction in regard to the uniforms. Because these men were sworn in as soldiers the Defence Department thought fit to compel ‘them to wear uniforms. The men do not desire to continue the wearing of “those uniforms. The clothes are illfitting and most of them are second-hand. One case came to my knowledge in which a man received a second-hand uniform which was covered with all sorts of blotches, and emitted a very unpleasant odour. Heaven only knows who had previously worn it. As a result of instances of that kind many men absolutely refused to wear the uniforms. In ordinary civil life these men are able to wear a decent suit ‘of clothes, but under existing conditions they are liable to be fined if they do . not appear in the King’s uniform. Many object to the uniform on hygienic grounds. They contend that if the Department intends to continue this silly and futile regulation they should at least be supplied with a clean and decently fitting uniform. Many men have had to pay money out of their earnings to have the uniforms altered to fit them, and the majority contend that it is a ridiculous farce to compel them to wear a soldier’s uniform when they are not soldiers and are not going to the war. This regulation is very costly, and achieves nothing. I suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence that an inquiry should be held into the matters with which I have dealt, and c many others of which the Department is cognisant. I know of a case in which a non-commissioned officer was so disgusted with the incompetence of his superior officer that he deliberately insulted him. He went into the office of his superior, and said, “ You are inefficient ; you cannot determine a question; when anything is to be decided you come either to me or to somebody else. I demand that an inquiry be held into the whole of the workings of my section.” The officer took no action. The same state of affairs continued, and, because of the insufferable complacency of many officials who did not know their work, this non-commissioned officer again went to his officer and repeated his charge of inefficiency. What does the Department intend to do about these charges? Either the Royal Commission should be instructed to take further evidence, or another Commission should be appointed to make inquiries into the administration of Victoria Barracks, and if that is done it will be found that the first Commission overlooked, intentionally or otherwise, a good deal of maladministration. The Commission did not interrogate Brigadier-General Thomas, and, apparently, it was certain’ that he would not give evidence. In effect, the report of the Commissioners praises the paymaster of the Second Military District for his effective reforms in the Pay Department. Brigadier-General Thomas’s pronouncement is the reverse of that, for he says in effect, “ From information supplied by my Inspector of Military Accounts, the Pay Department in the New South Wales Military District is the least efficient of any in the six military districts . ‘ ‘ Brigadier-General Thomas is one of the highest officials in his Department, but his .word evidently went for naught with the Commissioners.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
r- One man who saw me today is getting only 7s. 6d. per week.
– I know of another man who is receiving only 10s. per week, but his injuries are not so serious as those of the particular soldier I have mentioned. It is quite apparent to me, from the cases that have come to my notice, that the pensions are not allotted with any great certainty, but my point is that without an amendment of the Act to raise the maximum very considerably, the case of the average wounded soldier cannot be fairly dealt with. The Repatriation Act deals with the return to employment of -men capable of resuming their old occupations, or engaging in other work, but there are many returned men who, for a long time, will not be able to earn nearly as much as they could before they went to the war. Those cases make a very strenuous appeal to me. There are seriously injured men who, in order to enlist, left employment returning them three or four times the amount of the maximum pension allowed under the present Act, but they cannot hope to receive even the maximum pension, because manifestly that amount must be for the men who are utterly unable to follow any civil occupation. I appeal to the Treasurer to consider, whether there should not be immediately such an amendment to the’ War Pensions Act as will give the Commissioners greater freedom in the fixing of pensions, and will make more liberal provision for the man who finds his employment gone, and who for months, and, perhaps, years, ahead will be compelled to struggle along on the amount he receives from the ^Commonwealth.
– The Act was altered last year so that after six months the amount of - pension is finally fixed.
D . - However that may be, my point is that the Commissioner cannot go beyond the maximum of £2 per week, and he cannot regard that maximum as payable to the average returned soldier who is not totally incapacitated, but whose circumstances are not met by a payment of 10s., 15s., or even £1 per. week. The result is that, though these men were promised the best of treatment, they are a burden upon their families, and I am certain that Parliament never intended that a returned soldier should be treated in that way.
T.- The military police seem to treat their prisoners with most unmerciful cruelty. Many citizens of Sydney are very indignant at their conduct, and they have appealed to me time after time to bring the matter before Parliament. I felt so strongly on the matter that I have requested them to make declarations as to what had occurred, and if I could only persuade the Honorary Minister (Mr. Wise) to pay attention to them, I am sure an order would be issued pointing out to the military police that the soldiers who commit breaches of the military regulations should not receive treatment at their hands which the worst criminals in the country would not receive. I have some affidavits from persons whose respectability is undoubted, and whose sympathies, do not lie with crime. I can read one as a sample of the others. It says -
I, William James Furphy, of 494 Oxfordstreet, Woollahra, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I saw four military police arresting a soldier who was resisting to a certain extent. He apparently was very drunk. A small crowd was following, but was growing larger all the time, and when near the corner of Hay and Pitt streets was fairly large. Amongst them I observed Mr. Chalmers. Several of those present were commenting on the rough handling the soldier was subjected to. I noticed Mr. Chalmers in an altercation with one G.M.P., who seemed to be flurried. I heard Mr. Chalmers use words to the effect to take the prisoner more gently, whereupon the G.M.P. rose his baton and threatened to strike Mr. Chalmers. One G.M.P. asked him not to do so. Several women at this stage were trying to raise the prisoner on to his feet. I saw Mr. Chalmers beckon a cab; one G.M.P. doing likewise. As prisoner was put into cab I noticed he was handcuffed.
Wm. J. Furphy. 494 Oxford-street, 19th February, 1918.
Other affidavits point out the unmerciful treatment which was meted out to this soldier. One declaration states that the man was turned face downwards and drawn through the mud in the gutter until one gentleman hailed a cab for which he was willing to pay, though the only result of his action was that he was arrested and fined£3 at the Police Court. 1 would not bring the matter forward if this was an isolated case, but my attention has been called repeatedly to the actions of this body of men. Perhaps the Honorary Minister will intimate to the military police that there shall be less of this sort of thing. Inasmuch as the police magistrate fined the gentleman to whom I have referred, and he made no appeal, I had no course open to me other than to bring the matter under the notice of the Defence Department.
There are two men in this House who can revive recruiting. I refer to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook), and they can do it if they will only render assistance to the waterside workers, storemen, and others, who were connected with the recent unfortunate strike. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has already referred to the case of the miners, but his remarks also apply to those who follow waterside occupations. There are hundreds of men in West Sydney and East Sydney who have led commendable lives as citizens, and who are respected by their fellows who have not had any work for nineteen or twenty weeks. If they apply for work they have, first of all, to get a letter of introduction, and be passed by a policeman. Then they are given a metal disc to enable them to go on to the wharf. Even then they may go for two or three weeks and have but very few days’ work, and very often after they have worked for a few hours theyare put off because loyalists come along and are given the work. That sort of thing does not help recruiting. No one knows better than the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy how impossible it is to bring about peace between unionists and nonunionists wherever trade organizations exist. In Victoria to-day there are medical men on strike. They will not submit to arbitration, and not one of them will “blackleg” on their union. If we could have had that sort of spirit among the men they would not have been in their present position. But, unfortunately, their stomachs “ kicked,” and they could not hold out any longer. They are driven to distraction, and it is marvellous to me that they do not do something serious. When the Minister for the Navy was speaking on oath before a strike committee in New South Wales he said there was no possibility of unionists and non-unionists working together.T he Prime Minister knows it just as well as the Minister for the Navy does. These two gentlemen, if they felt disposed, could bring about a better feeling in the industrial sections of New South Wales, and until some attempt is made to bring it about we cannot expect men to come forward, or urge their sons to take part, in a new recruiting campaign.
Our Judges, who are supposed to have an open mind, are displaying enmity and bitterness. Let honorable members read the Sydney newspapers and peruse the decisions of Judge Heydon, Judge Rollin, or Judge Curlewis. I thought that Judge Rollin would have an open mind. I knew him many years ago, and I would never have dreamt that he would be capable of some of the utterances he has made from the Bench. What have these Judges done in regard to these registration applications ? They have told the unions to apply again in twelve months’ time, or after eighteen months have expired. What does that mean to the politician? It means that the Government fear the next appeal to the people, and they are making the unions apply for registration in twelve months time or in eighteen months’ time, so that before the next elections there will be an opportunity for things to cool down. It will be too late then. Now is the opportunity for tho Employers Federation. They think they have the whip hand over the men and imagine that they can lash them unmercifully. I warn them that the men will not forget, and that they are only doing something which will recoil on themselves, and in this hour of our country’s trial, and when the Empire is in danger, I appeal to them to remove the bias and bitterness which has been engendered in them. I appeal to them to think of the future of Australia, and of the good that can arise from accepting the suggestions put forward by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and myself. We know the feelings of the mcn. When I walk around part of my electorate, and in West and South Sydney I meet thousands of men who say to me, “What are the Government going to do? Are they going to keep us in this humiliating position? Are they trying to stir up further trouble between the two classes?” No country can prosper while that state of things continues. I make an appeal now to members on the other side of the House to do something, because I believe that if we had a Government strong enough to govern Australia instead of hanging on to the Governor-General’s apron strings some good results would follow an appeal for recruits. Any failure in this respect must be laid at the door of the Government, and nowhere else. We on this side of the House cannot do anything without a lead. Can any honorable member or any writer in the public press of Australia point to anything that we on this side of the House have refused to do to assist in any case where the Government have given a proper lead ? The Government are deplorably weak. There is no unanimity amongst them, as there is amongst members on this side of the House. They are afraid to move; they are tied up; they are dumb. It is deplorable to think it, but nevertheless it is a fact that we have not got a Government in power to-day. We have a number of gentlemen occupying official positions; men who have magnified the number of Ministerial offices, but they have done nothing except that, and to raise their salaries. The people ofAustralia in a spirit of magnanimity, led away as they were by the press and the oratorical abilities of the Prime Minister, intrusted them with the reins of government, but they realize to-day what a shadow and a sham it was that they accepted at the last elections. No honest attempt has been made by members on the other side of the House to provide an opportunity to do anything to win the war. And what do we find now ? The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are making preparations for a trip to England. Personally I do not think the British Government at this juncture desire to be troubled with the presence of these gentlemen who occupy prominent positions in the Dominions. Who are the men who have given a long lead in urging the importance of this Conference? Sir Robert Borden, of Canada, and Mr. Massey, of New Zealand. Both are anxious, to get to Great Britain, and in Mr. Massey’s case he is afraid that, if a general, election takes place, whoever is behind the people would then become the leader of the Government. In the American civil war and the FrancoPrussian war, hostilities were brought to a close after an armistice had been declared on both sides-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– All I can say is that instead of the Prime Minister going Home he should try to be of some use to the people of the Commonwealth.
n. - Why did the men elect to go on those blocks 1
– Because, I presume, they did not know good land from bad. They simply made application for a block of land, and when it was given to them they believed, no doubt, that they could make a. living on. it.
S.- I do not know who is responsible for their position - whether the fault lies with the State or Federal Administration1 - but I understand that both are concerned in the matter, and that shortly work which hitherto has been done by the State will come under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Repatria tion. At all events, the Federal Government will be responsible for monetary advances, and, that being so, I should think the Federal authorities would see that the interests of the men are also safeguarded. I want particularly to refer to the Montebello Estate, in the Bathurst district, repurchased for the settlement of returned soldiers. This estate comprises an area of about 160 acres, and was bought for about £40 per acre, while adjoining land, exactly similar in character, was offered for sale, or is for sale at the present time, at £10 per acre. There certainly was an orchard on the estate, and so-called experts who examined the property declared that it was a perfect spot for the settlement of returned soldiers, though prior to this inspection other experts stated that it was not suitable, and that the land was certainly not worth the money. Subsequently, when returned soldiers were settled on the property, they discovered that the orchard was infested with woolly aphis, black spot, and codlin moth, with the result that last year several of the men did not receive a penny return for their labour. They complained repeatedly to the Minister, and even sent a deputation to him, but the Minister put them off by saying that there was a good time ahead, and that they ought to be well satisfied, because the average returned soldier was not sound in his mind, and they ought to be content to remain there. I had a look at the property myself, and came to the conclusion that an enormous price had been paid for it. The men themselves do not know what amount they will have to pay. They were simply put on the land, were advanced a sum, I think, of £500, but up to the present they do not know any more than the man in the moon what interest they are paying, and in the event of a good season they are unable to sell their product without permission from the authorities. When the Norton-Griffiths Company severed its connexion with the Government, a number of horses were bought from the company, at £30 each, for employment on the repurchased estate. These animals were turned loose on- the run, and within a fortnight several had died of old age, but, unfortunately, the returned soldier-settler will be called upon to bear this expense also, as well as pay for the whole of the machinery and plant on the estate, although he knows absolutely nothing about the amount. On one occasion the men discussed the position, and considered whether they would walk off the estate, and leave it to the Government, but they were persuaded to remain in the hope that the Government would lighten their burden. Cottages were also promised for the accommodation of their families. Some have been built, and some are in course of erection, but the returned soldier does not know how much each will cost, although he will have to pay for them. Moreover, the buildings are quite unsuitable, as one of the rooms is only 7 feet x 12 feet. This is the kind of place in which a returned soldier is asked to rear his family.
S. - The cottages consist of three rooms and a kitchen, so the kitchen might be regarded as one of the principal rooms. If a man has three or four childrenthe kitchen is the principal room, seeing that it has to be used for eating in as well as cooking. The Government ought to take some action, because, if these particular men are so treated, it is only reasonable to assume that other men will be treated similarly, and that ifa Royal Commission were appointed to inquire into the circumstances at this particular place, I think some startling evidence might be forthcoming. This land was sold at exorbitant prices by landholders in the vicinity, and it is extremely probable that, when the soldiers find it impossible to make a living, it will gradually go back at a low price to the original owners. These landholders, who claim to be patriots and loyalists, saved themselves from taxation by investing the proceeds from these enormous prices in war bonds; and, as I have said, it is quite likely that force of circumstances may cause the reversion of the areas to them at possibly £3 or £4 per acre.
S . -The State might sell this land, as it has sold other land.
S.- If land is not being Used for the purpose originally intended the State may sell it to private individuals, and there is no law to prevent it.
