7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. ElliotJohnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if the Government contemplate the creation of a. position in London to be held by a member of Cabinet rank? If that is contemplated, will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the matter before anything is done?
– Before the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to London, the attention of the Government was directed to the fact thatboth Canada and South Africa have Ministers doing active work in London, and it was agreed thathe and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) should look into the matter when in London. Beyond that I know nothing.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the expenditure in connexion with establishing Navy Bases presented by Mr. Charlton, andordered to be printed.
– Last night the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) read extracts from a letter which contained reflections on honorable members, including myself. I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is fair that quotations of that nature should be allowed to go into the permanent record of our discussions, seeing that the letter itself was a faked one?
– What the honorable member refers to must have occurred in a Committee of the Whole; I have no recollection of the reading of such a letter while I occupied the chair yesterday. The reading from letters, newspapers, or other sources, of statements which would be out of order if made directly by an honorable member in the course of his speech, is not permissible.
– Both statements of the honorable member for Moreton are incorrect. I made no reflection on him, and had no intention of doing so. He admitted last night that he visited the German Internment Camp. I see nothing wrongin that. Had I had the opportunity, I should have done thesame, to interview thewriter of the letter about which hecomplained. I have done my best to get the man released, believing him to be wrongfully interned.
– What is his name ?
– The Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) now has the letter. I have no reason for being other than open and frank in regard to it. To my mind, the explanation of the honorable member for Moreton was entirely satisfactory. He said that he had visited thecamp, but not in company withany one. Neither I nor the writer of the letter said that be had visited the camp to get “ scabs,” as the Minister for Recruiting will see if he looks at the letter, and it isnot suggested that the Minister was at the campfor that purpose. Any honorable member might be at the camp for a perfectly legitimatepurpose. The statement in the letter is clear and plain. Itisthat Mr. Kelly, Mr. Sinclair, and Mr. Orchard visited the camp. I see nothing objectionable in that. Neither my remarks nor the extract which I read from the letter should convey the idea that those members visited the camp for any other than an honest purpose.
– Then let the whole letter be read.
-You will be sorry if it is read. In reply to the second statement of the honorable member for Moreton, I say that the letter is not a faked one, and last night I told him the name of thewriter.
– Have you given the name of the writer to the Minister for Recruiting?
-If he or the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) wishes to know the name of the writer I will tell them, but I am not prepared to trust the Government with the name. Yesterday, when speaking of the letter, I gave from memory the effect of certain statements in it, and, later, in confirmation, read those statements from the letter itself. Theletter denounces me and ir.y comrades here f or not having visited the camp. We are. called everything for not- having done our duty to the Australians confined there. The man is an Australian-born citizen.
– Does he suggest that the honorable member himself should be interned’ %
– He seems to think that we should’ get a taste of what those in camp are getting, so that we might have more sympathy with them. I have no objection to the reading of the letter, but those who have asked for it to be read will be sorry if it is read. The Minister for Recruiting has the letter, and if he will read it, I shall make no objection.
– The letter is unsigned.
– The honorable member for Brisbane is going beyond the limits of a personal explanation.
– Then I shall only add that I intended, and made, no reflection on the honorable member for Moreton. I believe that he visited the Camp legitimately, and I would have done so had the opportunity offered.
– That does not appear from the press reports.
– I do not know what the newspapers say. I have written to Mr. Hall, the Attorney-General of New South “Wales, giving him a verbatim report of what I said, taken from the Hansard .proof, and also the extracts read from the letter. He will thus have full information at first hand, and will be in a position to deal with the statements that have been made.
– Of course, I know nothing of the letter to which reference has been made, but I again remind honorable members that it is not in order to read from letters, or other written, or printed compositions, statements reflecting on members, which . they would not ‘ be permitted to make in the ordinary course of a speech.
– A couple of minutes before entering the chamber this morning, I heard that my name had been mentioned last, night in a letter read by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) in connexion with a1 visit to the German Internment Camp, and the securing of “ scabs “ for use during the recent strike in New South Wales. I imme diately went to the’ honorable member for Brisbane, and he was good enough to hand to me the letter which he had read. I hare Hot had time to do more than read certain passages in it which he has marked.
– I did not mark them ; they were marked by the honorable member for Moreton.
– The letter, speakingof persons-, visiting the camp, says* -
Several Tories have : Sinclair, Orchard, Kelly, and Ball. He wanted scabs at the time of the strike.
The statement about scabs “ refers to the present Attorney-General of New South Wales.
– Who is the writer of the letter?
– I cannot see any name attached to it. In another passage the writer says -
Kelly, Orchard, Sinclair were here, but not inside. Attorney-General Hall was here at the time of the strike, to get scabs. He got none.
– lt is a disgraceful slander.
– I have no knowledge of any visit paid to the camp by Mr. Kelly, Mr. Sinclair, or Mr. Hall.
– ‘No one has said that you have.
– In explanation of my own visit, 1 may say that some time after the strike ended, I heard that certain goods were being manufactured in the camp, and were being disposed of, or offered for sale, by certain houses in Sydney, these goods thus competing with local industry.. At the invitation of the O.C., I visited the camp, to investigate the charge. The visit had absolutely nothing whatever to do with the strike. If my memory serves me aright, it was made some months after the strike was over.
– The writer does not suggest that you visited the camp in connexion with the strike.
– My only visit to the camp was this that I have mentioned.
– You did no harm, I am sure.
– I went out to endeavour to prevent- should it exist - competition by interned Germans with Australian workmen outside.
– The writer of the letter is not a German.
– May I be permitted to mate a further personal explanation. Last evening, after the honorable member for Brisbane had read certain extracts from the letter which we have been discussing, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) telegraphed to Mr. Hall, the Attorney-General in the New South “Wales Government, repeating the statement contained in the letter, and he has just handed to me Mr. Hall’s reply, which reads as follows : -
Finlaysons statement that I approached German internees, either directly or indirectly, absolutely without foundation.’
– I regret that I was not in the chamber when the statement was made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) ; and as I wish to refer later on to the letter he produced, I am anxious’ to know whether it will be possible to secure at once the Ilansard report of what occurred yesterday ?
-It is not customary to allow uncorrected galley proofs of Hansard to be available, except with the consent of the honorable members concerned. Hansard is not yet available from the Government Printer’s hands.
– As my name was mentioned last night, it having been said that I had visited the German Internment Camp at Holdsworthy, I have looked at the first three sheets of the letter, which is addressed, “Dear Mr. Finlayson,” from some internee in .that camp, in order to substantiate the accuracy of the honorable member’s quotation, and I find that the letter has apparently no ending. The last -sheet is missing.
– 1 can give the honorable member my positive assurance that the whole of the letter is there.
– It does not seem to end in the ordinary way; but I accept the honorable member’s assurance. The letter starts with a reminder to “ Dear Mr. Finlayson “ that he had promised to raise hell a couple of year3 ago.
– Doe3 the honorable member propose to rend the letter right through?
– <No ; I would only add to the hilarity of the House if I did so. I find that . the reference to myself is contained in the words, “Kelly, Orchard, and Sinclair were here, but not inside.” I did go inside that camp in order to look over it, and as the gentleman who writes to “ Dear Mr. Finlayson “ complains bitterly about the class of food provided there, I wish to say that from personal inspection I found that it was excellent, and was in adequate quantity. I say also that the conditions in that camp are infinitely better than those which our- own poor prisoners in Germany are experiencing.
– In view of the fact that the letter from which extracts have been read is unsigned, and that it casts a reflection upon a member of another Parliament, and mentions the names of honorable members of this Chamber, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would not be in the interests of this House if you saw that all references to the letter and the personal explanations arising therefrom were expunged from the records ?
– That can be done only by resolution of the House.
– May I suggest that the letter is now the property of the House, and should be tabled as a record.
– It is not the property of the House.
– According to May-
It has also been admitted that a document which has been cited ought to be laid upon the table of the House, if it can be done without injury to the public interests. The same rule, however, cannot bc held to apply to private letters or memoranda.
I understand that the letter referred to is a private one, and that it has not been read as a whole, although extracts from it have been quoted. In any case it was read when the House was in Committee, and the attention of the Chairman of Committees should have been called to it at the time if any exception was taken to its character or contents.
– In regard to this question of privilege, I understand that last .night the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) admitted that he accepted responsibility for the statements , contained in the letter.
– There is no question of privilege before the House, and this discussion is altogether irregular. I may remind honorable members that it is not in keeping with the dignity or practice of the House to involve the Chair in discussion or argument. If honorable members desire the excision ‘of anything from Hansard, the Standing Orders provide a way in which that may be done.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence have careful inquiry made into the exact nature of the promises made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and others to German internees two years ago, and inform the House at its next meeting as to whether those promises had any relation to the general election, then before the country, or special reference to any assistance from the sympathizers with those persons in camps ?
– I will submit the request to the Minister for Defence.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in reference to the statement made last night by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) to the effect that the firm of Paterson, Laing, and Bruce Limited, of which I am managing director, has doubled its reserve, funds during the period of the war. I think it is well that the House should know the exact position in regard to the funds referred to. On the 21st July, 1914, about ten days before the war broke out, the company’s reserve fund and undivided profits stood in the balance-sheet at £159,692, whereas on the 21st July, 1917, when the last balance-sheet was made up, they stood at £180,152, showing an increase of about £20,000. The statement that they have been doubled which would mean that they would now stand at about £320,000, was extremely unfair.
– In the early days of Federation it was customary to bring forward the Estimates of expenditure at a comparatively early period of the financial year, and to allow several days, and even weeks, for their discussion. In view of the fact that our expenditure now amounts to over £120,000,000, will the Treasurer, when he brings forward his next Estimates, do bo in sufficient time before going into recess, or before any adjournment of the sittings of the House, to enable at least one day, if not two or’ three days, to be made available for the discussion of the Estimates of each Department ?
– The normal practice in peace time is as the honorable member indicated. Australian Parliaments have occupied a great deal of time in the discussion of Estimates. In State Parliaments a month is often assigned for the consideration of them, and of the Appropriation Bill covering them. However, such an arrangement is only possible when Parliament assembles in the middle of the year, and concludes its sittings at the end of the year. All arrangements for fixed sittings of this Parliament have been dislocated owing to the war, and a great number- of irregularities, with which the honorable member is just as familiar as I am, have crept in in relation to the consideration of many subjects. I am anxious to give a reasonable time before the close of the financial year for the consideration of the Estimates, and I can promise’ the honorable member that in the next sittings of the House I shall endeavour to afford more time for the consideration of next year’s Estimates than we have been able to devote to them at this time.
