7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., . and read prayers.
– It is stated in both morning newspapers to-day that the Government has definitely decided to finish the present business of Parliament next week, and I therefore ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is intended to sit to a later hour than usual to-morrow . afternoon, or to adjourn in time to allow the members from other States to catch their trains, and whether extra sitting days are to be fixed for next week? I ask, too, what business is to be dealt with before the adjournment?
– The desire of the Government is to finish the present business of Parliament next week. It is not proposed at this stage to increase the number of sitting days. What will be done in that matter will depend upon the progress made this week. The Government wishes to pass the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Bill, the Defence Bill, the Apple Bounty Bill, and to get Supply for enough of the coming financial year to cover the period of the proposed adjournment.
– For what period will Supply be asked?
– For two or three months; I shall make a definite statement on the subject when I move for Supply. I think that the honorable member would be glad to have Supply for three months granted.
– No. I want Parliament to continue its sittings.
– It is impossible for Parliament to continue its sittings, and at the game time have the work carried out that it is necessary to do. We propose also to pass the Estimates, in regard to which we claim the assistance of my honorable friends.
– Will you ask for Supply before introducing the Estimates?
– That I have not said. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) will also move to refer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works a scheme for the housing of workmen and others at Lithgow.
– Is it the intention of the Government to clean up the noticepaper and go into recess, or do they merely propose to adjourn the House for a few weeks? If it is proposed to adjourn the House for a few weeks, willthe Acting Prime Minister give me the opportunity to move the motion standing in my name on the business-paper dealing with wartime prohibition ?
– I thought that I had made the position plain. The Government propose that the House shall rise next week if honorable members will assist towards that end. We need as much time as can be secured for the immediate study of the finances, and for taking part in the recruiting campaign. We hope to call Parliament together again early in August for a financial session, because we regard the approaching financial problems as grave enough for special treatment.
– Will it be a new session?
– I do not propose that it shall be. In war-time it is not proper to adjourn Parliament for any special time, and our proposal is to ask the House to adjourn during pleasure. Honorable members cannot ask for more than that. Are they prophets or sons of prophets that they can see the future?
– Under those conditions the Government could keep Parliament out of session for an indefinite time.
– We will open Parliament when we think it should be opened, and that is as soon as we can do so.
Honorable members interjecting,
– This debate is entirely out of order.
– It seems to me that whether courtesy or the opposite is extended to some honorable members they do not behave any better.
– I have not said a. word.
– Then it is the honorable member’s maiden effort at silence. I am afraid that I cannot promise the honorable member for Moreton an opportunity for moving his motion, whatever it may be, without giving the like facility to other honorable members, and at this particular stage the House is not prepared to do that.
– On the 19th July last the House abolished private members’ day. At that time there were quite a number of notices of motion on the business-paper, but, according to the practice now pursued, notices of motion which have been placed on the businesspaper at a later date take precedence over those which had previously been put on it. There are motions standing in the names of private members which have been on the business-paper for nearly twelve months, and some of them deal with matters of serious importance, but there is no present opportunity to discuss them. I believe that the practice which is followed is in accordance with the Standing Orders, but I would like to ask Mr. Speaker whether there is not some means of obviating the difficulty. I would also like to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to promise that when the House reassembles, the motion which abolished private members’ day will be rescinded, so that opportunity may be given to discuss some of the very important matters which have been brought forward by private members in the shape of notices of motion now appearing on the business-paper?
– The business-paper is prepared in accordance with the practice of the House. There has been some interruption in the usual course of proceedings, which is largely accountable for certain aspects of the difficulty to which the honorable member for Franklin has drawn attention. However, I will look into the matter, and see if some arrangement can be made without prejudicing the rights of honorable members generally.
Report (No. 2) presented by Mr.
McWilliams, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
– I draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to the following newspaper paragraph: -
A feature of the fat cattle sales at Newmarket yesterday was the sale by Messrs. Mathieson and Davis, on account of Messrs. J. JR. and H. J. Manson, Summerlea Estate, Newry, of a truck load of sixteen wonderfully primevealers. These calves were ShorthornHereford cross, twelve to fifteen months old, and were greatly admired for their breeding and altogether exceptional quality. They realized up to £19 per head, and the whole consignment made the high average of £15 5s.8d. The purchasers were Messrs. W.E. Glendenning, Nicholson-street, Footscray; Mark Morris, Metropolitan Meat Market, North Melbourne, and C. H. S. Ellis, 339 Burwood-road, Glenferrie.
In view of the high price of cattle, will the Government hasten its decision in regard to the method to be adopted to reduce the price of meat? Cheap meat cannot be obtained while such extraordinary prices are being given for calves.
– I have intimated twice already this week that the matter will be considered at the next meeting of the Cabinet, which will take place on Saturday morning.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that, in most of the old townships in New South Wales which owe their origin to alluvial gold mining, fossickers and others have no opportunity for selling small parcels of gold, and thus great waste is incurred? Will the Government endeavour to make arrangements with the banks by which the present unsatisfactory state of things may be remedied?
– As I understand the matter, it is one entirely for the State Government, which regulates the licensing of gold buyers and others. However, I shall see that the subject is considered, and ascertain whether the necessary facilities are being afforded for the legitimate increasing of the gold stocks of the Commonwealth, with a view to the increasing of the Commonwealth gold reserve.
– There is considerable doubt on the part of users and sellers of jute goods as to their exact position, and the likelihood of shipments from India and other places of supply. Will the Honorary Minister make an explanation to the House in regard to jute goods generally ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), who is dealing with the matter, and I shall endeavour to obtain a complete answer to it.
– On the 16th May the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked -
In view of the doubts that are prevalent amongst the public as to the safety of registered letters containing money, will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of charging an extra penny postage, in order to guarantee the safe delivery of such letters up to the value of £5?
I have looked into the matter, but cannot see my way to adopt in our inland service a higher sum as compensation for the loss of registered articles than the maximum allowed under the International Postal Union Convention, namely, the present amount of £2.
– Has the Assistant Minister for the Navy obtained the information asked for relative to the fares and freights which are charged between inter-State ports ?
– I have obtained portion of the information, but have sent it back for fuller particulars, because I wish to have the answer to the honorable member’s question as complete as possible.
Rent and Evictions
-Has the Minister for Works and Railways any reply to the question I put with reference to the raising of rents and the eviction of soldiers’ dependants ?
– The concrete cases which the honorable member submitted are being especially inquired into at the present time. When the inquiries are completed I will furnish a reply to his question.
– Is it true, as stated in the press, that although the Cabinet may decide in favour of an increase in the postage rates, the Postmaster-General is not in favour of any increase?
– What I said was, that so far as the Postal Department is concerned there is no intention of raising the postage rates beyond1d., whatever may be the intention of the Treasurer in other directions.
– In view of the necessity which has been generally expressed in this House for pushing on with the development and establishment of new industries, will the Minister for Trade and Customs make an early statement to the House as to the position in which the new Department for Industry and Commerce stands, informing us as to how many matters have been placed before it for investigation ?
– I have no objection to supplying the information, . but I would like to have notice of the question.
– Is it one of the schemes of the Postal Department for securing economy to fill ink pots in post offices with water instead of ink?
– Questions should be submitted in a serious vein and should deal with matters of public importance. When they are submitted without notice they should deal with matters of an urgent character. I fail to see that the honorable member’s question has any serious aspect, is of any great importance, or can by any stretch of imagination be considered urgent.
– I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that you have entirely misunderstood me. Last Monday morning I went into the General Post Office, Sydney, to send a telegram to Melbourne, but when I had written it and submitted it to the clerk at a counter he had an awful job to read it, owing to the faintness of the ink. I then secured a lead pencil at my own expense and wrote the message out afresh.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read a sub-leader in one of this morning’s newspapers dealing with the position of Justices of the High Court and claiming that it is not satisfactory, owing to the fact that no pensions will be paid to them when they retire from the Bench? Will the Government (consider the advisability of putting the Justices on a better footing in that regard?
– I did notice the leaderette in one of the metropolitan dailies of Melbourne, but I did not have time to read it fully. It appeared to me to be arguing in favour of provision being made for the payment of pensions to Justices of the High Court.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Award (dated 13th May, 1918) of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with a plaint submitted by the General Division Officers Union of the Trade and Customs Department of Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Brisbane - For Customs purposes. At Townsville, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 134.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Replies to Letters
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have examined the file containing the letters referred to, and I do not consider the letters call for further action.
asked the Assistant
Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Government considered a proposition submitted by Mr. Stone, of South Australia, last year in connexion with the building of concrete ships; but, in view of the lack of experience of that particular type of vessel for ocean-going purposes, deemed it inadvisable to proceed with it, more especially as it then had in hand the building of steel ships. The matter was again considered in the early part of this year, and Mr. Stone was asked to submit a definite proposition. No decision was arrived at in this connexion pending the receipt of information from the Prime Minister, who undertook to make personal inquiries while passing through the United States of America, and to furnish a full report on the question of concrete shipbuilding. Further negotiations are now being conducted with Mr. Stone.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Delay in Dealing with Cases.
asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 5th June, vide page 5569) :
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section eight of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraphs (6) and (c) thereof and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: - “(c) in the form of free passages from abroad to Australia, to the wives and children of Australian soldiers -
who have been declared by the competent Military Medical Board at Australian Imperial Forces Head-quarters abroad to be medically unfit for military service, and who have been returned or whom it is proposed to return, to Australia, or “ (d) where by reason of special circumstances the Commission considers that assistance and benefits should be granted, to -
the widowed mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers who prior to the enlistment of those soldiers were dependent upon them,”.
Section proposed to be amended -
The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance and benefits -
to Australian soldiers upon their discharge from service;
to the children, under the age of eighteen years, of deceased or incapacitated soldiers; and
where by reason of special circumstances the Commission considers that assistance and benefits should be granted to the widows of deceased and may advise upon such matters as may be expedient for the purpose of giving effect to . this Act.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That paragraph (c) (i) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “who have been declared by the competent Naval or Military Medical Board at the head-quarters abroad of the Australian Naval or Military Forces to be medically unfit for service, and who have been returned, or whom it is proposed to return, to Australia, or
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That paragraph(d) (iii),be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ to the mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers -
who are widows and were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them, or
whose husbands are so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to their support.”
.- This still, I think, leaves the mothers of soldiers in the same position they are in under the old Act. Supposing that in the future the widowed mother of a soldier is absolutely without means, what is she to do? Is no consideration to be given to such a case?
– That provision is more liberal than the one contained in the Original Act. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has raised another question - that of circumstances arising some time after the date of discharge of a soldier. Repatriation can only deal with soldiers who return and the families of those who do notreturn. We cannot, in connexion with repatriation, accept an indefinite liability. The War Pensions Act does that, to some extent, except that dependency must occur within five years of the death of a soldier.
. -In the original Act discretionary power was conferred for the granting of pensions to the widowed mothers of deceased Australian soldiers. The amendment which the Minister has proposed liberalizes that provision a good deal, but there are cases which are not met by it. I refer to the mother of a deceased or incapacitated soldier who is either living apart from her husband or whose husband fails to make any provision for her support. Prior to his enlistment the son of such a mother was her sole support. I ask the Minister if he will consider the advisability of making a further amendment to give discretionary power to deal with such cases.
– I think the honorable member is seeking a very wide extension of repatriation when he desires that the scheme shall be responsible for the support of a woman whose husband will not contribute to her support.
– I do not ask the Minister to lay down a definite rule, but to confer a discretionary power to deal with such cases. The original Act enabled the Commission to grant assistance where special circumstances were disclosed.
– That only applied to the widowed mothers of Australian soldiers. The amendment goes further, and includes mothers of deceased and incapacitated soldiers whose husbands are so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to their support. The case put forward by the honorable member is that of a woman who is living apart from her husband and receiving no support from him.
– The son has taken the husband’s place as her support; but, even though the mother proves a degree of dependence, she will be excluded from the benefits of this Bill.
– Under the War Pensions Act a certain extent of dependency is allowed, but it would be difficult to confer the same right in connexion with repatriation. I do not see that we can make the clause as wide as the honorable member suggests, but in order that the proposal may not be overlooked, I will ask the Minister for Repatriation to consider it.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Wannon. I know of a woman who had two sons and one daughter. Her husband went to the South African War and never returned to her. Until the sons reached earning age she reared the family. As the sons grew up they supported the mother and sister. The sons went to the war. That woman is excluded from making any claim under this measure because she is not a widow.
– Was she dependent on her sons’ earnings?
– That is a case for a pension, rather than for repatriation benefits.
– The mother in those circumstances should be placed in the same position as a widowed mother, without any qualification. Another case is that of a woman whose husband went to Western Australia six years ago. She was left to rear six children. Two sons, including the youngest, went to the war. When the eldest son became able to earn’ a living, he was the head and support of the family. He got married, and the second son. took his place. The third son ‘ also married, and the second son desired to do so. That woman is, to all intents and purposes, a widow; in fact, she is worse off, because a widow has the opportunity of remarrying. Then there are widowed foster mothers. Pour or five of such cases have come under my notice. Some of them are not in want at present, but, as they grow older, they are bound to come to a state of dependence. One woman has come to me whose adopted son was earning 21s. per week in a bank at Donald. Her husband was a policeman. When the son enlisted, she was not in any sense dependent on his earnings. He went to the war. While he was away -the husband died. It was only when this young man was going to the war that the woman told him that she was not his mother. As a matter of fact, he was her nephew. His mother died while he was in infancy, and this woman reared him as her own son. Later on the young man was killed. The woman applied for relief, but this was refused on the ground that she was only his foster mother. If this young man had not gone to the war he would have obtained within three years a higher position in the bank in which he was employed, and would to-day have been supporting his foster mother. Surely such cases are entitled to consideration. I think our object could be achieved by giving to the responsible officer thediscretionary power that is vested in the
Commissioner of Pensions; I hope that the officer administering the Act will be a man of the capacity of Mr. Collins. If a discretionary power were vested in him, and a hint were given that in such cases he could err, if at all, on the side of leniency, good results would follow.
There must be thousands of these cases, and while I ask that consideration should be extended to them, I do not want the Department to be imposed upon. I know that many who have gone to the Front were not treated by their fathers and mothers as they should have been, and that some such parents are to-day receiving war pensions. It is difficult, I recognise, to draft a clause to secure the object we have in view, and at the same time to guard against imposition; but I think that the Minister should give us a definite promise that after he has conferred with his officers ho will afford us an opportunity to reconsider the clause, so that we may determine whether, as amended, it will meet our desires. I join with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) in insisting that the clause, as it stands, does not meet the case of many deserving women.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section ten of the principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (8) thereof the word “ four “ and inserting in its stead the word “ three.”
Section proposed to be amended - 10. (1) The Governor-General shall, as soon as conveniently practicable, appoint in each State seven persons, two of whom shall be returned soldiers or sailors, to be the members of the Slate Board for that State. . . .
.- I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and by inserting after the word ‘ sailors,’ in subsection (1) thereof, the words ‘ who have been previously selected by the returned soldiers and sailors of that State.’”
My object is to insure that returned sailors and. soldiers shall control their representatives on the various State Boards. When the original Bill was before the Committee, I endeavoured to provide for a representation of three returned soldiers and sailors, to be elected by the men themselves, and subsequently the Government accepted an amendment from its own side providing for a representation of two returned men, to be selected by the Government. The deputation that waited on the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) yesterday asked for the concession for which I asked when the original Bill was before us, and supported again yesterday when reading the remarks of the president of the Returned Soldiers Association at that deputation. The Minister stated that the Acting Prime Minister, or the Cabinet, had the matter under consideration, but he has not told us what decision has been arrived at. I cannot understand why the Government should refuse to give to the returned men the right to elect their own representatives, and to remove representatives and substitute for them men whom they think would act more effectively. It would be better to have matters like this controlled by those whose interests are concerned. Parliament could easily reverse its original determination in this matter. What I suggest does not raise any obstacle in the way of the scheme, but rather would enable it to work more smoothly. On the State Boards there are seven members, two of whom are returned men. If the returned soldiers and sailors were allowed to choose their own representatives that would insure the harmonious working of the scheme, and if they were not satisfied with what was being done they could withdraw their representatives and replace them with others more to their liking. I hope that the Minister will not regard what I am saying as a. personal request, but that he will remember that it is the men who are asking for this. The Government is not asked to give away anything.
.- The amendment, by making the quorum of the State Boards three instead of four, seems to me a dangerous innovation. I suppose it has been proposed with a view to facilitate the holding of meetings ; but it is contrary to the democratic principle of majority rule, because it enables two members of a Board consisting of seven members to decide matters of importance. There is an appeal from the Local Committees to the State Boards, and, in certain cases, to the Minister. The Boards are in a position similar to that of directors of a company. There might be fifty cases to come before a Board, all” of which would be carefully prepared Beforehand; but if the amendment were carried the presence of three members of the Board would constitute a quorum, and the cases would then be dealt with by a minority of the Board. If it be right to make the quorum of the Commission four, some good reason should be given for reducing the quorum of the Boards.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is a member of a much more important body than a States Board, which is only a recommending body; he is a member of the House of Representatives, and its quorum, although it has seventyfive members, is only twenty-five. Thus one-third of the members of this House are competent to pass laws, and appropriate revenue.
– The work of this body is done in open Chamber.
– That does not affect the principle. The honorable member said that the amendment in the Bill was contrary to the principle of majority rule, but he will find that the general practice is to make a third of the members of a body a business quorum. In this case we make three a quorum for a Board of seven members
– What is the reason for the change?
– To facilitate the despatch of business. No doubt, when very important business is to be done, there will be a larger attendance. The Commission is a court of appeal from the decisions of State Boards. In the making of regulations, the Minister, for his own guidance would require as full an attendance of the Commission as he could get, but for the mere administrative work of the Boards, and to prevent delay, it is desirable to have a quorum constituted of three members.
The Government cannot accept the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). The whole matter has already been threshed out during this session, and no reasons have been advanced which would justify a change of policy. Furthermore, the various Boards and the Central Commission have been appointed, and are getting to work.
.- I am sorry that the Minister will not accept the suggestion of the honorable mem ber for Barrier (Mr. Considine). The subject to which he referred was one on which I had intended to speak during the second-reading debate had I had au opportunity. Since the repatriation scheme has been in operation, I have noticed that a great many of those who have gone to the Minister to offer advice are not satisfied with the way in which they have been treated. During the discussion of the original Bill I said that I thought that in Senator Millen we had about the best man for the position. I hope that he is not adopting a Czarish attitude to those who approach him.
– On the contrary, he is receiving representations from every side.
– From things that have come under my notice I had a suspicion that it was not so. There are many returned soldiers who. have served their country faithfully, and are capable of acting as members of any Legislature ki the British Dominions. They are not. satisfied with the way in which their representations have been received. I have looked carefully through the Minister’s speeches without finding a cogent reason why the representatives of soldiers and sailors should not be elected by the men themselves. This is a scheme for the benefit of returned soldiers and sailors, and I desire to see as many men as possible put on the various Boards and Committees.