S.- At present the men possess the land, and my contention is that it may gradually go back to the original owners. “The case I have cited is not an isolated one; there are scores of others. Only quite recently several men left their holdings because the land was unsuitable, and 1 have visited recommended spots which, from my own feeble knowledge, are quite unfitted for the settlement of any men, much less returned soldiers. The great fault appears to be that many of these men have not received sufficient training for occupations of the kind, and this, combined with poor quality in land, bad fruit trees, andbad administration, leads to their downfall. I hope the Government will see that these men are given justice, and enabled to settle on land which will enable them to make a living for themselves and families.
I should like to refer particularly to the position of the wheat-growers. I mentioned some time ago that these producers were not being treated justly, and the position in this regard seems to be getting worse every day. When I on that occasion said that they had not been paid for the 1915-16 crop I was told by an honorable member opposite that I knew nothing about the matter; but I find from statistical reports to-day that I was quite right. For the1915-16 crop they received,I think,3s. l1d., and for the 1916-17-18 crops something like 3s. per bushel.
S.- I am speaking of the actual amounts received, and they are as I have stated. If honorable members go into the matter they will find that it is not possible for a farmer to exist if he is paid only 3s. and 3s. l1d., which does not compensate him for the work he performs on the land. A wheat farmer is quite differently situated from a man who produces wool on a large scale. It is an astounding fact that, although the Government could not see their way to pay the farmers cash for the wheat taken, they have paid cash to the great wool kings for the wool this year.
S.- It is a positive fact. People who grow wool receive payment as soon as the wool is seized by the Government, but the wheat-grower has not been paid for his 1915-16 crop up to the present time. He was given a second advance of 6d. per bushel, but the money was not handed to him, being withheld to defray the cost of the wheat destroyed by rats, mice, and other pests. If it is fair for the Government to seize wheat, it is only fair that it shall be paid for cash down. As for the wheat destroyed by rats and mice, the cost ought to be borne by the Government- by the authority seizing it - and not by the man who produces it.
S.- If the Government seize wheat, and it is destroyed, the Government should bear the responsibility.
S.- They should have done so. The farmer has no say as to the wheat after it leaves his hands; the moment the Government take possession they have sole control, and should be held responsible for any damage done. But the Prime Minister told us he had bought something like 3,500,000 tons for Great Britain, and yet we have quite recently found that £75,000 was paid in commission on the purchase. It is evident, therefore, that the Prime Minister did not purchase the wheat, but employed agents who were paid an excessive remuneration. A number of men who hold only limited areas cannot afford to wait long for their money. Their position is totally different from that of a large stockholder, inasmuch as a number of the former have been obliged “to borrow from the Banks, and have to pay a huge rate of interest. If they cannot get the money which is due to them from the Government, the result will be that a number will have to appeal to the Bankruptcy Court. The amount paid to them uptodate is not sufficient to remunerate them for their labour, much less pay the working expenses of the farms, and some of them have absolutely refused to grow wheat because it is not a payable proposition. The Australian farmer has been offered, or promised, 4s. l1d. per bushel, while Canadian wheat is sold at, something like l1s., showing a difference of approximately 7s. If it is just that the Canadian grower should receive l1s., it is only fair that the Australian wheat-grower should get a little more than he does at present.
S. - A difference of 7s. per bushel would easily coverthe difference in freight. If, as the Prime Minister says, it is a question of freight, how is it that the right honorable gentleman can pay for the sending of wool, and not for sending wheat?
S.- It strikes me very forcibly that the wool -growers are the whole and sole controllers of this Government - that they dictate terms and conditions which the Government are bound to accept.
S . - No ; it is all sold.
S.- The farmer has to be content with what the Government give him. On the eve of an election, the Government appeal to the farmers as their friends, and will agree to give them almost anything they ask for; but the moment the election is over, a totally different tale is told. There is then absolutely no use for the farmer, although he is the very man who is most deserving of assistance, seeing that without the primary producer this country must go to ruin. Atpresent he is receiving most unfair treatment at the hands of the Government, who promised him fair conditions and fair prices.
The question arose some time ago as to the attitude the farmer would adopt in connexion with next year’s crop ; and that attitude may easily be seen in the fact that the land under cultivation at the present time is not nearly so great as it was previously. The farmer knows that if he goes to the expense and trouble of growing wheat he may possibly receive, not 3s. l1d., but absolutely nothing; and it is only reasonable to assume that he will safeguard himself against such a calamity. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to repeatedly make appeals to the growers, calling upon them to produce all they can in the interests of Great Britain and the Commonwealth; but if men are denied the value of their labour and their produce, we cannot expect them to continue to produce. I sincerely hope the Government will earnestly consider the question of immediately advancing those men the full result of their labours, and that they will do so in a very short time - paying the farmers every penny owed to them. That would give them an opportunity of carrying on their business in a proper manner. But if the Government prevent them from receiving any money and deny them something they legally own, the effect will be to close them up and hand the land over once again to the land monopolists. At present there are scores and scores of land monopolists with their eyes upon certain of the small farmers, waiting for them to meet adversities, and ready then to take full ‘advantage of the position and grab their property. Unless those farmers are assisted, a calamity will befall Australia within a very short period.
I desire to refer briefly now to a matter of great importance. That is the system of country telephonic and telegraphic communication. In various small centres there is not the slightest sign of telephone facilities, and even where they have been applied for the replies from the Postmaster-General’s Department have been to the effect that if the residents will carry out a certain portion of the work and find a certain part of the money the Department will, be prepared to undertake it. The country centres are equally as important as the cities. If instead of the Postmaster-General concentrating the whole of his attention on city requirements, he gave the country a little more liberal treatment his Department would receive much more favorable consideration than is the case at present.
S.- Of course, the PostmasterGeneral has travelled throughout the whole of Australia. He knows every little corner, every telegraph post.
S. - The honorable gentleman knows exactly each centre, and the whole of the requirements of every little place, I am sure. I could mention scores of important centres with no telephonic communication at all. They cannot get anything because the whole of the energies of the Department are centred?! upon the cities.
S.- Perhaps the Minister never got them at all.
S. - How about Sunny Corner? And there are others that I could mention beside. I wrote to the Postmaster-General in several instances. I cannot say, of course, whether he saw the applications. At any rate, I would ask the Minister to give more favorable consideration to these cases, and endeavour to provide a decent system of telephonic communication in places where there is nothing of the sort, but where it is absolutely needed. On occasions it is a matter of lives having been lost through lack of any means of communication.
r- At any rate, you are not at sea. You are thrown up high and dry.
– The facts are not as stated by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls). . The British Government bought the wool clip from Australia.
R.- The Imperial Government have bought this and last year’s wool clip, through our Government. It is not a fact that the wool-grower gets his money as soon as his sheep are shorn. It is a mistake to say that he does. He has to send his wool to the broker for appraisement, and fourteen days after it is appraised he gets his money. It may be somemonths, however, before his wool is appraised.
R.- The wool season starts on the 1st July, and ends on 30th June; and the shearing season, roughly, runs from August until aboutDecember. There are some autumn shearings, but not many. From October until next June the wool appraisements will go on, so that it is manifestly a fact that wool-growers do not get their money promptly, or even quickly.
R.- Conditions are the same now as before the wool was bought by the British Government, except that the circumstances with regard to its prompt sale are worse, through the longer appraising period. In the case of wheat, portion of it was sold to the British Government, and the money was paid to the growers fairly promptly. As soon as the farmer gets his wheat stripped, and takes it to the local railway station, he secures an advance. Unfortunately, wheat at present in Australia is not a commercial commodity. It is not wanted; and that is the position we have to face, and the difficulty out of which we have to get the wheat-grower. There is a shortage in the world’s wool. Our wool is required by Britain and her Allies, and therefore the British Government buy it and send the ships for it. As regards the wheat, we are the furthest from the world’s market, and we must accept that situation. The mere fact that our wheat is too far away to be sent for has been the means of enhancing the price of the Canadian wheat, for which both the American and British Governments were buyers.
Another misstatement which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) made was that in the case of returned soldiers, if they go off the estate at Bathurst, in New South Wales, the former owners will get the land back for £2 or £3 cheaper than they sold it. It is about twenty-five or thirty years since the late Robert Barbour, who used to pose as the farmers’ friend - as the honorable member, apparently, does to-day - got the sale of Crown lands in New South Wales stopped. This land, if the farmers go off it, will revert to the Crown, and be open for settlement in due course. In 1916, there were only 422 acres sold by auction, and special sales amounted to only 2,700; that includes all town and suburban lots. Practically speaking, auction sales of land have been abolished in New South Wales.
There is another matter with respect to returned soldiers. These men are not being treated well by the Departments, but I do not think the National Government should take all the blame.
R. - A great deal of this trouble is due to the officials in the various Departments; and most of those officials got their jobs when the late Government were in power, and when preference to unionists held sway. That was mentioned in connexion with the Commission on the Defence Department.
R. - All this unsympathetic administration is due to the Government officials, who are banded together in their unions, and whom it is almost impossible to discharge.
r.- -They are not permanent officials.
– Increases both in the numbers of casual and permanent officials took place under the Labour Government.
R. - Because you so framed the law that a man cannot be dismissed from a Government Department until he has been brought before a Board. Even the man responsible for the HowellPrice forgeries is still in the Government service.
R. - I recently visited two Departments with a returned soldier, and I am sure that had I not been a member of Parliament, he would have received very unceremonious treatment from the officials we interviewed, both in the pensions and the land settlement branches of the Service. I have referred to this matter only with the object of showing that the complaints of want of sympathy in the treatment of returned soldiers are not due to action on the part of the present Government, but to officials appointed by a Labour Administration.
n. - And victimization by a Government.
– Yes ; I believe there is what is known as a Government list. In most cases these men are denied work in the mines. One company that I know of was fair enough to take back all its employees, but in most cases not only are the men unable to secure employment in the mines where they formerly worked, but they are refused employment at all the other mines. I am satisfied that if this Parliament fully appreciated the extent to which victimization is being carried on as the result of the broken promises of the New ‘South Wales Government, it would make a big effort to restore harmony. As my honorable friend, Mr. Charlton, said, many of these miners who to-day are unable to obtain employment in the mines are returned soldiers. During the last re ferendum campaign a big meeting was held in a central town in my . honorable friend’s electorate. At the conclusion of that meeting a man who was given permission to make a statement stepped on, to the platform and said, “I am a returned soldier. I went to the Front with my four boys. One of them has made the supreme sacrifice. I was invalided home, and when I sought employment at the mine where I was working when I enlisted, I was told my place had been filled by a loyalist from Victoria.”
S. - That is so. The man gave his name. , Returned soldiers are being treated in this way simply because of the trouble that occurred in the coal-mining industry. We were told by the Prime Minister some time ago that employers of labour who had promised that ‘those who went to the Front would, upon their return, be given their former positions would be kept up to the mark. Nothing has been done, however, to compel these men to redeem such promises. This complaint does not apply to all employers. Some are doing tie fair thing in regard to returned soldiers, but it is a disgrace that those engaged in a big industry, where the employment of an additional ten or twenty men on piecework rates does not make the proposition less payable, are not compelled to redeem the promise made to the boys when they went to the Front.
I have also a statement to make in regard to the State Government of New South Wales which may be of interest to the Treasurer. A letter has been handed to me in reference to a man who left his employment in the State Service in order to enlist with his son. On his return from the Front he wrote to the Government Department concerned asking to be re-employed. The reply, in effect, was, “ We have no room for you at present, but, as you are in receipt of a pension of 15s. per week, you must understand that when we do re-employ you it will be at a wage 158. per week less than the regular rate.” That letter came from a New South Wales State Government Department, which would seem to be endeavouring to “ take down “ the Commonwealth to the extent of the pension paid this returned soldier.
S . - None. I handed the letter to the Minister for Repatriation, and it contains the bald statement that this returned soldier, when reemployed by the Department, must take 15s. per week less than the regular wage” since he is in receipt of a Commonwealth’ war pension to that amount.
S.- It is not. The secretary of the Ironworkers’ Union told me recently that he knew of three or four similar cases in his industry. I am sure honorable members desire to do every thing possible to encourage recruiting, but it will never be the success we should like it to be while the present injustices are allowed to continue. There are, for instance, some remarkable disparities in the pensions allowed dependants of those who have fallen. Great hardship results from the method of calculating the pension payable, say, to the mother of a young man who has died at the Front. The pension is based upon the amount that the young man was able to give his mother during the twelve months prior to the war. We all recognise- that in the early days of the war the ‘ great majority of those who enlisted were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years. Many of those boys were at the time serving their apprenticeship. I know of a number of boys who were earning prior to the war from £1 to £1 10s. per week, but who at the time of their death at the Front would have completed their apprenticeship and have been earning £3 or, £4 per week had they remained at home. The pensions paid to their mothers, however, are based on the £1 or £1 10s. per week that they were earning during the twelve months before the war. This is the fault not of the officials, but of the law, which ought to be amended. The statement was made from every recruiting platform in the early days of the war that the mother of every boy who enlisted and was killed at the Front would receive a pension of £1 per week. The pensions, however, are being cut down to the lowest possible rate’. I am not blaming the officials. They are simply administering the law as they find it. We should so amend our legislation that justice .may be done to these people.
S.- I know of a case . where the mother of a soldier killed at the Front is receiving only 10s. per week, although she has seven children to maintain. One of her boys earns XI’ per week.
S . - We all know of cases of the kind. I bring this matter forward in order that justice may be done.
