7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Information has reached me from the mother of an ammunition worker in England that parcels which she has sent to her son are being opened, and some of the contents destroyed. Is that a regular practice, and, if so, for what reason is it being followed?
– Certain goods may not be sent in parcels to England, because their importation would be an offence against the rationing regulations of the British Government.
– Do these regulations apply only to parcels sent to munition workers ?
– No; to all parcels.
– Do they apply to parcels sent to soldiers?
– Sugar may be placed in parcels for soldiers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to rescind the resolution passed last July by which the day a week formerly allowed for the discussion of private members’ business is devoted to the discussion of Government business?
– Until the Cabinet has had an opportunity to consider the matter, I cannot answer the question. There is public business of great importance to bc dealt with by this House, and we must be. assured that there will be ample opportunity for its discussion before we can give the answer that the honorable member desires.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the report of the Trade Commissioner to the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and the other Straits Settlements has been presented to the Commonwealth Government, and, if so, when it will be made available to the public?
– I shall make inquiries.
– I do not remember that the practice in regard to the answering of questions on notice was altered on a resolution passed by the House, or by a standing order, and if the change was made merely by general consent, I ask the Prime Minister would it not be possible to get back to the old method, so that members generally might know what replies are given by Ministers?
– Some time ago the honorable gentleman had a conversation with me on this subject. The Government has not considered it at all, but I am will ing, if it will meet the convenience of honorable members, that, pending some better arrangement, Ministers shall resume the practice of reading the answers to questions on notice.
– The original practice was not altered on a resolution of the House.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement in regard to the restoration of the Newcastle Coal-mining Board?
– Not at this juncture, but I hope that a general statement, which will cover that point, may be. made to-morrow, or, at the latest, on Friday.
– As some hundreds of returned soldiers, who state that they are unable to get any work or sustenance, are assembled outside this building, will the Prime Minister adjourn the House for an. hour, or for sufficient time to enable members of the Government to interview those men, and see that they get redress ?
– My colleague, the Minister for Repatriation is either interviewing these men, or isabout to interview them now, and if they are in need of sustenance it will be provided. Their wants, whatever they may be, will be satisfied. If they do not get redress from the Minister for Repatriation, I, personally, shall be glad to receive them.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a large quantity of inferior sugar is being sold in this city at the price fixed for first grade sugar? If not, will the Prime Minister make inquiries into the matter and see that the consumers are dealt with fairly by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or those who control the sugar industry?
– I was not aware of what the honorable member has stated. The arrangement made was that 1A sugar should be sold at 3½d. per lb., and inferior sugar at proportionately lower rates. I shall inquire into the matter without delay.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Home and Territories if it is a fact that financial assistance is being granted to settlers in German New Guinea, and if so, what security have the Government for the re-payment of that money?
– Assuming that the question relates to the general matter of financial assistance being granted to settlers in New Guinea, I think the honorable member should address the question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, because German New Guinea is at present only under military occupation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. From 22nd February, 1915, the exportation of wool to Japan was confined to merino wool only. From 13th March, 1915, the exportation to Japan of crossbred wool was also allowed. From 27th April, 1915, the exportation of crossbred wool to Japan was again prohibited. From 21st September, 1915, crossbred wool was again permitted exportation to Japan in common with other allied countries. After 1st March, 1916, crossbred wool was prohibited exportation to Japan, unless advice was received from the British authorities that the wool was required for Japanese military purposes. After 23rd November, 1916, the date on which War Precautions ( Supplementary ) Regulations No. 23, acquiring the Australian wool clip on behalf of the British Government, were issued, the exportation of wool was subject to instructions received from the Director of Baw Materials, London, acting on behalf of the Imperial Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the reason for the delay in introducing the Bill referred to?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When is it proposed to introduce the said legislation ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– Does the Treasurer believe his answer to the first question?
– In view of the Prime Minister’s previous answer, Yes.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been called to the case recently tried in Hobart - Customs Department v. the B.P. andC.S.S. Company - resulting in the river steamer Ronnie being compelled to pay light dues?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. The question was submitted for the decision of the High Court, which decided that the steamer should pay light dues.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister explain how he came to make this reply, when Mr. F. W. Hughes, a member of the Central Wool Committee, held twenty thousand and one (20,001) shares out of a total of twenty thousand and eight (20,008) shares in the Colbnial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company?
Will the Government appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Medical Treatment for Widows and Orphans: Returned Officers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Government arrange that the widows and children of soldiers who hare died at the front shall be treated free at the hospitals in view of the small amount of the pensions?
– This is a matter which comes within the province of the Department of Repatriation. The following is the reply furnished by the Minister for Repatriation : -
It is very questionable whether it would be expedient or practicable for the Government to provide free treatment for all widows and children of soldiers who have di’ed at the Front, or, if such a course were attempted, whether it could be efficiently controlled.
In regard to orphans and children, Regulation 49 under the Repatriation Act provides that- “In the case of an orphan of a deceased soldier, or child of an incapacitated soldier, the Minister, on the recommendation of the State Board, may make such arrangements, and pay such amounts, as he deems necessary for the care and education of the child.”
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. Giles’s Statement
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Want of Confidence Amendment: Interview of Members with Prime Minister - Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company : Mr. P. W. Hughes: Agreement with Commonwealth Government: Central Wool Committee: Wool Purchase by Japan - Purchase of Commonwealth Steamers - Postal and Telephone Facilities - . Telephone at Elkington Park Baths, Balmain - Defence Administration - Representation of Defence Department in House of Representatives - Labour Party and Labour Organizations - Increase of Commonwealth Expenditure: Taxation: Reduction of Parliamentary Salaries and Levy on Wealth - Control of Finances by and Increase of Members of House of Representatives - House of Lords - Recall and Payment of Members of House of Representatives - Proposed Labour Daily Newspaper - Wool Top Industry at South Sydney - Navy, Construction Branch - Finance Committee’s Report - Small Arms’ Factory: Housing of Workmen at Lithgow - Works at Federal Capital - Commonwealth Police Force - Ministerial Changes - Titles - Sittings of Parliament - War Precautions Act: Censorship - The Government and its Referendum Pledge - Imperial Conference: Australian Representation - The War and Post- War Problems: Paris Conference - Win-the-War Policy : Recruiting : Mr. Orchard - Conscription - Selection of Additional Ministers - Encouragement of Primary Production : Price-Fixing : Meat : Profiteering - Shipbuilding - Italian Citizens and the War - Australia and Japan - Shipping Board - Decimal System ofcoinage - Representation of Producers on Trading Boards.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumed from 12th April (vide page 3917), on motion by Mr. Watt -
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.
Upon which Mr.Boyd had moved, by way of amendment -
That the sum be reduced by £1.
.- Honorable members will recollect that on Friday I was proposing to reply to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) on the matter of wool-tops manufacture, and to give reasons why the Government should not hold office. The honorable member for Hume said that the capita] of the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company, namely, £5,008, was not the whole of the capital which was used by it in carrying out its agreement with the Government. The honorable member’s statement is probably correct. The capital which is being., used by the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company is that which was used by F. W. Hughes and Company Limited. As honorable members may recollect from a previous debate upon this matter, the latter company went into liquidation on the 23rd July, 1915, and the former company was formed to take over its assets and liabilities. The shareholders in F. W. Hughes and Company were to obtain, and did obtain, I believe, debentures for their shares, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company agreed to pay them 7 per cent, for those debentures, which represented a great deal more than the dividends paid by F. W. Hughes and Company. My objection to this agreement is that it lias been brought about in a secret way. The concession given by the Commonwealth Government to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and < Weaving Company is a very valuable one, and should have been advertised as we advertise all other privileges and concessions. We even advertise the appointment of messengers in the Telegraph Department; we do not appoint them secretly. This concession has resulted in Mr. Frederick William Hughes obtaining, in six ‘ months, profits amounting to £48,367, so that honorable members will readily see that it is, as I say, & most valuable one. I am greatly surprised today to find that it is the Central Wool Committee which informed this House that Mr. F. W. Hughes was only indirectly interested in the profits of this concern. The Central Wool Committee knows as well as does the Prime Minister that Mr. F. W. Hughes holds 20,001 shares out of a total of 20,008 shares in the company, and his portion of the profits is £48,367, while his fellow share holders receive amongst them £16 8s. 4d. I cannot believe, as I propose to show later on, that this is the distribution of profits.
– What about directors’ fees?
– All is allowed for. But I wish to come to F. W. Hughes Limited. Mr. F. W. Hughes is a very clever man, I understand, and he was able to persuade this House to give him a bounty on wool tops. The bounty was in existence for several years, and was stopped on the 31st December, 1915. It was given because Mr. F. W. Hughes stated that the payment of the bounty would give employment to a lot of highly skilled labour. Having got the bounty carried as a matter of law, he formed a company, and promised the shareholders in that company £50,000 a year profit, though I do not think he quite got that sum. However, the company was formed; and I have here a document showing the shareholders’ of the company together with ‘the amount of the nominal capital, the number of shares taken, and the amount paid up. The items are set forth in the document I have in my hand, and as these would take up much time in reading them, I shall be glad if the Chairman will permit me to rapidly pass over them, and have them printed in Hansard. At present I shall merely give the totals. The sum of £1 per share was called up on 73,001 shares, 18s. on 76,999, £1 on 19,685, and 10s. on 10,315- a total of paid-up capital of £167,152 2s. 6d. ‘ The list shows the shareholders with the various shares held, and we find that Mr. Frederick William Hughes possesses 67,628; Matilda Diana Hughes, 20,113; Frank Herbert Hughes, 2,050; Frederick Yelverton Wilson, .1,600; and Maud Yelverton Wilson, 3,000. The directors in this company hold the greater portion of the interest- -indeed. I imagine they hold a dominant interest - in F. W. Hughes and Company.
Mr. F. W. Hughes, before the InterState Commission, declared that he held a half interest in Frederick William Hughes Limited.” The devious ways of this gentleman entitle the public to a Royal Commission of inquiry into the methods adopted by him as a member of the honorary committee of the Central Wool Board to get the contract, or enter into the arrangement, with the Government which yielded him a profit of £48,367 within six months. He quite misrepresented to this House the reasons “why he should get the bounty. When he appeared before the Inter-State Commission to give evidence in 1914 that Commission decided that the intention of the bounty on wool tops was undoubtedly to encourage the exportation of wool in a partly manufactured state, “ an attainment,” says the Commission, “much to be desired, but the methods employed are more likely to prove to the injury than to the advantage of the Australian industry.” The Inter-State Commission decided that the payment of the bounty was improper, and they recommended Parliament to abolish it, and it was abolished.
To ascertain what is the capital operated by, the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, we have to take into consideration a subsidiary company called the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company. According to the Tariff Report 1914-15, Mr. P. W. Hughes, in his evidence before the Commission, said -
We supply about one-third of the Sydney requirements in mutton. We are killing about 20,000 sheep per week at the present time. We guarantee the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company, Which is a subsidiary company to F. W. Hughes Ltd., a dividend limited to 6 per cent, on its paid-up capital. The capital of the company is £30,000, of which £7,935 is paid up. The shares are held mainly by pastoralists.
That has an important bearing on the case, because Mr. J. C. Watson, in a letter to the press the other day, said it was a very difficult matter to ascertain the profits of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, because of the manner in which they worked their business, £hey having decided to lump all the profits together. According to the agreement between the Colonial Wholesale Meat Company and Mr. P. W. Hughes, the profits of the Meat Company could only be 6 per cent. However, I shall come to that later.
To my mind, the most serious part of this agreement that has been entered into on behalf of F. W. Hughes and Company, otherwise the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, is the fact that the Commonwealth Government has, apparently, been a party to the restriction, in the interests of this company, of the export of greasy and scoured wool to Japan. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) said at our last meeting that it was not true that the Central Wool Committee were responsible for the restriction of the export of wool to Japan. Technically, he may be correct; but it is a fact that, for a period, as has been stated here this afternoon by the Prime Minister,’ Japan, our ally, who has rendered splendid service during this war - who has, I understand, escorted our troops abroad - has been refused greasy and scoured wool, while permitted to buy ‘ as much wool tops as she cares to buy from the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and F. W. » Whiddon Limited.
Who will believe for a moment that the British Government have ordered that Japan is not to get any greasy and scoured wool, while she may get as much wool tops as can be used in manufacture in J apan ? Who will believe that the British Government, occupied as it is with such stupendous and important work, have the time to go into these details ? In this connexion, a Royal Commission could ascertain what was the object of the visit of Mr. F. Y. Wilson, solicitor to this company, to England in the early part of 1917, and whether he pointed out to the British Government what a splendid thing it was for his company that greasy and scoured wool should be prevented from going to Japan, and Japan confined to purchasing wool tops from these two companies. I have here an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald supporting the Japanese claim to be allowed to get greasy and scoured wool.* Japan has been compelled to go to America and South Africa for it, although prior to the war she was able to obtain large quantities of it from this country. While Japan is prevented from getting it, our other Allies - France, Italy, the United States, and Russia - have been allowed to obtain it. What is the reason for this? We ought to know. We know that wool has gone to America, because in the Textile World Journal of 16th June, 1917, it is said that - “The action of the British Government in ordering the release of 45,000 bales of Australian wools for shipment to this country was gratifying to American woollen manufacturers.” If America can get this wool, -why not our Ally Japan?
The Prime Minister and his Government are very much concerned ‘ lest any member of this House should say anything to hurt the feelings of J apan. That is quite proper, too. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) made a great mistake some time ago at an Australian Natives Association banquet when he ridiculed Americans and the American. President, Mr. Wilson. We ought to be very careful what we say to give offence to any nation that is on our side. The Government have taken very great pains to prevent any honorable member saying anything which will hurt the feelings of the Japanese people or Government.
– The setting you are now giving this business will hurt their feelings.
– It is more likely to hurt the feelings of the Japanese nation to find that the British Government, apparently with the approval of the Commonwealth Government, refuse to allow Japan to get the greasy and scoured wool from this country that she used to get before the war. The Japanese people are likely to pay greater attention to an injury of that kind than to any remarks which a member of this House may make. The conduct of the British Government is under review from time to time in the Japanese Diet, and the action of the British Government in preventing the passage of this wool to Japan, with the approval of the Commonwealth Government to that action, is likely to support those members of the Japanese Diet who say that the alliance between England and Japan is more in the interests of one side than the other. I shall be interested to know if the Prime Minister’ or any other member of the Government can offer any reason why greasy and scoured wool should not go to Japan when it has been permitted to go to other Allied countries.
I come now to Mr. J. C. Watson’s letter. Mr. Watson was made a director of the Colonial Combing, Weaving, and Spinning Company shortly after this agreement, and the impression abroad is that Mr. Watson, who apparently knew nothing about either the manufacture of wool tops or the colonial wholesale meat business, was put on this directorate because of his political influence. In his letter to the paper he says - ‘
Mr. Higgs states that he can prove that Mr. F. W. Hughes some years ago offered a certain person not in Parliament shares in the company, which were refused. I know nothing of this; hut Mr. F. W. Hughes telegraphs me from Sydney, stating that the person referred to is probably a journalist then doing general work for a number of papers, who was offered a few shares in the company in payment tor journalistic services rendered. This matter, therefore, appears too trivial to waste time upon.
Is it too trivial? I think it is not; but it only shows the methods by which Mr. F. W. Hughes gets to work. I understand that not a few shares, but a hundred shares, were offered.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) desires the whole of the document relating to the liabilities, &c, of the company referred to, which I now hold in my hand, to be printed in Hansard. I do not wish to curtail the privileges of any honorable member, but it certainly would be an abuse of the Standing Orders for the whole of this lengthy document, which comprises something’ like a dozen pages, and which has not been by any means fully quoted in the honorable member’s speech, to be allowed to appear in. Hansard as it stands. Unless the honorable member quotes very much more extensively from it than he has already done, I must rule that only that part of the matter which he himself has read shall be permitted to appear in [the official report of the debates.
– A hundred shares were offered to this gentleman, and he refused them. He supported the bounty, but when he found that the bounty did not result in the employment of the skilled labour that Mr. E. W. Hughes said it would, he became opposed to it. It was then that Mr. F. W. Hughes sent him along a cheque for dividends. He refused this, and Mr. Hughes sent him another cheque, hoping, apparently, to secure the influence of this gentleman in getting a continuation of the bounty.
– Who was this gentleman?
– I decline to say, but if the Prime Minister will grant a Royal Commission, this gentleman will come forward and give evidence on oath.
– If he takes money in that way we ought to know who he is.
– Will the honorable gentleman grant-a Royal Commission?
– I will attend to him if he has taken money for corrupt purposes.
– My statement can be substantiated. The Commonwealth Government has entered into an agreement with Messrs. F. W. Hughes and Company, otherwise the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, for the manufacture of wool tops. In a time of war, when poor persons axe being appealed to for subscriptions to war bonds, and are being asked to borrow money to lend it to the Government, this firm is permitted, under an agreement with the Government, to make a profit of £48,367 in six months. It isthat that I wish to expose.
– The firm gets considerably less than that.
-What does it get ?
– I shall answer in due course.
– When was the contract made?
– ‘In March of last year. Mr. Watson says that the profits - are not solely derived from wool tops. They include the results of two subsidiary meat companies, as well as fellmongering, basil tanning, and glue making, carried on by the Colonial Combing Company. As itwould be difficult to separate these under our system of working-
I emphasize the words “ our system of working “ - the profits of all operations are lumped and brought to account under the Government agreement, and under the supervision of a Government auditor.
The agreement hinds F. W. Hughes and Company to lodge with the Government a list of shareholders and persons who are beneficiaries in the concern. If they are sharing their profits with persons not in that list, the agreement is not being kept. It would appear that after the expose of the secret contract, they came to the conclusion that the amount of money was too much to seem’ to be received by one man, and, therefore, they had better bring in the subsidiary companies mentioned. It will be surprising if the friends of Mr. F. W. Hughes -the other seven shareholders - let him get away with £48,367, which, according to an answer furnished to me by the Government, is what was paid to him and his company. I was inclined not to blame the Central Wool Committee, but I now say that it is to blame,because it concealed from us the fact that Mr. F. W. Hughes holds 20,001 of the 20,008 shares in the company. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) endeavoured to impute improper motives to me for bringing up this matter, but at the conclusion of a speech he made the other day, he said that he was sorry that the Central Wool Committee had had anything to do with Mr. F. W. Hughes.
– I regret that I was not here last week when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) gave the Committee the first instalment of this phantasy, with which he has entertained us again this afternoon. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), in the admirable maiden speech which he delivered some time ago, set out the position very clearly. Since then the honorable memher for Capricornia has been groping about for fresh ammunition, and that he has just fired off. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) is said to have stated that he is very sorry that the Central Wool Committee had had anything to do with Mr. F. W. Hughes; I congratulate myself that it was that Committee and not I that made this contract with him. I am certain, of course, that what the Committee did has been in the interests of all connected with the wool industry. I shall endeavour, so far as I can with the information at my disposal - for which I am indebted to the Central Wool Committee - to set out the facts. The honorable member for Capricornia says that Mr. F. W. Hughes is making a great deal of money Probably he is. Were he the only man in the country who is now making a great deal of money the matter would be simple; but he has been singled out for special treatment, the observations of the honorable member for Capricornia being smeared’ with the venom of suggestions about corruption and improper conduct, though the honorable member did not venture to say to what person or body of persons his remarks apply. He made a general statement that there is something improper, if not corrupt, in the transaction about which he spoke. I do not believe it for a moment. On the contrary, I believe that the business men to whom the control of this gigantic transaction has been intrusted have done their work honorably, as might have been expected of them, and in a business-like fashion.
The statement, first of all, is that the Government, through the Central Wool Committee, have permitted the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company to make exorbitant profits -the inference being that the Government assisted the company to do this by the terms of the contract made with the company. From the inception of the Central Wool Committee until to-day, the part played by the Government in all its transactions has been merely to give executive effect to its recommendations, and by way of general answer to the charges of the honorable member for Capricornia, I say that there is not a word of truth in them. I have received from the chairman of the Committee a memorandum setting out the major facts, and these speak for themselves. They are so plain that they do not permit of misunderstanding or misrepresentation.
It may be well that I should recall to honorable members the genesis of the Central Wool Committee, and remind them of its functions and responsibilities. They will recollect that it was decided by this Government, on the request of the British Government, to take control of the whole wool clip of Australia. At every step that we have taken regarding the exportation of wool, whether as greasy, scoured, in tops, or in any other form, we have acted as the agent of the British Government. Not a bale of wool has been sent from this country except in accordance with the instructions of the British Government, which is the owner of the wool, and for which we act as agent. The honorable member for Capricornia has, by innuendo and statement, endeavoured to furnish the members of the Opposition party in the Japanese Diet with ammunition for use against the Alliance. The solicitude for the interests of Japan which he assumed this afternoon is a new thing with him. It would be a bad day for that country had it no other supporter. I do not think that the honorable member will regard that as a very hard saying.
– I object to what the Prime Minister has said. He has no right to say it. His suggestion is not true.
– The Central Wool Committee was elected by a conference in which growers, manufacturers, buyers, sellers, and all others interested in the wool industry were represented. That conference could, and did, claim to speak for the whole industry. It accepted the offer of the British Government to purchase the unsold balance of our wool clip - amounting to about £24,000,000 worth - at ls. 3½d. per lb., and appointed a committee to carry out the transaction. The Government have ever since given executive effect to the committee’s recommendations. For the first time in the history of Australia the wool industry has managed its own business, the Government lending legislative and executive sanction to its proposals. About ninety persons attended the conference, and Mr. F. W. Hughes was appointed to the Committee as the representative of the scourers and fellmongers.
Now I come to the matter of wool tops. Whatever may be said about the bounty on wool tops, I have only to add that the bounty was imposed when the Deakin Government were in office, and it is a matter with which neither the present Government nor any Labour Government preceding us has had anything to do.
– I extended the bounty for two years. ,
– Well, I leave the honorable member to explain that to the honorable member for Capricornia. The wool-top industry is of the utmost importance. It is the foundation of the great woollen industry, and if this country could utilize all its raw products as well as it is utilizing that portion of the wool which is made into tops, we should be making £50,000,000 instead of the £5,000,000 we are making now. The wool-top industry employs 800 or 900 men. The honorable member for Capricornia spoke as if the building up .from the void of an industry which already employs 800 or 900 men is nothing. Though those employees do not happen 1 to be working in the State which the honorable member represents, every one of them is earning good wages.
On the 22nd December, 1916, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Centra] Wool Committee were appointed a sub-committee to deal with all private matters regarding wool-top companies. A form of agreement in connexion with wool-top contracts was drawn up and submitted to the Central Wool Committee which, on the 30th March, 1917, unanimously accepted the agreement and approved of the fixation of substantial guarantees for the proper fulfilment of any contract. Mr. F. W. Hughes was not present at that meeting, and did not vote. That is the answer to the allegation of the honorable member for Capricornia that the Central Wool Committee made these agreements, either improperly or without due deliberation. The wool-top agreements were delivered to me on the 3rd April, 1917, by the chairman, and, on the recommendation of the Central Wool Committee, I signed them. Beyond that I took no part whatever in the fixationof the terms or the preparation of the wooltops contract. The negotiations from first to last were conducted absolutely and entirely by the Central Wool Committee.
I come now to the financial side of this agreement. The statement made by the honorable member for Capricornia with regard to the capital of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is not correct. I refer to the statement he made last week, and if he corrected that statement to-day this contradiction will not apply. The Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is registered under the Companies Act of New South Wales, and has a capital of £100,000 in 100,000 shares of £1 each. The company’s position on the 1st March, 1917, the date of the commencement of the contract, was -
The holders of the contributing shares were debenture-holders and depositors in the company; therefore the uncalled capital on the 20,000 contributing shares was secured. The honorable member for Capricornia stated that on this capital of £20,008 profits amouting to £48,000 were made during the last accounting period. That is not strictly correct. Of the shareholders’ funds invested in the company -
In other words, at thedate of the commencement of the contract, 1st March, 1917, the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited had funds invested in the business representing £400,000. Furthermore, the debenture certificates contained a proviso operative to the 31st July, 1917, granting the holders the right to convert the debentures into shares at face value ; and during the first accountancy period debentures to the value of £41,300 were so converted.
The profits earned by the company should be compared with the amount actually invested in the business, namely, £400,000, and not £20,008, as stated by the honorable member for Capricornia. The gross profit for the first accountancy period amounted to £96,768, of which the licence-fee to the Commonwealth Government represents £48,384, leaving £48,384, less war-time and other taxation, as the company’s proportion. The maximum profit, as set forth in the wool-tops agreement, which the company can earn is onethird of the gross profit, or £32,256, the whole of which has to be re-invested in the company’s business. I ask honorable members to take special notice of those two points. In other words, with licencefee and war-time taxation, the Commonwealth Government receive two-thirds of the gross profits. No dividend or bonus was allowable to the shareholders. The total profit earned must be regarded in relation to the amount invested in the business, and the enormous business done. During the period under review, the company conducted operations by working three eight-hour shifts per day, and producedwooltops and noils to the value of £629,933. The company paid the full price of15½d. for its raw wool, and the minimum selling price was based on figures fixed by the Army Contracts Committee in London. The Central Wool Committee, in all its , transactions, was guided by the most expert advice obtainable. All the figures and estimates supplied by the wool-tops companies have been carefully checked, and the accounts of the company have been audited by a public auditor appointed on the recommendation of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
The honorable member forCapricornia has suggested that a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire into the wool-tops contract. The Government and the members of the Central Wool Committee would be pleased to have such an inquiry if it were thought necessary, hut the facts are so plain and so readily obtainable that the necessity does not exist. It might be well again to remind honorable members at this juncture that the Central Wool Committee was elected by a conference representing the wool industry in all its ramifications, that this Committee was elected to control and manage* the affairs of the producers, manufacturers, and others interested, and that the Committee is dealing with a commodity belonging to those who elected, it. It is their own business these gentlemen are carrying on, and not the business of anybody else. If it is suggested that members of the Central Wool Committee have conspired to defraud their principals or the Commonwealth, let that suspicion be stated plainly. If it is suggested that there is any corrupt or improper understanding between the Government, or any members of the Government, and that Committee, let the honorable member for Capricornia say so; but let us not have these vague and venomous charges about a transaction which was bond fide and honorable, and which reflects great credit on every person connected with> it. This Committee will handle this year wool to the value of £50,000,000 sterling, and I venture to say that no eight or nine business men in the country are able to say that they have dealt with an equivalent turnover. Instead of members expressing thanks to <the members of the Committee, without whose aid it would have been impossible to carry out this gigantic transaction, we have heard venomous charges hurled against them, hints of corruption which the accusers have not the courage to press home, and statements about exorbitant profits. Whether Mr. F. W. Hughes made great profits or not is not to tie point; but I declare the facts to be as I have stated them, and I would point out that, under the agreement, he was entitled to only one-third of the profits, and that the whole of his share had to be reinvested in the business. In this way the Government were assured of the building up of a great industry that would transform the raw material into the finished product, and, at the “same time, assist Britain in this war most materially. It was vital to the conduct of the war that we should utilize freight to the best advantage, and to have sent wool away in its raw state would have been the worst possible way of utilizing freight. The wool has been reduced to wool tops, and in thus reducing its bulk for carriage overseas, we have done a lasting service to Britain in this war. I wish that we could make the same claim in regard to other products.
I repeat what I have already said. If the honorable member for Capricornia declares the Wool Committee to becor.rupt, and if “ he says that .there is some infamous or improper understanding between the Committee and F. W. Hughes and Company, or between Mr. F. W. Hughes and any member of the Government or any member of this House, let him formulate his charges; otherwise let him hold his tongue. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Paley) knows that some 700 or 800 of the men engaged in this industry reside in his electorate, and I think the honorable member should rise and say something in protection of the industry. Why should this great and growing industry be ruined merely because one member of this House desires to gratify his private venom ?
I wish to make a brief reply to the statements made last week about the purchase of the Commonwealth steamers. The honorable member for Capricornia was good enough to say that there was some resemblance between myself and my late distinguished co-religionist, Disraeli. Of all the things I have done in my life, good or bad, I count the purchase of those steamers a’s the most successful. It has been a most effective aid to the Commonwealth and the producers of ‘the Commonwealth. My friends opposite seem to have forgotten, not only that it was done while the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was in the Government, but that it was also approved by Cabinet at a meeting at which I was present on my return. Further, it ran the gamut, and evoked- the approval, of that distinguished body of which I was, perhaps, not the most silent member, and at a meeting of which I was warmly congratulated, if I am -not mistaken, by my honorable and smiling friend, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) for the step I had taken. It was a good thing to buy those steamers, and I am sorry that instead of buying fifteen I did not buy fifty. But this can be. said by way of extenuation of my moderation, that I went as far as I could before I was found out. I gave instructions to a firm of brokers in London to buy all the steamers they could secure up to the full amount placed at my disposal. Naturally you cannot buy steamers as you can buy pins in a draper’s shop; people began to ask who was doing the buying,but happily for us at that time there were two great mergers in progress, and each combine thought that it was the other which was making the purchases. In that way we were able to buy fifteen steamers before the trouble began. The vessels were bought at a price and under circumstances which are entirely satisfactory to the Commonwealth and the producers of the Commonwealth. It is suggested by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) that there are ugly rumours about. If there are, perhaps the honorable member will give them a name. I guarantee to strangle all these ugly rumours with the noose of truth. No transaction of anything like the magnitude of this one has ever been carried out with so little cost to the Commonwealth.This great transaction, this purchase of steamers involving an expenditure of £2,068,000,was carried out, owing to the arrangement which I made with the brokers that the sellers’ commission was to be handed over to us, not only without brokerage, but with a profit to us of £15,000. ‘ Since then, these vessels have earned over £1,000,000, and to-day they could be sold for two and a half times what we gave for them.
– The honorable member’s time ha.s expired.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a matter of grave importance in connexion with the administration of the telephone branch of his Department. If a certain amount of money is not earned during the year by a telephone service, the practice is for the Department to call upon certain individuals to pay the difference between the amount actually earned and the amount which it is claimed should.be earned.
– That is not correct.
– I can show the PostmasterGeneral communications received from his own Department and signed by his “deputies, informing me that what I have stated is the case.
– The honorable member has not mentioned the fact that a 25 per cent. allowance on the departmental estimate is made, and has first to be deducted, before any guarantee is required.