– The success of the scheme will depend on how far the soldiers are satisfied with it.
– Yes. If the administration is not sympathetic and satisfactory to the men affected, we shall make a serious blunder. It is hard to say what number of returned men are represented by the Association, but I take it that a great number are members of the Returned Soldiers Association, and itwould be wise for those in charge of the scheme to allow that body to arrange for the selection of their representatives on the various Boards. There is an opportunity now for the Ministry to retrace its steps in this matter. Since the original Bill was introduced we have made a great advance, yet we are still only feeling our way, and must gain a great deal of experience before we shall know exactly what is wanted. Parliament will be called on frequently to review this legislation. Consequently it will be possible later to retrace any false step. I hope, however, that the Government will not assume a hard-and-fast position, and injure the success of the scheme by refusing to allow the representatives of the soldiers and sailors to be chosen by those whom the scheme is designed to benefit. If there are capable men outside who could be selected - and I know there are many men connected with the Returned Soldiers Association who are capable - how much easier would it be to work the scheme if the soldiers on the various Boards were delegates satisfactory to the great body of men outside. If anything should go wrong, if any hitch should occur in the working of the scheme, the cause of which might not be apparent to the outsider, these men could go to the men and put the position clearly to them. They would be able to talk to the soldiers, and the soldiers would listen to them, and thus they could better understand the position. I have nothing to say against the men who have already been nominated by the Government - I believe that they are doing excellent work; but that is not the point at issue. The main thing is to give satisfaction to the great body of soldiers outside.
.- The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) should be commended ‘ for bringing the amendment forward. If returned soldiers are to be appointed to these Boards without consulting the various organizations formed among the great body of the men who have returned, it will not give general satisfaction.
– Unfortunately, there are three returned soldiers’ organizations in existence.
– It shows that there must be a difference of opinion among the men. There is nothing to prevent each organization submitting nominations, after which a selection can be made. Already there is dissatisfaction among the men, and if, through the operation of this measure, further dissatisfaction is created, they will say, “Why were we not consulted; why were we not given the right to appoint our own representatives?” The only way in which dissatisfaction can be prevented is by letting the mcn feel that they are interested in the scheme through having their own representatives on the various bodies which are administering it. The gentlemen who have already been appointed may be ideal representatives, of the soldiers’ interests. Possibly, if nominationswere invited, they would again be nominated, and perhaps elected to the positions which they now occupy. But in any case it would be better to permit the men themselves to make the selection. It might possibly prevent a great deal of soreness and friction. When the men are given the right to say who their representatives shall be they may not be so« ready to find fault with what has been done. The Minister would do well toaccept the amendment.
The amendment submitted by the Minister to make the quorum three will be a highly desirable alteration. I do not know of any organization in which the quorum is a majority of the members of it. By requiring the attendance of four members of a State Board before business* can be done, it may not be possible to have urgent matters attended to. Therefore it is- a wise proposal to reduce the quorum to three. It will avoid the accumulation of business and obviate delay in attending to claims.
– The Minister would do well, indeed, toconsider the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier. The future of the repatriation scheme will depend on the manner in which it is regarded by the returned soldier. Unless we can satisfy him, a good deal of the excellent labour put into it will be lost. Unquestionably, there is now a certain amount of dissatisfaction, which is finding expression among returned soldiers. I believe that there are three associations among them. One man will not join one association on the ground that it is a Labour organization. Another will not join a second organization because he says of it, “ They are your old crowd.” There is also a non-political association, comprising another section of men. Beyond all three sections there is a great number of men who belong to no association. But whether a man belongs to an association or not, he should have a voice in the selection of his representatives or the Boards which are to have control oi the details of the repatriation scheme. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said, the gentlemen who have already been appointed by the Government may be the very best obtainable, and if the choice of representatives lay with the soldiers themselves they might be the very men selected; but the very fact that the soldiers would have the right to choose their own representatives on the Boards would make them view them in a very different light from that in which they would regard them if their representatives were merely the nominees of any particular Government or party. This is about the only matter in which the people concerned are not allowed to select their own representatives. We provide that the Public Works Committee shall consist of so many representatives from the Ministerial side of the House and so many from the Opposition side, but Ministerialists do not interfere with the Opposition in the selection of their nominees, for which reason the Opposition view the Public Works Committee in a very different light from that in which they would view it if their representatives were selected by the Government, and, perhaps, forced upon them contrary to their own wishes. The method of selection throw’s a great deal of responsibility on the party itself, and it would be a very good idea if responsibility were thrown upon the soldiers to take their share in the work of these Boards. It would bring them into closer touch with them. The whole success or failure of the scheme will depend, firstly, upon the work that will be put into it by the Central Commission and the various Boards; and, in the second place, upon the reception accorded to the personnel and the working of the Commission and the Boards by the soldiers themselves. It is a very difficult matter to deal with some of the problems raised in regard to the treatment of returned soldiers, and which will be confronting us for the next three or four years. This matter was previously discussed, and I understood that it was to be given further consideration by the Government before an amending Bill came down. Had it not been for that understanding, the suggestion which has now been made by the honorable member for Barrier would have been incorporated in the principal Act.
– There was a straight-out division on the matter.
– There were many honorable members who believed in the principle involved, and considered that the Government should give the matter further consideration. I do not want to vote upon it now. I want the Government to give the position serious consideration. I am quite certain that they have no desire to hold in their hands the patronage involved in nominating the soldiers’ representatives on the various Boards. I am quite certain that any Government would gladly rid themselves of that responsibility.
– What association will nominate the representatives?
– I would strongly object to any particular association selecting them. I want to see the whole of the returned soldiers select them. Of course, there will be difficulties in the way of doing it, but the enormous advantages that will accrue from having the representatives of the returned soldiers selected by the men themselves will more than counter-balancethose difficulties. This is a Bill upon which we do not wish to have any divisions. The question of repatriation is as far above party considerations as I hope it is possible for any measure to be. Every honorable member and every member of the community wishes to do the right thing. The only differences among us are as to the best methods to adopt. I repeat, as emphatically as I can, that the very best way of securing success tor the repatriation scheme is to give the soldiers themselves the responsibility and privilege of selecting the men who should represent them on the various Boards. Therefore, I urge the Minister to adopt the suggestion which has been made. It will undoubtedly assure greater success for the scheme.
The amendment moved by the Minister in regard to the reduction of the number to constitute a quorum at a meeting of a Board is a step in the right direction. Accumulation of work must be avoided at all hazards.
. -I ask the honorable member for Barrier not to press his amendment. The issue raised by it was before the House a few months ago and decided upon, and now returned soldiers have been appointed to the Central Commission and to the State Boards, and have been doing most excellent work. It is proposed to supersede them.
– Not necessarily.
– When the honorable member was speaking, I understood him to urge that the Returned Soldiers Association should make the selection.
– I was referring to a deputation from the Returned Soldiers Association.
– I have not seen the full report of that deputation, but I am under the impression that one association asked for representation. The best method is that which is applied to the appointment of all the representatives on the Boards. There is no election of industrial representatives, and the Government, in exercising its discretion, takes all the circumstances into the fullest consideration.
– I have no doubt as to that.
– Now it is suggested that representatives shall be elected by all the returned soldiers, and I ask honorable members to consider what a cumbrous system might be called into existence. The suggestion is that all Australia is to be one constituency.
– My amendment provides that there shall be an election for each State.
– I see that the amendment does not apply to the Central Commission; but the same argument applies. There would have to be an electoral roll compiled for each State, and a system of checking devised.
– Not necessarily; the men could vote on their discharges, the same as at ordinary elections.
– Such a system as that suggested might work very well in cities where the men can be easily got together ; but just imagine its application in a State like Queensland, when the men are” being absorbed into civil life. The desire of the Government, whose attitude, I hope, is not misunderstoodby the mover of the amendment, is to give full and effective representation to the returned soldiers; and all their representations have received the fullest and fairest consideration.
– Nothing has been done yet, so what is the good of talking like that? There are many promises.
– The honorable member cannot have been following the debate, for he is hardly fair to the Minister; indeed he is the one exception in both Houses to express the opinion that the Minister has not done all that is possible in launching this Department.
– I am talking of what has been done for returned soldiers. I have probably more faith in the Minister than has the honorable gentleman himself.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member, because a great deal has been done by the Minister, the Department, and the Commission, in laying the foundations of the scheme, which is now working satisfactorily. Under the circumstances, I ask the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. . Considine) not to press his amendment.
.- The Minister’s speech, to my mind, is just so much special pleading. The location of nearly every soldier in Victoria is known at Head-quarters, Melbourne, or the authorities have been very lax.
– Of every discharged soldier? I doubt if that is so.
– Even supposing a number of soldiers were missed in the voting, it would be satisfactory if the great bulk had the opportunity to express their opinion. I quite agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) that this amendment, if adopted, would please the soldiers themselves, showing them that we have done everything we can to satisfy them in this particular. I do not know the numerical strength of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Association; but at nearly every deputation, conference, and meeting we find opinions expressed unfavorable to the Government and Parliament, and a general request that the will of the returned men should be taken more into consideration. The Government would do well to accept the amendment, which, I am sure would result in lessening the troubles of the Minister, the Committees, and the members of this House.
– Is there not some difference between the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), and that of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams).
– No; the honorable member for Franklin heartily indorses the amendment, and, further, he indorsed the view expressed on a previous occasion, but did not vote in its favour because it was made a sort of party matter.
– You are not making this a party matter, are you ? I certainly am not.
– I am not, but I understood the honorable member for Franklin to say that why he did not vote in accord with his views on a previous occasion was because the matter was made a sort of party question.
– The reason given by the honorable member was that there are so many associations of different kinds.
– I have no desire to place a wrong construction on the honorable member’s remarks; but what does it matter how many associations there are when they are all composed of returned men ? We ought to ignore all the associations, and see that every returned soldier has the right to vote. There may be some initial trouble, but we may rest assured that considerably more trouble in the future will be saved.
– It would cost nearly £30,000 to take such a vote all over Australia.
– I do not think that the cost would be very great, and, in any case, that, in a sense, is part and parcel of the price we have to pay in order to satisfy the men.
– I would rather see a returned man on each of the Local Committees.
– That may be, but returned men in considerable numbers have urged that they should have the right to select their own representatives, and surely we ought to pay some regard to their wish, even if it does mean the expenditure of some money. Of course, this is not a party measure, for we are all desirous to do the best we can for these men. I suggest that if the men are given the right to vote, and anything arises in the working of the scheme to cause dissatisfaction amongst them, they will not be able to blame the Government or Parliament; while, on the other hand, if they are not given the right to vote, they will be afforded some grounds for a grievance, probably expressed in the opinion that the representatives selected are those most suited to the Government. The amendment gives us an opportunity to getout of a difficult position, and avoid much future irritation, which, of all things, is to be avoided.
.- When I first heard of this amendment I imagined that it was suggested that certain associations or organizations of soldiers should have some power to elect representatives on the State Boards. Had that been the case I should certainly have voted against the proposal, because it would be a great mistake to give an association or organization of soldiers power on such bodies. I understand, however, that the amendment is a much broader one, namely, that the whole of the returned soldiers shall have a voice in the selection of two of the men who are on the State Boards. Up to now only a few of the men have returned, whereas some day we shall have thousands. Of those already here, I think the majority have expressed the desire to have their own representative on those bodies, and such being the case, I am not prepared to oppose the idea if it is practicable to adopt it. I see at the moment a number of difficulties, but it may be possible to arrange for the men to vote for the representatives mentioned in the amendment. If we do oppose such a request on the part of the men, we shall do the very thing that will be most fatal to the scheme; we shall create in the minds of the soldier a feeling of distrust. There is no ground for any such feeling, for it is perfectly obvious that those who have been asked, and have accepted the positions, will probably be admirable in every way. This is realized by us, but it may be difficult to make the soldiers see it. Every trouble that arises will immediately create in the minds of the soldier the feeling which I have indicated, and he will complain that he had no voice in the selection. I would prefer the amendment be not pressed at this moment; but, if it is, I do not feel justified in voting against what appears is the expressed wish of the men. At the same time, I see enormous difficulties in the way of giving effect to the proposal, which, to my mind, requires a little more consideration as to the method by which it may be carried out. A postponement would be desirable, if possible.
– You must remember that the Government have had an opportunity of considering it.
– The Government have had an opportunity of considering their course, and have arrived at what they consider the best. If we could devise some practical way of ascertaining the wish of the soldiers, and giving effect to it, I should vote in its favour, but, as I say, I see at thi? moment great difficulties in the way.
– We had great difficulty in giving the vote to the soldiers at the Front, but we overcame it.
– I agree with the honorable member that we could overcome the difficulties that I see now ; but have we thought out how we are going to do that? However, if the amendment is pressed, I cannot vote against the expressed wish of the soldiers for straightout representation.
– I understand that the Government have two objections to the amendment, firstly, that the Boards are already appointed, and, secondly, that an election, would be very costly and difficult to carry out.
– And, further, we believe that we have adopted a just method of appointment.
– I assume that the men appointed will not remain in office for all time. Are we to understand that they cannot be removed except by the GovernorGeneral in Council ?
– I said that if the amendment were carried the present appointees would immediately have to leave office.
– Not necessarily; but if the returned soldiers, who are the men most interested in repatriation, say that the men whom the Government have appointed do not represent them adequately, it is the duty of the Government to devise means of getting more satisfactory representatives. The Government have selected seven men in each State. The returned soldiers would be far more satisfied if they were given the right to choose their representatives, even if they chose the same men. Some honorable members ask whether we should allow the associations to carry out the selection. I would not. In connexion with the Wages Board system in Victoria we have an example of what can be done. If a certain percentage of the people on either side object to the Government nominees on a Wages
Board, an election must take place, and every person engaged in the industry has a vote in such an election. I see no in* superable difficulty in the way of the adoption of the elective principle in connexion with Repatriation Boards. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) said that it would be equally as important to have that principle in connexion with, the Local Committees. I quite agree with him. The returned soldiers in any shire ought to be consulted as to their representation on the Local Committee. From the city of Richmond between 3,500 and 4,000 men have gone to the Front; over 400 have been killed, and a great number of the others have returned either wounded or incapacitated. Surely those returned soldiers living in Richmond are the people to decide who should represent them on the Local Committee. The more we give to the returned soldiers the right to elect their own representatives, the less complaint will there be. If there were complaints, then, the Government may say, ‘ ‘ You have two of your own elected representatives on the Board, and if yon are not satisfied with the conduct of the Board you have yourselves to blame.”
– W;e allowed the returned soldiers to elect their own representative on the Local Committee in my district.
– We should carry out the representative principle all round.
– I think so. It may be said that these men would require to be paid. I believe it is far better to pay a man straight out for his services than to have to meet a big bill for expenses. I hope the Government will say that they are prepared to give the elective system a trial, and allow the amendment to be incorporated in the Bill. If, on trial, it is found unworkable, they may then ask Parliament to amend the Bill.
.- We ought to consider carefully before agreeing to the amendment, because every speaker has pointed out possibilities of grave danger in connexion with it. We realize the enormous responsibilities we have placed on the Minister for Repatriation. We have given him an almost free hand, and we are now awaiting developments. The Minister in charge of the Bill sought to take credit to the Government for what they have done. I say it is a standing disgrace to the Government that, after having talked repatriation for so long, we have only reached the stage represented by this Bill. At the same time we must do nothing that has a possibility of danger, or that will create difficulties in administration’. By carrying the amendment we shall not only put the Minister in a false position - that would not matter so much if we were satisfied that the results would be good - but I am afraid that it would be impossible to hold these elections, and carry on the work of the State Boards without delay, and, possibly, injury to the returned soldiers themselves. It may be possible, however, for the Minister for Repatriation to suggest a provision that, after a certain period, the returned soldiers shall elect their own representatives on the Board. The elective principle is quite practicable. A little time ago the Government allowed the wheat-growers to elect their representative on the Wheat Board, and the Commonwealth, and State Governments lent the services of their electoral officers. The election could be carried out, but it would need to be done quickly. It is possible, however, that the returned soldiers would not, in the early stages of the scheme, have sufficient knowledge to enable them to pick out the best nien to represent them in connexion with this administrative work. Senator Millen lias not shown that diplomacy for which I always gave him credit. Honorable members have frequently expressed the desire that returned soldiers should have representation on the repatriation bodies, and . I fully expected that Senator Millen would have given every satisfaction to the soldiers in connexion with the nominations he has made. I” cannot understand how he has failed to do so.
– Has he failed?
– Only to the extent that there are complaints, from the recognised returned soldiers’ associations, of the method which the Minister has adopted. With others who have spoken to the amendment, I foresee difficulties if it is carried. But I urge the Minister to realize the strong opinion on both sides of the House that the soldiers should be allowed to elect their own representatives, and to endeavour to devise some method for the future by which direct representation may be given to them.
.- I support the Government. The amend ment is quite unworkable. In the first place, we have never been informed of what percentage of returned men are members of the Returned Soldiers Association.
– The proposal is that all the returned soldiers, not the organizations, should elect the representatives.
– That would be a very expensive procedure. It would be a big work to ascertain the whereabouts of all returned soldiers and provide each with a ballot-paper. I understood that the mover of the amendment intended that the Returned Soldiers Association should elect the representatives.
– At any rate, that is what the amendment would result in, and even under the elective principle, there would be no guarantee that the best men would be selected. The amendment may at first sight appeal to returned soldiers and sailors, but we should be prepared at least to give the Bill a trial, to determine how far it satisfies the legitimate claims of the men. We ought to trust the Government to get the scheme into actual working order. If iu the course of twelve months it is found unsatisfactory in this regard, we might then consider such an amendment as this; but” until we have proof that the Government proposal is unsatisfactory we should leave well alone.
.- I think the Minister will recognise that the section proposed to be amended may be construed as an attack upon representation. That section provides that the Governor-General shall, as soon as conveniently practicable, appoint in each State a board of seven persons, two of whom shall be returned soldiers or sailors, and the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) desires to provide that these returned soldiers and sailors shall have been previously elected by the returned soldiers and sailors in each State. It has been said that our soldiers at the Front were allowed to vote. The difficulty in the way of recording their votes was very great, and, in my opinion, the proceedings were not fair. The ballot-papers have never been’ returned to Australia, although I have repeatedly asked that they should be, and I shall not be content until they are thrown open for inspection here upon payment of a fee by any person. This is a representative Chamber, and I am sure that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) would object to a proposal to empower the Governor-General ‘ to appoint the members of this House. We have had experience of appointments to Committees by Governors in Council, and it has not been a satisfactory one. Returned soldiers and sailors justly complain of the carelessness displayed, perhaps unwittingly, by those in authority in attending to their complaints. I have had brought under my notice to-day the case of a woman who has not received a penny from the allotment of her son at the Front since 11th January last. Prior to enlisting, he used to allow her 30s. a week, and when his father was not bringing enough money into the home he gave hia mother his full wage3 of 54s. a week. Since January last, however, she has not received a penny from the Defence Department. If the representatives of soldiers and sailors on the State Boards were elected’ by the( returned soldiers and sailors themselves, such an infamy would not be allowed to exist. I would remind honorable members of the recent appointment of the Director of Repatriation. Tn Heaven’s name, what had Mr. Gilbert done to deserve such an appointment! If my information be correct, he was appointed Director of Repatriation merely because of a promise he had received from Mr. J. C. Watson and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) would fill the position to far greater advantage. Was there no returned soldier available for the post? I have no personal feeling against Mr. Gilbert - I do not know him - but I object to appointments to important positions being made in such a way. There are too many provisions in this Bill for nominations by the Governor-General in Council.
