7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at . 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In a leading article in the Argus this morning reference is made to the statement made here yesterday by way of interjection, that I was the only member of the Labour party who was assisting in getting recruits.
– I did not say that.
– No; but that inference has been drawn from what was said.
– It-is an incorrect inference.
– The attitude of Senator Gardiner, the Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, towards recruiting is well known . He and I were the representatives of the Federal party at the Conference convened by the Governor-General. He has, since the Conference, in the press, and, I think, on the platform, advocated voluntary recruiting. The Leader of the New South Wales Labour party (Mr. J. Storey), who was also at the Conference, has done the same. Unfortunately Mr. Elmslie, the late Leader of the Labour party in Victoria, diedsoon after the Conference, but those who knew him know what he would have done had his health permitted. Mr. Jolley, the Leader of the Labour party in South Australia, and a member of the Conference, has, since it was held, advocated voluntary recruiting from the public, platform, and was, prior to the Conference, and is still, a member of the State Recruiting Committee. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Ryan, who also attended the Conference as a Labour representative, is at the present time actively engaged in addressing recruiting meetings, as the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) can testify. This week Mr. Ryan addressed, I believe, a meeting in Queen-street, Brisbane, at which 6,000 persons attended. Mr. Collier, the Leader of the Labour party in Western Australia, another member of the Conference, has, since the Conference separated, been ‘ actively engaged in recruiting work, and I read in the newspapers that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in Tasmania, Mr. Ogden, was present at the meeting which opened the recruiting campaign in that State, and did his best to get recruits. The names I have mentioned include all the parliamentary Labour leaders of the Commonwealth, and of the six States, and all the Labour parliamentarians who attended the Conference, and in justice to them and to the movement I have made these facts known.
– I had no intention of asking the public to draw the inference that has been drawn by the newspaper that has been mentioned. In answer to an interjection, I commented on the vigorous way in which the Leader of the Opposition has always supported voluntary recruiting, and I am sorry that the interjection has caused misapprehension, but that was not its intention. I do not wish to differentiate between members opposite. Yesterday I invited the full cooperation of the House in the matter of recruiting, as I have always done since I took my present position. Later I shall make a statement regarding the sessional arrangements, and I shall invite the cooperation of members, during the parliamentary recess, in the advancement of recruiting in the country. I am sure that the influence of members’ speeches will be salutary and will be visible in the recruiting returns.
Appointment of Mr. Latham
– Yesterday the hon orable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked, as a third of a series of questions on notice, if it was “the practice of Mr. Latham to accept one-third of the fees received by the barristers under a system whereby a solicitor delivered to a barrister, say Mr. A.B., a brief marked Mr. A.B., for Mr. Latham, 15 guineas,’ and Mr. A.B. will have to appear in the case and hand over one-third of the fee to Mr. Latham?” My answer to the question was that no such arrangement was known to the Department. To that answer I wish to add, in justice to Mr. Latham, that the practice of delivering to a barrister a brief on behalf of another barrister on active service was adopted in Victoria by the Attorney-General’s Department several years ago, at the request of the Bar Council. It is understood that a similar practice has for several years prevailed in England. So far as Mr. Latham is concerned, however, this practice has not been applied by the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, at the time when Mr. Latham joined the Navy Department, he held from the CommonWealth several briefs in pending cases. These he surrendered, and the Commonwealth, thereupon briefed fresh counsel quite independently of Mr. Latham.
Weaving of Cloth
– As a large num. ber of returned soldiers and other workers will be out of employment at the end of the war, and the price of clothing is ever increasing, because of the dearth of shipping, will the Government consider the urgent necessity of at once making full inquiry regarding the establishment of works for the manufacture of the raw material in Australia?
– I do not think that the question is an urgent one in the parliamentary sense, and I am unable to reply to it now. I understand that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is dealing with the matter referred to, and if notice is given of the question, I shall be prepared to give it an answer next Wednesday.
– Has the Defence Department arrived at a decision regarding the establishment of an Ordnance Corps in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force, and will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform the House on the next day of sitting what is being done in this direction, and if it is intended that the Ordnance Corps shall be established before the end of the war?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and endeavour to get an answer by next Wednesday.
– There are rumours current to the effect that Australia, New Zealand, and Japanese interests are making a sort of grab at certain islands in the Pacific, and adjacent to Australia or New Zealand. I should like to be informed whether the Government know anything regarding the claims of these countries to these islands.
– That is hardly a question to be answered without notice. The honorable member is becoming a phonograph for the repetition of rumours. I know nothing of those to which he refers. Are they current ou the tongue, or in the press ?
– There is trouble in the Marshall Islands between the Japanese and Australians.
– If the honorable member will be explicit, and give notice of his question, I shall have enquiries made.
– Yesterday a ques tion was asked regarding the prayer with which our proceedings are opened each day, and it was suggested that an addition should be made to the form of words used. On several occasions in the past I have suggested that the wording of the prayer should be amended, by the substitution of the word “ deliberations “ for the word “ consultations,” which, in Australia, has a meaning altogether dissociated fromprayer. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, . when the Standing Orders Committee is considering the alteration of the prayer, consideration can be given to my suggestion?
– Of course, I read the prayer that is embodied in the Standing Orders, and if it be the desire of the House that an additional prayer shall be read, I shall be pleased to consult the Prime Minister and the Standing Orders Committee on the matter. Regarding the suggestion of the honorable member, I shall be very glad to do what he desires.
– I am informed, from a source that is very correctly primed, that there are now 3,000 tons of surplus leather held in the Commonwealth. That leather is worth over £600,000, and tanners and their employees are in a serious position because its exportation is prohibited. The Board of Shipping gave its consent to the exportation of a certain quantity of leather from Sydney by the ship Llansephen Castle, but, unfortunately, the order came to hand twenty-four hours after the vessel had left the harbor, carrying away 15,000 raw hides. Will the Acting Prime Minister do something to assist the tanning industry, both from the employers’ and employees’ standpoint, by allowing the exportation of surplus leather?
– The Government is fully aware of the importance of the tanning industry from many points of view in regard to both production and employment. For a considerable time it has been pressing the British authorities to allow greater freedom in the export of Australian leathers to Britain. For some reason, which we have not been able to fully appreciate, there is a practical embargo against such export. Leather is not on the list of priorities that the British Government allow. As the result of further representations, we obtained, on the occasion referred to by the honorable member, a special permission, which I understood had considerably relieved the tanning trade.
– But the vessel had left before the permission arrived.
– I do not think that was the fault of the Government; but I do not know the circumstances. I shall inquire into that feature of the matter. The tanners know that the Government are very anxious to assist them so far as they can to secure space for the export of a reasonable quantity of leather.
– When the opportunity offers in the way of shipping space to relieve the leather industry by making exports of leather, will the Acting Prime Minister, as far as possible, allow that relief to be given proportionately in the different States ?
– I think that proposition is quite fair, and I understand that the Leather Board’s operations would give effect to it.
– I have no knowledge of the contract referred to, but if the honorable member will give notice of his question I shall supply him with the information desired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Age this morning, in referring to the interchange which took place last night between the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) and myself, states that the honorable member said there were members of the Opposition who “ saw the light “ but did not follow it owing to the pressure of a section flying, not the Australian, but the Red flag. It then goes on to say that i “ interjected and smiled.” That is inaccurate. As a matter of fact, I was laughing at a thought that was in my mind-
– What is the line of demarcation between a smile and a laugh ?
– A lady smiles, but the honorable member grins. The Age report continues as follows: -
– You smile. You have no one at the Front. I throw baek the laugh into his teeth.
– To hell with you. (Disorder.) Having been called to order by the Speaker Dr. Maloney withdrew the remark.
I desire to explain that I did not use the expression attributed to me by the Age.
– That was what the honorable member said.
– He did not.
– You, Mr. Speaker, did not hear what I said. I do not know whether the Age reporter was new to the work, but I did not use the expression.
– If Mr. Speaker had heard what the honorable member actually did say he would have called upon him to withdraw it.
– This is a case of “ save me from my friends,” I am glad, Mr. Speaker, you did not hear what I said. If you had you would have called upon me to withdraw the remark, and Iwould have done so. I do not think the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) heard what I said.
– No; I heard afterwards what it was.
– If the honorable member had heard what I. said I would have withdrawn the expression. The Age reporter did not hear me use the words which he attributed to me, because they did not leave my lips.
– He made a mighty good guess.
– I ask the Age reporter, in the best of good humour, to report what I actually say, no matter how bad it is, and not to make, as in this case, three inaccuracies in. one paragraph. Asa matter of fact, I have four relatives at the Front. One of them has been wounded four times, and I am trying to find another man to take his place, so that he may come back.
– Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked me a question with reference to the issue of badges to the mothers and next of kin of soldiers who have fallen in the war, and I promised to make inquiries. A similar question is being asked in the Senate this morning, and the following reply will be made by the Minister for Defence : -
The position is that considerable delay has occurred in obtaining delivery of the badges from the contractor, who has been hindered through inability to obtain adequate supplies of suitable enamel. I have referred the matter to the recently appointed Board of Business Administration with a view to the manufacture of the medals being expedited, and early issue commenced.
– Last Friday I invited the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to certain statements with regard to the method of repairing telephone boxes, and embellishing the furniture of bis Department. I wish to ask the honorable gentleman if his attention has been directed to a paragraph in last Saturday’s issue of the Herald, and whether he is prepared to make any further statement in reply to that rather strong corroboration of the complaint I voiced on the previous day?
– I have seen the paragraph. My reply will appear in the Herald.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to a statement in last night’s issue of the Herald that a recruiting party visiting Maldon went to the trouble of blowing up with dynamite a “ Vote no “ sign, and whether that method of recruiting is indorsed by the Department?
– I have not seen the paragraph.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government have made a selection of the gentleman who is to occupy the position of Controller or Director of Repatriation?
– So far as I am aware, no appointment has yet been made.
– The honorable gentleman, of course, will make very anxious inquiries as to the qualifications of the gentleman to be appointed.
– Proper inquiries will be made.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of shipping whether he is aware that there is at present in the port of Brisbane a vessel, until recently engaged in the New Guinea trade, to which certain repairs have to be made; and that the intention is to make these repairs at Sydney. In view of the existence in Brisbane of every facility for the carrying out of such repairs, will the honorable gentleman see that the work is done there, thus avoiding a delay of many days during which the vessel could be profitably employed?
-I think the matter comes under the control of the Shipping Board. If the equipment necessary for the repair of this ship is available at Brisbane, it should not be necessaryto send her down to Sydney. I shall make representations to the proper authorities.
– The Acting Prime Minister promised last week to obtain from the Defence Department the objections they have to the raising of Scottish regiments in Australia. Has he that information ?
– I do not know that I promised to give the information to the House. The honorable member originated his question upon the report of a deputation which Ihad received in Sydney at the time of the Premiers’ Conference, and I then said I had undertaken to collect from the Department the military objections to the proposal and to forward them to the Highland societies from whom representations had been made to me on the subject. That has been done, and these societies in New South Wales have undertaken, I understand, to endeavour to meet the objections. So far I have not received their answers.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister supply to the other Highland societies in Australia the information he has given to the Highland societies of New South Wales?
– If the honorable member will give me the addresses of the other societies I shall be glad to comply with his request.