– When I mention the facts the Committee can judge whether I am correct or not. A public telephone was installed at the swimming baths at Elkington Park, Balmain, so that in case of accidents medical men could be quickly communicated with if their services were required. It is a regular practice to give the children attending schools in the district instruction in swimming in those baths. Honorable members will agree that it is a good ‘thing for the country that young children should learn how to swim. Last week I received a communication from the Postal Department informing me that as the revenue earned by this public telephone was about £3 less than the amount which should have been received, this particular facility for the district could no longer be supplied. For the sake of saving a little over £3 the Department propose to cut off this telephone and accept the serious responsibility of, perhaps, risking the lives of some of those young children’ who are learning how to swim. We all know that young boys and young girls cannot always be properly controlled, and that they will skylark. In a public bath skylarking is always dangerous; children may get beyond their depth, and at such a time every moment counts. If the people in control of the baths can get into speedy communication with a medical man and can secure proper medical attention when an accident occurs, it may be the means of saving life. To my mind, the chance of saving life is of greater importance to the Commonwealth than the saving of a paltry sum of about £3.
– How many lives have been lost in those baths?
– The question is not how many lives have been lost, but how many, lives have been saved. There are many cases in which the lives of young children have been saved by reason of the fact that the people in charge of the baths have been able to get the services of a medical man quickly.
– Telephone lines are required in the western districts of Queensland far more.
– That may be the case. I am prepared to support the honorable member in getting telephone lines in the western districts of his State, but in this case it ls proposed to take away an existing line in order to save a paltry sum of about £3. As it is, the telephone does earn some revenue, although it may he short of the amount which the Department estimated it should earn; but if it is cut out, the revenue received from it will also be cut out. As a matter of actual practice, the Department will lose more money than they would by leaving the telephone where it is.
– That is not true.
– The Minister says, “That is not true “ so nicely and so humbly that one would imagine he got up at 6 o’clock this morning to learn the phrase off by heart. This is a communication which I received on the subject from the Balmain Council: - 10th April, 1918.
Sir, - I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your favour of 4th inst., enclosing communication addressed to you from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in connexion with the public telephone at Elkington Park Baths, Balmain. It was unanimously resolved by the council to ask if you would be kind enough to use your influence to have the telephone retained in its present position, notwithstanding there may possibly bo a small deficiency so far as paying for itself is concerned. The object in having the telephone placed in this position was that it may be the means of saving life in case of an accident taking place at the baths. You are, no doubt, personally aware of the large attendances of school children at these baths, numbering some thousands in the week, and that accidents have happened, which is only to he expected under the circumstances. The telephone has been of great service in procuring prompt medical aid, and also ambulance transport. My council is of opinion that if you present this feature to the PostmasterGeneral it may possibly assist you in obtaining the council’s desires.
– They did not ask the honorable member to present that letter in this way.
– I am doing what I deem to be my duty as a representative of these people.
-it was the honorable member’s duty to present the letter to me.
– While the Government may indulge in a certain amount of censorship, they will not censor my conception of my duty and my responsibilities as a member of this House. If I did not bring forward a matter affect ing the health, and, probably, the lives, of the children of thousands of people in my electorate, I would be recreant in my duty towards them.
– Why should not the local authorities make up the deficiency; why take away money which is required out in the western districts of Queensland? There are many places there where doctors cannot be obtained.
– If this public telephone is wiped out it will not help the . honorable member in any way. That is one picture. And now let us look on another. We are being told just now a great deal about the need for national economy, and urged that money must be saved in order to swell the war funds. To-.day, however, the Government have instituted the Federal Police Force. What for? To sit down and twiddle theirthumbs, with nothing to do, at a cost of £945 2s. 2d. per month. This police force has no duties that the State police could not more adequately carry out.
– I understand they are chasing fowls to get the eggs !
– At any rate, they ought to be chasing something. Instead of the Government “chasing” this £945 odd out of the Treasury every month, they could better use the money to pay interest on war bonds. This money is flung away, and not a word is said. Because somebody happened to be hit with an ancient egg, this country has to find £945 per month - rather an expensive egg for the community.
– What the honorable member is saying is rather stale.
– It is so “stale” that it smells in the nostrils of the people, who will not forget it at the next election. This money is being spent to provide some ex-policemen with a soft job, and yet we find no complaint from the other side about such an expense in time of war. On the other hand, we find objection raised to the expenditure of some £3 odd a year on a public telephone which might be the means of saving the lives of some bright young Australians. The whole position is absurd.
– We are in rather a unique position this afternoon, and have been for a day or two, in finding a no-confidence motion break in on the ordinary Committee consideration of a three-months’
Supply Bill. I understand that the amendment has for its objective the presence of the Minister for Defence in this House as a member - the placing of the Defence administration under the direct control of the House of Representatives. There are, I think, very few member’s who would object to that proposition in the abstract; personally, it would be difficult forme to conceive any such objection. When the portfolio of Defence was first given to a member of another place, the Defence expenditure was so small that it really did not matter in which ‘branch of the Legislature the Minister had a seat. Certainly, at that time, there were other matters that pressed more strongly on the attention of the country, though I do not thiuk they, perhaps, deserved more attention than was given to Defence. I intend to vote with the Government upon this occasion, because I promised to give them fair and generous support in their policy of carrying on the war.
– Where is it?
– The Government have done more to carry on the war than has ever been attempted or done by the honorable member and others in Western Australia.
– It would be a good thing if the honorable member’s constituency was as keen in winning the war as the men of Western Australia.
– I am not talking of the men of Western Australia, but of some of the representatives of that State, whose malignant hatred of the Government is only too obvious. In certain contingencies of life I have a plan which, though not, perhaps, mathematically correct, is very useful. When I am deceived in a matter of which I know something, I do not take much notice of the person who deceived me, when’ there is involved a matter of which I know nothing.
What is the position? We have had statements ad nauseam to the effect that the rifles served out to our troops have not been satisfactory. Over and over again we have had that allegation from a Western Australian member, who informed us that rifles of the kind were served out to the men at Gallipoli. We find, however, that men who were at Gallipoli say that while there they never handled a bad rifle. Between the statement of men who have handled these rifles and the statement of the politician,
I leave the House and the country to draw their own inference. This is a sample of Western Australian criticism that is not helping to support the Government in winning the war.
– Idid not make that statement about the rifles.
– I did not say you did.
– The inference is that I did.
– Are you rowing amongst yourselves over there?
– I did not begin the “ row “ ; I am not responsible for the amendment. I do not take the view that the present Minister for Defence is infallible, and that nobody could administer the Department so well, but I take into consideration the abnormal times through which we have been, and are, passing; and it surprises me, not that there are causes of complaint, but that there are not more. With the growing demands caused by the war, mistakes and miscalculations must arise. This, of course, applies equally to the British authorities, though fortunately the British Government is in a different position from that of the Commonwealth Government. At Home they have not an Opposition that has no earthly object in view but to attack the Government by means of adverse criticism; the British Opposition, while it maybe critical at times, is always conducted in the best interests of the country. Here the criticism of the Defence Department is engineered for the party purposes that might be perfectly fair and above board in the piping times of peace, but not now. One criticism’ levelled against the Department is based on the absence of business control. There is no doubt about the fact; and it is only comparatively recently that the control of stores and so forth has passedinto the hands of business men. This question is as old as the hills. I can recollect how, forty years ago, the press in the Old Country advocating that the whole of the administration of the War Office on its business side, in relation to stores, contracts, and so forth, as distinguished from matters of discipline and purely military interests, should he placed entirely under business control. Although this view was presented year in and year out, no reform waa found possible until we were in the war; and the employment of business men, not only in regard to Defence matters, but in many other directions, is now the policy of the British Government. An excellent opportunity has been presented to utilize the patriotism of our brothers and cousins in the Old Country. Men have willingly offered their services to the country, eager to do anything they were asked to assist the Government in the conduct of the war; but not until we were actually at war was it possible to make any change, and only since Mr. lloyd George came into office has it been made the success it is to-day. In Australia, however, when such a policy is spoken of, we are told that we are being governed by Committees and Commissions. Whip high or whip low, we cannot please the Opposition, who are out for party strife, and ho other object. Objections that can be urged against the administration of the Department to-day do not carry the weight that they would have carried twelve months ago. We are now putting the Department under the control of business men, and I hope that for the future it will alwaysbe under such control. In all appertaining to business, business men are the best authorities. The training of soldiers and sailors, excellent as the services they have rendered in the past may have been, and glorious as their services may be in the future, does not tend to make them good business men.
The question of over-stocking has also been raised, and I think too much has been made of it. I dare say that if we had the opportunity to investigate conditions in connexion with the clothing and equipping of the British, the French, or the Italian Army, it is very likely we should find complaints similar to those made in Australia; indeed, it would surprise me if that were not so. The military authorities could not know exactly the extent to which the armies would grow as time went on, and, as I say, it is not at all surprising that there should be over-stocking. The stores referred to in the report of the Royal Commission are not so extensive or so serious as similar miscalculations might be in other Departments. The consequent waste is not at all to be compared to that which occurs, say, in a big engineering or railway work, when machinery is ob tained for the carrying out of that work, and isfound to be obsolete. It seems to me that the Commissioners who made the inquiry had too much love for redtape methods, and were unable to grasp the difficulties that the Department had had to meet.
There is some talk about a great loss of money, and a complaint that the financial transactions of the Department are not very satisfactory. When the war broke out, and the first enlistments took place, English officers of experience begged and prayed the Minister and those under him to let them go to the Front right away. They were allowed to go, and this meant that, for the most part, only raw and inexperienced men were available for the purpose of training the recruits as they came along.
– Was that a wise thing for the Minister to do?
– I should think it was. If I, as Minister, had to choose between sending efficient men away to the war when there was an urgent demand for troops, and running the risk of picking up what men I could at home, I would send the efficient men. Red tape, and circumlocution, and the criticism of members may be of some importance, but the first essential is to get an army to the Front, and equip it and officer it with the best material at your disposal. A mistake was made, but the action taken could not be helped. When the troops were in the various camps, pay-sheets came along to be signed by those at the camps who should have signed them, but they did not do this. We are told that there are thousands that cannot be checked. Did anybody ever hear such rubbish ? The money that has notbeenchecked was paid to the soldiers, and they had it. If they had not had it they would have howled, and they would have been fools if they did not. The fact that there was no howl about non-payment is the strongest proof that the men were paid, and that there has been practically no loss. I do not say that there has not been the loss of a pound or two, nor am I defending the system, but for practical men, facing new and unforeseen difficulties, what they did was the only thing to do in the circumstances. The Minister for Defence acted quite rightly, even though there might have been what a shrewd business man would call an “ absence of business control.” The Minister and those under him preferred to run the risk of criticism for not conducting their affairs according to strict business methods rather than hamper the sending away of our troops. As time has elapsed that drawback has disappeared. It is also obvious that if the Department was not allowed to offer permanent employment to civilians, the field from which the Minister could draw the best talents in the country to do the work of the Department would be unduly restricted. If I were running a business concern, and were not allowed to offer a man permanency of employment during good conduct, what chance would I have of getting the best service? I ask honorable members to treat the Minister for Defence in the same way as they would expect to be treated if they were in , the same position. I do not claim that there has been perfection, or that mistakes have not been made, nor do I say that the House and the country have not a perfect right in the future, in order to guard our interests, to say that material improvement shall be made. To-day the Minister has two Honorary Ministers associated with him in carrying out his duties. The Minister has had control of the Department for a long time, and understands it, and if we putin a new man who has to learn the Department while the war is going on, we shall be disregarding President Lincoln’s advice “ not to swap horses when crossing a stream.” Weare asked by those distinguished gentlemen who are going to support the amendment to take that risk. I tell the Committee that this is not the time to make such an alteration. In future times, if I happen to be here, I shall certainly approve of a proposal that the Defence Minister shall be in this House, but in no circumstances, under existing conditions, would I agree to an alteration at the present time.
– Other countries have swapped horses fairly frequently when crossing the stream.
– In what respect?
– The Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers have been changed during the war in practically every country.
– That statement is characteristic of the dingo howl on the other side. When the war broke out, Mr.
Asquith offered the portfolio of Minister of War to the late Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, and he held it to the day of his death. He requested the present Earl of Derby to succeed Lord Kitchener, and that gentleman holds the position to-day. Where has the swapping been in that respect ?
– They are all changing. Lloyd George himself has been in three different offices.
– He is not the , Minister of War. I am talking about the War Department, not about the man. in the moon. Let the honorable member confine his interjections to the question of the necessity of a Protective Tariff.
We have been told that the party opposite have taken a very great interest in the control of the Defence Department, and have exercised their right of criticism from time to time on Defence matters. In fact, they took such a lively interest in the administration of the Defence Department, although they never went to the extent of removing the Defence Minister himself, that they came to the conclusion that it was very desirable to remove me and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) from office. Their object in removing me was very simple. I would not have troubled the Committee about this matter, but it is well that statements, without an atom of truth in them, circulated by honorable members on theother side should be nailed to the counter as soon as possible. I was removed from office because I would not be a lackey of the Trades Halls and Labour Councils of Australia. The Labour party began on that day a policy, the fruits of which they are reaping today. I refused, and always will refuse, either in or out of office, to be the lackey of any party. A man’s oath, as Minister of the King, and his oath to the people, demand that he should do justice to all the King’s lieges. How can a man do that and, at the same time, be a lackey of the Trades Halls of Melbourne and Sydney, or of the Labour Councils and other similar bodies? What is the result to-day? We find here what is called the Labour party, but I call them the walleyed lepers of the world, alias the Labour party. They stand out conspicuous today before the world as the only party that will not join’ in the government of their country. There is not a party like them . throughout the English-speaking countries, or, in fact, in any country where the influence of European civilization is felt. In France, Italy, and all the other allied countries the Opposition as an Opposition is dead, and its members are joining in the government of the country. But what do we find here? Enemies of Australia, enemies of the Empire, enemies of European civilization, and I challenge them in the name of civilization -
– I take exception to the honorable member saying that members of this party are enemies of the Empire and enemies of civilization. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– The honorable member has raised no point of order. Let him disprove my statement.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Hindmarsh to make so direct a reflection.
– The expressions ave offensive to myself, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will withdraw them.
– As the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) takes exception to the terms I used, I withdraw them. When the methods of the Caucus were under criticism, they drove me out of the party, because I would not be the abject lackey of the Trades Hall and other Labour organizations.
– That was the beginning of your trouble.
– There is no doubt it was, and I have no doubt if I had been content to be the abject lackey of those opposite, I would have been a great ornament amongst them to-day. Thank God, I never sank low enough for that !
– It is a wonder that you did not resign before you were pushed.
– I am not built that way. Honorable members on the other side do not represent the workers of the country. They represent merely the militant section, who are only one-fourth of the workers. But the other threefourths, the men who made the Labour party in the early days, and who arc the backbone of the workers of Australia today, have no sympathy with them. The only charge I bring against the great body of the workers is that they do not fight them as I would have fought them. There is no resigning about me. It is fight. I know thousands of these men in Australia to-day, and the charge I bring against them is that, instead of allowing the militants to dominate them, they should have fought them, and hunted them out of their unions, because they do not represent the workers of Australia. So far as the abstract proposition before the Committee is concerned, I am quite in favour of it; but, in the circumstances that exist to-day, it would be one of the biggest mistakes that it is possible for this country to make to change the head of the War Department.
– I hope that in whatever remarks I have to make on the amendment, I shall show due appreciation of the gravity of the Avar situation as it now confronts us. I believe it is the duty of this Parliament, as it has been ever since the war began, to bend its energies towards, and give the people of Australia a lead in, the prosecution in every possible way to a successful conclusion of the war we are now waging on behalf of our liberties and of the civilization of the world. I believe, at the same time, that in this Parliament, as in the other Parliaments of the world, it is necessary that the House itself should have some say in connexion with war policy, instead of that policy being handed over wholly to the Administration. I believe that, as the House which levies the taxation and collects and expends the revenue, we should have some say as to how the various Departments shall be administered. I do not think there can be any proper reply to the contention that the Defence portfolio should be held in the House of Representatives. Previous to the war the Defence and Navy Departments, which were then combined in one, constituted the biggest single spending Department; but its expenditure was then only one-fifth of the total expenditure of the Commonwealth. The Defence Departmentnow expends four-fifths of the total expenditure of the Commonwealth, and that expenditure has risen during the war from £20,000,000 to something like £100,000,000. It is, therefore, quite an anachronism and an anomaly that the Defence portfolio should be a senatorial one. Had it not been for the fidelity of the Prime Minister to the Minister for Defence (Senator
Pearce) I believe that we should long since have had a transfer of that portfolio to the proper House, the House responsible to the people of Australia for the collection and expenditure of the revenue. I wish, first of all, to enter my strong protest against the Government regarding’ the amendment as a motion of no-confidence. It appears to me that the Government, in taking that attitude, might very well be charged by the House with an endeavour to crack the whip over honorable members in order that searching criticism of the administration of the various Departments might be smothered. That is one of the positions that this House should resent. When an important amendment is moved, the object of which is to secure greater efficiency in administration, it is not right for the Government to declare that it stakes its existence on the defeat of that amendment. Not long since, notwithstanding the pledge of the Prime Minister at Bendigo that he would not continue in office if his conscription proposal was lost, Ministers decided that ‘.their continued administration of the Departments was essential in the national interest. In May last they promised that they would not do anything to bring about conscription until its adoption had been sanctioned by the people. This promise was regarded as sacrosanct, though the Bendigo promise was not. Yet, after failing to keep the Bendigo promise, under the* ^ plea that the retention of their offices was necessary in the public interest, Ministers now declare that they will retire from the Treasury bench if an amendment moved to secure greater efficiency in the administration of the Departments is carried. Those who support the amendment have been spoken of as disloyal, and as hampering the Government in the prosecution of the war. Australia has sent 300,000 men abroad to fight, and it has some splendid women’s organizations doing work at home; but of all the countries taking part in the struggle it is least affected by the war. The Government since the war began has taken control of colossal private interests, which previously were conducted without Government interference to any serious extent. This places on the members of this branch of the Legislature greater and more profound responsibilities in regard to the criticism of administration and expendi- ture than they had before. I have mentioned that £80,000,000 of the £100,000,000 expended by the Government is handled by the Defence Department, and much money is also spent on services which are intimately connected with that Department. Since the war began, the Government of the country has been conducted almost entirely by Ministers under regulations under the War Precautions Act. We have had but little opportunity for the discussion of questions affecting public finance at large, or to criticise the financial operations of the various Departments of government. The administration of the Defence Department so greatly affects the whole financial situation that the portfolio of Defence should be held by a member of the legislative body primarily responsible for finance. We have been four years at war, the people have been urged to practise economy and to place their capital and savings in war loane; but we have had from the Government no broad and comprehensive scheme for economical and efficient administration. We must consider where we are drifting in the matter of finance, and members should have an opportunity of reviewing the financial situation. The Government should give a lead to the people of Australia in the matter of economy. We have borrowed £150,000,000 from our own people, and nearly £50,000,000 from the people of the Mother Country, for the conduct of the war; and, even should there be an immediatecessation of hostilities, our indebtedness, by the time we have got our troops back, and carried out the policy of repatriation, to which we are committed, would probably amount to £300,000,000. On this the yearly interest will amount to £15,000,000, and our expenditure on war pensions will not be less than £8,000,000 per annum, or £23,000,000 per annum for those two items alone. Since the war started, we have imposed new taxation for war purposes amounting to between £8,000,000 and £9,000,0000; but we are committed to finding in the not distant future a sum nearly two and a -half times as great as that. The problem is, how the money is to be obtained, and whether the Government is practising that economy which they should practise to give the lead to the public of Australia, to whom economy will become inevitable. There has been an increase in the expenditure of a large number of our Departments besides the Department of Defence. For instance, the expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Department has increased’ from £122,000 in 1912 to £162,000 in 1916. The increase in the expenditure of the Treasury, taking the same two years, has been from £182,000 to £404,000; in the expenditure of the Department of the Attorney-General, from £66,000 to £100,000; in the expenditure of the Department of Home and Territories from £185,000 to £208,000; in that of the Department of Customs from £305,000 to £689,000; in that of the Northern Territory from £382,000 to £659,000; in that of the Department of Works and Railways from £2,554,000 to £5,519,000. Including Departments not mentioned, the total expenditure in the Departments, excluding the Defence Department, increased in round figures from £21,525,000 in 1912 to £2S,656,000 in 1916.
It is with very great regret that I criticise the administration of Senator Pearce, because I have a great respect for him, and know that his labours have been Herculean. I doubt that a War Department in any of the Allied countries could have a searching inquiry made into its- administration while the war is in progress and come out unscathed- In time of war decisions must be come to so quickly, and action must follow so rapidly, that frequently the antithesis of business methods must be adopted so that time may not be lost. But that is the more reason why Parliament, or that branch of it which is in control of the public purse, should have direct communication with the Minister at the head of the Defence Department. The Royal Commission which has extensively investigated the administration of the Defence Department has not wholly condemned it. It commends the organization of the military camps, speaks favorably of the system of purchasing horses for remount purposes, says that the various Commonwealth factories are efficiently managed and do good work, and proclaims that the hospitals are well managed, especially the Caulfield Hospital, which is referred to as one of the best organized and most efficiently managed in the British Em pire. These statements redound to the credit of the Defence Department. But the business management of the Department is condemned by the Commission.
The criticisms of the Commission cover operations extending over a considerable length of time, and some of them have been met by departmental reforms. The delays connected with the paying office long ago warranted, searching investigation. We are told that the excess stocks of the Department are worth something like £2,000,000, that there were discrepancies in connexion with stock, and that something like £60,000 worth has been written off. The system of purchasing boots has been condemned. A large order for boots, we know, had to be cancelled. Generally speaking, the methods of the Department connected with the purchase and allotment of material, pay, and the control of finance generally, have been condemned by the Commission. It is the financial side of the Department which should come most directly under the criticism of the spending and taxing House. To my mind, the promise of the Minister for the Navy that there would be an improvement in the administration of the Defence Department is not satisfactory. His defence of the Department was one of the weakest that I have heard. The condemnation of the business methods of the Department by the Royal Commission furnishes the strongest reason for having the Defence Minister in this chamber. That would make it possible to restore the financial control which this House should exercise, and enable members to do their duty in this time of crisis. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty was not brought forward for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, but merely with a conscientious desire to bring about an improvement in administration and greater efficiency in the Government in order to enable us to prosecute the war more vigorously and do our duty to those who are fighting at the Front. The Government, in taking this action, after they had declared the necessity for the present party remaining in office to carry on the administration, have shown that there is no desire on their part to take this House fully into their confidence in regard to the financial affairs of the -country. In the midst of this war, it is time that the
House took a stand to determine to what extent the finances of the country are to be controlled by Parliament or by the Government. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Henty that in a House of this size there is a possibility that by the cracking of the whip or the distribution of offices the Government will always be able to command a sufficient majority to enable them to retain control of the Treasury bench. I know that what I am about to say will not be popular, but I am convinced that a small House like this might easily become a real danger to the administration of the country. The Government, by a distribution of favours, may secure the support of a majority in a small House in. circumstances that could not arise if the House contained a larger number of members. We read that the ‘ latest scheme of Home Rule for Ireland proposes that the Irish House of Commons ‘ shall comprise 200 members. Canada has over 300 members in its lower House, and the American House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, and the French Chamber of Deputies have 500 or 600 members each. It is the large number of members in those Chambers which constitutes the safety of the parliamentary system. It is written in the entrance hall of this building that “ In the multitude of counsellors there is safety,” and conversely there is a danger in this House, with a small membership of the Government holding an undue influence over their supporters in a party which at best can only number about twice as many as the members of the Ministry and the occupants of the offices controlled by the Government.
– -The honorable member is on the wrong side.
– I am not. I realize that this is not the time to talk about an increase in the membership of this House, but I am pointing out the danger that does exist of the Government exercising an undue influence over their followers in a way that -would not be possible in a Chamber with a larger personnel. I say again that in this period of war, when it is necessary for this Parliament to set an example in efficiency and economy of administration, I decline to be influenced by a threat on the part of the Government to vote against my convictions on a question of prime public importance. No question is involved that warrants the Government in regarding this amendment as a motion of want of confidence. By making this amendment a vital question the Government are compelling the members to vote against a proposition which they believe to be in the best interests of the country, and which they, realizing their responsibility to their constituents and their country, feel to be necessary to enable this House to exercise that control which it should have over the finances of the Commonwealth. I personally decline to accept any responsibility for whatever may be the result of the vote that I will cast on this amendment.
.- Judging by the vigorous manner in which he spoke, the Prime Minister has made a very quick recovery from his illness, and I compliment the medical man who attended him! The speech of the honorable gentleman was nothing but a camouflage. He is the champion camouflager of .political life. He had a lot to say about wool tops, and he quoted a mass of figures so quickly that it was impossible for honorable members to follow him. If, as he said, everything in connexion with the wool-tops agreement is honest and above board, why does he not agree to the request for the appointment of a Royal Commission? When we asked for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the Watson charges, was not the Prime Minister going to compel Senator Watson to prove his charges in the Courts of law? But who crawled out of the case, and who paid the costs ? Tlie Prime Minister would not grant a Royal Commission to investigate that matter, but lie said he would prove his innocence in a Court of law. Can any honorable member say he kept his word? Of course, he was not the present Prime Minister; he was the1 Prime Minister of the late Government. He went to Government House and resigned, and then walked back into office- by another door. In that action, he was supported by the GovernorGeneral, who could not find in the parliamentary history of the world a precedent for the course he took. Never has there been another instance of a man being Prime Minister in four consecutive Governments representing different and divergent parties without the interregnum of another Prime Minister and Government. Will anybody dare to say that the pledge of the Government to resign after the defeat of conscriptionwas kept? Will honorable members bring up their sons and daughters to keep their pledges in the same way? The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) at great trouble, and with an immense amount of work, has endeavoured to clear up a transaction in regard to which he believes, as everybody outside believes, /that the profits are too great, and are not being adequately taxed. Who will say that those who are making fortunes today are being taxed sufficiently? The price of every commodity has risen. Let honorable members inquire of the girls working in the factories, and learn how they have to scrimp and save in order to clothe themselves. I believe that, with the advent of a new Minister to control food prices, there will be greater simplicity in the administration, and that the people will have an opportunity to stand the prices that have been fixed for necessary commodities. The late Peacock Government said on the hustings that they would deal severely with those who were exploiting the food of the community. But once they had got into office, they snapped their fingers in the faces of the people. I have been in State and Federal politics, and have been honoured with the confidence of my constituents for over a quarter of a century, and I never thought that what I believed to bebribery and corruption would ever be so rife as it is at the present moment. I used to glory in the boast that in. this country of mine politics were on a higher moral plane than in any other country in the world. But I cannot say that at the present time.
– If the honorable member believes that, should he not make definite charges?
– Why did the honorable member prevent the Labour daily paper in Sydney being issued ? Was it in order to make a life-long job for himself and his gang?
– I rise to order. The honorable member seems to impute some corruption to me particularly, and I should like to have his charges more distinctly stated.
– There was great exertion on the part of the Labour people to produce a daily newspaper, by the aid of which they would be able to hold their own against the opposing factions. That paper was to have been published in Sydney. Why was it not published ? Whose was the fault? Honorable members may know whom I am indicating; but if they are in any doubt, and they will ask me later, I will tell them of whom I am speaking. He is a member of this House.
– Does that apply to me?
– Yes. The honorable member had companions. He was not the only Judas.
– I ask for the withdrawal of that exquisite expression.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bamford). - The honorable member must’ withdraw the remark to which exception is taken.
– I withdraw it; and I ask the honorable member to spare me his interjections. I warned him earlier not to interject, but he did so again, and I had to hit him. I have referred to the Watson charges. Then there was the Ready affair; and it was to the honour of the Liberal politicians from Tasmania that that disgraceful conspiracy was nipped in the bud. Three members of this Parliament were to have gone to. attend the Imperial Conference. Their boat passages had been booked, but they did not go. One of them has recently accepted the gift of the Chief Justiceship of Victoria; and I do not know of any men in the Public Service, or the Police Force, or the Railway Department of this State, all of whom were robbed of their citizenship, who think that gentleman is fit to be a Judge of the Supreme Court. He boasted time after time that he would do anything to assist in the war, but when I suggested that he should lend to the country a portion of his income, free of interest, he would not do it. Nor would he accept my challenge to enlist and go to the Front, but on every platform he urged other men to go. I daresay if a man who would not go to the Front comes before this gentleman in his judicial capacity he will get a longer sentence. I hope that will not occur, but I would not put such an action beyond the late member for Flinders. He was prepared to send to the Front the son of anybody else, but nobody connected with him should go.
– His son was not old enough to go.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bamford). - Is not the honorable member exceeding the limits of debate in attacking a gentleman who is Chief Justice of Victoria, is no longer a member of this Parliament, and is not in a position to reply?
– If you rule to that effect, sir, I shall say no more on that point. In regard to the purchase of the Commonwealth ships, not one shipping man to whom I am permitted to speak on terms of friendship has answered in the affirmative when I have asked him if he thinks that everything in connexion with that transaction was in order. What is the privilege of this Parliament that was so vilely violated by this Government? Had the same action been taken in the House of Commons there would have been a revolution in England. What is the privilege that gives us safety; the safety that enables the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to attack those rich and wealthy men who are interested in different companies on the good American plan of controlling trusts, or enables the Prime Minister to say that a certain sum of money in the case of one particular company did not represent the amount of capital at its disposal, because there was still another company connected with it?
I have always resented the introduction of certain titles into this community. As a member of the Victorian State Parliament, though I was unsuccessful, I tried to secure the passage of a provision that no member of Parliament should be permitted to accept a title without first resigning his seat and facing his constituents. We know that seats in the House of Lords are bought and sold for money to be used at elections. For fear of breaking the rules of debate, I will not make use of words actually used in the House of Commons and the House of Lords as to the manner in which money has been extracted from wealthy men’s pockets for this purpose. It is quite a different matter altogether when a title is earned by competitive examination, or because the recipient has enriched the nation by some great invention, or has saved the Homeland or ourselves in time of war. Lest honorable members may think that I am speaking from my imagination, I quote from the Financial Reform Almanac, the greatest authority of the Free Traders in England. On the cover is the picture of the greatest of Liberals, William Ewart Gladstone. On page 291, of the issue for 1898, I find the following under the heading of “ The House of Lords”: -
That ancient institutions die hard and receive a veneration they do not always merit is a well known fact; and the House of Lords is no exception to the rule, for surely its age is the only reason for it being allowed to exist with all its present powers and privileges. What is a Lord that he and his fellow Lords should have a Legislative Chamber all to themselves? A Lord is only a moreorless ordinary - sometimes very ordinary - individual, who is possessed of a “patent of nobility”; that is to say, either he, or an ancestor of his, has, for some reason, been granted by the Crown the exclusive right to call himself Baron This or Earl of That, as the case may be.