I was glad to hear the soldier representative of Flinders (Mr. Bruce) speak as he did, and the fact that he had to support himself with a walking stick as he spoke lent pathos and force to his words. I was glad to hear that he did not want a selection to be made by the Returned Soldiers Associations. A little while ago Senator Pearce published a letter signed by the secretary of one of the Returned Soldiers Associations in Perth, and within a few months the secretary and committee were dispossessed. I shall vote for the amendment, and I hope it will be pressed to a division. Returned soldiers might well be allowed to vote on . producing their discharges. Their discharges could be used just as we used to employ electors’ rights in the old days in this State. There should be- no difficulty in arranging for an election as proposed by the amendment, and such a “system would remove from the minds of our returned soldiers and sailors any suspicion of gerrymandering. Under the Act as it stands, it is provided that the members of the State Boards shall hold office during the plea-sura of the GovernorGeneral. If the amendment be defeated, I suggest that the Minister should allow the returned soldiers and sailors to hold an election for the appointment of two members to each of the State Boards, and that the men so selected should be substituted for the nominees made by the GovernorGeneral for the time being.
– If we are to have any regard for consistency, we must vote against this amendment. When the original Bill was before us last year, the Government gave us a pledge that returned soldiers and sailors should be represented on these State Boards, and that promise has been fulfilled. It is only reasonable that the Government proposal should be given a fair trial. Why should we ask, at this stage, for direct representation of returned soldiers and sailors on these Boards, and put the country to the expense and inconvenience of an election? The people have had so many elections during the last few years that I doubt whether they are as anxious as some honorable members opposite would have us believe, to inflict an election of this kind upon our returned men. A Government, actuated by considerations of equity and justice, could have no difficulty in selecting, with the advice of returned soldiers or sailors, men who are eminently suitable to represent them on these Boards. The amendment is really a reflection on the present members of the State Boards.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– I think I am well justified in making such, a statement, since the amendment is really designed to remove from the State Boards representatives of the returned soldiers and sailors merely because they were appointed by the Governor-General, and not elected by the men. “We ought to have some regard for our own dignity and self-respect. We have no right to legislate to-day in one direction and a few months later in a totally different direction. Those who support this amendment will be voting to« kick off the Boards the present representatives of returned soldiers and sailors.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) declared that nothing had so far been done in the way of repatriation. That is absolutely incorrect. Before the principal Act was proclaimed a great deal of the work of repatriation was undertaken by the States. I do not know what was done in Victoria and New South Wales, but I do know that in South Australia the State War Council did a great deal of good.
– The State War Council in Victoria has also done much good work.
– Quite so. To say that nothing has been done in the way of repatriation is merely to indulge in cheap clap-trap with the o’bject of pleasing a few people outside. In carrying out this scheme, the Government have to feel their way, in order that justice may be done to the men who have done so much for us. I object to this attempt .to” disparage the work of members of the State Boards, who have done their best according to their lights. They are profiting by the experience of the States, and are avoiding mistakes that were made before the Act was proclaimed. Any person of sense will gain by the mistakes of his predecessor. It would be well to wait a while before considering the request of the Returned Soldiers Association for the right to elect representatives to these Boards. Later, the soldiers themselves may not desire this. Those who represent Labour on these Boards are efficient and able men, who are thoroughly acquainted with the requirements of those whom they represent. But were an election to take place today their positions would be filled by men of quite a different stamp - by fire-eaters, whose desire would be to create disturb ances rather than to work in harmony with , their fellows for the improvement of the condition of the soldiers. Every one in Australia who knows the inside running of the unions at present knows that that is so. I hope that, as a matter of consistency, honorable members will not vote for an amendment the effect of which would be to remove from the Boards men who have not yet had an opportunity to show that they are capable of doing good work. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) proposes that there shall be an election of representatives, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) says, “Hurry up with the election, get out your lists, and kick out as soon as possible those whom the Governor-General has appointed.” That would be a very honorable thing to do, would it not ? Certainly I shall not be a party to dirty work of that character.
– It is unreasonable to propose a material alteration of the machinery of the Act at the present time. The Minister informed himself very fully before recommending the persons who have been appointed to the various Boards. It cannot be said of any of these persons that they have failed in the discharge of their duty.
– No one has suggested that.
– Exactly. I do not think that any reflection on them is intended. It is well known that they were selected because of their qualifications. Theirs is a difficult and arduous task, which I am sure they wish to discharge efficiently. It is not contended that they do not truly represent, and are not in complete sympathy with, the returned soldiers as a body. That being so, it is too early to propose to alter the machinery which has been devised, and which has just commenced to operate.
– I made this proposal when the original Bill was being considered.
– That is so, and Parliament then determined that the representation of returned men should be given by nomination. The Act came into operation only on the 8th April last, and it is too early to propose an alteration of its fundamental principles. When a large number of soldiers have returned, and there has been a longer experience of the working of the Act, it may be desirable to make an amendment of the kind proposed. If such an amendment is then asked for by the returned men I do not think that any serious objection will be taken to it.
– But the representatives now on the Boards have been appointed for life.
– No; they have been appointed at the pleasure of the Governor-General in Council, and may be removed to-morrow if the Minister so advises. We must allow a reasonable period for testing the present machinery. It would be a mistake to remove now qualified men who are in full sympathy with the returned soldiers and sailors, and have begun to get experience in the work that has been put upon them.
I sympathize with the members of the Commission and with the members of the State Boards in the difficult position which they occupy. Fortunately they axe men who have had special experience in work of the kind that has to be done. In my opinion, it would be well if the honorable member for Barrier would withdraw the amendment.
.- I have listened attentively to the remarks of the Minister (Mr. Groom) and of other members opposite who have opposed the amendment. They overlook the fact that a matter of principle is involved. Those who have been appointed as representatives of the returned men have not been chosen by the men themselves. I do not know the gentlemen who are now acting, and have not suggested that they are not most estimable and most capable. They may be both. Yet that does not affect the principle at issue, namely, the right of those who are represented to elect their representatives. The Minister objected to my proposal on the ground that some members of the State Boards would be nominated, and others elected. The representatives of employers and employees on the Wages Boards are elected, and the chairmen are nominated. Yet that does not effect the efficiency of the Boards. There is no-‘ thing inherently bad in providing for two methods of choosing the members of the State Boards. The right of industrial labour to elect its representatives has been granted. There would have been turmoil in the industrial world had the Government proposed to nominate the repre sentatives of labour. The miners of Broken Hill or the miners of Newcastle would never allow a Government to choose certain men, and say, “ These are the most capable men to represent you.” They would reply: “What right have you to select representatives for us?” If the returned soldiers and sailors are given the right to choose their representatives on the State Boards, they will have more respect for these Boards, and more confidence in their decisions, and this would be advantageous to the working of the scheme. If the amendment was adopted and complaints were made by returned men about the administration of the scheme, or the acts of a particular Board, the Minister would be able to say, “ You have on the Boards representatives that you have yourselves selected, and they have made no complaint.” That is the sort of reply that is given repeatedly when industrial complaints are made. My proposal does not interfere with the administration of the scheme. The State Boards are composed each of four business men, chosen for their capacity and ability - a union representative to voice the opinions of Labour, and two representatives of the soldiers. But although these are the men most concerned in the success of the scheme, they are not allowed to choose their representatives. No adequate reason can be advanced why this right of choice should not be given.
As to the objections regarding the method of election, they can be dealt with hereafter. Reference has been made to the establishment of numerous polling booths, the printing of ballot-papers, and an expenditure of £30,000 on an election. That is mere dust, raised to obscure the issue. Once it is acknowledged that the men have the right to choose their representatives, it will be an easy matter to provide the machinery of election. It could be easily done if publicity were given in the daily press to thefact that the Government had provided for the returned soldier the opportunity of participating in an election of persons to represent him. Local leagues could be formed which could select delegates to a triennial State conference, and that conference could select the men to represent the interests of the menon each State Board. The whole of the expense could be borne by the men who want the right of selecting their own representatives. The talk we have heard about the insuperable difficulties which stand in the way of achieving the end desired by honorable members is all so much moonshine. If it is right in principle to give the men what they claim, it rests with them to provide the logical and effective means of carrying it out. Let the Government provide the machinery by which the soldiers can control the selection of their own representatives on the various Boards. The men may not care to avail themselves of the opportunity if they find that the scheme is getting along successfully. That will be a triumph for the Government. On the other hand, if the scheme is not going along to the liking of the men most vitally concerned, it would be an unanswerable argument for giving them the right which I seek to give them by my amendment.
– I agree with the honorable member that a great principle is involved in this matter, and unless the Minister can put forward better grounds for opposing the amendment, I shall be compelled to vote for it, although I realize that it may lead to a great deal of expense. The Minister should be able to give an approximate idea of what it would be.
– -How could I do so, when the honorable member has just submitted his amendment for the first time?
– The honorable member for Barrier gave notice on the second reading that he would move in this direction.
– I said that if the Government did not agree to my suggestion, I would move an amendment.
– At any rate, we should have some idea of the expenditure which may be involved. I would not be prepared to agree to the amendment if I thought that a great deal of expense would be involved. I would rather see the money spent on the soldiers themselves. But there is no doubt that there will be organizations among returned soldiers from- whom it will be very easy to secure expressions of opinion, and, unless the expense involved in the honorable member’s proposal is prohibitive, and provided there are no other great difficulties in the way of carrying it out, I can see no reason why the men themselves should not have a say in the choice of their representatives. The honorable member for Barrier has made out a very good case.
.- I do not wish to cast a silent vote on the matter. The amendment is all right in theory, and it might be all right in practice, but I am bound to point out that] as things are now in the Commonwealth, I do not think it would be possible, without complete organization, to get an intelligent selection among the returned soldiers.
– That excuse has always been raised against popular elections.
– I do not mind telling the honorable member that I am one who believes that the producers should have direct representation on the various Boards dealing with their produce, but the result of the first application of that principle was that the farmers throughout the Commonwealth were voting for men about whom they knew nothing. That is the whole difficulty in this business. I hope that the associations formed among the returned soldiers will so develop that an election of their representatives on the various Boards may soon be conducted on an intelligent basis. The difficulty at present is for soldiers who have not yet settled down to citizen life to be able to select men whom they know, with whom the)’ have been closely associated, and who have proved themselves to be worthy representatives of the interests of soldiers. I admit that nobody should be better able to select the representatives of the soldiers than the men themselves, but in the existing chaotic condition of affairs, so far as returned men are concerned, it will not be as easy for the men to select persons to represent their interests, as it will be for the Minister to do so acting upon the advice of, and in consultation with, the various organizations of returned soldiers and with the men themselves.
– The manner of selecting the men is quite a different thing altogether.
– That is my difficulty in regard to supporting the honorable member. The principle of his amendment is all right; but for all practical purposes the Minister is at present in a better position to make a selection than can be thousands of unorganized soldiers who do not know the men for whom they may be voting. When a farmers’ representative on the Wheat Board had to be chosen, every farmer who had wheat in the pool was entitled to vote, and in my district very many men asked me for a lead. I declined to give it. As a matter of fact, many of the candidates were unknown to me. I have no hesitation in saying that the choice made is not a uniformly popular one at the present time. Discontent cropped up after the election.
– How long is he to hold the position ?
– He is to remain on the Board at the pleasure of the Board. He cannot be removed as a man appointed to the Repatriation Commission may be. Although the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier is right in principle, the present lack of organization among returned soldiers is such that we can do better by allowing the Minister an opportunity to consult with the men as far as possible, and make a selection of the persons who are best fitted to guide him, and at the same time represent the soldiers.
Question -That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Considine’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section 12 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “ GovernorGeneral” (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the word “Minister”; and
by adding at the end of sub-section (2) the words “ for the granting of assistance and benefits to any of the classes of persons specified in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of section 22 of this Act or for any other purpose prescribed by the Regulations.”
Section proposed to be amended - 12. (1) The Governor-General may appoint Local Committees . . .
. . . a Local Committee shall have power to raise and control funds for the district for which they are appointed and to disburse those funds within that district. . . .
.- This clause proposes to make a most important alteration, the effect of which will be to unduly restrict the operations of Local Committees, particularly in the country districts. Under the original Act, the Local Committees are empowered, subject* to the regulations, to collect funds and disburse those funds within their districts, and this clause proposes that the granting of this assistance from the funds shall be limited to the classes specified in section 22 of the Act, “ or for any other purpose prescribed by the regulations.” Section 22 has been enlarged by the addition of certain beneficiaries, and to that I take no exception. But the proposed amendment takes away from the Local Committees their power to use the local funds without limitation to their discretion, and confines them to the persons and purposes set out in the Act. It is quite right that in the disbursement of money raised under the Act, and in their capacity as advisory bodies, the Local Committees should be confined to the Act; but the clause, as it stands, will prevent them doing much good work that they have been doing in the past by means of funds raised locally. The restriction placed on these committees by the clause is altogether too great. We are endeavouring to entice into the arena of local war work well-balanced Local Committees, consisting of successful men of all shades of opinion, who understand the district, its industries, and its people well; and yet it is proposed to limit them in what they may do with their own private funds. These funds are collected in various ways for a hundred and one different objects, which the Act, and perhaps very properly, may have omitted to provide for; and I sincerely hope that the Minister Will not press the clause in so far as it has the effect I have described. The clause will interfere most seriously with repatriation work in my own district, limiting us entirely to the cases set out in the main Act.
– You mean as to the classes of persons covered by the main Act.
– And also as to the purposes for which relief may be given. With the wider discretion in the past we have been able to assist cases which neither the State nor the Commonwealth could assist; and the limitation to cases specified in the Act will certainly tend to damp the ardour of the Local Committees. There is taken away that fine wholesome discretion which those who find the money ought to exercise. I hope that the Minister for Works and Railways will take an opportunity to confer on the point with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), so as not to remove the one ground on which it has been possible for the Local Committees to make successful appeals for funds in their districts. Much original thought -and ingenuity is brought to bear, in the shape of working bees and other efforts, to raise money locally; and it would be a pity to do anything to interfere in this good work. I trust that other honorable members will support me in the views I have expressed.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made out a very strong case against the amendment proposed in the clause. I look forward to these Local Committees as a very valuable adjunct in the scheme of repatriation. Their appointment is for the purpose of dealing, as far as possible, with local men whose conditions and circumstances are intimately known to them; and if they can be encouraged to raise funds for this purpose and disburse them at discretion, every encouragement should be afforded them. The funds they raise in this way are essentially for the purpose of doing justice to their own people. If these local bodies have the confidence of the locality and the confidence of the Minister - and if, as they will be for the most part, they are composed of well-known men who are entitled to confidence- they may be trusted to deal with those funds in meeting the individual circumstances of those whom they desire to benefit, without any restriction such as that now proposed. The funds raised for the immediate purposes of the Act are a different matter, and must be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the Act ; but in the case of local funds for local individuals, . the Local Committees ought to have the widest discretion.
– As an illustration, I may say that in my own district we assisted an Imperial soldier out of our local funds. That we should not be able to do under the clause before us.
– I am in full sympathy with that most appropriate illustration. On the second reading I stressed the desirability of provision being made in Australia for Imperial soldiers, with the object of encouraging them to settle here amongst the men with whom they have fought side by side. This, we recognise, is an Imperial matter; and such settlement is most desirable from many points of view.
– I am afraid the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) takes rather a restricted view of the effect and purpose of the amendment. The Act provides that Local Committees shall have power to raiser- control, and disburse funds within their districts. The intention of the regulations is that grants on a uniform basis throughout Australia shall be made to specified persons, but the Local Com.mittees which are charged with the working out of the scheme may, if they so desire, raise funds to supplement, by local effort, what the Commonwealth is doing. The clause under consideration aims at defining more clearly and specifically the persons who may be benefited by the Local Committees referred to in section 12. The intention is that section 12, sub-section 2, shall read -
Subject to the regulations, a local committee shall have power to raise and control funds for the district for which they are appointed, and to disburse those funds within that district for the granting of assistance and benefit to any of the classes of persons specified in paragraphs a, b,c, and d of section 22 of this Act, or for any other purpose prescribed by the regulations.
The persons specified originally are being extended by clause 17. The Bill has the effect of widening the area of relief, and the amendment now before the Committee simply says that funds raised by the Local Committees may be expended over that area of persons.
– Does the amendment enable the Local Committees to deal with any eases that are not specifically set out in the Act and in clause 6 of this Bill?
– No. The original Act intended that the money raised by the Local Committees should be used only for the purpose of supplementing the benefits to be conferred by the Commonwealth upon the classes of persons mentioned in the Act.
– Then the Government tell the local people what they are to do with their own money.
– No. The Local Committees are constituted only for the purposes of the Act, and those purposes are to confer certain benefits upon specified classes of persons.
– Would Local Committees be prohibited from raising any money for an Imperial soldier?
– The scheme of repatriation is intended only to benefit Australian soldiers and their dependants.
– Is it intended to prevent Australian people subscribing money to enable Imperial soldiers to come to Australia?
– We are considering merely a Repatriation Act for the benefit of Australian soldiers. If the Local Committee desire to give relief that is not contemplated by the Act, they must apply to the Minister for permission to raise funds.
– Why should they?
– Because they are constituted only for the purposesof the Act, which is the conferring of benefits on Australian soldiers or their dependants, as defined.
– Would the Act prevent the Local Committee raising money to build a home for a woman not otherwise provided for in the Act?
– Not for the woman if she is in the specified classes.
– But suppose that she is not a specified person.
– The Bill does not specify persons, but classes of persons.
– No provision is made in the Act to give financial assistance to an unmarried soldier. Therefore, the Local Committee would have no power to raise money for an unmarried soldier.
– The Local Committees may grant benefits and assistance to any person who is a discharged soldier.
– If the Minister gives a direct ruling ‘that the Local Committee may provide for any of the persons specified in the Act in any other than the specified manner, I am satisfied. But if they are limited to a supplementation of the assistance conferred by the Act, there will be an undue interference with local feeling.