I wish now to refer to a question put to-day by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) in regard to the loading of one of’ the new wooden ships which is about to leave our shores. Those who know anything of the construction of these wooden vessels from the United States of America and Canada must be aware that they are built of soft wood, and that as the planking shrinks a good deal, from eighteen months to two years elapse before they become “tight.” I heard recently of a Canadian vessel which has been in one of our ports for nearly six months. The captain was prepared to pay all the port charges rather than take the risk of putting out with a cargo of wheat. The ship is not “ tight,” and he feared that if he put to sea with such a cargo the wheat would swell and the vessel would probably burst. It was suggested that the agents for this vessel really wanted to send her away with at cargo of coal to the East so as to secure a higher . freight. That is an absurd idea, however, since if she had been a “tight” ship she could have earned far more by carrying wheat during the six months she was in port. He prefers to remain in port rather than to incur the risk which I have indicated. When I was in Canada in 1916, I remember being shown the place where these vessels were being built. We were assured that they were being constructed as lumber boats, with a view to developing trade between Canada and Australia. They were intended to carry lumber on the voyage to Australia, and to carry coal on the return voyage. If these vessels were suitable for the carriage of wheat, I would not have a word to say in opposition to their employment in that connexion. But it would be sheer lunacy to utilize vessels for a purpose for which they are obviously unfitted, and to the danger of the crews who are called upon to man them. It would be madness to refuse .to permit these vessels to take coal on the return voyage to Canada, especially when we consider that the entire coal trade of the Commonwealth has been practically suspended by reason of the war. When shipping is so short, it is a very serious thing for a vessel to lie idle in one of our ports for upwards of seventy days. The excuse urged for this state of things is that if a vessel were allowed’ to load coal for the homeward voyage, when once she got outside the Heads we would be unable to exercise any control over the destination of her cargo. But surely an arrangement could be made with the Dominion Government under which we could exercise such control. If it cannot, what sort of people are we to conduct a war upon the colossal scale on which the present war is being waged? Then there is the case which was mentioned by the honorable member for Henty to-day - a case in which one of these vessels came into port with 6 feet of water in her hold.
S . - Well, that is possible, but it would be quite another thing to fill up the hold of such a vessel with wheat. If a leaky ship is loaded with wheat, I venture to say that the grain will not be of much value by the time it reaches San Francisco. In regard to the coal-mining industry, I wish the Government to understand that if the question of victimization be not settled, trouble will inevitably result in the near future.
r. - And there is no question of disloyalty involved in holding that opinion.
– The greatest need in this Parliament and in Australia today is that all political differences should be subordinated to the question of the Empire and the cause for which we are fighting. But I am not prepared to say that that position ought to relieve the Government from a proper measure of criticism, especially in regard to its management of the economic forces of the nation.
With the exception of the 300,000 men who are fighting so valiantly at the Front and the organization of our women at home,we cannot, even by the most extravagant stretch of the imagination, affirm that Australia is at war. Certainly she is not at war in an economic sense. The great tendency on the part of the Government has been to concentrate large trading organizations under the direction of the Department of the Prime Minister. Without any necessity for that concentration, the Ministry have built up a huge systemof Socialism within Australia which will form the groundwork for giving effect to that State ownership which has been the aim of the Socialist party for the last ten or twenty years. I believe that in time of war the Government must control, not only armies, but, to some extent, certain utilities in the form of production and manufacture.
N.- They do not. They say that they are obliged to sell at those prices because of the surplus production. The question is purely one of supply and demand.
In conclusion, I hope that the Treasurer, who, as the Minister in control of the finances, will naturally have some say in regard to the advances to be made to the farmers on account of their wheat, will see that the farmers are paid the outstanding balances on account of the 1915-16 and 1916-17 Pools at the earliest opportunity, especially as we know that 3,000,000 tons of the 4,500,000 tons remaining in Australia is already paid for by the Imperial Government. What is to prevent a suspense account being created, the money being paid pending the taking over of the wheat by the Imperial Government? Another suggestion I desire to make to the Treasurer is that farmers should be given a guarantee of a paying price extending beyond the present year, say, for two or three years ahead. The growing of wheat is a national industry because of its importance to the economic future of Australia, and also in order that we may help to feed our Allies overseas. It is an industry that must be protected. Owing to the present condition of shipping because of the German submarine menace, and the consequent necessity for keeping the greater portion of our production in Australia, it is the duty of the Government to give a guarantee that will encourage an increase in the wheat area, in order not only to enable them to give a loaf at a reasonable price to the Australian consumer, but also to foster this great national industry. This ia more than a question affecting the wheat-grower. It is a question upon which rests very largely the future financial stability of the Commonwealth. I hope the Treasurer, therefore will give very close attention to the matter of further advances being made in connexion with these pools,- and a readjustment of the whole system of management under the pools, in order that the growers through them may receive more direct representation, and be in a position to obtain, respecting the operations of the pools, information which will be just as accessible to them as the wheat market was on ordinary occasions, when they were dealing through private and co-operative enterprise.
r.- No; he said he would ask him to call it.
– It is quite apparent, therefore, that the proposal for this Conference is the Government’s answer to the debate that took place in this chamber a couple of months ago, after the scrutiny of the debate which we were told by the present Treasurer would be made by the Government.
TTS.- No. When the absence of the Prime Minister was commented on the Treasurer stated distinctly that everything said in the debate on this side of the House as to the measures that might be taken for co-operation would be carefully scrutinized and analyzed.
TTS.- It may be; but it is certainly the impression which the honorable gentleman conveyed to this side.
It is well to know that, concurrently with the calling of this recruiting Conference a great Press Conference is being called by the Government. This is the notice sent out to the newspapers -
n. - This is the way to bring about peace!
Mr. J. H. CATTS. - The answer of the Government to the discussion which took place two months ago, namely, to convene a conference behind the back of Parliament, is not a step towards reconciliation.
It must be patent to any person on either side of the House, or of this controversy, that certain outstanding matters must be dealt with before there can be anything in the nature of co-operation. These things are evident; but so far from the Government, in the period of the recess, showing a disposition to do anything that would soften the disagreements, not only as between representatives, but as between great sections of the people outside, there has been a continuation of that kind of maladministration which has placed us in the unfortunate and unenviable position in which we find ourselves to-day.
The following notice, which seems to have to do with conscription, has been sent out to the school teachers of Victoria : -
TTS.- And other foreigners.
TTS.- The best proofthe report of a speech made in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia by one of the members for Fremantle, Mr. Angwin. Instances were given by him, and an investigation took place, there being subsequently an acknowledgment by the Minister that his statement of the facts was substantially correct.
The release of innocent persons of Australian birth interned presumably for political reasons.
TTS. - There is the case of a man from Gladstone, Queensland. His mother lives in my electorate. She is Australian born, and her mother was an Australian. The mother and father of this man are Australians, and he is an Australian. He has been interned, and no reasons for his internment have been given, though efforts have been made by Queensland members and by myself to obtain information on the subject.
TTS.- I am not certain about bis grandfather, but his father and mother are Australians.
TTS. - My time being limited by the standing order, I cannot go fully into the matter now. His internment seems to be associated with the Ryan versus Hughes episode in Queensland, and in the absence of information or justification for his internment there is a strong presumption that there is a political reason connected with it.
No person should be deported except after a charge has been preferred and a public inquirymade. Apparently men can be snatched and deported out of this country without any charge being preferred against them, and without any public inquiry. That is a very dangerous power to be given into the hands of the. two men who are running the affairs of this country to-day.
TTS.- Hughes and Pearce.
TTS. - I could not believe that the honorable gentleman has participated in a great many of the acts that have been complained of.
TTS. - No personal insult is intended. It is from the Departments being controlled by the two men named that most of , the disaffection originates.
Mr.Watt. - Have we disturbed any by legislation?
– No. You have done worse; you have done it by regulation.
There is a proposal for the recasting of the industrial laws of Australia under the Defence power, which means industrial conscription. (c)We have, we are told, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) going to England with carte blanche, apparently, to say anything they like, and to commit the country to anything they like. They are taking the SolicitorGeneral with them. This is very strong, presumptive evidence that we are to be committed to some kind of hare-brained scheme of Imperial federation which will interfere with, and restrict, the selfgoverning powers of this country.
n. - The honorable memmer is aware that at the meeting to which he refers it was unanimously decided that the information was not to be divulged, but he made it public during the referendum campaign .
– The honorable member is not quite accurate. It was intended that the decision of the Committee should not go out to the press, or be canvassed, before the Government had considered it; but another conscription campaign was started, during which it was said that voluntary enlisting had been a failure, and that the Government had received no help and no suggestions from the Labour side in support of recruiting. That falsehood was promulgated throughout the length and breadth of the country, and the honorable gentleman has the audacity to say that we, on this side, should, notwithstanding, have maintained silence; that we should have held our tongues, and not let the country know what had transpired.
TTS.- No. What Labour men haveto fear by going into a secret Conference is that men from the other side will deliberately attempt to misrepresent everything that Labour says or does in connexion with the war.
TTS. - I know that there are War Precautions regulations which limit the freedom of speech everywhere outside this chamber. If statements are made at the Conference concerning matters which ought to be mentioned at such a meeting, the man who makes them will be accountable in the courts for what he has said. This Government have in operation a political censorship which prevents anything in the nature of strong criticism of the Administration going out to the people.
TTS.- I could give illustrations of what I mean if I had time. This is the kind of treatment we may expect. Members opposite tell us that Australia wants harmony and co-operation, but if any man in this House expresses himself honestly, the passions of honorablemembersoppositearesostrong,their vindictiveness is so great, their hypocrisy so transparent-
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter). - Order! The honorable gentleman is out of order.
– If what I have said is against the Standing Orders, I withdraw it, but I think it is about time that all these insinuations about disloyalty that are being hurled about were stopped and-
.- Order ! The honorable gentleman must know that that remark is very disorderly, and I call upon him to withdraw it and apologize.
– I will withdraw it and apologize, Mr. Chairman, but I ask you if you are going to allow that man in the corner to make such insulting statements?
– Order ! I have asked honorable members several times not to interject. I again ask them to allow the honorable member for Cook to proceed without interruption.
.- What was it?
.- Honorable members have been interjecting so repeatedly from both sides of the chamber that it is impossible for me to hear all that is said. I did not hear the honorable member for Echuca at all, but if he has said anything to which exception is taken I must ask him to withdraw.
TTS. - You know you did. You said I was receiving German gold. I am quite prepared to allow any public accountant of the Commonwealth to investigate my finances; but let him also and at the same time investigate those of the Prime Minister. I am quite willing that my personal accounts should be open for any public investigation.
TTS. - AlthoughI have other matters on the same subject to put forward,I find, Mr. Chairman, that my allotted half-hour has been taken up so much by interruptions that, apparently, I shall have to resume my remarks after some other honorable member has spoken.
t. - If the honorable member will read the Age of the 28th March he will see that the Prime Minister contradicted that statement, and explained that too wide a meaning was given to his words.
– That may be a very sufficient explanation from the Treasurer’s point of view, but the Prime Minister’s statement was unequivocal, that the Government did not contemplate increased taxation.
N. - I agree with the Minister.
t. - I cannot give it this financial year, but will do so as early as possible in the new financial year.
– I should like to know what is the exact position. We are so accustomed to the Prime Minister saying one thing to-day and then explain- ing it and giving it a different meaning to-morrow that it is difficult to know where we are. In financial matters we must of necessity look to the Treasurer for guidance. These demand our most serious consideration. As for myself, I can only say that I shall assist the Treasurer as far as possible in the adjustment of our finances. The “War-time Profits Tax and the Bachelor Tax have been referred to. There have been so many mutterings about the abandonment of the Bachelor Tax that we have every right to expect that the 1 Government have made up their minds on this matter at least, but so far we have had no information from the Treasurer. There is a report that any amendment of the tax will not apply to the present financial year, but will only be applicable to next year’s assessment. We are all aware, also, of the agitation, for repeal or drastic amendment of the War-time Profits Tax.
N. - The honorable member for Denison is quite correct. I was opposed to the War-time Profits Tax from the beginning, and I oppose it today. I believe it is entirely wrong in principle, and I am prepared to vote for its repeal at any time.
N. - While on the Ministerial side I had considerable discussions with the then Treasurer, Mr. Higgs, and he was in no doubt as to my position. It has always been looked upon by the Government as one of their principal items of revenue, and yet to-day the Treasurer did not say a word about it.
N. - The Treasurer may be excused to the extent that he has only lately assumed office, and must be allowed a certain amount of time to get a complete grip of affairs at the Treasury.
N.- Would the Minister be prepared to say that the Government propose to alter the incidence of the War-time Profits Tax?
N.- I listened with interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Wimmera - (Mr. Sampson), who at all times is a frank and rather fearless speaker, and is not afraid to speak, even if sometimes he does offend his political friends. I notice that he was one of the signatories to the communication addressed to the Prime Minister recently, and which appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 5th March, as follows : -
The Right Honorable the Prime Minister.
Sir, - The following members of the House of Representatives now in Melbourne strongly urge that, in view of the projected early departure of Ministers to London, Parliament should be called together forthwith to consider the recruiting scheme, defence administration, and the present financial situation.
The Ministerial Caucus meeting was held on the 2nd April, in advance of the meeting of the House, and since then the courage of the honorable member for Wimmera seems to have oozed very considerably. In the presence of the dictator he and others who signed that communication seemed to have lost their punch.
N. - No. I can only judge of what took place upstairs by what honorable members have done in this chamber. Judging by the fact that now he is one of the most docile members of his party in the House we can imagine that the whip was cracked to some purpose upstairs, and that the Prime Minister was able to throw his camouflage over those protesting members to such an extent that they are now quite dumb. Let me read what the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) had to say, and I think he said it most effectively. At Benalla the honorable member said, aa reported in the Age of the 25th March -
He . . . was not satisfied with Federal politics, and he wa’s not going to be bound down by the press or overruled by a parliamentary majority to prevent him saying what should be said in the interests of Australia. No matter how able a man were, if his abilities were noi joined to judgment and good feeling, that man might possibly make mistakes. It was the duty of those who supported the Ministry to tell it so if they thought it was going wrong. The present Government was still in office, although a few months ago it said if it did not get certain power it would not continue to govern. Australia was not being governed in a democratic way, but under the War Precautions Act. That measure should be used only for those things that are urgent. Parliament was there to pass laws, but the Government, without consulting Parliament, or even its own supporters, brought in regulations which afterwards had to be withdrawn. The Government had absolute power, and during the last few months things had occurred of which the people know nothing. The Government suffered from a bitter hatred of a large section of the public. It could not get away from it. While the present Government was there and the present head was there it would find it very hard- to bring Australia together, and to draw all sections in the community together to work as one nation to one end. No man was indispensable. In his opinion a better Government could have been formed from other members of the Nationalist party.
So said the honorable member for Indi, and I admired his courage; but what shall we say about his attitude here ? Have has expressions of condemnation of his Leader and his Government still to come?