– Will the Defence Department endeavour to obtain for the soldiers in uniform who are stationed at Laverton the same reduction in railway fares as applies to those who are in camp at Broadmeadows?
– I will submit the matter to the Minister for Defence.
-rOwing to my desire to assist in recruiting and make myself thoroughly acquainted with the industrial conditions and welfare of the people of the Commonwealth outside the State of New South Wales, I would like to know from? the Acting Prime Minister how long he proposes to deprive me of the privilege of coming; to Parliament?
– I know how deeply the honorable member appreciates what he describes as a privilege. No doubt what is regarded by other honorable members as a grave obligation is to the honorable member a joyful privilege.
– There is no need to put in the” dirt.”
– May I not be permitted even at this late stage of our sittings to indulge in a little bit of humour at the expense of the honorable member?
– During the last month or so ample opportunities have presented themselves to us to make the honorable member a target, but we have restrained ourselves. However, I believe the Government will be able to summon Parliament in August, and I assure the honorable member and his friends opposite that as soon as we have our financial measures ready for presentation to the House Parliament will be called together.
– Will the Acting
Prime Minister ascertain who is responsible for bringing men before Mr. Barnett, P.M., who has been intrusted with the task of inquiring into the enemy origin of members of the Commonwealth Public Service?. Men of long standing in the Public Service, and the descendants of British parents, have been placed in very humiliating positions in this regard.
– The terms of Mr. Barnett’s commission were published. They gave him a free hand to inquire into the matters referred to by the honorable member, but I do not know what procedure has been adopted by him, or by the Department. I shall make inquiries, and endeavour to inform the honorable member later to-day.
– I am advised by the secretary of the Brisbane Caledonian Society that they have carried a resolution asking me to support the formation of an Australian Scottish Brigade. Although the matter is somewhat belated, I should be glad to know if the Government have finally decided anything in regard to the formation of such a brigade.
– The matter is still the subject of communications, but I may tell the honorable member that last night the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) informed me of what I expected was the case long ago, namely, that the formation of such a brigade was now unnecessary, because every man with Scottish blood in him who was eligible, had already enlisted without waiting for a particular uniform.
– In view of the very unsatisfactory control of shipping from Great Britain to the Commonwealth, by which a monopoly is established in about two ports of discharge, through the Board refusing to issue through bills of lading to. final ports of delivery, which have been issued in the past, to the detriment of importers to other ports, and through the refusal of shipping brokers at the port of shipment in Great Britain to sign bills of lading until after a vessel has sailed, thus preventing the shipping and banking documents being despatched until the following steamer, which may be at least two weeks after the departure of the vessel on which the goods are shipped; also through the refusal of the Shipping Board to accept any responsibility for pillage or damage in respect to cargo, which is not taken delivery of upon discharge, and. which cannot be done without presentation of the shipping documents which are still on the seas, the owners of the goods not being mentioned in the ship’s papers - will the Acting Minister for the Navy, controlling shipping, take steps to try to remedy this state of affairs.
– Owing to the courtesy of the honorable member, I was able to submit his question to Admiral Clarkson, who isin control of the Shipping Department, and his reply is as follows : -
The statement that shipping brokers refuse to sign a bill of lading until after the vessel has sailed cannot be understood, and it is thought that it can only apply under very exceptional circumstances. The British Ministry of Shipping has directed that through bills of lading are not to he issued. It is a matter outside the Commonwealth jurisdiction and is drectly due to scarcity of tonnage. The Shipping Board is of opinion that this action was, under war conditions, unavoidable.
Allotments and Allowances
– In the interests of recruiting, and having regard to the difficulty of obtaining recruits, of which those who go on the platform are well aware, will the Assistant Minister for Defence make an announcement at the earliest opportunity, through the press or to honorable members, as to the number of wives, children, and dependants of men at the Front or on home service who, through no fault of their own, have had their allotments and allowances reduced or cancelled ?
– I will convey the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Defence.
– Has the Acting
Minister for the Navy given attention to the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which shows that wharfs in connexion with naval bases have cost 17s. 9d. per foot, although similar wharfs have been constructed in Melbourne for about 8s. per foot, and in other parts of Australia at considerably less cost? Is this waste of money, which has now become a public scandal, being continued, and are the men responsible for the blunders still allowed any voice in the disbursement of public funds?
– I noticed the report in the press this morning, and, having been a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I have some knowledge of the information on which the report is based. The wharf work at one of the bases has been completed, and I am not aware whether any other wharfs are being built.All I can say is that I shall endeavour to prevent any future bungling of the kind.
– In all good faith and seriousness I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will receive a deputation, if not from non-naturalized, then, from naturalized Italian citizens of this country, who feel that the nonnaturalized Italians are between two fires - not havingtheir point of view adequately represented to the Italian Government through their Consul, and, being Italians, not having the full protection which they think they ought to have from the Federal Government? Will the Minister allow the naturalized Italians to place soberly and temperately before him their views regarding the injustices under which their non-naturalized former compatriots labour?
– I do not think that there is any real objection to the proposal which the honorable member now makes. Naturalized citizens of Australia are entitled to approach the Government or Parliament in order to discuss matters which they and their former compatriots may be interested in.I will consider the matter with the honorable member after the House adjourns. There is no time to do that now. May I take this opportunity of removing what I think is an improperstigma upon the Italian Consul and for which the honorable member for Batman is responsible? As I read Hansard, the honorable member implied, rather than expressed, that the Italian Consul was an Austrian. I think the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) made that statement definitely.
– I didsay that I had good information, and that I believed, that the Consul-General is a man’ of Austrian parentage, but if that is disproved I am quite prepared to make amendsin Hansard.
– I do not accuse the honorable member of having said that the Consul is an Austrian, but I understood him to say that that gentleman is in favour of the Austrian military system, and is immersed in Austrian military traditions. To those statements the Consul, in a representation to the Government, takes very strong exception. In fact, he has asked me to report the matter to Parliament in a formal way. That I am not prepared to do, but I have replied that the Government sympathize with him in the attacks which have been made upon his character. The Government arenot responsible for the appointment of consuls in this country. They are appointed by the Governments of the countries they represent, and I presume that those Governments select persons who are qualified by blood and training for the tasks with which they are intrusted. But the Commonwealth Government have to approve of the exequatur or appointment, and in the case of Chevalier Eles the appointment was regularly made, and received the approval of the Commonwealth Government. Anything beyond that is a flagrant insult to a representative of a foreign power.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister able to say what is the exact status of the Consul, and how far he represents the Italian Government in Australia?-
– The appointment was made long before I took office, but officers of the Department which deals with this matter assure me that the appointment was regularly made by the Government of Italy, and was just as regularly approved by the Government of Australia. That being so, the matter should end there. Consuls are visitors to our land, and in time of peace any attack upon one of them w.ould be resented most indignantly by their Governments. The ideas of the honorable member for Batman have clashed with the duty which the Italian Consul has been obviously instructed by his Government to carry out. That duty is not a matter of which the Consul can judge. He is the servant of his own Government. Any responsibility for what has been done rests not upon the Consul, but upon the Commonwealth Government. The Australian Government could have refused to sanction the proposals of the Government of Italy in regard to the gathering up of reservists and other soldiers for service in Italy, but in the discharge of what we thought to be our duty to a friendly country, we acquiesced in the proposal. At Italy’s request, we said that we would give the Consul all the assistance necessary to accomplish his task. That should end the matter so far as the Consul is concerned. Honorable members may place what responsibility they choose upon the Commonwealth Government, but I hope that the honorable member for Batman, on reconsideration of the matter, will withdraw any sneers upon the appoint- - ment or parentage of the Italian Consul. That gentleman has his duty to perform.
– And he performs it in a very unpleasant way.
– ‘The honorable member is merely accepting an ex parte statement.
– No, I have had to interview him.
– The honorable member can be just as unpleasant as I can.’ I have found Chevalier Eles a gentleman in every sense of the word. I have said before that he appears to be a singularly cultured Italian representative, and I do not think we ought to place upon visiting strangers, approved and hall-marked by both Governments, any stigma that would reflect back upon the Governments responsible for their appointment.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I feel keenly the observation of the Acting Prime Minister that I have indulged in a sneer with respect to the supposed nationality of the Italian Consul. I uttered no such sneer. I would be among the last in this House “to cast any reflection upon a man by reason of his parentage or nationality.
– The honorable member sneered at our Allies this morning.
– I think I would be the last to do that. What I have done is this : I took advantage of the opportunities which the Government and the forms of the House gave me, to move the adjournment in order to put the view that the Ministry was wrong from the beginning in acceding to the request of the Italian Consul for the deportation of these men. The Government did not accept the view I put, and apparently they are continuing to carry out the Consul’s wishes. Since taking that action I have urged that we ought to offer a special measure of protection to non-naturalized persons within our shores who are entitled to the hospitality and protection of the British Government and the Commonwealth ‘Government’. I have also rerepresented that we are entitled to give these men every facility to .communicate with their own Government. The position has been misrepresented, unwittingly, by the Acting Prime Minister. J doubt whether his Attorney-General would officially support his statement that the proper course for these non-naturalized persons to adopt is to communicate with their own Government through their Consul here. That, I suggest, is an entire misconception of the duties of the Consul for any country, and it deprives these men of their legal right to communicate with their own Government.
– May I say that the answer I gave the honorable member is the official reply after due inquiry iu the Government Departments as to the proper channel of communication.
– Then I must accept it, although I do not admit that it is correct. It is quite likely that the attitude of the Consul towards the Leader of the Government - -
– Order! I do not think the hon- orable member is entitled to go into that matter in making a personal explanation.
– While it is true that the Acting Prime Minister himself has nothing to complain of as to the Italian Consul, it is equally true that Italian residents here represent that they have much to complain of, and think it is only fair that, as foreigners they should be permitted to communicate freely with their own Government. I submit that that claim is unanswerable, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister to reconsider the position in -that regard.