– I think that the Local Committees might do what the honorable member suggests, so long as it is for the benefit and assistance of any of the persons specified.
– But that would not enable them to assist an Imperial soldier.
– No. The original Act does not intend that the Committees should assist anybody but Australian soldiers or their dependants, as defined. If, apart from the carrying out of the purposes of the Act, people desire to give other voluntary assistance, they must apply to the Minister for permission to raise the necessary money.
– When we are using our own money we want a free hand.
– Where Local Committees are operating this scheme, it is better that the benefits they confer should be restricted to the persons mentioned in the Act. Regulation 26 empowers Local Committees “ to do all such other things as the Local Committee considers beneficial to soldiers and their dependants.” And “soldier” is defined by the Act to include Australian soldiers, sailors, nurses, &c., or any Australian resident who has served during the present war in the Naval or Military Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions.
– Under this proposed amendment of the principal Act, will not the benefits of all local funds, whether privately subscribed or otherwise, be limited to the beneficiaries under the Act?
– It is intended that they shall be empowered to collect for the benefit of the persons mentioned in the Act.
– That is altogether too narrow.
– The intention of the original section was to encourage the raising of funds to supplement those provided for the benefit of these persons. I do not think it was intended that such funds should be raised for, say, Imperial soldiers or persons not connected with our Forces.
– The Government cannot prevent the people of any particular district from doing what they like for any soldier.
– Local Committees can raise funds for any purpose related to the war, provided that they obtain permission to do so. We say, in effect, that Committees formed to carry out this law may have liberty to raise and expend funds for the benefit of persons intended to be benefited by the Act; but funds for certain other purposes cannot be raised without the permission of the authorities. A controlling power exists to-day. It is already provided in the original Act that no person shall, without the permission in writing of the Commission or a State Board, invite subscriptions or organize a scheme for raising money for the repatriation of soldiers, and, under this Bill, that provision is extended to funds for any purpose related to the war.
– So that if a Local Committee desired to raise funds to assist a British soldier who had come out to Australia, it would not be allowed to do so.
– It would have toobtain the permission of the Minister or the State Board.
– Why should that be necessary?
– Because there must be some supervision over the raising of funds for war purposes. An enormous burden is cast upon the community. Large sums are being raised by way of taxation and loan, for various war purposes, and there are also the funds raised for the Red Cross, soldiers’ comforts, and so forth. There is a limit to the power of the community to subscribe in this way, and surely its efforts should be organized in order that the best results may be obtained.
– But, unfortunately, this prohibition does not apply to all funds. Local Committees can raise funds for all sorts of purposes, without the consent of the Minister; yet they are not to bepermitted to raise funds to help a British soldier.
– The honorable member has probably in mind theposition of a private organization anxious to raise funds to build a public hall, or some other public convenience; but I think he will admit that it is right that funds forwar purposes should be under control.
– The Act prohibits the raising of funds by outside bodies for repatriation purposes. Is there not a War Precautions Regulation prohibiting the collection of funds without the approval of the State Council ?
– There is a regulation dealing with the subject,
– This will override all such provisions.
– The clause deals generally with the raising of funds for patriotic purposes, or in relation to the war.
– There is in force a regulation which prohibits the raising of funds for purposes that might come into conflict with patriotic funds.
– The patriotic funds are regulated at the present time by the State War Councils. There is a limitation as to the raising of funds. Regulation 13 of the War Precautions Regulations provides it. It will not be found that this provision restricts the fair and legitimate operation of Local Committees. As a matter of fact, the Local Committees deserve every encouragement and assistance, and are essentially a part of the whole scheme of repatriation. They give to the operations of the Act’ that personal touch of human sympathy which is so essential to success. A grant of money is often a cold and formal operation,and human sympathy is not infrequently more to a man than any monetary consideration. This clause will put the whole system on an organized working basis.
– Is there any limitation to the number of returned soldiers who may be on these Committees?
– No. Local Committees may be as large as desired. From those
Local Committees an executive of seven members is to be appointed, and we provide that two shall be Government nominees. Since Government funds are to be administered, it is only reasonable that we should have some representation.
.- It seems to me that the passing of this clause will have an effect which is not generally appreciated by honorable members, and of which the country will not approve. Shortly put, it means that no fund that could be described as being intended for war purposes couldbe raised without the special consent of the Minister, unless it was to be applied to beneficiaries under the Act.
– Local Committees outside the Act will have power to raise funds for such purposes. Any such Committee outside these statutory Local Committees who desire to raise funds for patriotic or war purposes will require to obtain special permission from the Commission or the State Board.
– Let me put before the Committee a case with which I was intimately connected some two or three years ago. An Imperial soldier, Gunner Smith, arrived in New South Wales with a wife and five children, and shortly after there was another addition to his family. He was practically stranded, and a subscription was opened to obtain for him and his family a block of land, so that they would not have to beg on the streets. It seems to me that if this clause were adopted, it would not be possible f or any one, without the consent of the Minister, to raise 6d. for a man so situated. A considerable sum was raised for Gunner Smith and his family. A very talented young lady, Miss Dorothy Gordon, daughter of my friend, Mr. W. A. Gordon, of Sydney, arranged a concert to augment the Gunner Smith fund, and raised £132 for the purpose. If this clause were agreed to, such a concert could not be held without the permission of the Minister. On the other hand, the people of any district who desired to build a picture theatre, or to provide a public park or bowling green, could get up concerts or other entertainments to raise funds for the purpose without obtaining this permission.
– It could be done all over the country. The passing of this clause will place many people in a most invidious position. People should be able to get up subscriptions for a British soldier without the consent of the Minister. If that cannot be done without the consent of the Minister, no one in Australia should he able to get up concerts for other purposes without his consent. If the meaning of the clause is what I think it is, I shall do all that I can to prevent it from being passed.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is under a misapprehension. Under the War Precautions Regulations, it is necessary to get the consent of some Minister before you can build a hall, or raise money for any purpose whatever.
– That is another matter. The honorable member was talking about patriotic efforts.
– He was complaining that persons are allowed to get up concerts and entertainments for public purposes without having to get the permission of the Minister, but that under the Bill they must get permission for such efforts when they have in view the raising of money for patriotic or war purposes. There would be a good deal in the objection of the honorable member if the position were as he states it ; but it is not. I take it that this and the subsequent clause will confine the purposes for which the permission must be obtained to legitimate war and patriotic purposes.
– Any one who wishes to. raise money for funds for patriotic purposes, or for purposes relating to the war, must get permission from the Commission or from a State Board.
– That provision does not affect the regulations dealing with other efforts.
– If there are any regulations for other collections the other regulations will still apply.
– The Bill imposes a restriction only in regard to efforts connected with patriotic objects and objects arising out of the war. The restriction is a wise one, and it is a pity that it was not imposed earlier.
-Formerly it was necessary under a War Precautions Regulation to obtain the consentof a State War Council.
– Those regulations are of very late date.
– It is nearly two years since they were passed.
– Prior to the framing of those War Precautions Regulations, an enormous amount of money was raised, and it was found necessary to give to the public some guarantee regarding the proper disposal of it, and to provide for the inspection of accounts. I quite approve of the restriction for which the Bill provides. The applications which have been made to the public have been too widespread. There have been too many funds, too many appeals, and too many methods, and many regrettable experiences could be recounted. Anything which will limit the appeals to the public, and will concentrate them on legitimate purposes, guaranteeing that the collections are for proper purposes, and that the money will be devoted wholly to patriotic and war objects, will be of advantage to the public.
– Wait until we get to clause 16.
– That provides for the permission about which the honorable member for Grampians complains. The regulations which he thinks do not apply still continue to have force.
.- I ask the Minister a question. If an Australian girl who was a nurse marries a British soldier who is wounded and comes out here with her, will the public be debarred by the Bill from giving him any assistance ? Is there any chance that the Minister or any public body may refuse permission to local people to collect funds for such a case ?
– I do not think that permission ought to be refused in such a case. We cannot, however, provide for individual cases. The Bill applies only to those persons who come within the scope of our legislation. I have mentioned the various classes of persons to be benefited. If any one wishes to give assistance by raising funds to any persons not within those classes, he will have to get permission from the State Board. If a British soldier who has come here is in distress, it will not be a breach of the law for a private person to assist him.
– Suppose a concert were got up to help him.
– That could not be done without permission.
– Permission would be required for any organized effort to raise funds for helping such persons.
– Would any responsible body refuse such permission?
– I do not think so.
– But permission would have to be obtained.
– Yes; of course, there would be nothing to prevent a few private individuals from helping such a man as I have spoken of ; but if an appeal were made to the public to form a fund, permission would have to be applied for. It is not advisable that there should be set up repatriation schemes to compete with the Commonwealth scheme. We are making an organized effort to deal fairly and legitimately with all the beneficiaries whom I have named, and we are legislating to require all who wish to raise further contributions for patriotic or war purposes to get permission to do so. But if a Local Committee raises money, it has absolute unlimited discretion as to its expenditure. The Local Committees can grant benefits and assistance in any way they like, so long as their grants are restricted to the classes of persons coming under our legislation. Whether they shall give a home, or set a man up in business, or do anything else, are matters within their discretion entirely.
– A Local Committee can please itself as to how much it shall give to each case ?
– So long as the person to whom the gift is made belongs to a class coming within the Act.
– Yes. The Minister, of course, would be inclined to discourage the selection of individuals, and. to encourage the adoption of principles.
– But there is nothing to stop it.
– We used to be told that every soldier must be treated exactly alike - that there must be no discrimination.
– The regulations conferring benefits and assistance will be uniform throughout Australia. We must lay down the principles on which help is to be granted by the Commonwealth, and they must apply uniformly throughout the Commonwealth. But, no matter how we try- to strive for uniformity, we shall have diversity in the cases to be dealt with. There will be a man without an arm, another without an eye, a third who is capable of a little effort, but not much, and so on. An effort has been made to classify those for whom we consider it proper to provide relief.
.- ‘ When I first commented on the amendment I was afraid that it limited the discretion of Local Committees in the disposal of their funds, and I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister that it does not do so. But it is abundantly clear that the funds raised by the Local Committees may be used only for the benefit of beneficiaries under the Act. Let me illustrate some hard cases which will be thus created. The Local Committees will have two sets of funds to administer. As advisory bodies in connexion with the Commonwealth scheme they will be largely responsible for the expenditure of the money provided by the Commonwealth Government, and they will also be responsible for the expenditure of the money raised locally. They will not be able, however, to deal with the case of a mother whose son has fallen at the Front and whose husband has deserted her, nor with the case of a wife whose husband, having gone to the Front, has not returned to her. Such persons, not being beneficiaries under the Act, cannot be assisted by the Local Committees, either with Hie Commonwealth money or with the funds that ‘they have collected locally. I hope that the discretion of the Local Committees may be widened. It is quite right to limit the distribution of the Commonwealth money to the beneficiaries coming under the Act, but local funds, which are the result of local effort, should be spent as the Local Committees think best, so long as the expenditure is incidental to the war. A Local Committee should be able to meet such a case as that of a needy Imperial soldier. The Minister says that permission could be obtained to raise funds for . the assistance of a particular soldier; but it will be impossible in the working of the Act for the Local Committees to apply for permission for every case that will arise. I hope that the Government will not fetter the Committees at all. They should have the absolute disposal of the money, which, 30 to speak, has come to them on an assessment of the local conscience, which has been raised locally to supplement the Commonwealth grant. The establishment of these local funds will promote generosity. One mau will help with cash, another, perhaps, will be ready to hand over a piece of land for the benefit of a returned man. It may be that the man whom it is desired to help is an Imperial soldier. The distribution of the local funds, no matter who the beneficiary may be, should be left wholly to the Local Committee. We do not want to see two or three Local Committees appointed for the assistance of the deserving cases that will arise. I hope that the Minister will accept an amendment giving to the Local Committees entire discretion in the distribution of the locally raised money. They are now empowered, under regulation 26a, to raise funds for distribution at their discretion for the benefit of soldiers or their dependants. That limits the persons to whom they can grant assistance.
– A slight alteration would do what the honorable member desires.
– But we have no power to lay a finger on the regulations. Certainly Ave may disallow them, but the effect of doing so would merely be to hold up the work of repatriation. We cannot vary them. It is difficult to frame an amendment to meet my wishes, and as there is no one more disposed to help the soldier than the Minister is, I sincerely hope that he will draft one for me. If not, I hope that lie will promise to recommit this clause, so that in the meantime we may have the opportunity of drafting an amendment. I cannot see what holds him back from . agreeing to my request. If it meant the imposition of a new burden on the Commonwealth, or if it meant upsetting the uniformity of the regulations, exception might be taken to it, but I am merely asking for power to remove a responsibility from the Commonwealth. One thing that has prompted localities, to donate money for the assistance of returned men and their dependants is the right that each locality has had to spend the money collected. The procedure has been to circulate an individual appeal and to appoint a committee to work up united efforts. As funds are drawn out and distributed, they are kept up by means of bazaars and entertainments. One thing which induces people to continue in this good work is the fact that they realize that they are assisting men whom they have urged to go to the war. I ask the Minister to frame an amendment to meet the case.
– I am prepared to submit the honorable member’s request to the Minister for his consideration, but I cannot at present see how he can accept the proposition.
– Will the Minister agree to recommit the clause?
– The honorable member for Wannon is entitled to move for the recommittal of the clause if he chooses to do so.
– I would like to have the opportunity of doing so after the Minister has consulted his colleague.
– It must not be taken that my suggestion is an admission that I must accept the honorable member’s proposal.
– Can I get the Minister’s promise that he will recommit the clause ?
– I will advise the honorable member as to the proper time at which he should move himself for the recommittal of the clause.
– Is it a considered policy that has made the Government amend the Act in this way?
– I have set out specifically what the clause is intended to do, that is to cover the collection of funds for the purpose of the Act. The clause merely specifies in particular words what I understand the original Act intended.
– Surely local bodies should be permitted to distribute funds locally raised, so long as they are not disbursed among the wrong class of persons. I am quite sure that when the proper time comes honorable members will ask for the recommittal of the clause.
– The honorable member for Wannon has made out a good case. Personally, I do not care for local funds, because they have the effect of giving better treatment to soldiers in some parts of Australia than is given to men in other parts; but if we are to have local funds - and the principal Act provides for them - I cannot see what policy is behind the decision of the Minister not to allow them to be applied as the people who subscribe them wish them to be. One difficulty in connexion with the relief of dependants is the matter of defining who are “dependants,” and in the attempt to make general rules, injustice may be done to small sections of people who ought to be relieved if they are in distressful circumstances. If local people who come in contact with such cases are prepared to subscribe money for them, I think that the Government should rather welcome that assistance than seek to prevent its being given. Every honorable member must have had experience of some peculiar case which might make bad law if a general principle were laid down to deal with it, but which ought to be relieved if it is possible to do so without bringing in other people who ought not to benefit by it. What object can the Government have in attempting to prevent local people from helping an Imperial soldier? If Local Committees wish to help any soldier who has fought during the war on the side of the Allies, they should not be prevented from doing so if funds are raised in the district for that purpose. There is no tendency on the part of any locality to put money at the disposal of a Committee unless a good case is made out for the people who need the assistance. A striking case has to be made out before the public will advance funds, and where such cases exist the Government ought not to step in and attempt to prevent help being given. With the object of getting some definite decision on the matter, and in order to avoid the risk of recommittal being refused when honorable members may not be in the chamber, I feel inclined to move an amendment to strike out the words “ any of the classes of persons specified in paragraphs a, b, c, and d of section 22 of this Act.”
– I ask the honorable member not to move any amendment. He seems to imagine that the Bill is intended to interfere with all sorts of local funds. The object of a repatriation measure is to constitute an organization for the assistance of repatriated soldiers. Part of that organization is the system of Local Committees, which are endowed with the power of raising funds for the purpose of granting additional benefits to the persons covered by the Act. The object of the measure is not to constitute committees for the purpose of collecting funds for all kinds of purposes. One honorable member has suggested that funds might be collected for the purpose of assisting Imperial soldiers. Another honorable member would assist distant relatives of soldiers. Still another honorable member might seek to raise funds for the purpose of building a club house for returned soldiers. The Act lays down rules for the organization of a Repatriation Department to grant certain assistance to soldiers, and it defines the area over which that assistance can be spread. It may be a very laudable object to help an Imperial soldier - I am not saying a word against it - but that is not the purpose for which the Act was passed. We are not asking for Local Committees tobe appointed for that purpose. We are asking them to administer the provisions of the Act, and if they consider that our grants are not sufficient for the persons under their jurisdiction they will have power to raise extra money for that purpose.
– It is all right for the Government to deal with their own money under their own schemes.
– If the Local Committees take on themselves extraordinary functions, they will go beyond the scope of the Bill. We must have method.
– Why should you prevent them ?
– Because the Act is intended for the repatriation of soldiers and those specified in the Bill.
– But it is not a Bill to prevent other people being benefited.
– No ; but the Bill is not intended to benefit other people.
– It prevents the Local Committees from benefiting other soldiers.
– All it does is to provide an organization for assisting persons whom we have decided to assist, and honorable members are trying to superimpose the collection of moneys to assist persons other than thosecontemplated by the measure.
– Does the Bill prevent any previously constituted local body, which may have collected, say, £3,000, from bestowing that money on whom they like?
– The trust relating to moneys previously collected will remain, but subsequently the administration must be under the Bill. We are dealing with future moneys.
– Could a local body with £3,000 in hand now give that to whom it chose?
– I should like to know the conditions of the trust before expressing an opinion. This Bill is intended to lay down a system of administration for funds collected under it, and I ask honorable members not to . overburden the scheme. Repatriation will be big enough, and require money enough, in itself. I have no desire to restrict the exercise of human sympathy, but we must keep our minds definitely on a concrete practical measure.
– What is to be done in the case of moneys already collected?
– Whatever trusts in law there are in that respect, I think, should remain ; but that is another matter. Honorablemembers contend that these Committees should be constituted with power to collect money, and to expend it on any class of persons whom they think fit.
-No other committee will be allowed to collect money.
– That is not the amendment. The desire of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is that the Local Committees shall have power to expend money for the benefit of persons other than those specified in the Bill.
– Their own money.
– And that the Committees shall have power tocollect money for any such purposes they may select. In that wide and unrestricted form the amendment cannot be considered. If anything of the kind is attempted, it should be restricted - outside The persons specified in the Bill - to some relatives of returned, incapacitated, or deceased soldiers.
– There are many soldiers whom we cannot help - who could not make use of assistance, though they have immediate relatives who could.I shall say no more than that.
– Wives and children are, to some extent, covered by the Bill, and I take it that the desire is to include the case of a foster mother, who has been mentioned.
– A case has been mentioned of a mother dependent on a son, because the ‘father, though a hale and hearty person, will not maintain her.
– A mother whose son has fallen.
– That takes us into an exceedingly difficult area, and practically places on the Repatriation Department the obligation to take the place of what is a legal liability under the State law. A man must support his wife.