N.- (The honorable member had his chance upstairs; or is it that he was restricted there also ?
One wonders how honorable members on that side are able to justify the conduct of affairs at present. They must know perfectly well that ‘ the way in which the business of the country is being conducted is conducive to neither good government nor the satisfactory conduct of the war. This, those honorable members admit outside, and1 why not here? So far as we on this side are concerned, and so far as I am able to interpret the mind of the party, we are as anxious for good government as we believe honorable members opposite to be; but when they speak with two voices, saying one thing outside, while acting differently inside, no wonder we are suspicious. J ask those honorable members to really consider the .position into which they are bringing the government of the country. If what the honorable member for Indi said is correct, and I think it is, undeniably, it is his business, and the business of every other honest patriot who is proud of Australia and anxious to do his best for its good government, to throw out the present Government, which is carrying on its business in’ such an unfair and unreasonable way. I heard the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in another place to-day, acknowledge that government under the “War Precautions Act by regulation was repugnant to all the ideals of Democracy. If so, is it not time to realize where we are drifting? If the war is to be carried on successfully, and unity gained in the nation, we must get rid of those obstacles to union which are hindering the success of the war, so far as Australia is concerned. I suggest that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) might say a word or two regarding the conduct of affairs. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) was quite clear and frank in his statement to-day. He says that he stands now in opinion where he stood when the House was on the point of adjourning in January last. But the speaking and acting of those other honorable members do not work together; they fail at the critical time. The honorable member for Wimmera says that he does not believe there was any necessity, for the appointment of four new Ministers; and in that I entirely agree. However, I am not concerned with that so much, because, so far as I know, and so faT as any indications are given, the salaries of those Ministers will not be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue. If they were there would be a very strong protest against any increase of expenditure in this direction. I do not agree with the honorable member for Wimmera in regard to the ability of the four honorable gentlemen who have been appointed to office. I wonder why such men as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), :the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson), and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) have not been selected. Why are such old, and experienced men passed over and comparatively new men selected? There is only one reason.
N. - I cannot mention them all. However, if the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Indi only make a loud enough noise and keep persistently nagging at the Government, no doubt positions will be found for them as well; so that they may take heart of grace.
N. - That is not an unusual position in this Blouse, because the spectacle was witnessed, only about twelve months ago, of seven Ministers and three supporters running the country.
N.- However, those honorable members need not lose heart.
The Government have announced the appointment of quite a number of lucrative offices, and this in face of the wealth of newspaper articles with respect to the war loan, telling us that every pound is wanted, and that every shilling will be useful. We see the Government creating new offices in every direction; there are councils of defence, councils of finance, councils of industry, free trips, picnics, with expenses guaranteed. So far from there being economy practised, and from economy being the watchword of this Government, really the Government are becoming the laughing stock of the people because they are trying to speak with two voices again. Take, for example, this little matter in connexion with the portraits for the further adornment of Queen’s Hall. What a ridiculous thing it becomes after all. We are all agreed that it is a fitting and proper way to commemorate the services of the men who are the leaders of Australian political life; but surely, under present circumstances, to spend money on such things is an utter waste of public funds. I notice, too, that the Committee do not only recommend that certain portraits be painted, but favour an increased expenditure in other directions; and these, however laudable and worthy the subjects may be, make the whole thing so ridiculous that one wonders that the Government do not refuse to countenance the whole proposal.
I congratulate the Government upon the admission of their incompetency in regard to finance. It is the first Government who, to my knowledge, have made such an admission. They announce in their policy speech, delivered to-day, that a finance council is to be formed, so that the Government may have the services of the highest financial experts. It is proposed to create a council of finance, comprising the Treasurer, the Secretary to the Treasury, representatives of the banks and of the financial institutions.
N. - As to that honorable Minister, I anticipate some improvement in the conduct of the Treasury with his advent. I amquite prepared to admit that.
N.- I hope the honorable member will not ask me to go into details now. At any rate, the Government are going to appoint a council to assist them. The only satisfactory reflection that I have is that most of these boards - boards are generally wooden - provide a sufficient buffer between the Parliament and the Ministry. I can now conceive that, whatever point our financial criticisms may have, it will be easily deflected by the Minister putting upon the council his justification for any action that may be taken. That there is need for drastic attention to finance is now well known to the public. It has been within the knowledge of honorable members for some considerable time.
Honorable members are aware of the severe criticism that has been directed against, not only this Government, but previous Governments, with respect to the waste in the Defence Department. It is unfortunate that these charges of extravagance and waste were not investigated sooner than they have been. We would not then have had this lamentable public exposure of maladministration almost amounting to corruption which has been shown as the result of the recent inquiry. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in referring to the final conclusions of the Commission - its fourth progress report - takes this peculiar satisfaction to himself -
We have achieved a very fair measure of success. In almost every belligerent country similar complaints have been, or are being, made; while in some charges of corruption have been laid at the door of the Army administration. Happily, nothing of the kind in regard to Australia is mooted in these reports.
That is not the impression left in the minds of the people of Australia in regard to them. While no direct charges of cor- ruption have been laid, there is ground for very strong suspicion that the conduct of financial affairs in the Defence Department has not been what it should have been; and that, in regard to the buying of stores, if there has not been corruption, there has been a very strong savour of unfair and dishonest dealing.The Minister for Defence says that we have had a fair measure of success, that in other countries charges have been made, but we are free from them in Australia. Whatever may have happened in other countries it is no credit to us that we are no worse than they. It is a miserable argument to advance that, because something has gone wrong elsewhere, we are no worse than are those people. As a matter of fact, we’ nave less reason for anything of the kind going wrong than is the case in any other of the belligerent countries. We ore so far removed from the seat of war that there is less excuse for us in Australia. YetI understand that if we could probe to the bottom the condition of affairs in regard to the Defence Department we might not have so much satisfaction in that we are much better than other countries. Years ago I heard the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) criticise very strongly - and not too strongly - the exaggerated expenditure of theDefence Department, which he said positively must be cut down. Yet here, in this Government, we find him Acting Prime Minister, the Deputy Leader of the party ; and at the same time we see the defence expenditure and administration going on in such a way as to bring down upon itself such damning reports from a Royal Commission. I do not want to belabour the Defence Department. We know the troubles and difficulties it has had to face, but it would be much better if the Government would pay some attention to the criticism of honorable members, not only of the Opposition, but of the Government party also. For years I have heard complaint after complaint. Illustrations and concrete facts have been citedin regard to what was going on, but no notice has been taken, and the consequence is that matters have proceeded until there came this unfortunate exposure.
Among the other proposals submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Government to-day in his policy speech there is mention of a Council of Trade and Commerce proposed to be established. I have not time now to complete my arguments upon that, so I shall delay it until another opportunity presents itself. I. refer now to the new Departments that are being established, to the expensive positions that are being created, and, what is worse still, from my point of view, to the number of men who are being imported to start these new Departments.
N. - Parliament is none the worse for the imported men in it. If the honorable member insists upon referring to the conduct of Australians in this Parliament I may remind him of two or three little episodes in which Australians figured last year, and which might well be forgotten. Ex-SenatorReady, for instance, is an Australian. The honorable member himself is an imported man; if not, he has no reason to be ashamed, since to be an Australian is the next best thing to being a Scotchman. The interjection reminds me of the question of the introduction of titles in this country. I would be one of the last to say a word that might savour of disrespect to our respected friend, Lord Forrest. If there is in this House one man for whom honorable members on all sides, and in every Parliament, have a sincere respect, it is theRight Honorable Lord Forrest, and what I am about to say is not -intended to savour of the slightest disrespect to him. I wish, however, to outer my protest against the importing of titles into this country. Lord Forrest is the first Australian peer; I sincerely hope we shall have no more. The whole national sentiment of Australia is strongly, if not unanimously, against the creation of titles in the Commonwealth. I recently cut out of a London newspaper the following lines, which I think sum up the feeling of the world to-day in regard to these honours: -
TILTING FOR TITLES.
(Lines suggested by a note in the Daily News.)
In burnished mailbedecked with gold They battled for the Crown.
But nowadays, in other ways,
The knightly spurs are won; The mailis black, or at the crack
Of Whips the trick is done. A ring in meat, a squeeze in wheat,
In sugar, pulp, or beer, A coal combine, a trust in wine,
Behold a knight or peer!
I agree with the sentiment expressed by Burns, that ‘’ Lords are but the breath o’ Kings.”
Hero is another _ newspaper extract, which shows the feeling in Canada–
The Times correspondent at Toronto states thai the announcement of the Canadian honours in the order of the British Empire has been indefinitely postponed.
There is a feeling in the Cabinet that titles and honours arc becoming too common. Hostility to hereditary titles is very pronounced. The subject will be considered in Parliament.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- (By leave.) - I very much regret that, owing to the continued illness of the Prime Minister, I have to make the following statement in his stead. I propose to confine myself to the statement which he prepared, and would have read to the House had he been well enough to do so. It is as follows : -
Since Parliament rose, as honorable members are doubtless aware, the Treasurer has been obliged, by serious indisposition, to resign his position in the Government.
Honorable members will, I am sure, join with me in wishing the right honorable gentleman a speedy restoration to health, and in congratulating him upon the signal honour bestowed upon him by His Majesty the King in recognition of a long and distinguished public career.
The vacancy thus created has been filled by the appointment of the Hon. W. A. Watt as Treasurer.
The Hon. L. E. Groom has assumed the office of Minister of Works and Railways.
Senator Russell has been appointed Vice President of the Executive Council.
The following gentlemen have been added to the Ministry: - Hon. A. Poynton, Hon. G. H. Wise, Hon. W. Massy Greene, and Hon. R. B. Orchard.
The reasons for these appointments, and the duties assigned to the new Ministers, will be referred to later.
The House and the country are aware of the gravity of the present military situation in Europe. Without attempting to arouse undue anxiety, it is plain that the British and Allied Forces are being subjected to a strain hitherto unparalleled in this fearful war. The Empire is now’ facing a crisis which calls for the utmost effort and sacrifice.
In the face of the common danger, it is not too much to hope that the people of all ‘ parts of the Empire - including this Commonwealth - will present a united and unwavering front. Only in such unity can safety be found. The Government invites, and will do everything within its power to promote, this vital national solidarity.
It will be within the knowledge of honorable members that the British Government have asked representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an early date. The Government feels that at this critical juncture Australia must’ be represented thereat.
The Prime Minister and the ‘ Minister for the Navy will represent the Commonwealth.
In a Ministerial statement addressed to Parliament shortly before the adjournment, it was announced that it was proposed to take steps in the near future with a view to strengthening the Government and making it more efficient to meetthe increasing pressure of war duties and those economic and other conditions arising out of the war.
It has been obvious for some considerable time that the pressure upon several departments caused by the war necessitated such a policy. The difficulty thus felt will be intensified by the absence of two senior Ministers who will visit London.
The additions to tile strength of the Government to which I before alluded have been made to meet the situation thus created.
In connexion with these , new appointments, which I may add will involve no additional burden on the finances,, it has been deemed advisable to arrange such a re-allotment of Ministerial duties as to secure the most efficient discharge of the public business.
Mr. Poynton will act for the Minister for the Navy and will also have charge of Shipping and Shipbuilding. . Mr. Wise will discharge the duties previously undertaken by Mr. Groom as Assistant Minister for Defence, and will be given certain defined lines of administration, among which will be allotments and separation allowances and Citizen Force administration, rifle club matters, works, and certain details of the Australian Imperial Force.
It has been arranged that Mr. Orchard shall have complete control of the recruiting movement, and be free, as far as possible, from administrative work. The recruiting staffs will pass under his control.
The Government has reason to believe that its proposals relating to voluntary recruiting will thus be stimulated, and that by the co-operation of all classes in the community the desired reinforcements will be forthcoming.
A large number of commercial undertakings of considerable magnitude, the direct result of the waT, have hitherto centred in the Prime Minister’s Department. These matters include metals, wool, wheat, butter, and others of a similar character. The control of these will be transferred to the Trade and Customs Department. Senator Russell and Mr. Massy Greene will be associated with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and two representatives of the business world will be invited to act in consultation with them. Although Ministerial responsibility will be fully maintained, the assistance of competent business men will insure the handling of the gigantic undertaking above referred to with national advantage.
Recruiting. - Honorable members are familiar with the proposals of the Government with reference to recruiting. The
Minister representing the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Recruiting will deal in detail with this matter later in the debate.
Shipbuilding. - The Commonwealth shipbuilding scheme is now definitely established. The Commonwealth Government have taken over from the Victorian Government the State Shipbuilding . Yards at Williamstown, and two standardized steel ships of 5,500 tons are now under construction. Six others of similar design will be also constructed there.-
In addition to this, a .contract has been let with the New South Wales Government for the construction of six similar vessels at Walsh Island, and for two at Devonport, in Tasmania.
Negotiations are in progress with the State Governments for the construction of steel ships in South Australia by private firms. The Government hopes that private enterprise will now step forward and assist in this great national work.
All the material and engines for these vessels are being manufactured in Austraia, with the exception of the large plates for the first six ships, which were not procurable here and were ordered from America. This material is now on its way.
Orders for material for seven additional steel ships to be’ built in Australia of same type and design as those now under construction at Williamstown and Walsh Island are now the subject of negotiation.
Two contracts for construction by private firms in Australia of wooden ships to be fitted With auxiliary, engines have been completed. One is for six ships of 2,600 tons. The second is for six ships of 2,300 tons.
After protracted negotiations with representatives of the Labour organizations interested in the shipbuilding industry, practically the whole of the unions concerned, with the exception of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, have signed the Agreement, which the Government laid down as an essential to the commencement of the construction of. ships, providing for continuity of operations, dilation of labour, and piece-work.
Piece-work rates have been mutually agreed upon iin a number of cases, and the Federal ship-building ttribunal appointed to settle disputes is now engaged in determining further piece-work rates.
In June, 1917, an order was placed in. America for fourteen first-class wooden ships of 3,200 tons, four to be equipped with two full Diesel engines, and ten firstclass wooden cargo steamers.
Owing to various reasons, mainly to troubles with shipways, delivery of material, labour troubles, &c, the delivery of these boats has been delayed.
