7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McGRATH made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of Ballarat.
Bill returned from the Senate,without request.
The following paper was presented : -
Factories. - Report on Commonwealth Government Factories, for the year ended 30th June, 1916.
Ordered to be printed.
– It was stated in the press that I was unpaired for the division that took place early on Thursday morning on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) on the Supply motion, and my name does not appear in the Pair Book. When I left the chamber, I was under the impression - received from an Honorary Minister - that I was paired with Sergeant Fleming. Had I been present I should have voted, as I spoke, in support of the amendment.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in the Herald of the 16th April last dealing with the work of the Maitland mine. The officers of the Victorian Mines Department there point out, among other things, that, so far as the Department could say, the contract with Messrs. J. and A. Brown had not been signed. The Victorian Government, they add, is supplying voluntary labour for the Richmond Main mine. Will the right honorable gentleman make representations to the Victorian Government, in view of the crisis through which we are passing, and the fact that a large number of miners in the district are unemployed, as to the inadvisability of sending men from Victoria until work has been found for those on the spot?
– The honorable member may rely upon it that every consideration will be given to the trouble connected with the Newcastle mines. The voluntary labour question is only one phase of the general victimization question ; and’ I hope that, as the result of the Conference now taking place elsewhere, matters will soon be cleared up in a way that will be satisfactory to all concerned.
Non-payment of Chew’s Dependants.
– It is now nearly twelve months since the Customs tug Nyora was lost with all but two of her complement, but the compensation due to the dependants of those whoperished has not yet been paid. Will the Minister be good enough to take the steps necessary to have these payments made, because it is hard on widows and children to be kept waiting for money while legal technicalities are being settled ?
– The matter has been before me on two or three occasions. A part payment has been made to the widows concerned, but there are legal technicalities of which I hope a. settlement will soon be come to.
Statement about Mr. Catts - Resignaton.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to the statement made by Senator Pearce, which appears on page 3709 of the Hansard reports for this session. Referring to a speech made by me, he said -
As I have already stated, he was quoting from a pro-German journal published in America before the United States entered the war.
In fairnessto me, Senator Pearce should name the publication to which he refers, and indicate the source of the quotation. I believe his remark to be a wanton misrepresentation, and if he cannot substantiate it he should withdraw it.
– I shall consult the Minister on the subject.
– Has the Leader of the House seen in this morning’s newspaper the statement that Lord Derby, the British Secretary for War, has resigned ? In view of the statement of Ministers here that it would be dangerous to remove from office our present Minister for Defence, I ask : Is the Empire endangered by the resignation of Lord Derby ?
– I do not know that it has been suggested from this side that it would be dangerous to remove any Minister. My own view is that, if a Minister can be spared, he must be spared. As to the position of the British Empire, that is a matter on which Lord Derby, perhaps,might be consulted.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that within the last month wire netting has risen in price from £80 to £100 a mile, and that bran bags which were 9s. a dozen are now being sold in Sydney wholesale at 13s. a dozen? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire the reason for this ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the investigating authorities.
– You might inquire, too, concerning the price of, manures and fertilizers.
– And of salt.
– No doubt prices are towering up, and if honorable gentlemen can suggest a practical means of keeping them down Ministers will be delighted to know of them. It is easy to say that we should stop the increase of prices, but it is quite another thing to do it.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in view of the rumours as to the prevalence of red plague, the Department is taking such steps as may be necessary to isolate persons suffering from this disease who come here from oversea?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the House know later.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the Italian Government pays only 2d. per day to the
Italians who are now being conscripted in Australia for service abroad ? Is it & fact that the Australian Government is making to the dependants of the conscripted Italians the allowance of1s. 5d. per day, with 41/2d. for each child ? Does the Commonwealth Government consider that that allowance is sufficient to keep the dependants of men who are paid at such a low rate?
– I understand that these matters are dealt with under international conventions, but if the honorable member will give notice of the question I willsupply him with an answer.
– We have given notice already.
– Does the Minister know that an Australian married woman, married to an Italian who is called to the colours, is expected to keep herself and her children on 19s. per week ; and does he not think that it is the duty of the Government to look into the matter?
– I have already told the honorable member for Barrier that I will supply him with an answer if he gives notice of his question.
– The Minister has already had notice of it several times.
– As I am afraid that I shall not be here during the coming week, I would like to ask whether, during the discussion which will take place upon the Ministerial statement, some assurance cannot be given that steps will be taken to give representation on the Committee in control of shipping to the traders of Australia ?
– I had intended to consult the Prime Minister about this very matter. I have seen him, but I have not been able to touch upon it, because we have been fully engaged on other business. However, I undertake to consult him about it at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that compulsion is being used in the University of Melbourne to cause certain students to enlist under the penalty ofbeing expelled from a certain society or societies; and if so, will he make inquiries as to facts and inform the House?
– The Registrar, Melbourne University, under whose notice this matter was brought, states as follows : -
In reply to your letter of: to-day’s date, concerning a certain question which has been asked in Parliament, I beg to state that in the Argus of yesterday you will find a paragraph, of which the following is a copy: -
At a meeting of the Medical Students Society recently held at the University, Sir Harry Allen being in -the chair, great enthusiasm was expressed when a motion was tabled excluding all” slackers “ from membership of the society.
By more than a two-thirds majority, the voting being 170 for the motion, and only 65 against it, it was decided “ that no one should be allowed to become or remain a member of the Medical Students Society unless he could give satisfactory reasons why he was not in khaki, to a committee to be composed of a medical man, a lawyer, and a business man.” It was further decided that the medical member of the committee should be an outside practitioner not connected with the University staff. The announcement of the voting was received with loud cheers.”
I can only add to the information contained in this paragraph that the Medical Students Society is a voluntary association of practically the whole of the medical students in the University, and that the proposal which was carried at their meeting emanated from the society itself, and was not the result of suggestion or pressure on the part of the University or any of its officers.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I have not the reply to these questions. I sent the questions to the Prime Minister, whose Department controls such matters, hut I would like to say for the information of honorable members that the relatives and dependants ofmen on the s.s. Matunga, who are now prisoners in other (parts of the world, are being cared for. I had an interview with the various unions concerned with the men, and I think that we reached a very satisfactory arrangement, the details of which I will furnish next week.
asked the Minister f or Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he place upon the table of the Library the file of papers relating to the challenging of Mr. Frank Pearce’s vote at Omeo at the Referendum poll?
Mr.GLYNN. - I do not think it desirable to lay the papers on the Library table, but I shall be pleased to make them available for the confidential perusal of the honorable member.
Citizen Forces Trainees: Commanding Officers’ Powers of Dismissal : Number in Hospitals in Europe.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether those men who have served with the A.I.F. abroad, and who would, under ordinary circumstances, be liable for training in the Citizen Forces of Australia, will be relieved from that obligation on the grounds that their military training and experience abroad more than ‘fulfil requirements ?
– This matter is at present receiving the attention of the Department, and a decision on the subject will be arrived at shortly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House what is the number of members of the A.I.F. placed hors de combat and actually in the various hospitals in Europe on the 1st March, 1918?
-The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No information is available to show the number of men in various hospitals in Europe. From a cable received from England, dated 3rd March, 1918, the following are shown to be in hospitals and convalescent homes in the United Kingdom: - 200 officers. 5,789 other ranks.
Awaiting return to Australia - 146 officers. 6,770 other ranks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister is having inquiry made; a reply will be given later.
asked tie Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It is not considered advisable in the public interest to make public the replies to these questions, but the honorable member, as well as any other honorable member, may see the information confidentially on application to the Assistant Minister.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta - much regret to have to ask the House to consent to an adjournment.
– The circumstances are altogether unprecedented and peculiar in every way. 1 am not suggesting this in order to suit the convenience of Ministers. I am doing it because a Recruiting Conference-
– Win-the-War ?
– A Recruiting Conference which has not yet finished its labours is anxious to have both leaders from this House present.
– Must this House shut up on that account?
– Is the seat of Government transferred to Government House?
– Order !
-I would be extremely obliged if I could get an interjection in now and then. I am trying to explain the position, if I may be permitted to do so. A number of gentlemen from other States have been attending that Recruiting Conference for a week.
– Yes, and the Prime Minister was there twice, and would not stay when they wanted him to do so.
– That is not true. It is an infamous statement to make.
– It is not infamous.
– It is not only infamous, it is also untrue, and only one with a malicious mind would make it.
– I have several times called for order. The Minister in charge of the House has not been able to utter a single sentence- without interruption. I ask honorable members to exercise a little more self-restraint.
– The matter rests with the House; but I appeal to honorable members to submit to the inconvenience involved.
– Why did not the Minister tell us of this before ?
– I did not tell honorable members earlier because the matter was not decided until 6.30 o’clock last evening, and it was only then decided upon because of the insistence of the State Premiers that the Conference should come to a conclusion to-day. It is in order that both Leaders of this House might be at the Conference to enable it to finish its work to-day that we are taking this course. In the circumstances, I hope that honorable members will see the fairness of my proposition, in which I have the hearty concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I - want to go to the Conference if I can ; but, of course, if the House sits I must stay here.
– Why cannot the House sit on, and deal with other business ?
– The House could go on with business; but let the honorable member note the first item of business - -the discussion of the Ministerial statement. The Leader of the Opposition is to be the first speaker, and in the natural order of things the Prime Minister would reply to him. As both these gentlemen will be absent at the Conference, honorable members will see the inconvenience of proceeding with a debate of that kind.
– The suggestion has been made that the House should proceed to discuss private members’ business.
– I would first need to have an adjournment to look at the private members’ business on the notice-paper. In order to compensate for the loss of a day’s sitting, we can meet on Tuesday afternoon instead of Wednesday afternoon.
– AVe could not get away in time to attend on Tuesday, especially seeing that we lost the opportunity of leaving for our States yesterday afternoon.