– The responsibility is’ assumed locally.
– The honorable member desires to relieve the deserter of responsibility by supporting the mother out of repatriation funds. I have been thinking the matter over, but I cannot see how such cases can be met without leaving the door open to abuse.
– The proposal now made is limited to relief in war cases.
– Still the door is left open to abuse, and at present I am not inclined to accept any amendment. I ask honorable members not to. propose anything impracticable.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7J/.5 p.m.
– I have consulted the Minister for Repatriation in regard to the suggestions that have been made, and his view is very much the same as that which I have put before the Committee. He does not consider it advisable that we should attempt to widen the scope of the Act. It is true that honorable members propose to deal with money raised by the Local Committees, but those Committees are working for and in behalf of the general scheme.
– Their hands are tied.
– Their hands are not tied. They are empowered to do certain specified things. Honorable members desire them to do things which are outside the scope of the Act. .
– Only nominally.
– The purpose of the scheme is to assist the classes of persons which are designated in the Act. Local Committees are to be constituted with a view to assisting in the administration, and they are also empowered to raise funds to supplement the grants that are made under the Act, with the provision, however, that the funds so raised be applied to the assistance or benefit of the classes of persons specified. There is no limitation on their power of spending the money. The regulations limit the nature of the grants that can be made by the Commonwealth authorities, but not the nature of any assistance that may be given by the Local Committee out of local funds to the persons specified. Honorable members have urged a limited extension of the Act. The Minister desires to see the Act in operation, and to judge its results, but he has promised to take into consideration one of the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) - ‘that of a mother whose husband nas deserted her, and who was dependent upon a deceased or incapacitated soldier. The Minister regards that proposal as well worthy of consideration. The object of the Act is to secure, as far as possible, uniformity; but if different committees were assisting different persons in different ways, there would soon be a complaint, “ In some other districts certain benefits can be obtained, but in this district they cannot.”
– Does the Minister think that a returned soldier would shift to the districts which gave the greatest benefits ?
– No; but I am pointing out the discontent that will be created on the part of relatives.
– The Government ask the Local Committees to limit their activities to the beneficiaries under the Act.
– What we say is that the Committees formed under the authority of the Act shall apply the local funds which they raise for the benefit of the classes of persons specified in the Act.
– Will the Government allow other committees to raise money?
– The Act provides that if any other authority wishes to raise funds for patriotic purposes, or in relation with the war, they must get the permission of the Minister.
– Then the Act does go beyond the scope of repatriation if it takes cognisance of such funds.
– It does not take cognisance of the funds, beyond saying that permission must be given to collect funds in certain cases.
– Nor does the Act affect other committees which are formed outside its scope.
– No; beyond requiring them to get the permission of the Minister to collect money for patriotic or war purposes. There will be voluntary organizations formed independent of the Act,. but they may collect money only with the approval of the Minister. At the present time, they must get the approval of the State War Council.
– Should not the principle of the Act in regard to patriotic funds apply in the other direction of having only the one Committee to handle all classes of relief?
– No; the Act constituted these Committees with definite powers and jurisdiction, and it is better that they should do the work which they were appointed, to do rather than that they should have power to engage in activities which are not strictly within the scope of the Act. Honorable members have expressed a desire that Imperial soldiers should benefit by the funds that may be raised by the Local Committees. Not very many of those men are likely to come to Australia. Of course, we shall welcome all who do come, but they are excluded from the benefits of the Act.
– But they are included in all the State Repatriation Acts.
– They are not. Some of the States will have nothing to do with Imperial soldiers.
– They are included in all the State Acts now.
– At the Repatriation Conference some of the States did not agree to include Imperial soldiers; and for that reason the scheme did not come into operation uniformly. Moreover, the State Act is limited to land settlement. This Federal Act deals with everythingbut land, settlement, therefore Imperial soldiers are outside its scope. I ask honorable members to realize that we are starting a big scheme which will involve the country in enormous expenditure, and that every extension will lead to further extensions. I suggest that the scheme should be allowed to operate for a time; then, if defects or injustices are disclosed, the Minister will endeavour to remedy them. It is very easy to open wide the doors at this stage, but if later we find that the doors are too wide, and we try to stop the flood of expenditure, we shall find ourselves in difficulties.
– But the Government are closing by this Act the doors that were opened by the State War Council.
– We are laying down a Federal scheme for which we are responsible, and which will involve heavy expenditure.
– What honorable members are proposing will not involve Government money.
– Not at present. I warn honorable members that if we extend the Act in the direction suggested, and some districts grant relief that is not now con templated in the Act, there will soon follow an agitation that the Commonwealth should undertake the whole work, and treat all districts alike. This scheme has been carefully considered by the Minister, who throughout has acted in a very generous and sympathetic way. He has no desire to unduly limit the benefit of the Act; on the contrary, he would like to grant even greater benefits than the Act contemplates. But we must be. limited by the exigencies of the financial situation. I ask honorable members not to press the amendment.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), having exhausted his right to speak on this amendment, has requested me to formulate and move the following amendment -
That the following words be added to paragraph (6) : - “ and for the granting of assistance and benefits to any person who lias enlisted in, or fought with, the British Imperial, the Australian Imperial, or the British Dominion Forces in the present war, or to any relative or dependant of such person.”
I hope that when I have explained the amendment the objection of the Minister will disappear. The amendment does not attempt to deal with the Government funds raised for repatriation purposes, and administered by the machinery created by the Act. It applies only to those funds raised voluntarily in a district by local effort.
– Have not the local Repatriation Committees such a power at the present time?
– Under the clause as it stands, they would not have that power. This amendment is designed to give Local Committees the power to assist Imperial and other soldiers of the Empire in circumstances such as those mentioned by the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), as well as to assist the mothers of returned soldiers.
– There are cases where it might be thought wise to grant assistance to the mothers of returned soldiers rather than to the men themselves.
– Quite so. There are many cases in respect of which Local Committees, by reason of their special knowledge, should have the power to assist in settling such soldiers on the land. The Minister will surely recognise that such assistance would be outside the local administration of Government funds, and would be confined to cases incidental to’ the war and to soldiers of either the Mother Country or the British Dominions. This is, therefore, a British Empire proposal. Where Imperial soldiers have come to Australia, and their interests have become those of the districts in which they have settled, it is surely reasonable that Local Committees should have power to help them.
– What would be the responsibility of the Government in such cases 1
– None whatever. The Minister has explained that it is proposed by this clause to so amend the Act as to give the State Boards control of patriotic funds. That is only incidental to the Act, and is not part and parcel of its objects. It is a slight departure from the purpose of the Act designed to provide for the proper control of patriotic funds, and it would be absurd to go outside these Local Committees, and to require new committees to be formed to assist those who, although directly or indirectly connected, with the war, were not members of the Australian Imperial Force. The amendment is strictly and rigidly limited, so that the Minister can without hesitation accept what, after all, is only a nominal departure from the object he has in view. Numerous cases showing the necessity for such an amendment have been cited, and
I trust the Minister will agree to my proposal.
– Supposing these people and their relatives or dependants were to flock here from all parts of the British Empire.
– Ho responsibility is cast upon the Local Committees by this amendment. , We simply propose to give them the power to exercise their discretion.
– And there is the safeguard that if any Local Committee unduly enlarged its operations it would soon exhaust its funds.
– Quite so. These funds are voluntarily raised, and the whole matter of assisting such people will be within the discretion of the Local Committees.
.- It does not appear to be recognised by those who have not followed the whole of this discussion that the amendment does not provide for the expenditure of any Government funds in assisting those to whom it is to apply. It is simply to give generous and charitable people power to raise funds to assist, or to spend their own money in assisting, British soldiers to settle upon the lands of Australia. Some two years ago Sir Rider Haggard visited Australia, with the object of arousing interest in a project to settle British soldiers, after the war, on the spare lands of the Empire. I accompanied him in his travels through three of the States, and know that he opened up communications with each of the State Governments. Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia agreed to include British soldiers in the whole of their land settlement schemes, while Queensland decided that there should he power by proclamation to include them in its land settlement scheme. In January, 1917, a Conference, attended, with one exception, by, all the State Premiers, and also by the State Ministers for Lands and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), was held under the presidency of .Sir Alexander Peacock. The Minister in charge of the Bill is under a misapprehension as to what happened at that Conference.
– I have before me the official report.
– If I had time to examine it, I could prove that the honorable gentleman is under a misapprehension in regard to what was done at that Conference. This point was strongly pressed by the Prime Minister, but Mr. Ashford, Minister for Lands in New South Wales, said he did not think that his State would be able to provide sufficient funds to permit of the inclusion of British soldiers in its land settlement scheme. All the other States agreed to the proposal, and before the Conference closed Mr. Ashford practically withdrew his objection to it. It was a case of hands across the sea, so far as the States were concerned. The Commonwealth Government alone is withholding its hand.
– That is not the position.
– That may not be its intention, but unless this amendment be made that will be the effect of the clause. There may be some doubt as to the attitude of New South Wales, but practically the whole of the States are prepared to throw open their land settlement schemes to Imperial, as well as Australian, soldiers. They are prepared to assist British soldiers to settle on their land, knowing that, after the war, Canada, the United States of America, and the Argentine will bid highly for them. ‘ They want these soldiers to add to their populations, and to become the fathers of future generations. Many such soldiers will wish to come to Australia, and if they could get assistance under our repatriation scheme they would make every endeavour to come here with their families.
– The honorable member is going’ beyond the scope of the amendment.
– I regret that I have done so. I say, with particular reference to the amendment, and to the clause, that means must be found for assisting these most desirable immigrants to settle on our land. We have been told that it is impossible for the Commonwealth to provide funds for the purpose, because the financial demands that will foe made upon it in connexion with the repatriation of our own soldiers will be too great to prevent us from providing for any others. The amendment, however, seeks to allow generous individuals to subscribe towards the cost of settling on the land deserving, persons who are not Australians.
– When Gunner Smith wanted assistance, there was not much money forthcoming.
– His was a typical case. He arrived in Sydney, with his wife and five small children - subsequently a sixth was born - -under the impression that the New South Wales Government was providing farms for British soldiers. He was a British soldier who had been invalided. He reached Sydney with little or no money. Practically every fund there was was applied to for assistance, but none could be granted. Private subscriptions had to be obtained to buy him a house and land. If the Bill becomes law as it stands, it will be impossible for private persons to help an Imperial soldier so placed, unless the consent of the Minister has first been obtained. The Minister has made it clear that no committee may. under the Bill, raise funds for the relief of any but the beneficiaries provided for by our repatriation legislation.
– The object of the Bill is to regulate, not to prevent, the raising of money for patriotic purposes, and for purposes connected with the war generally.
– Would any Minister prevent the doing of what the honorable member refers to?
– Why should it be necessary to obtain the consent of a Minister? Our Ministers have very onerous duties to perform, and are exceedingly busy men, so that they cannot deal immediately with any matter that is put before them. A man and his children might be begging in the street before Ministerial sanction could be obtained for efforts towards his relief. In any province of Canada, the Australian soldier, if he likes to settle there, will be given the same treatment as a soldier from New Brunswick, British Columbia, or elsewhere, and the six States of Australia have endeavoured to reciprocate with other parts of the Empire in the matter of providing for the settlement of soldiers of the Empire. But the Commonwealth Government has bolted and barred the door against soldiers other than Australian soldiers, by providing that Commonwealth money shall not be expended in assisting any but Australian soldiers, and it is now.- closing up every crevice by providing that no organization or committee shall be allowed to collect funds to assist British soldiers to settle on land in Australia. I do not say that that is the intention of the Government; but it is the effect of its legislation. I trust that the Committee will insist upon the reconsideration of the whole matter, and will support the amendment.
.- One must have a good deal of sympathy with those who support the amendment; but in these matters we must go cautiously. We all desire, not only to repatriate the Australian soldiers, but also to assist all the soldiers who have been fighting for our cause. Our first duty, however, is to our own soldiers. When the war is over, we shall probably have thousands of men returning every month, until we get them, all back, and it will be difficult enough to provide avenues for their employment. I do not think that a hard-and-fast rule should be made to prevent outside bodies from raising funds for patriotic purposes, but it is right that the Local Committees under the repatriation- scheme shall be required to apply the moneys that they raise to augment the Government grants for the assistance of our own soldiers and their dependants. If they were unfettered in regard to the distribution of locally-raised money, and there was a big influx of British soldiers before we could get our own men properly placed, it might happen that all their money would be absorbed in assisting settlers from other parts of the world, and the Commonwealth would then have to bear the whole cost of repatriating its own soldiers. It is thought that after the war there will be a big influx of British soldiers, and, naturally, the Local Committees would endeavour to do what they could to place these men on the land. But the result might be that they would then have no money to augment the Commonwealth grants. We shall find it difficult, in any case, to provide a sufficient sum to carry this scheme into effect. Our income taxation will have to be doubled or trebled, and money must be obtained from the wealthy by other means as well.
– The amendment merely gives to the Local Committees the power to deal at discretion with their own moneys.
– My point is that the money collected by the Local Committees may be wholly used in assisting soldiers who are not Australian soldiers, and that this will throw the whole burden of the repatriation scheme on the Commonwealth.
– The amendment enables the Local Committees to spend money for the assistance of persons other than the beneficiaries mentioned in the Bill.
– I shall” refer to that effect of the proposal. I admit it. No one is more sympathetic than I am towards those who have fought for the Allies’ cause, and I will do all I can to assist them; but there is one omission which we should rectify before we attempt to assist those who are not our own citizens. I refer to Australians who have enlisted in the Armies of our Allies. I understand that Australians who enlist in. the Forces of Great Britain or any of the Dominions are to be treated as members of the Australian Imperial Force under this measure; but there are many Australians who have enlisted in the American Army for whom provision should be made. I do not know whether the naturalization laws may interfere, but I ask the Minister to consider the point, in order to make the Act apply to all Australians, whether they enlist in the British Forces or in the Forces of our Allies.
While it is necessary to have some controlling authority in regard to patriotic efforts, we may be interfering too much. It will always be found, in country districts, that a dozen or a score of persons do all the work in connexion with patriotic movements. I know several districts which have been working steadily towards the erection of monuments ‘for the lads who have died in fighting for our cause. They have collected a few hundred pounds, and, by promoting sports meetings, concerts, and various kinds of entertainments, have been making steady progress towards the ultimate object of raising several thousands of pounds ; but now, unless they can get permission from the State War Council, they are not allowed to raise any further moneys for that object. When we begin to interfere with these local efforts, there will be a tendency to sour those people who have been devoting their efforts to the particular causes they have at heart. I quite admit that, in our anxiety to prevent the misuse of patriotic funds, and undue attempts to raise moneys for different purposes, it might have been deemed necessary to issue regulations under the “War Precautions Act with that end in view, especially seeing that we have to face the money market from time to time for the purpose of raising war loans; but there should be some elasticity in the administration of those regulations, so that permission may be obtained by local bodies to continue the good work which they have already in hand.
I hope that it is desired that assistance shall be given to all soldiers who have enlisted and fought in Allied countries; but, before that is done, we should look after our own people. We find that, when our men have married abroad, their wives have not been able to get a separation allowance. Such things do not tend to help recruiting. At the first blush, I was inclined to support the honorable member’s amendment; but, taking everything into consideration, and realizing the necessity for making ample provision for our men when they return before we can take on a bigger contract, I am afraid that I cannot give it the support which I was at first inclined to give. When we have our own men settled, and further avenues of employment are opened up, we may be justified in bringing others to Australia; but, until Ave do so, we are not justified in extending assistance to them. If we do what honorable members suggest, and our own men find, on their return, that they cannot secure employment, they will naturally complain of others being brought out here and assisted into positions. The best thing we can do is to devote our attention to finding employment for our own brave lads after they return, and if we have any vacancies afterwards, we shall be only too pleased to invite others to come here.
– If the amendment is made to apply only to Australian soldiers and dependants, will the honorable member be satisfied with it?
– I was going to suggest the deletion of the words “dependants” and “relations.” If that is done I shall support the amendment, sincerely hoping that the Minister will concede the point desired by honorable members. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) rather stressed the risks we might undertake by doing what is proposed in the amendment, but the Commonwealth Government are not asked to stake a single penny on the concession asked for. It is only to apply to money raised voluntarily, and if the Government find that any abuse takes place they can always step in and prevent it. Many hundreds of young women have left Australia as nurses. Some of them have been away for three or four years. If one or more of them have married a British soldier who has become partially incapacitated, it would be extremely hard if, on her coming back to her birthplace with her husband, no aid could be given voluntarily to him by any local body. It would not be British fair play to debar any district from raising money for that purpose, and to compel all the funds raised to go into one source for distribution as the Government direct. If people wish to go outside the taxation which will have to be paid for the repatriation of our own soldiers, and provide money for other purposes, it would be taking away the liberty of the subject to prevent them from doing so. I sincerely hope that the Minister will see his way to concede this slight amendment. ° Mr. Considine. - Should there not be a reciprocal arrangement between the British Government and the Australian Government to eliminate this charity business?
-It is a question of voluntary contribution. Surely men who have worked in Australia, and amassed wealth here, should have the right to expend some of it on soldiers who have been fighting for our liberty ? In any case, I do not think it should be considered to be charity. If I give anything to a soldier in those clrcumstances I would not consider it as charity. I would consider that I waa merely repaying a debt which I owed to him for what he has done for this country and the Empire.
– The virtue of the amendment lies in the fact that it is not antagonistic to the Government scheme, but is supplementary to it. It does not interfere with the
Government proposals. It will not affect the Government funds. It will not take away Government control of the repatriation scheme. It will simply allow Local Committees freedom to supplement their operations by giving assistance to Imperial soldiers, as well as to Australian soldiers. I cannot see why the Government should oppose the amendment. If there is a fountain of charity actuated by a recognition of the value of the services rendered by others than our own soldiers, and if there is a desire to settle them in Australia, it cannot be regarded as being anything which is detrimental to a repatriation scheme applied solely to our own soldiers. The repatriation of our own men must be our first consideration and responsibility, but it will not be minimized by the honorable member’s proposal. Surely there is no reason why, supplementary to our scheme, efforts should not be put forth to assist soldiers from other parts of the Empire.
– The original Act deals with our own soldiers.
– But there is no reason why we should not also hold out a friendly hand to soldiers of other Dominions, from whom we have derived so much benefit during the war, and to whom we are indebted for our security in Australia.
– The original Act did not exclude British soldiers, but this clause does.
– It never included them.
– In Queensland the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act of 1917 provides that -
A “ discharged soldier “ includes any person who has been a member of the Australian Imperial Forces or of any of the Naval or Military Forces of the Commonwealth raised for service in the present war, or has joined the Forces of the United Kingdom during thewar and who has received an honorable discharge. The term may be extended so as to include members of His Majesty’s Forces during the present war from any part of the British Empire or members of the Forces of the Powers in alliance with His Majesty in the present war who have received their discharge before theirarrival in Queensland. The term also includes the dependants of any such soldier in the event of his death before he received his discharge, or at any time within a period of twelve months after he has received an honorable discharge.