Two vessels have been launched and others will shortly follow. All axe expected to arrive in Australia during the year.
Shipping. - With a view to utilizing vessels engaged in the Australian coasting trade to the best advantage, and in orde] to free as many ships as possible for service of the British Government over-seas, regulations have been made providing for the appointment of a Controller of ‘Shipping, a Deputy Controller of Over-seas Shipping, and a Deputy Controller of Coastal Shipping, who, with six representatives of the Inter-State companies, constitute an Inter-State Central Committee.
The Controller of Shipping has power to requisition any vessel registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade, and to vary the rates of f ares and freights to be charged on vessels requisitioned. He may also determine which vessels may be made available for the over-sea shipping service.
Twenty-two over-sea ships have been diverted from the Australian trade, and to further meet the urgent and pressing requirements of the British Government,, five others under Commonwealth control have been diverted. In addition to this, twenty-six vessels hitherto engaged in tha coastal and Eastern trade, and eight engaged in New Zealand trade, have been released for use of the British Government, making a total of sixty-one in all.
Council of Defence. - In order to coordinate the work of the Defence Department more completely with the other Commonwealth Departments and with the general policy of the Government, it is proposed to establish a Council of Defence, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Defence, and representatives of the Navy and Army Departments, and two members of the recently-appointed Business Board.
Provision will be made to strengthen the existing provisions for home defence by enlisting in the Citizen Forces persons ineligible for the A.I.F. between the ages of twenty-one and fifty.
Finance Council. - In order that the Government may have at its disposal for the purpose of its finance administration the services of the highest financial experts, it is proposed to create a Council of Finance, composed of the Treasurer, the Secretary to the Treasury, representatives of the banks, and representatives of the financial institutions.
Repatriation - The Repatriation Act has been proclaimed, and came into operation on the 8th inst. ; the regulations have been passed and gazetted. The Repatriation Commission has been appointed, and the work of organization is rapidly proceeding. A full statement in connexion with this matter will be made in a few days.
Council of Trade and Commerce. - In connexion with the vast administrative duties cast upon the Government, owing to the war, in connexion with commercial matters - such as the wheat, wool, and butter pools, metals, the sugar crop, price fixing, &c. - it has been decided to transfer these to the Department of Trade and Customs.
In connexion with this Department, the Government proposes to avail itself of the patriotic offer of the Chambers of Commerce to place at its disposal some first class business men, to be representatives on a council which will assist the Minister and Assistant Ministers. It is recognised that the operations of the Department vitally affect the interests of producers, traders, and others throughout the Commonwealth; and the existence of this council will be an assurance that political interference with business will be reduced to the minimum, consistent with the public interest.
Recognising the urgent necessity for organizing Australian industries, and finding profitable markets for our products overseas, it is proposed to establish immediately a Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and place in charge a first class business man, who will act with the representatives of the various industries.
The economic and industrial problems which face the Commonwealth during and after the war have been the subject of careful consideration, and the Government has formulated a comprehensive scheme of organization which it has submitted for discussion and criticism to the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures. The Government have been met in a broadminded and patriotic spirit by these bodies, and after full discussion the main principles of the scheme have been approved. They involve the complete organization of all industries, primary and secondary, into associations, which will send representatives to a General Council of Commerce and Industry, and the Science and Industry Bureau will be thoroughly equipped and re-staffed to be at the disposal of this organization. The scheme is directed to enable Australian industries to adapt themselves to the new conditions, and to regulate on a new basis post-war changes of trade and commerce.
Labour. - To establish and maintain better interests between capital and labour, it is proposed that the AttorneyGeneral shall also be Minister for Labour ; and an advisory council, representing employers and employees, will be appointed to keep touch between the Department and the industrial interests affected.
Legislation will also be brought forward to remove certain defects of the existing industrial machinery, and provide more effective methods of dealing with industrial problems.
The matter is, in this time of national crisis, of the highest importance for defence, and it is proposed to deal with it by a Bill framed in reliance upon the Defence power, and, therefore, free from the complicated constitutional limitations of the Commonwealth arbitration power.
The scope of the measure will be limited to certain industries of national importance, e.g., transport, base metal mining and metallurgy, coal mining, the manufacture of iron and steel, the handling of wheat, &c, for export, manufacture of munitions, &c.
I move -
That the paper he printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to consolidate and amend the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-16.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook, for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the Maintenance of Industrial Peace, and the Prevention and Settlement of Industrial Disputes, during the present war, and for six months thereafter, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to lands required for the purposes of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Webster) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Bates
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commerce (Trade. Descriptions) Act 1905.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook, for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 72 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1917.
Motion (by Mr. Webster) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916.
Arsenal Site - Naval Bases - Discussion of Estimates - Purchase of Ships : Unauthorized Expenditure - Auditor-General’s Report - Motor Car Hire by Minister for . Trade and Customs - Shipping Board - Recruiting on Coal Mining Fields : Alleged Victimization of Lodge Officers : Breach of Agreements - Appointment of Additional Ministers - Re-distribution of Ministerial Duties - Commonwealth Police - Prosecutions under War Precautions Act : Detention in Gaol op Offenders- Historic Portraits - Regulation of Food Prices : Primary Products - Recruiting Conference : Action of GovernorGeneral - Australian Representation at Imperial Conference - Evasions of Australian Workers Union Award - Non-fulfilment of Promises to Returned Soldiers - Defence Department : Pay Officers : Accountancy of Allotment and Allowance Sections - War Pensions - False Declarations by Recruits - Conductof Military Police in Sydney - Waterside Workers - Deregistration of Unions - Land Settlement of Returned Soldiers - Wheat Payments to Farmers - Shipbuilding - Military Clerks in Sydney: Overtime and Working Accommodation: Uniforms - Second Military District Administration - Country Telegraphic and Telephonic Communication - Sale of Wheat and Wool - Loading of New Wooden Ships - Recruiting : Policy of the Government : Settlement of Party Differences - Conduct of the War - Prime Minister’s Department : Control of Trading Organizations - Wheat Pool: Advances to Farmers - Public Departments : Expenditure - Taxation - Creation of Boards : Council of Finance - Defence Administration - Titles : Lord Forrest.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move-
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1917-18 a sum not exceeding £5,068,484.
– I think so, too.
– The honorable gentleman does not mean that there will be a surplus of ordinary revenue over ordinary expenditure, without taking account of loan moneys?
– Is it intended to close Parliament shortly?
.- We have had four Supply Bills, each for a period of three months, though one of them was withdrawn, and Supply provided for periods of two months and ohe month respectively. This is the first time, since o 1901, that this Parliament has been asked to vote Supply for the year without dealing with the Estimates’. Last year, because the Government forced a dissolution, we had to pass a Supply Bill in June in order to provide for the elections; but this is the first time that a Government has deliberately asked Parliament for Supply for a whole year without bringing forward the Estimates for discussion. In July last we were promised by the then Treasurer (Lord Forrest) that we should have his Budget statement early, and that there would be an opportunity to discuss the Estimates. Questions have been raised on various Supply Bills, such as the expenditure on the proposed arsenal and on the Naval Bases. The present Treasurer, when Minister for Works and Railways, said that we should have an opportunity, before the end of last calendar year, to discuss, all details connected with the Arsenal site, and I think the Naval Base proposals, too, before any money was expended.
– It has nothing to do with the present war.
– When did I say that?
– Twice I have said the very opposite as plainly as I know how.
– That is not a fair remark. The honorable member knows that I tried to keep that promise, and could not. It is not the intention of the Government to prevent honorable members from discussing the Estimates of this financial year during the financial year.
– I have not given any promise. I have told the House what the intention of the Government is.
– Does the honorable member know that he is living in a glass house, and that he belonged to a Government that did not introduce a Budget during one financial year ?
– The honorable member was in that Government, and it was the first Ministry which had failed to produce a Budget during a financial year.
– The Federal system of discussing Estimates has always been’ a rotten one.
– It is an absolute farce.
– In what sense are you using the word “ strong “ ?
– If the Estimates were passed at the beginning of the financial year would not the Government be in a better position to do that?
– I remember a State Government which brought down its Estimates early in the session, and could get no other business done. The discussion of the Estimates occupied the whole of the session .
– I desire to enter my protest against the loose method of dealing with finance into which we seem to be drifting. I do not blame the present .Treasurer or his predecessors, but the way in which things have been allowed to go on is simply astounding. The position was never worse in any State Parliament. Of course, I admit that the financial obligations of the Commonwealth have grown to such an enormous extent that it is almost impossible for honorable members to discuss the Estimates in detail. If every honorable member thought fit to discuss the Estimates as he might think he ought to, there would be no opportunity of dealing with any other business. In my opinion we must alter our method of dealing with the finances, and follow the examples of the House of Commons or several of the legislatures of America by appointing a grand committee to consider the Estimates, and bring in a report concerning them to the House. If we cannot go to the full extent in that direction, we can at least go some step towards it, because in Committee of Supply we are no longer in a position to give detailed attention to the Estimates.
I wish to give one or two illustrations to drive home the point I am trying to make. In 1916, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went to London on certain pressing business. We. were told that the Imperial Government cabled asking him to go Home, and give them the benefit of his advice. He went to England, presumably for that purpose, . but he did something else there. Without consulting his Cabinet he spent £2,000,000. Of course, during war time extraordinary powers are given to Ministers, but if a Minister does take the extraordinary stand of spending large sums of money unauthorised, he must come down to the House at the earliest possible moment with an Indemnity Bill to cover his action. In this case, however, nothing of that sort has been done. We have not even had a statement in regard to , the expenditure of that £2,000,000. If honorable members were honest, no Government would stand for twenty-four hours in face of the report of the Auditor-General.’ Outside the Prime Minister and the Acting Prime Minister (Senator Pearce), the only man who was consulted in regard to that expenditure was the then Treasurer (the honorable member for Capricornia), and he had to be taken into the confidence of the Acting Prime Minister, because it was found that otherwise -the money could not be provided, and Senator Pearce therefore told the Treasurer that he needed £3,000,000 to be placed to the credit of the Prime Minister in London. All the notice received was a three lines communication to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank asking him to place £3,000,000 at the disposal of the Prime Minister in London. There have been some ugly rumours in connexion with these matters that should be cleared up, and the sooner they are cleared up the better it will be. The whole transaction is not complete without the passage of an Indemnity Bill. We were in the same position on that occasion as we are in to-day. We are passing a Supply Bill covering three months only, and when the Bill goes through we will have voted away the whole of the money covered by the Estimates for the year. It would have been better had the Treasurer come down with a final Appropriation Bill, so that we could resume the Budget debate, and would know where we stand, and so that we could have had discussion on the Estimates. 1 have nothing to say in regard to the method adopted by the honorable member, but all the same, I think that the course I have suggested would have been the most reasonable one to follow. We have been in the same position for some years in regard to the finances. There is a stupid, almost insane, idea on the part, of the Government of leaving everything until the last minute - until the tail eni of the session, in the hope that they may be able to force legislation through Parliament without the fair discussion it requires. This is the case, not only with the Estimates, but with Bills, which, are forced through so ill-digested that I have known the Government, in the latter case, to come down within twenty-four hours of their passing and ask for amendments. These conditions ought to be altered as soon as possible, for they cannot be allowed to continue unless we are to get into chaos.
– I have the Appropriation Bills here, and I am ready to pass both at once.
– He was your leader and chief when he did it.
– Parliament hardly knows officially that we have got the ships.
– What about appointing the Commission which inquired into the Defence Department to inquire into this matter?
– There are so many things to inquire into that we do not know where to begin!
– The honorable member is implying a good deal. I think he ought to be a little more explicit.
– I heard the amount mentioned as £180,000.
– 1 remind the honorable member that this is the sixth Supply Bill this year, and that means that honorable members have had five oportunities to investigate Bills of the kind.
– That was your fault.
– They are not allowed to publish such matters.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) is smarting a bit, and perhaps it would be just as well for him not to take part in this debate.
– The whole matter of departmental motor cars is a scandal. I re ferred to it five years ago. The system should have been wiped out long since.
– Every one knows that they are used for other than departmental purposes.
– Ever since I entered this Parliament I have protested against our system of dealing with the Estimates. There could not be a greater farce than the way in which all Governments ask Parliament to deal with them. I have seen votes representing an expenditure of millions passed in the early hours of the morning, with only two or three honorable members awake, while the rest have been stretched out, asleep, on the benches. I have held for years, and I hold to-day more strongly than ever, the view that, for its own protection, the Commonwealth Parliament will have to adopt something like the system followed by Congress in dealing with its finances. There the Estimates are handed over to a Committee of Parliament, and if this Legislature is to properly carry out its responsibilities, the larger items of expenditure must be delegated to Committees of the House, which will deal with each item separately and report. That system was found necessary iu the United States of America nearly half a century ago, and while it has not worked to perfection it is certainly much better than the previous practice. No one can say that the system of dealing with the Estimates which has been followed since the inception of this Parliament is creditable to the House. Year after year the Estimates are deliberately held back until the closing hours of Parliament. They are then bulldozed through this House by means of allnight sittings, and are sent on to another place, which is expected to deal with them in one day. This practice is becoming more and more acute, and it is quite impossible under it to analyze the Estimates. I object to the system under which the consideration of the Estimates is hung up for some months after the delivery of the Budget statement, while, meantime, monthly Supply Bills are passed. At the close of the session, when we proceed to discuss the Estimates, we are told that it is useless to do so, as the money has already been spent. I hope that, henceforth, as soon as the Budget statement is delivered, we shall be given an opportunity to deal with the Estimates on their merits, so that we may give them the care and attention they demand.
There are many questions of serious importance which I hope we shall have a better opportunity to discuss. There is, for instance, the appointment of the Shipping Board, the constitution of which is causing the gravest concern throughout Australia. I cannot conceive of anything much worse than the action of the Government in placing the whole of the InterState shipping of Australia under the control of a Board armed with all the powers of the War Precautions Act, and consisting, as this Board does, of the managers of the several shipping companies. The Shipping Ring was strong enough, and injurious enough, before, but by the creation of this Board the public have been deprived of the last vestige of protection they had. There is no protection for them. The Shipping Board has been given complete control of the allocation of shipping, the distribution of freights, and the question of rates.
– The Board has full control of the whole of our InterState shipping.