– A little time ago the House met every Tuesday afternoon, and I was responsible for altering the day of meeting to Wednesday. My suggestion is that we” should meet a day earlier for one week only. For whatever inconvenience may be occasioned to honorable members, I apologize, but in the circumstances’ it has been quite unpreventable. I . move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock on Tuesday next.
– Had the intention of the Government been known, honorable members on both sides’ might have caught the Inter-State trains yesterday, but, as things are, they are detained in Melbourne just as though the House had continued to sit. I suggest that we ought to meet on Wednesday next, our ordinary sitting day.
– If there is any general objection to Tuesday, I shall not, of course, persist with the motion.
– Do I understand the Minister to withdraw his motion?
– I am afraid I must.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Conduct of Business - Export of Greasy and Scoured Wool to Japan : Censorship - Refusal of Seed Wheat to Farmers - Balance-sheets and Reports of Government Factories.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- It is placing the House in an unf ortunate, as well as a ridiculous position, to suggest that because two: of its members have a conference to attend, the whole business of Parliament shall be suspended.
– The Prime Minister is nearly always away, and we can do without him.
– That is so; the Prime Minister is most of his time out of the House. I understand that he is about to leave the country for some time; and, presumably, if anything happened to the Leader on this side, Parliament would not be able to continue its. sittings.
– You may take it from me - and the Leader of the Opposition will confirm my statement - that it was only after very considerable discussion that the Prime Minister consented to the course I proposed.
– That may be.
– You have taken the responsibility of refusing to permit Parliament to meet on the very day when we could have had the discussions you desire.
– I take no responsibility on that score, because I am here every day to do the country’s business, if the Government will permit me, and I made no suggestion that the House should not meet on Tuesday. . The fact is that theGovernment have no business to place before us.
A Ministerial statement has been made, with a motion that it be printed, in order to provide an opportunity for discussion; and it is only reasonable, seeing that the Leader of the Opposition is engaged elsewhere, that that debate should be adjourned. But we understood that we were called together to deal with legislation. Where is the Bill of the Assistant Minister for Defence? I can only suppose that it is not ready. Where is the new Electoral Bill, or the promised industrial measure? We on this side do not desire any of these measures, because we do not think they are likely to be of any good. From statements I have seen, I am quite satisfied that they are mere party measures, designed to take advantage of the country and of the soldiers in the trenches. At the same time, if there is business to do we might as well face the music.
The Government is in exactly the same position as it was when it met Parliament’ on the last occasion. ‘ ‘The Opposition were not then prepared to debate the Address-in-Reply for weeks on end, and it was found that the Government had no business of. any kind to go on with. Having no business of its own to advance the interests of either Australia or of tie Empire as a whole, in the war, the Government refuses any body else an opportunity to do anything.
The business-paper is chock full of notices of motions by private members on both sides. There are no fewer than thirty motions dealing with important subjects ; and when the Government have no business of its own an opportunity should be provided for private members to deal with proposals, many of which have been on the paper for months.
The Government insists upon adjournments time after time, and because the business on the paper is not a particular kind of business the little private despots in the Cabinet desire, every means at their disposal is taken to prevent anything being done.
I have over and over again referred to those honorable members opposite who claim to specially represent the farmers; and I remind them that there are important motions on the paper dealing with farming interests. Those honorable members tell the farmers that only they can adequately represent them; and yet, by agreement together, they use the tyranny of their majority to suppress. Parliament, and thus delay the consideration of much that is vital and of urgent importance to the farmers’ interests. Every honorable member with a notice on the businesspaper who agrees to the proposed adjournment agrees to closing his own mouth.
The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr Hector Lamond) has a motion dealing With the question of decimal coinage, and I ask whether he is in earnest, or whether that motion is merely there as a placard. We find him cheering the Government’s proposal to adjourn for a whole day on which he could have dealt with that motion, which is the first on the paper. If he is sincere, he must have prepared information of use to the country, and presumably he has reasons which would weigh with the Government.
The next notice of motion is one by myself dealing with a War Precautions Regulation which has stirred up sectarianism and created irritation and dissension from one end of Australia to the other. This regulation was suggested by a little handful of bigots in this country, and is certainly a fit subject for consideration by Parliament. The Prime Minister, with his strong feelings and his lack of judgment, has over and over again created discord throughout the country ; and surely there ought to be some check exercised by Parliament. Yet honorable members opposite insist on an adjournment, and refuse to afford any opportunity for reviewing a matter of this importance.
The next notice of motion deals with the conscription of certain citizens of Australia; and surely that would bear discussion? Are honorable members prepared to simply accept the ipse dixit of one or two men?
As to the liberty and freedom of Parliament, honorable members seem prepared to make themselves slaves.
On the business-paper there are numerous proposals to disallow or repeal War Precautions regulations.
Under the law, a regulation must be laid on the table within so many days of our assembling, and within a certain period a motion may be moved to disallow it. Surely the corollary of this is that an opportunity should be given to discuss a motion to disallow any such, regulation ? But the laws of the country . are. being broken by this refusal to give an opportunity for the consideration of such matters.
It is asserted that if there be a majority in the House of opinion that any of these matters should be discussed, there is perfect freedom to submit a motion and insist on a discussion. We know, however, that in practice this is not so. Honorable members opposite, within the last few days, have told us that a motion submitted by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) met with their entire approval,, but because the Government treated it as one of no-confidence, they voted against it.
– It is not in order to. discuss a vote of the House.
– The honorable member for Calare expressed one opinion the other day, and voted in the opposite direction.
– I gave you my reasons.
– You gave reasons galore !
– The main reason was self-preservation .
– It was cowardice.
– Is it parliamentary to say that an honorable member is guilty of cowardice?
– Certainly not. If the honorable member for Cook made such a statement, I ask him to withdraw it.
– What I mean is that to speak in favour of a certain course, and to vote against it, because the Government crack the whip, is moral cowardice; and if that is out of order, of course I withdraw it.
I have heard the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) ranting about the farmers as though he were invested with some kind of divine right to plead on their behalf. This morning we heard something from him about the supply of cornsacks - about the farmers having been guaranteed a supply at a reasonable rate of 8s. or 9s. a dozen, while they are now being charged 13s. The honorable member knows that the farmers are being robbed, and to move a motion insisting on justice being done would be in accordance with his opinion; but he would not be allowed to move one because the Government would crack the whip. It requires a little more than ordinary courage to proceed under such circumstances. Has the honorable member a motion on the notice-paper ? Mr. Pigott. - No.
– Then why does he nol give notice of one?
– Simply because I can do without it.
– The honorable member makes a few weak statements of which he knows the Government will take no notice. And who would take notice of an honorable member whom a few short words will cause to sink back and hold his tongue? That sort of conduct in Parliament gains no justice for the persons who are suffering injustice. It is about time the farmers in Calare were made to understand that they are being fooled. The honorable member for Calare tickles the ears of his constituents with stories about the things he will do, but when he Comes to Parliament he merely asks a few questions, and sends out to the farmers proof copies of the replies, and they say at once, “ What a wonderful man he is.” But when we give the honorable member an opportunity of firing something more than a blank cartridge, when we provide him with a lever that will enable him to get something substantial for his constituents, he stops short.
– I have done more for the farmers in six months than the honorable member has done for them in a lifetime.
– What has the honorable member done ?
– Ask my electors.
– If the honorable member would like me to go amongst his electors, I am prepared to go to his district on any date he fixes, and on the public platform discuss with him this matter of the treatment of the farmers. And I will tell his electors what I am telling him on the floor of the House-. Let him give to the audience his reasons for refusing to take action, and I shall be pleased to give mine to the contrary.
– I invite the honorable member to resign his seat and contest Calare at the next general election.
– Let not the honorable member tempt me too far, or I . may accept his challenge, and that would be a bad thing for him.
– Order ! This discussion between honorable members is out of order.
– The honorable member for Calare may think that he is playing an heroic róle when he asks me to contest his electorate. If there is a man on the Government side of the House, either the Prime Minister or anybody else, who ‘ will resign his seat aud contest my electorate, I am prepared to challenge him at any time he chooses.
– That challenge is pretty safe.
– It may be; I an merely showing the hypocrisy of the honorable member’s invitation to me to contest Calare..
– At the next election I shall be pleased to meet the honorable member in Calare.
– If I were not holding a seat in this Parliament nothing would give me greater pleasure than to accept that challenge. I am prepared to go into the honorable member’s electorate at any time, and at any place, even amongst the most Conservative farmers in the district; , and justify the statements I have made about the honorable member’s attitude to the interests of the farmers.1 I ask the honorable member to name a date.
– Will the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) say what this discussion has to do with the business of the House?
– It has much to do with the interests’ of the farmers, for it will give those in the electorate of Calare an opportunity of realizing that, although their member treats them to a lot of fine sentiments, he time after time neglects the opportunity of doing anything effective on their behalf.
– The honorable member cannot mention one such opportunity.
– I have several times called the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) to order, and if he will persist in proceeding on these lines, I shall be obliged to ask him to resume his seat. It is not in order or in keeping with the dignity of Parliament that, on a motion for adjournment, the time of the House should be taken up in attacking honorable members in respect of votes given on questions previously before the House.
– It is unfair of you, Mr. Speaker, to blame this side of the
House when the interruption came from the other side.
-The honorable member for Cook started by making an attack upon another honorable member in respect of a vote he gave in the House.
– I made no personal attack upon any honorable member. I am dealing with the interests of the farmers, and I am stating that, though the honorable member who interrupted me claims to represent the farmers, he will not avail himself of this, or any other, opportunity of dealing with business of great concern to the man on the land. I submit that I am perfectly in order in doing that. Time after time the honorable member assists to block motions of vital importance to the farmers being discussed. If the honorable member is really desirous of doing something for the farmers, he should oppose the adjournment of the House, and so provide an opportunity of dealing with those ‘motions on the notice-paper which vitally affect the interests of the farmers. I move as an amendment -
That all the words . after “ that “ be struck out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “’ the first general business, notices of motion, bc proceeded with.”