So that land settlement legislation in Queensland is wide enough to recognise the duty which we owe, not only to our own people who enlisted in Australia, but to the Australians who enlisted in Great Britain, to the Imperial British soldiers, and to the soldiers of the Allied Powers. This amendment does not pretend to cover all that ground, but it certainly affords us an opportunity to recognise what has been done by Imperial soldiers, and I think there is considerable virtue in it on that account. There is just one other point which I should like to have cleared up. Section 12 of the principal Act empowers Local Committees to raise and control funds and to disburse those funds. Now, later on, I understand the Minister proposes to move an amendment to section 21 of the Act, which will read -
Sufvject to this Act, no person shall, without the approval in writing of the Commission or of a State Board, invite subscriptions or raise money by any means whatsoever for any patriotic fund or any fund in relation to the war.
The doubt which I have in my mind is whether, under that proposal, a Local Committee would have to obtain the requisite permission before it could raise funds for the purposes suggested by the amendment which we are now considering.
– The amendment will give such bodies specific power under the Act to raise fund’s.
– Then, for the purposes of the amendment now before the Committee, Local Committees will not have to obtain permission ?
– Not for the purposes mentioned in the Act.
– If they had to do so, it would practically nullify this amendment, which I think ought to commend itself to the Committee and to the Government.
.- The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has been good enough, not merely to move the amendment on my behalf, but’ to frame it. In it there are- involved two sets of interests, both of which might be placed in jeopardy if they were - linked together. I refer to the., widening of the field of Australian beneficiaries under the Act, and to the inclusion of members of the British Imperial and Dominion’ Imperial Forces. I would be very sorry indeed if the Committee were deprived of an opportunity to decide each of these matters separately. While I am perfectly in sympathy with the extension of the principle we have already adopted, namely, Empire reciprocity, so far as repatriation is concerned, I am of the opinion that the presence of tHe Prime Minister in the Old Country affords a fitting opportunity for him to negotiate upon this matter, not only with the Imperial authorities, hut with the Dominion statesmen who will be represented at the Imperial Conference. We have adopted this principle in our State legislation, which will, of course, be the most costly side of repatriation, because what we are undertaking to do for every individual soldier under this scheme is small, indeed, compared with the obligations which the States themselves have undertaken - an obligation up to a maximum of £2,500. I ask the honorable member for Kooyong either to amend his amendment or to withdraw it, so as to enable some provision like the following to be inserted: - “ The granting of assistance and benefits to any persons who have enlisted or fought with the Australian Imperial Force in the present war, or any relative or dependant of such person..” The Minister may say that the term “ relative “ is too wide.-. If we were providing in the principal Act for any “relative,” the term would be too wide. But where we are merely granting a discretion to the Local Committees, I do not think that it is. Moreover, this discretion will be granted to those bodies without any obligation on their part to pay. Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept the word “relative,” relying upon the wisdom of the Local Committees and the limitation of their funds, to constitute an adequate safeguard against any possible abuse. If the honorable member for Kooyong will withdraw his amendment and move a fresh one in the direction I have indicated, it will afford us an opportunity of extending the scope of the measure, of increasing the number of beneficiaries, and of dealing with the many cases which the principal Act does not cover.
– The amendment outlined by the honorable member would be confined to1 the relatives and dependants of Australian soldiers?
– Yes. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will then be in a position to test the feeling of the Committee on the question of the inclusion of members of the British Imperial an8 Dominion Imperial Forces.
– I ask the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to withdraw the amendment. I am very loath to urge objections which may appear to be in the nature of technical objections. But I emphasized again and again this afternoon that this Bill relates to an Australian soldiers’ repatriation scheme, and that any attempt to include in it an amendment of this character is an .attempt to introduce something which is outside the scope of the measure.
– That is exactly our point. We object to people being prevented frsm subscribing to local funds.
– I ask the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) not to move the amendment he has outlined. The amendment now proposed is really outside the scope of the Bill. I told him before the adjournment for dinner, that if he would afford me . an opportunity I would look into the matte-r and see to what extent it was possible to meet him. I endeavoured, before the suspension of the sitting, to get some guiding principle which would assist me in the drafting of an amendment which would harmonize with the scheme of the> Act. If the honorable member for Kooyong will withdraw his amendment dealing with the Imperial Forces, I will consent to the clause being postponed, with a view to seeing if it is not possible to draft an amendment to give effect tb the intentions of the Committee. But I would remind honorable members that there is a limit beyond which we cannot go, without danger of incorporating in the measure something which is altogether outside its scope. If we adopt the principle that Local Committees may raise funds locally to provide for “ relatives “ or ‘ ‘ dependants ‘ ‘ of returned soldiers—
– “ Relatives “ is too wide a term. It would include all one’s wife’s relations.
– The amendment does not accord with one’s judgment of the fitness of things. If we once incorporate the extension of a principle, it will lead to claims for extension in other directions, and to a certain amount of discontent. If honorable members will allow this clause to be postponed, I shall, in the meantime, endeavour to draft a clause to meet the case.
– I ask leave to withdraw the amendment, on the understanding that the clause is to he postponed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed - That the further consideration of clause 9 be postponed.
– What is the reason for the postponement?
– To give an opportunity to draft a clause to meet the intention of the Committee.
– When the clause is recommitted, shall I have the liberty to move an amendment of which I have given notice?
– The whole clause will then be open for consideration.
– A recommittal of the clause is not necessary. The honorable member will have his opportunity when it is again before the Committee.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clauses 10 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Amendment of section 15).
– Does not the postponement of clause 9 involve also the postponement of this clause?
– No ; this clause deals only with the classes of persons to be benefited.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Improper use of gifts or loans).
.- While I agree with the necessity for keeping free from sale all properties and chattels created by money given or lent, so that a soldier may be saved both from himself and his creditors, there is a difficulty with which this clause does not seem to deal. I allude to the progeny of stock, and also to the replenishing of stock acquired for the purpose of carrying on a business. A sum of £150 may be granted under regulation 60 for the establishment of a business to one of the three classes of persons specified, and it may ‘be necessary to actually sell the capital, as it were, to carry on the business - to sell the chattels acquired for the purposes of the business or trade. Under this clause a person so selling goods would be technically guilty of au offence, and liable to a penalty; and some arrangement should be made to meet such cases. The very character of the business may require a man, in order to obtain a livelihood, to sell goods which have been given to him.
. -Section 20 of the principal Act provides that no person shall, without the consent in writing of the State Board, sell or otherwise dispose of goods advanced for a specific purpose, or use for any other purpose any goods that have been granted to him under the Act.
– The proposed amendment eases the position, inasmuch as the beneficiary has not to get consent in writing.
– The clause of this Bill provides that no person to whom a gift or loan of money or goods has been made under this Act for any purpose shall, without obtaining” the consent of the State Board, use the money or goods for any other purpose, or sell, or otherwise dispose of goods granted or goods purchased with any money so given or lent. The object is to secure that the goods and money are “used for the purpose for which they are advanced.
– What as to the replenishment of stock?
– The clause is limited to money or goods’ which have been granted.
– A man could sell the whole of the stock with absolutely no intention of replenishing it.
– Not goods granted for any purpose without the consent of the Board.
– But the object may be to enable the man to sell stock.
– The clause refers to gifts for specific purposes, and those gifts may not be disposed of, and money used for other purposes, without the consent of the Board. If a man is given an advance to enable him to sell goods, then he has power to sell them.
– A gift is made to a re- “ turned soldier for the purpose of carrying on a business, with no power to continue to carry it on.
– We must admit selling and re-selling. This clause covers cases where gifts are made for a specific purpose and are devoted to other purposes.
– What is wrong with the clause?
– There is nothing wrong with it; the clause is all right.
– There is a penalty of £100 provided; but a man may sell the goods given him, “blow” the money, and not have the £100 with which to pay the fine.
– I think we need to be careful that we do not put straight-jackets on our returned soldiers. I take the case of a man who receives a grant of land, and the Commonwealth Government advance him £500 to enable him to stock it. He purchases 300 or 400 ewes, and in the course of time he has, say, 200 lambs. What would happen if he then sold the ewes or the lambs, as any business man would do, since otherwise he would be overstocked ?
– That case would not be dealt with under this measure, as the advance would be from a State bank, and it would be covered by a State law.
– But it would be an advance for which the Commonwealth would be responsible.
– The land settlement provisions will be made in pursuance of the State Advances Acts.
– Such an advance would be a Commonwealth liability all the same.
– A liability by the State to the Commonwealth, but the honorable member for Calare is dealing with the clause now before the Committee, and I say that such a case as he referred to would not be dealt with under this Bill, and would not be affected by this clause.
– I am glad to have that assurance, as otherwise soldiers settled on the land might be placed in an awkward position.
.- There is another aspect of the matter which I hope the Minister has considered. Honorable members have heard something of the Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Act passed in Queensland. Only quite recently, I was requested by some of the committees in that State to ask the Government to make it possible under this amending Bill to finance soldiers to the extent of the deposit required by the Queensland Government under the Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Act of that State. It may not be generally known to honorable members that under that Act it is necessary for the soldier to have land of his own on which to build, or to put down a deposit of 25 per cent, of the total cost of the building in order to take advantage of the Act to secure the erection of a dwelling. ‘ It is considered by several of the committees’ in Queensland that if the Repatriation Department would finance returned soldiers to the extent of the deposit required under the Queenslaud Act, that would be as cheap a means as could be adopted for their settlement. It has to be borne in mind that, under their Act the Queensland Government would take a lien over the property; and, in the circumstances, I am afraid that this clause, if passed as it stands, would prevent the returned soldier from mortgaging his property to the Queensland Government to secure an advance. The Queeusland Act is a very liberal one, and allows something like forty yars for the repayment of money advanced.
– This Bill will meet what the honorable member for Moreton desires. A regulation might be . issued providing that the Comptroller, or a State Board, may grant a returned soldier £75 by way of a deposit for the purpose of taking up land or for the erection of a dwelling. If, having received that money, the returned soldier converted it to his own use, and did not apply it to the purpose for which it was given him, he would be liable under this clause.
– My question really is whether, under this clause, the returned soldier might use the £75 as a deposit to enable him to take advantage of the Queensland Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Act, and give the State Government a lien over his property. The Minister will see that it would be a lien over the deposit also.
– I understand the honorable member’s difficulty. Obviously,- if the amount is given to the returned soldier for the purpose of making a deposit under the Queensland Act, he will be authorized, to take all the steps necessary to expend it for the purpose for which it was given, and these may involve the giving of the lien the honorable member speaks of. That would not be prevented by this clause. This clause applies only where a man has been granted money for one purpose and uses it for another. If money were given to. a returned soldier to enable him to pay a deposit inorder to take advantage of the Queensland Act, and he applied it to some otherpurpose, he would become liable under this clause.
– I should like to learn from the Minister in charge of the Bill what protection a State Board, or the Government, would have against a man who is given goods for the purpose of carrying on a business, and who sells those goods in the way of business, and does not replenish them?
– I am afraid the only protection would be by getting a security for the gift, but it is impossible to make the criminal law follow every step a man may take in the wasting of his assets. A man may be carrying on a business for a time, and find himself involved in liabilities. Security is a condition on which the loans are made. In some cases mortgages are being given. Recently I was informed that in New South Wales a young man who had started a business found that he could not carry on, and the State War Council, as mortgagee, took possession, and sold up the business.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 -
Section 21 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “the repatriation of Australian soldiers, or for any purpose connected therewith,” and inserting in their stead the words “ any patriotic fund or any fund in relation to the war.”
Section proposed to be amended -
Subject to this Act, no person shall, without the approval in writing of the Commission or a State Board (proof whereof shall lie upon the person), invite subscriptions or organize any scheme for raising money for the repatriation of Australian soldiers, or for any purpose connected therewith…..
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That all the words after “ amended,” line 1, be struck out, and the following inserted in lieu thereof: - “by omitting the words ‘invite subscriptions or organize any scheme for raising money for the repatriation of Australian soldiers or for any purpose connected therewith’ and inserting in their stead the words invite subscriptions or raise money by any means whatsoever for any patriotic fund or any fund in relation to the war ‘.”
.- -I think this clause mixes up repatriation funds and ordinary patriotic funds raised for any purpose whatsoever. Let us confine this Bill to repatriation purposes.
The amendment seeks to cut across the functions of bodies other than those constituted under the Act.
– The principle is the same as that with which we dealt on clause 9.
– Not at all. The amendment means that before the Lord Mayor of a city can organize any movement, having no relationship to repatriation, he must get the permission of the Repatriation Commission, or of a State Board. The Minister has indicated the clear line of demarcation which exists between repatriation responsibilities and other Commonwealth responsibilities to the soldiers. The day a soldier is discharged, he becomes the guest of the Commonwealth in respect of repatriation, but prior to that time the Repatriation Department has no interest in him whatever. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne may desire to create a fund to give comforts to men who are in the trenches, or to insure the lives of men who have not yet joined the Forces, or to stimulate recruiting by guaranteeing to the wives and children of eligible men that some provision will be made for them, apart from anything the Government does in their behalf. Why should he be subjected to the unnecessary humiliation of applying to the Repatriation authorities for permission to do that patriotic work? We would do well not to confuse with- repatriation independent efforts that have nothing to do with repatriation .
– Some authority must be intrusted with this responsibility, and the State Boards are properly constituted to deal with it. The function of looking after the welfare of the soldier was formerly vested in the State War Councils. It is provided by regulation 13 that any person who, without’ the approval of the State War Council, or in the Northern Territory without the approval of the Administrator, invites subscriptions or organizes any scheme for raising money for a patriotic fund or fund in relation to. the war, other than the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, is guilty of an offence against the War Precautions Act. This body is taking over the function of looking after and safeguarding the soldiers, as far as repatriation is concerned, and this clause widens the original Act in that respect. It is fit and proper that this body, which considers all applications in the State in connexion with all the returned soldiers and their dependants, should have the authority to decide whether new patriotic funds should or should not be started, because they might conflict with the work being done by the Commission and the Boards. It is not desirable to have the funds duplicated.
– Are the State War Councils abolished?
– The functions of repatriation are now brought under this Act. I understand that some of the State War Councils still exist for some purposes, but this is to be a permanent statutory body, and there certainly ought to be some definite body created by Federal law with the power to regulate the authorization of patriotic funds throughout Australia.
– We have had friction in this city, and one of the objections is that the Minister for Repatriation, or the Commission, which has only repatriation in view, may not give consideration to other objects.
– Objections would be taken to any Board constituted, but these bodies are working under an Act administered by a responsible Minister, and there is statutory control over them. The chief object we have in view in this Bill is repatriation, and we want to secure that it will go on continuously.
.- There can be no quarrel with the declared intention of the Government to exercise some control over patriotic funds and appeals to the public for patriotic purposes, but these tilings are temporary, and will pass with the war. The War Precautions Act now governs them, and will also pass with the war. This measure is designed, however, to be permanent.
– The Minister for Repatriation now exercises authority over the collection of funds under the War Precautions Regulation.
– I do not know who does it, but the War Precautions Act is obviously the proper place to deal with a temporary matter of that kind. The limitation of appeals to the public for repatriation purposes is properly included in the permanent scheme of repatriation, but regularly appeals are made to the public on behalf of the Red Cross, the Allies, and so on. All of these are proper subjects of appeal to the charitable public, and the response has been magnificent, but if the promoters have to obtain the permission of the Minister for Repatriation or of the Commission, they will run the risk of having their movements entirely blocked.
– They have to appeal to that Minister now.
– Yes; but not under the repatriation legislation. On a previous clause the acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) quite properly pointed out that this was a Bill to deal with the repatriation of Australian soldiers, but on this clause he is arguing in the contrary direction, because no one can suggest that the promotion of carnivals, button-days, flag-days, and so on for patriotic purposes is in any sense associated with repatriation. They are merely matters of a temporary, character that will cease with the war.
– Do you suggest that the State War Councils should continue to control them?
– I am not particular who does it, but this is not the Bill in which to do it. This Bill is too permanent and too important to be loaded with temporary matters.
– The raising of funds during the war is an important function.
– But it is not a repatriation function.
– It might cut right across it.
– The only danger of conflict will arise through the Commission fearing that an appeal for patriotic purposes may prejudice their appeal for repatriation purposes. That is not a fair position to put these patriotic organizations in. So far they have organized many splendid efforts for the benefit, not of the soldiers who have come back, but of those who are still , on the other side. For instance, I have been trying to interest the Government in the prisoners of war, especially civilians, in Germany. If it had not been for the organized philanthropy of the Australian people attending to the necessities of those prisoners, we should have had a much more sordid tale to tell. The Commission, whose interest in repatriation is local and permanent, should have no control over other organizations whose splendid efforts are directed to the assistance of the soldiers while they are away from Australia. Undoubtedly some control over patriotic funds is necessary. I have had instances brought under my notice of very regrettable occurrences in connexion with patriotic efforts and appeals, and it was not before time that the Government took action to control and limit them. A satisfactory control is already provided under the War Precautions Regulations. Why not leave it at that? Why give it to an outside body which may exercise a prejudicial influence on patriotic efforts?
– And which may even be a competitor in the same field.
– That is the only danger, and, indeed, it may be the only reason for incorporating the provision in this Bill. It is quite possible that the Repatriation Commission may say, “ We are going to shut down on all these patriotic efforts in order to conserve the finances of the country for repatriation purposes.” Australia is sound enough, loyal enough, and sympathetic enough to look after the repatriation of our soldiers, and also to do everything possible to’ help them while they are on the other side. I do not think the Repatriation Commission should be intrusted with this power, and I shall, therefore, vote against the clause.
– I should like to have from the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) a statement as to what will be the.position of patriotic societies if we pass this clause. The Anzac Club, in which I am interested, has collected a considerable sum of money, and has done much to alleviate the sufferings of the men at the Front. My reading of this clause is that it would be necessary under it for that club to apply again to the Commission for permission to carry on. It is questionable whether the Commission would be conversant with the working of the club, and pressure might be brought to bear upon it to wipe it out altogether. The Minister would help his case if he would give us an assurance, that existing clubs already established for patriotic purposes will not be interfered with. The Anzac Club had great difficulty in obtaining permission to carry on owing to the opposition of another body which objected to its use of the name “ Anzac.”
– What is its composition?
– It was established in Williamstown, where a number of patriotic men and women have worked day and night, and have, raised large sums of money with which to provide comforts for our men at the Front.