– Will the Acting
Prime Minister invite the Cabinet to consider whethertheCommonwealthGo- vernment ought not to emulate the example of the United States of America by inaugurating a Commonwealth system of life assurance, in order to minimize the cost of insuring the lives of our soldiers who are fighting for us?
– The honorable member, as is his custom, gave me a few minutes’ notice of this question. I do not know’ that if the Commonwealth were to insure our own boys who are going overseas the result would be to minimize the cost to any extent. I shall, however, make inquiries as to the practice in the United States. I understand that, in addition to or apart from their pension system, they have established some system of insurance of soldiers. I will ascertain the basis of it.
Broken Hill Prosecutions
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence any information to give the House as the result of the investigations he promised to make regarding the heavy fines inflicted on lads at Broken Hill for their failure to attend the requisite number of drills in connexion with the compulsory military service system?
– I have not yet received a reply to my inquiries. I shall endeavour to obtain it by Wednesday next.
– Where an application for an invalid or old-age pension is refused, and the applicant is unable to earn a living, will the Treasurer instruct his Department to arrange for the admission of such applicant to the benevolent asylum at Cheltenham, or toany similar institution where he can be under supervision ?
– The subject, as my honorable friend knows, is full of difficulties. I, therefore, would be pleased if he would give notice of his question.
Delivery of Telegrams : Holiday Pay : Pension Payments
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a treaty has been signed by Great Britain and the United States whereby Australians domiciled in the United States of America may be conscripted for military service in France?
– The Defence Department has no knowledge of such a treaty. Permission was granted for Australians resident in the United States of America to volunteer for service in the Australian Imperial Force through the British Recruiting Mission in America.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give the following information to the House by supplying a return showing -
The total sums paid individually to the Wheat Pool agents?
The totals paid to the separate States?
The net amount paid severally to the agents after deduction of expenses?
An epitome showing the cost of stacking and handling and putting the wheat aboard ship?
The clerical cost in connexion with the work mentioned in paragraph 4?
The amount paid for supervising the whole of the labour in connexion. with the work mentioned in paragraph 4?
Any other expenses?
– Inquiry is being made with a view to the desired information being furnished.
Mr. JOHN THOMSON (for Mr.
Lister) asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the acknowledged suitability of the site at North Geelong for shipbuilding purposes, and the need there is for expediting shipbuilding in Australia, the Government will take the necessary steps to establish that industry at the port of Geelong?
– The Government is doing everything possible to expedite the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. A commencement has been made at Williamstown and Walsh Island. The question of other sites is having the serious consideration of the Government, hut there are difficulties in the way of obtaining the necessary shipyard equipment and material for the construction of steel ships.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Duties include, inter alia, the preparation of matter for public information arising out of the activities of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Government’s financial and commercial schemes; the proper arrangement and cataloguing of newspaper cuttings, and official and other publications from all parts of Australia and the Empire, and extracting therefrom information relating to matters of local public interest, and to Australia generally, which arc likely to be useful to the Government.
Allowance to Dependants
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Provision has already been made under section 43 of the Naval Defence Act, and also in the War Pensions Act for dependants ofmembers of the Naval Forces.
Pensions and Maternity Allowance
Mr. JOHN THOMSON (for Mr.
Lister) asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will introduce an amendment of the Federal law with a view of terminating the payment of maternity bonuses and old-age pensions to persons of enemy birth?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It has not been found necessary to alter the law in connexion with the granting of old-age pensions as such are now only granted to persons of alien enemy birth who comply with the following conditions, viz.: -
Long residence in Australia.
Satisfactory evidence of loyal conduct. As regards maternity allowances, the Government has recently considered the matter, and has determined that the conditions in regard to old-age pensions shall apply in the future to the payment of such allowances.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he, as soon as convenient, make a short statement as to the progress at the Federal Capital Site in regard to afforestation, and as to his intentions in the near future in order to avoid the loss of the current planting season?
– I shall be glad to make a statement in regard to afforestation on Wednesday.
Escort to Boat Conveying Australia’s Representatives : Retinue
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is in the negative.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice. -
Will he kindly supply the following information: -
What persons formed the party accompanying the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy to Britain?
What payment is being made to such persons by way of (i) salaries, (ii) expenses ?
What is the total estimated cost of the whole party for the trip abroad and back?
Has any sum been voted or agreed upon to cover the expenses as per (c) ; if not, how are the expenses being met?
– I have not been able to obtain the information on the short notice , but will get it as soon as possible.
Return after Long Service.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In cases where application is made by mothers, wives, or relatives for the return to Australia of their relations who have served two years in the firing line, or who have been placed hors de combat by severe wounds, will the Minister agree to such return of soldiers if the relatives provide an accepted recruit?
– Every effort hasbeen, and isbeing, made by the Government to give leave in deserving cases, but until the shortage of recruits has been made up it is regretted that it is not possible to give effect to the suggestion.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am not aware what action, if any, is being taken by the Department of Defence, but hope to obtain the necessary information for the purpose of answering the honorable member’s question next week.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 23rd May (vide page 5075), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Tudor had moved -
That after the word “ That “ the words this House condemns the notion of the Government in enlisting for service abroad youths of eighteen years, who have not obtained the consent of their parents,” be inserted.
– It is a mere bagatelle to ask for authority to raise another £80,000,000 by way of war loans, but we can easily see that very soon the Commonwealth Government will have an indebtedness of about £500,000,000, and the Government are showing no evidence of any desire on their part to compel those people who can afford to pay to contribute their fair share of the war expenditure. I am not in the habit of making statements which I cannot prove. I am sure that 90 per cent. of the £80,000,000 which will be contributed to the loans which will be author rized by this Bill will be contributed from excess war profits, which have been made out of the community generally and which the Government should get without having to pay interest. This statement of mine may be considered a very wild one, but if the Government had done their duty they would have compelled the people who are making money out of the war to pay for the cost of the war. The Commonwealth expenditure was £28,000,000 prior to 1914, and we were told that the taxation which was imposed to meet that expenditure was excessive, but I am of opinion that it will cost us £60,000,000 to administer Commonwealth affairs when the war comes to an end. If the taxation necessary to produce a revenue of £28,000,000 from a paltry 5,000,000 people was considered too much, how are we to raise £60,000,000 when the majority of our soldiers will return to us in a very much impaired condition, as compared to their virility prior to the war, unless those who are making money are taxed to the fullest possible extent! I can quite understand why a section of the Government’s supporters are satisfied, with the position, but it is natural to suppose that there are hundreds of thousands of people supporting the Government who are not well off, and they will have to pay while others who are supporting the Government will go on increasing their banking accounts. I do not wish to weary the House with my impressions on this matter, but it seems foolish to talk of economy, as some conservative politicians and the conservative press teach it, that is, by lowering wages aud impairing the service rendered by Government utilities, when we are borrowing £80,000,000 from people who will make the most of it out of war profits.
– If we tax those people they will pass it on to others.
– Certainly they will. They have not had the common decency to pay £500,000, representing the paltry share of excess profits which this Government proposed to deprive them of. Yet they will contribute this £80,000,000 for war loans from those self -same profits.
One matter that should receive great attention from the Government is that of shipbuilding. The necessity for the building of ships has been made apparent every day durng this war. It has been recognised now for over three years. I do not blame any Minister or any Government in regard to the delay that has taken place, but I claim that a Government which makes such a pretence about having a greater desire to win the war than any other Government have had, should have been farseeing enough to commence the building of ships long ago. Instead of that, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) conceived the idea of being able to build these vessels without any interference from unions, and ‘to that end he held a number of conferences with representatives of the workers at which some sort of agreement, not a unanimous one, was reached. Yet nothing has been done, because we are told that we can do nothing without material. But when the idea was first conceived arrangements should have been made to get the necessary material. The Government started in a wrong fashion with the unions, and made one of the silliest arrangements possible. In the Government shipyards the rule was laid down that there should be piecework, and to this the unions objected. However, some sort of an arrangement was come to, a number of the unions reluctantly agreeing to the condition. In spite of this, no further progress has been made; and the farce is that, while there is to be piece-work, contracts have been let without calling for tenders. Three firms - two in Victoria and one in another State - have been given contracts at a fixed price for the construction of engines and other necessary parts for the vessels, but not, as ought to have been the case, in open market. Why should these firms - one the Castlemaine Foundry, and another in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Bendigo - be selected and given this advantage? The farce is rendered still more glaring by the fact that private firms which are manufacturing other parts, have the work done by day labour, as in the past. Either the contractors are getting special consideration, for some reason that I do not know, or the Government realize that their insistence on piecework will be a failure, especially in certain directions, aud are adopting this plan so as to avoid admitting the failure. Apparently this sort of thing is to be permitted to go on unchallenged; at any rate, any remarks on the subject from this side fall on deaf ears. If there is a desire on the part of the press to ventilate the subject, the War Precautions Act is put into operation, so that there is no opportunity to show how inefficient the plans of the Government are. We ought to know why the Government are departing from the ordinary rule of letting contracts, and why a system found good enough for private firms cannot be followed in the Government shipyards. Of course, there is a certain strain of parochialism in every man. I have often said that you have only to scratch a man a little deeply to find that he is a Statesrighter ; and no doubt we all have a desire that the places we represent shall have a fair proportion of the public work. Why are firms in my electorate, or in other electorates, not given an opportunity to compete with the firms at Castlemaine and Bendigo? If the Government can adopt procedure of this kind without being called to account, their supporters are willing to stand anything.
We are told that the Australian workman is the cause of all the trouble; that the Government had to insist on piecework because the workers here are never satisfied, and always demanding higher wages. On this account, it is said, we cannot construct ships as cheaply here as they are built in America, but that is not a fact, because the wages there are high enough to drive our dear old Conservative employers into fits if they had to pay them. For instance, I have here an American shipbuilding agreement.between the California Metal Trades Association and the California Foundryman’s Association on the one part, and the Iron Trades Council of San Francisco on the other part. This agreement is intended to prevent industrial troubles, which I can tell honorable members are quite as great in America as they are here. Further, the wages are higher in America, and the demands of the workmen are quite as persistent as those in Australia. Yet in America they are building ships efficiently under the order of things that is desired in Australia. In the agreement to which I have referred, it is laid down -
We are told that it is impossible to construct shipping here by the day-labour system, under which the men will not work, and which proves too costly; but in most skilled trades in Australia the wages are not nearly so high as in America. For instance, machinists are paid $5.80, or about 24s. a day; machinist specialists, $4.40; machinists’ helpers, $3.96, or about 16s. a day; while, in Australia, the last-mentioned are paid only about 8s. 6d. Pattern-makers in America are paid $7.15, or about 30s. a day, as contrasted with not quite half that amount in Australia. In America, blacksmiths’ helpers are paid $4.30; anglesmiths, $5.80 ; heaters, $4.95 ; pipe fitters, $5.80; and so on until shipwrights, boatbuilders, and millmen are paid $6.60, or 27s. 6d.; caulkers, $7.15, or 29s. 3d. per day; and labourers and helpers, $3.57, or 14s.101/2d. a day. Here there is a howl because shipwrights and so on are paid 15s. a day and demand that when they go to Williamstown from their homes in the city they shall be paid their fares and their time in travelling. Further, in America, with such wages as these, ships are constructed more cheaply than in Australia. I fancy that if the dear old gentlemen, the employers of Australia, were asked to pay anything like 29s. 3d. to caulkers they would go into a permanent fit; nevertheless, in America ships are being turned out like sausages, while, as yet, we have made no attempt at construction. I am sorry the Minister in charge of these matters is not present, because I know the other day, when I was making some remarks, he felt that I was attacking him when I ought to be helping him. It is very evident that it is not the fault of the unionists of Australia that our shipbuilding cannot be proceeded with; and there ought to be genius enough in Australia, as in America, to remove the industrial troubles by the simple expedient of not insisting on piece-work. . If the old plan can be followed in America, with the big wages I have quoted, there is no reason why it cannot be followed here. Of course, I know that it was a great conception, on the part of the Government to catch the public ear with the name of the “Win-the-war” party.