On one occasion in the Victorian State House, when Mr. Murray Smith was speaking of the House of Lords as being the finest example of a legislative body in the world, I read a list of some of the actions of that Chamber. Australia escaped having a German King ! It was once proposed to send out a German prince to be King of Australia.
– The honorable member is dealing with ancient history.
– It is indeed ancient. I will come to something of a little later date. In 1810, the House of Lords rejected a Bill abolishing punishment by death for stealing goods valued at 5s. In 1810, the value was only 2s. 6d. Such was the value the House of Lords placed upon human life. In 1832, they mutilated the Reform Bill in Committee. People broke all bounds and threw mud at the King in the streets. The London City Council and most of the middle classes stopped payment of taxes. There was a run on the Bank, and £1,800,000 was drawn out in three days. The country was on the brink of open revolution. They refused to open universities to Dissenters. No one but an Anglican was permitted to go to the universities of Oxford or Cambridge. Yet our Government are building up a similar institution by requesting or otherwise that one of its members be made a peer.
– It may improve the House of Lords.
– That is probable; but if the honorable member chooses to go into the history of the Western Australian Parliament he might consider that the proper title of the right honorable gentleman so rewarded should be, “Lord of Consent” or “Lord of the Lash”; because he introduced the use of the lash for aborigines in Western Australia after the Imperial Government-‘ had abolished it, and he also asked Parliament to pass a Bill to reduce the age of consent from fourteen years to twelve years.
– No, no!
– If the honorable member for Perth has a month’s wages to spare for the benefit’ of the hospitals, I will stake a similar amount that what I say is true.
– Wagering is disorderly.
– I apologize to the Chair.
– It is not fair to make those assertions.
– It may not be fair to do so, but if my statements are true, why should they not be made?
– They are not true.
– You are a liar!
– Order !
– The honorable member is not a gentleman.
– Whoever says so is a cad. If I cannot prove my statement from the Western Australian Hansard, volume II., page 401, I will forfeit a month’s salary to buy a life governorship in a hospital. If the honorable member can prove that they are not true, then let me present him with a life governorship in a hospital. He knows in his own heart that what I have said is true.
– Lord Forrest simply accepted the recommendation of his law officers.
– He did not. He voted in the direction I have indicated, and his own brother voted against him.
– Order !
– The following is a list of some of the actions of the House of Lords : - 1833. - By fierce opposition compelled withdrawal of Bill for Irish national education. 1833-1857. - Denied civil and political rights to Jews for quarter of a century. The Commons’ Bill seven times rejected by Lords. 1834. - Refused to allow more than twenty persons to meet for worship in private house. 1834. - Three times rejected the Tithe Abatement Bill. Also rejected Bill for legalizing marriages in dissenting chapels. 1834. - Forbade non-conformistministers to officiate in workhouses; and again threw out Bill for abolishing University tests. 1835. - Population of Ireland 8,000,000 - voters, 60,000. Lords refused reform, and prevented it for forty years afterwards. 1S36. - Ordered banns of dissenters’ marriages to be read before Board of Guardians. 1836. - Tried to defeat Municipal Reform Act. Choice of magistrates denied to town councils. Institution of aldermen imposed. Control of licensing knocked out of Bill. Disallowed municipal reform for Ireland, and again in 1837. 1838. - Refused mothers custody of infants during separation caused by fault of the father. 1839. - Continued death penalty for sheepstealing. 1839.- Rejected by 229 to 118 the Bill to provide national education. 1842. Mines Regulation. - Refused to give women and children working in mines the full relief of Commons’ Bill. Protection of miners against preventable accidents not obtained for thirty years through Lords. 1845. - Refused compensation for tenants’ improvement (Ireland), and so for twenty-five years. 1858. - Refused church rates abolition. Same for eleven years. 1860. - Mr. Gladstone took taxes (£660,000) off paper. This meant a cheap press. Lords threw out the Bill. 1860. - Refused education to miners’ children. Twelve years of darkness followed to these unfortunates. 1867. - Robbed electors of London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, &c, of the third vote by imposition of the three-corner trick. 1868. - Emasculated Artisans’ Dwellings Bill. 1868-70. - Thrice refused University tests abolition. 1869. - Mutilated the Irish Church Bill, causing frequent conflicts between the two Houses. Same year rejected Lord Russell’s Bill legalizing life peerages. 1870. - Irish Land Act. - Lords refused compensation, and insisted on their right to evict distressed tenants. 1871. - Rejected Army Purchase Bill. 1871. - Threw out Ballot Bill, and next year ruined it by an amendment making the method of voting optional. 1873-6-7-9. - Refused to amend burial laws. 1880. - Rejected Compensation for Disturbance Bill (Ireland) by 232 majority. Country given up to anarchy and crime in consequence. Civil war at “ a measurable distance.” Same year threw out the Irish Registration of Voters Bill. 1883. - Disturbed Land Act by meddlesome inquiry. 1883. - Threw out Cornwall Sunday Closing Bill by one vote. 1883. - Spoiled English Agricultural Holdings Bill; but thought better of it afterwards. 1884. - Refused the franchise to 2,000,000 county householders, until cowed by the attitude of the country. 1887. - Passed in a very few hours the Tory and Unionist Perpetual Coercion Bill for Ireland, but mutilated the Land Act sent up by the House of Commons so as to render it nearly worthless. On Mr. T. W. Russell. M.P. (one of their allies) expressing himself to this effect, the Tory Government prevented further criticism of its action by “closuring” Mr. Russell. Same year mutilated the Mines and Truck Acts. 1893. - Rejected Home Rule Bill. 1893.- Rejected the Land Transfer Bill. 1893. - Mutilated the Railway Servants’ Hours Bill by excluding men. employed in railway shops and factories from its benefits. 1893. - Rejected “Betterment” (the principle by which owners of property are made to pay something towards public improvements by which the value of their property is increased) . 1893. - Refused to allow Lincoln’s Inn Fields to bo open to the public. 1893. - Denied the London County Council the right to be represented on the Thames Conservancy Board. 1893. - Rejected the Charter for the creation of the University of Wales, because it did not include St. David’s College, Lampeter, a Church of England and’ sectarian institution. 1893. - Mutilated two country schemes for intermediate and technical education in Wales. 1893. - Destroyed the chief feature of the Employers’ Liability Bill. 1893.-“ Riddled “ the Parish Council Bill with amendments in the interests of the landlords and the Church of England. 1893. - Rejected Evicted Tenants Bill. 1893. - Mutilated the Scottish Fisheries Bill, which passed the House of Commons practically without opposition.
I challenge any honorable member to point to any Constitution which is so less up-to-date as is that of the House of Lords or that of the House of Commons. The Financial Reform Almanac and Year-Booh for 1909 says -
No sane person now contends that the House of Lords does not require reforming. Its own members admit the absurdity of its present Constitution. . . . Since 1809, no less than ten attempts have been essayed by various noble lords to set their house in some sort of order, though, needless to say, their methods were aimed at making their position more secure by abolishing some of the practices and customs which were all very well in the days “ when knights were bold,” but which now are only inconveniences, or worse.
I resent the fact that such a fossilized Chamber should dominate the whole British Empire. In the late eighties they determined by vote of the House that the quorum shouldbeonly three ! At that time there were over 600 peers. Now there are 850.
I do not like the element of suspicion of bribery and corruption. This Parliament of ours should be like Caesar’s wife - above suspicion. Why is it not above suspicion? Because, like all other Parliaments, it endeavours to make itself more powerful than its creators - the people outside. There is only one course to be adopted to prevent this, and that is to institute the recall. We all on the platform, and on the hustings, declare it to be one of the greatest honours to he a servant of thepublic ; and why should we not be taken at our word? Let the people, who create the Parliament, have control of it during the whole three years. Let it be possible, by the lodging of a petition, signed by 30 out of every 100, in the hands of the Clerk of Parliaments, to have the seat declared vacant, and an election within three weeks. . Wie should not then have members playing flip-flap, and turning somersaults, ox have such an instance as that afforded by the Peacock Government in Victoria, when the people had to wait three years in order to get promises fulfilled.
-Would you not have an election every day under such conditions?
– For twenty-eight years I have given my electors the right to recall - me, and it has not occurred once. But these are the people who created me a member, in spite of the mighty daily press. No man has had to fight the press so continually as myself, and if I had not had the platform on which to express myself, I should have had no chance. I have, however, as I say, given my electors the right to recall me on the lodging of a petition signed by ‘ one over the half of the number of those who voted for me. Will the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) do likewise, and trust the people?, If he will, I am sure he will very soon have a petition in his district, even if I had to go and get it myself. Honorable members should consider whether there should be such a difference betweenthe payment of a member and the payment of a Minister. Would we not have more honesty in politics if all were paid the same wage? It is a question whether, if that plan were adopted, all the ear-wigging and begging for votes would not be done away with. The people, if they had the referendum, initiative, and recall, might follow the example of Switzerland, where, however, the salaries are very different from what they are here. If the people outside think that £12 a week is not enough to enable members to live decently with their families, let them he able to say so. As already shown by honorable members who have spoken, there are twenty-two members opposite who are receiving money extra to their salaries. It is a big indictment.
– Where do you get your figures?
– If the honorable member will honour me by reading my speech he will get all the details.
– You are alluding, I take it, to the Standing Committees?
– Some of them receive travelling expenses, and there is another contingent circumstance. I am not begsrudging these payments, but am merely referring to a statement made from that side of the House.
– I do not think those honorable members make very much out of the positions.
– At any rate, when I had the honour to be on aCommittee with the honorable member, we did not make much out of the position. Whether a more advanced party than that of Labour will interpret the voice of the people, which cannot be heard here, and lead them to victory in this connexion, I know not; but I cannot hope for parliamentary purity in future unless the people control members every day of every year. Had the Age but gone to the help of the Daily Telegraph when Federation was being inaugurated, we should have had the principle which I advocate embodied in our statute-book. We have it indirectly in our Constitution; but it can be obtained only by the consent of Parliament. What is this Parliament? Only the creature of three years ; and yet it is only by their permission that the people are allowed to vote on any given question. I hope, even at my age, to see the people dominate, if only because they pay us our wages. And I only wish that there was as good a minimum wage paid outside, for instance, to the mothers who are trying to make ends meet under the present adverse circumstances.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) the wholesale charges of corruption which the honorable member for Melbourne introduced into his address; and I hope that the proper steps may be taken to enable him to make them in more definite form. I know of nothing more calculated to degrade the Parliament of this country than wild statements of corruption being made, as they, unfortunately, are being made outside, as part of the propaganda of a section of the community. When these charges are made in Parliament, and under circumstances which throw the shadow of suspicion on every honorable member here, particularly on Ministers, he who makes them should be compelled to do so in the most definite way. The honorable member was pleased, in a light and airy way, to make some very indefinite charge against myself in regard to some newspaper which he did not have the courage to name. I should be very much obliged if he would take the manly course of making that charge more definite, so that it may be met. I defy him to bring forward any charge, in relation to any business with which I have been connected, that I am unable to meet. I have every right to ask that he should make such a charge in so definite a way that it may be openly and fairly met. This continual invention of general charges that cannot be met can serve no purpose that any honorable member ought to be associated with.
– It was theLabour World, if you want to know the name.
– What is the charge? That is what I want to know.
– That you smothered it at its birth, and never allowed it to come out.
– Passing those matters which are serious enough to have the consideration of the Prime Minister when he returns to this place, I ask - What does the speech of the honorable member amount to? His attitude seems to be that somebody in Western Australia introduced a Bill that will have a bad effect, and, therefore, the Minister for Defence ought to be in this Chamber ; that the House of Lords has failed in its duty in some regard, and, therefore, the Minister for Defence ought to be in this Chamber; that people are suffering outside because of the war and the privations dependent on it, and, therefore, the Minister for Defence ought to be in this Chamber, and so on, with not a single word about the motion before us. What is this motion? It has for its object an expression of opinion on the part of the House that the Minister for Defence ought to be in this Chamber - that is the object as stated by the mover, and it is the only matter that we should discuss. I could have understood the honorable member who submitted this motion bringing some of those arguments before the Chamber when it was proposed to establish the important portfolio for repatriation, and add it to those already held in the Senate, for that will be in the not far distant future the biggest spending Department of the Commonwealth.
The fact that these attacks are being made from within the National party, and are only against those who originally associated with the Labour party, gives them an appearance that, to my mind, is exceedingly deplorable. It is almost as remarkable as the sudden change of opinion on the other side of the House, where honorable members now see in Senator Pearce all the defects of an absolutely incompetent Minister, though only a few months ago they sounded his praises as the one man who was saving the country. Personally, I am of opinion that this motion should not have been introduced at this time. No steps should be taken in Parliament, or in the country, which may have the effect of dividing those who are seeking to press on with the work of the “war. Everybody knows that this motion has no possible chance of being carried. Its only effect will be to cause dissension in ranks that ought to be united, and weaken the efforts of Ministers in their prosecution of the war. I shall vote against the motion, not only for that . reason, but . because I believe that an unprejudiced reading of the whole of the reports of the Royal Commission show that Senator Pearce has discharged an important and difficult task as well, to say the least, ‘as it could have been discharged by any other Minister. I have read with some care the recommendations of this Commission, and with regard to the general principles laid down, they are, I believe, those that should be adopted in the government of this country. However, the Parliament has not seen fit to adopt them up to date. It seems to me that the vitiating principle of the whole of the Commonwealth administration is that this Parliament will not pay the men at the head sufficient to command the services of those of sufficient calibre. The frauds which constitute so great a feature of the reports, and involve a sum of £60,000 or over, were committed by an officer in receipt of £5 or £6 a week. He had the pay of a lieutenant, and yet was given a’ responsibility which, in ordinary business, would command a salary of twice the amount. I am not pleading for the officer, but merely pointing out that this is one of the defects in Commonwealth administration.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the salary paid had any effect on the officer in inducing him to commit the frauds?
– I wish particularly to dissociate this criticism from the officer; the principle to which I object prevails throughout the Government administration, and not merely in the Defence Department. The Commonwealth Treasury has to deal with finances involving millions of pounds per year, and the business of the Commonwealth in that regard is conducted by an officer receiving 1 about £1,000 a year, or under. When he goes out to discuss the financial affairs of the Commonwealth with the managers of the banks and other institutions he has to deal with, he is meeting men who are paid three and four times as much as he is.
– He do.es it well, because he consults outside opinion. The criticism is that the heads of the Defence Department have not done that.
– Instead of the Commonwealth Treasury having at its * command an officer of the calibre of the men he has to deal with, he has to go to the experts outside to get advice as to how the Commonwealth side of the finances ought to be conducted. When we come here and criticise the financial affairs of the Commonwealth, we are very often criticising suggestions made by the people who benefit by them, as against the men in the Department who have to do the best they can for the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has been singularly for- tunate in obtaining the services of men for much less than they are worth. But in this new Department, where the Minister has been suddenly called upon to establish an organization immensely greater than that of any other Department, the Department has not been able to find at its command men who have been in the service from boyhood, and patriotic enough to stay in a service that does not remunerate them properly ; but it has pursued the same niggardly policy with regard to the payment of the men that it has called to its service. A business man who has a sudden need for a man of extra qualifications, and can give him only a short term of work, offers him a vastly increased salary, in order to tempt him to undertake the work. What has been done in the Defence Department, following the British practice, for which neither the Minister for Defence nor the Ministry as a whole can be held responsible, has been to call upon a soldier who has been sworn in to fight for his country to take on clerical work, to act as’ an accountant, or as an inspector of stores, or, as happened in the Randwick Military Hospital, as an expert in everything the hospital buys, without having any experience in any of the avenues over which he is called on to preside.
– Is that any justification for doing it?
– It is the whole justification for doing it.
– It is a very poor one.
– Gentlemen who have never had the control of more than two men in their lives may well talk about those who have to organize great enterprises as suddenly as the Defence Department has been organized. If they were fair to the men who are doing the work they would readily admit that the task Senator Pearce undertook was gigantic, and that he has carried it through with a degree of credit that ought to be acknowledged when deficiencies are being criticised. That is the opinion of the Royal Commission, but when honorable members read the report of that Commission they seem to ignore that part of it. The report is much more severe upon the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth than upon the Minister for Defence. It does not recommend that the business be carried on under present conditions, and blame Senator Pearce for not having done his work satisfactorily under those conditions. It not only suggests new schemes for the control of the Department, but says that in order that the work may be properly done it is necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to alter the laws relating to the audit of its accounts and the control of its Audit Office. Yet Senator Pearce is expected to do these things without these amendments of the law, and may still be asked to do them if Parliament declines to alter the position in which the Auditor-General finds himself.
– The report is more a condemnation of the system of audit than of the Auditor-General as an individual.
– The Commissionpractically says it would have been impossible for anybody to conduct the Pay Office of the Defence Department satisfactorily under the conditions existing to-day in the Commonwealth Audit Office, and in the other directions which are indicated.
– Does it say that action by Parliament itself is necessary before the reform of those conditions can be brought about?
-I think some of the conditions could have been altered. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) called attention to the state of affairs in the Pay Office at Sydney, to which I directed attention a year ago. I do not know why the Defence Department continues to make that a military arm of the service. The Minister for Defence may know more about the reasons for that than I do, but the conditions there bear out my statement that at the bottom of this thing is the absolutely inadequate payment of the men who are asked to do the work. I should say, as an outsider, not knowing all the facts, that what is called for at the Pay Office in Sydney is an immediate increase in the payment of the men. The Commission recommends that the whole of the servants of the Defence Department should be under the Department, and not under the Public Service Commissioner. Those men should be made civilian clerks, just as they were some time ago, and they should be paid the same wages, or better, than are paid outside, because they are in temporary employment, and if you want good men to take temporary employment you must offer them some inducement to leave permanent work outside. The Commission say that what is wanted in that office is loyal and willing service and not forced, unwilling service, evidences of which can be seen oh every hand by any one who goes to the Barracks at Paddington. I do not profess to know what is going on in Melbourne; but wherever you find men with grievances that are reasonable, such as men being asked to work, as these men in the pay office in Sydney are asked to work, three or four nights’ overtime without payment, and having every time they come back to work at night to pay something out of their own pockets to supplement the amount allowed them for tea money, you cannot expect loyal and efficient service.
– They get seven days’ pay for six days’ work.
– That arrangement does not satisfy them.
– The whole of your arguments are a reflection on the Minister in charge.
– They are; but they do not exhibit such a failure on his part as would justify us in altogether ignoring the marvellous .and wonderfully efficient services he rendered to this country at a time when the great thing was to get the men away at’ whatever cost and no matter what stood in the way. I have similar criticisms to offer in almost every Department of the Commonwealth; but I do not want changes in the Ministry. I want changes in the methods if I can get them. The Minister in charge of Defence in particular has had to look to the work that is most urgent to his hand and get that work done. When he undertook the work of organizing the despatch of the troops, he had to let everything else stand aside. We have heard complaints here openly, as well as in private conversation, of the failure of the United States of America to get her men into the firing-line. America has been doing everything in a business-like way, preparing its accountancy and its business methods and getting ready to do things, but it has not done the essential thing, which was to get the men away.
– That is a reflection upon an Ally!
– The method adopted in Australia of con centrating the whole effort of the nation on clothing, equipping, and sending the men away when they were most wanted, to the neglect of other things of less importance, was the more statesman-like policy. In our criticisms of the Defence Department we must remember that under the conditions under which the Minister has been working he cannot do all these things in the time at his disposal, and that his duty is to do the more important work and trust to the generosity and fairness of Parliament to recognise the conditions under which he works, and to refrain from a criticism that is not helpful when it goes to the lengths that this amendment would go. In fact, it seems to me grossly unfair, and an exhibition of ingratitude to a man who has given good service to the Commonwealth under conditions of the greatest difficulty during the past three or four years.
– The Prime Minister this afternoon said that the member for South Sydney should say a word on behalf of the industry of manufacturing wool tops in his electorate. I am not personally interested in the manufacture of wool tops, but I am interested in seeing that the industry is kept going. I do not want to see anything done that will injure it, but I am not going to champion it, because I do not know the facts of the case that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has brought forward. I do not profess to know anything about the financial arrangements of Mr. F. W. Hughes or of the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company, but I interested, myself in having the industry established, and I am very pleased that it is established. I believe it is one step towards the complete manufacture in Australia of our wool production. I hope that, whatever inquiries are held, that industry will not suffer by any action taken in this House. I cannot see how the industry can have such a monopoly and, at the same time, pay such poor wages to the employees. I believe these are the worst-paid employees in and around Sydney.
– J. C. Watson!
– I mention no names. During the last industrial strike, when a dispute took place in the industry, a notice was posted up in the factory - I do not know who the author was that no man would he re-employed unless he signed an agreement not to belong to any trade union except a union to which, the employer would give his sanction. I cannot stand behind any employer ot any industry that wants to take away the individual liberty of employees to belong to any union they like. Mr. Beeby, Minister for Labour in the State Government, had to interfere to have the case brought before the Court, and the Judge said he never heard ot saw so drastic a regulation posted up in any works. He disallowed it, and the, men went back to work. There is a bitter feeling amongst the employees towards Ihe firm on account of that notice, and that is one reason why I am not speaking on behalf of Mar. F. W. Hughes or any one else concerned- in the company, because no industry is worth having in our midst that would deprive its employees of their rights as free citizens. At the same time, I do not want to see the industry set on one side.
– Are the employees working under an award?
– They were, and the employers applied for the cancellation of that award. This is regarded as another injustice.
– Is the award operating to-day?
– Yes; but the employers tried to get it cancelled. Honorable members will understand, therefore, why I am not enthusiastic about the company, and why the employees are not whole-heartedly supporting their employers in this case.
As the question before the Committee is’ Supply, I wish to speak about matters relating to one or two other Departments than that of Defence. The present Treasurer was previously in charge of the Department of Works and Railways, when the Finance Committee brought in a report with regard to the more economic working of the Navy Department. In it, they recommended that the Navy Construction Branch should be transferred to the Works Department. That has been done, but there has been no saving effected, because there has been no reduction of staff, “the branch being kept, as hitherto, quite separate . from other similar branches of the Department, and in many instances there has been an increase in pay. The members of the Finance Committee thought that one staff would be sufficient for the public works of this country, but the Navy Construction Branch is installed at the Customs House, Building in Sydney, with Mr. Swan in charge of the staff. . At the present time not many public works are being constructed, and there should be some saving.
– Would the honorable member suggest the reduction of the Minister’s allowance?
– I do not believe in cutting down salaries, but I am opposed to waste. Mr. Watt went to Lithgow, and there received a deputation, to which he made the promise that houses should be constructed for the accommodation of the work people employed at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. But Parliament has not been told what area of land is to be, or has been, bought, what has been paid for it, or what the houses have cost. And there has been no reference to the Public Works Committee - the body appointed by Act to investigate proposals of this kind.
– The factory should be at the Federal Capital.
– I agree with the honorable member. Since the war began, or, at any rate, until quite recently, the rifles turned out by the Lithgow Factory have had to be altered, because the British have adopted a weapon equipped with a stronger breachblock. What business man would keep a factory working three shifts, and employing so many men as to make it necessary to build houses for their accommodation, when the rifles turned out had each of them to be altered?
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be but one shift?
– If there is not the machinery there to make a rifle complete, we should not increase the number of shifts. Then, again, we have the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, with a staff costing the country about £3,000 a year, although no public works are being carried out at the Federal Capital, and there is the ordinary staff of the Works Department as well. There should not be two staffs. As to the contention that the Minister for
Defence should be a member of the House of Representatives, I wish to say that the country has reason to be thankful that, ever since the war began, it has had at the head of the Defence Department a man under whom there has been no scandal, such as the existence of graft. None of us doubts Senator Pearce’s sincerity and honesty. But the feeling is growing that he has given the best of bis powers.
– Outlived his usefulness.
– I do not say that. I believe, however, that a change in the administration of the Defence Department would be beneficial, and would stimulate recruiting. Were Senator Pearce to become ill, or to die, some one else would have to be chosen to fill his place, and I do not see, therefore, that a change could not be made. The Ministry ought not to regard the amendment as a motion of censure. The Committee has a right to express its opinion on a matter like this. After the reports that have been published, Senator Pearce should have asked to resign from the Cabinet. Had he done so, I believe that the country would have approved of his conduct. A large section of the community has. lost faith in the administration of the Defence Department. To all the complaints that are made, the officials of the Department furnish the stereotyped answer, “We are sorry that, after due consideration, we cannot comply with your request.” But there is no investigation of complaints. I cannot get redress for a boy under the age of twenty-one, who, for being absent without leave in France, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
– Absent from the firing line, I suppose.
– We can get no particulars.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
.- I would not have spoken on this amendment were it not for the fact that the action of the Central Wool Committee in connexion with the wool-top agreement has been again brought forward by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). Whilst the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has dealt very exhaustively and completely with the actions of the Central Committee, I think it would he well to supplement his remarks from the point of view of the committee itself. On Friday, when the honorable member for Capricornia again referred to this question, I was ill in bed, and I have not been able to ascertain what he said. I did, however, hear the honorable member’s remarks this morning, and, as I understandhim, he implies - and apparently the idea finds some favour with members on the Opposition side - that there is something in connexion with the wool-tops agreement made between the Central Wool Committee, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company which requires investigation by a Royal Commission. I am no judge of the etiquette which determines whether a question does or does not demand investigation by a Royal Commission, but if any one supports the view that a Royal Commission should inquire into this matter, I should like to ask, in the first place, In regard to whose actions is the inquiry proposed ? Is it suggested that the investigation shall be into the actions of the Central Committee or into the actions of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, of which Mr. F. W. Hughes is the managing director?
– The idea is to inquire into the wisdom and propriety of entering into the agreement and the bona fides of certain persons interested in the contract.
– I take it that by implication it is suggested that the action of the Central Wool Committee in entering into the contract for the sale of tops justifies the appointment of a Royal Commission.
– The suggestion is that the Committee were unwise.
– Then no reflection is cast upon the honesty or bona fides of the Central Wool Committee?
– But it is the opinion of at least one honorable member of this House that a Royal Commission should inquire into the action of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, with which the Central Wool Committee made a contract. If it is considered advisable to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the origin, history, and bona fides of that company and the firm which preceded it, this
House had better make up its mind to appoint two or three thousand Royal Commissions, because, so far as I know, there is nothing singular or unique in the history of that company or its managing director that would not apply to thousands of other firms now in existence in the Commonwealth.
– That only proves that we require a Commonwealth Companies Act.
-With that contention I am in full agreement, but that is not the point. The suggestion is that there is something sinister in the connexion between the Central Wool Committee, Mr. J. C. Watson, Mr. F. W. Hughes, and even the Prime Minister, in connexion with this wool-tops contract. If any honorable member holds that view, let him come forward now and make some statement to that effect. In January, the honorable member for Capricornia raised this question, and I replied to him, and I was under the impression that I had completely answered every charge which he made at that time. Again the matter has been brought forward, but no direct charge has been made against the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, Mr. J. C. Watson, or Mr. F. W. Hughes. There is nothing but suspicion and innuendo. If there is any charge against the Central WoolCommittee,I shall be here to answer it at any time, but until some definite charge is made against the committee, or in regard to its connexion with Mr. F. W. Hughes, these innuendoes should cease.
-Will the honorable member say why Japan is not allowed to get greasy and scoured wool?
Mr.JOWETT.- I have stated the reason before. Indeed, it is obvious. At the end of November, 1916, the Imperial Government purchased every pound of wool in Australia, and from that day tb this every pound of wool has been the property of the Imperial Government. The Central Wool Committee was formed as the organization to carry out the administration of that purchase, and from that moment until now we have acted in the matter of sending wool abroad solely under the explicit directions of the Imperial Government.
– Does the honorable member think it right to exclude Japan from the purchase of scoured and greasy wool?
– That is not a question that should be put to me. I am not here to justify or to criticise anything that the Imperial Government has done. I consider that there is no bad feeling between the Japanese and British Governments in regard to . the wool tops question. The Imperial Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary that they should control the whole of the wool supply from Australia. The wool-growers agreed to that proposition without a moment’s hesitation. The Imperial Government took that action, not because they wanted to prevent any one of the Allies from getting Australian wool, but because they considered that, in the best interests of the Empire and the Allies, the wool should be rationed out to the various countries requiring it in something like due proportion to their needs. In the exercise of their wisdom or folly - I consider it wisdom - the Imperial Government has said to us, “You shall or you shall not send to Japan so many bales of the wool which we have purchased.” That is a complete and satisfactory explanation of any refusal to allow wool to go to Japan.
– Does not that make Japan pay more for wool tops than otherwise it would pay?
– I am glad the honorable member has asked that question. It is quite true that the Central Wool Committee has been the means of fixing by negotiation the prices which Japan shall pay for wool tops manufactured by the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and Whiddon Brothers. That price, of course, is very high. But what guided us in fixing that price was this: The Imperial Government having purchased our wool at a certain price, it is under agreement with the woolgrowers of Australia that for any wool sold by it to the people of the various Allied countries for civilian purposes, the Government, which owns the wool, shall fix the price by negotiation. If there is any profit on such sales over the purchase price paidto the Australian wool-growers, 50 per cent. of that profit is paid back to us. Much of the wool sold by the Imperial Government to the people of the Allied countries is sold at a very much higher price than is being paid to the Australian woolgrowers. We are perfectly content with that arrangement. I consider it quite fair.
Perhaps honorable members will excuse me if I explain that tops are wool which is half manufactured and ready for spinning, which is the stage preliminary to weaving. To understand the high price fixed bythe Central Wool Committee for Australian tops, honorable members should know that in Japan there are firms which spin, and others which spin and weave. Others, again, buy the wool in the raw condition, and themselves card and comb it. Having regard to the fact that the people in J apan who buy the wool in the raw state have to pay 60, 70, and even 80 per cent. more than the price paid to the Australian wool-grower, it would be absurd to allow a man in Japan or any other country who buys tops only, and immediately spins it into yarn, to buy those tops at prices so low that they would leave only an ordinary profit to the top-maker in Australia, who gets his wool at the fixed price of 15½d. If the Australian top-makers had been able to export the tops of Australia at low prices, some one would have had an advantage over the Australian woolgrower of 50 or 60 per cent., and the Japanese spinners who bought those tops would have had an advantage over every other spinner and manufacturer in Japan or elsewhere. Therefore, it was necessary that the price of tops sold in Japan should be fixed by the Central Wool Committee.