– An injustice, I think, is being done to the Consul said to have been appointed by the party now in power in Russia to represent that country in the Commonwealth. I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, if the Russians in our midst - and who, rightly or wrongly, think they know more about Russia and its affairs than do the outside public - desire that M. Simonoff shall (represent their country here, he will extend courtesy to that gentleman until the proper papers come to hand either from Russia or the Home Land?
– I do not think I can be accused of discourtesy to M. Simonoff. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) did not see fit to receive him either officially or unofficially, I have taken a further step, and have discussed with him in a purely unofficial way some of the problems confronting him.
– -I did not wish to suggest that the. honorable gentleman had been guilty of any discourtesy towards M. Simonoff.
– I have asked the British Government if M. Litvinoff, who occupies a similar position in England, has yet been recognised or dealt with in any * way, and I have as far as possible placed the unofficial representative of the present Russian Government here in as good a position as that occupied by M. Litvinoff in London. I am informed that M. Simonoff wishes > to leave Australia, and after consultation with the British Government I have advised him that no opposition will be offered to his departure, provided he goes through channels that are acceptable to the Allied Forces.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether a new regulation has been issued enabling home service men to wear the same badge that is worn by men who have been at the Front. iii other words, is there a regulation under which men occupying soft’ jobs in the Department may wear the same badge that is- worn by men who’ have fought at Gallipoli ?
– I am not aware of any such regulation, but will make inquiries.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– At the request of the honorable member I have on two former occasions inquired into several of the matters referred to in the questions, and have answered them in this House. I am not in a position to know all the facts in relation to questions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Mr. WEST (for Mr. Blakeley) asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This question deals practically with the matter covered by the first question on the business-paper. I could not have done more than formally refer the honorable member to my reply to his earlier question, but that by this morning’s mail I received, with the compliments of the Hon. D. R. Hall, AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, an extract from the Sydney Sum, of 1 3th inst., which embraces a statement from his own lips in regard to this matter. I think that, in justice to him, I should read it. It is as follows: -
, who returned to Sydney yesterday from Japan, referred this morningto a question asked in the House of Representatives during his absence in the East regarding the alleged internment of an Australian lady. “The fact is,” said Mr. Hall, “ that when Mrs. Hall and I arranged to visit China and Japan, a lady friend whom we knew very well decided to make the trip at the same time. The lady is an Australian, the daughter of a British soldier, married to a Britisher, and has two brothers fighting at the Front. One was wounded at Mons, and the other is now on active service in Mesopotamia. I had no hesitation in supporting her application for a passport, and at the same time assured the Federal authorities that the lady would return to the Commonwealth within four months. She went to the East, and returned in due course. The suggestion of her internment is rather a brilliant effort of imagination on the part of some one in Australia. We never heard the idea mentioned, even in the vaguest way, either in Japan or China.”
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice. -
Whether, in view of the fact that the lower grade officers; of the Commonwealth Public Service are to receive their automatic increases, though absent from Australia with the Australian Imperial Force, the Government, will safeguard the interests of those in the fourth and higher classes of the Public Service who are also serving with the oversea Forces, by making the necessary provision for them to obtain, when they again take up their duties here after their return, the increase of salary they would have been entitled to had they remained in Australia?
– This is being done now. Where a man who is now at the war was doing good workin his Department before enlistment, he will be granted the increases. In cases in which an officer’s work was of a mediocre character prior to enlistment, he will be treated similarly to what would have been the case had he not gone away.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the conference now meeting at The Hague considering the question of the exchange of prisoners, the Prime Minister wilt be advised by cable to make such representations through the proper channel to that conference as will secure that adequate consideration be given to the position of Australian prisoners, both civilian and war. at present interned in Germany?
– Combatant prisoners are, of course, being exchanged, and Australians participate, in accordance with arrangements made with the British Government. As regards civilians, the matter is not so definite, but the Government will make representations as suggested.
Payments in New South Wales.
asked the Treasurer; upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Thi3 information is being obtained, and will be .published as soon as possible.
Female Employees: Salaries.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the salaries of women employed in the Federal Taxation Department have been reduced, a» follow: - Former rates. - Eighteen years, 5s. per day; nineteen years, 5s. lOd. per day; twenty years, 6s. 8d. per day; twenty-one years, 8s. 6d. per day. Present rates. - Eighteen years, nineteen years, and twenty years, 3s. 6d. per day; twenty-one years and over, 7s. per day?
– The answers are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the charges made by the honorable member for Cook (Hansard, page 3681.) in reference to the censoring of certain statements alleged to have been made at Ouyen by Mr. Giles, the producers’ representative” on the Central Wheat Board, and as the suppression of such alleged statements may. lead to unjust suspicion in the minds of the producers, will the Acting Prime Minister give Mr. Giles permission to make, free from censorship, any public statement which cannot affect relations with our Allies? ‘
– I am unable at the present moment to give a definite reply in. this matter, but may state that it has been found necessary to .take certain action in connexion with the divulging of information contained in confidential documents. If ‘the divulging of such information is persisted in, it may be necessary to consider an amendment of lie constitution of the Australian Wheat Board.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked -
Have instructions been given to the men who have been called up for home defence, and are placed in charge of the German internees at Canberra, that they must salute the German officers? If so, can that practice be discontinued ?
I promised to make inquiries, and I am now furnshed with the following reply: -
Nothing is known of this matter at Headquarters, but further inquiries are being made.
– On Wednesday last., the’ honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked - #
Are the wives of internees permitted to live in internment camps with their husbands, as in some of the German prison camps in the Old Country t
I promised to make inquiries, and the Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer: -
No women resident with their husbands in Australia prior to the outbreak of war have been interned. ‘ The only women who are interned in camps with their husbands are those who have been sent from overseas to Australia with their families for internment, and also’ the wives of two or three ships’ officers who were taken, from German ships that happened to be in Australian ports at the outbreak of war.
– So that Australian natives married to Germans are not allowed to go with their husbands into the internment camps?
– Not if they were resident with their husbands in Australia before the war.
Reduced Railway Fares
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question: -
Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House if the State Government are making any allowance on soldiers’ tickets to Broadmeadows and to the Flying Station, Laverton?
I have to make the following answer: -
The following concessions are made by the State Railway Department in connexion with railway travelling: - Broadmeadows to Melbourne. - First class return reduced from ls. 3d. to 9d.; second class return reduced from ls. to 6d. When proceeding beyond metropolitan area - half holiday excursion rates. Laverton to Melbourne. - No concessions made. When proceeding beyond metropolitan area - half holiday excursion rates.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) some time ago asked a question as to the freights on general cargo between the main ports of Australia. The informa tion desired by the honorable member is contained in the following: -
Prior to the - issue of the War Precautious (Shipping) Regulations (Statutory Rules No. S7. of 1918), dated 26th March, 191S, there was no schedule of coal freights on the Australian coast. Since the requisition of Inter-State tonnage, a schedule has been adopted.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) a while ago asked me a question as to shipping available for the carriage of jute, and I promised to obtain additional information. The Minister in charge (Senator Russell) has forwarded me the following memorandum from the Chief Prices Commissioner (Mr. Percy Whitton) : -
The position with regard to the shipping is that the Shipping Board is now expecting to have the following steamers available between now and the end of December: -
Carina, four trips;
Australs (2), eight trips;
Talawa, three trips;
Carawa, three trips;
Yankalilla, one trip; making nineteen trips in all, whereas the estimated requirements are twenty-seven trips of 7,000-ton steamers. Continued efforts are being made to obtain this additional tonnage.
The Carina is due in Calcutta this week, and will commence loading at once.
The Yankalilla is now on her way to Calcutta, and it is expected that the Talawa, and probably two Austral boats, will be available for August loading.
It is further part of the scheme that the vessels mentioned shall remain in the direct trade between Calcutta and Australia during the season.
An additional part of the scheme is that a certain amount of cargo shall be taken to Colombo by a local service, and there transhipped to transports and other boats calling at Colombo from Egypt on their way to Australia.
Of course, that latter will be additional to the nineteen steamers of which we know at present.
Consideration resumed from 12th June (vid-e page 5936), of motion by Lord Forrest -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,000 “-be agreed to.
. - When the House adjourned last night after a prolonged sitting of thirty-one and a half hours, I had the privilege of the call; and I have now to express tho hope that all honorable members feel as fresh as I do after a good night’s rest. I first desire to draw attention to tho result of the by-election in the Albert Park constituency for the State of Victoria, which shows which way the wind is blowing in the matter of price fixation. Honorable members will have seen from this- morning’s newspaper that Mr Hannan, the successful candidate, had a majority of 1,841 over his next opponent, as compared with the majority of 1,540 recorded for his predecessor, the late Mr. Elmslie. But for the stand taken by the Age, I do nOt think that the Federal Government, or their supporters, would have made any pronouncement in regard to price-fixing; but we have yet to learn exactly what they intend to do, and how soon it will be done. If the Government carry out the promise that has been made to the House, it will be made plain to every purchaser how much he is called upon to pay, and if he is overcharged there will be an official to whom he can’ appeal. I only hope that this official will have the power to institute any legal proceedings necessary, so as to remove . from the private individual the onus of initiating a prosecution. The leading article in the Age of to-day says -
In establishing the practice of the short session and the long recess, the Government is making a serious mistake.
That is my opinion, and I am sure it- is the opinion of the public generally. We members are not earning our £12 a week by holding short sessions and taking long holidays. I much prefer Parliament to be in session, for then Wrongs may be readily remedied, whereas if Parliament is not sitting weeks of delay may be involved. The leading article goes on -
Now, when the ‘Commonwealth is spending more than £80,000,000 a year on war, and has vast trading interests throughout the conti.nent, there is more reason why recesses should be short and sessions long than there was in the days of peace, when the Federal Parliament was expected to sit for at least six months in the year, and on one occasion sat almost continuously for eighteen months.
Any member on the election platform who expressed disapproval of these sentiments would receive short shrift at the hands of his. constituents. The Government has promised preferential voting for the House of Representatives, and proportional representation for the Senate; and why should we not have. a special session of a week to settle this electoral question, once and for all ? Our industrial laws, both State and Federal, require disentangling and strengthening, and this work should be done before we rise.