– The Government did not conceive that name - they stole it.
– However that may be, if it is the Prime Minister that is the cause of all the trouble, have honorable members opposite not enough force of character to declare that ships shall be built in spite of the honorable gentleman’s conditions? I shall take an opportunity later, when the Minister is here, to further refer to the subject. The only Minister present at the moment is the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), whom I should be very pleased to consult on matters pertaining to his Department, but who ought not to be worried with this particular business. It is certainly worth while for the Government to look carefully into the position, so as to find out why we cannot construct ships here as efficiently as in America.
.- A Bill to raise £80,000,0,00 for war purposes ought, I think, to be availed of by honorable members to review the position with regard to the war, and I propose to draw attention to what I consider some very grave issues.
– As many honorable members do not know that the honorable member for Capricornia is addressing the House, I think we ought to have a quorum. - [Quorum formed.]
– The grave issues at stake justify the honorable member for Batman in desiring that there shall be a large attendance of members when we are discussing such an important Bill. The Commonwealth will shortly owe £300,000,000. The Treasurer in introducing the Bill did not set forth the whole of the obligations of this country in regard to the war. He certainly gave us some figures showing the indebtedness of the country up to April of this year, but ray idea is that he should have reviewed the whole war position as is done from time to time by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Bonar Law).
– Mr. Bonar Law has to face a more patriotic House than this. The Commonwealth Treasurer has to face a party Opposition.
– The British Chancellor of the Exchequer has to face a more critical House. On his own side are a number of critics, and, although the recent vote of confidence in the British Prime Minister was carried by a majority of 106 votes, I believe that at least 200 members of the House of Commons deemed it their duty not to take part in the division.
The Treasurer has not told the country what are our obligations in regard to the war. I find that a great deal of the £S0,000,000 to be raised under the authority of this Bill will be devoted to expenditure which will continue for many years after peace is declared, and which therefore ought to be met out of revenue. For instance, we used to finance from revenue expenditure on the Naval Bases at Flinders, Cockburn Sound, and Port Stephens, but the Treasurer proposes that expenditure on such works shall be met out of loan. Expenditure on the Navy, too, will probably continue for a century, according to the present outlook, and, therefore, cannot be legitimately charged to loan account. By our present extravagant expenditure we are incurring obligations which will make it impossible for us to carry out our promises to the men we are sending to the Front. We have never sat down quietly and considered what we ought to do, in justice to Australia and the Empire, in the sending of men to the Front, and in the financing of our part in the war, presuming that the war will last as long as some people believe it will. Australia is maintaining the whole of its soldiers from the time they are enlisted. Neither Canada nor South Africa is doing that, and it must be borne in mind that we are paying 6s. per day to our soldiers, whilst the soldiers in Great Britain are receiving only ls. 6d. per day. We ought to consider whether we shall be in a position after the war to carry out our duties to the men who go to the Front. We have promised to maintain them, and their dependants, while they are away, and to support them, if necessary, on their return.
– Would the honorable member mind if I were to ask for a quorum ?
– I do not mind whether a quorum is present or not. I was hoping that the honorable member would be devoting a little of his time to an endeavour to answer my argument. It might be that his answer would be again set down by the Argus as a rebuke to me. The honorable member’s arguments on a previous occasion were not a rebuke at all. For instance, he said that I was in favour of a Roumanian peace. That is not so; Roumania is a conquered country, but, of course, the Argus is always ready to avail itself of an opportunity to say things.
Mr.Brennan. - I think the honorable member for Wentworth avails himself of an opportunity to speak when the Argus is likely to be listening.
– No doubt. However, in accordance with the spirit of harmony that has prevailed in this House since the departure of two distinguished gentlemen - I refer, of course, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), andthe Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) - I am endeavouring to address my remarks to honorable members in a Christian spirit.
In Brisbane, recently, the Premier (Mr. Ryan) had occasion to complain of the action of some returned soldiers. The Queensland Government had appointed to an official position in connexion with the Returned Soldiers Institute an ex-member of Parliament, and surely the fact that a man has been a member of Parliament, but has had the misfortune to lose his seat, is no reason why he should be excluded from a position which he is qualified to occupy. I believe that the gentleman appointed, Mr. McMinn, is duly qualified for the position, but when he presented himself at the Institute the soldiers metaphorically kicked him out. They told him to go. According to a paragraph in the Argus of to-day, Major Fry said at a meeting in Brisbane last night that it was the determination of the soldiers to “ show the Government that they cannot monkey with dangerous men.” That is a threat of force. Quite recently I pointed out to honorable members that the capital city ofWashington was established because some soldiers attacked the State House and posted armed men at all entrances, giving members twenty minutes in which to make up their minds as to whether or not they would agree to the soldiers’ demands.
All financial authorities who take the trouble to look into the futureare agreed that the debts which are being piled up will lead to practically financial ruin. Mr. Gardiner, the editor of the London Daily News, wrote in a leading article, published on the 4th August, 1917 - “ We are all, enemies and Allies alike, going the road to financial ruin together.” And Professor J. A. Hobson, an economist of some standing, has pointed out that for some years capital will be able to exact a high toll at the gate of industry.
– But the British Government are meeting 20 per cent. of their war expenditure from revenue. We are doing nothing in that way.
– We may not be meeting 20 per cent. of our war expenditure from revenue, but we are expending a great deal of our revenue in connexion with the war. However that may be, we are incurring, apparently without due consideration, very heavy obligations. If we continue in this way we shall heap up such a load of debt that we shall be unable to do our duty to the soldiers and their dependants, and we may possibly bring about civil war in Australia.
– Can the honorable member explain why these wholesome ideas are always found amongst the Oppositionists, but are forgotten when honorable members reach the Treasury benches ?
– As the honorable member for Swan (Lord Forrest) said on one occasion, “ circumstances alter cases “ ; but that need not deter honorable members who are not members of the Government from demanding that the money which is raised shall be spent carefully. The point I wish to stress to-day is that the war aims of the Government as stated by the Prime Minister, the Acting Prime Minister, and the Minister for the Navy are such as should not be indorsed by this House. Those aims should not be used as an argument for sending soldiers to the Front. If we adhere to the war aims set forth in August, 1914, when we told the world that we were entering upon a holy war, well and good; but if we are to send men to the Front and incur heavy obligations for war aims that are extending from month to month, then it is time that we seriously took into consideration the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister on behalf of his
Government. I Lave taken up a certain position in regard to this matter, because I consider it my duty to do so. It is unpopular to ask that the Allies shall endeavour to obtain peace by negotiation.
– You do not think that it is unpopular in the country; you mean that it is unpopular in this. House.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that there is not a House present to say whether it is popular or unpopular. [Quorum formed.’]
– It is unpopular in this House to say that we should attempt to obtain peace by negotiation, and should not try to deliver what has been termed the “knock-out blow.” Honorable members of this House and their followers outside say that whatever may be the occasion for talking peace, it is not the time to do so when the Germanic powers are delivering an- offensive, and we are being pushed back from territory that we hold. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Bonar Law, has stated that it is possible for an army that has the necessary munitions, and is willing to make the necessary sacrifice of life, to win territory by concentration on certain points. Suppose I agree that this is not the time for talking peace, will our friends, when the offensive has been stopped, as I believe it will be, and another stalemate occurs, say that it will then be reasonable to try for peace by negotiation.
– Would you give up your claim to the South Sea Islands?
– When the British and their Allies were driving back the Germans and Austrians, those who spoke peace were proclaimed enemies of their country. The Prime Minister’s vocabulary was full of terms of abuse for them. We, in Australia, are living in a’ calm atmosphere, far from the sound of the bursting shells; and, except for the dreadful oppression which sits upon those of us who read what is happening elsewhere, and see our men returning maimed and sometimes blinded, and know the widows and orphans that are being made, there might appear to be no war. Honorable members opposite cannot suggest to me the time when we might try for peace by nego°tiation. They say, “ We are going for a victorious peace; we are going to crush the Germans, and to drive them back to Berlin.” As I believe that we cannot deliver a knock-out blow, it is my duty at all time3 to ask for an honorable peace by means of negotiation.
– We shall be able to give them a knock-out blow later.
– The honorable member’s opinion is not shared ‘by a great many generals who have spoken in the House of Commons, nor by others whose views I hope to quote this morning. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has asked if I am prepared to give up the islands of the Pacific. I say that it- would have been better for us if, instead of having spent money in the New Hebrides and elsewhere in the Pacific, we had devoted all our means to the development of Australia, and especially to the development of the eastern portion of this continent.
– You do not want to see a German Naval Base established in New Guinea.
– Wo have heard of a great harbor in New Guinea that would hold the whole German Navy; but what would the German Navy be doing there? The Consul-General for our ally, Japan, has stated that the Pacific Islands must never be given back to Germany. He says that “ it is the strong desire of Japan, as well as of Australia and New Zealand, that these islands shall never be handed back to Germany, because, if they were, the peace of the Pacific would not be regarded as secure from the operation of a threatening and dangerous element.” If Germany’s possessions are not handed back to her, there will be a cause for future wars. Honorable members say that they want to secure the permanent peace and freedom of the world; but they cannot get that if they are bent on annexing the territory of their enemy. President Wilson, Mr. Balfour, and others have said that they are not in favour of annexation. Mr. Balfour, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has said, “ We certainly did not go into the war for what is called an Imperialist policy. We certainly did. not go into the war to get indemnities “ ; and President Wilson’s speeches are full of statements to the effect that America is not in the war for annexations or for indemnities.
– Those two men will have a big say in the peace deliberations.
– No doubt. But honorable members opposite are urging the people of Australia to spend money to secure the Pacific Islands for Australia. The argument was used respecting the Northern Territory, which is such a loss to us at the present time, that if we do not develop it and other vacant areas, we offer an invitation to other nations to take that Territory from us. Now honorable members wish to add to our responsibilities by giving us German New Guinea, Fiji, and other places in the Pacific on which there would be a big annual loss.
– I understand from the press that the Prime Minister has been trying to get Fiji for us.
– Are we not making a profit from British New Guinea?
– No; we are probably losing more than £10,000 a year on it. Speaking advisedly, I say that the retention of German New Guinea by Australia and the obtaining of other Pacific islands would not be worth the sacrifice of the life of one soldier.
Those who say that the islands of the Pacific belong to the mainland of Australia will have to admit that, if they applied the same principle elsewhere, the British Islands, which are hardly more than an hour’s steaming from Calais, belong to Europe. Ministers either are not serious or they have not fully considered the fact that we have a territory which will take us centuries to develop, and that it would be better to devote our energies to its development than to diffuse them by spending money in other places. The Go vernor-General, speaking at Arncliffe, in New South Wales, on the 17th March last, said -
We are engaged in what is almost, in the words of the Prime Minister of England, a holy war, a war against wrong and a war for justice.