– There is a local fund of the kind associated with nearly every battalion, and under this clause permission would have to be obtained for them to carry on. ,
– That is so. The Anzac Club . got permission to carry on only after considerable trouble. Pressure was brought to bear upon a certain gentleman to prevent its establishment, but it is doing splendid work. Ladies and gentlemen associated with the club pack parcels of comforts for the nien overseas, and their work is followed up at Home, with the result that very few parcels fail to reach their proper destination. Is this ‘ club to be de-registered and compelled, so to speak, to go cap-in-hand to the authorities to gain permission to continue its efforts? It has a secretary and treasurer, and publishes from time to time a balancesheet detailing its operations. Everything associated with it is straight and above-board, and I should like to have from the Minister an assurance that such bodies now in existence will not be interfered with if the clause be agreed to. If I receive such an assurance I shall be prepared to vote for the clause.
.- It seems to me that the section in the principal Act proposed to be amended by this clause covers all that could be desired by the Minister. The Government have not explained why they wish to increase the power for which it provides. Why was this amendment not made in another place? I have a fear that it will prevent people engaged in many patriotic works from carrying on.
– It did pass the Senate. The words. “ any patriotic fund or any fund in relation to the war “ were agreed to. The amendment we are now proposing alters the form and modifies it.
– I do not think so. The Government are proposing to largely expand the . power for which the original section provides. We should not attempt to block up the channels of charity. Xf the clause were agreed, to as it stands, I should have to obtain special permission if I proposed to bring together a committee of half-a-dozen men to build a home for a soldier. The necessity for this amendment of the principal Act has not been shown by the Minister (Mr. Groom). I recognise that the Government should have power to control patriotic funds, but they should be prepared to repose some confidence in public-spirited persons who are ready to make efforts to assist individual soldiers. I have not too much confidence in. some of the State Boards, and fear that they will be somewhat of ‘an obstacle to the success of the scheme. Let us stand by the original section, which gives charitable persons an opportunity to exercise their philanthropic instincts.
.- Since the Minister last addressed the Committee I have looked still further into the question ‘, and am more satisfied than ever that this proposed amendment of the principal Act would drag into it a principle that has nothing to do with the repatriation of soldiers. I have been told over and over again by the honorable gentleman that the clause does not take from the people any power they already possess. I disagree with that view. I have illustrated my argument by referring to the case of a British soldier, Gunner Smith, who was assisted by public subscriptions, the holding of concerts, and so forth, to settle in New South Wales. We bought him a piece of land, and built him a home, so that he and his family would not ‘ have to go on the streets. This clause would take away from the Local Committee the power to deal with such a case without . the special permission of the Commission. The amendment will prohibit the raising of subscriptions for any people who do not come within the four corners of the. Repatriation Act. At the present time we . have this right, without the consent of the Minister, to raise subscriptions for soldiers who have fought for the Empire. I emphasize that we are dealing with a Bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Why, therefore, has this amendment been dragged in? It deals with a totally different matter altogether. I am quite prepared to drop my proposed amendment if the Minister in charge will withdraw the amendment now before the Committee. The section of the Act is quite sufficient as it stands. I am afraid, however, that I shall have little chance of converting the Minister unless I get his attention for a moment or two.
– This is the fourth day that I have been giving the matter close attention.
– That may be so; but, in my opinion, the interests of the Australian soldiers and the Empire are sufficiently important to demand the attention of the Minister, if need be, for another four days, if onlyfor the purpose of listening to the arguments of honorable members.
– You are making great progress in this House.
– “ Praise from Sir Hubert is praise indeed.” The measure before the Committee deals with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and the section of the Act proposed to be amended states -
Subject to this Act, no person shall, without approval in writing of the Commission or a State Board (proof whereof shall lie upon the person), invite subscriptions or organize any scheme for raising money for the repatriation of Australian soldiers, or for any purpose connected therewith.
Why, in the name of all in Heaven, or in the earth beneath-
– Or in the waters under the earth.
– Yes, or in the waters under the earth, has this amendment, been introduced? The section of the Act is ample, and I submit that the amendment does uot come within the scope of the Bill at all. It asks us to omit certain words from the clause, and to insert words which will have the effect of prohibiting any one from inviting subscriptions or raising money by any means for any patriotic fund, or any fund in relation to the war. I should be delighted to assist the Government in taking whatever steps may be necessary to control all funds; but I do object most strongly to this attempt to single out only patriotic and other funds in relation to the war, and to place them under the ban of Ministers who may be exceedingly prejudiced men - not, of course, such men as now control the affairs of the Repatriation Act. The amendment, I repeat, is entirely outside the scope of the Bill, and I shall oppose it.
.- I am pleased to know that the Government are seeking to do what the amendment will provide by legislation instead of by regulation. If the clause is amended as proposed, Red Cross Societies, and other societies engaged in war work, will have to ask for permission to raise funds, and I do not think that is right, because the time might come when a Minister would raise an objection to the button days for Red Cross purposes. At present they do not have to ask the Minister for Repatriation for permission.
– Have they not to ask permission of the State War Council 1
– I approve of the Government doing what is sought to be done by legislation instead of by regulation; but I think that, in this Bill, we should keep to repatriation matters only, and not seek to amend it so as to provide that permission must be obtained from the Minister for Repatriation before any effort can be made on behalf of any patriotic purpose. It is quite possible that a Minister for Repatriation, by virtue of his office, might be more’ in favour of efforts for repatriation than any other patriotic purpose, and he might argue that, as the Red Cross bad spent a large sum of money - I believe they have spent about £500,000 throughout Australia - he could not agree to a proposal on behalf of the Red Cross Society. Those of us who heard what the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) had to say withregard to the splendid work done by the Red Cross for returning soldiers on the Llanstephen Castle, each man receiving a parcel to the value of £3, except the unfortunate fifty men to whom the honorable member particularly referred, will contend, I believe, that the Red Cross should not be placed in the position of having to apply for permission to raise funds.
– It is quite inconceivable . that any Minister would object to efforts on behalf of the Red Cross.
– The same might be mid with regard to the New South Wales’ war chest fund. Speeial efforts are continually being made in various districts. One of the last public appearances of the late Chief Justice Madden was in connexion with such an effort at South Melbourne. A week before there had been a similar effort at Hawthorn; and, still earlier, one at Richmond, all for the benefit of blind soldiers, for whom a couple of thousand pounds was raised in one district alone. The . Minister for Repatriation, if asked to grant permission for such efforts, might refuse it, on the score that the- repatriation scheme was doing all that needed to be done for the help of these men. Only a fortnight ago I met the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) when he was assisting in the big Red Cross appeal in Melbourne, and similar appeals have been made ia Adelaide and Sydney. It should be possible to continue this work without having to go to the Repatriation Department for permission.
– There must be some governing body to prevent the clashing of fixtures.
-I would take the matter out of the hands of the Minister for Repatriation, and put it under some authority unconnected with war work.
– The State Boards would be entirely disinterested. They have to deal merely with Government grants. Therefore there is no danger of them not acting fairly.
– Any restriction of voluntary enterprise, which takes many forms in every part of Australia, is likely to be serious, because it is likely to discourage persons who are working very hard in a good cause. I hope that this matter may be put in chajrge of some Minister other than the Minister for Repatriation.
– When last I heard the Minister (Mr. Groom) speak, he contended that it would be most improper to introduce into the Bill any ‘ provision relating to any matter other than repatriation, and, according to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the one thing that was needed was to authorize the Local Committees to spend money on objects other than repatriation. I congratulate both the honorable gentlemen on their change of front.
My object in rising, however, was to ask why there are to be two authorities controlling the raising of funds? Obviously the State Boards are to supervise only the collections for patriotic purposes, or other purposes connected with the war, which leaves all other forms of collecting under the State “War Councils. If it is necessary to regulate the collection of money for patriotic purposes, it seems more necessary to regulate the collection of funds for all and sundry purposes unconnected with the war. Indeed, there are only a few objects for which such collections should be permitted during the continuance of the war.
I do not agree with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). My experience is that persons who interest themselves in the activities of the Red Cross, War Chest, Comforts Fund, and other associations, have an understanding of the various war problems, and a common desire to do all that can be done to promote the success of the efforts to deal with them. In the big cities, we find the same men and women doing all they can to collect money for all the funds. Therefore, I think it is wise to place the regulation of collecting under the Minister for Repatriation; but I would go further, and require all applications for permission to collect money for any public purpose to be made to him.
.- I am not sure that the proposal under discussion comes within the scope of the measure, “which is a Bill for the repatriation of Australian soldiers.
– The amendment is an alteration of certain words already in the Bill. The Senate inserted in clause 16 the words “ any patriotic fund or fund in relation to the war.”
– Every little town has its patriotic committee, and almost every battalion has its comforts fund, the workers for which meet each week to knit socks, and make other articles, and some of them appeal on the streets for contributions. Is permission to be obtained from the Minister for Repatriation for all these efforts? Then you have local societies appealing for subscriptions for the building of homes, and others for the erection of memorials in honour of fallen soldiers. We say to them, “ You cannot go on with this work without the con sent of the Repatriation Board.” What has it to do with the Board?
– You might say also, “What has it to do with the State War Council?” That is the body which, under the War Precautions Act, is granting the permissions now.
– In connexion with “welcomes home” the same argument applies. The Minister asks, what about the State War Council? I am not going into that, further than to indicate that I have mentioned that matter in this House before. By the passing of this measure all these bodies to-day in existence - in connexion with which many of the lady helpers have been loyally toiling since the war began - will be in the position, because Parliament has passed another law, of having to make application for approval to go on with their good work. They will be saying, “Is that the way you indicate your appreciation of our efforts? Have you nothing better to do than to pass legislation to compel us to seek the approval of some fresh body in order to carry on our organizations? “ The effect will be that those loyal folk may become tired of the work on which they are engaged.
– And it must not be forgotten that it is their activities which keep the war fever going.
– If you leave it to officialdom, you will have a pretty poor show.
– It is these patriotic bodies that keep the war interest brightly burning. If we quench their spirit, not only will their immediate activities be injured, but we shall be striking a blow at recruiting; everything else, in fact, that is tending for good in this war must slump. Local interest in patriotic movements from one end of Australia to the other must be fostered. We cannot afford to put obstacles in the way of these loyal workers. It may be said, “ It is not much to ask them to make fresh application “ ; but they do not look at it in that light. It may be that they are unaware of the exact procedure; and in all such dealings with officialdom many folk are apt to feel considerably harried, and may hesitate to proceed with their labours.
This is not a matter concerning repatriation at all. And, if we must regulate all the various funds, let it he in some other way than is proposed here. The clause is ample as it stands. “Where is the necessity for amending it? We shall gain nothing by it, while we shall be causing ill-feeling amongst worthy and patriotic people. Why should we, as a Parliament, adopt such an attitude? If there was anything to be gained, I would be in accord with it. But there is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost. Since this is not a matter affecting parties at all, surely the good sense of the Committee must prevail, and the Minister must see that he would not be justified in pressing for the amendment.
– We had an actual instance in the city of Melbourne, where there was a fight between certain ladies, the Lord Mayor, and the War Council over the raising of funds. It damped the ardour of many good people.
– I can quite believe that, and it will damp the ardour of people all over Australia. Our duty is by all means to encourage those good women in their splendid work. The provision in the existing Act is sufficient for ordinary requirements. It deals with repatriation pure and simple. Why, then, should we not confine this Bill to repatriation ?
– If we asked the Chairman for a ruling, I think he would rule the amendment out.
– I was seriously thinking of that, but, in any case, the Minister will see that the consensus of opinion is against his proposal.
– Does the Minister anticipate that this Commission will shortly supersede the State. War Councils ?
– Some of them are still carrying on, but to a reduced extent.
– When the Commission gets into working order, then it will mean the superseding of the State War Councils ?
– That is so, as far as repatriation work is concerned.
– I do not think those councils desire to continue their operations, seeing that their functions are to be performed by the permanent Commission. That being so, the statements of the Leader of the Opposi tion (Mr. Tudor), and of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), as well as those of other honorable members, really reveal the necessity for the amendment. 1 had been inclined to support their contentions, but when they advanced certain statements favouring their views they were actually demonstrating the need for some such authority as is set out in the amendment.
– ‘The amendment as it stands refers only to certain things specified therein.
– I was about to’ raise that point. But, first, as to the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) concerning the discouragement of loyal and willing workers, I hold that, contrary to depressing and discouraging those splendid people, this amendment will protect and definitely encourage them; because there is a great danger in these continuous appeals of dissipating the energies of loyal and consistent workers. So far as the Red Cross Society and the Cheer-up Society and other excellent organizations are concerned, they need this protection. There is a possibility of discouraging them because of the very lack of concentration. There are too many efforts; too many societies growing up. And then there is another element of danger. I do not like to call them bogus societies, but there is a fear regarding the promotion of efforts devoted ostensibly to patriotic purposes, but which really are for other purposes, that a very small percentage actually goes to the object for which the appeal is made. That sort of thing ought to be suppressed. I do not share the concern stressed by the honorable member for Hunter that the Commission will essentially be hostile to patriotic efforts other than for repatriation purposes, but I feel that the control of the matter might better be left in the hands of the Minister.
– Applications will be made to the State Boards.
– When all the machinery is in motion the Commission may not sit more than once a month.
– That is why it is necessary to give State Boards jurisdiction in the matter.
– It should be sufficient to place the power in the hands of the Minister.
– He would need local bodies to control it and advise him.
– Will the Minister give the assurance that the administration will be thoroughly sympathetic towards genuine patriotic bodies ?
– Yes; as far as the Minister can.
– Then I am satisfied.
– As the functions of State War Councils have been very much reduced, it is necessary to have some statutory body endowed with the power given in the amendment. The Commission appointed by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is a statutory body, as are also the State Boards, and they exercise some of the functions previously carried out by State War Councils.
– The State Boards will not take over the control of horse-racing.
– That matter is not touched by this proposal. Horse-racing is dealt with by a special regulation which is quite apart from this provision. If application is made by any persons who wish to promote functions for the purpose of raising patriotic funds it must be submitted to a State Board. Requests have been made that funds raised for patriotic purposes should be placed under some properly organized body. That is a reason for seeking to insert this provision in. the Bill.
– There is no objection to that.
– And that properly organized body will be the Repatriation Commission exercising its powers together with the State Boards.
– That is where we differ.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest that the control of funds which have nothing to do with repatriation should continue with the State War Councils.
– Patriotic funds have a great deal to do with repatriation. The State Boards will be dealing with soldiers and their dependants. If any body can have a proper knowledge of the position it ought to bea State Board. Their object will not be to destroy existing funds. It will be merely to regulate the times at which appeals shall be made for funds and the methods of appealing for them. One object will be to attempt to have some system about the matter, instead of one appeal conflicting with another.
– And it should be insisted on that every effort shall be really what it professes to be.
– That is so; each appeal should be supervised in that regard. Existing funds must be notified to the State Boards. There can be no system about the matter unless the State Boards have full cognisance of what is going on. It will not be an object to take away any of the powers which are now exercised.
– Will the existing funds need to be re-registered ?
– Those who are in control of existing funds will need to make some notification. It will be simply a matter of notifying the central body, and having everything put on a definite basis.
– Will the Minister ..give the assurance that genuine patriotic bodies will be assisted ?
– That is the intention of the Minister. The purpose of the provision in the Bill is to see that the’ whole matter of raising patriotic funds is systematized and brought under the control of a properly constituted body.
– I rise to a point of order. The principal Act and this Bill deal with funds devoted to the purpose of repatriation only. The Minister has already indicated that funds raised in Australia for the assistance of Dominion or Imperial soldiers would fall outside the scope of the measure, yet he seeks to get power to control funds quite beyond the purview of repatriation work. If his contention in one regard is correct, then the converse is also correct, namely, that there is no power in the Act to prevent funds being raised for purposes other than repatriation. The State Boards are to be intrusted with the power to prevent the raising of certain funds which have nothing to do with repatriation, but have to do with other patriotic objects which fall right outside the scope of repatriation. Therefore, I contend that the amendment is not in order.
– The honorable member for Wannon is labouring under a misconception. If he will look at clause 16 of the Bill he will see that it reach) -
Section 21 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “the repatriation of Australian soldiers or for any purpose connected therewith,” and inserting in their stead the words “any patriotic fund, or any fund in relation to the war1.”
– That was agreed to by the Senate, and by this House, upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– As the honorable member for Yarra points out, it was agreed to when the motion for the second reading of the Bill was carried in this Chamber. The amendment which I have submitted does not seek to extend the scope of the measure in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). It is merely designed to alter the Bill by omitting certain words and by making the section in the principal Act read “invite subscriptions or raise money by any means whatsoever.”
– If the Minister will refer to section 17 of the principal Act he will see that that provision assists him to prove his point.
– Yes. That provision deals with moneys held for general trust purposes. An attempt has been made to make the Bill cover funds for which the principal Act does not provide, and this amendment is for the purpose of insuring that any fund about to be raised, and which may come into conflict with this fund, shall not be raised without the consent of the Minister. I submit that the amendment is entirely in order.
– The contention of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) cannot be upheld. The Bill now before us has already been approved by the Senate in substance. The amendment may involve some slight change in its verbiage, but it does not involve any change in its substance. Therefore I cannot sustain the point of order.
.- I quite agree with the idea underlying the words which it is sought to introduce here - the idea that a proper control should be kept over patriotic funds, and that these funds should be systematized.
But this does not appear to be the proper place to provide for that. The soldier has quite a lot. of friends who do very many things for him. The efforts of those who ,are anxious to assist him are largely directed to two classes of soldiers. The first class embraces those who are going away on active service. Efforts are made to provide comforts for these men, for the soldiers in the trenches, and also to assist the Red Cross. The other class of soldiers comprises those who have returned from active service abroad. Now the repatriation scheme is primarily interested in the soldier upon his return to Australia. Consequently it appears to be impossible to cast upon those interested in one side of this patriotic work the duty of determining the opportunities which shall be afforded to those who are interested in the other side of it. It is almost analogous to making one competitor the judge of another competitor. In my view, if there is one class of persons who should be prevented from exercising control over the patriotic efforts of various organizations, it is those who are actively associated with such schemes themselves.
– Already for patriotic purposes there is an organization of a very complete character in every municipality throughout Australia. Each municipality, with the consent of the State War Council, has been allowed to organize in( certain ways. It is true that no uniform plan has been adopted. Each district knows its own conditions, and is seized of its own advantages and disadvantages. Take the Essendon Red Cross Society by way of illustration. Every worker in that organization does not turn up at the Town Hall to work. Instead, a considerable amount of the work is allotted to church guilds. These have their evenings for knitting, &c, and for the distribution of the comforts which they provide. When a bundle of comforts is finished, it is forwarded to the Essendon Town Hall, whence it is despatched to the head body in Melbourne for transmission to the soldiers abroad. If the Minister is going to introduce a new system now, all the organizations which have been in operation for the past three years will have to re’-register, and it is quite likely that some of their particular plans may be banned by the new authority. Thus confusion and irritation will be created. Instead of harassing these splendid workers, we ought to encourage them in every possible way. I trust that the Minister will pay some regard to the expressed will of the Committee, and will hesitate to interfere with the work of these patriotic organizations.