The leading article proceeds -
The most regrettable features of the political position are the indifference of Parliament in general to the establishment of new industries, and the light and airy way in which the Administration is . scattering the public funds. The anxiety of members to promote comfortable means of life for . discharged, soldiers was as admirable as it was politic.
I have spoken on many and various platforms in . aid of recruiting, and any young man, with the rich blood coursing in his veins, will . always . be welcomed by me in the service of his -country; but we ought to consider ourselves pledged to see to the interests of those he leaves behind. When a man enlists and goes to the Front, prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice,, every care should be taken to* insure that no injury results to hisdependants, whether they be mothers, wives,or children, even though he may. be guilty of some fault from a military point of view. The letters I have received in reference to this matter make me long to do something that would prove very awkward to those who are to . blame. I refer to the case of a mother and three children, who have had every penny of their allowance withdrawn at a moment’s notice. The wife received a letter dated May stating that a cable had been sent by the Chief Paymaster, London stating that the soldier was absent without leave, and that that necessitated a cancellation of her allotment. When I submitted the case to the Assistant Minister for Defence he gave me a very sympathetic reply, and expressed the opinion that in such cases the women, and especially the children, should not be made to suffer. This is only one out of many similar cases. For instance., if a soldier overdraws his pay at the Front, . his wife and dependants may be compelled to go short. Does the Minister think that the occurrence of these cases assists in recruiting? If I, with others, were to lead the parents, old men, women, and children, who are suffering, through the streets of Melbourne, appealing to the citizens for food and the means to live, what would the effect be? The Minister must think as I do, that these cases prejudice enlisting. The neighbours who know of them are likely to say to intending recruits, “ Why go to the Front ?” After I have spoken on recruiting platforms I have often had individual cases brought before me, and I have been asked Is this fair and just?” I find it most difficult to answer the objections which spring from injustice.
A large number of returned soldiers have been offered the opportunity tolearn wool sorting and wool classing, and they have been sent to the stores of the Australian Estate and Mortgage Company, where, they say, they are employed only at pulling burrs out of wool. Two -of thosewhohavebeen sent have been in many a shearing shed, and they thought that they weregetting a good opportunity to improve their positions, but they complain that they are learning nothing. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) has assured me that it is ridiculous to try to pull the burrs out of wool, because they can be much more cheaply and better got rid of by a process of carbonization and the use of certain rolling machinery. These men are keptat work for eight hours a day, but do not receive the wages which would be paid to an ordinary labourer. Thoseof them who have been granted pensions - and pensions are given only to severely wounded men, and to -men permanently injured in health - are fined the amount of those pensions. In other words, a man is allowed to earn £2 2s. per week, but if he is in receipt of a pension of 15s. per week, that is deducted, making his earnings 27s. per week. These mencomplain, with justice, thatif the value of the wool is increased by the removal of the burrs, they are contributing to the wealth of the firm by which they are employed, for payments below the wages that in the ordinary way would have to be paid for such services, and therefore that they are being exploited, and other workers are being indirectly injured. Why should not these men be sent to the Working Men’s College to learn this business, the stores that I have mentioned being used only if there is not sufficient accommodation at the college? Of course, as a boy, I have picked up a fleece in awool-shed, but I know nothing ofthe woolindustry. It is, however, an insult to men toemploy them on a task which is an absurd one.
I come now to’ the fixing of prices, and the robbing of the public, hourly, daily, and weekly, to the extent of thousands of pounds. The high prices of foodstuffs will bring infamy on our parliamentary institutions if we permit them to continue. In this’ connexion I wish to read a statement, recently published in a newspaper that used to be the strongest organ in Australia fighting for Liberal measures. It is stated in that journal that the people are being overcharged by millions of pound’s. This is not the statement of a Labour man or a Socialist, but that of a wealthy newspaper, whose writers feel the injustice inflicted on the community by the robbery that is going on at the present time- Parliament permits this robbery; because it could put an immediate stop to it. The criticism of the Age should win for that paper the. appreciation of every head of a family who is finding difficulty is. making ends meet -
Yet on that point Mr. Watt. Ls. silent;, There is the- Government’s decision. The people; must pay double,, or go without, and. try and look as pleasant as- the tameness of vegetarianism will permit them. “ The control of meat prices is universal now as the: belligerent, countries/ writes the Commission, “ and as: lias been seen, the indirect, as well’ as the direct, effects, ot the war have- been’ elements1 in bringing about the’ present high prices- in Australis. The’ policyof countervail ling such exceptional’ influences by national action, has,, therefore, the: support of, world-wide precedent.” …. Parliament’ has yet to realise- that in order to “ win the war “ it is not essential to- enable a few to make huge; profits at. the expense of the- many, or stoutly to defend those, profits against taxation.
I believe, that the two- richest, members of this- Parliament have made< their money honestly and straightforwardly, and have always treated their employees well’, which is not always, done by the wealthy. Such persons as they, and the. big companies, trusts, and combines that, are making, huge profits, should’ know- that in the hour of the country’s, need’ it is their duty to contribute largely towards the expenses of’ Government-. By no. word or vote will I add to the cross which must be borne by persons of moderate means - the labour section of the community - after the war. We may have to give up the hope that, we can compel the enemy, which has1 been misled by the brutal Prussian military system, to indemnify us.
– We shall be fortunate if we get through at all.
– If I had the power, I would rather make Germany pay than make Australia pay for the expenditure that we have had to incur in connexion with the war, for which we are in. no way responsible-. I hope- to see- the military power of Germany broken and destroyed, so that it can never again be effective. But I have great regard for the middleand southern Germans, and! great, reverence for the great scientists, musicians, artists, and litterateurs of Germany. The only name among them indicating Prussian descent is that of Kant, the. great philosopher. I have- mixed a great, deal’ with Germans, as- boy and. mail, and believe tha-by generally . speaking, they will welcome the time- when Germany will’ bea series of republics, and the kinglets and! princelets. who now obey the- behests, of the Kaiser will- be. known- nor more.
It is said “ You cannot fix prices, and’ any attempt will break down., as previous attempts have broken down.1’’’ People speak of what was- done in the reign of Diocletian in 30i a.d., and1 under Julian in 361 a.d:, whose systems both failed. Such an objection is as- idiotic as would be- the statement that because in the old’ Roman days the swiftest mode of progression was the two-horsed chariot,, whose ruts can be. seen in the; streets* of Pompeii at this- day, one of- the swift- aeroplanes’ now. being used on the .West. Front, could.not fly from Melbourne! to Sydney in. sta. . hours. We haver rail ways,, telegraphs, telephones,, and many other mechanical contrivances of which former peoples- knew nothing, and no comparison- can be madebetween their state of knowledge and our own. Therefore it is absurd to say that we must fail, and that we cannot succeed because they failed. Another objection that- is. raised is that in the turmoil of the . French revolution- the regulation- of prices was attempted’ and failed. That revolution swept away the rule of the aristocracy and brought about the expression of all sorts of wild ideas and theories-, but as Allison, the conservative historian, has remarked, “ never in- the history of the world has there been such an uprising of genius and the appearance of so many great minds within bo short- a space of time as. in that period. ‘ ‘ The press is at times, a great tyrant, as the Labour party had often had cause to know, but it is one of the greatest educators that the world has seen,, and I am glad to be supported by the A ge when I say that it is ridiculous to declare that we cannot fix prices. Have not Great Britain and her mighty Allies, as well as her terrible enemy, fixed prices and organized industry in the midst of the turmoil of war? How much more easy should it be for us to do it under conditions of comparative peace? The Government, however, want us to take a holiday and put the matter aside. No recess is a holiday for me, because I live close to my constituency. Let us, as men, face the difficulties and, taking advantage of our position, declare that we will fix prices. Let us see that the farmer gets a fair price for his wheat at the station. Let us try to induce the State Government to carry the farmers’ wheat at zone rates. My memory carries me back to perhaps the greatest surgeon who passed from the last century into the present, Jonathan Hutchinson, who advocated the nationalization of bread, proposing that every family in Great Britain should have its allotted portion. In the same way I am speaking for the farmer.. I was a settler over forty -five years ago. I only mention it in order to make my argument stronger, and show that my sympathy is always with the man on the land.
On the question of the savings to the people let me quote from StateRegulation of Prices in Australia, written by that brilliant student of the University of Melbourne, Mr. H. L. Wilkinson, a member of the Price of Goods Board of Victoria, and a winner of a great prize that few men have been able to obtain. On page 73, Mr. Wilkinson, in his book, says -
The Hon. D. K. Hall, Attorney-General of the State of New South, Wales, who administered the price-fixing legislation of that State, estimated that the following savings were made to consumers as a result of the State regulating the trade in these commodities : -
That makes a total of £890,000 to the extent of which the people of New South Wales have benefited. On page 79 we have the following -
The accountant of the Commonwealth Prices Board, in a statement published on 24th August, 1916, estimated the benefits accruing to the consumer as a result of fixing the prices of bread and mill products since March, 1916, as follows : -
These figures are further elaborated on page 81, where we find the following -
In the case of the wholesale prices of bran and pollard a calculation made by the accountant of the Prices Adjustment Board showed the following savings -
Summarising, the accountant of the Board considered it would not be an overestimate to place the savings to the people as a result of price-fixing for mill products and bread, by the Federal authorities at the rate of upwards of £750,000 per year.
Some further figures, which ought to be placed on record in Hansard in order to give a basis for fixing the price of wheat, flour, and bread, are to be found on page 95 of the same book -
In a report issued on 16th June, 1916, the board, in regard to fixing prices, says: - ‘We have considered the question whether the fixation of minimum prices by legal enactment for wheat, flour and bread, or by the method of recommended, prices ‘ would be the best suited to the conditions prevalent in New Zealand. There are difficulties to be encountered under either system, but on the whole we prefer the latter method, and suggest that the following table should be the recommended prices, subject to alterations by the Board of Trade, as may be required by changing conditions from time totime : -
That table is borne out by some prices which I shall quote from Mr. H. L. Wilkinson’s The Trust Movement in Australia, giving the quotations for flour and the ruling prices for bread in Victoria as follows: -
When the people of Victoria were paying £11 10s. per ton for their flour, in the other States the price ranged from £10 2s. 6d. in some cases to about £12 in Queensland. Yet we were paying 7d. and 7£d. for the loaf of bread.