Then does the Win-the-War Ministry deem itself justified in announcing that we are going to take the Pacific Islands? Another war aim that has been stated by the Prime Minister is contained in the resolutions of the Paris Conference, which provide for preferential trading between the allied countries and the boycotting of Germanic goods for all time. This is an aim which has been given as a reason for continuing to spend money for the crushing of Germany as a reason why we should go on until we administer the “knock-out” blow. All the evidence, however, is opposed to the idea of effect ever being given to the Paris Conference resolutions. In an article in the Saturday Evening Post, Mr. Isaac F. Marcossan, referring’ to the Paris resolutions, writes -
Another important realization has brought Britain to an understanding of the utter impracticability of the Paris resolutions. The declaration of a ruthless trade war - heralded with brass bands and fastened upon the very walls of the world - has madethe Germans fight all the harder.
– That is merely the opinion of the writer.
– But it is shared, I be lieve, by many people.
– I do not think so.
– The Germans, according to Mr. Bonar Law, were “squealing for peace “ in 1916. ‘
– As one who knows many Germans, I do” not believe that statement.
– That, at all events, was the statement made by Mr. Bonar Law, and it was used as an argument against the suggestion that peace negotiations should be conducted at that time. It was said that, since Germany was “ squealing for peace,” any person in the Allied countries who would talk of peace at that time was either an enemy or a lunatic. It was believed that we had the Germanic Allies beaten, and no doubt, if Russia had stood firm, they would have been. Mr. Marcossan ‘s article continues -
It has given them an impetus to struggle on underthe belief that they were battling for their economic existence. I have heard this stated by German officers who were captured by the British. Thus I offer first-hand evidence of one major mistake of that Conference, which, so furas concrete results are concerned, has achieved no end, save to give the enemy a new battle cry.
In the same article he writes as follows in regard to the speeches made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the Paris Conference - “We must annihilate German industry, and put it out of business for ever,” was the familiar refrain. Under the eloquence of W. M. Hughes, of Australia - the peddler who became
Premier - a whole new school of reprisal developed.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) have gone away to support the Paris Conference resolutions. That, I hold, is a mistake. The sooner the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) re-states the war aims of this country, and at the same time undertakes a full review of our obligations up to June next, and our war commitment for 1918-19, the better. Even if the war ends in 1919, we must still have heavy war commitments. We have to bring back our soldiers, and must continue to pay them until they are finally discharged.
– If the war lasts until 1920, we shall have a war debt of £400,000,000.
– At the very least.
Mr.- Brennan. - The people will -not stand that long.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has returned to the chamber.
– I cannot help remarking that the hilarity of honorable members opposite is quite out of place. We are discussing a Bill to authorize a war loan of £80,000,000. Many of our soldiers are being killed at the Front. and we have to make provision for their dependants. The attitude of honorable members opposite shows that members of the so-called Win-the-war party have very little regard for the welfare of our soldiers at the Front. and think little of the very great probability that we shall not be able to fulfil our obligations to these soldiers when they come back, and that they will be in a position that will bring about civil war in this country.
I come now to a point that will specially interest the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). When it was urged that we should fix the price of meat, the honorable member said, “That would be dreadful. It would mean a loss of £45,000,000 to the pastoral industry.”
– I said it was estimated that it would reduce, to that extent, the saleable value of the assets of the pastoral industry.
– If the value of your assets be reduced, and you have to sell, the consequence is a loss. The honorable member practically meant that the profit-earning capacity of the pastoralists would be reduced if the price of meat were fixed. We have to remember that while this war is going on, and these large expenditures are being incurred, the rich are becoming .richer and the poor poorer. If we turn to any monthly share-list we find that, in the majority of cases, investment companies, before the war, were poorer than they are to-day. That being so, their shareholders are richer than they were before the war.
– Who are the shareholders ‘f
– They comprise men with as much as a million’ to their credit, as well as some with a capital of’ only a few pounds.
– Two-thirds of the shares in such companies are held by very wealthy people.
– That is absolutely wrong.
– The income tax reports show that about 14,000 people pay practically the whole of our income tax. After the war, the rich will be richer still, and the poor will have only their share of our great public debt on which they must pay interest. Wealth production ia due to the labour of the masses with the assistance of capital, plant, and machinery. Wealth, out of ‘ which interest on our war loans has to be paid, is created by the mass of the workers who will have nothing after the war but their share of the National debt. I would remind honorable members of Mr. Bonar Law’s own experiences. Speaking in the House of Commons during the consideration of the Finance Bill in July last, the Chancellor of the British Exchequer said -
He (Mr. Bonar Law) had invested £8,100 in fifteen shipping companies, running tramp steamers. Five per cent, on that would be £405; whereas he had received £3,615 in dividends in 1915, and £3,847 in dividends in 1916, aft.er having paid excess profits.
The cable message announces that “ Interjections of amazement greeted this statement by the Chancellor.” There would appear to be an increasing number of persons to whose interest it is that the war should continue.
– A statement like that made by Mr. Bonar Law could not be made in regard to the shipping companies of Australia.
– I am not in a position to say whether that is so or not. I only know that the shares of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company have increased in value to the extent of about 10s. per share since the outbreak of war. To any one who takes an interest in political economy it is startling to discover that, owing to the war, the rich are becoming richer, and that the general masses, who had practically nothing to speak of before the war, are becoming poorer. When confronted with that fact, every honorable member should realize that it is his duty now and henceforth, whether the Germans push back the Allied armies a few miles, or whether we push them back, to urge that our rulers should be prepared to grant the German request for a peace conference.
Mr. Bonar Law, in reviewing the war position, when, in the House of Commons recently, he asked for a war credit of £600,000,000, said, as reported in Hansard of 7th March last, page 2153 : -
Looking at it, not as one would like, hut as what I believe to be the facts, I say deliberately that there is no doubt whatever that the Allies, if they hold together, can secure the result which we set out to achieve when the war began. Of our ability to do this I have no doubt. It is our duty to do it. What were the objects with which we began the war? They were stated by the Prime Minister at a meeting at which I was present. They were summed up in a phrase, very often quoted, “ The destruction of Prussian militarism.” That is the phrase. Nobody had any doubt nt the time it was used, and I do not think any one has any doubt now as to what it means. It means this, that what we are fighting for is peace now and security for peace in the time to come. That is what it means.
The destruction of Prussian militarism means the destruction of the German army. Mr. Balfour has said that it is impossible for us to im,pose a constitution on Germany - that that is a matter for the people of Germany themselves. Mr. Balfour, I would remind honorable members, is a very learned man. If one were asked who was amongst the foremost of the intellectuals of the Old Country one would mention his name. And he has said that even if it were within our power to enforce a constitution upon Germany, it would not be a good thing to’ do so. Mr. Lloyd George, speaking in January, 1914, said : -
The German army is vital not merely to the existence of the German Empire, but to the very life and independence of the nation itself.
When we say that we propose to destroy German militarism, we are merely repeating a parrot cry. If honorable members would take the time to study the utterances of men at the head of affairs, they would see that a meaning is attached to the phrase that is not given to it in this country. In the matter of militarism there are two contrasts. There is the Zabeern incident, where a German citizen refused to salute a German officer and the latter ran his sword through him. Nothing could be more abominable than the form of militarism which leads to that kind of thing. There is another form of militarism, which is practised by us. I love to think of the story told of the late Colonel Tom Price when he was in command of a Victorian contingent in the South African war. An agitated British officer approached him one day, paused, and saluted, then took three steps forward, saluted again, and then coming quite close to him said, “ Sir, I desire to make a complaint.” The colonel said, “What is the matter?” The British officer replied, “ I have a complaint to make against your men.” “ Oh,” said Colonel Price, ‘ ‘ What is it ? “ The British officer replied, “ They did not salute me.” “ Now I come to think of it,” said Price, “ the blighters do not salute me.” In the main 1 hope that that kind of thing will characterize Australians for all time. I object to men being compelled by law to salute each other every time they meet. It has the effect of spoiling both men. What has spoiled the Minister, for Defence and made him so absurdly obstinate and vindictive? Nothing but this continual touching of the hat to him. It gives a man a wrong idea of his importance. It gives him what the Sydney Bulletin, in its references to the Prime Minister, calls “ diseased egotism.”
As to the “ war aims,” Mr. Outhwaite, speaking in the House of Commons, said - ….. ‘The war aims of this country, we know now, are not the war aims which were first announced by the Government. It is only a few days ago that the UnderSecretary for Foreign Affairs stated that the secret treaties held good. These treaties clearly show that the Allies from time to time extended their war aims, until now they include vast schemes of territorial aggrandisement. The question to-day, when we are considering finance, is how long will it take tis to achieve those war aims, and not the war aims with which we first set out? The treaty between this country, France, and Italy was a treaty of territorial aggrandisement, a treaty for the securing of vast territories for Italy - not only the Trentino, but also the Dalmatian coast, islands in the Adriatic, and even acquisitions in Asia Minor and Northern Africa. They involve the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. How long are we likely to have to fight before Austria-Hungary lays down her arms and submits to virtual unconditional surrender, because that is what the terms of the treaty with Italy involve? And I say, according to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it is for those aims we are fighting. Those aims also set out the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire and its partition amongst Italy, France, and Great Britain. Seeing the position to-day of the Turkish Empire, with the secession of Russia from the war, how long are we going to fight until those war aims are achieved ? 2nd then we are told to-day that we have to fight on with the last Englishman and thu last British sovereign - or the last piece of British paper money - until Germany has surrendered Alsace-Lorraine, at least, to France. Seeing the war position to-day, as portrayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, within how many years are we likely to achieve that object. - (See House of Commons Hansard, page 2220, of 7th March, 1918.)
We ought to get out of our minds the idea that we can effect a knock-out blow. Referring to this, Mr. Outhwaite said -
I do not think I can be charged with exaggerating the gravity of the financial position, because I am taking the Chancellor’s own views as to the essentialness of our carrying out our war aims, and the view expressed by him that we must not consider entering into negotiations for peace. He was good enough to refer to those of us who arc called pacifists, and he said that really our position was grotesque.
Those words are quite in harmony with our friends’ references to the pacifists of Australia.
I think it is the position of the Administration that’ is grotesque, when we have the Prime Minister telling us - he was not Prime Minister then, but, I think, was Minister for War - eighteen months ago that the Germans arc squealing for peace and all we need to do is to strike the knock-out blow, and that there are no quitters amongst the Allies, who ousts the then-existing Government at the dictation of a newspaper proprietor because some members were considering the question of entering into negotiations, and drives that Administration out of office to form a WintheWar Government.
That is why Mr. Asquith was defeated - because, apparently, he was favorable to a peace. At that time, a leader writer in the Argus said that we were on the “ eve of a disgraceful peace.”
And then, after eighteen months of war, costing another £3,000,000,000, and, I suppose, the death and mutilation of another 1,500,000 of our men, (lie representative of that Government comes down to the House and draws the picture be does to-day, with Russia a quitter, with no hope of victory on any front, and, at the best, a stalemate. It is not for him to jeer at the views of the pacifists, who would have made peace when we could have made a successful peace, according to the views of the Prime Minister as expressed by himself. - (See House of Commons Hansard, page 2222, of 7th March, 1918.)