This amendment will give honorable members, including the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott), an opportunity of declaring whether we are to allow these constant adjournments of Parliament when important business on the noticepaper is awaiting our consideration.
.- The Government are showing scant consideration to members who reside in States far distant from the Seat of Government. These adjournments are_ all very well for honorable members who reside in New South Wales or Victoria. They are able to go to their homes at the week-ends and attend to their private and official business. Yesterday there was no sitting of the House, and now we are considering a motion to adjourn, and not sit again until next Wednesday. There is on the notice-paper business that we ought to be able to proceed with. For instance, we might proceed with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Lands Bill, of which the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is in charge. If it is essential that the Prime Minister, the Min ister for the Navy, and the Leader of the Opposition should absent themselves from the House, .there are still sufficient members present to enable us to deal with several of the Bills that are on the noticepaper. I ask the Government to see that there is no more loss of time than 5s necessary. Members from Western Australia and Queensland, while being quite prepared to give their time to the business of the country, find it very inconvenient to be detained for long periods in Melbourne unnecessarily, when they, unlike members from other States, have no opportunity of going to their homes at the week-end.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the House a very important matter in connexion with the censorship. In my opinion, the censorship is used in a very unfair and unwise manner. I support the Defence Department and the Censors entirely in suppressing any information that is calculated to be of advantage to the enemy. But I think we ought to be permitted to discuss matters which cannot assist the enemy, but will lead to the better conduct of the war. Recently I wrote to the Censor and asked him whether I was permitted to discuss in the public press the restriction of the export of greasy and scoured wool to Japan.
– I do not think the honorable member should put himself in such a position of abject humility. It is too bad that we should be subject to the Censor in that way.
– In this House we are not subject to the Censor. Fortunately, we are able to speak here that which we think ought to be spoken. But within these four walls only is a man free to give expression to his views. Anywhere else in Australia, outside the parliamentary building, he is subject to military interference, and may be brought before the Court and fined so frequently that he becomes insolvent. Very few men can afford to risk those prosecutions. I wish to discuss the matter of the restriction of the export of wool to Japan. I have previously stated, and I believe it to be true, that somebody, acting in the interests of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, whose operations have been under discussion recently, has prevented Japan from getting greasy and scoured wool. Shortly after I made a speech in January last on this question, the censors sent to the newspapers an instruction preventing them from publishing any reference to the restrictions on the export of greasy and scoured wool to Japan. In reply to the letter I wrote to the Censor recently, I received this communication, No. O.A. 24,116: -
Dear Sir,- With reference to your letter dated 17th April, 1918, I regret to have to inform you that publication of matter with reference to the restriction of export of wool to Japan is not permitted.
Japan is a great Ally, and has rendered splendid assistance to the British Empire during this war. We ought to be able to speak our mind regarding any maladministration on the part of the Government which is ‘detrimental to our Allies. I quite agree that we should not make any statement calculated to hurt the feelings of Japan. But if the Imperial Government have been induced by somebody in Australia to prevent Japan buying raw materials from this country, we ought to know the reason. Surely that is a matter that ought to be discussed.
There is in some quarters in Japan a feeling hostile to this country. Some of the Japanese people are of opinion that we are opposed to them on racial grounds, and they resent that very much. They will not resent our attitude if they know that our objections to their competition is on economic grounds. And some time ago, I suggested to the House that we might reasonably ask Japanese representatives to visit our factories and learn firsthand the truth as to the hours of labour and the wages of the workers, and then ask themselves whether they were entitled to send goods to Australia, subject only to a low rate of duty. The Japanese representatives who come here would take the view that we were entitled, in view of the better conditions of our workpeople here, to ask for a high protective import duty, but this is another question, relating to the supply of our raw materials to Japan, an Ally. Surely the members of the House ought to be permitted to show the public of Australia, and the people of Japan, that our Government, so far as they are re sponsible for the restriction of the export’ of greasy and scoured wool to Japan, are misrepresenting public opinion in Australia.
When we allow the British or Australian Government to prevent the Japanese from getting our raw materials, we are allowing something which is calculated to create a great deal of misunderstanding between Japan and ourselves.
I am glad the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who is a member of the Central Wool Committee, is present, for I am sure he will see my point. We do not want to give any friendly nation a real grievance. Anything any member of the House may say about Japan will have very little influence, because there are men in the Japanese Diet who attack Great Britain and Australia, but that does not make any difference to the majority of the statesmen and people of Japan, who desire to be on friendly terms with us. The Japanese are not likely to take much notice of any individual member, but are certainly likely to take a great deal of notice of what amounts to an interference with their trade and industry.
I appeal to the members of the Win-the-war party to use their influence with the Government to allow greater freedom of public discussion in the press on these matters. If the House permitted itself to be guided by the Prime Minister, no discussion would be allowed in the House at all. The Prime Minister said he would suppress Hansard. He has such distorted views that it is fortunate for us that the majority ofhis party do not agree with him in that regard, and do not’ desire to prevent any member giving expression tohis convictions in the House so long as he does so in parliamentary language, and in accordance with the Standing Orders. Here is documentary evidence that the censors have been instructed, either by the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence, not to permit in the public press any discussion of the restriction of wool export to Japan, which is a grievous wrong, and calculated to bring about a misunderstanding with a country with which we all desire to be friendly.
.- I cannot congratulate the honorable member for Capricornia on the dignity with which he wears the mantle of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr.
Bruce Smith) as the champion of the Eastern races. Indeed, the most interesting feature of recent debates here to me has been the suddenness with which honorable members of the Opposition have changed their attitude on various matters. The honorable member for Cook ‘ (Mr. J. H. Catts), representing the Newtown Bridge farmers, would move one to tears in the defence of high prices for wheat, when only a few years ago his main political platform was that the unhappy electors of Cook were being charged so high a price for bread that it reduced their earnings, and that the real object of the party in Parliament should be to obtain cheap food for the people. We listened, also, to remarks from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) lately upon the low prices of the people’s meat foods - rabbits. Then we had the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) descanting upon the low price of wheat, and the necessity of raising the price of bread to the people of the cities. The party that once represented the great ‘mass of the people is now busily occupied in pretending to advocate the interests of those sections of the community which hitherto they have condemned, and which it was their chief object to represent this party as being formed to protect.- Honorable members on this side of the House, who used to be charged with protecting the interests of squatters, farmers, meat raisers, and other producers, at the expense of the country, are now charged by the very same men with neglecting the vital interests of these people, and allowing wheat, meat, and other things to be cheap that would be made dearer if the pretended advice of these gentlemen was listened to. On this proposal for adjournment the same pretence is made of an intense desire to get on with the business of the country. When the question of recruiting comes up we have the same pretence, that honorable members on the other side are intensely interested in getting more recruits. To-day the most important gathering of public men in Australia is continuing its sittings at Government House in the endeavour to find some method to get men to the colours, and is faced with the position that its labours must be brought to an early conclusion. In order to help this the Government have been asked to make such arrange ments of the business of this Parliament as will enable the Leader, of the Opposition and the Leader of the Government to attend the Conference to-day. One would expect that such a proposal would be received without opposition by every person who desires to see some good come from the Conference, but the moment it is mentioned in the House members of the Opposition attack it in the same way as they do any proposal for compulsory service in Australia. The man who does anything in any way to help recruiting seems to incur the bitter hostility of some honorable members opposite, and even the Leader of the Opposition is not able to exercise sufficient control over his followers to enable effect to be given to an arrangement which he himself has made with the Government. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) said I had the first business on the paper if private members’ business was brought forward to-day. I should be very glad of the opportunity, but to me the most important thing pending here is what is happening at Government House. I have little zest for any business in this Parliament until some way can be shown to take a more effective part than we are doing in the conduct of. the war. I also feel it is an absolute waste of time, just as the last week has been wasted, to discuss these matters of internal control here if we are unable to secure such a result in the centre of war as will entitle these institutions to remain in this country at all. While our minds are turned in that direction, honorable members are not able to give to these minor matters the attention that under other conditions they would give. I have no desire to proceed with the business on the paper in “the absence of the party leaders from Parliament to-day. The utter hollowness of this pretence is shown in the attitude of honorable members themselves. When the Leader of the Government proposed ,to make up for to-day’s inactivity by alloting another day next week, a storm of opposition came from those honorable members who, the next, moment, were condemning the Government for not getting on with the business. The men who want an opportunity to discuss the proposals to be placed before the Imperial Conference refuse to allow the Government to have an extra day next week in which to discuss them. I hope wiser counsels will prevail in the Cabinet, and that they will insist on taking the extra days necessary for the full discussion of these matters before the delegates leave for England. If, however, we fail to secure that opportunity, the fault will lie at the door of those honorable members who objected to the proposal of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) to devote an extra day next week to the business of Parliament. An extra day could easily be given by honorable members, who pretend to be so busy that they cannot come here for four days a week.
Mr.FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [12.11]. - The reasons given for this unexpected adjournment may be very good, and I believe they are most important. I believe the Conference, which is expected to conclude its labours to-day, will mark a very important step in the conduct of the war so far as Australia is concerned,’ but the reasons given for the adjournment, while important, are entirely unsatisfactory, and one sits amazed to hear such hypocritical humbug put forward as argument as that to which the Minister for the Navy and the honorable member for Illawarra have treated the House.
– Order !
– I withdraw the expression. The Government were elected to office on the 7th May of last year. There was an interval of thirty-eight days; Parliament then sat for one day. There was another interval of twentyseven days, and then Parliament sat for thirty-five days. Then followed an interval of 104 days, and Parliament sat for seven days. This was followed again by an interval of seventy-six days, and during this part of the session we have now sat for seven days. Counting the week-ends, we have altogether sat since the elections, nearly twelve months ago, for fifty complete sitting days, and done-
– Nothing but quibble.