– What has been the cause of the increase in prices ?
– I ascribe it to the fixation of the price of wheat at 4s. 9d. per bushel, although We have enjoyed bountiful harvests. Of course,, wages have also been increased to a slight extent. Although flour was only £8 15s. per ton in 1913, the price of the 4-lb. loaf of bread in Melbourne was 7d. We are paying too much for bread at present.
Allowing for an average of 1,335 2-lb. loaves of bread to be made out of the ton of flour, estimated at 2,000 lb. - as honorable members may be aware, a ton of flour in the process of bread-making will absorb about 670 lbs. of water - and selling them at 3d. per small loaf, we get a return of £16 13s. 9d. per ton of flour, which costs £10 7s. 9d.
Thus there is a margin of £6 6s. per ton of flour to cover . working expenses and return a profit to the baker. Dr. Chapman, of the Technical College, New South Wales, has by experiments obtained far greater results - of course, with a smaller quantity of yeast than the average baker uses - and he has shown that it is possible to obtain 1,400 2-lb. loaves from a ton of flour. He is able to induce a ton of flour to absorb 800 lbs. of water, and working on his basis an uptodate baker should obtain a return of £17 10s. at 3d. per loaf for each ton of flour made into bread, giving a balance of £7 2s. 3d. per ton of flour to cover working expenses, and overhead charges.
– In those circumstances he would sell more water and less flour.
– In plain chemical language that is what it amounts to. -Mr. Corser. - Moisture in bread beyond a certain amount is now prohibited.
– I would be very pleased if I could get the figures from the honorable member. It has been proved incontestably that most of the Englishspeaking people eat their bread in too moist a condition. Those who have had experience on the Continent, where -the people are very careful in the preparation of bread, know that it is far, better cooked than is the average loaf in Australia. ‘ I have read medical opinion to the -effect that the bread we eat in Australia will stand more cooking. It explains why more tin loaves are turned out by the bakers than the ordinary cottage loaf, or the long loaf, which is so much to be seen on the Continent. The tin loaf does not permit of the expansion of the gases in the dough to the same extent as do the other loaves. However, I think I have shown that there is a fair profit to the baker.
– It is not fair to accept a laboratory test as a fair basis.
– The test was made in the State Bakery of New South Wales. It was not a laboratory experiment, but in any case baking in all advanced countries is based on laboratory tests.
– They are not always reliable. Some wheats produce a flour which will absorb more water than others do.
– The up-to-date bakers in Victoria will accept any advice from the laboratory that will improve their bread-making.
In reference to prices, I submit the following interesting quotation from that brilliant paper, the North-Eastern Ensign, published at Benalla -
A more unsatisfactory attitude than this could not easily be assumed - so far as the consumers at least are concerned - and coming, :is the answer quoted does, from the acting head of an Administration which, through the baptism of itself,’ is purely “ national,” its disposition is scandalously indifferent, or as a Labourite critic publicly remarked some days ago, “ It is bowing to the golden calf of squatocracy.” Mr. Sydney Kidman, “the cattle king,”’ is one: of fehatt; big ilk known as. the squatocr.asy. who does not want its bow, for, though as if to rebuke and stultify it for its sycophancy, lie swore uponhis oath’ before the Inter-State: Commission, that he reckons cattlebreeders were getting more for stock than they were worth, thus justifying the recommendation the Commission makes to reduce the price of meat to the standard at which it has been sold’ to the Imperial Government.
We know that Mr. Ryan, supported by the Government and . people of Queensland’, has compelled the selling of meat to the consumers of that State at a less price than that charged to the Imperial Government, namely, 3d. per lb. wholesale on beef. The statistics- as to cattle and sheep coming from and going to Queensland prove that the complaints regarding, the. effects of the embargo placed by the Queensland- Govern ment upon stock movements had no foundation: in fact. To-day the Commonwealth, Government have an opportunity that few Governments have enjoyed. Why do they not grasp the. nettle firmly? If they will embark upon a policy of price fixing, they will receive, the support and approval of the vast majority of the people. The first report of the Interstate Commission was made on the 3rd October, and was shelved. Early in this year the Prime Minister asked the Interstate Commission to make further investigation, and in the; meantime he stayed all proceedings, in regard to the regulation of the price of meat.The report was: still hidden from the gaze of Parliament, and only quite recently was the press allowed access to information which members of Parliament, could not get.
– The report was not deliberately set aside. It was under consideration, and that is the reason of the delay in making it public.
– Careful consideration of the report may have been wise, but during, all the delay the people were suffering:. The consumption of meat per head of population is getting less and less, and if the food of the people is unduly limited the life of the future units of the coBamiianity is, imperilled.. Investigations haw shown a diff erence of 5 inches, between the height of boys, of fifteen years of age reared in the poorer suburbs of Collingwood and. Carlton, and that of those reared in the more, favoured suburbs of South Yarra and Toarak. The workers have all too frequently to live in insani tary surroundings, and have less food,, lesssunlight, and less fresh air than other sections of the community. -In the interestsof the future units of the community,, let. us fix food prices so that mothers; may nourish their children as they sho.uiM henourished.
On previous’ occasionsI have quoted the Bulletin, and I have again to thank that journal- for publishing in its “ Wild Oat”’ column particulars of the profits made by different financial institutions and . companies. I read that the Bank of New South Wales had a reserve fund of £2,418,000 in 1913, and that that fund had increased by 1918 to £3,077,000, and during’ the intervening five- years the institution paid a dividend’ of 10 per cent.’ The record of the Melbourne Cooperative Brewery Company is phenomenal. I find that its dividends for the last seven years have been in 1912, 100 per cent.; 1913, 90 per cent.;. 1914, 88 per cent. ;1915, 96 per cent. ; 1916, 751/2 per cent.; 1917, percentage, not mentioned; 1918, 2.6 1 per cent.. Thereserve fund’ increased front £104,000 in 1913 to £107,000 in 1918. Surely that company could offer mo. objection- to the. war-time profits- tax. Mr.. W. L. Baillieu, who is an aeknowledged millionaire, and is now compiling hissecond million pounds, . has, to his honour, admitted flat the wartime profits- tax does- not affect him or m-en like him. In other words, the- richest men in the’ community are not torched by the tax.
– It is the most crude tax ever imposed on- a- community.
– I quite agree-, with the honorable member. Contrast the little we are doing with what lias been done in America. J. D. Rockefeller is reputed to have a fortune of’ £200,000,000. Those figures may be understood by my saying that if he were shifting his fortune in gold he- would require 1,400 lorries, each carrying one ton. Rockefeller’s acknowledged’ income was £12,000,000 per year, of which the United States Government took in- taxation £7,600,000-, or 631/3 per cent. Andrew Carnegie’s income was £2,000,000, and he paid in taxation £1,300,000, or 65 per cent. HenryFord acknowledged an income of £1,000,000, and was taxed to the amount of £600,000, or 60 per cent. J. Pierpont Morgan, with an income of £700,000, paid in taxation £450,000, or over 64 per cent. Honorable members who have studied the system of compiling income tax returns in America will agree with me that there are ways, not unknown in Australia, of falsifying the returns so that they do not represent the actual total income. I have previously stated in this House that the Vacuum Oil Company had before the war a reserve fund of £600,000, which in 1915 had increased to £SOO,000, and in 1917 to £1,600,000. My policy, all the time, is to appropriate for the Treasury all profits du excess of the average profits earned in pre-war years. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company advertises that its reserve fund is £1,900,000, and that it has paid in dividends and bonuses £13,000,000. If the reserves had been distributed in dividends, £15,000,000 would have been received by the shareholders. I do not object to that. But I have seen men who have been “ leaded “ through working in the company’s mines. Their lungs had been unable to reject the whole of the dust that had entered them, and I know that some of them have had to claim invalid pensions from the Commonwealth. Rarely do they reach the age at which they can claim an old-age pension. I do not blame the company for these things. They represent our present method of doing business. But I blame any Government, whether Labour, Socialistic, Conservative, or National, which allows such things to continue. Any honorable member who has seen the wrecks of humanity that are caused, particularly by dry mining, will agree that the statements I am making are not too severe.
I believe that if the Government would make an appeal to the very wealthy people to lend their money free of interest during the war, a large number of rich men would respond. When we are trying to get the shillings and pence from the workers in the street, when no man can go down the city without being asked to spend something on patriotic buttons or other means of raising funds for war purposes, it cannot be derogatory for the Government to make a request to those possessed of, say, property over £10,000, to help the country in its hour of need, by lending money free of interest. I believe that if the request were made, it would meet with respect and bear fruit.
– I propose now to make the following quotation from a letter by Mr. William Wilson, secretary of the Australian Protectionists Association, in regard to the fiscal issue -
Why will not the National party fulfil its pledges ? Is it because the Government is afraid of losing revenue from Customs duties on these luxuries, whose importation the Luxuries Board has recommended should be prohibited, and that the Government is afraid of introducing taxation to make up for this loss of revenue, or is it because the importers - the old free-trade Conservative party - have control of their National party, and dictate what shall or what shall not be done, quite irrespective of party pledges, the welfare, and the solvency of the Commonwealth ?
No one appreciates more than I do the difficulties in the way of dealing with the Tariff during the present world war, but I think those difficulties could very well be avoided if the Government would adapt to our circumstances the Japanese Tariff, which is, perhaps, the most up-to-date in the world, and bring in a Bill applying it to Australia. Honorable members might well be asked to pass such a Bill after a week’s discussion of it. The difficulties which honorable members have at the back of their minds in regard to tackling the Tariff at the present time would in this way be removed. No nation could object to another country paying it the compliment of copying any of its laws, and I am sure that we should not offend - the susceptibilities of Japan if, with the necessary adaptation, we applied, its Tariff to Australia. I am anxious concerning the Tariff question, because, having regard to the difficulties we experience in finding employment for our returned soldiers at the present moment, when they are coming back in their hundreds, I dread to think of what will occur when they return in their thousands.
– I desire to reply to complaints that have been made with regard to the woolshed class for returned soldiers, formed in connexion with the vocational training system adopted by the Repatriation Department. I have received the following report from the Department: -
Work for the season was promised by a number of graziers if the men were trained. A class was1 accordingly formed, and men invited to join.