– The Government have practically handed over to the Board the whole of their powers in regard to the allocation of our shipping and the distribution of freights. We are now told that it is also to be given power, where necessary, to increase freights.
– I am talking of what is being done in Australia. If the Board is to be continued, it should be so reconstituted as to give equal representa tion to the customers of the shipping companies - the general public. It has been found necessary, I think, in respect of most other Boards created by the Government, to have some dilution of the direct interests involved; but in this case we have practically a Board consisting solely of the managers of the shipping companies. I shall bring this matter personally under the notice of the responsible Minister, and offer him suggestions, the adoption of which would, I believe, prove advantageous. In the interests of the traders and consumers of Australia, there should be some representatives of the people, as well as of the shipping companies, on the Board. This question affects Tasmania more vitally than any other State.
– A representative of each State should be placed on the Board.
– I agree with the honorable member. If the various Boards created by the Government are to work satisfactorily, they must be free from any tinge of political or party control. The representation must be fairly divided. Just as in the case of the recruiting committees, honorable members have been invited to assist, so I think their assistance should be sought on these Boards. The regulations framed by the Shipping Board are detrimental to the interests of my own State. Tasmania is suffering.
– Quite so; but I am not prepared to see the whole of the Inter-State shipping trade of Australia placed under the control of a Board consisting entirely of shipping company managers.
There are matters relating to shipbuilding which we shall have an opportunity to discuss in connexion with the Ministerial statement. I have heard for the first time to-day that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) is to be in charge of shipping, and I urge him to take this question into his immediate consideration. I feel sure he will recognise the advisableness of strengthening the Board and protecting the public in the way I have suggested.
.- Once again I desire to enter my protest against the delay in dealing with the Estimates. I” was pleased to hear the present Treasurer state that it is the intention of the Government to give the House an opportunity of considering the Estimates before the end of the financial year, late though that opportunity will be, and I hope that effect will be given to that intention. My criticism is not directed against any particular Government. Every ‘Government that has been in office since the war commenced has been equally guilty. This Parliament seems to have fallen into a bad habit. Works have been completed, and expenditure has been incurred, before we, who are supposed to be the custodians of the public purse, are given an opportunity of considering the Estimates. I trust that if the present Treasurer continues in office, he will see his way clear to bring future Estimates before Parliament at a much earlier period than has been the practice of Governments during the last four or five years.
I wish to take this opportunity of dealing with what I consider a much more important question than even the consideration of the Estimates by Parliament. I am moved to take this step because of the present state of the war. Never since the commencement of hostilities was the crisis more acute than it is today. We all are desirous of doing our best to prosecute this war to a successful conclusion, and in that regard very much depends upon the attitude of this Parliament. We have a duty to perform, and that duty is to endeavour to create in the community an atmosphere which will assist us to get recruits under the voluntary system ., Are we doing that ? ‘ Honorable members very rightly say that what we need are unity and harmony in the community. But we must do something to bring about those conditions. Talking alone will not produce harmony. In the meanwhile, time is passing, and the position is daily becoming worse. During the last two years recruiting has been falling off at a very rapid rate. Whilst I have never thought that we could continue to get recruits at the same rate as they came forward in the early days of the war, I do think that wo should be able to get more than have been forthcoming during the last two years. What steps should we take to create that atmosphere which is so necessary in order that Australia may put forth its best efforts in connexion with the war ? I answer at once that we must not lose sight of the fact that the great industrial masses of this country must be made to feel that they count” for something in the community. When they are asked to take the risk of doing their part in the war, ‘they must be shown clearly that they have some stake in the country ; that they are not fighting merely for the Interests of the men who have wealth and property, but to protect their own liberties as Australians. Anything we can do to bring about that feeling will assist in a very great measure in producing the number of recruits we require. At the present time, there is a very pronounced feeling on the part of the worker, and it is growing day by day, that he is not getting a fair deal. It is to the working man that we must look to successfully prosecute any war. Without his assistance, money counts for nothing. Money is only a factor which is essential for paying him for his services. When the workers begin to feel that they are not getting their due, the first question that suggests itself to them is, “ What are we fighting for; what benefits do we get from the war?” Looking at the position in which they find themselves to-day, they conclude that in very many cases they are not getting justice, and I indorse that view.
– The workers are a thousand times better off than are the workers in England.-
– Something will be heard about them at the conference convened by the Governor-General.
Newcastle. 23rd March, 1918.
W. M. Hughes, Esq.,
Adverting to the conversation we had with you recently in Sydney in reference to the position of the Coal and Shale Miners Federation and you asking me to furnish you with the number of members victimized and other matters that are causing unrest in the industry, I herewith set out for your perusal briefly the position.
In respect to the victimization, I enclose you the number in each district that are still idle, and in the North I am dealing separately, in order that you may direct inquiries with a view of ascertaining as to whether any of those members are members of the I.W.W. We are convinced that these members have been victimized because of the prominent part they have taken inour organization as lodge officers, and can give facts that these men have in many instances obviated stoppages at the collieries. I think it is needless, however, for me to point out the feeling that exists, and what may be apprehended if this is permitted to continue much longer. I may here state that compulsory conferences have been convened by Mr. Beeby, the Minister for Labour and Industry in this State, and so far have not been successful in adjusting the matters referred to.
I may be permitted to refer to the effect it will have on recruiting, and, in fact, any proposals that may be put forward soliciting the co-operation of the miners during the war period.
I think it is generally recognised that the miners of this Commonwealth have played a prominent part during the war, inasmuch as a little over 30 per cent. of our members have already enlisted, and the feeling that prevails in instances that have occurred where returned soldiers have found their brothers and fathers victimized, and in some cases been refused work themselves. We have members victimized who have one, two, three, and up to four sons at the Front, and in cases their sons have made the extreme sacrifice, and in view of this the feeling is becoming so prevalent that the executive fear something serious may happen.
The chief cause of the trouble is in connexion with Brown’s collieries, namely, Pelaw Main and Richmond Main, as you will see by the number of men that are out of work and the fact that more loyalists have been imported here from Victoria.
I desire also to bring under your notice the position in relation to Stanford Merthyr Colliery, where there are close on 600 men out of work in connexion with the abolition of the afternoon shift. As you are aware, this question was the cause of a ten months’ strike by a number of the collieries in the Maitland field, which commenced on 28th May, 1914, and ceased in April, 1915. At the termination of the struggle a conference was held in Newcastle, which was presided over by Mr. John Brown, and representatives of both the employers and employees were present. The outcome of the conference was that an understanding was arrived at whereby the afternoon shift should cease at the Stanford Merthyr and other collieries. I enclose you herewith copy of proposals referred to. We have been informed now by Mr. C. A. Earp, managing director of the Stanford Merthyr Colliery, that they do not intend to honour the agreement arrived at, and will not conform with what has already been carried out at all the other collieries on the Maitland field.
We hope, therefore, that you will give favorable consideration to these questions immediately, and oblige,
Colliery Employees Federation.
This is the agreementreferred to -
That if the afternoon shift is persisted in as a temporary arrangement, an extra payment of not less than 3d. per ton shall be paid on pick coal gotten on the afternoon shift, and21/2d. per ton shall be paid for the machine coal gotten on the afternoon shift, also3/4d. per ton shall be paid to machine men on the afternoon shift, and 10 per cent. increase to all other classes of labour engaged on the afternoon shift, with a distinct understanding that the payment will come in force on the date of the resumption of work at the collieries affected by the afternoon shift dispute.
That if this proposal be accepted by the Colliery Employees’ Federation, the proprietors agree not to refer the case to arbitration, and the time limits at the collieries shall be - Hepburn and Pelaw Main, 2 years; Whitburn, 2$ years; Stanford Merthyr, 3 years; East Greta and Richmond Main, 4 years.
The above proposals were placed before the members of the Colliery Employees’ Federation, and were accepted as per delegate board minute of meeting held 11th. March, 1915.
The three years mentioned in that agreement have expired, but the proprietors, notwithstanding the war, would not comply with its terms, and in the belief that, because of the action of the State Government, they could break down the opposition to the afternoon shift, and compel the men to work two shifts. The men would not do this, and for a fortnight 600 of them were out of work. Not one newspaper in the Commonwealth did the men the justice to show that the proprietors had broken faith with them; and probably Mr. Knibbs’ statistics will record as. a strike what was actually a lockout by the owners. Honorable members can imagine the feelings of the men and their wives and families at the treatment accorded to them. At the end of a fortnight further consideration was given to the matter, and the men were permitted to resume work. Why were they kept from working for a fortnight? To ascertain, I dare say, whether, under the influence of the State Government, the men could not be got to agree to the second shift. It is things like these that are killing recruiting in the coal-fields. As has been pointed out, 30 .per cent, of the members of the association have enlisted - that is over 3,000 of them. Therefore, no one can say that, in proportion to their numbers, the coaminers have not done their duty. As a matter of fact, the Newcastle electorate, a mining constituency, has furnished the largest number of recruits, in proportion to population, that has been obtained in the Commonwealth. Those facts show that the hearts of these people are in the war, but the treatment that they have been receiving for the last year or two has made them very despondent. I could mention many similar cases, but I shall refer to only one case in which the treatment of an individual was most unjust. A man named Arbuckle was refused employment. He is not an Industrial Workers of the World man, and had two sons at the Front, one of whom, I think, has been killed. .That man could not get employment at any colliery in the Newcastle district. He went to Queensland, and, poor fellow, lost his sight through’ an accident in a mine there; so that now a district collection is being made to provide for him and his family. Incidents like that create opposition to recruiting and to the war. This Parliament, which is the supreme legislative authority of the Commonwealth, should have control of all matters affecting the welfare of the Commonwealth - especially in this time of national crisis. We should not quietly permit the Government of a State to do things which injure the interests of the whole Commonwealth. It is time that the Commonwealth Government saw that justice was done to the miners. If it will take steps to reinstate the men, and restore the unions to their former status, much good will be achieved. Nothing is gained by de-registering unions; on the contrary, it is having a bad effect. All should recognise that the assistance of trade unionists is essential in the successful prosecution of the war. Money will not do all that is required. We must have recruits from the working men of this country if we are to keep back the German hordes. The working men, however, see that the cost of living, notwithstanding the Hoards that are appointed, increases day by ,day. Many of them find themselves denied work. With regard to the agreement between the State Government and Mr. John Brown for the bringing of men from Victoria to the Hunter Valley coal-fields, it may be said that the men employed by Mr. John Brown were on the spot before the agreement was entered into. That may have been the case with many of them, but when, after the agreement had been made, men living in the vicinity applied for work, they were unable to get it, and, although they were supposed to receive preference in the filling of vacancies, others were brought from Victoria to fill vacancies. Surely this Parliament should be able to interfere under such conditions ! The State Government should not be allowed to make an arrangement under which men are brought to a coal field, and given employment there, although others living in the district are out of work. We should not permit a private individual to deal with labour in that way, to the detriment of the Commonwealth and the prosecution of the war.
Yet this Parliament has not lifted a hand to protect the coal-miners. I have said that I was sorry that the recent industrial trouble took place; but I say now that I was told, on the Friday before there was a stoppage of work, by a man well known in the public life of this country, that if the stoppage took place the Government of New South Wales, in conjunction with the employers of the State, would give the men the worst licking that they had had in their lives. I regret that the railway men fell into the trap laid for them, and stopped work. When the trouble was over, the State Government should have honoured its pledges, and the Commonwealth Government should see that those pledges are honoured, and that the men get employment. At Pelaw Main there were seventy-three men still out, some of whom had taken no part in the stoppage, having been away at the Front, who, on being returned as unfit, applied for. and were refused, employment, while eligible men, who should have volunteered for the Front, were brought from Victoria and given employment. The miners have played their part well during the war, and will continue to do so if they are properly treated, but they feel that no interest is taken in them. They see the wealthy people of the country becoming more wealthy, and the cost of living rising, and yet they are denied work, which is given to men from other States. One man in particular - I am sorry to have to refer to an individual, but I cannot help it - who is known as the “ Baron “ in the sporting world, can obtain contracts whereby he gains heaps of money. I understand that he has no one but himself to keep, and that, outside his business, nothing but horse-racing on which to spend his money. These facts discourage recruiting, and the Federal Government would act wisely if it decided in this crisis, when we should try our utmost to obtain reinforcements for the boys at the Front, that bygones should be bygones, that the men should be restored to their employment, and that the de-registered unions should be reregistered. When these things have been done, we shall have gone a long way towards getting recruits. So long as the present temper of the men obtains, we cannot hope to get al] that we want. I am informed that many of the waterside workers have not had any employment worth speaking of since the recent indus trial’ trouble. It must be remembered, too, that an injury to one set of workers is an injury to all. The injustice done’ to the men in certain districts creates discontent in the breast of every worker throughout Australia. I think that the proposed conference is a step in the right direction, but unless and until you remove the grievances of which I have spoken, you cannot expect success in your recruiting. We should not live in a fool’s paradise merely because the press of the capital in which we live, which knows t nothing of the conditions elsewhere, lays down certain lines to be followed. We have to place ourselves- in the position of the working man. If he finds that he is losing employment, and that others, including men who are eligible to go to the war, are being put on, he says that he will not take any part in any recruiting effort. The same thing applies to the wives of some of the gallant men who have gone to the Front, and also to the fathers of many who have gone to fight for us. T have in mind the case of a young man who has returned. I have sent it on to the Minister for Repatriation. This returned soldier has written as follows: -
I have been here some time. I have returned unlit. I have a pension which will expire shortly, I am afraid. In consequence, I am a good deal worried. I feel that I am now able to follow my former employment. I have gone and asked- for employment where I was previously engaged. I left .with the understanding that when I returned I should be put back there. I have walked backwards and forwards to that mine for a month, and they have told me at last that they cannot employ me because of the State Workers’ Compensation Act.
.- I am very pleased that additional Ministers have been’ appointed to help to carry on the work of the Commonwealth.. The honorable members for West Sydney, East Sydney, Dalley, and I spent a whole day in. Sydney in an endeavour to interview the Prime Minister on the very important matter of shipbuilding; and, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister for the Navy . was in the same building, we were not able to secure an interview, because it appears that the Prime Minister wants to see all deputations, and on this occasion he was too busily engaged with people connected with the metal industry, the Wheat Pool, and the wool clip. I hope that that system will cease, and that the Ministerial work will be distributed.