General Smuts, a. member of the British War Cabinet, and formerly Minister for Defence in South Africa, speaking at the Clyde Shipyards the other day, said - .
We used to talk a lot of nonsense about defeating the Boche, but Brother Boche has come and knocked this kind of damnable nonsense out of us. - (See Melbourne Argus cable, 20th May, 1918.) “ Brother “ Boche, indeed !
This is how Brother Boche was referred to by honorable members of the Winthewar party in conducting their referendum campaign. This was the language they used -
The sympathizers with the “ antis “ include -
Every person confined in an internment camp.
The baby-killers of Germany.
The violaters of Belgian women.
The murderers of Nurse Cavell and the murderers of Captain Fryatt
The destroyers of Louvain, Tamines Dinant, Andenne, and Aerschot, where thousands of non-combatants - men, women, and children - were cruelly put to death. (See Melbourne Argus of 20th - October, 1916.)
The baby-killers and violators, murderers, and destroyers are now, in the words of a member of the British War Cabinet, called “ Brother “ Boche. I have never said this in the House before, but I have always believed that after tlie war is over the Kaiser will be a welcome guest at the whole of the Royal Courts of Europe and Britain.
– There is no doubt about it.
– The Prime Minister talks about having nothing to do with the Germans after the war, but the people will be so thankful that the war is over that they will be prepared to overlook a lot. It will not be soldiers who will express enmity against the Germans or Austrians. What did the men who came back from Gallipoli say about the “unspeakable Turk,” as he used to be called?
They said that he was a decent fighter. One man wrote out the other day, “ Don’t be alarmed, mother, because I am a prisoner in Turkey. I am being treated very well.”
– They did not treat the British captured at Kut very well.
– I agree that we can find examples of terribly cruel conduct on the part of some, but speaking in a general way I think that the returned soldier will say that our enemies are brave fighters. It is all very well for us in our old age, when the milk of human kindness is apparently dried up in our breasts, to harbor views of post-war hate.
I have said often enough, and I insist, that we ought not to keep extending our war aims, because it will only embarrass the statesmen at the head of affairs in Great Britain. All we can say is, not that we want these German colonies, but that we have done our best, and if men want to know our opinion on this matter it is that we find we have already quite enough to deal with on the mainland of Australia.
It is a great mistake to under-estimate your enemies’ capacity. The new High Military Authority attached to the War Office, in the course of his review of the military operations at the Front, says -
The German is extraordinarily good at infiltrating himself into and staying in a position taken. He often widens the breach until he is able to hold it. This comes from the exceedingly good brains of the regimental officers, and the subordinate staff. In this respect all throughthe war the German has been better than us at this game. (See Melbourne Argus of 20th May, 1918.)
There are two mighty forces up against each other. We are engaged in killing one another. What has happened in some of the South American Republics? Nearly all the males have been killed off, and those States have not yet recovered from the effect of their disastrous civil strife., and now we - the white races - are destroying each other. There are certain other forces in the world - I need not mention them - which will prevent honorable members and those who agree with them from getting that freedom of the world and that permanent peace about which they talk. The question of the discrepancy between the rich and the poor is one that will take probably centuries to settle. The fight between capital and labour will go on after the war, and the discrepancy between the two will be greater in India and China and other places in the East than it will be in our own country.
– You do not believe in better organization in the future?
– I do not quite see what the honorable member means.
– Then you do not read much.
– Of course the honorable member is unique. I wish there were a Dickens in this country, who would describe the honorable member. He is always pretending and advertising that he must be regarded as a well-read man.
– Dickens would find another character to describe in the shape of the honorable member.
– Dickens would never find me at any stage in my history advertising my education. It is left to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) to do such a thing. Those who were acquainted with his career as Minister for Home Affairs would be better able to judge the merits of the claim that he sets up.
– This is a very interesting dissertation, but I am afraid it has nothing to do with the Bill.
– It was brought on by the taunt of the honorable member. He talks about organization. To my mind that should mean scientific Protection for this country, not that organization referred to by Mr. Asquith the other day, when he said that it would be necessary to have a very large measure of Free Trade in England to enable the Home Government to meet the war debt, but a scientific form of Protection which would establish industries in Australia and find employment for our returned soldiers. I thank honorable members for the patience with which they have listened to a speech having for its object the discussion at an early date of peace by negotiation.
– Ordinarily, I would leave the chair at this stage until 2.15 p.m., but as several honorable members have intimated that they would very much appreciate an extension of the lunch adjournment for a quarter of an hour, because it is Red Cross day, and because they are anxious to render some assistance at the various stalls in the city, I shall, with the concurrence of the House, resume the chair at 2.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I should hardly have felt it necessary to add my views to those so ably expressed by honorable members on this side had it not been that,as I came into the House this morning, I was informed that some statement I had made was being discussed. I rise partly to explain what that statement really was, and I take the opportunity to say that I intend to vote against the amendment. I do not consider it to be an open amendment; although innocent enough, perhaps, from the point of view of the gentleman by whom it was submitted, it is one which, as shaped, is calculated to entrap honorable members of this side, and place them in a false position. The amendment could not have been conceived with any other purpose, and I am satisfied that just as it has deceived no one in the House, not even honorable members opposite, it will not deceive any person in the whole of Australia. I may say that I am totally opposed to the proposal of the Government to enlist youths under the age of twenty-one without the consent of their parents. At the same time, I wish to give full credit to those statesmen who compose the present Federal Cabinet for the best motives and intentions. My objection to the proposal is simply on the ground that it interferes with parental control. It is quite true that boys of eighteen are being enlisted in almost every country except Australia, but it must be borne in mind that such enlistments in England or elsewhere do not in any way interfere with parental control. In England,France, and the other Allied countries enlistment is compulsory, and does not enable the boy to, as it were, snap his fingers at his parents. In Australia it is optional with young men of all ages to fight for their country and liberties, and, therefore, I hold that when it is made possible for boys of between eighteen and twenty-one to enlist without the consent of their parents we are interfering with parental control. I am totally opposed to the proposal of the Government, even as it has been amended; but, at the same time, I have not the slightest intention of voting for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. As I have said, I consider it is moved practically for the purpose of entrapping honorable members on this side and placing them in a false position.
– It is no use setting a snare in front of a bird !
– Possibly the honorable member and others opposite have more experience in setting snares than myself, and can speak with authority. However, I wish to thank my friend, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who, I regret to say, is not in his place, for having drawn the attention of the House to a statement which I am alleged to have made with regard to the price of stock. I understand that the statement I am supposed to have made is to the effect that fixing the price of meat on a system which was suggested would involve the graziers of Australia in a loss of some £40,000,000 or £45,000,000. I take this opportunity to say that I never made any such statement. The principal authority for the figures I used is a newspaper called The Farmer’s Advocate, the organ of the Farmers Union of Victoria. What I said was that it had been estimated by competent authorities that the fixing of the price of meat as proposed would result in a reduction in the selling value of the assets of the graziers of Australia by some £40,000,000 or £45,000,000. Honorable members may be puzzled at the distinction which I draw between a reduction in the value of assets and the transference of wealth from one portion of the community to another; but the world is full of instances in which the value of the assets of the people of a country have been enormously diminished without anybody gaining in the remotest degree. I remind honorable members opposite, some of whom take considerableinterest in the proceedings of the Bolsheviks of Russia-
– Hear, hear!
– I remind the honorable member who cheers me that, while the Bolsheviks may have destroyed the value of the assets - may have destroyed the capital and property of the people of Russia to the extent of hundreds, if not thousands, of millions sterling - not one man. or woman in Russia is at this moment a penny the better off for the destruction. It is possible to bring in measures in Australia which will have the effect of destroying the value of the assets of some of the most industrious, thrifty, and deserving citizens of Australia to the extent of £45,000,000 without making one man or woman in the country a gainer; indeed, we may make the people of Australia worse off, because those whose assets are destroyed provide employment for a large number.
There is another statement by the honorable member- for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to which I take exception. A parrot cry of this century is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
– Is it not true?
– It is grossly untrue - absolutely unsupported by any facts whatever. One man makes the statement, which finds its way into the newspapers or reviews, and a large number of people, who do not think for themselves, repeat and believe it. It has not benn true at any time for the last thirty or forty years; and even if it had been true before the war, it has become grossly untrue since the war.
– Have the rich been getting poorer?
– It cannot be said that the poor have been getting poorer. There is very little evidence that the rich people of the world have been at all enriched by the war; on the contrary, those who had accumulated wealth and substance have lost enormously from a financial point of view. It may be said with a great deal of reason, and with some facts in its favour, that those who are known as the “ poor “ have been getting richer as a result of the war. I mean that those who have been left behind and take no part in the firing line have been able to earn wages infinitely higher than ever before, and, bearing the cost of living in mind, have been much more prosperous than previously.
The honorable member for Capricornia supported his statement by figures connected with banks and public companies, and I desire to draw attention to some figures relating to such institutions in New South Wales, and printed in the Sydney Morning Herald of 14th May in a letter from the Hon. James Ashton, M.L.C. That gentleman gives the figures relating to six banks and great industrial concerns, and these figures show that, instead of the shares being held by wealthy people, they are, to an enormous extent, held by shareholders with very small individual interests. The figures are so important in view of the .charge made this morning by the honorable member for Capricornia that I think it only right to place them before the House. In the Colonial Sugar Refining Company there are 1,942 shareholders, of whom 1,058 received dividends for the whole year of less than £50 each, only 100 of them receiving over £300. The Bank of New South Wales, another important institution, has 2,107 shareholders, of whom 1,182 received dividends of less than £50, while only 144 received over £300. The Commercial Banking Company has 1,593 shareholders, of whom 924 received dividends under £50, while only ninety received over £300.
– Are these dividends for the year?
– Yes, the whole year, and the figures show who are the real owners of these vast industrial companies and banks.
– Can you give the proportion of shares held by these people?
– I deeply regret the fact, but I fail to grasp the honorable member’s point. I am giving the numbers of the shareholders.
– Yes, but what of the proportion of shares ?
– That does not affect the result at all; but I shall be most happy to obtain the information for my honorable friend. The Australian Gaslight Company has 1,599 shareholders, of whom 1,015 received dividends of from 18s. to £45, and only ninety-two received over £270. In Tooth and Company there are 1,341 shareholders, of whom 1,187 receive in dividends £50 and under, and only eighteen receive over £300.- In the Australian Bank of Commerce there are 4,354 shareholders, of whom 2,569 received £2 a year and under, 1,738 received £50 or under, and only one received up to £200.
These figures, I think, completely answer the charge of the honorable member for Capricornia.
I wish to deal also with the charges that have been made regarding the responsibility for the introduction of taxfree war loans. I remind honorable members that, so far as I have been able to ascertain, war loans free of taxation were introduced by the Government of which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was a member, and were continued by the Government of which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was Treasurer, and a very good Treasurer, too. Therefore, although it is true that the National party have been responsible for the flotation of subsequent war loans free of interest, it is not true to say that the party, on this side is responsible for introducing the principle of immunity from taxation in connexion with money loaned for war purposes.
– Then two wrongs make a right?