I come now to another point. I take exception to a letter appearing in this morning’s Argus above the signature of my honorable friend the member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). He referred to statements I had made here in January last to the effect that the Central Wool Committee waa approached on the question of tops. He
Bays, “Who did the approaching?” There seems to be in that question an implication that some body illegitimately, surreptitiously, or in some unfair and underhand manner, approached us or got at us.
– I did not think that was intended.
– Who Went to the Committee and pointed out what a valuable proposition this was?
– That I wish to make clear. As is known to every honorable member, after that purchase had been made by the Imperial Government, no wool, either raw or partly manufactured, could be exported without the consent of the Commonwealth Government. Contracts for making tops entered into by the two firms had expired. They wished to make a new contract. Before they could do that they had to’ obtain the consent of the Commonwealth Government to export those tops; and before that consent could be given, the approval of the Central Wool Committee had to be obtained. That was the way we were “ approached.” It may be that in the hurry of debate I used a word which, if I had thought it would have made such an impression on the mind of the honorable member for Capricornia, I would not have employed. There was nothing illegitimate or underhand in the way the matter came before the Wool Committee. It was an application to allow the export of tops to Japan, and we were the body to whom the Government looked for approval with regard to the contract.
– You have not said who made the application.
– As far as I know, it was made by the Colonial Wool Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and by Messrs. Whiddon Bros. They were the only two people concerned. No doubt the managing director of the Colonial Wool Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company is Mr. F. W. Hughes - a man of very great business capacity.
– And a big monopolist, too.
– A man who has done more in the way of establishing an industry, which some people call an exotic industry, than any other person; and I am sure that no one could speak more freely as to that than the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley).
– Good work has been done by Mr. F. W. Hughes.
– That is so, and with his own brains, enterprise, and energy. And it is a pity we have not thousands more in Australia like Mr. F. W. Hughes. The honorable member for South Sydney
will, I am sure, support me in that statement.
– Much has been said about the paid-up capital of the Colonial Wool Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. When this matter came before the Central Wool Committee, and before we would give approval to the export of tops, we had to’ have a say in the contract. We felt it our duty to make the closest possible investigation of the position of this firm. We employed a gentleman whom I consider one of the very ablest accountants in Australia - Mr. Allard, of Sydney, whose reputation stands second to none.
– They cannot say anything about him.
– They cannot say anything about anybody in this matter. I hope, before resuming my seat, to remove from the mind of the honorable member for Capricornia the remotest vestige of suspicion. Mr. Allard made an exhaustive investigation into the affairs of the company. It is quite true that it has what honorable members would call a paid-up share capital of, I think, £5,008. But I need not remind honorable members, all of whom have had more or less considerable business experience, that .the paid-up share capital of a company bears no necessary relation to the actual capital belonging to the shareholders in that company. I recall my own early days when, after ‘years of hard work in saving money, I was able to commence in a very small way. My paid-up capital was £59, with which I opened a banking account. That was thirty-six years ago. In those days, by the way, a man was not usually allowed to open a banking account unless he had a pretty substantial amount. Suppose I had said, “ I will start, with at least £100”; and I had taken several friends in and made (up that paid-up capital to £100, forming myself into a limited ‘ liability company. Suppose, further, that I had earned £100 during the first year; that would have been 100 per cent. If I had earned £5,000 in five years, what would that have been? Many thousands of successful men have done that. They have started with very small capital; built it up year by year by the exercise of their business faculties, and without having spent all their profits.
Now, if instead of it being a private concern it had been a public company, they would have been doing just exactly as Mr. F. W. Hughes has done. He formed his company with a paid-up capital of £5,000, by the exercise of business ability and brains, and in the face of competition against all the wool buyers in Australia and of the top makers of the world. He built up a great and successful manufacturing industry at Botany. He did not waste his substance. His profits were left to the credit of profit and loss.
– Of course, he had a good bonus from the Commonwealth.
– It is not for any of us to reproach him for having had a bonus for establishing that industry. He well deserved it.
– Yes. I am merely pointing it out.
– It is in connexion with this paid-up share capital of £5,000 that all this colossal atmosphere of suspicion has been created. There is nothing improper in a man having a small paid-up share capital, and in having a very large sum of undivided’ profit to the credit of his shareholders. That becomes the capital of the shareholders. As a result of Mr. Allard’s exhaustive inquiry the position was shown to be this: There was a paid-up share capital of £5,008. There were, in addition, undistributed profits of £108,000. Those are, obviously, the savings made in the ten or twelve years - or whatever the period was - when Mr. F. W. Hughes was enjoying the benefits of the bonus, and, at the same time, competing against the whole world. In addition, there was a sum of £100,000, by which it appears that, in order to cover contingencies, portion of the liquid assets were written down. In reality, there was in undistributed profits £208,000. That means that the shareholders’ capital twelve months ago was about £213,000. That is quite irrespective of the fact that the paid-up share capital was only £5,000. There was nothing improper ot illegitimate about it. There may have been something unusual in it.
– It is done every day in the week.
– How do you reconcile those figures with others given to the Committee ?
– I have now accounted for £213,000. In addition, the company had a debenture issue. This, apparently, consisted of debentures taken up by friends of the company and consisting of a debenture issue of £178,000. They had the right to convert their debentures into shares.
– Were not those debentures taken up by shareholders in F. W. Hughes Limited?
– Some may have been ; some may not have been. When a com-pany requires further capital, and it does not want to increase the number of its shares, perhaps it says, “ We must have a debenture issue.” This is allocated pro rat& according to the number of shares held. No one knows better than the honorable member for Capricornia that debentures are very frequently taken up by shareholders; and, probably, it was the same here. We have now the total of about £400,000 which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) inquired about. As a matter of fact, it was £391,700. That was the capital - share and debenture - which was sunk in this business when we came to deal with the contract. There was more than that involved. Honorable members have to consider, in addition, the total funds employed by the company in this business. There was their share and debenture capital, amounting to about £400,000. Besides that, they had other debentures due to one of the banks, and very large trade creditors. As a matter of fact, at the end of August last year, the close of the accounting period for this particular contract, they had a capital of £618,000 - the total funds engaged in that business. That is established by Mr. Allard.
I have endeavoured to show clearly how it was that there was a large profit in connexion with this contract because, obviously, an infinitely higher price had to be paid by the Japanese buyers of tops so that they might be placed on the same level as those who bought raw wool from the Imperial Government, to whom they would certainly be asked to pay a much higher price.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank honorable members very deeply for their kind consideration. The net profits for six months, working three shifts and pushing the ma chinery to its possible limits, were £96,000, which I -do not consider an undue amount for a working capital of £618,000, on which interest had to be earned. To show how precarious such profits are, I may state that almost immediately after this period a strike took place. Whatever honorable members may think” about that strike, I hope they will not blame the members of the Central Wool Committee for it. As a consequence of the strike, the work was held up.
– What proportion of the £96,000 does the Commonwealth Government take?
– I was coming to that point, and was going to put it in another way, but in order to give a plain answer now, I may say that the Commonwealth Government got at least £64,000 of that £96,000, and they may get more. I wish we had 10,000 establishments from which the Commonwealth Government could make such profits.
– Do the wool-growers agree that the Commonwealth Government should get those profits out of their wool?
– That raises another point, with which I shall not deal just now. I give the honorable member credit for having the most honorable motives in bringing forward this matter. I have to say the same in regard to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and others who still believe that a Royal Commission should be appointed, to inquire into this transaction, but I can assure them that they are under the gravest misapprehension with regard to the real facts. The agreement concerning the distribution of the profits provided, first of all, that a licence fee of 50 per cent, of the net profits should be paid to the Commonwealth Government. For the six months that licence fee amounted to £48,000. At the time the agreement was made it was anticipated that the Commonwealth Government would enact a war-time profits tax- the Bill had riot been passed then - and in order to guard against what any one might imagine would be excessive profits, the stipulation was made that in no case should the company retain more than one-third of its total net profits. That is how the Commonwealth Government came to get £64,000.
– If £96,000 was the net profit for six months, how much of the £618,000 represented accumulated profits 1
– I am not in a position togive the honorable member that information.
– Would £400,000 be near the mark ?
– No. The question has been asked: Has the Commonwealth Government benefited by these profits? There is lying at the Commonwealth Bank to the credit of the Commonwealth Government the sum of £61,000, which has already been paid in cash. In addition, there is a further sum of £59,000, for which the Central Wool Committee hold storage warrants for wool and other products. Considering the enormous liabilities which these wool top manufacturers have had to incur owing to various de- lays, and the colossal purchases of wool and other materials, which it was necessary for them to make in order to carry on their huge operations - the total amount of the contract for the production of wool tops and noils was £621,000, and it was necessary to purchase many months’ supply of wool ahead - it was only fair that we should meet the contractors in that regard. Therefore, we have taken from Whiddon Brothers and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company storage warrants as security for the £51,000 that is to come from them.
– A large quantity of their wool is obtained fromsheep skins.
– That is so. Much has been said with regard to Mr. E. W. Hughes’ operations in sheep skins and in the meat market. I do not wish to weary the Committee with details, but the people who make wool tops find a great advantage in using wool « pulled from sheep skins instead of ordinary wool, because the wool from sheep skins is not cut. In order to enable him to obtain these sheep skins, Mr. F. W. Hughes, a man of very great brain power and business capacity, found it advantageous to commence a large business as a wholesale carcass butcher. Do honorable members know from what quarter the enmity to Mr. F. W. Hughes comes, and from what direction the charges against him are made? They come from the carcass butchers, who complain that he undersells them. Because of the tremendous advantage he enjoys in being able to manufacture wool tops out of wool from sheep skins, he is able to go into the market, as they allege, and give a higher price to the growers for live sheep, and to sell meat wholesale to the retail butchers of Melbourne and Sydney at a lower price than that which is charged by those carcass butchers.
Mr.Considine. - And I suppose he claims that he is a public benefactor.
– No doubt he is. I am not here to justify what hehas done, but there is no doubt that the man who has created such a concern and carried it on in such a fashion that he can make something by buying sheep because he is able to outbid others, and by selling meat at a lower price than others can, is doing some good for the public generally.
Mr.Fenton. - Do the consumers get the benefitofthe cheaper meat?
– If the consumers do not get the benefit of cheaper meat, itis not his fault nor the fault of the Central Wool Committee.
Mr.Considine. - Is there any connexion between the company that buys that cheap meat and the wool top company?
– Obviously there is a connexion, because the process is a continuous one from the fellmongery to the combing machines.
– Mr. F. W. Hughes is not interested in the firm that buys the meat.
– I am not prepared to say that.
Although I have dealt very inadequately with this question in the short space of time available to me, and I am deeply indebted to the Committee for having granted me an extension of time, I will not abuse their generosity by speaking further, except to say something in reply to those who have inferred that the Central Wool Committee should have made all sorts of inquiries concerning the past history of Mr. F. W. Hughes.
– We do not infer that, hut you should have advertised the concession.
– The position was quite a simple one. There were only three firms who could make wool tops, and itwas ascertained that one of those - a Sydney firm - did not want this contract. Therefore, there were only two firms in the whole of Australia who were making wool tops for Japan, and who could be concerned in the matter to the slightest degree. In those circumstances it would have been most childish or futile to advertise the concession. There have been references to the former relations of Mr. 3?. W. Hughes with various people to whom he had offered shares. References have also been made to other matters of that kind. The Central Wool Committee did not sit as an inquisition to inquire into the past history or financial operations of any of the firms with whom we had to have dealings. All we had to consider was the ability of those firms to carry out the contract whch we were asked to approve of. The members of that Wool Committee were honest, capable business men, who investigated the matter thoroughly and completely, and in approving of and practically arranging these contracts for the manufacture of wool tops and their sale to Japan they did a great service, not only to the wool-growers of Australia, but also to the whole of the people of Australia.
– The special feature of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), which is now before the Committee, and, indeed, its declared purpose, is to procure that the portfolio of Minister for Defence should be held by one sitting in this Chamber instead of in another place. I think every honorable member is in agreement with that objective. There has been no attempt, and certainly no intention, to make this debate a personal attack on Senator Pearce, but the action of the Government in treating the amendment as one of want of confidence will compel certain honorable members sitting on the Government side to vote against a proposal which they favour - a proposal which is approved by every member of the House - because to vote against it in ordinary circumstances would be to declare that the Minister for Defence should not be in this House.
– Did the honorable member ever find himself in the position in which he had to choose between two evils ?
– Very often, and I always found in such cases that it was good advice to choose the lesser evil. But no matter what may be the merits or demerits of any question before the House the one thing which in the minds of honorable members on the other side must be avoided at all costs is that the Labour party should obtain possession of the Treasury benches. I would say that even if the amendment had been directed against the Minister for Defence in his administrative capacity, it would have been eminently justified, because the administration of the Defence Department by the present occupant of the office is not satisfactory to the House. No one for a moment disputes the intense industry and close attention to duty exhibited by Senator Pearce. He has been Minister for Defence continuously now for eight years. I believe to-day, as I have believed from my first acquaintance with him, that he is a highly conscientious man, who earnestly and zealously tries to do what he believes to be right in the interests of the country. But in saying that I may be allowed to express the opinion that it is possible for a man to attempt to do too much. If I were criticising Senator Pearce in connexion with the work in the Defence Department I should do so regretfully, because I think that his administrative deficiencies are owing to the fact that he tries to do too much, and has not the capacity to distribute the work of his office. He carries a much heavier load than he should, with the inevitable result that the work is not well done. Honorable members are aware that not long since, when the Labour party were in power, they divided the Defence Department into two Departments, and Senator Pearce became Minister for Defence, while Mr. Jensen became Minister for the Navy. It is also well known that even then Senator Pearce attempted to make the Navy Department a subDepartment of the Defence Department.
– As it should be.
– I think that the two are entirely distinct and easily separated.
Honorable members opposite need not be under any misapprehension as to the way in which the. work done by Senator Pearce is appreciated by honorable members on this side. The value of the work of the Labour party during the years 1910, 1911, 1912, and 1913, when Senator Pearce was Minister for Defence, was recognised by the Imperial Government and by all authorities as having achieved splendid results. I remember that the London Times, in making reference to it said -
The Commonwealth Labour Government’s fresh naval proposals, as outlined in Mr. Andrew Fisher’s policy speech at Maryborough on Monday, came as quite a splendid surprise to the British public. It was officially stated to-day that the announcement fairly astonished and delighted the Imperial authorities, who had never expected that Australia would embark on such a spirited policy of naval construction. Several British newspapers to-day publish congratulatory articles on the announcement, and it was remarked that Mr. Fisher’s promises would serve to develop the already great interest being displayed in the coming Federal election.
-When was that statement published ?
– In 1913.
– Those were the years upon which the Commission have commented.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The report of the Royal Commission in regard to the Defence Department does not deal with those three years, but with subsequent years. I may remind honorable members that the same newspaper, the London Times, referred to the Minister for Defence of the Fusion Government, Senator Millen, in 1913-14 in the following terms : -
The Minister for Defence, falling an easy prey to a few disaffected officials, hastily suspended work at Port Jackson and Cockburn Sound, reversed the last Minister’s decisions . . adopted from his -unfortunately-chosen confidantes vague charges about the inexcusable extravagance of the existing regime, and has ever since dangerously hampered the Defence administration by attempting, hitherto unsuccessfully, to discover justification for the charges so carelessly made.
– Does the honorable member know that the representative of the Times in Australia at the time the complimentary references he has quoted were published was a Labour “barracker “ ?
– Let me remind honorable members opposite of what the present Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Watt) said at Geelong in 1913 on the same subject -
At different times he had criticised the doings of the Federal Ministry, but whether it haddone well or ill with regard to industrial and financial matters, there stood to its everlasting credit the fact that the defence problem had been faced and met. As a Liberal, he did not take any notice of those who claim that the defence scheme was the product of
Liberal thought. He did not care who originated it, butthe people who had been sufficiently game to put it into practice deserved their full share of credit.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), who is now Assistant Minister for Defence, also made a speech, in which he said Senator Pearce was the one Minister for Defence that Australia had ever had who had the courage to tackle Australia’s problem. I quote the references to show that I have no desire to belittle the work of Senator Pearce. His work in the Department of Defence will always redound to his credit, and be remembered in his favour. But that does not blind me to the fact that, in trying to do too much, and overloading himself with work, he has prevented the coun- try from obtaining the best return from the money spent on the Department.
– He is relieved of a great deal of work now.
– These death-bed repentances arc very well in their way, and I have never denied their virtue; but the point is that, from my knowledge of Senator Pearce, not only in the Parliamenr, but also in the Labour party, I am able to say that every reform has virtually to be dragged from him. The appointment of the Board, and the improvement suggested by the interjection of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) were results only of continued agitation in this House, which compelled the Department to do something in order to save its face.
A particular feature of the debate has been the remarkable admission of political progress by the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook), who last week championed the cause of Senator Pearce, whilst we know that, at one time, there was no more vigorous critic of the honorable senator’s administration of the Defence Department. I recall that, during my short experience in this House, the right honorable member has been most vigorous in his denunciation of the extravagance and waste which, he said, was exhibited in the administration of the Defence Department. He made a feature of that in his policy speech delivered on the 15th July, 1914, at Parramatta. In the course of that speech he said -
The increasing cost of defence calls for close scrutiny, though it is well to remember that this is materially enlarged by items of official expenditure not allowed for in Lord Kitchener’s estimates. The Government has given evidence of its intention to secure economy, so far as it is compatible with efficiency, by its careful supervision of the defence expenditure during the past year.
With a view, to the introduction of improved business methods in the administration - as distinct from purely military training - <>f the Defence Force, effect will be given .to the recommendations of General Sir Ian Hamilton. The result will be to relieve military officers of a mass of extraneous’ work, and leave them free to devote themselves to their proper duty of training the troops under their command, while the business of supplying the needs of the Army will be intrusted to others with business qualification and specially trained for the purpose. By this reform it is confidently anticipated that material economy and increased efficiency will be secured
That was the opinion of the present Minister for the Navy in 1914, and that was the policy he put before the country. But that policy seems to have been quite overlooked when he went out of office, and even since his return to the Government, when he has had an opportunity to put that policy into force in his own Department of the Navy, there has been no indication that it is still an article of faith with him. On the contrary, the reform has had to be forced upon the present Government, who have now appointed a business Board.
In the policy speech by the present Government submitted last week, we have the statement made that a Council of Defence has been formed, including two members of. the recently appointed Business Board. One recalls with a good deal of amazement the attitude previously taken up by the Minister for the Navy in regard to these matters. In the course of his speech last week, and by interjection when the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) was speaking, the right hon or able gentleman suggested that the matters we are discussing now are rather overshadowed by what is going on in France. The honorable member for Henty very pertinently replied that what was going on in France at the present time supplied sufficient justification for the proposal he submit! rd to the Committee. The position in France is so grave that none of us can put it out of his mind, day or night. It is the one haunting fear of our lives. It supplies the very reason why we should, more determinedly than ever before, endeavour to secure the utmost efficiency in this vital branch of our operations in Australia. The present
Minister for the Navy, in his manifesto as Prime Minister in 1914, said -
Out race has always been characterized by self-control, even in times of the greatest national stress, and I feel that Australians can demonstrate to the other nations of the world that, even in this Empire crisis, we can soberly and dispassionately exercise to the full our capacity for self-government. -
I agree with that, and I say that, without minimizing our grave concern about the events transpiring in Europe to-day, I believe we may properly devote ourselves to the consideration of how we may make the defence machine as efficient as possible.
I think that Senator Pearce has been too long at the Defence Department. I believe that he sees everything through military spectacles, and he is largely in the grip of the military machine. If, however, it were suggested that Senator Pearce should be relieved of his position as a Minister, I do not think the honorable member for Henty would have submitted such a proposition, or, if he had done so, that he would get support for it. The only suggestion is that the Minister for Defence should be in this House, and the honorable member who submitted the amendment was too modest to suggest a possible successor to the present Minister. I make bold to say that the Ministry have greatly increased in their power, and I think considerably in their administrative quality, by the inclusion of. the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) as Assistant Minister for Defence, and I do not know any better man for the position of Minister for Defence. We remember that that honorable gentleman was one of the most severe critics of the ad’ ministration of the Department, particu-. larly in regard to the pension scheme; and he could approach the Department of Defence, not from the military standpoint, but from the civilian stand-point. What we require is not that the country should be at the disposal of the military machine, but that the Defence Department should understand that it is at the service of the country - and not that the country is at its service. Unfortunately, the position of Australia to-day is that the military rule the country, in-N stead of the country using the defence machinery for its protection and security.
The Minister for the Navy had a very different opinion years ago from that which he has expressed during this debate. It is a delightful experience to hear him express the hope that honorable members will not put any limit whatever on naval expenditure, as the one direction in which we must be generous to the fullest possible extent. That is a most gratifying admission of improvement.
– Every Minister speaks like that of his Department.
– It is true of the Navy. Just notice the pilgrim’s progress of the right honorable gentleman. I think that this debate in years to come will be quoted as exhibiting proofs of his conversion. In1909 the Minister for the Navy said - our duty is to offer a Dreadnought and give a greater subsidy to the Old Country. We are hearing much about “ nailing our colours to the mast.” Well, I nail my flag once and for all to an increased subsidy.
The Daily Telegraph, in commenting favorably on that speech of the right honorable gentleman, said -
The issue is whether the Commonwealth shall render substantial assistance to the cause of English sca supremacy, or whether it should concentrate its resources upon an attempt to build an Australian Navy. . . . It can he conclusively shown that there is no possibility of Australia being able to construct and man a Navy strong enough to resist even the weakest of the Navies of the Powers.
– The two Navies are practically amalgamated, and you do, not know where your own warships are.
– I am not anxious to know, because I believe that what Mr. Fisher told the Minister for the Navy at the launching of the Brisbane is true today, namely, that the ships are where thev ought to be. Not only does the Minister for the Navy exhibit a considerable change in his’ attitude towards naval expenditure, but the ex-Treasurer, Lord Forrest, in 1903, said -
I do not think it is advisable that we should’ have an Australian Navy, and, although it may come in the future, I do not desire it should come in my time.
What changes we are seeing ! It will be remembered how the honorable member for Lang (Mr. w. Elliot Johnson), our present Speaker, saidin 1909 -
We should watch very carefully the movement for a development of a purely Australian Navy, to be controlled independently of the British Fleet, in Australian waters, for, apart from the question of the enormous expense involved, and the certain increase of taxation, there was a certain section of this community who encouraged this development, because they hated and decried the British connexion, and cherished the notion that at some distant date the Navy of an Australian Republic would be turned against the British Fleet in Australian waters.
Then where do we find the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) ? That gentleman, in 1904, said -
An Australian Navy would be of no service whatever to the people for defence purposes . . the only means open to us of protecting Australia from invasion overseas is to contribute, and to contribute largely, to the Imperial Navy.
However, I do not wish to belabour these old ghosts; indeed, I rather rejoice in the conversion of the honorable gentlemen. I give the Minister for the Navy every credit for the fact that he has arrived at a time in his history when he believes in an Australian Navy, and is prepared heartily to support and extend it. The right honorable gentleman has also improved considerably in other directions. In regard to defence generally he has shown a remarkable progress in his political education. He was the one man of all themen in the old Liberal party who denounced most emphatically the compulsary training of our boys for defence purposes. I make bold to say that, whatever faults or shortcomings there may be in the universal system adopted in Australia, it provided us, in the early stages of the war, with a supply of young men who had a sound military training which was eminently useful to them for war purposes. The fact remains that the Minister for the Navy, and honorable members opposite, were at one time particularly prominent in their opposition to t very scheme, whereas they now approve of it.
There is another point on which the Minister for the Navy and his friends show a remarkable change, on which I desire to congratulate them. They now talk about a Business Board. A few years ago - a very few years ago - when the Labour party, then in power, started woollen, harness, clothing, and other factories, honorable members now on the Government side were ite strongest opponents, whereas now they are enthusiastic supporters of these schemes. Indeed, the Minister for the Navy goes so far as to say that they are the “one bright spot” in the “whole sorry business,” and he most approvingly quotes the eulogistic references of the Roval Commission to their success. It is really remarkable that the man who’ was the champion of private enterprise, and denounced anything in the shape of Government enterprise, should now be the one to approve of these industrial ventures.
– It is accounted for by the good company he isin!
– Then are we to imagine that it is to the leaven of the Labour party, or those who were once of the Labour party, that this improvement is due? If so, we may anticipate some strange happenings to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith). There may still be hope of his approving of Labour proposals, and withdrawing that strange remark of his that ‘ ‘ the hoof of Labour will never enter this room.”
– I never used such an expression in my life.
– I have heard the expression credited to the honorable member.
– Then you now hear it withdrawn.
– And I hope the honorable member is thankful to me for giving him the opportunity to deny it.
– I do not depend on that ; I have a great margin of respectability.
– I hope it is not the respectability which, unfortunately, is too common to-day, that can be put off or put on according to varying circumstances. However, we have the Minister for the Navy, speaking on behalf of the Government, and applauding those very things he previously denounced so vigorously. I am delighted to know that he has got his eyes opened - that the company of the men who have split from the true faith has had that effect on him - and one may hope for greater things in the future.
The Minister for the Navy suggests that everything will be all right in the future ; that, while it is true extravagance has been rife, and waste unfortunately too common in the Department, all that is now done with. We are told that a Board is to be appointed, and a Council of Defence formed, and that expenditure will be the subject of the closest scrutiny. But what do we find 1 This same Government has issued a regulation, dated 25th October, 1917, in which they deliberately exempt from inquiry by the Committee appointed by this House, to protect the country against waste in the public ad ministration, such important undertakings as naval magazines, oil fuel storage tanks and depots, water supply and water storage, all works and buildings in connexion with submarine bases, torpedo stores and workshops, naval barracks, naval training schools, naval stores, buildings, dry-dock pumping stations, electric-generation stations, dredging of approach channels to Naval Bases, and wireless installations. The only justification for any exemptions in regard to naval or military expenditure is the necessity for preserving secrecy; and no member of this House would object for one moment to matters requiring secret attention being exempted from inquiry by the Public Works Committee. We must lay on the Government certain responsibilities - that is unquestioned -but who can suggest for a moment that it is not necessary to inquire into such works as are exempted by the regulation? The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) pointed out, in unmistakable and incontrovertible terms, that there is an amount of waste and worse than useless expenditure - expenditure that cannot be justified under any circumstances - along the very lines suggested by the list of exemptions I have read. Yet the Minister for the Navy tells us that it will be all right - that the same officers, same Boards, and same Department are going to have charge. We have no guarantee under any circumstances that the waste will be curtailed in the future any more than in the past.
– But bringing the Minister for Defence into this House will not help very much in that.
– But it will, at any rate, guarantee that we shall be able to deal first hand with the Minister, and get immediate replies to our questions, instead of receiving the formal intimation that “ the matter will be attended to “ or will be “ referred to the Minister,” and the inquiring member advised later. Here is a Department that is spending, at least, about £80,000,000 a year; the heaviest spending Department we have.
– Its expenditure is four times as heavy as that of all the other Departments put together.
– I am glad to have that information. It shows that, if we are to accept the basic principle that is accepted by the House of Commons, namely, that this is the people’s House, and as the custodian of the public purse is expected to protect the public in the expenditure of public money, this Department, more than any other, ought to be a continual subject of inquiry and attention here.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is owing to the bitter attack that has been made on Senator Pearce as Minister for Defence that I propose to say a few words. I have been associated with Senator Pearce for a long time, and I can indorse every word that has fallen from the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) in praise of the Minister. Senator Pearce, ever, since I entered Parliament, has been one of the leading men in the administrative affairs of the country. During the time I was a member of the old Labour party he was on every occasion elected unanimously to the office he holds.
– Not unanimously.
– He never once went to a second ballot.
– That is not unanimously.
– Further, during the time that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was in England, Senator Pearce acted for him here, and there was no complaint at the way in which he carried out the duties of his temporary position. In ‘fact, exSenator Ready told me that Senator Pearce was one of the brainiest men that he had ever worked under, and quite recently he indorsed those remarks. It is remarkable that there should now be a movement to bring about the change proposed. This opposition to Senator Pearce is merely due to the fact that he happens to have taken up a certain position, and because of a strong stand which he. made quite recently. In 1911, when I happened to be in Great Britain, Senator Pearce was representing Australia at an important Defence Conference, and every public man I met was impressed with Senator Pearce’s marked ability, his sound judgment, and knowledge of defence problems. While abroad on that occasion, Senator Pearce did not waste any time, but went to Germany, through Russia, and on to Japan, inquiring into the various defence systems so that he might return to Australia with the very best information at his disposal, to enable him to satisfactorily perform his onerous duties in. the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) is altogether wrong when he says that Senator Pearce has taken too much upon himself. I do not know exactly what duties Senator Gardiner had to perform when he was Assistant Minister for Defence, or what duties were allocated to Mr. Jensen when occupying that position; but I do know what duties -were delegated to me during the limited time I was Assistant Minister. Among other matters they covered questions relating to the deferred pay and allotments.
– Still deferred.
– Honorable members opposite know how those matters were dealt with.
– The honorable member was “worth half-a-dozen of Senator Pearce when he was there.
– Other important duties allocated to me were those connected with the Contract and Supply Board, which meant dealing with such important questions as the clothing and feeding of our troops, and so on. I ask honorable members to’ realize what was the -position when war broke out. Fully half the members on both sides of the House, many of whom are now the strongest critics of the Defence Department, were continually talking about the rash expenditure in connexion with defence, with the result that it was impossible to put into operation the policy outlined by a distinguished officer who visited these shores to formulate our defence scheme, for the simple reason the money was not then available. Consequently, when the war broke out we were not prepared, and no one had any idea that the Defence authorities would be called upon to undertake such huge tasks as have since fallen to that Department.