If a man happens to be Prime Minister it is not his duty to receive all deputations, and honorable members should be given the opportunity to wait on the Minister they wish to see. Deputations cannot all come to Melbourne, and when the Prime Minister goes to Sydney, it is found that any one connected with the metal industry, or the Wheat Pool, or the Wool Committee can interview him, while honorable members representing industrial centres cannot do so. . The Prime Minister has had too much to do.
– I do not think that Parliament has authorized the payment of that money.
– Where is the Habeas Corpus Act?
– It is incredible.
– Have you seen those who are responsible ?
– The Prime Minister refused an interview on the matter.
– Hear, hear! They sold it to the people of Queensland at a cheaper price than that charged to the Imperial Government.
– The Inter-State Commission dealt with the meat question.
– It would get the Government out of an awkward fix.
– Is your party prepared to meet us and discuss the matter?
– Yes ; and the Prime Minister made an offer to you.
– You have just told us that you will not go out recruiting.
– You are not called upon to ask the people to fight for this Government.
– You ought to support the Government in their efforts.
– Does not the Labour party in Australia stand to lose more than any other section of the community if Germany wins this war ?
– Would not that be the case whatever Government is in power ?
– And is it not a disgrace that some of the original con tingents are not back? Honorable members opposite stopped our getting reinforcements.
– The honorable member for Nepean is much older than he looks, and well over the limit.
– Sir Robert Garran will be the legal adviser.
– Would it not be better for the honorable member to wait and see whether Sir Robert Garran is going or not?
.- Some little time ago I called attention to the evasion by certain pastoralists of an award obtained by the Australian Workers Union. Since that time I have obtained even , more evidence in support of what I then stated. On stations - owned by “ patriots,” of course - the award is being evaded, the employers absolutely refusing to recognise their obligations to the workers of the country, and many and weird and various are the subterfuges and excuses. I am pleased to say that we have “ pulled “ one of them, at least, to the “bull ring,” there to pay a fairly heavy fine, and many will follow in the near future. Apart from the effects such an attitude has on the ordinary workers of the country, it must be remembered that many of those concerned are -the fathers or brothers of men at the Front; and those employers, who are wealthy men, doing well out of the war, inasmuch as they fix the price of their own commodity, and generally look after themselves pretty well, are so mean and contemptible as to refuse to pay the award wages to returned men who enlisted from their stations. When these- men, who have been fighting for the preservation of the flocks and herds and lauds of their employers, come back, it may be wounded and ill-fitted for the hard work around the .station, they are told by those “patriotic” squatters that they are not bound by the award. So concerned am 1 in regard to this matter that I have placed a case before the Repatriation Commission. It is the case of ex-Private John Guy, who was in the employ of T. M. Scott, on Burroway Station, near Narromine. He enlisted from that station, and was, as it were, , played off with hands, wished God-speed, and promised that he would be looked after when he returned. In the meantime an award of the Court was given, which brought the wages up to a white man’s standard - a living wage. But T. M. Scott, because of some working in his mind, refused to j»ay the rate. 1 placed the whole matter before the Commission, and Mr. Lockyer sent the following letter to Mr. E. Grayndler, general secretary of the Australian Workers Union : -
I beg to enclose herewith copy of letter to hand from Mr. ‘.C. M. Scott, “of Burroway Station, in explanation of the circumstances under which ex-Private John Guy, a returned soldier, left his employment. ‘ This matter formed the subject of your letter of the 15th February last. I regret being unable to express any useful opinion on the merits of the case.
The letter, from the “ patriotic “ squatter, who is very keon to get men to enlist from his station, hut not so keen to pay them proper wages, was as follows: -
Your letter of 1st instant, A.18/539, to hand. John Guy was working digging out rabbits when he enlisted. He returned the beginning of 1917, and wrote me’ for work, and although I was full-handed at the time, I made room for him and he has had constant work till middle of January last, when he left of his own accord The trouble was under the station hands’ award; only certain men named in that award are liable to pay the extreme rates, and I am not one, so I am not liable. With other employers in the district, I decided “voluntarily “ to give our employees a rise of 5s. per week. Under instructions from their union the men left my employ, and I was very surprised to receive your letter charging me with discharging the man in question, when the source from where- the charge came knew perfectly the facts of the case. I am always willing to give returned men a preference. P.S. - John Guy was receiving 30s. per week and keep when he left me. - T.M.S.
I submit that the Commission should be given effective power to compel disloyal squatters to recognise their obligations to the men who have fought for their liberty and property - to compel employers to register and keep their promises, or cause them to be severely punished.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Royal Commis- sion was influenced by ulterior motives in making such a recommendation?
– Do these men receive more than £250 a year ?
– I rise to direct attention to the matter of the pensions of soldiers. There seems to be a misapprehension, on the part of the Minister for Repatriation, and possibly on the part of the Cabinet also, as to what will be the effect of some of the new decisions in regard to the pensions of returned soldiers. To me it is abundantly clear that the new arrangements do not touch one matter that is causing more trouble amongst the soldiers than perhaps any other, namely, the unequal allotment of pensions. The Department is governed by an Act which fixes the maximum pension payable to any soldier at £2 per week, and, naturally, pensions have been graded from that maximum, which is paid to the man utterly unable to do any work when he returns, down to a few shillings for the man who is almost capable of earning his own livelihood. As a result, the average pension must be not more than about £1 per week: A case came under my notice in which a returned soldier, who was so injured that he is unable to follow his ordinary occupation, and is unable to obtain employment in any other, is allowed 15s. per week, on which he is supposed to live in decency. 1
– The finality after six months is only in regard to decreases; it is still possible for the pension to be further increased.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) made reference to the forthcoming conference convened by the GovernorGeneral to consider the matter of recruiting. I deplore the fact that the GovernorGeneral of Australia, who, .being an Englishman, has, I presume, an understanding of Constitutional Government, should be compelled to admit that the Government in power are doing virtually nothing to assist in recruiting. I feel that it is my imperative duty to render all the assistance I can to the recruiting movement. But although this Government should control the destinies of Australia, Ministers have not assumed that control, nor have they done what the people elected them to do. If in addressing the House honorable members were compelled to base their remarks on texts, that which I should feel bound to use at the present moment is, “Do ye unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.” Parliament has but just met, after a recess of some months, during which period the administration of the Government was without restraint, but Ministers in that time did nothing to help recruiting ; on the contrary, what they did has discouraged it. .
I do not know who. frames the regulations which are issued under the Defence Act, but whoever is responsible for them does not understand Australians, and does not know the meaning of humanity. I wish to draw attention to a regulation issued on the 13th September last, which says that a member of the Australian Imperial Force who makes a false answer on attestation as to age, and is discharged in consequence of it, shall forfeit all pay not drawn by him for any period prior to the date of his discharge. Had Parliament been sitting when the regulation was laid on the table, it would not have met with the approbation of honorable members. Let me bring before them a very hard case due to the application of this regulation. Two boys, both under - age, enlisted in Sydney, and joined the same company. One was killed, and the other so seriously wounded at the Front as to be sent to a hospital in England, when their father came to me and said, “ My two boys were under age when they enlisted, and now that only one of them is. left, I ask that he may not be sent to the Front.” The lad was accordingly discharged, but the regulation which I have mentioned applied to his case, and he was compelled to forfeit all pay and moneys due to him at the date of his discharge. This was ‘cruel action for the Department to take. The lad has served his country, and been wounded in its service, and his brother has died for it, and yet, because his father asks for his return as an only son, the Department deprives him of pay that is due to him. Similar cases have been brought before me. The knowledge of these injustices has spread, and in consequence there is strong feeling against those responsible for the regulation. The Australian boy is eager to go to the Front to fight for his country, and when such a boy, although under age, has fought and been injured, and is compelled by reason of his father’s appeal to return, he should not be sent back without a penny. I have brought several of these cases under the notice of the Department, and have received always the same reply. The matter is one of which the Honorary Minister should take notice, and he should give the country an assurance that the action of which’ I complain will not be repeated. No doubt it is wrong to make a false declaration as to age, but the patriotism which impels young lads to do this is to be respected, and their action should not be punished in circumstances such as I have related. It is because regulations like these are promulgated when Parliament is in recess that members object to long adjournments.
Another matter which has caused annoyance and complaint is the action of the military police. In Sydney several persons have been brought before the Police Courts for interfering with the military police. I do not . justify their interference, but the action of the police has been such as to fire the blood of onlookers - men and . women - to such an extent that they could not resist the temptation to interfere to prevent cruelty.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I desire to refer briefly to the treatment meted out to our returned soldiers. Scores of our men who, prior to enlisting, were led to believe that they would be given improved conditions upon their return to Australia have been very much disappointed to find that the amount of pension promised to them is not now forthcoming. This applies not only to single, but to married men also. I have received scores of applications from returned soldiers asking me to see what I could do to have their pensions increased, because they are not able to maintain themselves upon the amount received; and although repeated representations have been made to the Defence Department no further assistance has been given, the reply invariably being that the men could claim only the amount of pension, due to them. In this connexion I desire to point out that a large number of men working in the mines, men who have not enlisted, are at present enjoying greater privileges and are receiving more money than the men who have been .fighting for us for two or three years. This is not the proper way to stimulate recruiting, because these complaints have been spread broadcast throughout Australia, and men who have not enlisted find no encouragement to. do so. Then, in regard to the settlement of returned soldiers upon land, the treatment in some cases has ‘been most vile, the men being placed upon areas which in many instances are quite useless.
– It is absolutely criminal io put men on some of the land allotted.
– Is that a lean-to, or is it one of the principal rooms ?
– How could the land revert to the original owners ? It would go back to the State.
– In New South Wales the State is not selling land now.
– In New South Wales the sale of land by the State has. been stopped for years.
– They have been paid 4s. 6d., less charges, for the 1915-16 crop.
– That is an absolute misrepresentation !
– It is rather a big order to hold the Government responsible for that!
– Why did the Government not exterminate the vermin ?
– Do you not realize the difference in the freight between Canada and the Old Country, and Australia and the Old Country?
– Every wool store in Australia is filled with wool.
– There is none of the 1915-16 wool crop here now.
– And none of the 1916-17 crop, either.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I know them better than does the honorable member.
– How many cases have” you sent on to me? Not one.
– Cite one.
– I am in accord with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that something must be ‘ done for the wheatgrowers of Australia. If the Ministry cannot arrange with the banks to pay for the wheat it is quite as essential to raise a loan to pay the farmer his wages as it is to raise a war loan. It is a matter for infinite regret that such a sincere and earnest man as the member who has just resumed his seat should be where the Prime Minister will be very soon, namely, at sea. The honorable member was quite at sea as to his facts. He said the Government bought the wool from the wool-grower; that the wool-grower so bossed the Government that it gave him his money. This point is being misrepresented both inside and outside the House with a view of getting the unsuspecting farmers’ vote.
– They bought the wheat, too.
– It does not run into years, anyhow, as in the case of the farmers.
– Under the old system of private sales, the wool-growers never got payment until after their wool was appraised, and months and months passed before their wool was sold.
– Things are bad in Queensland, if not worse, under the Labour Government.
– Those were a few clerks. That is a ridiculous excuse.
– They were not put on by the Labour Government if they are permanent officials.
– Then, why do the Government keep them there?
– The honorable member knows that the Defence Department has nothing to do with the payment of pensions. There is a special Pensions Department.
.- I wish to indorse the remarks which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has made with regard to the situation in his electorate. Without entering upon a discussion of the merits or demerits of the industrial trouble that took place there, let me say that I well remember that the members of the Coal Miners Federation were induced to return to work by the promise of the Premier of New South Wales and hia colleagues that there would be no victimization, and that they would “ let by-gones be bygones.” Notwithstanding that the Federation yielded to these representations, and that some months have elapsed since the trouble was settled, a great deal of victimization is going on. There has never been more victimization in connexion with any coal-mining dispute.
– That was at the Pelaw Main mine.
– There were surely some other circumstances?
– That is not the only case of the kind.
– Do they not all receive at least £1 per week?
– I know of cases where pensions of 30s. a week are being paid.
– He said that the water was gaining 6 feet a day.
.Prior to the adjournment of the House in January last, several honorable members, including myself, prepared, and proposed to submit, an amendment to the wantofconfidence motion embodying certain proposals. Those proposals were that, in the absence of conscription, the only method of securing the recruits necessary to adequately reinforce our troops at the Front was by the co-operation of all parties, both inside and outside of this Parliament, and the best way of obtaining that cooperation was by the resignation - in view of its Bendigo pledge - of the Government, and the formation of a new Government from within the National party. Eventually we agreed that that amendment should not be tabled, on the understanding that certain policy measures should be submitted to the House, and because we thought we might be springing the position upon the Government before it had had an opportunity of formulating its policy. Since then we have had a parliamentary recess, and in the interim the position at the Front has become more serious, and the need for united effort, both inside and outside of this Parliament, has become more urgent than ever. I wish to say that I occupy the same position now as I did when it was proposed to launch the amendment of which I have spoken. Since the adjournment of the House in January, a policy has been formulated by the Prime Minister in respect of recruiting. But that policy does not contain any drastic alterations in the system which has hitherto been in vogue. . As a matter of fact, the recruiting position is a little worse now than it was when Parliament adjourned. His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has just issued an invitation to all parties to attend a conference for the purpose of discussing the question of recruiting, and I hope that there will be a unanimous response to it. I trust that the result will be efficient co-operation for the purpose of securing adequate reinforcements for our brave boys at the Front. We have all been thrilled by the reports of the splendid stand made by our troops there, and by the eloquent call to Australia for more reinforcements in order that we may play our part in- this great struggle. One of the reasons which prompted the framing of the amendment of which I have spoken was that I, in common with a number of other honorable members, declined to accept any share in the responsibility undertaken by the Government in continuing to administer the affairs of this Commonwealth in the face of the solemn promise given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the electors at Bendigo.
– I wish they would control the beef barons of this country.