Every one who did so applied to be admitted.
In any instance the men, being trained, are assured of a definite engagement in the country for the forthcoming” season, approximately eight months. Shed-owners have further given an undertaking that, if the men are suitable, they will be given an opportunity for permanent employment.
The class was started with twenty men, and was later increased to fifty.
The class hours were fixed at from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with one hour for lunch and two “smoke-ohs” of fifteen minutes each.
In the second week’ of the course, the men knocked off, objecting to the hours, which they desired should ‘be confined to9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Two of their number ultimately interviewed the officer in charge of vocational training, and submitted three complaints -
The first was immediately adjusted, and steps taken to prevent its recurrence.
Regarding the second, the officer in charge reports: - “The second point in dispute was that of the nature of the wool which they were called upon to handle, and I immediately called over to me the instructor, Mr. Carrodus, and Mr. Coombe, a representative of the Estates Company, and an expert classer, in order that I might be informed as to whether the men were being treated unfairly in the matter of nature of wool that they were handling. It transpired that the men were handling wool known as “ carding pieces,” and that this very wool had been selected as being best calculated to give the men speed in their work and to provide the very training which they were most likely to require in the wool-sheds. It was intended that they should pass next on to merino pieces, and graduate on to the finer wools. This was explained to the men, and in less . than two minutes the matter of the class of wool was disposed of.”
As to the matter of hours, the officer in charge pointed out to the men that these had been fixed in the interests of the men them- - selves, having regard to the brief period for training. After further discussion, the men intimated their willingness to resume, and all, with the exception of one man, did so on the following morning. The places of the man who declined to resume, and of two who dropped out through physicaldisability, were immediately filled.
The instructor states that the men settled earnestly to their work after he had explained to them the reason for sorting the wool complained of. They have become quite interested in their work.
Some men, with leg wounds, found the strain of standing caused swelling. Instructions were immediately given that these men should be given frequent opportunities for sitting down and resting.
Another difficulty was that some of the stronger men were detailed to carry the wool from the sorting table to the presses, andthey objected to having their time occupied in this way instead of at sorting and picking. Men ha ve since been specially provided to remove the wool as it is treated at the sorting table.
It is not correct that the wool was provided by the Estates and Mortgage Company. It was specially released by the Wool Committee to permit of the instructional class beingformed. It may be added, however, that the company referred to very kindly made available its large show-room floor for the use of the class. This was most helpful, as, owing to the heavy demands upon storage space consequent upon freight difficulties, it was extremely difficult to procure suitable accommodation. A comparison with rental quotations shows that the accommodation made available by the company represents a contribution to the training of returned men of approximately £300.
It will thus be seen that the company has been treating the Department very generously.It reaps no advantage out of the transaction, but is really assisting the Government in training returned soldiers for useful occupations.
– It is also supplying power and light.
– Yes; it has treated us very generously.
– It is the one oasis in the desert.
– I think the honorable member will admit that one of the brightest features of the war is that it has brought to the front amongst all classes a degree of personal sympathy and humanitarian interest that many did not believe to exist. The Department also reports that -
– They do not do that.
– They have not to pick burrs out of the wool.
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. What the men arc doing is necessary work, but they are not in the class for the sole purpose of picking burrs out of the wool. The report continues -
The men do not receive any wages, as they are totally inexperienced. However, they receive a sustenance allowance compatible with the regulations.
The men are being trained, and they receive a. sustenance allowance in accordance with the terms of the regulations. I wish to emphasize the point that the company does not derive any advantage at all from this arrangement, and deserves rather our commendation than our criticism. The report shows that the officers of the Department are carrying’ out their work in a sympathetic way, and that the whole of the arrangements are in the interests of the men themselves. The Department in short is doing what Parliament desires shouldbe done in the way of providing these men with such training as will enable them to re-establish themselves in civil employment.
.- The reply which I received this morning from the Honorary Minister in charge of shipping (Mr. Poynton), covering a statement from Admiral Clarkson, shows that it is absolutely necessary in the interests of the community that the whole question of shipping should be threshed out in this Committee, and that the Government should be asked to give it serious consideration. Within the near future, that question will be a burning one throughout the Commonwealth.
– It is now.
– It will become still more acute. Honorable members are, no doubt, aware that the Ministry for Shipping in London has control of all vessels, and determines the number that shall visit Commonwealth ports. Shipping, as the result of the war, is very scarce, and an endeavour is being made so to regulate the trade with Australia as to provide for the most necessary items being first dealt with. Of that no one can complain. I fear, however, that the British Ministry for . Shipping is not cognisant of the requirements of Australia. It does not recognise, apparently, that we, have many thousands of miles of seaboard with numerous ports at far distant points along it. During the present shortage of tonnage, goods for different parts of the Commonwealth are being sent largely by vessels visiting only’ two ports - for the most part the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. This inflicts much inconvenience on business men in Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania. Goods coming for those States have to be discharged at one of the larger ports I have named, and are sent from there to their destination. Before the war, and until shipping was taken over by the British Minister for Shipping, the rule was always to supply through bills of ladling to the final port of discharge, so that a consignment remained in the control of the. shipping company by whose vessel it was shipped from the Old Country until it reached its final port of destination. In that way our goods were safeguarded until they reached their final port. This London Board, however, has now given instructions that no bills of lading shall be issued to any merchant except to the first port of discharge - the destination of the vessel - . and the goods are no longer handed over by the agent of that vessel to one of the coastal companiesto beforwarded to their destination without any additional expense to the merchants at other ports. Under this decision of the London Board, it is absolutely impossible for merchants in other ports than the port visited by the oversea steamer to handle with any degree of safety goods from Home.
Mr.Falkiner. - Does not the honorable member think that we are fortunate in being able to get any goods at all from the Old Country?
– I suppose that in these times we ought to be thankful that we are alive. When we have ships we should try to make the best arrangements possible under the circumstances’. I should here like to read an extract from a letter received on the 12th of this month by a merchant in Melbourne from a manufacturer in Glasgow, as follows: -
We are also glad to inform you that the s.s.
Dungarra is about to load for Australia, and we have arranged freight; but until she actually sails we cannot rely on her departure, as the Government frequently commandeers steamers at the. last moment.
We have no objection to that, but it shows one of the difficulties with which we have to contend. What we do strongly object to is -
Kindly note, as the ship brokers will not give up bills of lading until after the vessel has sailed, the documents . may not reach you through the bank before she arrives. It will be well, therefore, to keep a look out for her, and arrange in. some way for the warehousing of the goods until documents reach you.
That is all right so far as theconsignee at the port of arrival is concerned, for he is on the spot, and isable to ascertain whether any goods are on board for him. The circumstances are very different, however, in the case of a merchant in Townsville, Rockhampton, Maryborough, or any other distant port. When goods are shipped, whether from Glasgow, London, or Liverpool, the manufacturer there obtains his money on bills of lading with other documents handed to a bank, and these, together with the invoices and insurance documents, are forwarded to the port of destination. Then, and not until then, the shipping agent at the port of arrival knows towhom the goods belong,..they being consigned to order as a protection to the bank. If the goods are landed in Melbourne and Sydney fourteen days before the merchant in Rockhampton, Townsville, Tasmania, or South Australia receives any notice, how can the goods be protected? There is now a regulation under which it is possible to refuse to entertain any claim for pillage or destruction of goods unless that claim is lodged with the agents for the British Shipping Board within seven days, and, of course, in such cases asI have instanced, this removes any chance of complying with the regulation. Unfortunately, there is considerable pillaging; and only last week, in a case in which 1 was concerned, a ship’s agent . for . an oversea steamer repudiated any claim because notice from Maryborough had not reached him within seven days of the time of the discharge of the goods from the ship.; and this occurred even before the drastic regulalation came into operation. Under the circumstances it will be simply impossible to obtain a penny piece on account of any damage to, or pillaging of, goods in transit, and it will be necessary to’ appoint agents in Melbourne and Sydney to see that goods on their arrival are properly stored and insured, and sent on to their destination. All this, of course, means a considerable added cost, which will have to be passed on to the consumer.
Why not use the machinery already in existence for handling such goods ? I trust that the Minister will represent to the British Shipping Board that, in view of the long distances between ports in Australia, bills of lading should, as in the past, be issued to the final port of discharge, and it ought to be imperative on the British agents at these ports to see that the goods are safeguarded and forwarded with all despatch. Should this entail a little more expense, I am sure the Australian merchants would prefer to bear it rather than have their goods knocking about the port of discharge with nobody responsible for their safety. I have no desire to say anything against the management of the Shipping Board under Admiral Clarkson. He is an excellent man for the position. I, amongst others, have often wondered that he should be able to grasp the situation as he has, and to so successfully administer his office. But the matter to which I ammore immediately referring is outside the range of his duties, except, perhaps, the latter part.
– The latter, part appears to me to be within his powers.
– But the responsibility must rest onthe shipping authorities at the port of shipment to give through bills of lading to Hobart, Rockhampton, Adelaide, or wherever it may be. It is for them to safeguard these goods; and if the agents here had sufficient clerical assistance when there were five or ten vessels to one arriving at the present time, surely the old arrangement could be successfully continued. However, the present difficulty is not because there is not the assistance, or owing to any refusal to do this work ; and I can only put it down to lack of knowledge of the local circumstances of . Australia on the part of the British Shipping Board. The whole of the facts ought to be laid before that Board with a view to some remedy being applied.
In the letter read by the Minister today, we are told that this is a matter outside the Commonwealth jurisdiction, and that the trouble is due to the scarcity of tonnage. I can quite believe that the matter is not within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but it has nothing to do with the scarcity of tonnage. A small quantity of goods can be dealt with in identically the same way as a large quantity in the past. We are also told in that -letter that the Shipping Board is of opinion that this action is . unavoidable under -war conditions, and that is where I join issue with the controller of shipping, for it is quite possible to do as we did in the past. This is a matter of so much importance that the Minister, I am sure, will receive considerable correspondence from all pants of the Commonwealth unless some change is made. Honorable members who know something of the shipping industry may doubt whether it is correct that the manufacturer at Heme is refused the shipping documents until after the vessel has sailed, but the letter I have read proves that such is the case, and it only bears out inform rotation received from other sources. The new arrangements are recent, and there ha,s. scarcely been time for the shoe to pinch; brat prevention is better than cure, and I thought it right to take the earliest opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to the facts,, so that merchants in the Commonwealth may be saved from such harrassing and unnecessary restrictions..