– The honorable member has taken the words out of my mouth. Honorable members on the Government side therefore corroborate my assertion that during that time the Government have done nothing to carry out the promises they made to the country, and the policy they submitted at that time. They were elected at their own request on their policy of winning the war, and we have already learned during the debates this week that the Government have done absolutely nothing towards that great and wonderful policy. If there was likely to be any difficulty in tie House carrying on business to-day one could understand the reasons for the adjournment, but at the very most only four members - the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard), and the Leader of the Opposition, need be absent. It is not suggested that any obstacle shall be put in the way of either or all of those gentlemen attending the Conference.
– Did not the Leader of the Opposition say he could not go to the Conference unless the House adjourned ?
Lord Forrest. - I distinctly heard him say so.
– I also object to the suggestion of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), that it was owing to opposition from this side of the House that the proposal to sit on Tuesday was abandoned. The cause was the opposition from the Government side of the House, and particularly the emphatic declaration of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). The Minister for the Navy would not accept the protest from three members on this side until an emphatic protest came from his own side, and then he immediately altered his motion to the regular day of sitting. The Government have submitted Bills, many of them very important, but not one of them in charge of any of the Ministers whose attendance is required at the Recruiting Conference. There are nine measures on the Government programme, and twenty-nine motions standing in the names of private members. No opportunity is given us to attend to them. Time is going on, and those of us who come from the more distant States are being put under a most severe disability in carrying on our work and attending to the wants of our constituents, because the Government seem unable to go on with business in the absence of the Prime Minister. If he chooses to be absent, that is no reason why the business of the country should be brought to a stand-still. It is not only because there is business to be done by members of Parliament that I object to this motion. I would not like to suggest that it has been moved because the Government do not want to go on with their Bills.
– You ‘have been in Parliament long enough to know that that is the case with every Government.
– I do not think it has applied so much to previous Governments, but this Government is trying to win the war with paper. It puts business before the country, but governs the country with tons of War Precautions Regulations.
– If the honorable member will move foran adjournment for a couple of months to enable members to go out on a recruiting campaign, I will support him.
– (No such motion can come from the Opposition side of the House.
– Your suggestion that that should be done would carry weight.
– If the honorable member can persuade the Government to move such a motion, he will have no opposition from me. But when early in 1917 the Prime Minister made’ a fervent - I should say fervid, because I donot believe that he was fervent - appeal to members to use a special recess for recruiting, not one Minister appeared on the recruiting platform. That has been typical of their conduct right through. An adjournment to-day will suit me, because I have arrears of correspondence to bring up, but the moving of the adjournment by the Government shows their indifference to the welfare of the country and the winning of the war - an indifference which is characteristic of them.
– I do not often address the House on the motion for the adjournment, but I rise on this occasion because of the attitude of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), and of a number of members on that side who continually sneer at the Government and its supporters when the term “Win the war” is mentioned. It is a simple matter to ask, “What are you doing to win the war?” but the question should never come from those who have donetheir damnedest to prevent Australia from doing all that she could do in the war. Those who are supported by outside organizations, whose branches in many parts of Australia have passed resolutions against recruiting, haveno right to ask us, “What are you doing to win the war?”
There are men sitting opposite who have not followed the dictates of their conscience in this matter. There are men there who sneer at the sincerity of the Ministerial party, and yet are afraid to follow the dictates of their own consciences. They said that we should have universal military service, but when outside bodies put pressure on them, they took the platform against conscription and their own private convictions on the subject. Only yesterday an organization supporting members on the opposite side of the chamber sent a message of congratulation to the Bolsheviks of Russia - to the men who have made it possible that the democratic institutions of the world may fall at any moment. These supporters of members opposite look with pride on the efforts of the Bolsheviks.
-Is the honorable member aware that British forces are now fighting side by side with Bolsheviks?
– I refer to the extreme section who sold Russia.
– And joined Germany.
– During the past fifteen or eighteen months we have read in the newspapers, not one, but scores of resolutions passed by outside organizations demanding of members that they should not support recruiting, and in one case requiring them to retire from recruiting committees. I say, too, without fear of successful contradiction, that during that time the press which supports them has been but lukewarm in the cause of the Allies. These members, who say that Australia ‘ could do enough under the voluntary system, declare now, when asked to do all they can to make that system a success, that unless they get this and that minor grievance remedied, they will do nothing. The grievances that they advance sink into insignificance when contrasted with the main issue. During the war I have suffered more inconvenience and injustice than most persons in Australia; but were I to say that I would do nothing to help my country until my personal wrongs had been righted, I should be in the position of honorable members opposite. Loyalty ‘that is accompanied by a qualification is not of much service to the community in this period of our affairs.
– I am suspicious of men who always talk of their loyalty.
– And I am suspicious of the sincerity of men who, after pleading with the Government of the day to bring in conscription, learned that the Trades Hall in Queensland did not believe in it, and took the platform against it.
-The honorable member has no proof of that statement.
– It can be proved. I deny that there is callousness ‘ on thi3 side in regard to the sufferings of ‘sur fellow citizens. Honorable members opposite have never protested against the resolutions against recruiting which have been put forward, perhaps by the extreme section of their following. Those who allow themselves to be told by their followers that they must not take an active part in recruiting have no right to sneer at the efforts of the Government on behalf of the cause of the Allies.
.- I protest against the proposed adjournment on the flimsy pretext that the House cannot do its work without the Prime Minister being present. On the average, the Prime Minister does not attend here for five minutes on each sitting day. What is the reason for the proposed adjournment? The only reason I can find for it is the lack of sincerity in the Government protestations that their desire is to win the war by helping the Allies. If lying down and sleeping and going slow on the job would have won the war, the Government would have won it long ago. Even one of their supporters has said that nothing has been done. Something has been done. Men have been placed in gaol for their efforts on behalf of their own class. This is the last infamy that has been perpetrated by the Government. A regulation has been issued prohibiting any persons from publishing any matter that has been censored. That is a very fine thing indeed. It is not a war precaution; it is a political precaution, passed for political purposes.
This House must do without the presence of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy during their visit to the Old Country, or adjourn until they return from overseas. If Ministers cannot carry on the business of the country, or go on with the ordinary routine of parliamentary work in the absence of the Prime Minister, it is an admission of incapacity on their part. It is apparent that they have no desire to go ,on with business, and I venture to predict that their programme until the end of this Parliament will compare very favorably with what they have achieved during the past twelve months, and that is nothing, unless it be tinkering with people’s freedom, depriving them of their rights, or attempting to gaol them. I like honorable members’ protestations as to their sincerity, in the matter of winning the war, contrasted with their continual laying of charges against honorable members on this side of the House. One minute we are called pro-Germans; the next minute we are described as disloyal; after abusing us for a quarter of an hour a Minister will spend the balance of his time in asking us to help the Ministry; and afterwards Cabinet will meet and devise a new and infamous scheme for gaoling us. I do not believe that the House is asked to adjourn to-day for the reason advanced by the Minister for the Navy.
– By the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is not correct in saying that. It is not a question of what the Leader of the Opposition has said. He was not consulted about the matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he would have to remain here if the House did. not adjourn.
– This is where the hypocrisy and sham of the thing come in. The Government were elected by an overwhelming majority, but, after occupying the Treasury bench for twelve months, and doing nothing, they have changed the venue of the conduct of affairs to Government House, and have handed over control to another body, thus acknowledging their incapacity to carry on the business of the country. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) gets up, and, with his tongue in his cheek, says that the assemblage at Government House is the most important body of men we have in Australia; that is to say, we are to be subservient, to this new Parliament, which has been created by an incapable Government, and by handing over the business of the country to this outside body, Ministers admit their incapacity. When the Conference met, the Government did not even come forward with business to put before it, but expected the
Labour organizations to lay down a scheme whereby Ministers could have some of the odium that their actions have brought upon them taken away from them. After twelve months of sparring and talking, using the War Precautions Regulations to get at the other fellow and gaol political opponents, and stifling criticism, freedom of speech, and. freedom of the press, Ministers say to the various outside organizations of Australia, “ We want you to come to a Conference and determine the best method to adopt for helping to win the war.” What a lamentable admission by the Government as to their incapacity!
I wish to touch upon the general demeanour of Ministers. They are not interested in questions submitted to them by honorable members, although they may give one an answer of a sort. This morning, when J asked the Honorary Minister if he was aware that farmers were being refusedseed wheat by a State Wheat Board, he said that he was not aware of it, but that if I would put the question on the notice-paper he would investigate the matter. Surely to heaven the matter was important enough for the Minister to ask me to give him further information upon it,
– It is a State matter.
– It is not a State matter. It is a matter for the Commonwealth Government, which controls the Wheat Pool. I have received letters from three farmers in New South Wales who have been refused seed wheat by the State Wheat Board. If farmers who have put their wheat into the Pool are refused seed wheat by the State Wheat Board, it creates a serious position. It is necessary that the whole of our agricultural land should not be devoted to grazing, and unless the Commonwealth Government give immediate instructions to the State Wheat Board in New South Wales to make the necessary seed wheat available to the farmers, so that they may sow their crops at once, the land may not be put under wheat. It is a matter of considerable importance, because, although we have plenty of wheat on hand now, immediately shipping is available it will be sent away.
– Does the honorable member say that the State Wheat Board refused to sell seed wheat to farmers who required it?
– Has the honorable member any evidence to support that statement?
– I have received a letter from Mr. G. W. McKenzie, of Aratong Farm, Narromine, stating that he applied for fourteen bags of hard Federation, and that the State Wheat Board hadrefused to supply him.
– Was he prepared to pay for the wheat ?
-Yes, and, furthermore, he has wheat in the Pool, for which he has not yet been paid.
– Has the honorable member the letter from the State Wheat Board in which they state their refusal to supply the seed wheat?
– No. No doubt, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Greene) will take the necessary steps to see that farmers who apply for seed wheat, and who are prepared to. pay for it, or are prepared to show that they hold scrip in the Wheat Pool, are supplied with their requirements.