From August to December in 1914 - a period of only five months - we fully equipped and organized a force of 52,561, and in order to judge how important was this undertaking, it is merely necessary to . remind’ the Committee that when war was declared; the Ministry of the day promised to send to the assistance of Great Britain 20,000 men, and, speaking generally, the people of Australia marvelled that the Government had given such a big undertaking. But as I have already shown, in, the five months from August to Decern-‘ ber, we sent abroad no less than 52,561, and no men from any country have ever been so thoroughly equipped. The manner in which they were clothed and otherwise provided for was regarded as unique throughout the whole world, and it was not surprising, therefore, that Australia should have received congratulations not only from persons in Great Britain, but from the United States of America as well. In order to illustrate how the duties and responsibilities have increased since the outbreak of the war, I point out that in 1915 no less than 165,902 men enlisted. Butthe figures fluctuated. . In July of that year no less than 21,698 enlisted in Victoria alone, while in December of the same year the number from Victoria had fallen’ to 1,291. In 1916 the total enlistments reached ,124,352, and in 1917 they came down to 45,101. This remarkable fluctuation naturally complicated the work of the Defence Department, because there was no reason to believe that the enlistments in 1917 would fall so far short of those in 1916. Then when the request came from Great Britain to send more men - I think, speaking from memory, that the request .was for 32,000 in one month, and 16,000 as the monthly quota r thereafter - the Ordnance Department had to make extra provision for equipment. Had the Ordnance Department failed in this respect, the officer in charge of the Department would have been courtmartialed for neglect of duty. The Department, however, rose to the occasion, and was prepared to fully equip the additional men, had the referendum been passed. I have yet to learn that there waa any complaint on the ships about the feeding of the men and the manner in which they were clothed in Gallipoli and France. I also remind honorable members that when war was declared, it was difficult to learn whether our men would be sent to Egypt or taken on to England. They were sent to Egypt, and were clothed for that climate. Then, subsequently, when some of them were sent to France, we were able to provide them with suitable clothing for that climate.
It has been frequently stated in this House that nothing had been done to curb the expenditure of the Department until the position was- forced on the Government; but I point out that when the referendum campaign was initiated, arrangements had then to be made for the equipment and transport of a large number of men, and when the referendum was turned down there was a terrible slump in regard to departmental requirements. We had the clothing all made up and available, but for the moment did not know what to do with it. The Minister for Defence asked me to look into the position, and do my best to reduce the expenditure, keeping in view, Of course, the efficiency of the Department, and the desirability of avoiding, as far as possible, injustice to any of the workers in the Department., I visited the Clothing Factory to ascertain the position for myself, and I was gratified to find that the system of stocktaking then in force had not been excelled in any part of Australia. The officials had adopted the American system of stocktaking, the stock being placed in bays, so that if there were 10,000 yards of clothing in a particular bay,, and a request come along for a portion of the clothing, that request was noted on a card, and, consequently, the man in charge was practically stocktaking daily, and knew the exact amount of stock in the Factory from day to day. The credit for this system was due. to Brigadier-General Stanley, who, according to some honorable members, did not know his duty, and in justice to him, and also to Mr. Mac.guire, another officer of the Department. I feel it my duty to acquaint the Committee of the facts. At that time I made a request to be furnished with an estimate of the annual saving to be effected by the adoption of certain proposals, including alterations in the pattern of great coats, which meant taking men off hand sewing and putting in machinery, and that the final pressing should be dispensed with. Up to that time they were employing about nineteen hands pressing suits that were going into bales to be sent to France, and the saving effected by the alteration I urged amounted to £39,269 for the year. But we had a good deal of opposition - to our effort to reduce expenditure, and one deputation, consisting of both employers and employees, was introduced by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), who said -
A great deal of money has been put into this undertaking by the employers, and a stoppage of the making of soldiers’ clothing would result in very serious financial losses to the employers, while to the employees it would mean that everywhere they would be thrown on an already overcrowded labour market. A good number of the young women engaged in this class of work were dependants of men who have gone to the Front, and they have been compelled to go out and earn wages to assist in maintaining the families of soldiers. It was freely rumoured that on the return of the soldiers wounded from the Front, they were being clothed in uniforms manufactured in Britain. If this were true, the deputation felt that the Government might readily assist all concerned by having this clothing manufactured in Australia and despatched Home for the purpose of clothing our boys there.
Mr. Carter (secretary of the Federated Clothing Trades Employees Union) also had something to say -
He would like to make one point clear; he could not come before the Minister as an advocate that the Government should make uniforms just for the sake of giving work or keeping the employers going.
He was fair, but I had to meet the most hitter criticism on the floor of this House from the then honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Hannan) and others for what I had done. These men told me that they were going to deal with me, but they did not prevent me from doing my duty. Mr. Davies, the employer who was associated with my friends on that deputation, also spoke. I shall quote his remarks, to show that we were evidently doing something, which honorable members ‘ propose now to vote against the Minister (Senator Pearce) for not doing -
Mr. Davies (on behalf of the employers) said that in New South Wales the employers had about three or four thousand girls who had not previously been employed in the clothing trade; but they had simply been thrown on the labour market by the war and had had to, get work to assist in maintaining families, in many cases the dependants of soldiers on service. Contractors had experienced great trouble in making these girls expert, and now, just as they were able to work well, the contracts were to cease.
This w’as according to an instruction which I gave that, seeing that we no longer required clothing for the equipment of our troops, contracting should cease when the old contracts were finished. The deputation then asked us to keep the men in work -
The employers would like to know whether, at some future date, contracts could be expected, and, if so, when. During the last three or four weeks there had been a cancellation of many contracts in New South Wales, caused by contractors not being able to complete their contracts owing to a shortage of supply of denim. Contractors generally complained that the Defence Department was not able to* supply their requirements of this material.
The reason we proposed to cease letting contracts was that we wanted to prevent a greater amount of material being made up than was necessary. We also wanted to prevent contractors holding up the Defence material and going on with private contracts, falling back on the Defence Department when things were slack. I have no time to read Mr. Hannan’s remarks, but I shall read the remarks I made, which caused honorable members and others to condemn me most bitterly. The report, dated 16th February, 1917, of my reply to the deputation was as follows : -
He was entirely in accord with sentiments expressed by the several speakers as to the desirability of supplying Australian-made clothing to the troops. He could assure them - land he thought he could speak on behalf of the Government - that they did not want any unemployment in Australia if it could be avoided. If any one got out of employment, that person immediately became a burden on the country, and anything they could do to find employment would be done. He was glad to hear Mr. Carter’s sentiments on the question.
Those are the sentiments that were in my mind, and I was delighted to have them indorsed by Mr. Carter -
Mr. Carter had evidently considered the economic aspect of the matter; one could not give people employment simply for the purpose of giving them work, and there must be some definite reason for giving that work and spending public money which he, as a Minister and custodian of the resources and finances of the country, had to consider. With respect to the most important question, namely, the manufacture of clothing in the Old Country and the clothing of our men, the deputation probably knew that, as soon as our men arrived in Great Britain, Australia lost control of them altogether, as far as equipment, &c., was concerned. But. the Commonwealth Government made every effort possible to clothe the troops with Australian-made clothing of all kinds. Every endeavour was made to do this; but if a man was wounded at the Front, and was put into hospital in France or in Great Britain, then the British authorities saw that he was properly and adequately clothed when leaving, and we here had no help for that. Each man was given a full equipment, which, after long experience, the authorities assured us should last a certain time under reasonable conditions. Some of our men, who were desirous of appearing in Australian clothes or, perhaps, in a better suit than one that- had been worn for some time, purchased clothing themselves. On the issue the Department worked to, each man should be well clothed. He (the Minister) could not understand why they were poorly clothed, because BrigadierGeneral Anderson was in London, and had a staff to see to these things, and Mr. Fisher was also there, and any one knowing the latter would Know that he would quickly rectify anything of this nature.
Members of the deputation asserted that the clothes had been made in England. I said we were making them here, but were unable to send more abroad owing to the small shipping space available. With regard to contracts, I said -
Wiith regard to contracts, as soon as he entered the Department, and the duty of dealing with supplies was allotted to him, seeing that conscription had not been carried, and believing that Australia could not get the reinforcements required, and finding that the Department had made provision for equipping the number of men provided for in these reinforcements, he felt it his duty to immediately give notice to contractors that the Department could not go on with contracts as they hadbeen in the post, and he also intimated to the woollen mills that after three months’ time, and on the completion of existing contracts, the Department could not go on taking a fixed amount of material from thein. He could not go on piling up material and incurring expenditure unnecessarily; it would be wasting capital to be stacking up clothing in the stores, and who would pay the interest on that capital but the workers themselves? He wished to say now that there had been no rash expenditure, and he hoped that those present would endeavour to stop the rumour to that effect, which was getting about. The Department had looked ahead, and during the past twelve months built up large stocks of uniform clothing; but it had not spent money unnecessarily.
That was my reply to the contractors who, together with honorable members on the other side, asked us to go on with the work to create employment for the men who”, they said, had been put off.
– Are you “stone- walling”?
– This subject matter is -not palatable to the honorable member, because he was one of the deputation that came to the Minister subsequently, and said the work should be gone on with; that it should be done in Australia, and the material piled up. It is on that very question of piling up material here that he is now going to vote to censure the Minister for Defence. Summing up, I said I would not admit that there was any clothing made in Great Britain, and that, taking . into consideration the amount of material and clothing required for the maximum number of troops, I would not admit that there was an over-supply in Australia, and I informed the members of the deputation that we could not go on making the clothing as they desired.-
With regard to boots, Senator Maughan, on this deputation, complained most bitterly that there were not enough boots for the men. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) now interjects that my time has expired, but I may tell him that I am. speaking with the greatest sadness tonight. I saw a brother of mine who returned to-day, having been three times wounded, while we are fighting here over a paltry matter on which the honorable member can make a name for himself, utterly regardless of what our troops are suffering at the Front or what may become of the Empire. I would like to see the honorable member in the place of the Minister for Defence for a while, and see what he would do there when he realized the responsibility of carrying -on such a great concern. The boots were made after a pattern submitted by the British Government, to be used by the men in Egypt. That pattern was of no use to the men in the trenches in France, with the cold weather prevailing there, and, consequently, fresh boots had to be made. The Commission reported, I understand, that . only about six months ago there were 1,000,000 pairs of boots in stock. I aminformed to-day by a return given to me by one of the officers of the Defence Department, that -the estimated boots in stock on the 30th of this month will be only 340,000 pairs. Consequently the great waste has not gone on that honorable members on the other side would have us believe. The Commission also said that a safe value of stock to ‘carry would be about £750,000 worth. The recruiting -authorities say we want 4,000 men a month. If we get that number they will take the surplus clothing to equip them up to June next, leaving there only about £750,000 worth of material in stock.
The limber waggons that have been mentioned were made on the, British pattern-. Do honorable members opposite suggest that springs like those on motor cars should be put on the waggons- for running over the country they have to traverse? Thepattern supplied was strictly adhered to, and the waggons are here to-day ready to be shipped for use, as those already abroad are being successfully used at the present time.
. The Treasurer is asking for three months’ Supply, and if it had not been for the promise he has made that the Estimates will be discussed before the end of this financial year, I should be very much inclined to oppose anything of the sort. I believe the fault of the past has been that Parliament has. not had proper control of the finances, in recent years, at any rate, and, in fact, has lost altogether any influence it may previously have had in the administration. The practice has been to adjourn Parliament for months at a time. Members have become mere cyphers, not consulted in any matter, or, if consulted, merely as a matter of favour, and not as a matter of right. It is essential that Parliament should be “on tap,” so that it may be called together at any time, in order that the advice of members may be taken, and that they may know what is going on. I have been edified - as no doubt other honorable members have been - by the statement which was recently made by the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) in relation to the purchase of the Commonwealth line of steamers and the confirmation of that statement to a degree by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). It is true that there was a little difference between their statements in regard to the procedure which was adopted. The honorable member for Capricornia says that £3,000,000 was placed at the disposal of the Prime Minister without the consent of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister and his colleagues say that the Cabinet subsequently approved of what was done. That seems to be a most remarkable position. The honorable member for Capricornia laid it down, almost as a virtue, that when he was informed casually by the Acting Prime Minister that the Prime Minister desired £3,000.000 to be placed at his disposal at the Commonwealth Bank in London, he, as a matter of course - having read in history somewhere or other that on one occasion Disraeli had bought some Suez Canal shares - thought the procedure a perfectly correct one, and accordingly gave orders to the Governor of the Bank to place the amount asked for at Mr. Hughes’ disposal - to do with just what he liked, without the consent either of Parliament or of the Cabinet. Is that sort of conduct going to be repeated? I have been looking at the present Treasurer and asking myself if he would be willing to adopt a similar procedure.
– Do I look like it?
– When the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are absent in England, and the Treasurer is Acting Prime Minister, if the Acting Prime Minister should come along to the Treasurer and say, “ I want £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 placed at the disposal of the Prime Minister in London,” will he be able to persuade the Treasurer that that is a proper procedure to adopt?
– I can answer that question right away. Whatever the Acting Prime Minister wants from the Treasurer will be given.
– I have been led to believe that the Acting Prime Minister has a great deal of influence with the Treasurer, and both of them like to have very much their own way. But, although the present Treasurer might not agree to a repetition of the procedure, the fact remains that such a procedure constitutes a grave danger to the Commonwealth. It is absolutely unreasonable that the Treasurer should be able to say to the Prime Minister, “Here are millions of pounds at your disposal in London to do with just what you like.”
– I am led to believe that the Cabinet of that time was consulted. But I do not know when it was consulted. It may have been after the event.
– It so happens that the purchase of the Commonwealth line of steamers has turned out all right. But that was merely the result of good guessing. It might have proved to be all wrong. I should like to have an assurance that such a proceeding will not be repeated without the authorization of Parliament.
I believe that this Parliament should be continuously in session for the purpose of dealing with important matters as they arise. In the past, the Government have dealt with everything under the War Precautions Act, and, although that Statute is a necessary one, we must recollect that it was primarily passed to enable the Ministry to deal with urgent questions, the understanding being that matters which could be dealt with by Parliament should be so dealt with. That is what should have been done. But when a Government have unlimited powers vested in them under the War Precautions Act they are apt to use those powers so unreasonably as to make the Act become a menace to the community. Some of the regulations gazetted under that Statute have been altogether unnecessary, and should have been discussed by Parliament. Grave mistakes have been made which would have been prevented had honorable members been consulted. There are men in this House of great diversity of occupation, and of wide financial and commercial experience, and I believe that if they had been consulted the Government would have avoided many of the mistakes which they have committed, and which have provoked irritation throughout Australia. By reason of my own knowledge of certain commercial transactions, I believe that I could have prevented the Ministry from committing three great mistakes, which have been, and will continue to be, a con,stant source of irritation. Yet I am asked to come down to this Chamber and support everything that the Government have done, and if I venture to raise my voice, either here or elsewhere, in opposition to them, I am accused of disloyalty to my party. Indeed, I have been asked to resign from the National party though I have done nothing contrary to the pledges which I gave.
– Who asked the honorable member to do that ?
– The press has put it in that way, and I resent the attitude which it has taken up. It has been suggested that because I have criticised certain actions of the Government, I am. an officeseeker, and that I am imbued with some ulterior motive. Anybody would imagine that there is a certain holiness attached to Ministers, and that nobody should venture to criticise them. If they wish to get the best out of their own supporters they must restrain the press from making insinuations to the detriment of those who dare to criticise their acts. Not only do 1 not seek office, or extra, emoluments, but I am prepared, if necessary, to give up v the emoluments that I now possess. I repeat that the Government would avoid many mistakes if they would make, more use of the material that is at their disposal in this chamber. We are here for the purpose of placing .our abilities at the service of our country in this time of crisis.
When the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) submitted this amendment, it was not my intention to vote for it. I did not consider it essential - though I do regard it as desirable - that the Minister for Defence should occupy a seat in this Chamber. I have no desire to embarrass the Government, or to put difficulties in their way in respect of matters which I do not regard as fundamental, and consequently I did hot intend to vote for the amendment. But the Government have now said, in effect, that we have no right to move an amendment of this character. They practically affirm that we have no title to express the opinion that the portfolio of Defenceshould be in this Chamber, and they have chosen to regard the amendment as one of no confidence. That is the most remarkable procedure of which I have ever heard. Coming, as it does, from a Government whose members considered themselves justified in remaining in office after having broken a definite pledge-
– Now, be careful.
– The Government do not occupy the Treasury bench, after having broken that pledge, with my approval. I have previously expressed that opinion, and I know that it is shared by the great body of the people of Australia. I consider that the Government took the wrong course - that they dragged the public name of Australia in the mud, and that they have wrecked the National party for years to come. But the severest criticism to which they have been subjected since the initiation of this debate has emanated from their strongest supporter, the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). What did he say? He said, first of all, that members upon this side of the Chamber were perfectly entitled to criticise the Government, but were not entitled to go any further.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that they were entitled to indulge, not in destructive criticism, but in helpful criticism.
– The Government are to be sacrosanct. The honorable member went on to say that if any motion adverse to the Government were carried chaos would result. He practically accused the Ministry of a breach of faith with the National party. He said that if the Ministry were beaten in this Chamber, they would be false to their pledges of 5th May last.
– Perfectly right, too.
– Then the honorable member does take up that position. If the Government, which we think has not been everything which they should have been, were displaced, they would be quite right in breaking every pledge that they have given, because they alone are entitled to say how Australia shall be governed. If that is the. position taken up by the honorable member, it is not one to which the people of Australia will subscribe. What particular thing have the Government done which could not be done by another Ministry ? Do they claim that recruiting would fall off still farther” if they were not upon the Treasury bench? Do they imagine that shipbuilding operations would proceed more slowly, or that any of the other functions of go”vernment would be retarded?
– Could the Postal Department be run any better than it is ?
– I would like to make some criticism of the administration of the Postmaster-General, but I am afraid that in doing so I might be considered to be dragging into a debate that has risen to the eminence of a no-confidence debate matters that are too small, and also that I might be accused of fathering another motion of no-confidence. In spite of the promise of the Postmaster-General before the adjournment, that not one of the postal facilities enjoyed by the people in the outback districts should be taken from them, in my electorate alone postal facilities have been reduced in, probably, fifty cases. Were. I to say anything about that, perhaps I should be proclaimed a disloyalist, and be told that I had no right thus to stand UP for the interests of my constituents.
This debate has turned chiefly on the Defence administration, and I say that it is desirable that a fresh brain should be put in charge . of the Defence Department. I think, too, that the portfolio of the Minister for Defence should be held by a member of this Chamber, so that honorable members could get direct replies to their questions instead of being eternally told by an Assistant Minister that he would “ con sult the Minister for Defence and give an answer later.” I do not consider, however, that the suggestion that the portfolio of Defence should be held by a member of the House of Representatives was worthy’ of being considered a matter of no-confidence. Still, as Ministers say that they stake their existence as a Government on the fate of the amendment, we cannot help it. I believe that the Minister for Defence has carried out his duties with a considerable amount of ability, and 1 would not like to see him out of the Ministry should it remain in office. Recently, a Commission was appointed to examine the methods of keeping accounts and the administration generally of the Defence Department, and to point out what was wrong there, That Commission, I believe, was not appointed at the volition of the Minister for Defence or of the Government; I understand thatMinisters needed a considerable amount of prodding before they would appoint it, though possibly the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and others could say more about that, because the appointment of the Commission occurred before I entered this Parliament, so that I am not speaking from personal knowledge. However, the Commissioners made their investigation and brought up a report containing certain recommendations. They pointed out where the administration was bad - it is very bad in some places - and how it could be remedied. ‘ .The Government now say, ‘ All the faults and loose places having been pointed out, we have appointed a Business Board to block up holes and to set things straight,” and they seem to think that the maladministration, or want of administration, of the past is to be forgotten. Their attitude in the matter resembles that of the manager of a station should he, after having, during a period of three years, lost large numbers of sheep, send a boundary rider to ascer-tain whether the fences were all right, and discover that in many places they were down, and should he then, after sending out others to mend the gaps, declare, “ Although I have lost thousands of sheep during the past three years, I am not to be considered blameworthy, because I have wiped out my past misdeeds by mending the fences.” Would any station owner give such a manager a clean sheet’-?- Would not an owner want to know why the manager had not him- self ridden round to see how and where the sheep were getting out?
– In what district did this happen ?
– What I am complaining of occurred chiefly in the 3rd Military District, of which the centre is the Victoria Barracks, in Melbourne, and the fences could have been ridden round in a few weeks by a strong man who was interested in his work, and wished to do the best for his country.
The Government does not adequately reply to the criticism that has been passed on its administration when it says that it has adopted the recommendations of the Commission. I and other members think it desirable from every point of view that there should be a change in the head of the Defence Department. At the beginning of the war the Defence Department controlled the Navy, and was charged with the duty of looking after the soldiers who returned to this country. What hasstood most in thewayof recruiting is the fact that many of those who have come back have not been fairly treated ; and much of the blame for that must be laid at the doors of the Defence Department. Now the Minister for Repatriation is charged with the duty of looking after the returned men. The Defence Department also controls the Director of Munitions, and the importation of a hundred and one articles of commerce. I could say a good deal about that branch of the administration, but I shall refrain from doing so now. Further, it controlled, and still controls, the censorship. A certain amount of censorship is necessary, but I shall cite two instances to show that the censorship has been used, not only to keep news from reaching the enemy, but also for political purposes. Last week we had a debate on the action of the military in seizing in this building certain papers belonging to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts). I am not concerned now whether the privilege of members was infringed by that action o£ the military.
– The honorable member must not debate the subject, Parliament having dealt with it.
– On a no-confidence motion, may not an honorable member debate anything?
– It is the rule of Parliament that a question that has been decided cannot be reopened in the same session.
– The honorable member for Cook has discussed the question at some length during the present debate.
– Not while I have occupied the chair.
– The point to which I wish to direct attention in connexion with the matter is this: that the newspapers were not allowed to mention the occurrence at all. That was a wrong use of the censorship by the Minister. Then, last week, when Senator Millen, in another place, had declared the policy of the Government, and. it was expected that the Prime Minister would make a similar statement in this Chamber, thenewspapers were not allowed to publish Senator Millen’s speech. What right had the Government to censor the publication of that speech ? By what right do they censor a speech delivered in the Senate? It is a gross misuse of the War Precautions Act, and I cannot, and will not, continue to support an Administration that persists in allowing such actions to be taken.
There is one other matter to which I desire to refer. It has been said that, at a time of grave crisis such as this, we should not criticise the Government. It is because of this Empire crisis, however, that we desire to do better, and must endeavour to do more than we have to secure more effective administration. There is in this evening’s issue of the Herald a paragraph stating that the members of the National party were invited this afternoon to attend in the Prime Minister’s room, where certain cablegrams dealing with the seriousness of the position were read to us. The paragraph suggests that the Prime Minister called us into his office in order that he might “ give a talking “ to the naughty boys. I went into that room at the Prime Minister’s invitation, and was told that anything said there was to be regarded as confidential. Some one, however, has broken that confidence. I do not know who it is, but when such confidences are betrayed, I feel that I am getting into very strange company, and I am going to be very careful in future as to where I placemy confidences. I am not accusing the Prime Minister of disclosing anything said in confidence. I merely say that some one has disclosed information that he agreed to regard as confidential. At a time of great crisis like the present, when the Empire is fighting with its back to the wall, we ought to have effective administration. Our object should be to bind all sections of the community in one complete unity to help to carry on the government of the country and to place all its resources at the disposal of the Empire. I strongly resent the insinuation that in criticising the Government at the present time we are in any way disloyal to the Empire or to the policy upon which we were elected on 5th May last. The Government are alone responsible for the situation that has been created. The situation is entirely of their own making. I had no intention of voting against them until they deliberately threw down the gage of battle saying to their supporters, “ If you criticise us, or if this Committee declares that the Defence portfolio should be held by a member of this House, then . we are not going to remain in office.” I resent such an attitude on the part of the Government, and it is because of it that I intend to vote for the amendment.
.- The responsibility for the remarks I am about to offer must rest upon the Government. I had no intention of taking part in this debate again after I concluded my speech last week, and should not have done so but for the challenge thrown out by some anonymous member of the Government, to those of us who have the temerity to support the amendment, to state our position in relation to the Ministry. I had thought that I had made my attitude towards the Government perfectly plain; but since they have asked for it, I intend to give them reasons why I -am not prepared to withdraw from the position I took up last week, even if the Government do treat the amendment as a noconfidence motion. The remarks I propose to make are intended to be helpful, and I ask the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to take notice of that fact. I intend that they shall be helpful to the cause I have at heart; to the cause that requires plain speaking at the’ present time - to the honour of Australia and the safety of the Empire - and I care not a tinker’s curse whether my speaking in that cause is destructive of the Government at the present time or not. I assert, without hesitation, that the Government have no right .to occupy their present position. They have betrayed the ideals set before the country by the National Federation. They have been false to the promises and the pledges they made to the people who voted for them on 5th May last. The policy they are carrying out is not what Australia and the Empire demand at the present time, and if it is allowed to continue much longer it will bring upon this Parliament and the Government everlasting infamy.
One argument by which the Government and their supporters endeavour to humbug the country at the present juncture is that solid support is required for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) because he is going Home to the Imperial Conference. In the first place, I am utterly at a loss to . understand why these conferences, to determine postwar problems, are being held during the course of the war. They are, to my mind, an indication of the most unfortunate and foolish optimism which the Imperial authorities have displayed from the first in relation to the war. They are not only futile, but absolutely mischievous. The resolutions of the Paris Conference, for which, I understand, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth was principally responsible, were about as mischievous to the cause of the Allies as anything that has happened during the war. Those resolutions caused the commercial and industrial classes of Germany to throw themselves into the war with an enthusiasm and a determination to win which has been of the utmost advantage to the military cause in that country. I hope, therefore, that if the proposed Imperial Conference is held, it will be composed of soberminded and far-seeing statesmen. It is because of that necessity that I object most strongly to Australia being represented at it by the Prime Minister. I believe that there is in Australia an increasing number of people who are adopting the opinion I expressed some time ago, that the Prime Minister’s judgment cannot be trusted in matters of statesmanship with reference to the interests and the welfare of Australia and the Empire as a whole. On these grounds, therefore, I would much prefer to see us represented by someone other than the Prime Minister. There are other reasons why he should not go to this Conference. The principal one,, to my mind, is that if he does he will not represent Australia. He will not be able to speak for that portion of the community represented by honorable members on the opposite side. Oan he represent the electors who voted for the win-the-war policy on the 5th May last, and who now see themselves betrayed and put to shame by the indifference of the Prime Minister and the Government towards the carrying out of that policy. The only people of Australia whom the Prime Minister will represent will be those who have battled hard to brins Australia to a standstill in connexion with the war. The Prime Minister, perhaps unconsciously, has danced to the piping of those people, and, by his blundering and ineptitude, has reduced Australia practically to a standstill in relation to the one thing needful to-day - the reinforcing of our war-worn men at the Front. Therefore, paradoxical though it may sound, Mr. Hughes, if he goes . to London, will represent only our Bolsheviks, our Pacifists, and our Sinn Feiners. And, speaking of Sinn Feiners, I am reminded that the Prime Minister has acquired much glory for his alleged championship of the cause of Protestant loyalty against the gentleman who is regarded as the leader of the Sinn Fein movement in Australia, namely, Dr. Mannix. I say, God help the cause of Protestant loyalty if it has to depend on ‘the fighting qualities of the Prime Minister. He makes a great show of fighting, I admit. He throws off his coat, he turns up his sleeves, he spits on his hands, and he makes his blows wildly in the air, prancing around Eis opponent, but he takes very good care never to come near enough to cause Dr. Mannix the slightest inconvenience. And this is the kind of thing by which the Prime Minister is trying to win popularity in certain quarters. This is the kind of thing that he and his Government are dependent on for the maintenance of their position in office. The country is sick and tired of these mere pretences. The Government have earned the contempt, not only of their opponents, but even of those who once believed in them, and when the election comes, be it sooner or later, there is no doubt but that the Government, and those who are conniving at their indifference to the issues of the war, will be thrown on the political dustheap.
This is a Government only by courtesy. It is a mere rabble of utterly incongruous elements thrown promiscuously together for almost’ every reason except efficiency, and animated only by one object in common - the maintenance of a dishonorable existence-. To call some of the Ministers commonplace is to pay them a compliment. It is now well enough known in Parliament, if not outside, that there are certain members of this’ Ministry who would not be on this side at all at the present time but for the attractions of a portfolio, and who otherwise would be speaking their honest opinions and taking their honest places among members of the Opposition in both Houses of this Parliament. It is one of the ironies of political life that such individuals should get promotion, while men who followed the Prime Minister out of the party for motives of the purest patriotism and disinterestedness - men who have risked everything in the matter of their .political existence - remain still in the rank and file.
– The reconstruction of the Government would prove, if proof were necessary, the hollowness and hypocrisy of their pretences. We. have a man who stands head’ and shoulders’ above all others .in Australia as a statesman, as a man of experience and ability. We have seen that man hounded out of the Government, and I say that it is a pity that Australia to-day should be without such a. man in a National Government of any kind.
While I have no criticism .of a personal nature against those members who were’ added to the Government, I am bound to remark, as a matter of unpleasant duty, that, with the exception perhaps of the Minister who has already held office, they have, so far as I am aware, successfully concealed up to the present any qualifications they may possess to hold their positions. We all understand well how appointments to Ministries are made, and one does not need to look very far below the surface to find the reasons in the present instance. At a time like this there should be only one reason, and that, efficiency. The best men should have been chosen for those positions. It is a great pity at any time that such is not the case, but it is a thousand times graver when the safety of Australia is at stake that considerations other than those that are clamant should have a moment’s recognition by any Prime Minister. ° The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene) has been Whip of the. party for some considerable time, and usually the Whip’s position means, sooner or later, transformation to the Ministry. I have no objection. The honorable member for Richmond has done his work very well; he may be able to carry out his duties as Minister to the entire satisfaction of Parliament. But we shall want something more in the occupant of that position than the usual qualifications of a Whip. As regards the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), we all have a recollection of a certain motion which was brought forward in our party. It is no secret; it is public property. ‘ It was a motion by the honorable member by which the Government were able to crawl back into office - a Government who have now shown that, at any rate, a lack of gratitude is not among their failings.
I come now to the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard). I am quite at a loss ‘ to account for his being appointed as Minister in Charge of Recruiting. He is a very amiable gentleman indeed, and on one occasion in this House he did very good work ; but I have looked in vain for any reason for placing him in such a responsible charge.
– There is no more popular man among the soldiers.