– No; but it is hardly fair that what are known as the employing, or capitalistic classes, in Australia, should be continually charged with the responsibility of introducing and perpetuating the system of tax-free war loans. The gentleman who has, in the most striking and effective fashion, exposed to the public the disadvantage, from a national point of view, of tax-free war loans, was the chairman of the National Bank (Sir John Grice). In conclusion, 1 remind honorable members that this is not the only country in the world that has issued war loans free of interest. The first American war loan, floated in May last, carried 3+ per cent, interest; the second loan was issued in November at 4 per cent., and the third loan, recently floated, at 4£ per cent. All those loans are tax-free.
.- If there is anything which is mean, contemptible, and despicable, it is the effort of the Government to snare boys of immature age in the net of the recruiting sergeant. And if there is one thing even meaner than that, it is to hear members of Parliament, who know the views of their constituents on this matter, making all Rorts of paltry excuses for not voting for a proposition -.which their conscience tells them they ought to support. Of the seventy-five members of this House fifty-three sit on the Government side and twenty-two in Opposition. The Government have a majority of thirty members.
– Six members from this side are on active service as against only one member from the Opposition side.
– I can only count up five Government supporters who are on active service. Deducting all members who are absent at the Front, the Ministerial party have still a majority of twenty-six members. Yet we heard the honorable member for Grampians’ (Mr. Jowett) telling us that he believed in the principle of the amendment. The honorable members for Calare (Mr. Pigott), Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), Henty (Mr. Boyd), and others who have spoken in this debate have told us that the proposal to enlist boys of immature age without the consent of their parents does not commend itself to them, but they say that because the Opposition, comprising twenty-two out of the seventy-five members of the House, have moved the amendment they must bury their convictions, stifle their consciences, and refuse to vote for what, in their hearts, they know to be a sound proposition.
– Put it in a straightforward fashion and we shall vote for it.
– If the honorable members are out of their political swaddling clothes, they know perfectly well that a vote by members on this side of the House does not affect the position of the Government. I have dealt with their . first excuse; it is a very mean one, but there is nothing in it.
Honorable members opposite can vote for the amendment and for the Bill as well. The purpose of this amendment is not to defeat the measure before the House, but to make an addition to the motion, and any member who says. that the amendment is an. attempt to prevent the passage of this War Loan Bill is saying that which he knows is not true. Honorable members must be aware that they can vote for the amendment, and then pass the Bill for the raising ‘of £80,000,000 by loan.
I received to-day a. very pathetic letter from the Grampians electorate in regard to this very question. Apparently, the electors of Grampians already feel that they have no confidence in their representative (Mr. Jowett), for, although probably the writer of this letter knows the mind of the honorable member in regard to the enlistment of minors, he knows that the honorable member will not vote according to his convictions. Therefore he has thought fit to address his communication to a quarter in which there is more genuineness and sincerity.
– The honorable member would not resign his seat to contest the Grampians electorate.
– I have very many good friends in my electorate, and I would not like to leave them ; but I tell the honorable member, and the statement may go forward to the Labour movement, that if the Labour members who have safe seats are prepared to resign in a body and contest electorates such as that represented by the honorable member, I shall be delighted to accept his suggestion.
– I shall be delighted to meet the honorable member.
– And the contest would give me pleasure. I visited the St. Arnaud division of the honorable member’s electorate recently, and I find that the Labour supporters have considerably improved their position. But for the blunders of the Labour Executive in this State the honorable member would never have entered this House.
The proposal before the House is -
That the Bill be now read a second time. and the amendment is -
That after the word “ that “ the following words be inserted : “ this House condemns the action of the Government in enlisting for service abroad youths of eighteen years who have not’ obtained the consent of their parents.”
The purpose of the amendment is not to supplant the motion; it is a proposed addition to the motion. The House may pass the motion for the second reading of the Bill to raise £80,000,000 by loan, and at the same time express dissent from the proposal of the Government to enlist boys of eighteen years of age without their parents’ consent. It is possible for honorable members to vote for both the motion and the amendment. The amend ment can be carried, and honorable members can then vote for the amended motion, but the Government will have received an instruction not to use the money to be raised by loan for the purpose of snaring boys of eighteen years of age, without the approval of their parents.
We have all been eighteen years of age, and we know that at that period of life, lads are just beginning to feel the first flush of manhood. They are filled with the spirit of adventure. They have ideals in life. They think they can stride out into the wide world and do better than their fathers and mothers did. Many of them think they have only to be free of parental control and everything will be well with them. These young fellows attend the public meetings, at which experienced recruiting officers paint the glories of the war, and appeal to their sentiment. The lads at the public meetings are not told the truth about the war. Throughout the length and breadth of the country there is a conspiracy, by the Government manipulation of the channels of public information, both through the press and the platform, to absolutely mislead the young people of the Commonwealth. They are not told the glories and the seamy side of the Avar at the same time.
– They can see the seamy side every week in the returned soldiers about the streets.
– Let us have conscription, and do away with this miserable farce.
– The honorable member correctly describes it. This is one more effort by the Government to introduce conscription by a side wind. It is trying to bring pressure on young men. It offers them mental pabulum which would not be accepted by persons more matured. It persuades young fellows, flushed with excitement, and full of the spirit of adventure, to leave the parental home for the war. Let me read a letter which has come to me from St. Arnaud -
Outtrim-street, St. Arnaud, 23rd May, 1918.
I wish to bring under your notice a case which is causing my friend and comrade, Mr. T. Tracey, and his wife a deal of anxiety. When the war broke out they had two single sons. The eldest one enlisted, and later was killed at the Front. The youngest one has just turned eighteen years, and at a recruiting meeting herehe was persuaded and coaxed to enlist, being told his father’s consent was not needed, and that he should go and fight for his country. He did so, and the first intimationhis father got was when he saw his son’s name in the local paper. We have in this town a Recruiting Committee composed of shopkeepers, commission agents, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and a few others, who have snug, comfortable billets, and the majority of them are eligible for military service. Some of them are well-built, strong men, who would make ideal soldiers, but they do not enlist. It pays them better to make a great show and bluster, using all their energies to persuade and cause boys to enlist, whilst they drive about in their motors, and blow about what they are doing “ to win the war.” Would you kindly write to Mr. Tracey (you have met him), and advise him what steps to take, if any, to get this enlistment cancelled. You are acquainted with him. He has been our trusted treasurer for the last eight years, and, personally, I think that was one of the reasons a set was made on his boy ‘by these cowardly curs, because every one of them knew his brother had been killed at the Front. Mr. Tracey’s address is - Mr. Thomas Tracey, Navarre-road, St. Arnaud. Surely to God there is a little spark of humanity left even with the Military authorities. Mrs. Tracey willingly let her other son go, and lost him; but I do not think it fair and just that the youngest boy should be forced to go for a deed he did under excitement. He is supposed to go into camp in August; so I trust you will do what you can for our comrade and his wife.
I remain, yours faithfully,
Let me read the conditions of exemption as set down by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). They are these -
At eighteen years of age many young fellows chafe at parental guidance and control, and tens of thousands of families are overwhelmed with anxiety lest young sons may be persuaded to enlist without their parents’ consent, drawn to the war by the false light thatis thrown upon it by the recruiting officers.
– We all agree with you that that ought not to happen.
– Then why not vote for the amendment?
– Because it is not an honest amendment.
– Well, let the honorable member move a motion that he considers honest, and we will withdraw the amendment. He bursts into laughter at the proposal, and other members oh that side do the same. Not only is wrong done by persuading boys of immature mind to enlist without their parents’ consent, but wrong is done by causing boys to defy their parents. Many parents are afraid that if they say a word of reproof to a son he may leave home, and this is loosening parental influence and control.
– It is not so in Great Britain.
– A wonderful place, Great Britain !
– It is a wonderful place.
– It is a pity that a few of the Englishmen here who think it so wonderful did not stay there.
– If some honest man and woman had not corr.e to Australia, the honorable memberwould not have been born here.
– Some honorable members are so obsessed with Great Britain that they cannot see anything from an Australian point of view.
-They can see more from an Australian point of view than the honorable member can.
– When expressed in £ s. d., perhaps, and they are able to get more out of Australia than some of the natives. There are many good things in Great Britain that we admire, but the great bulk of Australian legislation is a protest against the conditions that exist in that country. Honorable members from Great Britain have depicted to us the factory conditions there, when children of six and seven years of age had to work in the mines. You are not prepared to ask us to support things of that kind.
– That evil was swept away fifty years ago.
– There are in Great Britain 8,000,000 persons who, at the last election, had not the right to vote, and there are as many who are not getting enough to eat.
– Is that the fault of any one on this side?
– I ask the honorable member for Grampians to cease interjecting.
– When honorable gentlemenask us to bow down and worship everything in Great Britain, I must insist on discriminating. Lads of eighteen are immature in mind and immature physically. Their development has not proceeded far enough to enable them to withstand the strain and trials of modern fighting.
– That would apply to lads enlisting with their parents’ consent.
– It is bad enough to allow lads of eighteen to enlist with their parents’ consent.
– The Labour party provided for that on the statute-book.
– The honorable member’s statements are so reckless that he would say anything. I ask him to go with me to his electorate, and have a night with the farmers there.
– At the next election.
– Will the honorable member address the Chair, and cease from personalities.
– I had intended to put. before the House a statement of the seamy side of the war, which the recruiting sergeants carefully conceal from young lads.
– Is that to be done with a view to stimulating recruiting?
– A recruiting platform that cannot stand the truth, and the whole truth, is absolutely rotten. Do honorable members think that only a partial case should be put; that the people should not be told the truth?
– This is anti-recruiting !
– I do not care how the honorable member may characterize my speech. I can go on any platform in the country and justify it. The honorable member has shown that he does not wish the truth to be spoken : that he is a party to its suppression. He wishes to have a partial case put before our young men. He would not have them enlist with a full knowledge of what they will have to undergo. He would suppress the seamy side, and allow the recruiting sergeants to mislead them. We all have read what happened in Great Britain in the matter of recruiting, men beingmade drunk with beer or bad whisky, and being got to accept the King’s shilling when “ three sheets in the wind,” it being impossible for them to draw out when they came to their senses.
– Were these things done when the honorable member was secretary of the New South Wales Recruiting Committee ?
– No. And when I was secretary to the Farmers and Settlers Association in the honorable member’s electorate, the farmers were treated more fairly than they are being treated to-day. When I had charge of recruiting in New South Wales no attempt was made to mislead the people of that State, and the enlistment figures were better than ever before or since. I do not desire to say anything concerning myself, but I think I. am entitled to answer such an interjection.
Honorable members opposite ought not to try to be on two sides of the political fence at one and the same time so far as this question is concerned.
– We know which side we are on.
– Honorable members opposite are on the side of vested interests. Having spoken in favour of the amendment, they intend to vote, on party lines, against it. They refuse to listen to reason, so that there is no chance of the amendment being carried. They will have another opportunity to deal with this matter. Let them, at their party meeting, bring pressure to bear upon their own Government to further modify their attitude.
– We will want to do something.
– Here is an opportunity to do something.
– But this is done-
– These interjections must cease.
– This was done by the Government without consulting their party.
– Does the honorable member know that?
– Yes; further, the Government have such docile supporters that they have only to put up a proposition and crack the whip to secure its adoption.
– The honorable member is now dealing with personal matters outside the scope of the question before the Chair.
– My remarks are not intended in a personal sense, but are addressed to honorable members in their capacity as representative men. These are all matters of public concern. I am referring to the fact that the Government, finding their supporters so docile, do not consult them in regard to such questions, but treat them with contempt. “We have had that from the lips of the honorable member for Grampians-
– There will be a new decoration presently - the “ Order of the Boot.”