– Does the honorable member know the reasons which were assigned by the State Wheat Board for refusing to supply the seed wheat?
– My correspondent has not informed me as to what reasons were advanced by the State Wheat Board ; but the main thing is that he had wheat in the Pool, and he has not yet been paid for it.
– That does not bear on the question. When the wheat goes into the Pool, it is all one parcel.
– But if the Wheat Pool holds wheat for which a farmer has not yet been paid, even if he could not pay the cash straight away for the seed wheat for which he has asked, he should be entitled to be supplied with a certain quantity. However, in this instance, Mr. McKenzie was willing to pay for the seed. His land is now ready for sowing, and if he does not get the fourteen bags for which he has asked, he may have no crop this season.
– In a matter of that kind, the honorable member should have inquired into the full facts.
– I know that Mr. McKenzie has wheat in the Pool, and that he cannot get seed wheat from the State Wheat Board, although he is willing to pay for it. Those facts should be quite sufficient for any man with ordinary intelligence. I have no desire to say anything further with regard to the matter, but I will hand the letter to the Honorary Minister and ask him to take immediate steps to get into communication with the State Wheat Board in order to see if something cannot be done to supply these farmers with seed wheat immediately, so that the land which is ready for sowing can be put under crop.
.- It is quite obvious that there must be some explanation for the alleged refusal of the State Wheat Board to provide this farmer atNarromine with seed wheat. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is absolutely bond fide in bringing forward this alleged grievance; but it is to some extent an abuse of the privileges of the House for the honorable member to bring forward such a statement unless he is prepared to lay on the table the letter in which the State Wheat Board alleged its inability to provide this farmer with this particular kind of seed wheat.
– And, in the meantime, while I am waiting for that letter, the farmer will not be able to, sow his paddocks. I know this man well, and I have implicit confidence in his word.
– I have not the privilege of knowing the gentleman; but I cannot believe, and it is too preposterous to imagine, that a body of men intrusted with the responsibility of conducting a State Wheat Board, would, for no valid reason, refuse to supply farmers with seed wheat. This matter should not have been brought before the House unless the honorable member was prepared to lay on the table the letter of the State Wheat Board in which it is supposed to have refused to supply this seed wheat.
– The honorable member has given the name of the correspondent, and the House can have the full facts next week.
– No doubt, the honorable member has been quite bona fide in the action he has taken.
– What are you complaining about?
– I am complaining about the time of honorable members being wasted over an alleged offence which is unsupported by any evidence.
– You would bring the censorship into Parliament?
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection, for it suggests the point to which I wish to refer.
– Surely it is not wasting the time of the House to ventilate a grievance of the farmers?
– I remind the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that it is not in order to say that the time of the House is being wasted.
– Then I withdraw the words, and apologize. No complaint of the kind ought to be brought forward unsupported by evidence, and honorable members called upon to pass judgment on ex-parte statements of the kind. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), as I understood him, said he had received a letter from the Censor to the effect that his statements made on the floor of the House, in regard to the relations between the Imperial Governments of Japan and Great Britain, could not be allowed to appear in the press. Apparently the honorable member regards this as a continuation of his grievance against the Central Wool Committee and the general administration of affairs. I am not here to champion what has been done by the Censors in Australia, but I have no doubt that they have been called upon to conduct their work under great difficulties. Although there may be reasons not apparent, at all events, to myself, why many things should be censored, I do not know that I am called upon to either condemn or apologize for what has been done.
– The Censors are acting under instruction.
– Of course; and it is quite possible that their instructions may come not entirely from those who are immediately administering the affairs of this country. There may be greater matters at stake than some of us seem to think, and, in consequence, it may be most undesirable that certain statements should receive wide circulation. However, the Central Wool Committee is not in the remotest degree responsible for the censorship of speeches made here or anywhere else. It is almost a pity that the statement by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), that Japan has been prevented by the Commonwealth Government from receiving our wool, should be repeated again and again. The fact must be emphasized that any interference with the export of wool from Australia to any place in the world is entirely in the hands of the Imperial Government, the Central Wool Committee merely carrying out the instructions of that Government in its distribution. It is, as I say, a misfortune that these allegations should be so continually made, because they have been exploded over and over again, and I trust we shall hear no more of them.
in reference to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls). It was most unf air of the honorable member for Illawarra to put the words he did into the mouth of the honorable member for Macquarie. The honorable member for Illawarra said that the honorable member for Macquarie was evidently an advocate of an increased price ofbread, because he was in favour of an advance in the price of wheat. I have a good recollection of what the honorable member for Macquarie did say, and his complaint was not so much concerned with the price of wheat as with the delay on the part of the Wheat Pool in paying money that has been owing to the farmers for a considerable period.
– The honorable member distinctly said that he desired an increase in the price of wheat.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), since he got into bad company on the other side, has acquired the habit of making statements not quite in accord with facts and I warn him to desist, or in the future his word will not be taken as his bond. In the absence of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), I say these few words in his defence, for the construction placed on his remarks by the honorable member for Illawarra was distinctly unfair.
I am pleased to know that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) intends to present balance-sheets and reports relating to the various factories established by the Government. The Labour party, when in power, insisted that the manager of each of these undertakings should be held responsible, and every year present a report and a balance-sheet; and I hope that now we shall have similar information supplied regarding the Wheat Pools, the Wool Pool, Commonwealth Shipping, and the Metal Pool, if the scheme in regard to metals can be so described. All these are great business concerns under the auspices of the Commonwealth, and the House is entitled to full and complete balance-sheets. This particularly applies to the purchase and working of the Commonwealth line of steamers. It is a plank in the Labour platform that there shall be a Commonwealth line, and the party was not opposed to the purchase by the Prime Minister. But we never conceived of a Prime Minister at any time purchasing vessels and allowing them to be run as a business without presenting proper reports and balance-sheets. I trust the Government will not give rise to adverse criticism by causing anysuspicion to rest upon them in regard to some of the transactions they carry out, and, therefore, proper balance-sheets should be presented at no distant date.
– I think that, under the circumstances, I had better ask leave to withdraw the motion to adjourn the House.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 3726), on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook -
That the paper be printed.
.- There appears to have been some misunderstanding. When I heard the adjournment moved this morning I returned to Government House to take part in the deliberations of the Conference in regard to recruiting. Later, I was informed that the Government had withdrawn the motion for an adjournment, and that they proposed to proceed with the debate on the Ministerial Statement. I am placed in a worse position than any other honorable member. . Certain things which I said in this House duringthe wantofconfidence debate, and later, elsewhere, I cannot say to-day. I am a member of the Conference, and I shall regard the proceedings as confidential until they are concluded. I desire to be at the Conference this afternoon. There is a paragraph in the Ministerial Statement which refers to the desirability of our presenting a united front in the face of the common danger. I shall not discuss that paragraph this afternoon, but I proceed to deal with other matters mentioned in the Statement. I think I will be entitled to ask that, when the Conference is concluded, I shall be given an opportunity to speak on the matter of restoring harmony and unity in the community.
- When I entered the House after lunch I was given to. understand by the Minister for the Navy that an arrangement had been made with the Leader of the Opposition to continue this debate, and on that understanding I came in to take charge of the House in the absence of the senior members of the Government. There is no desire on the part of the Government to embarrass the Leader of the Opposition. We realize that he, like the senior Ministers, has duties to perform at the Conference, and if he desires to attend the Conference this afternoon I shall take the full responsibility of adjourning this debate and proceeding with other business.
– I thank the Treasurer, and ask for leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
1915-16 AND 1916-17.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 1916, and for the year ended 30th June, 1917.
– I am asking the Committee to deal with two sets of Supplementary Estimates, one for the year which closed on the 30th June, 1916, which will be the subject of a motion I shall have the honour to move shortly, and the other for the following year, ended the 30th June, 1917. Probably I shall be made the target of some critical remarks by those honorable members who believe that this
Parliament has not been doing its financial work with strict regularity during the war period. Charged as I am with this unpleasant duty, I am not prepared to assert that our proceedings have been regular, but I take the earliest possible opportunity of asking Parliament to bring the accounts into order in the manner suggested by the Auditor-General, and I hope, with the assistance of honorable members and the concurrence of my colleagues, to make our financial business more regular in future. That is my explanation and apology, and I am prepared to share whatever responsibility there is in this matter. I have always held that in strict finance there is no politics.
– The trouble is that there Las been too much politics in the past.
– I think I heard a colorable imitation of politics fall from the lips of the honorable member recently. However, there are no politics in my finance. I do not desire to mete out any blame for past proceedings. Possibly the extraordinary pressure and incidence of public life during the last couple of years have been mainly responsible for the irregularities that have occurred. I am the fourth Treasurer to hold office during the last fifteen months, and this instability probably explains why the, matters which are now under consideration were not attended to earlier. An opportunity is now before me to ask the Committee to validate these things, and I do so with the following explanation. I shall deal first with the year 1915-1916. Honorable members will, perhaps, not require me to traverse all the items in this list of Supplementary Estimates, but I do propose to explain the chief increases. The expenditure may be divided into two classes, that which is consequent on the war, and ordinary departmental expenditure outside of war services. In the first class the principal increases were - In the War Pensions Office, which is naturally a growing Department in consequence of the heavy and regrettable liability which we have assumed, £6,189; premiums on life assurance policies of Commonwealth Public Servants, who are members of the Expeditionary Forces, £2,591; grant to State War Councils for recruiting purposes, £5,000; expenditure in connexion with interned enemy subjects, £45,336; remittance of moneys belonging to members of the Australian Imperial Force abroad, of which has been already recovered, £63,822; moneys received from the sale of Garrison Institute goods on transport, £40,623, which has since been wholly recovered; grant to Administration at Rabaul to meet revenue deficiency, to be recovered, £34,570; grant to Administration at Rabaul to provide for advances- to traders, £41,971, the whole of which has since been recovered ; supply of wire netting to the Government of the United Kingdom, to be recovered, £13,879; pay of Naval Reserves called up for duty in consequence of the war, £5,485 ; for the purchase of foodstuffs for the Governments of India and South Africa, £69,626, which has now been recovered.* A vast number of transactions relating to the purchase of foodstuffs for the Governments of the Empire, and in some cases Allied Governments, have been a constant duty thrown on the Administration since the war broke out. It has developed into a regular business; and is a matter of Treasury liability until adjustments .are made between the Governments concerned. The total increase consequent upon the war in that financial year was £329,092.