– He is, indeed, popular, and my remarks are not to be taken in a personal sense; but he was apparently one of the most surprised members of this Parliament when he found himself called upon to occupy this position. It is distinctly unfortunate that the Minister in Charge of Recruiting should, if he goes on a recruiting platform, at once create the impression in the minds of his audience that he ought to be in khaki himself. The honorable member has ideas in regard to stimulating recruiting. He wants to rouse a fresh war spirit throughout Australia - I am quoting his own words - by having bonfires in school grounds on Anzac Day; and he patronisingly pats Captain Carmichael on the back for his success in recruiting, a success gained by personal example and by simple earnest words, a success, which I make bold to say, will not be achieved by the honorable member who has been appointed Minister in Charge of Recruiting, by means of the “flapdoodle “ appeals he is making in the pres3, which we have had from members of the Government for so long that the people take no notice of them whatever.
This brings me to the very heart and soul of the issue between the Government and myself, and that is the matter of reinforcing our men at the Front. As we all know, the situation in Europe is as grave as it possibly can be; the people of this Empire are on the very edge of a precipice, and the ground is literally crumbling under their feet ; in a few days the situation may be almost desperate ; in a few days practically Australia may be the assured prey of Germany. Yet we have nearly a quarter of million men of military age here in Australia and this Government will not take one effective step by which we may obtain a paltry 5,400 of those men for recruiting .our Army each month. That state of things alone would justify the utmost antagonism of every honest member of this party against the Government continuing ia office. Nothing in the world really matters at the present time but the sending of men to the battle front. The success of the loan, for which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) rightly takes so much credit, is very material indeed, but a thousandfold more we want men; yet apparently it is the one thing to which this Government will not apply itself. In these circumstances, so long as I am a member of this Parliament, so long will I stop at nothing in regard to a policy that will bring about the necessary change. In desperation the GovernorGeneral has taken a hand. I need not say that in the circumstances a Conference such as he has convened was foredoomed to failure. The reinforcement of our forces i9 a matter on which the Government alone can give an effective lead. It is a duty that the Government must face or stand for ever condemned. If they fail to assume that responsibility’ now, I am afraid it will be almost too late for anything to be done in the immediate future. It is the duty of Ministers either to go on or to get out, either to get men by the necessary compulsion - for nothing else will do it- or, if they are afraid to take that step to stand aside and let others, who are free and willing to do it, endeavour to carry out such a policy. The people of Australia recognise the necessity now, and I believe that they would willingly accept the necessary degree of compulsion to give us that 5,400 men per month. The Government say, “ We could not get the support of Parliament, anyhow;” but have the Government ever tried to get it? Not once. They will whip up members on this side of the House when their interests are involved, but they throw the whip down when they are asked to use the same influence for the welfare of Australia and the existence of the Empire. Surely it is their duty to try. I believe that now there would be such an overwhelming amount of public support for them that they would carry the venture through successfully. At anyrate, this is not a time to truckle with vital matters; it is the time to deal with them.
I trust that what has been said by me to-night will be taken in the spirit in which it has been offered, namely, as a plain indication that something more must be done by this Government or any other Government than is being done to win the war. Nothing matters to-day but the necessity for reinforcing our men at the Prout, and removing the stain from the honour of Australiathat has been placed upon it by the ineptitude and cowardice of the Government.
– I am afraid that I cannot subscribe to the opinions expressed by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. For a long time I believed that the policy of conscription was the proper one to adopt, but that matter has been submitted to the country twice, and has been twice rejected. On the 5th May of last year the Government and the National party which supports it said that they would not introduce conscription again except with the consent of the people. The people, having been asked for that consent, have refused it.
– Did they not say also that if they did not get it they would resign ?
– If the Government were put off the Treasury bench, would the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) get conscription from those on the opposite side if they came into power?
If Ministers were replaced by another team from the party sitting on this side of the House, could they honestly give conscription? Not if they abide by the pledges given in this House. We have promised to accept the will of the people, and that will has been expressed in a certain way. When I was sitting in Opposition with the old Liberal party, which numbered thirty-two, we urged the Labour Government of the day - Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, but he was away in England at the time - to bring in conscription. We even went so far as to say that if they were not prepared to bring in conscription straight away, they might at least take the power to do so at some opportune time. They would not accept that power, but said that they would wait until the Prime Minister came back from England. When he came back it was found that he had been converted, and was strongly in favour of conscription. Unfortunately, when he was on the way out, the Labour organizations of Australia threatened every Labour member of this Parliament with opposition at the next election if they dared to support conscription. Many of those members who were conscriptionists heart and soul by conviction swallowed their convictions to save their political skins. Several of them were unable to do so, and are now no longer members of this Parliament.
Coming to the amendment, I must say that I regard it as ill-timed. This is not a time for bickering. Unity should be our aim when the fate of the Empire ia in the balance; and the fate of Australia may be settled within the next few days.
– Will the honorable member tell us why the amendment is regarded as a motion of want of confidence ?
– I do not know, and, personally, I think that the Government, b y so regarding it, have given it a seriousness that it does not deserve. Let me say that I think the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) would have done much better if, as he might have done, he had expressed the views which he uttered when moving his amendment, in a speech on the motion to consider Supply. I can quite understand that the honorable member feels that the Minister for Defence ought to be a member of this House. He has not been a member of this House for many years. I think that, before the war, the portfolio should have been transferred to a member of) this House; but the war has now continued for four years, and no one is at present so much in touch with the work of the Defence Department as is Senator Pearce. He is a much better Minister for Defence now than he was when, the war started, and it must be borne in mind that many of the matters complained of in the report of the Commission and by members of this House happened years ago ; several have been remedied, and others are now being attended to. The Minister for Defence has had a great deal of work taken off his shoulders and put upon .the shoulders of other members of the Ministry; and, in my view, if the amendment were carried, and a new Minister for Defence were appointed, we should not be likely to get as good results in our conduct of the war as we may expect under existing-conditions. Those are my reasons for declining to support the amendment. I do not know why the Government have regarded it as a motion of want of confidence. When the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) submitted it, ho apparently did not know that such a course would be adopted by the Government. But, after a few honorable members had spoken to the amendment-
– After heads had been counted.
– I believe that the speech made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) had something to do with the Government deciding to regard the amendment as a motion of want of confidence ; but the mover of it made it quite clear that he consulted no one on the subject, and. was playing off his own bat. ! 3
The honorable member for Dampier made several very strong statements, but they did not impress me very much. I have been to the Flinders Naval Base, and have seen, the places to which he referred. No doubt there was a great deal of waste there in the past, but that might very well have been the case under any other Minister for Defence. The waste was due, not to the Minister for Defence, but to the men who were intrusted by him to carry out the work. No Minister can lay down a policy and also carry it out by himself. Experts connected with the work of our Naval Forces have made serious mistakes, and a great deal of money has been thrown away, but we cannot blame the Minister for Defence for all that. Every matter to which the honorable member for Dampier referred occurred years ago, and has no bearing upon the present.
What we need at the present time is to secure a greater number of recruits, and I ask honorable members to say whether they think that we are likely to do so if we give the people outside the impression that we are all at sixes and sevens.
It would ‘have been perfectly , immaterial to me if other members of the National party had been appointed to office, and I was quite prepared for such a step had it been decided, because the policy of any Ministry from this side would have been the same as the Government are trying to pursue now.
– Hear, hear ! But the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) tried to make it appear that my amendment would have the effect of placing gentlemen opposite in power.
– If the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had hot agreed to. the request of the GovernorGeneral, when Hi’s Excellency saw no other prospect of securing stable government, what would have been the position of the right honorable gentleman? I am satisfied that the Government carried out the pledge they gave, in all the circumstances. ‘ While I think that the Government might have done more in the way of administration on the lines of the policy laid down on 5th May, I recognise that everything was upset by the fact that they had to go to the. country on the referendum.
I have heard from many people outside that there was a feeling that the Prime Minister was taking too much into his own hands, with the result that business was congested. We must remember, however, that the Prime Minister is also Attorney-General, and that we have what we have never had before, a War Precautious Act. Nearly every question that arises must, in the first place, go to the Prime Minister in his capacity as head of the Government or Attorney-General, and when he has had time to sift and analyze them he should be able to decide which Department shall attend to them.
That may not have been done to the extent to which, perhaps, it ought to have been, but it supplies one reason, and a good reason, why so much has found its way into his hands, and has had to remain there for some time. Now, however, the Prime Minister has taken steps to get rid of this difficulty, and has appointed four new Honorary Ministers, who will take over much of the business with which he has hitherto had to concern himself. As to these appointments, I have nothing to say against the personnel, because I believe each honorable member will prove to be a painstaking and industrious Minister. Personally, I am glad to see a little new blood on the Treasury bench, which has been top often, perhaps, occupied by what may be called “old-timers,” who have come to this Parliament with great reputations and traditions from the State Legislatures, and have allowed too much of the past to cling to them. However, °we are getting a change now, and a change in the right (direction. I have no desire to see the Ministry too large, because it may be difficult, when the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) return from England, to get rid of all those who have been appointed. I only hope that these appointments will not lead to fresh and unnecessary Departments, though I do not think, there, is any need to worry on that score, because Parliament, if it has the power which it is supposed to have over the purse-strings, ought to be able to avoid any such difficulty.
I hope the Government are going to push on with measures to assist production in the country. We are financially in a bad way, and our only hope is to stimulate production, especially of primary products. We have heard rumours about price-fixing for meat. When we are at war, or in any abnormal times, there is no objection to the Government taking a hand in order to hold the balance fairly, and see that one section of the community is not unduly preyed upon by another. But there is a danger of going beyond that in the direction of price-fixing. The price of farm produce is subject to the law of supply and demand. The Inter state Commission has been investigating the meat industry, and although they re- . port that there is no ring or trust or unfair means employed to keep up the price, they recommend that the price shall be the export price from Queensland. Now, Queensland can produce beef much cheaper than can any other > State; and while the suggestion of the Inter-State Commission might for a little while lower the price, it would in the end result in raising it. The growers of meat are not making undue or unf air profits, owing to the fact that, with the present scarcity, they have to pay high prices for stock, and the question will arise whether, with prices fixed as proposed, it would be worth while to fatten stock. I do not care how the price might be fixed, a dearth of sup- . ply of fat stock would burst every artificial barrier, and then up- would go the price to the consumer. We are told that in Western Australia meat is cheaper than it is here, but that is due to the fact that, with the lack of shipping, that State cannot export, and she has a small population. The fact is that in Western Australia the supply is greater than the demand, and if the meat could be transported the price would be much higher there to-day.
– Have the producers there gone broke?
– That is not the question; but if the price is fixed, many men in this community will go broke.Many small graziers and farmers have bought stock at high prices - much of it on bills - and if they have to sell it at a much less price than they gave for it, not only will they go broke, but financial institutions will also get a shock. In Tasmania the price of stock has- decreased recently, simply because of the exceeding dry weather. The surface of the ground there is as hard, or was two or three days ago, as it was during the big drought. In Tasmania, we have no. winter feed to speak of, and so far this season we have had no autumn rains to bring along the fodder before winter sets in. Consequently, stock which in ordinary seasons would be snapped up at high prices cannot be sold to-day, because while people may want them, they have no pastures to put them upon, and, as the result of these local conditions, there is a temporary slump in the Tasmanian market.
– Are you aware that in Western Australia the small growers have to pay high prices for their store stock ?
– I do not know whether they do or not, but it is unfortunate if the small growers of Western Australia have to’ pay high prices for store stock. Whether a man likes it or not, the ordinary law of supply and demand is hitting him now.
– But the small man is not going “broke” over the matter.
– I hope he will not suffer, because if the primary producers of Australia suffer serious financial losses, the country itself .will be in a very bad way. I know that some people have done exceedingly well in Western Australia, but, as a rule, they have been the large leaseholders, and they have made their money chiefly out of the.increases in stock ; these increases have come along in the natural way, and have not involved the outlay of a large amount of capital. There are not so many large leaseholders in some of the other States, notably, in Victoria and Tasmania. It takes a lot of country at the present time to fatten a bullock, and if price-fixing is carried out in an arbitrary manner, without due consideration of all the circumstances of the case, it will do serious harm to the chief source of our public revenue in the near future, and’ I shall oppose any. policy of that sort as strongly as I can. I want the Ministry to understand that while I do not mind the Governmenttaking .a hand in a matter like this while things are abnormal, the price-fixing of farmers’ commodities not affected by outside conditions would be pushing the policy to absurd lengths. If there are any rings or trusts in operation, I would be with the Government to suppress them, but I cannot support any proposal to carry out this policy blindly. The effect in the shape of high prices would soon be felt by the people in our principal cities, who are howling out to-day for lower- prices. The consumer, because he has to pay a little more for his meat to-day, wants the Government to fix the price.
– It is nearly 100 per cent, more than it was before the war.
– Yes ; and the grower who supplies the meat has to pay 100 per cent, more for his stock. I have seen calves six months old sold for £5 a head. I have seen calves ten months old sold up to £8 and £9 a head. Mr. Kidman, who in ordinary times has more cattle on his stations than, perhaps, all the growers in Tasmania put together, has actually paid that price for calves in Tasmania. The fact that Mr. Kidman thinks it necessary to come on to the Tasmanian market at all shows that there is a great dearth of cattle throughout Australia.
I hope the Government will push on with the whole of their policy as outlined.
– And if they do not, you will still be a humble follower.
– The Leader of the Opposition has no right to speak like that, because I am not a humble follower of the Government. I am supporting a pledge which I gave to the electors during my last election campaign, and all I can say is that this Government will get my support so long as they adhere to that pledge. If honorable members opposite were on the Treasury bench they would be the humble followers of some outside organization, and would have to adopt a policy, not dictated by the occupants of the Treasury bench, but by an executive sitting in some dark corner of the Trades Hall. That is the state of affairs to which Australia would be reduced if members of the Opposition were on the Ministerial bench. However, I have no intention of turning out the Government in order to bring such a calamity as that upon the country. I urge the Government to press on, and give effect to their policy, which contains many of the things that the people expect to see carried into effect.There is, for instance, the question of shipbuilding, which has hung fire for a longer period, perhaps, than we thought would have been the case; but, after all, there have been many difficulties- in the way, and now a start has been made, I hope the work will be pushed on expeditiously. This is one of the enterprises that ought to be encouraged in Australia, even if it means some sacrifice, for it will not only employ our timbers, but also our steel. We have large deposits of iron in the Commonwealth, and this basic product for many industries should be developed to its fullest extent. -
– I think I shall have to tell you something about shipbuilding.
– I hope the enterprise will be a great success, because we have in Australia all the necessary materials at our disposal.
. -It is not my intention to indulge in the comic opera business that ‘has been going on for the past few days. It is rather amusing to see honorable members opposite engaged in the usual game of throwing dust in the eyes of the people outside. We have had the spectacle of honorable members getting up to denounce the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and all concerned with him, but notwithstanding all their protestations, they have been like the lady who, saying she would “ne’er consent,1’ consented.
– And you will vote for conscription shortly.
– I am satisfied that if honorable members who are so caustically criticising the Government at the present time had any idea that the Ministry would go out of office they would be silent.
– They are only trying to create a diversion so that, perhaps, conscription may be introduced again.
– I thought, perhaps, that attitude was due to the fact that the recent elections have shown a change of opinion, and that some honorable members thought the time opportune to jettison certain of the Ministers who used to belong to the party on this side of the House. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) expressed regret this evening that honorable members opposite saw fit to attack gentlemen who used to sit on this side of the chamber. As the honorable member for -Perth (Mr. Fowler), assured us, the collection of honorable members on the Government side is rather heterogeneous.
– What did he mean by that?
– It is not my duty to define the terms used by honorable members opposite. Even the Prime Minister termed the malcontents on the Government benches, “ the I.W.W. Nationalists.” The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) and others have been assuring us how concerned they are about the actions of the Government; that Ministers ought never to have occupied their present positions; that they were false to the pledges which they made to the country, and that if they had been honorable they would have kept those pledges. But we find them all, conscriptionists and anticonscriptionists alike, lining up behind the
Government. They swallowed the Government pledge’s, and we all know that if the Government were in any danger some honorable members who may vote against the Government when the Government is sure of a majority, would be found voting for the Government if there were any likelihood of the Government being defeated.
However, the matter to which I wish to refer does not relate ‘to this comic opera amendment, but arises out of the’ question asked by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to-day in regard to the forcible arrest by the military authorities of Italian citizens. I understood the Prime Minister to reply that, at the request of the Government of Italy, arrangements .had been made for the return to Italy of those persons in Australia of Italian nationality who were liable for service in the Italian Army. That arrangement, I understand, applies, whether a man is or is not the holder of naturalization papers as a British subject resident in Australia. I have here the naturalization papers of one Italian subject, together with the call issued by the Italian Consul to him and others to report for military service, and warning them that if they do not report they will be treated as deserters.-
– Hear, hear !
– We did not hear any .such sentiment from the honorable member when the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) in introducing the amending Naturalization Bill, talked about the injustice of the Dellbruck law of Germany and dual nationality. Hall in International Law, 6th edition, says -
In Italy naturalization in a foreign country carries with it loss of citizenship, but does not exonerate from the obligations of military service, nor from the penalty inflicted on any one who bears arms against his native country.
It is all right to protest against the military conscription laws of Europe when Germany is the enemy, and the Government desire to amend the Naturalization Act, but it is a different proposition when, after the people of Australia have decided that no Australian citizen shall be conscripted, an Italian who has become naturalized, and is subject to all the penalties of the criminal and civil law is denied the right which every other Australian enjoys in regard to conscription. And Austraiian soldiers, who, by the vote of the people are free from conscription, are being utilized for the purpose of driving others into military service. When we naturalized these men, we promised them they should have all the rights of Australian citizens but this scrap of paper is being torn up, and we are asked to go abroad and fight on account of the tearing up of another scrap of paper.
– The honorable member ought to enjoy all the rights of’ some of the men who have gone.
– It is not due to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) or any other honorable member on the Government side that I enjoy any rights. I have not to thank those honorable members, or any of the present generation, for any rights I possess. The foundations of those rightswere laid down by men who were transported to Australia because they stood up for civil and religious liberty in Ireland, England, and Scotland.
– Is the honorable member doing anything to hand over the same rights to his children ?
-Yes, by trying to prevent the honorable member and those who sit with him from imposing Prussianism on Australia. He and others are supporting the Government who to-day are surreptitiously altering the Defence Act to take away the rights of Australian citizens to appeal to magistrates when they are punished for refusing to go on parade.
– The honorable member is not trying to prevent the Germans coming here.
– Some of us would not recognise the difference between the honorable member and a German.
– Order! I call upon the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw that remark. It is very offensive.
– To what remark do you refer?
– To the statement that there is no difference between the honorable member for Wide Bay and a German.
– I absolutely refuse to withdraw the statement.
– The Chairman leaps in where there is no need for him to do so.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is disorderly.
– Put him out.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also is dis orderly. I again ask the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw a remark which is certainly offensive, and is a breach of the rules of debate.
– I meant it. I am not going to withdraw.
– I again ask the honorable member not to impose on the Chair a duty that it has no desire to discharge.
– Why not? We have not had any fun for a long time.
– I again have to call attention to the fact that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is out of order. If he repeats the offence I shall have to name the honorable member. I ask the honorable member for Barrier to obey the rules of the House and withdraw.
– With all due respect to yourself, sir, I decline.
– Then I name the honorable member forthe Barrier for having defied theruling of the Chair.
– I told you you would be locked up.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports will cease, or I shall name him.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) made a most offensive remark to the honorable member for Barrier. The honorable member for Barrier is pulled up, and the honorable member for Wide Bay is not touched. It is a most biased action.
– I wonder if I can make an appeal to the honorable member for Barrier to comply with the rules of the House and withdraw. It would not hurt him to do it. We have all had to do it many a time. I ask the honorable member to save me the unpleasant duty that is otherwise laid on me. I appeal to him not to think of himself altogether, but to think of other people. Will the honorable member for Barrier listen to my appeal?
– No; I decline.
– Why do you not look at the man behind you ? He started it.
– I understand that the hbnorable member for Wide Bay will be very glad to do what he is asked to do at the proper time. If he has said anything he should not have said, I have no doubt the Chairman will look after that matter. I again ask the honorable member for Barrier to relieve me of an unpleasant duty.
– So far asthe unpleasant duty is concerned, I may tellthe Minister that I am not in the habit of making use of expressions that I do not believe in, and I am not going to withdraw anything I say in this House that I do believe in.
– Do I understand the honorable member declines to withdraw?
– I very much regret it. The honorable member might well have done what we have all had to do in our time.
– Nobody took exception to it.
– I have to move, with very great regret -
That the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) be suspended from the service’ of the Committee. .
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
On the result of the division being announced, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Moloney) rose in his place and sang the first verse of the National Anthem.
In the House.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) - , while addressing the Chair, made remarks concerning the honorable member for Wide Bay which, being personally offensive, constituted an infraction of the rules of debate. I therefore asked him to withdraw them, and this he declined to do. Having thrice made my appeal to him to obey the instruction of the Chair, I named him, and the motion was submitted and carried that he be suspended from the service of the House.
– Before putting the question -
That the honorable member for Barrier be suspended from the service of the House.
I wish to give the honorable member a further opportunity-
– The honorable member has left the chamber.
– I am sorry for that, because I do not like to put a motion of this kind without giving the honorable member concerned an opportunity to do the right thing.
– I submit that no exception was taken by any member of the Committee to the remarks of the honorable member for Barrier, and that before the Chairman can take notice of a remark as offensive that remark must be complained of by some member. It is not for the Chairman to find a grievance in what is being said by a speaker. Furthermore, the honorable member who by his nasty interjection instigated the remark of thehonorable member for Barrier has not been mentioned and dealt with.
– The Chairman is responsible for the orderly conduct of proceedings in Committee, and it is his duty to take notice of anything offensive that may be said, even though no exception may have been taken to the remark by any member of the Committee.
Mr.Finlayson. - May I rise to a point of order?
– The question is one to be decided without debate, but if the honorable member has a genuine point of order, I am willing to listen to it.
– The Chairman of Committees, in reporting this occurrence to you, sir, stated that the motion had been carried that the honorable member for Barrier be suspended from the service of the House, whereas the motion was that he be suspended from the service of the Committee., I submit that the vote of the Committee cannot suspend a member from the service of the House, and I ask whether the motion carried in Committee does not merely affect the position of the honorable member for Barrier in the Committee.
– A suspension can only be by the vote of the House. Under the Standing Orders, when a Committee has voted to suspend a member, the Chairman reports the occurrence to the Speaker, who puts to the House the question -
That the honorable member be suspended from the service of the House.
-The honorable member for Barrier is present now.
– In that case, I repeat what I said a few moments ago, namely, that it is distasteful to me to have to put a motion like that which it is now my duty to put. Members of Parliament, being human beings, are subject to the ordinary failings and weaknesses of human nature, and in the heat of debate things are often said, which, on reflection, are regretted by honorable members. For the sake of the reputation of the House, in which we are all equally interested, honorable members must obey the rules of debate, and I therefore now ask the honorable member for Barrier, who has had time for reflection, to withdraw the remark complained of, and to apologize for any offensive expression towards another honorable member that he may have used.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I believe what I said, and I have no intention of withdrawing it.
– I am sorry for the answer of the honorable member for Barrier. There is now no other course for me but to put the question -
That the honorable member for Barrier be suspended from the service of the House.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . ..24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Barrier (Mr, Considine) was therefore, under Standing Order 59, suspended for the remainder of the sitting, and withdrew from the Chamber.
– Immediately before the vote of the Committee suspending the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) was reported to the House, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who was standing, was twice called upon to resume his seat, and as he declined to do so, 1 named him. The honorable member knows that it is disorderly to rise or to remain standing when the Speakeror Chairman is on his feet. I therefore ask the honorable member to apologize for his conduct.
– I am desired by the Chairman to withdraw my opposition when he called me to order. Provided that that does not compel me to apologize for singing “ God Save the King,” I shall have no objection to do so; but I can assure honorable members that once I start singing the National Anthem I will sing . it to the end, in spite of every honorable member. I would like to explain that quite recently the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) rose in the House and commenced to sing “ God Save the King,” and I helped him, without being stopped.
-The honorable member was not called to order for singing “ God Save the King,” nor was it an offence. His offence was in continuing to stand. However, if honorable members are satisfied, I will let the matter drop.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– In consequence of the continuous interjections on both sides of the chamber, I did not discover any offensive remark made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). Had I done so, I would have called upon the honorable member to withdraw it. If the honorable member made any remark which could be construed as offensive to the honorable member for Barrier, I ask him to withdraw it.
Mr.Corser. - I said that the honorable member had not been doing anything to prevent Germans from coming to Australia. If that remark was disorderly, I shall be only too happy to withdraw it, but I do not see that there was anything disorderly in stating what I considered to be a fact.
– The remark was considered offensive, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– In those circumstances, I withdrawit.
– At this late hour it is not my intention to detain the Committee very long. I have listened very closely to the debate, and to my mind there is only one point for the Committee to decide, and that is whether or not it is desirable that the portfolio of Minister for Defence should be held by a member of this House. That is the only issue before us. I can see no better way of stifling the honest opinion of members than by treating an amendment such as that moved by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) as a motion of want of confidence. The attitude assumed by the Government is that members on this side of the chamber must not criticise or debate adversely any item placed before them, either as a motion or as a portion of the Estimates. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has plainly told members on this side what his attitude is, and what the attitude of others should be, namely, that no matter what the Government pro- . pose, it is our duty to support it.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– At any rate, the whole tenor of the honorable member’s argument was in that direction.
– The honorable member has stated that I said something which I did not say.
– In that case I have misunderstood the honorable member. However, it is an attitude which I hope this House will never adopt. One of the grave objections many of us have to the practices of the Labour party since I have known it is the fact that whatever decisions on vital issues may be come to in the party room they are binding on members of the party in this Chamber. That is a practice which the Liberal party has been fighting since the inception of Federation, and one which I intend to fight as long as I am a member of this House.
– The honorable member has been opposed to every Government for the last fifteen years.
– The attitude which I have always taken is that which I am taking to-night - whenever I think a Government is doing anything to which I am conscientiously opposed I shall vote against it. With two exceptions every honorable member who has spoken agrees that the portfolio of the Minister for Defence should be held by an honorable member of this House, and I cannot understand any man, saying that, though he believes in the principle underlying the amendment, nevertheless, he intends to vote against it. We are told that there must be no criticism of a Minister during war time. Has that applied in Great Britain, France, or America? What about the cases of Lord Fisher, Sir Edward Carson, Mr. Winston Churchill, Lord Jellicoe, and Mr. Asquith ? There is a strong and growing feeling in the House of Commons against the present Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George. Wherever the House of Commons has deemed that a man has failed, there has been no hesitation about removing him from his office or transferring him to another.
I do not intend to say one harsh word about the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). It is not necessary to do so. The more we discuss these questions as principles, the better it is for this House. I believe solemnly that at least threefourths of the members of this House believe that it would have been better from the inception of the war, and that it would be better to-day, if the portfolio of the Minister for Defence could have been in the hands of an honorable member of this Chamber. That is the one issue before the Committee to-night, and the Government have made a mistake in treating the matter as a motion of no confidence. When the amendment was first tabled it was not so treated. There is one universal practice in regard to motions of want of confidence. Whether or not any motion which is tabled is to be treated as a motion of want of confidence is decided immediately. I understand that when the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) was about to move his amendment he notified one of. the Ministers of his intention to do so. The amendment was not then accepted as a motion of want of confidence. In the interests of Australia and of its good government I hope there will be no desire to stifle honest criticism and honest debate by a Government whipping its followers into line on a vote of want of confidence.
– I believe that they are sorry now.
– They are.
– Be kind to us.
– I have never been harsh to my honorable friend, and I have followed him for a long time.
In dealing with the Minister for Defence I have taken what I consider to be the right course. Where I have thought that most atrocious blunders were being committed I have brought them personally under the notice of the Minister, but they were still committed. Let me mention one case in point. When the honorable members for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and I were in Western Australia it came under our notice that thousands of shells were being manufactured out of condemned steel. The steel had been condemned before it went into the Defence Department, and the Department knew it. We did not go to the press nor to the public, nor did we come to this House ; in what we considered the proper way we waited” on the Minister on our return to Melbourne, and placed the matter before him. But they still went on manufacturing shells out of condemned steel, and I believe that in . Sydney and in Perth there are many thousands of shells which have been manufactured out of steel, and no man dare put the smallest charge of powder into them.
– Many thousands?
– There were some thousands in Perth, I think; at any rate, there was a huge heap, and the manufacture was continued after attention had been called to the matter, with the result of great loss.
– What was the Minister’s explanation ?
– I can only say that, although it was known that this was being done, the expenditure was allowed to go on. What was the feeling from one end of Australia to the other ? No people have gone more earnestly and heartily into Red Cross work than those of the backblocks, in every town, hamlet, and village. In small hamlets, where you cannot see half-a-dozen houses from any one point of view, the women from the bush come in and give their afternoons and evenings at little fairs and other efforts to raise funds; and it must be remembered that, with them, it is not a matter of a 2d. tram to a town hall, but in many instances, a journey of miles through mud and slush. All this work is done at great sacrifice for their loved ones at the Front, and they are quite content to send in cheques for £50, £60, or £100, which are much more to be valued than the cheques for thousands that are gathered in big centres. What are the feelings of these people when they read that thousands and thousands of pounds are being squandered and embezzled in the Department? We know that all this is having a bad effect on recruiting.
I repeat that I do not desire Senator Pearce to be put out of the Government. That was not the intention of the mover of the motion, nor, I think, the intention of any man who supported him; it was simply a request, put in the most gentlemanly and fair way possible, and it afforded the
Government a chance to transfer the portfolio to a member of this Chamber, allowing Senator Pearce to take some other office, where, I believe, he could do good, honest, and faithful work. That is the “head and front of the offending of honorable members who support the amendment ; they are simply desirous that, in the interests of Australia, the best shall be got out of the Department. So far as I am concerned, I do not intend to say one harsh word, or offer any severe criticism of the administration of the Department, though God knows there is plenty of room if one chose to do it. It is simply because honorable members are sick and tired to death of hearing the complaints all over Australia, that we ask the Government, in a fit and proper way, to make the transfer; and I appeal to Ministers now to take the matter into their consideration. From one end of Australia to the other, I repeat, there is intense dissatisfaction with the administration in the Defence Department.
– Let all the Ministers go-
– As to the interjection, I may say that I have never hesitated to vote against the Government when my conscience so led me, and I hope that that will always be my attitude. I ask the Government whether they, as a Cabinet, think that the men at the Front, and the people of Australia, are getting the service they ought to get for the terrific expenditure by this Department? With one or two exceptions, the strongest condemnation of this Department has come from men who intend to oppose the amendment, and who believe that ; it would be carried at any other time. My own honest belief is that if a ballot were, taken, and the fate of the Government did not depend upon it, three out of every four honorable members in this chamber would vote for a transfer of the portfolio of Defence from the Senate to the House of Representatives.