The curtailment of postal facilities in Queensland is causing and placing immense disabilities on the selectors in the agricultural and pastoral districts of that State.
– It is the same all over Australia.
– But in Queensland, with its. 429,000,000 acres of land, and a scattered population, the disabilities are much more intensely realized ; and of this I could give numerous instances. In many districts- a tri-weekly service has been replaced by a weekly service.
– That is being done in every country centre.
– That intensifies the complaint I am making; I am speaking for the whole of Australia, and merely using Queensland as an illustration. The other day a commission! agent in Nanango wanted on a Friday to communicate with Murrarumbi, a station about 40 miles on the Maryborough side of Nanango, in reference to a transaction involving a sum of about £5.00. As a train leaves Nanango at ten minutes past 5 o’clock each morning, and stops at Murra.rumbi, he naturally concluded that his letter would be, delivered about 9 o?clock on the same morning, in accordance with custom in the past. But because no mail is now made up on the down train for Murrarumbi and numerous small stations, the letter was sent on to Maryborough, a distance of about. 140 miles, and brought back to Murrarumbi on the following Monday, too late to be of service, and, therefore, the deal was lost. All along the line are butter and cheese factories’. In my district there are about twenty of these factories. At certain times in the month there must be a large correspondence, including advices of cream and cheques, between them and their suppliers. This correspondence is much longer in transit than it should be. Why must country communities,, which, under any circumstances, are under disadvantages unknown to city dwellers, have their inconveniences increased by the Postal Department? If there must be cheeseparing, let it be in- the city,, where, if necessary,, boys can be despatched with the delivery of messages and letters. Many of the farmers out back have sent sons and often only sons, to the war. They are prevented from getting letters from them as often err as early as they might get them,, and they are also prevented from getting; information through the local press as early as they might get it. This naturally increases their’ anxiety beyond that, of persons resident in the cities, where information can be obtained from newspapers; not only daily, but every morning and evening,. The PostmasterGeneral, is,. I believe, a competent man, and is doing his best, according to his judgment. But I fear that too much pressure is exercised by city populations to prevent inconvenience being suffered by them,, with the result, that out-back populations;, which cannot so easily place their difficulties before the Minister, or the Deputy Postmaster-General, of the State; do not get fair treatment. Country correspondence is mostly very important, containing as it does very largely, advices concerning the despatch of cattle, produce), and orders for goods. It frequently happens that goods are now delivered ahead of the letters advising their despatch. Unfortunately,, there is a good deal of pilfering on. the railways,, and men who have; not received invoices cannot always; tell whether the goods of which they take delivery are of the quantity or in the condition ia which they were sent. I hope the Postmaster-General’ will give attention to this complaint, and at- least not accentuate: the troubles of the man on the land, but remedy this very unreasonable regulation. Every agricultural district in the Commonwealth probably suffers in the manner that I have indicated.
.- Soon after we commenced the present series of sittings/ 1 spoke of the need for action on the part of this Government and the Governments of the States to promote harmony in the community to facilitate the prosecution of the war, and a little later a Conference was convened by the Governor-General, at which many suggestions wore made to that end. Since then, at the request of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), my leader, Mr. Tudor, has drawn up a list of regulations, the repeal of which would assist considerably to bring about better feeling. The Government has decided to repeal some of these regulations, but to retain others, many of which, I think, it will be wise in the public interest to repeal. Some of these regulations appear to have been hurriedly framed, because of strong feeling existing between different sections. Regulation 27a - -and regulation 86 might be dealt with in much the same way - appears to owe its origin to the existence of sectarian feeling. I think it would have been better if it had not been framed, because the Government has ample power, under the War Precautions Act, to deal with disloyal utterances, and to protect the interests of the nation. It would be a good thing for all of us if we could turn a deaf ear to much of what is being said. What we want at this period of crisis is harmony. The whole community should be doing its best to assist the Empire and its Allies in the struggle in which we are engaged. Were these regulations repealed, it would conciliate many who, though in favour of the vigorous prosecution of the war, are incensed by the belief that the regulations were imposed to strike at them. I hope that even now the Government will go further into the matter, and see if these regulations cannot be repealed. This Government has certainly endeavoured to meet the position, and I should be pleased if I could say as much of the New: South Wales Government. At the Conference, its representatives promised to make arrangements for the reregistration of de-registered unions. That was to be done as early as possible. Therefore the State Parliament, which was in recess should have been convened at once to pass the necessary legislation. Mr. Holman, however, had the matter referred to the Industrial Court, which was responsible for the de-registration. That Court had been originally moved to de-register the unions at the instigation of the Government, and, when applied to for permission to re-register, the Judge naturally felt that he could not stultify himself by reversing a decision which he had based, on his interpretation of the law, and he declined to do what was asked. He pointed out that it was for the Government, not for a Court, to do what was desired. After having placed him in a very invidious position - because I think he was perfectly right in the attitude that he took up - the New South Wales Government has now called the State Parliament together to consider the matter; but it proposes to discriminate between unions. Why not let bygones be bygones?
– The unions have not done that.
– They have done it. The inactivity of the New South Wales Government i3 keeping alive bad feeling. Of course, there will always be angry and embittered persons in every community; but it is our business to get the great majority of the workers interested in doing their best for the prosecution of= the war. That cannot be accomplished while they think that they are not getting fair play. The New South Wales Government has not given effect to the promises that were made at the Conference. Consequently, we are not achieving the best results. I admit that there has been an improvement in the matter of recruiting since the Governor-General’s Conference, but it should be greater, and it can be made greater.
– Are the Australian Workers Union doing their share in Queensland ?
– I do not know what any section is doing. It is one of the factors which are doing so much harm to recruiting when one section of the community is always referring to the part another section is playing. No one has ever heard me during the course of the war refer to the part played by any section or organization. It is not right to do it. In this Parliament we should take a general view of the situation, and do our best to prevail on every one in the community to do what we think is the right thing according to our lights.
Each man is entitled to his own opinion, and I have not seen any reason to change my opinion regarding the war. I have always been an opponent of militarism, and an opponent of wai-, if it could be avoided. Even before I entered a Legislative Chamber I strove to do my utmost against militarism; but there was nothing for Great Britain to do but to enter this war. She was bound to do so, in order to protect the liberties of this world, and especially little Belgium, which was invaded by the Germans. That was’ the view I took at the outbreak of the war. I supported the Government in possession of the Treasury bench at the time, which offered men to Great Britain, and 1 have seen no reason to deviate one iota from the position I then took up. We can do nothing but throw our whole weight into the war, with a view to bringing about an honorable and satisfactory peace. I do not think that we can bring about peace at the present time, when the enemy is knocking at the door, in the . belief that he is sure of obtaining victory within a reasonable time. The mail news to hand in regard to the Western offensive tells us that the Germans broke through the 5th Army and created a salient .which, if they had been able to widen it sufficiently, would have brought about the defeat of the French Army on the one side and the British Army on the other, putting an end to the war in a very few months. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the situation is critical.
– This afternoon it is more critical than ever.
– It is getting more critical every day. We must face the situation. ‘We must devote the whole of our attention to doing all we possibly can to extricate the Empire from the position in which it finds itself. Only when we can show Germany and her military caste that she cannot conquer the world, and only when we can hold her and probably force ber to give up some of the territory she has taken recently, will there be opportunity of bringing about peace by negotiation. At present the Germans are absolutely opposed to anything but the furtherance of their desire to conquer and -.dominate the whole of (.he world, and in the face of this fact we should do all we can to see that there are no bickerings among ourselves.
We started the war with enlistment on the voluntary system. The people have decided that it should be conducted on that system. Therefore, it is the duty of every one to assist in our voluntary effort to the best of his ability. No one knows what may happen within the next few weeks. We know that the Germans have succeeded in every effort they have made since the offensive started. It is useless to talk about strategy. We probably know little about the actual state of affairs. As a layman, it would appear to me that we are being driven back day after day, and that we are playing a losing game. That losing game should be stopped, and the only way in which that can be done, to my mind, is by getting as many men as we possibly can in a position which will enable them to stop an» further advance on the part of the Germans, and under the voluntary system the only way in which we can get men is by maintaining complete harmony in the community.
– Does not the honorable member think that the voluntary system has absolutely failed in Australia?
– I think we ha’ve done wonders under the voluntary system. We have enlisted 400,000 men out of our population, and I think that we can get a lot more men if we can only put the position plainly before them, and do away with any bickerings among different sections of the community. Australia has done really well in this war, but it should do still more. I was one of those who always held that we should not have sent away five divisions. Our population is not sufficient to enable us to reinforce that number of divisions. It would have been quite sufficient if we had sent away four. We could have reinforced them. It is a pity that the question of conscription should have been raised, because it has done much to set back voluntary recruiting. It was a pity that we were asked to supply 16,500 men a month, when it is now proved that not more than 5,300 are required. At the time the conscription cry was raised, the recruiting averaged about 6,000 men per month. As a matter of. fact, we were exceeding our quota. I have no desire to debate the matter; but from the day on which the cry for conscription rose dissension was created in the community, and a great deal of harm resulted. I want to heal the consequent breach. I wa«t people to forget all those things of the past, and to do all they possibly can to assist the cause of the Allies, so that we may bring about an honorable peace. The party which sent the men to the war at the beginning must stand loyally by those who went <away. Whenever I addressed men who were about to embark, I told them we were justified in entering the war, and in doing ail that we could in the .interests of the British Empire and the liberty of the world. I am prepared to stand by that view to-day. I hold that the Governments^ - both Federal and State - should do all they possibly can to create a good feeling in the community, in order to prevent those who are a little bit extreme in their views, those who do not see eye to eye with us, and those who are against the war. from getting a handle to cause dissension and hamper our .efforts. ,It is our duty to do all in our power to prevent that.
I make these observations so that my views in regard to the war may be out on record. I realize that we are fighting for our very existence. The Germans will at present accept no peace. The peace they want is one which can only be achieved at the mouth of the cannon. They are knocking at the gate every day, and are determined to get through if they pes-* Sl bly can. Any little help that I can give in the direction of stopping them I shall be only too pleased to give, and that should be the attitude of every one.