– The honorable member opens up a very inviting field for discussion when he makes an interjection of that kind. He invites us to review the threatenings of revolt in the Ministerial corner-
– I have asked the honorable member before to confine himself to the question.
– As it is getting near train time, I shall resume my seat.
.- I had hoped that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), treading the primrose path of power, lit up by the new light of unaccustomed amiability, would have seen proper to succumb, in a political sense, if not to the arguments addressed to him by the Opposition, at least to the strong feeling manifested by his supporters, both inside and outside Parliament, in regard to the amendment moved by my honorable leader (Mr. Tudor). It is to that amendment exclusively that I wish to address myself for a few minutes, reserving to myself the right to speak, at a later stage, on the larger question of the war loan and the purposes of the war. The Acting Prime Minister, speaking only yesterday, begged us to regard this question of the enlistment of minors without the consent of their parents free from party bias. Is it not most significant that, although this question had been ventilated in the press, and that protests had been made from this side of the House, not one member of the Ministerial party ventured until yesterday to say a word about it, although it was common knowledge that many of them were opposed to the Government proposition? When they do address themselves to the question it is only to say that they regret that it has been raised in a way that renders it impossible for them to accept the amendment. In other words, the principle must go by the board because the forms of the House have been availed of in a way that will not permit them to vote for the principle.
The Leader of the Opposition asked, “ When maywe have an opportunity to discuss this question of the enlistment of minors without the consent of their parents”? The reply of the Acting Prime Minister was, “ You will have an opportunity when the Defence Estimates are under consideration later on.” Eventually my honorable leader availed himself of an opportunity to bring forward the matter. He, in fact, forced an opportunity, so far as he could, in spite of the opposition of the Government and their supporters. His action in submitting this amendment was immediately challenged by the Leader of the Government, who submitted that it was out of order. Is it not evident that the Government and their supporters have desired throughout that this question should never come to issue?
– The Acting Prime Minister said he was willing that it should be dealt with on the Defence Estimates.
– He said, also, that he was going to make an announcement during the day, ‘but within two or three hours of that statement by him the Opposition launched this amendment.
– And he has made an announcement on the subject. He has heard our voices raised in protest, but has paid little attention to them; he has read the press, and has paid much attention to the representations made there by his own supporters. He has read a letter written to the press by my newfound colleague, the president of the Australian Women’s National League. That letter has impressed him. He has referred in this House to the Australian Women’s National League as “that admirable body of women,” and no doubt they are. I have no desire to say a word against them, although, politically, they are generally diametrically opposed to me. The Acting Prime Minister, however, has hearkened to their voices, and has come forward with a miserable compromise, which he asks us and his supporters outside to accept. I do not propose to accept it.
I do not say that there is any special virtue in the magic number of twenty-one. Some youths under twenty-one are clearly more physically -able to bear arms than are others of twenty-one and over. Notwithstanding the form of medical examination that is supposed to create uniformity, some of the younger classes are much stronger than the older classes. My opposition to the Government proposal does not rest entirely upon the fact that it provides for the enlistment of these youths without the consent of their parents. It rests mainly upon my opposition to the enlistment of very young men for this work, and the obvious tendency to encroach upon youth for that purpose.
I propose to put before the House shortly this afternoon a little symposium of the opinions of honorable members opposite upon this question. I particularly desire to direct attention to the opinion of the present Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) in regard to the enlistment of minors. Speaking in this House on the11th November, 1915, when the war had been some time in progress, he said -
Some time ago the honorable member for Flinders spoke very feelingly on the system of sending lads of from eighteen to twenty years of age into the firing line.
– That was the ex-member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine).
– Yes; and I should be very glad, on this question, to have the opinion of the present member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce).
– The House will have it.
– I am glad to hear that, and I say, in anticipation, that I do not believe that the gallant wearer of La Croix de Guerre is going to associate himself with the Government proposal to enlist youths of eighteen, nineteen, and twenty without their parents’ consent. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Orchard) went on to say, on the occasion to which I have referred -
Yesterday the honorable member for Barrier dealt with the same vital subject, and I feel that I, too, must add my protest. Honorable members who have visited the various camps must have noticed the large number of lads of immature age.
– Many of them are, to all appearances, under eighteen years of age.
I would draw attention to the fact that the then honorable member for Barrier - now Senator Thomas - who is also a member of the National party, on that occasion strongly expressed himself againstthe enlistment of youths in certain circumstances. At that time the question of the consent of the parents was not involved ; it was solely a matter of the desirableness of enlisting immature youths.
– Under a system introduced by the honorable member’s party.
– When we are discussing a question of great national importance, in respect of which we are invited to vote free from party influences, what a miserable quibble it is for the honorable member, and others, to be constantly telling me that my party did or did not do something in the past.
– Did the honorable member protest against the system at that time?
– I shall make a quotation which will show quite clearly that I did. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Orchard) went on to say -
I have known of lads who have purposely misled the authorities in order to get to the Front. We admire the magnificent spirit which the lads are displaying, but the Government are not doing the right thing in permitting them to go.
The honorable member who made that statement is a member of the present Government, and he is not doing right in permitting this system to go on to-day.
– The honorable member for Brisbane yesterday was generous enough to admit that the Minister in charge- of recruiting was not in favour of this proposal.
– He may have beenbut I cannot say that it reflects at all tothe credit of the Minister incharge of recruiting that, although he has not. changed his mind, and is still opposed to this policy, ho persists in remaining in the Ministry as the representative of recruiting in that Ministry, putting in operation a policy in which he disbelieves. Would it not be much more becoming if this honorable gentleman, in middle life as he is, and strong, hale and hearty, as he is, should follow the example of a fellow legislator in New South Wales, and lead an army through the streets and say, “ I will take these adults to the Front rather than stay in my place in Parliament and say that, though I am opposed to the policy which has been adopted by the Government, I will still remain in association with it, and draw ray salary from it?” The honorable member went on to say -
And they are being sent to face a task which will try the hardiest of troops. It is noteworthy, also, that the lads furnish the largest number of sick soldiers in the hospitals. It is admitted in the camps -
Apparently, this applied, not only to the firing line, but also to the camps prior to embarkation. that the larger proportion of recruits in the hospitals are lads of tender years. Their constitutions are not strong enough to stand the strain imposed when they get in the trenches. These young men are also being sent to the front without sufficient training. The artillery branch is one of the most technical and intricate in the service; but an officer informed me recently that at least 20 per cent. of recruits in the artillery section were between the ages of eighteen and twenty years. I maintain that these lads are not physically capable of enduring the strenuous work of a campaign. Many of them are not receiving proper preparation for the task they will have to perform. I know of a lad of eighteen years and five months who presented himself at Victoria Barracks as a recruit for the artillery section. He was passed by the medical officer on a Tuesday, and having been sent to Camp he received an intimation on the following Friday to hold himself in readiness to go to the Front on the succeeding Tuesday. He was without previous military training or experience. Fortunately he was wise enough to telegraph to his parents, who came to the city post haste, and succeeded in preventing his departure. When attention was drawn, some time ago, to the system of sending inadequately-trained troops to the Front, a good deal was promised by the Minister for Defence, but I regret to say that the complaint of insufficient training of the troops before their departure for the Front still has foundation, and it is largely in connexion with reinforcements. But the system of accepting lads of from eighteen to twenty years of age is one of the most serious phases of our recruiting. It is not fair to send boys to do men’s work. The apprenticeship phase of this question should appeal to honorable members opposite. Many of these lads are in the last years of their apprenticeship, and they are called upon to break off their industrial training and go to the Front. Notwithstanding that there are laws in existence to protect the lads by the limitation of working hours, the safeguarding of them against exploitation, of preventible accidents, and against entering into unconscionable contracts, the Government have no hesitation in sending them to the most dangerous, the most demoralizing of all occupations, that of the battlefield.
I would not have ventured to use such language, but I repeat, with unction, the honorable member’s remark, “ the Government have no hesitation in sending them to the most dangerous, the most demoralizing of all occupations, that of the battlefield.”
The lads should not be permitted to go to the war. Many of these lads under twenty-one years of age have put up a splendid record; but the fact remains that if they are allowed, at this stage of their apprenticeship, to go to the Front, we shall find their industrial efficiency very much reduced on their return; they will not be worth as much to the community as they otherwise would have been.
I am not impressed with that argument, but it is significant, seeing the side from which it comes. I compliment the honorable member upon that portion of his argument which dealt with the demoralization of youths of tender years, rather than upon that portion which points out that they will not be so valuable to the persons whose interests he represents in this Chamber when they come back after the war. At this stage, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), who seemed to think yesterday that I had done him an injustice when I said that he appeared to be favorable to the enlistment of these youths, interjected -
Do you not think that these lads are of very much more value at the front than they would be in finishing their apprenticeship?
The honorable member for Nepean went on to say -
– Not lads of eighteen or nineteen. My opinion is that all under twentyone should be put into a separate camp, where, under special instructors, they could be trained as engineers, artillerymen, and in other ways made specialists.
– And ask that the war shall be postponed in the meantime!
– No; but I think that they ought to have twelve or eighteen months’ training.
I digress for a moment to call attention to a significant fact. Yesterday the Acting Prime Minister dwelt upon the alteration that, as a concession to popular opinion, and to the force of our arguments here, has been brought about by the Government. He hoped that no youth would be sent to the firing line without his parents’ consent, of course, before he was twenty years of age. He said that no youth could enlist before nineteen years of age without the parents’ consent, and that when he did enlist at nineteen years of age he would be two months in an Australian camp before embarkation - God forbid that any boy should be taken away after only two months ! - that thereafter he would be two months on the water, and, approximately, seven or eight months in a training camp overseas, and that then he might be sent to the firing line at twenty years of age. Honorable members will notice how utterly free from the arts of politics the Acting Prime Minister was in his careful adjustment of the time in order to bring it into line with the views of his Minister in charge of recruiting, so that no boy would be called upon to fight until he reached the age of twenty years.
– He is not inconsistent in that.
– Not in the least. On the contrary, he is strikingly consistent with the views of the Minister in charge of recruiting, who mentioned the age of twenty years as being the limit. Consequently, the Acting Prime Minister has made twenty years of age the limit, in order to save the face, to some extent, of the Minister in charge of recruiting. Quite clearly that is the object of the alteration which has been brought about.
On the 2nd July, 1915, Sir William Irvine, then the honorable member for Flinders, moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss recruiting, and the position of the war generally. He made certain suggestions for the more effectual discharge of our war obligations, and in the course of his speech said -
The first practical suggestion I have to make is that we are inviting too young men to join our Forces - that the men or boys of eighteen, whom we are allowing to join, are, under existing circumstances, too young. Their constitutions are not formed, their bones are not properly set, and yet wo are asking these youths to do what? Not to go on a summer campaign such as is now proceeding, but to be prepared to enter on, I should say, the most destructive sort of campaign that there could.be, from the point of view of their health. Before many of those who are now enlisting can be actually made use of at the Front, the European winter will be upon us. I have no hesitation in say ing that it is cruel and wrong for us now to engage young men orboys of eighteen to take part in the trenches in the winter campaign that is impending. I say that the age of those who are allowed to enlist at the present time for immediate active service ought to be raised.
– How high?