Lord Forrest. - How much of that is to be recovered ?
– The bulk of it has already been recovered. The expenditure for services other than war was as follows: - Docking and overhauling the Aurora, £3,939; this is a bookkeeping provision to legalize expenditure which was previously charged against the new works vote for the construction of the Fleet; coinage of silver, £7,276; purchase of gold for distribution to jewellers, £11,699; this amount has since been recovered; High Commissioner’s Office, £4,529; redemption of Northern Territory loans, £181,625; up to 31st December, 1915, this expenditure was met from loan fund; after that date the redemptions were provided for from revenue, and this is the first debit.
– Is that for the redemption of the loans, or to meet the cost of handling them ?
– I understand it is for the redemption of loans as they mature.
– Are they old South Australian loans?
– Yes, they are burdens on the Territory for which we became liable when we accepted the transfer. There were a number falling due at different dates. Additional advance to Small Arms Factory trust account, £35,000; on the 30th June, 1916, £12,396 was repaid from this trust account to revenue; the Naval College is responsible for an increase on general expenditure of £5,803; £30,000 is for an advance to the Trust Fund Admiralty account; the expenditure from this account is recoverable from the Admiralty; certain extra working expenses for the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway amounted to £10,959; various charges, such as rent, repairs, and maintenance,, came to £11,848, and the extra amount for the Postmaster-General’s Department was £4,841. The non-war services thus totalled £307,519. The only other items included are supplementary amounts for additions, new works, and buildings. They include an extra amount of £3,379 for the Federal Capital for that year, and £9,243 for the Flinders Naval Base, £3,012 for improvements to the Liverpool manoeuvre area, and £1,338 for sundry post-office buildings in New South Wales.
– What is the nature of the expenditure on the Federal Capital?
– That amount was spent when work was going on there. All these items stretch back nearly two years, some of them more. I take this to be a validating proposal, and naturally expect that criticism will be offered of the methods employed, but I hope that the Committee will authorize me to deal with these matters a little more promptly in the future if the circumstances of the House and politics generally will allow.
– What is the good of debating finances that are two or three years old?
– I am not recommending a debate. I am suggesting that my honorable friend should for once in his life nod to the item without speaking.
– Will not these figures include the purchase of the Commonwealth steamers?
– No, they were purchased out of loan money. These Estimates deal only with supplementary expenditure out of revenue.
Lord Forrest. - How much of the total amount is to he recovered?
– The chief items recoverable are - Australian Imperial Force remittance moneys, £63,000; money for Garrison Institute sales on transports, £40,000; £34,000 and £41,000 for Rabaul; £13,000 for wire netting for the Imperial Government; and £69,000 for foodstuffs for other Governments. Those sums have either beenor are to be recovered. I move -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charges for the year 1915-16 for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1915-16, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £16,972.
– In justice to the Committee, the Treasurer should have given some explanation of the delay in asking for these amounts.
Lord Forrest. - I think it was your Government’s expenditure.
– I do not care whether the expenditure was incurred by the right honorable member or by Mr. Fisher when Treasurer; the fact remains that two years after the money has been spent the Estimates covering it are brought, down, and if it had not been pointed out to the Government probably we should never have had Supplementary Estimates for that period at all. No one holds the present Treasurer responsible, but £639,000 has been spent without the sanction of Parliament, and Supplementary Estimates are brought down two and a half years later. Surely that practice is not going to be continued? We are not sure that it will not be, although the Treasurer says it will not.
– I am the detective, not the criminal.
– In this case the honorable member is not the criminal. In normal times no Government could last twenty-four hours with an AuditorGeneral’s report such as I have here staring them in the face. The present Treasurer, if in Opposition, would be the first to complain. I want an explanation of the item “ Secret Service Fund.”
– That report relates to 1916-17. These Estimates are for the year 1915-16.
– We do not know what the Secret Service Fund is for. It has only lately come into our Estimates, and the Committee is entitled to know how far it has been used, and for what purpose. I have been told that it is used in various ways, but I have no authentic information. If anybody attempts to mention the matter inthe House, he is immediately accused of a desire to injure some person without any foundation of fact. I should like to know the amount of the fund and the purposes it has been used for.
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question in connexion with these Estimates. I do not know whether any secret service money was spent in 1915-16, or even in 1916-17, except what the Auditor-General states, according to the honorable member, in his report. I shall inquire, and let the honorable member know.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) will find that every Government has a Secret Service Fund. If the Treasurer knew how the money was expended, he would not tell.I wish, in passing, to congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava on his appointment to the position, and especially upon his determination to see that things are done more promptly in the future. The Secret Service Fund can hardly be discussed in open Committee.
– The Auditor-General cannot even get the vouchers.
– My information is that the amounts expended are submitted to the Auditor-General, and that the AuditorGeneral is asked to accept the word of the Minister. I should be prepared to accept the word of any Minister as to any amount in regard to this item. I do not think that the amount is large.
– Under what item of the Estimates is secret service money voted ?
– The honorable member will find the matter referred to in the Auditor-General’s report for 1916-17.
– I do not think that the amount is large. If honorable members will make inquiries of the Treasurer, they will come to the conclusion that there is nothing improper about the matter, and that it is necessary, in the interests of the government of the country, to have this fund. All Governments have secret service funds, though these are not openly provided for in the Estimates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1916-17, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1916-17 a variation of the appropriation already’made for the purposes of Additions,New Works, Buildings,&c.
It will be well for me to follow, in this case, the procedure I adopted in regard to the Supplementary Estimates for 1915-16, and make a general explanation. The expenditure out of Treasurer’s Advance during 1916-17 - not including that on Additions, New Works, and Buildings - amounted to £672,088, and the amounts are now submitted in detail to obtain an appropriation of Parliament to cover the amount involved.
The expenditure may be separated as between “ War “ and “ Ordinary “ as follows : -
The expenditure on war services is almost wholly made up of an advance of £550,000 to the Trust Fund, Defence Clothing Material Account, for the purchase of cloth from the British Government.. In anticipation of liberal reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force, large stocks of clothing were obtained, to be paid from the Loan Fund as the cloth was issued. But the expectations in regard to reinforcements were not realized, and, in the meantime, it was necessary to provide funds for payment to the British Government. It is anticipated that the amount will be repaid from the Trust Fund during the current financial year, and provision wasmade in the Estimates of revenue accordingly.
The balance of the expenditure for war services, namely, £7,931, is made up of additional temporary assistance, medical examinations, &c. ; in connexion with War Pensions, £7,229; remission of Customs duties on goods imported for the personal use of prisoners of war, &c, £633; and overpayments to estates of deceased soldiers, £69.
The expenditure on ordinary services is made up as follows : - The Parliament, for a compassionate allowance and additional telephone services, £155 ; Prime Minister’s Department£13,128, £1,518 of this amount represents salaries of Acting Public Service Inspectors in New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. A corresponding saving has been made under the special appropriation for Public Service Inspectors’ salaries. The balance of the amount is made up of temporary assistance, Audit Office, contingencies of the Prime Minister’s Office and High Commissioner’s Office and other miscellaneous services. Then, in the Treasury Department, the expenditure was £51,584. Owing to the abnormal conditions brought about by the war, it became necessary to purchase large stocks of paper for stamp printing and ordinary departmental printing. This necessitated advances totalling £22,447 to the Trust Fund;
Stamp Printing Account, and Government Printer Account. The amount will be recovered when the paper is issued for consumption.
An additional amount of £9,654 was required for the maintenance of persons in charitable institutions admitted under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
The balance of the amount is made up of additional temporary assistance, postage, and telegrams, &c, for the Treasury, Maternity Allowances Office, Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Office, Taxation Office, &c.
The Attorney-General’s Department required for law costs, printing, &c, an additional amount of £2,053; there were sundry small amounts in the Defence Department, totalling £3,148 ; for the Home and Territories Department, £58 ; and for the Department of the Navy, accounts totalling £5,346 were paid - including £5,000 advanced as a working credit to the Trust Fund, Wireless Workshops Account. The expenditure in the Department of Trade and Customs was £7,237, made up of - administration of Commerce Act, £2,612; temporary assistance, lighthouses, £2,182; sundry small’ items, £2,443; total, £7,237.
The expenditure in the Department of Works and Railways was £20,208. This is mainly accounted for by an advance of £15,000 to the Northern Territory Railway Stores Account for the purchase of coal. When the coal is’ issued for consumption, the amount will be’ repaid. Already £3,297 has been recovered.
The expenditure in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was £11,240, which was made up of sundry amounts for mails, legal expenses, salaries, and miscellaneous items, a grand, total of £114,157.
It was not found necessary during the year 1916-17 to depart materially from the Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, as passed by Parliament, and it was possible, by a re-arrangement of various items, to obviate the necessity of asking Parliament for an additional appropriation.
The Bill now before the House is merely to vary the original appropriation, in a few cases, in the manner indicated by the Schedule.
.- The other day I made a statement concern ing the purchase by the Prime Minister of ships for the Commonwealth, to which the right honorable gentleman made a reply a day or two later. I am not going to traverse that reply. It is sufficient for me to’ direct attention to the report of the Auditor-General, who says’ that “ no vouchers accounting for the purchase of the ships, nor for the London transactions since” have been submitted to him; and that “endeavours have been made in order to obtain these accounts through the Treasury.” I ask the Treasurer whether the matter has come before him.