Mr.SAMPSON. - I will deal with that matterin a little while. It was very necessary that the Government should form agreat metal exchange, because of the tremendous inroads which the Germans have made upon the metal industry. It was equally requisite that we should have a Wheat Pool, in order that we might control itin such a way that the financial resources of the Commonwealth would be utilized for the benefit of our primary producers. The same remark is applicable to our wool production. But all these great organizations have been concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Department in such a way that that Department has become absolutely congested, and the proper development of these organizations has thus been retarded. In connexion with the Wheat Pool, it should have been possible for the Government ere this to have developed it in such a way as to afford greater representation to the growers on the various Boards throughout the Commonwealth. Yet we know that these Boards are largely controlled by the city interests and by officials of the Commonwealth. In my judgment, we should have provided for the expansion of the Wheat Board in a way which would have given, not only greater representation to the growers themselves, but which would have made more information available to those most vitally interested, and who were the owners of the product. When the Government took control of the wheat grown in the Common wealth, the obligation was cast upon them of seeing that the farmers were successfully financed. But whilst the woolgrowers have been paid in full for their product from year to year, the bulk of the necessary financing has had to be undertaken by the wheat-growers themselves, notwithstanding that the Pool agreed to manage it for them.
I am very pleased indeed that the Prime Minister has seen fit to distribute these great trading organizations, which have hitherto congested his own Department, and which, as a result, have been sadly neglected. Under the new system of a distribution of responsibility we are justified in expecting that effect will be given to a much more efficient system of control.
The Prime Minister has also seen fit to make certain additions to the Ministry in connexion with the handling of these organizations. I was not at all sure that it was necessary to make those additions to the Ministry. While the Prime Minister crowded into his own Department the attempted control of all these various activities, several of his Ministers have certainly not been overworked, and it would have been easily possible long since to have distributed some of the work amongst his colleagues without making further appointments to the Government. Nobody will claim that the Minister for Trade and Customs has been overworked, and the Treasurer could scarcely say that, as Minister for Works and Railways, he had more work than he could cope with, because the carrying out of public works by the Commonwealth has necessarily been substantially curtailed during the war. Neither is the Minister for Home and Territories overburdened, and it was possible by the amalgamation of some of the offices to have carried on efficiently the affairs of the Commonwealth, and brought about a system of distribution and delegation of responsibility, of which I thoroughly approve, without the appointment of additional Ministers. I know that it was necessary to appoint another Minister to take the place of the former Treasurer (the right honorable member for Swan), whose enforced resignation on account of ill-health we very much regret. At this stage I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) on his elevation to the very high and honorable post of Treasurer of the Commonwealth. There is no< man in Australia who should be more capable of undertaking that colossal responsibility at the present time. We wore all very pleased to hear that it is. the intention of the Treasurer to make a searching inquiry into the expenditure by all the public Departments of the Commonwealth, and we hope that when the Treasurer puts before the House his financial statement it will show that drastic economies have been made, and that the Federal Government, who are urging the people to save their money and invest it in the war loan, are setting an example of economy to the whole community. In regard to the new appointments to the Ministry, I do not propose to ‘ further criticise at this stage the redistribution of Ministerial duties. The latest appointees include the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene), who have proved their ability in the House, and both, I am sure, will make good in the important work they have undertaken.
We all recognise that shipbuilding is one of the most important industries that could be established in the Common- wealth, ranking next in importance only to the reinforcement of our troops at the Front. On the successful initiation of this industry will rest largely the future of our agricultural industries and the production of foodstuffs and other primary commodities, which have helped us so much to finance this war by bringing into Australia millions of pounds, and upon which we must depend very considerably later on to help us through the difficulties that must confront us in the aftermath of the war. There is reason for criticism of the Government for their delay in this important matter. I ‘ believe that that delay is due to the fact that the Prime Minister took the shipbuilding problem into bis own Department ‘instead of handing it over to a responsible Minister like the Minister’ for Works and Railways. It is mainly because of the shipbuilding question having been taken into an already congested Department that there has been a delay of ten months in making a start with the industry, and to-day we are only in the position that we ought to have been in nearly a year ago. The
Government are now inviting the captains of industry, the owners of large industrial establishments, to undertake shipbuilding , work. That invitation should have been extended in the first place. Instead of constant conferences being held between the labour organizations and the Prime Minister in order to arrive at an understanding in regard to a system of piece-work and dilution of labour for ship construction under Commonwealth control, the owners of large industrial establishments should have been invited to help the Government in this matter by undertaking large contracts for the building of vessels. Had that been done ten months ago we should by now have had Australianbuilt ships afloat, and probably they would be helping to-day to carry our grain overseas. Australia, above all other countries, requires shipping to take its primary products abroad for the feeding and clothing of our soldiers and also to help our Allies “in the war. Yet there is not afloat one Australian-built vessel, although every other one of the Allies has made great strides in ship construction. It has been said that the United States has not made the progress that should have been made in connexion with its shipbuilding programme, but a statement by Mr. Edward Hurley, the Chairman of the United States Shipping Board, shows that, whereas America had thirtyseven shipyards when it entered the war, it has now eighty-one additional, or a total of 118 in all, whilst 5,160,000 tons of shipping Was under construction by contract, of which 2,121,000 tons had been completed. Had Australia entered this work as whole-heartedly as the United States has done - and in this matter Australia has more at stake than the United States - we should by now have had 250,000 tons of shipping constructed in Australia. In the latter half of last year Tasmania was prepared to undertake the construction of ships, but was not given any encouragement. Now, after all this delay has occurred, we find that most of the work will be carried out, not by the Government who were proposing to make shipbuilding a great Commonwealth monopoly, but by private firms and , State organizations throughout Australia. We know what has been done in the Mother Country in the building of all sorts of vessels, both war and mercantile, and it is not necessary to refer to the great work which has been carried out in. Canada. We ought to have some explanation from the Government as to why in Australia no attempt was made to build wooden ships, although we sent to America a large order for such vessels to be delivered month by month. We have read, also, a statement that in America concrete ships are in course of construction, and that already one has been launched.
The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has promised to look into the matter of the advance to be made to the farmers for their wheat. I am sure the honorable gentleman recognises that if we are to continue to unduly restrict the price of primary products and bring the returns below a profitable figure, wheat and other primary products will go out of cultivation. There was a material decrease in the area of wheat last year because of the uncertainty as to the future, and delay in paying existing dividends. Moreover, if the Government are going to arbitrarily fix the price of stock they will discourage stock-breeding and reduce the flocks and herds in Australia. That lesson has been learnt by many of the countries that are at war. Germany has had to discontinue price-fixing in respect of many primary products, because even in that highly-organized and militarily ruled country land went out of cultivation when the farmer could no longer depend on an adequate return, and certain classes of production decreased to an extent that became serious to the nation. Some honorable members seem to forget that the fixing of prices of primary products is quite a different proposition in Australia to the fixing of such prices in Great Britain. The latter country imports such a large proportion of its requirements of primary products that the market price is regulated by the importations, and in such circumstances the fixing of prices is quite admissible. Transversely, the difficulty in getting shipping space, and the possibility of profiteers making big profits out of the trading, Tender it necessary for the Commonwealth Government to fix the prices of commodities that are shipped to Australia from overseas. But the position in regard to primary products in this country isquite different. The price of those products is regulated by the markets of the world, and by the exportations, and the only way to insure to the Australian consumer cheap bread is to encourage, as far as possible, primary production, and so being about a reduction of prices. I was in Western Australia a few months ago, and saw beef, mutton, and lamb ticketed at prices 60 per cent. below those obtaining in the Eastern States. The reason for the cheapness of meat in Western Australia is that there is an over production in that State. The policy for the Commonwealth Government to adopt is to encourage in every possible way the production of all kinds of stock in order that the production shall so increase that prices will fall automatically. The arbitrary fixation of the price of meat will discourage stock breeding, and interfere with the increase of stock, which alone can legitimately reduce the price to the consumer.
Mr.Fenton. - The producers in Western Australia say that the prices ruling there pay them.
.- When the House met last we heard something of the question of national unity in connexion wilh the war. There was a long debate in January, after which we adjourned for some months. As we were invited to express our opinion upon the principles to which effect should be given in order to permit of some kind of cooperation, a full and complete statement wasmade on this side of the House.
There was no reply from the Government. Indeed, after making an offer on the floor of the House, which was shown by reference to the alteration in its terms when published in Hansard to be spurious, the Prime Minister- (Mr. Hughes) disappeared from the chamber, and took no further part or interest in the debate. It was then said by the present Treasurer (Mr. Watt) that the Prime Minister would have access to the debates; that they would be carefully gone through, and that in this way he would become acquainted with the whole of the discussion. His absence from the House and transparent contempt for its proceedings were explained away in that manner.
If we are to accept the Treasurer’s statement, the Government have apparently made, since that time, an examination of the statements and assertions of principle from this side, and ap parently, also, they are unsatisfactory to the Government, for we learn now that they are again seeking by devious methods to go behind the back of Parliament, and obtain acquiescence in another manner to some proposals of their own. In other words, they insist that this, what they call national work in Australia, shall be carried on only at the full price which they demand, which is shown by their general administration to be one of intolerable tyranny.
A gentleman named Captain Carmichael was making a canvass of a number of us who took some part in the noconscription campaign, in order to bring about what he styled a “ non-party conference.” When he waited upon myself and others, he distinctly said he was acting on his own’ initiative and responsibility, and without any arrangement whatever with the Government.
There was a good deal of sleightofhand about his work. He went to Mr. Storey, the Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, and asked him to attend the Conference. Mr. Storey answered that he would be prepared ito attend provided that the Federal Labour party decided upon being present, and accredited its delegates. Captain Carmichael saw me, and told me that Mr. Storey was going to attend. He mentioned no condition whatever. He travelled to Adelaide, and saw the Leader of this party (Mr. Tudor), and observed to him that, as Mr. Storey was going to attend, no doubt he would attend also. He used Mr. Storey as the lever on Mr. Tudor, without stating the qualification. That is, at the least, a degree of deception.
Although this gentleman stated that he was acting entirely on his own responsibility, we next had a statement from the Prime Minister that he was acting on behalf of the Government.
After he has made a preliminary canvass of a number ‘of representative men, the matter, is being taken out of his hands, and the Conference is being convened by the Governor-General,
Captain Carmichael told the Leader of this party a fortnight ago that the Conference would be called by the GovernorGeneral
– I did not say it would be made. Did I not say that the record of the debates could be made available?
– Speaking from memory, I think that is a very free translation.
Melbourne, 4th April, 1918.
A conference of press representatives will be held to discuss the censorship generally, with the object of -
The Government will meet delegates at a luncheon in Melbourne on Monday, 15th April. The Prime Minister will open the Conference, with the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Defence, and adjourn till the next day, the 16th.
The expenses of representatives will be paid by the Government. (Signed) Secretary for Defence.
It is an extraordinary coincidence that while the Recruiting Conference is to meet on Friday afternoon and adjourn over the week-end after the Prime Minister’s speech, and probably one from another representative, the Press Conference is to meet and have their soiree and an address by the Prime Minister, and adjourn till next day, and that then, apparently, the two Conferences will go on concurrently.
The National Parliament is not to be taken into the confidence of the Government. The reasons for restrictions of the press will be explained to an outside parliament, consisting of press representatives; but this National Parliament will be ignored and treated with contempt.
The Recruiting Conference is, apparently, to meet under all the restrictions as to freedom of speech and manipulation of the press which exist to-day. If Labour representatives go into a conference of that kind, under those conditions, where they will be limited in the subjects upon which they may speak for fear of the law as represented by the War Precautions Act, with the press reports manipulated by the Government, as they are being manipulated by the Government today oven in regard to the administration of the Wheat Pool, I cannot imagine a greater act of folly on their part. It would be the height of unwisdom for them to go into a trammelled Conference of that description.
Melbourne, 14th March, 1918.
Mr…………… is requested to be good enough to furnish on this form the information required below, sign the certificate, and forward the form to this office by return of post.
– Germans and Austrians?
– I doubt that statement. Has the honorable member any proof of it?
– Was his grandfather a German ?
– Why does the honorable member assume that this man was interned for political reasons?
– Who are they ?
– A nice compliment to the remaining Ministers.
– That compliment does not cover the earlier insult.
– And, I suppose, an agreement tohave a premature peace.
– Has the honorable member made up his mind that this Conference will be a secret one?
– That statement is a gross exaggeration, and the honorable gentleman knows it.
– About German gold.
Mr. J. H. CATTS.You are a dirty little liar, Palmer, if you say that I have anything to do with German gold.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) be called upon to withdraw his statement.
– An interjection that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) was in the pay of Germany.
– If I have said anything that is offensive to the honorable member for Cook I withdraw it.
– That is a fair challenge.
.- The statement made this afternoon by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was remarkable and interesting, for several reasons. Every honorable member sympathizes with him in the difficult task of adjusting the finances at this particular juncture. I hope his estimates of revenue will be realized. At the same time I feel it somewhat difficult to understand exactly what is the position with regard to financial matters. In the Melbourne Age of 27th March the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was then in Sydney, is reported as follows : -
On Tuesday the Prime Minister denied a report from Melbourne that the Federal Government proposes to impose additional taxation. “We propose to do nothing of the sort,” he said. “ There is no truth in such a statement.” Mr. Hughes added that Mr. Watt was considering the question of making . material modifications in the War-time Profits and Bachelor Taxes, but this did not involve increased taxation.
This afternoon the Treasurer candidly and frankly told us that additional taxation must be faced.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that no Government could try to live here without imposing additional taxation.
– When are we going to get a statement of thisadditional taxation?
– The honorable member did not give very much assistance when he was on this side of the House in regard to that tax.
– There is little more history about that.
– It is the law of the country for this year, and the honorable member knows I would not be justified in bringing down a proposition to amend this year’s fi.fi fi II C69
– It is not that. We will finish the financial year in June, and the taxation proposals for this year were fixed by this Parliament. Any proposi tion we bring down will have relation to the next financial year.
– Yes I am, at the proper stage.
– You were not at the meeting.
– I have not had a chance yet.
– Why do you miss the name of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) ?
– But if that sort of thing goes on, we shall have all Ministers and no supporters.
– And the whole of the Opposition could not put them out.
– I did not think the present Treasurer would have stood for that.
– That is a grave reflection on me.
– We have a lot of imported men in Parliament, too.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180410_reps_7_84/>.