– I should say that the age ought not to be less than twenty. I do not believe that boys of eighteen, no matter how healthy or strong, even if they do survive the perils of war, will survive the hardships of such a campaign as we may look forward to in the near future. I do not believe that they can come back with constitutions not seriously impaired. That is the suggestion I desire to put before the Government.
The speeches I have read are those of honorable members who were directing themselves, not to the question of whether these youths should be allowed to enlist without their parents’ consent, but to the question of whether they should be allowed to enlist at all; and I ask the . Government and their supporters to-day whether they think it is right to take advantage of the immature judgment of young men, who either have no parents to advise them, or have parents who do not take the trouble to consider the rights or wrongs of the question ? If it is, as stated by Government supporters, a question of immaturity, it should apply irrespective of the consent of the parents. We have on record some medical opinions, and one which I propose to quote was brought out by a question addressed in another place by Senator Lynch to the Minister for Defence, which shows that Senator Lynch, although a member of the party opposite, was opposed to the enlistment of these youths. He asked, on notice -
I am very pleased to be able to record, as incidental to that question, the opinion of an eminent Victorian medical man, Colonel Springthorpe, in regard to the enlistmentof youths, and I only regret that the answer of the Minister advocating the practice of the Department was inconsistent with the view put forward by him. The first answer given by the Minister was the formal “ Yes.” The answer to the second portion of the question was as follows: -
The only point in regard to which I agree with the speech of the honorable member for Batman is his objection to sending boys of eighteen to the Front.
If the honorable member votes against the amendment, I have lost the benefit of his commendation on my one “ewe lamb.” I point out to honorable members on the Ministerial side, and to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who is a candid and chivalrous
– The honorable member for Grampians is one of the most chivalrous, if one of the most persistent, of opponents; and, in all seriousness, I :ask honorable members opposite whether *hey think it fair to raise the mere technical objection that this question comes before us in the wrong way, and not allow it to be honestly decided by the House? To the most uninitiated it must be clear that this is merely taking advantage of a technical device to evade a very obvious duty. There are many ways in which the question could be decided apart from the amendment before us. We know tha,t the Loan Bill will not be defeated, although I myself, and possibly one or two others, may have an additional word of criticism to say in regard to it. Honorable members opposite know quite well that they could by arrangement with their leader have a decision on the merits of the question. Why do they not do it? Why make this monumental question of the enlistment of boys in this tremendous world struggle subject to this technical, petty, party objection that it is proposed in the wrong way ? Let honorable members opposite choose their own ground, and have the question introduced in their own way, and we will help them.
– Then withdraw the present amendment.
– I am not the Leader of the Opposition, but I have not the slightest doubt that honorable members on this side would accept a proposal of the kind if made with sufficient guarantees.
The Acting Prime Minister excused this proposal on two grounds, the first that the Government are following the example of the mother of Parliaments. We have to remember, however, that in a matter of the highest importance in the conduct of the war Australia has already declined to follow the mother of Parliaments. Is our whole policy to be that of following the mother of Parliaments? Is this fo be a mere recording chamber to re-register the decisions of the mother of Parliaments, or are we a Commonwealth charged with the responsibility to do our own work in our own way, as a result of our own deliberations under the conditions peculiar to Australia? If we are a Parliament charged with full responsibilities, we are not governed by what the mother of Parliaments has done in regard to the enlistment of youths. The mother of Parliaments is legislating for boys, or at least young men, who are in the battle arena or on the very threshold of. the campaign, whereas we here are dealing with youths who are to be sent many thousands of miles across the seas.
– All are fighting for the same principles.
– But under conditions that are wholly different.
– Distance makes no difference.
– I am sorry if the honorable member can see no difference in the case of boys who are taken away from their home life and sent thousands of miles across the sea. If anything is necessary to emphasize the wrong in the Government proposal it is the fact that honorable members opposite have never been willing to concede the right to vote on this question to the youths affected. I do not consider twenty-one a magic age, and I should be prepared to lower it in the case of the franchise to seventeen or eighteen, so as to embrace those young men and women who have to compete in the industrial arena for theirlivelihood, and who are amenable to the laws of the Commonwealth.
– Would that be on the condition that they had their parents’ consent ?
– No; that is the point I am making.
– But, according to you, these young people are not mentally mature.
– I say that this is not a youth’s work. A matter in which the exuberance of youth might be restrained is the one in respect of which alone they are to be enfranchised.
The Governmentnow say that they do not propose to take these boys under nineteen without the parents’ consent, and that youths over nineteen years of age will not be enlisted if a protest be lodged within ten days with the Recruiting Committee and upheld by that body. I am no lover of military law or military authority, but if I had a son of eligible age, I would rather have his case decided by the military authority than by the local Recruiting Committee.
– I think the matter has to be decided by the State Recruiting Committee.
– In either case, there would be no uniformity in the decisions, and infinitely greater dissatisfaction than if the matter were left in the hands of the central military authority. I hope that the grudging concession the Government have made does not represent the limit of their intentions; at any rate, I feel certain that the persons who, more than honorable members on this side, have been instrumental in moving them. will not be satisfied with this compromise on a great matter of principle.
.- I should not intervene in the debate did I not think it possible that I have a little more personal knowledge of one phase of the question than the majority of honorable members. On the enlistment of boys under twenty-one I hold very definite views, and these I wish to place before the House. I have seen the effect on boys under twenty-one, and on men over forty, when they get into the firing-line, and I say without hesitation that it is a grave blunder to send them if it can possibly be avoided. In the case of Great Britain there is no other possible way, because there the manhood is exhausted. In Australia we have not exhausted our manhood; there are men of the proper age for military service whom we could obtain instead of the boys, and it is our duty to enlist them if we can. Another objection I have to the proposal is that it will mean that the troops at the Front will not be properly reinforced. They will be reinforced, but it will be by men who only in exceptional cases are of any true value and represent the standard of the men who have won the wonderful name of “Anzacs.” If the troops are not to be properly reinforced, we may possibly find ourselves living in an atmosphere of false security. We may think we are reinforcing the troops because we give them the necessary numbers, when, in fact, we are doing nothing of the sort, because we are sending the wrong type of men. It is suggested - though there is a difference of opinion, and I do not know whether it is so or not - that the recent improvement in recruiting is attributable to the enlistment of these boys. Whether that be so or not, it, at any rate, shows us a danger that may arise and that ought to be avoided. For that reason, I express my emphatic view that it is a mistake, so long as there are men of suitable military age, to facilitate the enlisting of boys of the age mentioned, who, according to my own experience, supported by the experience of many others, are not of true value when they arrive at the Front. As to the motion and the amendment, I am, as honorable members know, new to the House, and I may say that, as a man brought up in an atmosphere of business, it is quite impossible for me to reconcile a vote on a Bill to give power to raise £80,000,000 with a question of the kind covered by the amendment. I understand that after I have been here some time, and have been “tamed” - I think that is the expression - I shall appreciate a situation of the kind, but at the present moment I do not. I understand that the question before the House is that power shall be given to raise £80,000,000 to carry on the war, and I intend to vote in favour of the Bill.
– After the speech to which we have just listened with much pleasure, it is the duty of the Government to promise the House that we shall have an opportunity to take a clear vote upon the issue raised by the amendment. It would well become the Government to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to withdraw his amendment. I have been twenty-seven years in politics, and I, like the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), cannot see the justification for tacking such an amendment on to a Bill to authorize the raising of £80,000,000 by loan. Therefore, I say it is the duty of the Government to relieve honorable members from the embarrassing position in which we are placed today, and to give us an opportunity to record our votes on a specific motion. I hold exactly the same view as the honorable member for Flinders, and I have some knowledge of this matter. Two of my boys went to the war before they were twenty-one years of age - one celebrating his eighteenth birthday in the trenches. I know that their opinions are the same as those expressed by the honorable member for Flinders. They say the ages fixed are too young; that if ten men are sent to do a job which ten men can do, and one man fails, he endangers the other nine. I do not wish to be placed in the position of voting to send to the Front immature boys, who are really unfit to go. The Governanent know what is thought of this proposal by honorable members on this side, and by the majority of the public, and I appeal to them to do something to remove us from the false position in which we are placed today. I do not wish to vote to put the
Government out of office and place in power a Government chosen from honorable members opposite; but the Government have no right to place us in an anomalous position. They ought to give us a better opportunity of expressing our opinions. No doubt the proposal to allow the enlistment of boys of eighteen yearsof age without the consent of their parentswas brought forward with the best intentions on the part of the Government; but it is wrong. It is very easy to criticise Ministers, but we know that they are in a difficult position. A serious call hasreached them, and they must do the best they can. But in bringing forward thisproposal for the enlistment of minors, they have placed themselves and their supporters who, like myself, disagree with the proposal, in a dead-end.
– We on this side are not worrying about the dead-end. Honorable members behind the Government appearto be doing the worrying.
– It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to talk. He has not the responsibility which he knows the Government have tocarry. It is easy for any of us to criticise, but we want constructive, as well asdestructive, criticism. The Government are in an awkward position. The interjection by the Leader of the Opposition was not fair. It must be apparent to any unprejudiced mind that honorable members opposite are not doing the fair thing by the Government, and are not rendering that assistance in recruiting that they ought to give. If they would only engage heart and soul in the recruiting, movement, we should get all the men we requireby the voluntary method.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Government would have done better to submit the regulation to the House before putting it into operation ?
– I have already said so. I agree with the honorable member, for I know the particulars of the case to which he referred last night. The honorable member’s son was with my boys in Egypt, and he and they had to turn back, and, at the risk of their lives, practically carry to safety youngsters who were not equal to a forced march. We ought not to put men in that situation. To send unfit boys is not to reinforce our troops; that is only a pretence of reinforcing them. Having heard the opinions which have been expressed, it is the duty of the Government to take further action. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. “Wise) is heart and soul in the recruiting movement; his own son is at the Front. I feel sure that he can he relied upon to do the sensible thing by his own boy and the other lads there. If the Government realize that they have made a mistake, let them have the courage to retrace their steps. I congratulate the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) on the speech he made. He has voiced the opinions of older members probably better than’ they could have done. I speak from my heart on this matter. Our men at the Front are risking their lives every day, and we ought not to put them in positions of greater danger by sending to reinforce them young men who are not fit to do their share of the job. Of course, in this desperate time, when the fate of the Government is at stake, we feel that we must stand by the Ministry - that is the system of parliamentary government; but it is our duty to speak our minds candidly, as I am endeavouring to do. I heard the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) pay a tribute to the work done by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in connexion with recruiting. On that matter the honorable member has taken a manly stand, as he generally does on every other matter.
– Dozens of other members -of the party have done the same thing.
– Probably. If the Acting Prime Minister and the mover of the amendment will consult, they ought to be able to make some arrangement to avoid the deplorable position in which we find ourselves to-day. Fancy parties in this House quarrelling over a matter of this kind at a time when our boys at the Front arerisking their lives!
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that at some time or other the question raised by the amendment ought to be submitted to the House free of the em barrassment with which it is attended today. I regard the amendment as a mere trick on the part of the Opposition to catch the Government, and I shall vote against it. I realize the force of what was said by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). I have a son at the Front who enlisted at the age of eighteen. I deprecated his going, but I gave my consent. It is open to honorable members to insist on the Government bringing forward this question again, independent of any other issue.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180524_reps_7_85/>.