– Not so far as I remember.
– Who is responsible for the fact that the Auditor-General cannot get the vouchers accounting for the purchase ?
– I am informed that the Auditor-General has evidence of the payments, although he has* not had the technical vouchers submitted to him, they being in London.
– He says that he has had no vouchers accounting for the purchase of the ships, and does not know whether the amounts stated are correct. The Prime Minister may claim that the transaction has been a great gain to the Commonwealth, but the Auditor-General tells us that, from the 30th September, 1916, to 30th June, 1917, the earnings of the ships in Australia were £92,114; and that, in addition, £69,825 had been remitted from the London office. These two sums total £161,939, and make up the whole earnings of the fleet at the date I have mentioned, the net profit, so far as Australia was concerned, being £19,384.
– At that time, we had not had a great deal of use out of the ships.
– I believe that some of the vessels have not come to Australia. The Committee have a right to know exactly what has been earned by them.
– If the honorable member will ask me to bring down particulars of their earnings up to a given, date, I shall do my best to obtain the information, and I think that he will be satisfied with it.
– The AuditorGeneral’s report reveals what is nothing short of a scandal. Honorable members should have the fullest information regarding both the purchase of the ships and their earnings. I enter my protest against the manner in which the transaction has been carried out. The AuditorGeneral tells us that “ it appears desirable that legislation should be effected to define the powers and functions of the general manager” of the Shipping Department of the Commonwealth. No such legislation has been introduced, nor has it been foreshadowed in the Ministerial statement. The Prime Minister’s claim that the purchase of the ships was the crowning success of his life reminded me of the saying that -
Success will not always bear analysis. It is the golden apple, sometimes spotted, and not infrequently rotten to the core.
.- We are entitled to learn from the Treasurer whether or not the receipts and expenditure in connexion with Commonwealth steamers are to appear in the “annual statement of accounts which is presented to Parliament. We should be in a position to find in the year’s Estimates a subdivision containing the salaries of the chief officers who will administer the Shipping Department. It will give us some sort of control over these vessels, aswe now have control over the Trade and Customs Department, the Commonwealth Railways, and other services in connexion with the Commonwealth. If this course is not to be followed, are the accounts of the Department to be something quite apart from the Treasury; are honorable members not to have any say whatever in regard to those who are employed in it ; are they not even to be called upon to vote the salary of the Controller ?
– These are ships that pass in the night!
– The honorable member may. have described them accurately. Is it the idea of the Prime Minister that the purchase ofthese vessels is to be regarded as a mere passing experiment or phase of the war ? Do the Win-the-War party intend, to abandon their . capitalistic notions and go in for Socialism? lis it their intention to establish a permanent Socialistic Commonwealth Shipping Department?
– I hope not.
– It will be regrettable if the Win-the-War party do not intend to continue the Commonwealth Shipping
Department. If they do intend to do so, honorable members should be allowed to point out in the House any defects in the scheme. The matter should not be left to the whim and caprice of the Prime Minister, who is administering the Department.
– Andthe unions would nominate the crews, I suppose.
– I dare say that, in hia time, the honorable member would have recommended that all the men employed on the waterside should be engaged through his union. Apparently he has altered his views.
– Shouldwe recommend men who make war on society?
– I recommend the honorable member to read one of Ibsen’s plays, The Pillars of Society. If he does so, he will find that some waterside workers are not the only men who make war on society. Mr. Hopper, the manager of the Lake’s Creek Meat Works, in Queensland, a very big establishment, engages his men through the secretary of the union. At one time he was opposed to secretaries of trade unions, but now he regards the trade union secretary as his outside manager.
– I suppose he is one of the Ryan gang.
– I am sorry that the honorable member should choose to refer to a very able man, a very honest man, and a statesman - I presume that he is alluding to Mr. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland - in an opprobrious way by talking of the “ Ryan gang.” The people of Queensland have shown at the recent election what they think of what the honorable member calls the “ Ryan gang.” We know what the Prime Minister is prepared to undertake in regard to the shipping business, and weknow what he can do ; but we are notprepared to allow the Department to be controlled outside this House. We should have some supervision over the accounts of the Department,’ and I hope the tame will come when we will have some reference to it on the annual Estimates.
– Inreply to the honorable member, who has been at the Treasury, and knows a good deal about Commonwealth accounts, and also in reply to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.
McDonald), I have not a great deal to say,because coming new to the job, as I do, they will absolve me from the necessity of making promises at this stage. However, I wish to give briefly my view as to what I think should be done, and as to what I shall endeavour to do. Both honorable members claim that a matter of suchimportance should be brought well within the purview of Parliament.. I hold the same view, and, no matter how the general expenditure on salaries or contingencies may be lumped into one sum, I consider that the salaries of the chief officers of the Department should be set out in the annual Estimates, so that they may be brought up for discussion here, enabling the whole policy of the Department to be open to the criticism of honorable members. In framing next year’s Estimates, I hope to be able to do this.
The other question raised is whether or not we can have a statement of receipts and expenditure of an intelligible kind for submission to the House. I do not know whether the operations of this Department can be set out in the shape of an ordinary commercial balance-sheet, but it is my desire that statements of the operations of all the enterprises on which the Government have embarked should be submitted to honorable members, so that they may know during given periods what these concerns have been earning and spending. I shall endeavour to get the information for honorable members as early as possible.
.- In answer to a question submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the Prime Minister told us that arrangements had been made, at the request of the Italian Government, for the return to Italy of those persons of Italian nationality who are living in Australia and are liable for military service in Italy. I wish to protest against the deportation of Italians possessing naturalization papers as British subjects. They are citizens of Australia, and are covered by the recent decision of the people of Australia twice recorded against conscription. Yet they are being taken by force from their homes and deported.
– Not if they are citizens of Australia.
Lord Forrest . - I suppose the honorable member does not know how they voted on the conscription referendum ?
– I do not know, nor do I care, how they voted, but I do know that they have been naturalized as British subjects.
– No naturalized person comes under the rule. There may have been one or , two cases where a mistake has been made, but they have been rectified.
– I wish to protest against the action of the Government in seizing these persons.
– The honorable member is now referring to those who are not naturalized British subjects?
– I am referring to both - to those who have not taken out naturalization papers and to those to whom naturalization papers have been granted.
– There may have been one or two cases where naturalized British subjects were ordered to go to Italy where full inquiry was not made -before the orders were made out ; but I have set them right.
– This is an order which was issued from the Defence Department -
I, George Foster Pearce, Minister of State for Defence, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by the Aliens’ Restriction Order 1915, do hereby order that Nestore Donini, an alien, a native of Italy, at present residing at Northcote, shall be deported from the Commonwealth.
Dated this fourteenth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and eighteen.
He was, as I understand, a naturalized British subject, fifty-four years of age.
– But he has gone. The Order in Council referred to in this document which I have just read is used for the purpose of deporting citizens of Australia.
– Did the man make any protest that would enable the Government to go into his case?
– I am not aware that any protest is allowed to get out once a man is seized by the military authorities.
– The honorable member is not entitled to make that assertion.
– A meeting waa held in the Socialists’ Hall, Melbourne, where thousands assembled to protest against the deportation of Italians for military service, but the censorship was used by the press to prevent any word as to that meeting going out to the public. The same censorship has been used in regard to the “ tabloid “ speech which I made the other night upon this matter. The people of Australia, owing to the censorship, were prevented from knowing that my speech was dealing with the matter of the deportation of Italians. It was camouflaged by reporting me as making some remarks concerning an Allied country and the present .war. It cannot be denied that the Government have given orders to the press to suppress all reference to these matters. Italians, naturalized or unnaturalized, have been called upon by the Italian Government, aided and abetted by the Australian Government.
– Does the Italian Government recognise naturalization papers issued to Italians in Australia ?
– Not so far as the Army is concerned, as is shown in Hall’s International Law, sixth edition, that I quoted the other evening. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) will remember that when he introduced the Naturalization Bill he dealt with the law as it relates to Germany.
– I said at the same time that naturalization here protects any person from going under the conscription law of Italy.
– It does not protect an individual if the Australian Government is in league with the Italian Government,
– It does protect the individual, as a matter of fact; but there was one case, possibly a mistake, which came under my notice, and into which I ordered an inquiry.
– The Minister will not deny that the Italian Government claim naturalized British subjects, so far as military service is concerned?
– I understand that the Commonwealth Government does not recognise that claim.
– The Government does recognise that claim, in so far as they have allowed the Italian Consul to call up men, although these men have produced their naturalization papers. Whether a man be naturalized or unnaturalized, if he has come to this country as a boy of, say, three or four years of age, has been brought up under our conditions, and is subject to our civil and criminal law, he should be protected by the Australian people who have protected themselves against conscription.
– We cannot ignore international law altogether.
– I am contending that they. are ignoring international law by allowing naturalized British subjects to be called upon for military service in a foreign country.
– One nation does not make international law binding on two nations.
– That depends on what nation has the biggest command of guns. I am not so much concerned with whether a man has naturalization papers or not - he is here, a citizen of the country, and he obeys the laws as do Australians.
– He is not a citizen if he is not naturalized.
– Of course, he is; he is liable to all the pains and penalties to which Australians are liable.
– That does not make him a citizen. There is a well-recognised status of citizenship. The honorable member would not contend that an Australian who lives for weeks or years in another country ceases to become an Australian citizen.
– I am not setting up that doctrine; but I contend that if a man is good enough to live here and conform to our laws, he is good enough to be protected by the people who themselves have rejected compulsory military service.
– But you make the claim on the ground of citizenship.