– The majority of those who support you would vote for anything to humiliate Senator Pearce.
-I hope you do not think that that is my attitude.
– I know it is not.
– As I say, I believe that Senator Pearce could do good work in another Department.
– I’m blowed if I do!
-Owing to a set of circumstances which has arisen, I am afraid that the usefulness of Senator Pearce in the Department has been impaired beyond recovery.
Now when we are at war, I think, as I said on a previous motion, there is only one thing that counts in Australia, and that is to fill the shattered ranks of those who are fighting for Australia and the Empire in Flanders. The one great thing before us is to get recruits, and, in my opinion, the serious obstacle to recruiting is found in many of the disclosures in connexion with the administration of the Defence Department. That is my honest conviction, from what I have observed in travelling about a good portion of Australia and my own State. A serious obstacle to recruiting is found in the disclosures of muddling, embezzlement, and robbery. There has been an improvement in one State.
– Owing to what?
-It is due to a man who has been at the Front and has won his medal. He is able to go on the platform and say, “ Now, chaps, I am going back in a month; come and help me.”
– He says “ Come,” not “ Go.”
– That is so; and if I had my way I would not allow one eligible man to plead to any others to go to the Front. There is no greater mistake or weakness than that of allowing eligible men to tell an audience that it is their duty to go and defend the Empire. The first thing that is said to them, and we have all heard it, is, “What is the matter with your going yourself?” This is an unanswerable argument. An enormous amount of injury is done to recruiting through eligibles appearing on the platform, because it only interferes with the good work being done by others. The right man for recruiting is the returned man, especially one in the position of Captain Carmlchael, who has done his bit, and, perhaps, more than his bit.
– He made a big sacrifice to go.
– That is true. The returned man who is going back again is in a very much stronger position than any other recruiting agent we could have.
– And the dependants ought to be treated better.
-Speaking within my own knowledge, I may say of the cases that I have brought before the Department, that there is not one to which fair consideration has not been given.
– There were 200 outside the House to-night.
– I am speaking of my own State, and not of what happens elsewhere ; and I have never brought one case before the Department in which a fair deal has not been given to the applicant. Some of my friends have told me that in other States such a satisfactory condition of affairs is not to. be found; but I confine my statements to my own personal knowledge. I do think that more liberal treatment should be given sometimes to women and children. There ought not to be any hard and fast rule, but wherever dependants of men, either returned or at the Front, require assistance, it is up to us to give it; and every case should be dealt with largely on its merits.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to take this opportunity of referring. Before the last prolonged adjournment of the House, something occurred here after I had gone to my home. It has been said that an amendment was about to be moved, or had been prepared, prior to the House rising, and that some honorable members on this side were supporting it. My name has been mentioned in this connexion, and it has been said there was some arrangement-
– “ Conspiracy,” if you like, between men on this side and men on the other side. So far as I am personally concerned, there is only one word that can be applied to such a suggestion, and we spell it with three letters. But there was an incident that did occur. After speaking on the motion then before the House, I was sitting in my place in this corner, when the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) came over near me and said - “ The word ‘ fourteen ‘ has been mentioned, although I did not hear it. If fourteen of you fellows vote as you think, things might happen.” On my word of honour I thought he was speaking to aman behind me, and I took absolutely no* notice. I had not spoken to the honorable member for Cook on the subject before that, nor have I since ; but I will tell you one thing that did happen. I hold entirely different views from those of the honorable member for Cook on the question of the Japanese. In a little room downstairs in which I was, the honorable member, who had been standing at the door, came in, and we were discussing the Japanese question, when some honorable member saw us talking, and thought we were entering into a conspiracy. The worst thing in associating with some “ rotters “ is that they put everybody down to their own standard. I thought it was a violation of the rights of the House for the military to come here, but I did not speak or vote on the question of privilege, because I did not wish to give the slightest idea that I was in sympathy with what the honorable member for Cook had said in connexion with the Japanese. In travelling to my home, I have seen a Japanese warship outside the Derwent Heads. What for? To take advantage of Tasmania? No, to convoy our boys at sea. When we were in the far north of Western Australia we saw two smokestacks of Japanese warships. What were they there for? To take advantage of Australia, and, as some of our friends say, to seize the Northern Territory? No! They were protecting Australia from German raiders which were then out. I only wish to God that some of our white Allies had played the game with Great Britain and Australia as well as the Japanese have played it during this crisis !
– If I quoted what the French Premier said last year, I would be ruled out of order.
– The Japanese have played the game with Australia as fairly as any country could play it with another in its time of great trouble. It was this matter that I was discussing with the honorable member for Cook on his return from Adelaide, and somebody, seeing us together, thought that we were entering into a conspiracy affecting the fate of the Government. I knew nothing of the proposed amendment until about twenty minutes to 3 on the afternoon on which it was moved.
I was in favour of the amendment, and if I had had anything to do with the loading of it, it would not have been a blank cartridge. I do not think there are many members of the Committee who will not accept my word that 1 have never discussed with any member sitting on the Opposition benches the defeat or displacement of the Government, or any allotment of portfolios.
The only other matter with which I wish to deal is the personnel of the Shipping Board. The Government have created a Board which is one of the most important bodies in Australia-, for in its hands they are placing the control of both the overseas and Inter-State shipping. Who constitute the Board? The Comptroller of Shipping, Admiral Clarkson, is chairman, and the other six members are managers of existing shipping companies. In this matter I am speaking on behalf of the people of Tasmania particularly, and I ask. honorable members to realize that the trade between that island State and the mainland is the very heart’s blood of the Tasmanian community. No Board should have sole control of the allotment, freighting, and operation of all the Australian shipping, with full power under the War Precautions Act, without the public being represented on the Board.
– Surely the public are represented by Admiral Clarkson.
– The public are not represented by Admiral Clarkson. I say nothing against him. I believe that he is an efficient officer and a fair man. But the idea of his representing the people of Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland on that Shipping Board is the height of absurdity. At this time, when shipping is so limited, and when every ounce of tonnage should be conserved, the Government are not giving a square deal to the people of Australia when they create a Board to control the shipping and deal with all the sea-borne trade of Australia, without giving the public any representation.
– What does, the honorable member suggest?
-I suggest that six members of this House - one from each State - should sit upon the Board.
– That would make the Board too big.
– I do not think go. But if Ministers think that the Board would be too large, I ask them to replace three of the present members of the Board by members of this House. The more the Government secure a really national representation on the Board, the better will be the results.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall conclude by asking the Government to take this matter into consideration at the earliest opportunity. The Shipping Ring has been one of the strongest combines in Australia, and the Government are now constituting that ring a trust, with full control under the War Precautions Act, and backed up by the authority of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 12.6 a.m. to 12.50 a.m.
.(By leave) - Something appeared in the press this afternoon as to an interview that took place between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), myself, and a number of others. I understood that what transpired there was to be regarded as confidential. I am sorry that anything has got into the papers, but the Prime Minister gave me his personal assurance that he did not communicate anything to the press. I accept that assurance. When I moved this amendment I had not the slightest intention of tabling a motion of want of confidence in the Government, and I regret that the Government took it as such. After the attitude of the Government on Friday, when they refused to answer any questions, and took up the serious position they did, a change must have come over them when to-day they proceeded to answer questions in the usual way, as if this matter was not of the gigantic importance that was given to it on Friday. A number of speeches that have been delivered, from this side of the House in particular, have indicated that a very large number of members view matters exactly as I do, although they think it would be inadvisable to place the Government in an awkward position at the present time. I personally feel that, having taken a stand on the matter, and the amendment that I moved without any intention to embarrass the Government being my honest conviction, I must abide by that decision whatever the consequences may be. I regret that the Government did not see their way to allow the amendment to go, as others of a similar nature have been allowed to go, without being regarded as imperilling the life of the Administration. They know there is no danger of the vote going against them, and with that knowledge, as they will have the numbers to secure their amour propre and to retain their position as a Government, although I intend to vote for the amendment I have moved, I will ask them to consider seriously, if not the speeches of the members on this side who are prepared to vote for the amendment, at least the opinions of the other members on this side who have expressed the views that I hold but who do not intend - to press those opinions to the point of accepting the responsibility of voting for a motion of want of .’confidence. I trust that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Glynn) will bear that request in mind. It is uttered in the most friendly spirit, for I feel that, if something is done to .ameliorate the condition that has occupied the Committee for three nights now more harmony will be likely to prevail than has been the case in the past.
– I feel rather surprised at the method in which the question was going to be put just now. I do not know whether honorable members are aware that when this vote is granted it will depend entirely on the Government whether Parliament meets again until the end of the financial year. A very strong expression of opinion was voiced a little tune ago when we demanded that more control of the finances should be insisted upon by this Parliament. We are now passing Supply to the Government, which will enable them to do exactly as they like, and spend what money they like without consulting Parliament in any way right up to the end of the financial year. That is not proper parliamentary procedure. My opinion is that in the future when the Government come here for Supply’, unless special reasons can be shown for it, no Supply for a longer period than one month should be granted.
– These amounts represent only the ordinary monthly expenditures.
– That is not. so, and the honorable member knows that the Government can carry on, when they get this Supply, right up to the end of die financial year.
– That is so; but there is no intention of doing that.
– Reading the papers for the past few weeks one cannot help realizing the awful position we are in to-day. I felt, and still feel, that this Parliament . being called together should concentrate all its energies on one purpose only - the vigorous prosecution of the war. We may differ as to how best it can be done, but those differences do not matter much. Questions have arisen here to-night about various matters of policy which are very small in comparison with the one great object we should have in view. We must realize the meaning of the message that Major-General Haig sent out to the men at the Front, and remember that we have over 100,000 of our boys in Flanders. God knows what is happening to them, and here we might as well have been to a picture show or some comic opera, by the way things have been going on in* this Committee to-night, and even day after day before. There is something wrong here. We have not realized, and we ought to .be compelled’ to. realize, the gravity of the danger. Goodness knows what the sacrifices are of our people over there, and of our Allies. When I make my protest here it is not because I want to fall out with the Nationalist party. All honorable members on this side know how strong are my opinions against the policy of the Labour party. Nobody is more emphatic than i am on that matter. But I insist - and I want honorable members here to insist - that no matter what the sacrifice is, every one of us should be prepared to make any sacrifice, no matter how great, so that we can do all that is possible for those who have gone -away to fight, not only for our welfare, but for the civilization of the world.
– That was your electioneering pledge.
– It ia what we want to do now: I am quite sure that, although the honorable member disagrees with me as to methods - for i am a conscriptionist and he is not - his earnest desire is to try to win this war. There may be some members of the Labour party about whom i could not say the same, and there may he some of my own party, too.
– Not one!
– That is my own opinion. But there are those who put their personal gains before the interests of the country. They may not be in this Chamber, but they are outside, and they are supposed to be supporting this party. When we read the message from Sir Douglas Haig to our boys, asking them to stand as with their backs to the wall, surely we should do more than discuss the paltry matters that we have been talking about. Our every effort should be concentrated on the winning of the war.
I do not care who occupies the Treasury bench, but I complain of the dirty practices by which some of us are made to suffer. This afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) called us together to hear certain things, and we were pledged to secrecy about what he told us; but, although the Censor can prevent certain things from getting into the newspapers, a statement regarding the meeting to which I refer was ‘published, a statement that may injure some of the members of the Nationalist party. I do not say that the Prime Minister gave the information to the press, but it is a remarkable thing that the Censor did not prevent a newspaper from publishing an account of a confidential statement by the Prime Minister.
Let me come now to another subject. We have been blamed by the newspapers for our action with regard to the amendment, and have been spoken of as disgruntled. But prior to the present Ministers taking office again after the referendum, the Argus, the Age, and all the leading newspapers of Australia published articles demanding that Senator Pearce should be removed from the Defence Department. ‘ Since then pressure has been put upon them, and their advice now is to leave well alone.
– The Press Conference is sitting now. That is how pressure is being brought to bear.
– I think that the Press Conference has been arranged for a good end. But the articles and comments published just after the referendum had but one end in view; yet now that certain members have taken action to secure that end, they are written of in the newspapers as conspirators. Not one of the members of the Nationalist party who supports the amendment desires a portfolio, and my object is not to hurt Senator Pearce, whose abilities would entitle him to a place in any Nationalist Government. But. his administration shows inherent weakness, which makes it impossible for him to administer the Defence Department properly. The other evening, when I had not time to finish my remarks, I referred to what were justly termed ancient matters. My complaint against the Minister is that he allows political influence to operate in his Department. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said tonight that ‘ whenever he made a representation to the Department he got things rectified. So do I. But it should not be that a man who can get a member to push his claim is attended to and another man neglected.
– Why should soldiers have to appeal to members of Parliament to assist them?
– -They should ‘ not have to do so. Some time ago, one of our messengers told me that a friend of his had enlisted in the artillery under the offer of the Department to allow a man to enlist for any branch of the service that he might choose. This man, after he had been in the artillery for a week, was told that he must go into the infantry, and leave Australia almost immediately. I rang up the Department about the case, and said, “ You talk about the German treatment of a scrap of paper, but this action of yours is as bad.” Next day the messenger told me that his friend had been sent back to the artillery.
– Why did you not refuse to interfere in that case?
– I was justified in trying to rectify a gross injustice. But the Department ought not to be subject to political influence. There are in its service a large number of men who are living on. the game. As I said in Perth, you have a lot of generals and colonels who have never heard a gun fired except at a review, and hope never to do so. They are the men who are advising the Minister.
– Does the honorable member say that those men would not go to the Front if they were allowed to do bo?
– There. are too many kept back as indispensable - mostly rotters and cold-footers. I know of a hoy - the case touches rae very nearly - who got into the artillery. He was only eighteen years of age, and had been but three weeks with the colours when volunteers were asked for to fill a transport, and he was accepted ; but I know of another man who was in camp for eighteen months, and two days ago I heard’ of a fine strapping fellow who had been over twelve months in camp. There should not be this different treatment..
It is over eighteen months since we provided for repatriation. As I said the other night, Senator Pearce has too much on his shoulders for any man to bear, and, in my opinion, it was because nothing was done in regard to repatriation, and because of the ill-treatment given to our returned men, that we lost the last referendum. Now we have a Minister for Repatriation, and I am hopeful. Senator Pearce has advanced the excuse that the faults found with his administration by a Royal Commission are due to the fact that incompetent men were forced on him under the wretched system of preference to unionists. That system ought not to stand far a day, no matter what promises the Government may have made. No system should be tolerated which forces a Government to accept the service of incompetents. i believe that had Ministers, kept their word, and allowed a new Administration to be formed after the referendum, we should have got active assistance from the members of the Labour party.
– Provided that no member of the did Labour party had been taken into the Ministry.
– There are members of the old Labour party in whom I have more confidence than I have in some of the members of my own section of the Nationalist party. I would take the word of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) as soon as that of any man in this Parliament. I have the most absolute confidence, too, in the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), and other honorable members. i have no feeling against Senator Pearce, but I know that he has not sufficient strength of character to properly control the officers of the Defence Department. That is shown by the complaints that are made day after day by returned men. A little while ago I mentioned that, according to an official statement sent to me from Sydney, there are 2,500 eligibles in the Defence Department. Ministers go about the country telling .people how to do their duty, and they neglect to do their own duty. Is there one Department of Government that has said, “ Eligibles not accepted”?. The Railways Department of Victoria is the worst offender in the matter of accepting eligibles. I am not now advocating the dismissal of eligibles, but I say that they should not be appointed to Government positions. Our various Governments have helped the cold-footer too much. I should have liked to see a new Government formed, so that we might have obtained the assistance of both sides in another recruiting campaign. Had that failed, we might have gone to the country on the big question of conscription. The position at the Front is so had that I feel sure that members opposite would have given us their help in recruiting were there a Ministry in which they had confidence. Then, had our appeal failed, we could have gone to the . country and asked for the power which every one who reads the war news of to-day must know is needed in the interests of the country and the Empire. I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the present Administration, and defy members to point to any one thing that the Government has done towards winning the war.
– Then why not censure the Government ?
– I wish to censure them. My attitude ever since the Nationalist party met after the last referendum, and the Prime Minister took certain action, has been that of a corner member. I was returned pledged to try to force Australia to do all that was possible to wm the war, and I am not going to turn from the promises that I have made.
.A matter upon which every honorable member can congratulate the Government is the appointment of the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) as Minister in charge of recruiting. I regret that some honorable members have seen fit to criticise the appointment. It matters not how much we may criticise the work of any other Minister, the work of that Minister is not affected; but, unless we are whole-heartedly behind the Minister in charge of recruiting, his work cannot succeed. Judging by the tone of the debate, the one thing which we as members of the Federal Parliament are out to secure is recruits in sufficient numbers, arid I appeal to honorable members, and through them to the citizens of Australia, to give the honorable member for Nepean , a chance to do his work, and to do all they can to assist him in getting them.
It is only right that we should pay a tribute to the yeoman service that the Hon. Donald Mackinnon has rendered to the country in an honorary capacity. I understand that the appointment of a Minister to take charge of recruiting is not to be considered as any reflection upon the work performed by him, but that, on the other hand, it is to be regarded more as strengthening his hand. If there was one weakness about the appointment of a Director of Recruiting, it was the fact that he did not have the necessary power to see that the things which he thought should be carried out were done. He could say that certain things required to be done, but he was thwarted right and left. Many honorable members have given reasons why recruiting has failed. I am positive that Mr. Mackinnon has been well aware of those reasons, but it has not been in his power to alter things. It will be within the power of the honorable member for Nepean to alter things. He has but to say, and the thing is done. Therefore let us get behind him, and see whether or not we can help him. I know that the honorable member’s heart is in the work of recruiting. Let us put our hearts into it, and let us place whatever powers we have at his disposal.
During the past three or four years, many young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years have left Australia in order to participate in active service abroad, but under our Defence Act they are liable to training in our Citizen Forces on their return. It .would be a just recognition of what they have done for us if the Defence Department could relieve those men who have been serving abroad for a definite period from the necessity of participating in the training undergone by members of the Citizen Forces.
– Three months ago the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom), who was then .Assistant Minister for Defence, gave us- his assurance that they would not be required to serve in the Citizen Forces. I have had only one case in which a man has been called up for training, and in that case the order was immediately cancelled.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance, because I have received two letters from returned men, who had two and a half and three years’ service respectively, and they have been called up.
– It must be quite accidental. From my experience, the assurance given in this House has been acted on.
– I regret that the Government have seen fit to convert the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) into a motion of censure. It was not the intention of the honorable member, in submitting his amendment, or in making his speech, that it should be so treated, and therefore he should be exonerated from such blame as some honorable members of this Parliament thought fit to place upon him. I resent the action of the Government in depriving me and others who are representatives of the people of the right to vote as we see fit on any matter that may’ be brought up for discussion.
– They do not’ deprive the honorable member of that right.
– I claim that they have done so. They have put such a price upon my vote that I am not prepared to pay it. They have told me that unless I am prepared to run the risk of displacing the Government from office, I must vote contrary to how my reasoning tells me I should vote. I am of opinion that the portfolio of the Minister for Defence should be held by a member sitting in this House. That was the purpose of the amendment submitted by the honorable’ member for Henty. .
– Does the honorable member think that the Government would resign if the amendment were carried?
– They have said that they wilL
– There is no risk; they would’ not “chuck” their jobs.
– No self-respecting member of the National party could do otherwise than vote against the amendment, if for no other reason than the fact that honorable members of the Opposition are so anxious to see it carried. I am not prepared now or at any other time to “pay that price for exercising my right to vote upon a matter with which I am totally in accord. There are honorable members opposite who will vote for the amendment, not because they think that the portfolio of the Minister for Defence, should be held in this House, but because they see in it an opportunity of stabbing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and those behind him in the back.
At this hour one hesitates to deal with a subject which may seem foreign to the debate, but because I deem it of prime importance to Australia, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) to give consideration to the question of adopting the decimal system of coinage and metric system of weights and measures in Australia. The subject has received great attention from prominent men in Great Britain.
– It was a matter that was recommended to this Parliament fifteen years ago by a Select Committee.
– And the fact that this system has not been adopted shows the necessity for recommending it more than once. With the exception of Great Britain and India, the leading countries of the world have adopted decimal coinage.
– I will ask the honorable member not to go into that matter, as it is the subject of a notice of motion.
– While I am in sympathy wilh the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Henty I cannot support it, because the price that I would have to pay is too great.
.I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley). I am pleased that the Government have seen fit to appoint a Minister to take charge of recruiting, and that the choice has fallen upon the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard). He is the most popular man on either side of the House, and the most popular man in Australia in the eyes of the soldiers. If we wish to secure recruits we have to catch the eyes and the sympathies of those in whose ranks we are recruiting. I congratulate the Government upon the appointment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene). It is a pity that we have no other representatives of. country districts on the Treasury bench.
– I represent more producers than the honorable member does.
– Then I would like the honorable member to assert himself a little more in favour of the producing interests. ‘ I am very pleased that the honorable member for Richmond has been added to the Ministry, and I take no exception to the appointment of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) . When he occupied the position of Treasurer, he did remarkably well. There is no more -loyal man in the chamber than the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise). He has two sons fighting at the Front, and his heart and soul is in recruiting.
My sympathies are with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), and I think that every honorable member would like to see the Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives. But I have to choose between that and the risk of putting the Government out of office; and the price is too big. I was not returned as a National member to place my friends opposite, much as I’ love them, on the Treasury bench. I pledged, myself to the electors to support the National Government loyally, and I do not intend at this juncture, when we are face to face with the greatest crisis “that I suppose the Empire has ever had to meet, to do anything that would convey to our ‘lads at the Front that we were fighting one another in a general election instead of standing unitedly behind them. It is surprising to me that honorable members opposite should at this hour come to the conclusion that it is necessary to have the Minister for Defence in this House. They were in power for three long years, and during that time no such suggestion was made; on the contrary, they voted in Caucus, without a -single exception, that Senator Pearce should continue as Minister for Defence.
– That is not true.
– I have it on the best authority that it is true. Can you mention any one who voted against him in the Caucus ?
– Tell us what happened in your Caucus.
– I am speaking about a Caucus of all Australia. We went befor the electors with Senator Pearce as Minister for Defence, and we were returned by an overwhelming majority, showing that the people were satisfied, so far as he was concerned, with all his shortcomings. None of us is satisfied, and it is not natural that we should be, with the state of affairs in the Defence Department; and it is much to.be regretted that the Opposition did not act on the advice given by Senator Millen when the war broke out. ‘ That honorable gentleman advocated at every opportunity that the Department should be divided into two branches, one purely military, and the other purely concerned with the business side.
– Why did he not divide it then?
– Simply because an election took place, and there was a change of Government shortly after the war broke out. Senator Millen could realize the enormous expenditure that would have to be met, but honorable members opposite would not accept his views in regard to the Department.. When this National Government came into power the first thing they did was to appoint a Royal Commission, and on the report of that Commission they have appointed three business experts . to control the purely business side of Defence administration. This shows that the National Government are honest, and not afraid of investigation; and yet they are condemned because of their action in this regard. The Royal Commission was appointed for the very purpose of showing where we were wrong, and the position has been remedied to the extent I have indicated. It would be just as absurd to put a General in charge of the Commonwealth Bank as to put one in charge of the business side of our biggest spending Department. Do honorable members realize that the Defence Department spends about £80,000,000 a year, or twice the aggregate capital of all the banks in Australia?
For my part, I propose to support the Government on the present occasion. I am determined to give the innovations they have introduced a trial, and to observe very closely how the business is conducted by the experts appointed. This grave juncture in the Empire affairs is not an opportune time to make the change proposed.
– I thought you helped to arrange the matter of the amendment
– I have been sick at homefor some weeks, and did not know anything about it until I came here today.
– Have you changed your mind since about January last?
– I have not changed my mind, as the honorable member will realize if he inquires into my attitudein regard to the Bendigo pledge. I think the Government should have resigned their seats, and that the places should have been filled by the so-called “ Second Eleven.”
– Were you not prepared to put the Government out then ?
– There was no question of putting them out. I spoke fearlessly in another place as I speak here, and I say that it is very much to be regretted that the pledge should have been made by the Government. This party should have been consulted, but I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made the pledge without even consulting his own colleagues.
– You were prepared to support the amendment of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman).
– I have stated my position clearly, and I shall not give a vote which would have the effect of placing the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) on this side, because I would not have him here for a thousand pounds.
.At this late hour I am not going to take up much time, but I desire to say a word or two, as, I suppose, I occupy rather a peculiar position in being, perhaps, the only anti-conscriptionist on this side of the House. In my opinion the Government have shown a great deal of wisdom in putting this question to the test just now, at this critical period of our history. The British Empire trembles in its foundations, and the whole world is, as it were, in the throes of a death struggle; and it does seem rather flimsy and. inconsequent for us to be engaged in a discussion of this kind, showing, as it undoubtedly does, a certain amount at disunion and disruption in the great National party, which was elected on the 5th May to do all that is humanly possible, within certain well-defined limits, to successfully carry on this great war. The Government are well advised in the action they are now taking because of the very delicate arrangements that led up to the formation of the National party, and to the conditions under which it was returned to power. The conditions of the agreements- for it really was an agreement - were distinctly stated and unquestioned at the time, and they were afterwards enunciated in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. This party went to the country, not as a conscriptionist party, but as one pledged to respect the will of the people with the proviso - with which I, and most of the Nationalists of New South Wales, disagreed - that, in the event of the nation’s safety demanding it, the question would again be submitted to the people. On that understanding, this party was accepted by the people, and the majority of , the party, I believe, are honestly endeavouring to maintain that compact, notwithstanding that circumstances are every day developing to test their loyalty to the greatest possible extent.
To make the position clear, I should like to define the exact difference, as I apprehend it, between the Liberal conscriptionists in this party, and the Labour conscriptionists amongst us; and if I am making a mistake, it will be a surprise to me. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has stated over and over again that conscription is a people’s question, and the people must decide it; and I believe he holds that faith to-day. If he does not, he had no justification for submitting the second referendum. As a Labour man, the right honorable gentleman had no option in regard to the first referendum, without being a traitor to his party, which believes in the right of the majority to rule. The Liberal conscriptionists, on the contrary - and I believe they hold this view in common with professed Liberalism all over the world - believe that it is contrary to the true principles of Democracy, as they interpret it, for the people to have any say on the subject. Here there is a clear line of cleavage, and unless the Labour, men in the National party are not as truly Labour men as ever they were, and are false to their principles, they will not adopt any policy that will outrage those principles. While I believe that those gentlemen of the Liberal party, who are now incorporated in the National party, still think it was folly, or, as a leading member put it, was “ muddling our man power,’’ to give the people a say, the majority are loyally standing by the compact they made. It is more than a coincidence that those who have indicted the Government under this amendment are the men who, when the tension is so great, think all party compact ought to be swept away, and that what they hold alone to be effective should be adopted - that they who have declared they made no pledge to the electors to support anything but conscription, now say that their sole reason for proposing to break the solidarity of this party, for that is what it means, is that they are doubtful as to the justice or propriety of having the Minister for Defence in the Senate. I am not going to say anything about what happens elsewhere; but has any effort been made on big, broad principles, to indict the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) ? The fact is that those gentlemen, carried away by their ardent patriotism, are now testing this party to see how far they may go, and whether it is possible to bring about a diversion that may give an opportunity to attain that which they hold to be necessary. Have we not evidence of the fact that since the 5th May, when we were elected by a’ huge majority, a section on this side has all the time had at heart the idea that the party could be made to boldly declare in some way for conscription.
– You do not believe in the pledge that was given ?
– We were told at Bendigo that the Government could not, or would not, carry on unless conscription was carried. That was a threat, and no one knows it better than the man who made it. The Prime Minister’s subjects were in insurrection weeks before he declared his intention to hold the second referendum. When the Russians fell out of the fight, and the greatest disaster in the history of the war befel the Italians, these gentlemen, under the able leader who is no longer a member of this House, began their conscription propaganda, and it is my honest opinion that if the Prime Minister had called the National party together, they would have challenged with some hope of success his right to occupy his position, because he did not declare in the face of the world’s disaster for the one thing which they thought was worthy of consideration in such a crisis - conscription. The Prime Minister used the War Precautions Act in order to bring about the second referendum. He did not dare, in my opinion, to call Parliament together, and those honorable members, like Rachel, refused to be comforted, because they could not get a promise from the man whom they considered too oily, because he was too clever for them, and because he insisted on the right of the people to govern, and they would have disrupted the National party in the referendum campaign had not the Prime Minister given his Bendigo pledge to placate them. All would have been well if conscription had been carried, but it was defeated by a greater majority than at the first referendum. But these honorable gentlemen have never ceased to pursue their policy in the face of all difficulties. At the present time, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Cook) are about to leave Australia to represent the country at the Imperial Conference, the Government are wise to ask the House to let them know how they stand. I am prepared to fight conscription at all times, and I left the Labour party because, in a moment of panic, the movement outside refused to men inside that freedom of opinion for which the broad principles of the party platform provided, and I am prepared to leave the National party if it becomes a conscriptionist party. But the Government are right in asking in Parliament whether the National party is to fight for conscription now, against our pledges on 5th May. If it is, let us ask the country to return a conscriptionist Parliament. Those gentlemen who are so enthusiastic for conscription think that, perhaps, in the present war crisis the people will reverse their previous decision, and give them a majority. Most of the members of this party, however, know that that is not so. Therefore, the vote to-night will serve a useful purpose, for the Government will know whether they have in thi? Chamber a majority who will stand behind them, or whether our delegates to the Imperial Conference 1 are to run the risk of being sunk by something more than a German torpedo. Are we men or creeping things? If it is right in this hour of national danger to have conscription, let us go to the country and get the people’s mandate. I am sure the Prime Minister would agree to that if there was a chance of winning, but I believe that every time we ask the people’s opinion on that question we shall get a more emphatic negative answer. Therefore, to raise the question now when an endeavour is being made to get more recruits would be a most disastrous proceeding. One honorable member found fault with the Prime Minister because he did not intern people in high places who did not see eye to eye with him in regard to the conscription question. When i heard that a huge meeting of the very cream of loyalists in this country had been held to denounce “ the disloyalists “ and to further recruiting, I thought .that at least a battalion of men would have resulted from that gathering. But next evening I was astonished to read that only twenty-five men had enlisted for the previous twentyfour hours in the whole of the State of Victoria. If we get that result from the cream of loyalty in Australia, what can we expect to get from the skim milk of Australian Democracy?