– There is no proposal to interfere with them.
– That will be the result. The work is going on splendidly now for the most part, and why should we hinder in any shape or form what is already being well done? This Bill deals with repatriation. Let us adhere to that subject, and leave these organizations to proceed as best they know how.
.- I hope that the Minister will consider the almost unanimous representations of the Committee. So far, only one speaker has supported the view that has been expressed by th6- honorable gentleman, and hitherto there has been no adverse criticism of the measure. The only criticism indulged in has been of an entirely constructive character. The point put so well by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) ought to weigh with the Minister. It will be greatly to the disadvantage of the different bodies who have worked so well for the benefit of the soldiers to feel that they have to come under the supervision and control of a new body with new powers, and, possibly, a certain amount of jealousy concerning their work. I agree with the Government that these functions ought to be controlled in some way; it should be by some Minister, and not by a competing body.
– A Minister could not deal with all the six States; and the idea is to allow the State bodies to regulate their own affairs.
– The Minister gives the Committee an assurance that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) . will act in a certain manner towards the existing organizations, but in politics a Minister may have a successor who will do the work of administration quite differently. It would be much better not to include a clause that is evidently going to create trouble; and, in view of the unanimous opinion expressed on both sides, I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision..
– I think that we ought to have some reply from the Minister.
– I have already spoken three times on the subject, and I refrain now out of consideration for the Committee.
– Honorable members on this side desire to stand loyally by the Government, and honorable members opposite show no disposition to embarrass the Minister. “When all are really anxious to help, I think the honorable gentleman ought to give way. Otherwise there will be trouble, for I, personally, do not feel inclined to silently follow the Minister. In my own constituency there are route marches, the necessary funds for which are obtained from the sale of buttons and gifts in kind. “We often find, after paying for the route march, that there is a surplus; and I ask whether, if we continue this work, as no doubt we shall under the new scheme, we must ask this body to superintend the matter. I appeal to the Minister to do what is generally done when a Committee is found to be unanimous, and gracefully accede to our wishes. We ought not to be forced to give a party vote, or, indeed, a vote of any kind on the question; and the reasons given by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) seem quite sufficient to justify the Minister in giving way. I feel quite sure that if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) had heard the speeches he “would have adopted a different attitude. If the Minister in charge persists in setting himself against the whole of the Committee, we are certainly not a deliberative body.
– I have already explained that the duties of the State War Council will largely pass over to this new body. As to the point raised by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the complaint referred to was never found to exist as against the State War Council, and it is not likely that any feeling will be shown by the new bo’dy. It is not a body to raise funds, but one to only administer funds - to simply deal with the applications made to it - and we are asking for this .power because the new body is taking over the repatriation .work of the State War
Council ? What other alternative have we ? We allow each State control as to the time, place, means, and methods of raising funds.
– Funds that have nothing to do with repatriation.
– The State War Council had the same functions. There is only an apprehension in the honorable members’ minds in this connexion.
– We go further, and say that the new body has nothing to do with the matter.
– That might have been said of the War Council, which had nothing to do with Red Cross work or Comfort Funds. It is suggested that the Minister might supervise, but I do not think that that is advisable, in view of all the other duties he has to perform.
– I think we ought to have a quorum to hear this discourse. [Quorum formed.’]
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Groom’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
An Honorable Member. - We ought not to take a division on this amendment.
– That is not what brings us on to this side.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wannon is out of order. The honorable member for Batman was distinctly out of order in the interjection he made, and I ask him to withdraw the words he used.
– What were the words?
– I shall not bandy words with the honorable member; he knows the words he used. He said “ This cocky little Minister.”
– I withdraw the words, with pleasure.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Section 22 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraphs (b) and (c) thereof, and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: - “(c) in the form of free passages from abroad to Australia, to the wives and children of Australian soldiers -
who have been declared by the competent Military Medical Board at Australian Imperial Forces Head-Quarters abroad to be medically unfit for military service, and who have been returned, or whom it is proposed to return, to Australia, or
who, at the termination of the war, are awaiting return to Australia; and “(d) (iii) the widowed mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers who. prior to enlistment of those soldiers, were dependent upon them.”
Section proposed to be amended -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to this Act. and in particular for providing for the granting of assistance and benefits -
to the children underthe age of eighteen years of deceased and incapacitated . Australian soldiers: and
where, by reason of special circumstances, the Commission considers that assistance and benefits should be granted to the widows of deceased Australian soldiers.
.-‘ I point out to the Minister that there is a postponed elause to be considered, and if it is amended some amendment of clause 17 may be necessary.
– No; this clause deals only with regulations. The amendment to be proposed by the honorable member for Wannon will not affect this clause, which merely enables the Governor-General to make regulations dealing with the benefits from all the different persons mentioned in the clause.
– The beneficiaries proposed by the Minister?
– Yes. The amendment suggested by the honorablemember will deal only with the beneficiaries he proposes. I have given notice of amendments in this clause that are consequential upon amendments that have already been agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That sub-paragraph (c) (i) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “(i) who have been declared by the competent Naval or Military Medical Board at the Head-Quarters abroad of the Australian Naval or Military Forces to be medically unfit for service, and who have been returned, or whom it is proposed to return, to Australia, or”
That sub-paragraph (d) (iii) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “(iii) to the mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers -
who are widows and were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them, or
whose husbands are so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to their support.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 9 -
Section 12 of the principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end of sub-section 2 the words “ for the granting of assistance and benefits to any of the classes of persons specified in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of section 22 of this Act or for any other purpose prescribed by the regulations.”
Section proposed to be amended -
12.- . . .
. . . a Local Committee shall have power to raise -and control funds for the district for which they are appointed, and to disburse those funds within that district.
– In connexion with this clause, I promised to have an amendment drafted to give effect, as far as possible, to the intentions which seemed to be in the minds of members of the Committee. I move -
That after the word “Act,” line 7, the following words be inserted: - “ or to any relative or person not specified in paragraphs (b), (c), or (d) of section 22 of this Act, who was dependent upon any deceased or . discharged sailor or soldier prior to his enlistment.”
I think that will cover what the honorable member for Wannon desires.
.- I thank the Minister for the amendment, and I assure him that one thing the Local Committees will appreciate is that, in respect of funds raised by’their own efforts, they shall have unfettered discretion to spend what is their own money in their own way. The Local Committees can be a power for good. If the right men are chosen, they will be men of experience and capacity, and if we try to tie them’ hand and foot by directions from headquarters, we shall damp their enthusiasm.
.- At first I was entirely in favour of the idea of giving Local Committees power to collect funds with which to help any cases which seemed to them deserving. But I now see a danger in the proposal. While the war is in progress, and the people are full of enthusiasm, the Local Committees may collect funds and assist many persons who are outside the scope of the Act, but as soon as the enthusiasm dies down, as it will, and those persons who have been receiving voluntary assistance areno longer getting it, the cry will be raised that they should not be dependent upon voluntary effort, but that their help should be undertaken by the Government. There is a danger that in years to come our repatriation scheme may be on a par with- the American war pensions list. I think the Civil’ War terminated fifty-four years ago, and the pensions are now six times larger than they were at that time.
– And there are more pensioners than there were soldiers in the war.
– If we are to drag into this scheme every relative or person dependent at every possible opportunity, there will be no end to it. It is quite possible that the repatriation scheme will involve an expenditure of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, and no matter how the rich may be taxed, the production of Australia will not be increased. With the present cost of civil government, and the expenses of war and repatriation, there is a limit to what this community can afford to undertake.
– I do not think the definition in the amendment is sufficiently wide, because it confines relief to dependants, and honorable members know the difficulties that are put in the way of dependants in connexion with both repatriation and pensions. A young man who, as an apprentice, was just earning enough to keep himself when he enlisted, will come back after two or three years, by which time he would, in the ordinary course of events, have been contributing to the support of his mother. But, according to our legislation, the mother in such a case is rated as a dependant only to the extent of her dependence at the time when her son went to the war. Therefore, she will not be able to get the full benefit to which she is really entitled. The Local Committees are prevented from giving any relief to those who suffer, now that the soldier is absent, because they did not suffer at the time he went away. I know of soldiers who made no allotment of their pay, because at the time they went to the Front their parents were not in need, but since they have been at the Front some breadwinner in the family has died, and the others have become dependent upon the soldiers. Had they remained in Australia they would have helped their relatives, but the Local Committees have no power to grant relief to relatives, because they were not dependent when the man went away. Our legislation is putting outside the scope of relief a number of persons who are deserving of the benefits of the various funds. There are no committees going about the country hunting for persons to whom they may hand out money that is not needed. The Local Committees desire to be able to help cases of absolute need, and should not be prevented from doing so by cast-iron regulations. We should try to cure the evil effect upon recruiting, caused by the knowledge of cases of hardship, to which no relief can be afforded under the existing legislation. The Government have no right to prevent the Local Committees from giving aid where aid is needed and when they are doing it with their own money and in their own districts we have every guarantee that the purpose of the Act will be achieved.
– How will the transposition of those words broaden the field ?
– The amendment as drafted makes “ relative “ governed by “dependent.” I want to give the Local Committees power to give relief to any .relative who is in need because of the soldier having gone away.
– If that is so, why are not those people included in the Bill?
– I should like an opportunity to say something about the beautiful Pensions Act under which we are working, but every member has met cases where, owing to faults in legislation or regulations, it is impossible to render aid where we know it ought to be given. I am anxious that we should not go on perpetrating the same blunders. Why put provisions into the law. which prevent the Local Committees doing the thing which we all wish should be done in cases that are absolutely deserving ? I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ relative or “.
I shall subsequently move to put in the word “relative” so that it shall not be governed by the word “dependent.”
– I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment, as my proposal covers each case put to me here.
– It does not cover either of the cases I put.
– It covers all I took note of. The honorable member’s proposal purports to give power to the Local Committees to raise funds for the assistance or benefit of any relative of a discharged soldier. That is about the widest possible description, and is quite unconditioned. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept it.
.- - As one who is possibly responsible for the amendment the Government have circulated, I am satisfied with it.- It will meet our case, because section 26 of the regulations gives us discretion. We shall be administering the local funds, and we shall determine who is dependent. I am quite satisfied with that power. It will not be a case of our having to apply to “ central “ to say who is dependent. The amendment plus the regulation will enable the Local Committees to meet almost every case.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to move as an addition to clause 9 a new sub-section to section 12 of the principal Act, as follows: -
The member of the House of Representatives for the Federal division in which Local Committees are appointed shall be ex officio-
.- I desire to move a prior amendment to insert in paragraph c of section 12 of the principal Act the following words : -
For the granting of assistance and benefits to any person who has enlisted or fought with the British Imperial or Dominion Forces in* the present war.
– The honorable member cannot move that amendment now. As the amendment proposed by the Minister (Mr. Groom) to add words to the end of clause 9 has been accepted, we cannot go back. The proposal of the honorable member for ‘Grampians is also to amend a section of the principal Act, and not the clause before the Committee.
– On a point of order, before the Minister postponed this clause, an amendment was circulated by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), which contained in substance the amendment tha.t has been passed, and that of which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has given notice. I informed the Committee that I did , not propose to risk the provision that I desired to have inserted in the Bill by including it. with another, namely, the proposal to include the British Imperial and the Dominion Imperial Forces in an amendment to enlarge the beneficiaries associated with our own Australian Imperial Force. The honorable member for Kooyong, at my request, withdrew his amendment and gave notice of another. The honorable member for Grampians then notified the Committee that he would, at the right time, move a certain amendment, and I contend that the amendment made on the motion of the Minister does not deprive him of the right which was practically conceded to him by the Minister and the Committee.
– The honorable member’s point of order cannot be sustained. The Chair knows nothing of any arrangement made between members’ and the Minister.
– I made no arrangement.
– No amendment was submitted to me by the honorable member for Kooyong, and the honorable member for Grampians was not in order when I interrupted him.
. -I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - ’‘(e) by adding the following subsection: - (5) The member of the House of Representatives for the electoral division in which Local Committees are appointed shall be ex 0500 a, member of each Local Committee and executive within the division.”
– The honorable member wants something to do.
– During the second reading of the Bill I raised this question, and in Committee the Minister (Mr. Groom) supplied me with an entirely new and rather . effective argument in favour of the amendment when he said that the Bill was largely an experiment, that we were feeling our way, and that the Minister for . Repatriation should be afforded an opportunity to see how the scheme would work out. The debate on the Bill throughout has shown that honorable members on both sides are anxious to assist the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in making this an efficient, workable measure. It is very evident that honorable members have a first-hand acquaintance with it. We know what we intend so far as repatriation is concerned, but we have no guarantee that the LocalCommittees may not operate the law in a way entirely different from, that intended by Parliament. It would, therefore, be rather an education for honorable members themselves to discover the working of the Act, as they would do if they were associated with the committees charged with its administration. I have already pointed out that certain members have taken a keen interest in repatriation, and have an extensive knowledge of the working of the scheme. The debate has also shown that many honorable members are quite competent to take an active part in its administration. But neither in the Bill nor the scheme is opportunity afforded members of Parliament to exercise their talent, and to give the Government any assistance in the administration of repatriation. I think Local Committees would afford the most reasonable opportunity for such work on the part of members of Parliament. The objection was raised as soon as I moved, this amendment that honorable members already had enough to do. We have plenty to do, but I know of no work that will demand closer attention, and be more worthy of our close attention, than that associated with repatriation. Many other matters will claim our attention and consideration, but there is not likely to be anything more important than this scheme, particularly in its initial stages. We are not only laying down new principles, but have to set this machinery in motion,, and it will depend upon the way in which we start it whether we have friction or smooth working later on. Every honorable member wants to have an active share in the work of repatriation, not only in theHouse, but in the filtration of the scheme throughout the country. I am not asking too much in proposing that an honorable member should be on the- Local Committees within his own division. He may not be able to attend all the meetings, but he can be a consultative and advisory member. . When the recruiting campaign was started in the early part of 1917, the member for each Federal division in the Commonwealth was ex officio chairman of the Recruiting Committee in that division.
– How many meetings did the honorable member preside over in his electorate?
– Three or four. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) tells me that one honorable member presided over ten such, meetings. I maintained a regular correspondence with the committee,, gave the members of it every assistance in my power,, and they were good, enough to express their appreciation of my efforts to make my occupancy of the position a useful one.
– We can do good work without being on these committees.
– I do not think so. Those who examine the powers to be given the Local Committees will recognise that it would be well for honorable members, who have first-hand information concerning the scheme, to . be members of them, especially in the earlier stages of the administration of the- Act. I commend this amendment to the Committee.
– I am sorry I cannot accept the amendment. Representation of members on the Recruiting Committees was not found satisfactory. This might lead to further embarrassment.
– Very well, if you do not want our- assistance, you can say so.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 18. The. provisions of this Act relating to the raising and distribution of funds by the Local Committee shall apply to members of the British Imperial and Dominion Imperial . Forces who after discharge may settle- within the Commonwealth of. Australia.”
I am sorry I did not have an opportunity of moving- the amendment earlier in the evening; but I do not- wish to detain the Committee for long, as the hour is late.
– What is it likely to cost?
– It will cost just what a generous and patriotic people, who subscribe out of their own pockets, may decide; not one penny more, and not one penny less. If the Government had not insisted on amending section 21, there would have been no necessity for my amendment now. Under the Act as it _ stood, it was quite possible for any Local Committee to raise funds for any soldiers whowere settled on our lands. I think that, considering the relations between Australia and the Mother Country, as well as the other Dominions of the Empire, the least we can do is to allow the collection of subscriptions to assist Imperial soldiers who may come to Australia and settle upon our lands. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that a large number of members do not attend at all during the debates in this House, but only come in when the division bells are rung, the House and the Government have drifted into a position which it would be impossible to justify.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member is reflecting upon a former decision of -this Committee, and that is entirely unparliamentary.
– I withdraw the . statement, and apologize; but I would like to
Bay that if this bar . is going to be placed on local organizations in relation to efforts on . behalf of British soldiers - men who. have fought for their country and for this country, too - then we should insist on consent of the Minister being obtained for any other effort . to raise subscriptions for other purposes.
– I point out, with some regret, that Icannot accept the amendment, as it is outside the scope of the Bill.
– I desire to move an amendment, which, I hope, the Minister will accept. This Parliament should have some control over the State Governments in the purchase of land upon which to settle our returned soldiers. At the present time there is no authority connecting the two schemes; and, in perusing the reports of the Premiers’ ‘Conference held in Janu ary, 1917, I find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a strong point of the fact that the Commonwealth should exercise some supervision over the expen diture of the many millions of pounds that will . be required for the purchase of land. That is a responsibility which Parliament should not seek to evade. We shall have to finance the various State Governments with large sums of money, and I know, speaking of my own State, that, unless adequate supervision is exercised, there is a strong probability that many hundreds of thousands of pounds will be wasted.
-Not at all.
– The Minister knows full well that this is so in regard to closer settlement.
– I know more about that matter than you do.
– The Minister cannot have forgotten, surely, some of the strictures that have been placed upon the administration of that Act.
– That statement is incorrect.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I would like to know if the honorable member is in order in moving his amendment)
– I do not know what the amendment is yet.
– It deals with the same matter as is contained’ in section 13 of the original Act, which has been amended by this Bill; that is, that the Minister may appoint such officers as he may think necessary for the purposes of the Act.
-What is the amendment?
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ The Minister shall appoint, under the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, qualified officers representing the Commonwealth Government, to inspect and report upon properties which the State Governments propose to purchase for repatriation of Australian soldiers and sailors.”
Sir Alexander Peacock, who was President of the Premiers’ Conference, said, in reply to some remarks of Mr. Hunter, of Queensland -
Do you think that the Federal . Parliament will ever pass the necessary authority . to borrow £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 . of money to lend to the States to virtually develop their own land policy, in addition to settling soldiers, ‘ without having some control and some say in the matter?
– That was said in Tegard to a request for £4,500,000 for the building of a railway. . There is no land- proposed to be purchased in Queensland.
– Sir Alexander Peacock was speaking of the lending of money by the Commonwealth Government to the States for the purchase of land.
– Are not the States buying land with their own money?
– They are borrowing from the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth is lending money to the States for the carrying out of improvements, not for- the purchase of land.
– This Parliament will part with the power which it should keep if it does not accept my proposed clause. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) offered for the year 1917 an advance of £2,000,000, and in the course of years the advances are likely to mount up to £20,000,000 or £30,000,000.
Proposed now clause negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Rodgers) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ A report of the operations under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Actshall be furnished half-yearly.”
– If the honorable member will provide for an annual report, I shall accept the amendment.
Proposed new clause amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Wise) read a first time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
War Loan Bill (No. 3) .
War Loan Securities Repurchase Bill.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1916-17.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1916-17.
House adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180606_reps_7_85/>.