– Yes, and on the ground of common humanity. My point is that the Australian people have exempted themselves, and yet. by an arrangement with one of the other countries concerned, a War Precautions Regulation is issued calling upon every Italian here liable to military service in Italy to report himself to the Consul under certain penalties. That War Precautions Regulation was subsequently amended so as to embrace all Allied countries. If this “is allowed to go on, the time will come when all Servians, Americans, Italians, and Frenchmen resident in Australia are drafted out against the wishes of the Australian people, as expressed at the two referenda, when no distinction was made between different classes. Then those who think with the Government will turn round and say that all the subjects of our Allies have been called upon, while the English, Scotch, and, possibly, in the near future, the Irish, conscripts are allowed to remain in Australia. In my opinion this action in regard to Allied subjects is simply the thin end of the wedge, and if the Australian .people sit down under it, then conscription, without any referendum or appeal to the people, will be carried out. When the anticonscription majority has thus been broken down, and the English, the Irish, and the Scotch-
– There are no Scotch anti-conscriptionists.
– There are a few in Ireland at the present time anyhow. The honorable member for Perth does not follow Mr. Lloyd George’s statements very closely, or he would know that there is a considerable number of .Scotchmen and Englishmen residing in Ireland at the present time. At present we have the’ Commonwealth Government working hand and glove with’ Allied Governments to facilitate the deportation of Allied citizens. The Italians, of whom I am speaking, are paid 2d. per day as members of the Italian Army. The Prime Minister has told us that their dependants in Australia are receiving the separation allowance laid down for dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force, namely, ls. 5d. a day for the adult, and 4id. per child, plus 2d. paid by a benevolent Italian Government. What is going to become of the 30,000 women and children who are dependent on the 6,000 odd Italian citizens eligible for military service? Will any honorable’ member contend that the allowance I have mentioned will keep body and soul together?
– Where do you get your information as to the numbers?
– From the Italian people concerned.
– What does Mr. Knibbs say ? ‘
– You can find that out at your leisure. I have a list of thirty-four of these Italians who live in and about Melbourne. All of them are possessed of property, and are suffering severely in consequence of the action taken by the Government. One of them possesses two- shops worth £600 at St. Kilda, and another a shop, valued at £250,0 in Carlisle-street. In the case of the latter he is forced to sell, and has been offered £87 for his property. An Italian at Nhill, Victoria, has been offered £700 for a business worth £2,500 ; a man at Northcote has received no offer at all for a property worth £200, and the same has to be said of a property worth £500 at Richmond. For a property in Malvern-road, an Italian conscript has been offered £70 for a property worth £200. So the list goes on, offers of £60, £70, and £50 being made for properties and businesses worth £300 and £400. In these circumstances, the benevolent Australian Government offers to allow the dependants of these men ls. 5d. a day*, with 4jd. for each child. Then what about those Italians who have no property at all - t,he labouring class ? Their Australian wives, and their children born here, are left to subsist on the separation allowance. The Australian Government is saying that’ voluntarism has been “ nailed to the mast, “ so far as Australian citizens are concerned; and what the Australians will not tolerate themselves we are compelling the people of Allied countries to accept. Unless adequate provision is made for the dependants of these men who are being “ shanghaied “ out of the country, they must become a tax on the general community, and it is a crying shame, and a disgrace to any country calling itself civilized, to perpetrate such an atrocity on helpless people.
Tn reply to a question as to whether Australian soldiers are being used for the purpose of arresting these conscripts, the Prime Minister told us that any necessary arrests are being made by the civil police and the Garrison Military Police., or by members of the District Guard. Thus we have the spectacle of the Italian Consul utilizing the governmental machinery of the people of Australia for the very Object against which we have most emphatically declared ourselves. Behind the people, per medium .of the War Precautions’ Regulations .and Orders in Council, men are being “shanghaied” out of the country; and there is a policy of smother and hush manipulated by the present Administration, with the effect of absolutely preventing any publicity being given to the state of affairs.
That is not very remarkable, because the Government are Prussianizing Australian citizens. By surreptitious alterations, of the War Precautions Regulations they have taken away the right of Australian citizen soldiers to be tried before a civil magistrate. The whole military system, against which Australians were supposed to be fighting overseas in order to keep it out of Australia, is being introduced through regulations issued by the present Government. Regulation 494, paragraph liv., provides for ‘any trainee who neglects or- refuses to pay any penalty or fine for an offence against the Act and regulations, ‘ ‘ by order of the civil Court or by sentence, of court martial, &c. ,” and that has been amended by the addition of the words “ or by award of a Commanding Officer.” So that, it is no longer necessary to hale a lad before the civil magistrate and allow the prosecution to have the ordinary publicity. Too many lads were taken before the civil Court, and the public were beginning to know in that way what was- taking * place. That did not suit the military authorities, so the Government have by regulation altered the military system for the worse. Regulation 495 allows of the imposition of a sentence of three months’ hard labour for any of the offences,, great and small, detailed in the preceding section. Nonpayment of- fines may therefore be severely punished by court martial. I pointed out in the House on another occasion how the lads in Broken Hill were being hauled before magistrates for the most trivial offences; but what sort of things will occur when these lads can be charged, not before a. civil Court which is adjudicating in the full light of day, but before their Commanding Officer, and without any publicity being given to the proceedings? The Government have also included absence from parade amongst the list of offences which a Commanding Officer is allowed to punish summarily. In future the Commanding Officer need not bother the magistrate to compel attendance at drill. All he has to do is to haul the delinquent before him and fine him, and, if he does not pay the fine, to sentence him to three months’ hard labour. Prior to entering this Parliament I had an opportunity of travelling with a person who occupied a high position in the Australian Army Reserve, and I overheard him saying in conversation with another traveller that, it was necessary to tighten up the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act; but in the then existing state of public opinion it would not be wise to do that yet, because if the matter came, before Parliament the people would probably insist on wiping out the compulsory clauses. His policy is now being carried out under the cloak of secrecy. The press is muzzled ; magistrates are not to be allowed to deal with offences, but the military officers are to be given power to strike terror into the hearts of the lads they are drilling and intimidate, them so that they will become blind tools in the hands of employers. It is about, time that honorable members told the Government in no uncertain .way that they will not allow any more of this monkeying with the rights of Australian citizens. Wie are daily being assured of the necessity of maintaining the liberties that we possess in this country, while at the same time, in a hole-and-corner manner, the Government are amending regulations in order to interfere with the rights, of the people. Through the medium of the sausage-machine regulations they are turning out night and day, every vestige of liberty possessed by the Australian people prior to the war is slowly but surely disappearing. I have taken this opportunity of ventilating the interference with the rights and liberties of young Australians who are being trained under the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act, and the outrage perpetrated on the dependants of Italians, who are being forcibly deported .from this country at the request of a foreign Government, and I hope that honorable members will not allow this state of things to continue.
– There are only 6,000 eligible Italians in Australia.
– If there were only one I would kick up the same row.
– ‘Some of them are not naturalized.
-I make no distinction between a naturalized citizen and an unnaturalized citizen. I contend that a man who is good enough to live in Australia, and who conforms to our laws, is entitled to the same treatment as other citizens. The people have, decided that conscription is not good enough for Australia.
– It is not good enough for them!
– I hope this matter will not he treated in a jocose manner. The rights and liberties of men are at stake, as also is the well-being of helpless women and children who are to be left to the tender mercies of the Government, who are shanghai-ing Italian citizens out of the Commonwealth.
– I rise to enter another protest against what is taking place in connexion with the censorship. I hold the galley slips of a weekly newspaper which has been continuously published in Brisbane for nearly thirty years. These are proofs of reprinted articles that appeared in the Brisbane Daily Standard, the Rockhampton Record, and other papers, but the censor would not allow them to be published in the Brisbane Worker, presumably because they reflect upon the conduct of the Government in connexion with the war. The original purpose of the censorship regulations - and it is still being placarded- was to prevent information of value to the enemy being published. That was a good and sufficient reason, and, so long as the censorship was confined to that purpose nobody could, or did, complain of it. But the censorship has been applied for - a very different purpose, and, although members on the Government side may deny that there is any political censorship, I ask them what construction the ordinary man in the street can place upon the interference that is taking place with the press. Evidence such as I possess must provoke the opinion that the censorship is being imposed solely for political purposes. I hope the Government do not regard themselves as superior to criticism; but one would think that they regarded themselves as sacrosanct, when they refuse to allow a reputable newspaper like the Brisbane Worker to criticise their actions.
– Did these articles, of which you have copies, appear in other newspapers in the same form as that in which you have them?
– Yes; and the censor has made a red mark through the three galley slips. This is not an uncommon happening. Honorable members have repeatedly quoted and exhibitedspecific examples of information that appeared in the Age and the Argus being refused publication in such papers as the Woman Vater and the journals published by the workers. Articles published in a number of newspapers that were favorable to the Government were not allowed to appear in the Labour press. We know that the Government have no very kindly feeling towards Labour newspapers or Labour members, but they must recognise that Labour members have some standing in the community by reason of their positions in this House as representatives of the people. If only one side is to be heard in politics, and only favorable criticism in connexion with the doings of the Government is to be given publicity, it would be better for the Government to close down altogether those newspapers which are hostilely critical, rather than to strangle them slowly by means of the censorship.
– The censorship in Australia is infinitely worse than it is in Germany.
– Perhaps the PostmasterGeneral will turn his Australian and not his official ear to me when I admit that I. am in receipt of newspapers from the Old Country, and find in them open, unadulterated criticism of the most severe character directed against the Imperial Government.
– That cannot injure recruiting there.
– Then does the Minister suggest that censorship of thekind I have exhibited is imposed because the statements might prejudice recruiting?
– That is one of the reasons for the law.
– I have often heard it put forward as a reason, but this exercise of the censorship has exactly the opposite effect. The fact of the censorship being so severe on the Labour papers is hindering recruiting. The people say, “ We are allowed to know only one side. Why should we support a Government that refuses us the ordinary rights of civilized communities?”
– Numbers of honorable members on the other side think the same as you do.
– I know. They have often expressed themselves privately as decidedly opposed to the actions of the Government in that regard.
– Will you let me see the articles ?
– I have no objection. No honorable member can find in
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180419_reps_7_84/>.