We must give greater earnest of our sincerity in the way of sacrifice. Let us reduce by 50 per cent, the salary of every man in this Parliament. Let us see that the people who are making huge profits by exploiting the public, and taking food out of the stomachs of the people, are put in their place. I suggested on a previous occasion that 10 per cent, of everybody’s wealth over £2,000 should be absolutely ear-marked, not necessarily liquidated at once, in order to make partners in the wealth of the country to the extent of 10 per cent, of those men who have gone overseas. The work and example that would conduce to more vigorous recruiting is being neglected. Threats and foolish taunts are being levelled at people who believe that conscription is a principle inimical to a free people, and, therefore, unacceptable to the Australian Democracy, and one would think that the anti- conscriptionists are the only “ coldfooters “ in the country. The “ coldfooters” are represented on every side. Selfishness stalks through the land. Let us recognise that those who do not believe in conscription are as loyal as are those who do, and that it would be a sorry day for this country if only out of the conscriptionist party the blood and sacrifice in this war had come. Tens of thousands of men volunteered for the Front so that the curse of conscription should not be put on the land of their birth. People who have sent five sons to the Front are prepared to perish rather than see conscription instituted in Australia. They may be wrong. I could give good reasons for the faith that is in me, but I have always respected the belief of other people. Every man in the Labour party knows that on the 24th August, 1916, in the Caucus room, I said that I would not accept a seat, much less a nomination, from, a party that would withhold from any man the right to think and act according to his own conscience. The majority of the Labour voters believed as I did then, and they do so now.
The vote to-night should at least show the discontented members of the National party just exactly where they stand, and it will disclose to the Government how many members in the party, rightly or wrongly, intend to maintain the honorable compact made with the electors on 5th May. If the majority of us are not prepared to respect that compact, let us face the electors, and, if necessary, go down fighting like honest men. But do not let us adopt a system of pin-pricking that encourages disloyalty inside the party, and will bring about unrest, and stultify and render negative every effort to raise further reinforcements. The conscription issue must be put aside finally, and those men who are for ever turning towards this Mecca of their hopes - I honour them for the steadfastness with which they hold their view - are doing the very worst thing for the object which we all have in view, although our methods may differ, namely, to bring about the best possible effort on the part of Australia to assist in winning the war.
– For two days I have listened to this debate. Whilst it has been contended’ that the object of the mover and sup porters of the amendment was only to direct the attention of the Committee and the public to the necessity for the Defence Department being more efficiently con- ‘ trolled, it must be admitted that a general indictment has been levelled against the Government by a number of the speakers. I believe that the amendment is quite legitimate. Every member on this side of the House, at any rate, has absolute freedom to discuss and criticise the Government if he so desires. But it is also within the province of the Government to esk the Houso at any time to indicate what support the Ministry may expect to receive. I can sympathize with a number of speakers who have joined with what has been termed by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), repeating a statement made in the press, “ the disgruntled party.” But I do not think there is one amongst the members who have criticised the Government and the administration of Senator Pearce, as Minister for Defence, but would accept a position in the , Ministry to-day.
– Do not judge others by your own standard.
-If I were to criticise the Government as I have heard them criticised during this debate; if I were to say that the Government- lock, stock, and barrel - are bad, as they are according to some speakers, I should hesitate to support this Ministry or to sit on the same side of the House with them. I repeat that, whilst it is within the province of members to criticise the Government, Ministers are also within their rights in asking the House at any time to declare itself for or against them. Personally, I am perfectly free. No man- or Government has any right to demand my vote other than on a question which affects the fate of the Empire. If any further proof of my disinterestedness is required, I would inform honorable members that for me the glamour of politics has long vanished. I have been in politics for fourteen years, and I am beginning to understand the stigma that attaches to the word politician in some parts of the world.
I listened to-night to speakers endeavouring to make themselves believe that if another Government were drawn from the members of the National party they would receive the whole-hearted support of the majority of members opposite in a recruiting policy. Let not honorable members deceive themselves upon that point. I have heard honorable members on both sides of the chamber saying, in effect, that because the Hughes Government are in power they decline to assist the Empire. But I believe that if any other Government were in power those same honorable members would discover some other reason for declining to do their fair share of the work of recruiting. Honorable members on this side of the House forget that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was indicted to some extent at a meeting of the National party. For a considerable number of years he has been in different Governments, and each time he has been appointed to the position of Minister for Defence. He was criticised at a meeting of the National, party, and, after he had replied, I heard no more criticism at that meeting. Then the criticism is rehashed here. I have known the Minister for Defence for a number of years, and I dp not think there is another man in this House who would do better under the trying conditions be has experienced during the last three and a half years. As a matter of fact, honorable members on the other side who are so ready to join in the condemnation of this gentleman now were the first “for a considerable number of years to defend him as the ideal Minister for Defence when attacked by members of the old Liberal party.
Much has been made of the old Bendigo pledge, but no attempt has ever been made to throw the responsibility for the subsequent actions of the Government on the proper shoulders. For, whatever Mr. Hughes did, the members of this party are responsible. Mr. Hughes placed himself in the hands of this party, and I have never heard him complain since when criticisms have been levelled against him, not only by those outside, who do not understand the position, but by members who do understand it fully. I am sure that the man who will regret this debate more than any other is the member who to-night made a speech which seemed to be the unalloyed essence of spleen. He found not one virtue in any member of this House, or in any member of the Ministry, and II feel sure that, on calm consideration, he will be sorry indeed for his utterance. He -achieved no object, and from the beginning to the end of his speech, I am sorry to say, he led us to believe there was not one redeeming feature about any member of the Government, even the new members who have been appointed.
At the ‘beginning of the debate, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said he wanted to draw the attention of members to something more important than even the finances of the Commonwealth, and that was the question of recruiting. He referred to the disabilities under which large numbers of unions and members of unions were labouring at the present time. He and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) pointed out that quite a number of members of unions in Newcastle and other districts were suffering through inability to secure work. I join with the honorable member for Hunter, and would willingly allow these unions to re-register, because I believe that the lesson has been taught to them that they cannot take the control of this country in their own hands. The wharf labourers are practically in the same position. I understand that employers of labour in various parts of Australia are dismissing men and women simply because they are unionists. From their own point of view this is an absolutely short-sighted policy, because the man who imagines that he can stem the tide of unionism in this country is a very foolish individual. Instead of helping the position to-day by putting the knife or “ putting the boot “ into these people when they have them down, they are making it worse from the stand-point of the national issue that is before us so prominently.
– I think the honorable member must have heard a whisper.
– I have heard no whisper. My notes have been made since I heard the honorable member for Hunter speak. I would go further. While I agree that those members of unions were rightly punished - I do not mean the thousands of the rank and file, but the men who deliberately set at defiance the laws of this country, even to the extent of declining, and asking hundreds of thousands of unionists to defy the law to the extent of declining, to do the work on the transports-
– It is extraordinary that the honorable member mentions this for the first time, after pressure from the Labour party has brought the Government to a better frame of mind.
– I give the honorable member my word that nothing of the kind has influenced me. As a matter of fact, there would be no virtue in it, so far as I am concerned, even if I had heard of it. But I have been endeavouring to find some solution of the trouble. I have been trying to ascertain what is the trouble with the Labour party in regard to recruiting. I cannot accept as a true-blue loyalist any man who, at this period, when we are right on the edge of a precipice, and all our democratic institutions may be set at naught, says, “ If you put Mr. Hughes out of the way, we will help.” I am asking no one to help to fight for Mr. Hughes, or to fight for this or that Government. If my occupancy of my present seat is in the way, it would be no sacrifice for me to get out.
– It is not so much Mr. Hughes as the things Mr. Hughes has been doing that ought to have been stopped.
– Many things may have been done that, perhaps, should not have been done, but that never excuses a man for not doing his best for his country. It would not be a sufficient excuse for me or any one else to say to soldiers, when they return, that we did not do our best because so-and-so had been done. I agree with the honorable member that many things have been done that should not have been done.
– It is the opinion of the mass of the people outside.
– The opinions of the mass of the people should be guided by men like my honorable friend. The unfortunate part of it is, and this explains the position of the party opposite to-day, that the political leaders are not actually leading the party. I do not say that offensively, because I have had experience of the party, and know that gradually the extremists, who have no sympathy for thereal Labour movement, have been getting control of the multitude between themselves and the political leaders. I believe the working people of
Australia are absolutely loyal, if encouraged and loyally led. But if their leaders simply sit back and make no endeavour to fight that extreme movement, they cannot expect other than that the vast number of the workers will be lukewarm on the question of this war. I am satisfied that the Labour leaders can defeat those I call the Bolsheviks at the other extreme. Surely it is worth an effort. Surely this country is worth even putting up with a Government that honorable members opposite do not believe in. What would be the position tomorrow if, with a Labour Government in power, we on this’ side said that, because of that fact, we were not going to do any more? The man who says “ I will not do any more,” because of some paltry reason, is to me a traitor to his country. The man who is fit and eligible for service is either intentionally or otherwise a traitor to his country if he refuses to give that service.
I would go further to meet the Opposition party. I believe that in the delegation which is to leave for England shortly it would be a wise policy for the Government to include a member of the Opposition.
– I suggested Mr. Tudor long ago.
– I do not mind who it is. It could be left for the Labour party or the Government to select a man. It would do the Official Labour party good, and it is well to have both minority and majority represented; I am sure that if we could send that Labour representative Home, he would he convinced by the attitude of his colleagues in the Labour movement in England that this was a fight to a finish, and that either liberty or Prussianism must go.
– He could not alter the crowd behind him.
– It might give the majority some courage to endeavour to remove that crowd. The mass of the crowd behind them are good if their heads will lead them well. At present they are being influenced, not by the members on the other side of the House, but by the extreme section right at the other end. I said that quite a number of things have been done that should not have been done.
I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that it ii necessary for us to create, if possible, an atmosphere out of which will arise united action. I have asked honorable members opposite to recognise their share of the duty to-day, and when they ask this side of the House what has been done to win the war, I would impress upon them that almost every day we read of motions not sympathetic with the nation’s cause being passed - I know it is not with their knowledge or approval - in societies and unions. That has been going on for a considerable time.
– What is the use of youT saying that you believe that they are sympathetic, in view of the resolutions continually being passed by those bodies?
– I am appealing to the leaders of the Labour party to lead their people loyally. I am satisfied there are members on that side who have the influence.
– What resolutions have been carried?
– Quite a number, as the honorable member knows, against recruiting.
– They do not affect any Labour member.
– The honorable member cannot tell me that when the Trades Hall declares a certain policy it does not affect a Labour member.
– It does not on that matter. No resolution ever carried affects me on recruiting. Why is it that our party has been, represented on every war and recruiting committee in this country?
– The Melbourne Trades Hall are not represented on the Recruiting Conference now sitting at Government House.
– They are. Mr. Scullin is there representing them.
– He represents the political side, and not the Trades Hall. The honorable member cannot, at this date, state with truth that the Labour members have done, generally speaking, their best in regard to recruiting.
– That is another matter on which it is not for me to speak.
– In New South Wales, they were forbidden to go on the recruiting platform.
– That is untrue.
– Resolutions were carried forbidding them to do that, and it cannot be said that those resolutions had not some effect.
– Every political organization in Australia is represented in the Conference called by the GovernorGeneral.
– I am glad to hear that; but it is a poor spirit in which to enter a Conference to determine that, unless one can get everything he wants, he will not help his country.
– How does the honorable member know what has occurred at the Conference?
– I know the resolution that was passed in. Melbourne to the effect that, unless this, that, and the other were done, certain people would not assist in recruiting.
I ask honorable members whether it would be worth while for them to gain the whole political power if the country were to be humiliated by a German victory? The duty rests on Ministers, as well as on every other section of the community, to endeavour to create an atmosphere in which the best results may be obtained. I ask them to give more attention to the prevention of profiteering. Recently, I directed attention to the figures of Mr. Knibbs regarding the increase in the price of forty-six articles of groceries since the beginning of the war. This increase varied from 36 per cent. in Tasmania, and a little less in the other eastern States, to 8.3 percent, in Western Australia. I asked what explanation could be given of the difference, and it was said that an explanation could not be given, but that it must be remembered that, in the eastern States, prices had been gradually creeping up to the level of prices in the West. A more stupid explanation could not have been suggested. It is admitted that, before the war, prices were higher in the West than in the eastern States. That has been recognised by the Arbitration Court, and by the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner.
– Meat in Perth is only half as dear as in Melbourne and in’ Sydney. Senator McDougall and I made a comparison.
– It is difficult to make such a comparison. The difference is not so. great as the honorable member says, though it may exist in certain lines. If there be anything in the explanation I have referred to, it shows that the business people of the West have been patriotic enough not to advance their prices materially during the war. The people of Western Australia have been patriotic beyond those of any other part of the Commonwealth. That State has raised the largest number of recruits in proportion to population, and, by overwhelming majorities, has voted to send every eligible necessary to the war. And now it would seem that the business people have been unwilling to take advantage of war conditions to increase prices. It is useless to make the excuse that commodities are cheaper here now than in any other country that has taken part in the war. I can understand big increases in prices of imported goods, but there are many locallymanufactured articles, the price of which has increased enormously. I ask honorable members who are interested in their domestic expenditure how it is possible for working men to live in Victoria on 9s. or 10s. a day when beef is ls. 4d. a lb. - I have been told by an honorable member of the Opposition that he has paid as much as ls. 6d. a lb. for it.
– Hemust have been after a choice cut.
– One and fourpence is too much for beef in a country where cattle are reared in such large numbers.
– The growers do not benefit by the high prices.
– Whoever may benefit, the public is being charged too much. The drought which injured the eastern States affected Western Australia also, and the growers of the West had to buy in a high market, though perhaps not over so long a period as here. But we are told that certain persons will be ruined if we give people meat at a fair price, although Western Australia is finding it difficult to get rid of its stock.
– In the eastern States they have been exporting meat; Western Australia is not able to do so.
– We should not export at the expense of our own population, and at prices which it is said would ruin the growers if applied to, the Home market. The Government should make an attempt to see that the people get a fair deal. I would treat the profiteer as a traitor in the worst sense.. He must know that by increasing the burdens of the people he is lowering their morale.
– It is the public that fixes the price of stock.
– I suppose there is no such thing as manipulation by bowelless and soulless individuals ! If the Government does its duty, it will grapple with this question, even at the risk of making a mistake. Hundreds of persons are charging prices which are not fair, and we are told that last month more money was taken by the Melbourne business firms than at any previous time in their experience! I would treat the pro-‘ fiteers as if they were lepers, branding them so that decent people would not associate with them. Instead of a small fine, I would imprison for a long period those who take advantage of war conditions to improve their own finances.
– Some of the honorable member’s friends do hot like that.
– I do not care. I am absolutely free, and shall always exercise the right of free speech conferred on me by the people of Kalgoorlie.
– Remembering the alarming cables that hourly come to hand showing how the tide of battle is going against us, I wonder whether our minds are in proper focus when we spend days in settling a squabble between two sections of the Nationalist party. When to-night a member dealt with the subject of conscription for national service, I was struck with the reception that he received. A short time ago an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia - ninetenths of them, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - believed in conscription. No doubt the electors have turned against it, but I was surprised to hear the honorable member lectured because he continued to breathe his faith in conscription. The Mother Country has grasped the nettle, notwithstanding the trouble that threatens in one part of the United Kingdom, and is conscripting for war service in England, Ireland, and Scotland, men up to the age of 55 years. I do not think that the putting forward of conscription here is expedient now, but the moral courage of members in regard to the matter is waning. A speech on conscription would have been applauded from one end of the country to the other twelve months ago, but to-night, when a member spoke in favour of conscription, he was looked upon as being out of line with the party which went to the country on an unadulterated policy of conscription.
– On a policy of conscription?
– I heard what the honorable member said, and have no objection to his expressing his opinions, but his position is more anomalous than that ‘ of the member to whom I have been referring. I regret that the last few days have not been spent by members on both sides in an earnest endeavour, in these hours before the crisis, to come together in the national interest. I should not like to be the Prime Minister, to go Home and sit at the Council table with representatives of other parts of the Empire, of the people of England, Ireland, and Scotland in the Old Land, and of Canada and New Zealand among the Dominions who are conscripted, while the people of Australia are not conscripted. That is my faith, and I stand for it in season or out of season. I admit that Australia has not .seen fit to adopt conscription for the time being, but if its adoption could save Australia or the Empire I would not care a rap for all the political parties in the world, if my vote would bring it about I would give it in that direction to-night.
With regard to the amendment, I am not very much concerned. I was one of those who voted that the honorable member for Bendigo should accept a commission to continue to govern the affairs of Australia, and it is the duty of honorable members who voted as I did on that occasion to stand behind the Government in their war policy and give them generous support. I do not say that many things are not what I should desire them to be, and I should like to speak upon the use of the War Precautions Act and upon certain administrative acts. I would do so if the times were normal, but the times are not normal. We have more important matters to consider than the question of whether, in this grave hour, it is expedient or otherwise for the. Defence portfolio to be held in this Chamber. However, I join in the protest against placing too many restrictions upon honorable members. This is not a matter that should have been made vital to the life of the Government. A principle of the Liberal party, upon which we have always stood in the past, is that members of the party should have the fullest freedom to discuss matters..
– You have that without the amendment.
– Of course we have. But if an honorable member chooses to focus a debate on a particular question he may elect his own method of doing it, and a popular method of doing it is. to pick out an item in Supply and move for its reduction. That method . is not usually followed by the Government treating it as a motion of want of confidence.
– It was done on the Loan Bill last year.
– The circumstances are different on this occasion.
– I admit that the circumstances are different. I think that the freedom to which we have always been accustomed in the Liberal party should be continued. If we permit it to be whittled away the effect will be to transfer debates on vital matters to another place. Decisions on vital matters should not be arrived at in another place. This is the House in which legislation should be shaped. The practice of the Liberal party has been to have our chats and not to tie the hands of honorable members by resolutions or by any other method. It has also been our practice to have vital matters discussed in this Chamber as freely as possible.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has dealt with the control of oversea and coastal shipping, and has made a very excellent suggestion, by which I hope the Government will profit, namely, that this House or primary producers should have some substantial representation upon the Shipping Board, particularly in regard to oversea’ shipping. It is the producers’ wool, beef, mutton, dairy produce, and base metals that are carried overseas. I know the restrictions on shipping at the present time, but there is great opportunity for allotting shipping space so as to give preference to certain commodities. Those who understand shipping matters know that very often space is available at the eleventh hour. If a boat is not filled up there is a sudden announcement that space is available, and there is a rush for that space. But those who have the advantage of a close and intimate knowledge of the matter are more likely to secure space than are the community generally. It would allay any feeling of distrust, if not of discontent, that may exist, if the producing interests were given representation on the Shipping Board, and it might lead to a more equitable allotment of space. I know that space is allotted by arrangement with the Imperial Government, but I also know that these things can be varied by those who control matters at the eleventh hour when the ship is about to sail. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) will take particular notice of this point.
In the temporary State control of commodities in the Pools there has been too great a tendency to exclude primary producers from representation. It has caused a great deal of concern in connexion with the Wheat Pool. There is a growing feeling that the interests of the producers are not sufficiently represented on the various Boards. The disposal of the wool clip has been admirably handled so far as the representations of the growers is concerned, and there is now an opportunity for the Government to extend the principle in other directions. It is also recognised that in a great primary producers’ country such as Australia is, there is not a sufficiently substantial representation of the primary industries in the Commonwealth Government. The matter has recently been rectified to some extent, I am pleased to say, but it would tend to create a better feeling right throughout the country if closer attention were paid to the composition of the Pools, and if more direct representation were given to the producers on them.
I do not pretend to be in a position to judge rightly the merits or otherwise of the wool tops contract; but I maintain that it is a dangerous policy to pick out any persons in trade and give them an advantage over their competitors.
– That has been done all through the piece.
– It has been done in the case of the Pools. In the matter of chartering vessels, two firms are picked out, to the entire exclusion of their trade competitors. I have nothing in the world against those firms. I have had business relations with one of them, Elder’ Smith and Company, and I can say that there is no more honorable firm in the Commonwealth; but it is the principle of the thing to which I object. If we pick out particular firms and elevate them ‘over the heads of their trade competitors, it gives them an undue advantage. In the case of the wool tops contract, an arrangement was entered into which placed the principal in one of the firms concerned in a far better trading position with regard to the purchase of stock than any of his competitors occupied. The honorable member for Grampians- (Mr. Jowett) has referred to the humanitarian instincts of this gentleman; but with a great big margin up his sleeve to beat his trade competitors he was able to go into the stock market, and overbid them for stock, by reason of the fact that he had contracts for utilizing the wool on the sheep’s backs.
– His competitors did not object to that.
– I merely wish to point out that by reason of having this substantial advantage he has been able to do this. In a time of war, when every one is doing his utmost, it is a wrong policy to give any firm a contract which will place it in a far better position to trade than that of others in the same trade.
– Mr. F. W. Hughes was in a much better positionbefore the war.
– I do not know that hp was. The honorable member for Grampians, has pointed out that the alternative to the wool tops contract was the closing down of these establishments; but we know that the- Government had another alternative. Australia has missed the bus for years. There is nothing to prevent us from half manufacturing our wool by converting it into wool tops; but at present a great industry is going to waste. If from the contracts of this firm it was possible to make, in twelve months, the profit announced today, we are losing an opportunity of affording considerable employment, and placing Australia in a dominating position in this regard, by so handling all our wool. I suggest to the honorable member for Grampians that, in war time, there is nothing to prevent the Government taking over the business at fixed rates of profit from the gentleman who has been alluded to in the chamber to-day. I object from another point of view to the profits on wool going elsewherethan into the Pool. What right has the Government, who are the trustees and bailees for the growers, to enter into a contract and secure for the Consolidated Revenue a profit of some £64,000 ?
– I do not think the Government has taken enough of the wool-grower’s profits.
– That is a stupid kind of statement to make - one I would expect from a man prepared to ratify any contract. The wool -growers are quite prepared to take their share of the burden in the shape of taxation or otherwise. The Prime Minister has made an arrangement by which half the profit, over and above ls. 3½d., on the surplus wool sold in other parts of the world shall come back to Australia; yet the profit on the wool that is sold to the manufacturer of wool tops here for sale abroad at a lower price than it can be got abroad, will not go back into the Pool, but into the Consolidated Revenue. That principle I regard as wrong. The surplus wool sold abroad over and above the requirements of the Army, Navy, and nursing staffs is sold on Imperial and Australian account,’ and half the profits come back to Australia. What right have the Government to take any portion of the proceeds of the wool we sell here to manufacturers of wool tops?
– All the wool manufacturers, apart from the top-makers, get their wool, I understand, at a 10 per cent. reduction on the ls. 3½d.
– They get it at the first appraised value. There is, first of all, a trial appraisement, and if, in the aggregate, it falls below ls. 3½d., a second payment is made. ‘ We give it to the Australian manufacturer a little under its value, but the Home manufacturer has to buy it in the open market I come back to the point I wish to emphasize, namely, that it is a distinct departure on the part of the Commonwealth Government to enter into a private contract for its benefit instead of that of the growers in respect of wool lodged in the Wool Pool for sale, and in respect of which we have allowed, and quite rightly, certain contracts to be carried out for Japan. What right have the Commonwealth to make a profit out of that wool?
– What right have the Government to take nearly twothirds of the profit of a man conducting an industry, except they require the money ?
– It is the clearest admission that this wool valued under war conditions afforded too substantial a profit, and, no doubt, as a result of negotiations with Mr. F. W. Hughes, an arrangement was entered into by which half should come back to the Commonwealth. Under the War-time Profits Act, half would have come back to the Government, in any case, in the first year, and 75 per cent. in the second year as wartime profits. If this wool legitimately belongs to anybody it belongs to the Pool, and if the Government does anything in respect of it, and earns a profit, that profit belongs to the Pool. That is the principle adopted in regard to the other Pools, and the present arrangement of the Government is a departure. The Government would be well advised in reviewing the position, and providing that if a profit is made over and above the amount I refer to, it should go into the Pool, and not into the Consolidated Revenue.
Question- That the sum be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first and second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee thatthe Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– There is a general impression that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) propose to leave shortly for London to attend an Imperial Conference. I wish to know if the report is correct that an invitation has been sent to the Govern ment to send representatives to such a Conference. If so, have the Government any information to give to honorable members as to the purposes of the Conference, and the subjects to be discussed? Are Ministers to be given an opportunity to discuss any matters that may arise at the Conference with the members of this Parliament, because I think it is most important not only that Parliament should know what Ministers intend to do, but also that Ministers should know the feeling of Parliament in regard to various matters. Already objection has been taken to the claim of the Prime Minister to represent the people of Australia at such an important gathering as an Imperial Conference. We must admit that the fact of his being Prime Minister, rightly or wrongly, entitles him to be the representative of Australia, but it must be distinctly understood that he and the Ministerfor the Navy can speak at that Conference only as representing a section, and, in some respects, a very small section, of the people of Australia. Is the Conference to determine, for instance, the future of Australia, so far as we can forecast it, and our connexions with the Mother Country, or the adding of territory to or taking it from the Commonwealth?
Mr.McWilliams. - Is it not absurd to discuss terms of peace at the present time?
– I am not discussing terms of peace, but I think that Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing these important matters with the Ministers who are to attend the Conference. We are somewhat in the dark as to whether Ministers are actually going to London. On some days we are told that there is no prospect of their going, and on other days we are told that they are likely to go at any time. A suggestion has been made in another place that,because the Leader of the Opposition in Canada is to accompany the Prime Minister of that Dominion-
– Who says that is so?
– I do not say that that is so, but the statement was made in another place, and it was suggested that the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament (Mr. Tudor) should be invited to accompany the Prime Minister. Personally, I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition is desirous of going to London, and I am not aware that the membersof his party have any definite views on the matter, but I should like to know whether the invitation, if any has been received, is confined to two Ministers only, or would include the Leader of the Opposition.
There are several items in the Prime Minister’s Department to which I wish to direct attention, but I shall be able to curtail my remarks this morning if the Treasurer will give me an assurance that the policy statement delivered by the Prime Minister is to be discussed during next week.
– Probably during this week.
– Various matters are mentioned in it that certainly call for some very severe and close criticism. I am in receipt of quite a number of communications in relation to the matter of price-fixing, the control of exports, and similar matters that are acting detrimentally to the interests of Australia, and are seriously interfering with businesses that have been built up. These restrictions make it almost impossible for some manufacturers to carry on, and in some instances they have been compelled to consider whether it would not be better to close up their businesses rather than endure the ills caused by the price-fixing authorities.
– That is always said when there is a proposal to fix prices.
-I am not objecting to the fixation of prices, so long as it is done in. a proper way.
– Three hundred small businesses in Victoria have closed up already.
– I shall deal at greater length with this matter on another occasion.
I am in receipt of information that military raids are still being carried on in offices and private dwellings in Brisbane. For instance, the office of the Irish Association has been raided, and books and papers and private personal correspondence have been seized. This sort of thing is going too far ; and, so far from promoting that harmony which we all admit, is so essential to the conduct of affairs at the present time, is causing a considerable amount of irritation. I promise houor- able members full details of this matter on another occasion.
Further evidence has reached me of a press censorship of a more severe kind than any recordedyet, even during the previous worst period of the censorship. Articles that have appeared in a number of daily and weekly newspapers without challenge are being refused publication in other papers, and it is an unfortunate fact that it is always the Labour papers that are singled out for this interference. I promise honorable members definite and specific details of these matters at a later date. These actions are destructive of harmony, and I am anxious to remove all such causes of irritation so long as there are reasonable grounds for their removal.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the fact that a number of Australian soldiers are being imprisoned in France and England for what seem to be minor offences. Ministers must be aware that these cases are not isolated, but number hundreds.
– Shall we get the facts when you put the cases before the House?
– The unfortunate thing is that, though we get the case from the point of view of the soldier or his relatives, it is difficult to get the official case. Certainly the . correspondence reaching me indicates that Australian soldiers are being sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for apparently trivial offences.
– I do not believe a word of that.
– It is unfortunately true, and I promise the Minister for Defence some interesting items later on, when this matter is again before honorable members.
Mr. WEST (East Sydney [3.15 a.m.]. - Will an opportunity be given to the House to discuss the question of the Imperial Conference before our delegates leave for Great Britain? I have a very strong objection, which is shared by many people throughout the world, to secret conferences or secret diplomacy in regard to national affairs.
– You will have an opportunity.
– This is a serious matter, worthy of the consideration of any body of men who desire that in future the democracies of the world should know what is done at conferences of this kind by those who are leading the nation.
– The next item on the businesssheet will afford an ample opportunity for that.
– When will that come on?
– Then I will not detain honorable members. If we conducted our business properly there should be no occasion for late sittings of this kind. Sooner or later Parliaments will have to deal with the question of secret diplomacy, because if anything will stop ruptures between various nations it will he the stoppage of the secret diplomacy that has taken place. With the assurance of the Government that an opportunity will be given to honorable members to exercise their right to discuss the matter, I am willing to resume my seat
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented: -
Audit Act. - Special report by the AuditorGeneral, being comments upon those portions of the second progress report of the Royal Commission on Naval and Defence Administration which relate to the Andit Office.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balance Sheet at 31st December, 1917; together with. the Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Inter-State Commission Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Inter-State Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Jericho, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Leichhardt, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 41, 65.
Papua- Ordinances of 1918 -
No. 1.- Timber.
No. 2.- Sago.
No. 3. - Superannuation.
No. 4. - Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 5. - Past Officers’ Superannuation. Railways Act- By-law No. 3.
Motion (by Mr. Josephcook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. on Friday.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The idea of the Government is to devote the whole of Thursday to the business of the Recruiting Conference so far as concerns those Ministers who are attending the Conference, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. ‘ Tudor). The late sitting to-night would not be a very good preparation for a further sitting of the House during today (Thursday), and, in the circumstances, we have proposed that the House shall not meet again until Friday morning. The Government regard the Recruiting Conference taking place at’ Government House as of even greater importance than the proceedings of this House at the present time. Very important deliberations have taken place there already, and I am hopeful that great public good will result from the gathering. I am sure honorable members will wish that every possible consideration should be given to the questions being dealt with there, in the sincere hope that we may have a better spirit prevailing in the community, and greater harmony and unity in our midst.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.20 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180417_reps_7_84/>.