It would be better for all concerned to leave the matter of annexations alone. We should not bother about what we are going to do in regard to post-war settlements, or territorial aggrandisement. We should leave those matters to those who are in control, and who are in the best position to judge as to what is necessary in order to bring about an honorable peace. If we put forward certain requests, we are only likely to hamper them. We do not know what is going on; in fact, we know very little apart from what we can -see in the press; therefore let us leave the question of annexations and kindred matters in abeyance. Our primary duty is to make sure of winning the war, and bringing about an honorable peace, in the interests of liberty and of future generations.
I agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that country districts are being deprived of facilities in the matter of telephone and postal communications to which they are entitled.
– Cannot we get an alteration 1
– Every honorable member is receiving communications upon this matter. I receive a letter now and then informing me that, if so-and-Bo will not conduct such-and-such an office at a certain fixed allowance, there will be no postal service for the people in the district.
– We are all getting those letters.
– Honorable members representing country electorates get them thrown at them week after week. The scale fixed by the Department is not sufficient for the work that has to be done, and in consequence the local residents cannot be got to do it. I will take the case of the Tarro post-office. I do not suppose there is any better land for cultivation than is to be seen in the neighbourhood of the Tarro railway station, on the northern railway line in New South Wales. There are dairy farms extending right through the country to Miller’s Forest. A couple of weeks ago I received a communication informing me that if so-and-so was not prepared to keep the post-office at a certain figure fixed by the Department it would be closed. Hundreds of people depend on that office, and if it is closed they will have to do their postal business at Miller’s Forest. Certainly the Postal Department should be put on a business footing - that is to say, the service should be made to pay for itself. I see no reason why the Department should not be able to get sufficient revenue in the big metropolitan centres, with a dense population, for the purpose of assisting country districts and developing the country. Men go 10, 20, and 50 miles away from civilization in order to do developmental work, and we cannot expect them to pay sufficient for the telephone and postal services provided for them to make them paying concerns, but we could raise sufficient money on the whole for the purpose of making an allowance to enable the necessary service to be given to these pioneers. The honorable member who has just spoken told us about persons, in country districts whose sons were fighting at the Front. The parents of our boys who are fighting are always asking when the next mail will be in from London, so that they can get the latest news of their sons, but in the case referred to by the honorable member delay occurs because of the route over which the mail is carried. That alteration has been brought about only recently.
The claim is made that the postal revenue is increasing, or that it is much better than it was two years ago. Of course it is; it could not be otherwise. This increase has been brought about by reason of the fact that thousands of letters are posted every day for the boys at the Front, and thousands of parcels are mailed every week to the Forces overseas. How much revenue does this bring into the Postal Department? As a matter of fact, the war has brought a large income to the Post Office. In these circumstances, why should country districts be deprived of postal facilities which until recently they have enjoyed ? It is our duty to give the fullest possible facilities to the people in country districts. In the case of sudden illness, if there is no telephone service there is no opportunity to communicate with a medical man ‘who may reside 20 miles or 50 miles away, and very often if he can arrive within two or three hours there may be a possibility of a life being saved. The Department cannot be made self-supporting by depriving the country people of postal services which they have enjoyed for years past. I remember the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) speaking in the House when he was a supporter of the Labour Government. He said that, as far as he was concerned, he had made ample provision for his electorate, and that it was fully supplied with post-offices and telephone services from one end to the other. If his district is so well provided for, he should have some thought for other, constituencies.
– All that was done before he became Postmaster-General.
– I did not say that he was Minister at the time.
– That shows what a good representative of his district he must have been.
– If the PostmasterGeneral, when a private member, recognised the necessity for providing facili ties to such an extent in his own district, he ought to recognise also the necessity for creating similar facilities for the people throughout all country districts-
. -The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has counselled the Government to repeal certain regulations made under the War Precautions Act. I counsel the Government in the opposite direction. It is not my desire to create dissension between sections of the community, but I remind honorable. members that the regulations to which objection has been taken were introduced at a time of considerable excitement, in Melbourne at any rate. In consequence of certain things which had happened, ill-feeling was being engendered, badges which were disloyal in their significance were being worn openly in the streets, and utterances which were hostile to Great Britain were being made in certain quarters. The regulations had the effect of preventing a continuance of those things. To-day it is not lawful for a person to wear any badge or fly any flag which is calculated to create disloyal sentiments in the community. If we are to win the war, one of the first essential’s is that every true loyalist should feel that the Government are strong enough to maintain law and order against any set of disloyalists who may be in the community. That is all 1 have to say in regard to this matter.
In regard to postal facilities in country districts, of course, as a country member, I deplore the fact that facilities which have existed in many places fora considerable number of years are being discontinued. But it is futile to talk of carrying on the Post Office as a business proposition and at the same time claim that it shall not discontinue services which are not paying. A business proposition demands that a concern shall be made to pay, and. I hold that that policy in regard to the Postal Department is unsound.
– We have no more, right to judge the Post Office by its balance-sheet than we have to judge the police or the Department ‘ of Justice in the same way.
– I was about to come to that point. The primary purpose of the Postal Department is to satisfy public requirements, and to induce people to leave the city centres and establish themselves in It he country areas.
– Can the honorable member guarantee an exodus from the city to the country if we add to the deficit by establishing telephones everywhere?
– No; but the- more facilities we give to the people in the country the more pleasant will life become to them, and the more, will they bc satisfied.
I turn now to another matter which has exercised my mind for a considerable time. In my opinion, it is a crime against our nation that we should permit persons of enemy nationality to occupy important positions in the Defence Department. When the war broke out the proper attitude for the Government to have adopted towards every German employed in this country was - “ Your nation, has made Avar upon us; it has forced us into this conflict. While that condition exists it is not fit and proper that you, who are of enemy nationality, should be drawing money from the public Treasury.” Whatever may be said in that way of the Public Service generally applies with greater force to the Defence Department. For a period of nearly twelve months I have been in correspondence with that Department and the Prime Minister’s Department in regard to this matter, and certainly some changes have been made. Some persons with names which were particularly objectionable have been removed, but enough has not yet been done. In May last I called for a return of Germans employed by the Defence Department. That return was tabled about three weeks ago, and showed that there are still thirty-one Germans in that Department, three of whom were born in Germany, whilst the others are Australian-born Germans of the firstgeneration. I hold the opinion that persons of British birth of the first generation, who hear from their parents of the glories of Old England, or Scotland, or Ireland are, as a rule, more loyal to those countries than were their parents, and I believe that the same sentiment operates in the case df children of German parentage. When they hear their German fathers and mothers speak of the traditions of Germany they must grow up with feelings of loyalty to the Fatherland of their parents, and I would deplore the fact if they did not.
We have to remember what the Germans have proved themselves to be. I do not think that if we searched the German army through and through we should find a Britisher in it; certainly we could not find one occupying a position of command. Germany boasts that she has spies in every land. President Wilson, of the United States of America, very recently made a declaration on this point, and pointed out that German spies are to be found in every branch of industry and also in the Civil Service. Testimony comes from all quarters that of all nations Germany has the most perfect system of espionage. A man who is given a position in the defence Department, if he happens to be more loyal to Germany than to Australia, has facilities for rendering service to Germany. I do not accuse the 25,000 Germans in Australia of being disloyal to the British Empire. Probably many of them are truly loyal to Great Britain, but in a military Department we should take no risks. Officers in that Department can obtain knowledge which would serve German interests, and I have been surprised in the correspondence I have had with the Defence Department’ to find that, in respect of every German mentioned, the authorities have replied that they have investigated the case of that mau, and proved him to be loyal. No spy can be of any service to the nation that employs him unless he is a man able to hide his identity and purpose. ‘ Secrecy is the essence of success in his occupation. Only in to-day’s paper we read of the case in Great Britain of Sir Joseph Jonas, a Rhineland Prussian and an ex-Lord Mayor of Sheffield, whom our Sovereign had knighted. For many years he has been living before the people of England as a loyal Britisher - loyal, of course, until he was found out. That is the danger. Every German in our Service to-day is a loyal man until he is found out. This ex-Lord Mayor of Sheffield has been found out, and is to be tried. His bail has been fixed at £.3,000.
Of course many of the Germans who have come to reside here are naturalized Australian citizens, but the Australian law of naturalization is an absolute farce, because it gives them Australian citizen rights without taking away their German citizen rights. The United States of America naturalization law is much sounder, for it requires that, before a person can become a naturalized citizen of that country, he must disown his other nationality. No man can serve two masters. But in Australia we naturalize foreigners knowing that they have their tongues in their cheeks, inasmuch as they are not forswearing their own nationality although grafting themselves on to ours. Some time ago the then Minister for the Navy (Mr. Jensen) said, in explanation of a return of naturalization certificates -
Some of the persons enumerated in column B (naturalized as British subjects) are also enemy subjects, since both Germany and Austria-Hungary permit their subjects, in certain circumstances, to retain their nationality, although naturalized -abroad; but information as to the number of naturalized subjects who remain enemy subjects is known only to the enemy Governments.
It is a very unsound policy for us to naturalize men when we know that some of them have deliberately retained their foreign nationality. Because they are naturalized in Australia, they are received with open arms into our businesses and Public Service, and they enjoy all the advantages of citizenship, knowing all the time that if Germany were to win the war they would be just as well off under German rule as they are under ours. The position is untenable, and I am astonished at the difficulty in getting the Defence Department, at least, to recognise that we have no right to keep in our employ any person who may be suspect. And I say that every man who, though naturalized, may be a German citizen ought to be suspect by a wise and reasonable people.
– That is not the Christian faith.
– I am so much of a Britisher that I believe that if we win this war it will be by the arms, strength, and sentiment of the British race, and not by the assistance of those who may be false to us, although naturalized citizens of our country. I have already referred to a return which showed that thirty-one Germans are still in the employ of the Defence Department. I have not the official return; I am told it is in the hands of the printer. But included in it is a man named G. A. Ampt. Mr. Ampt. for all I know, may be as loyal as any Britisher. I am not going to impugn his loyalty as an individual, but I do sa that his name appears in a list of Chose who may be of German nationality, and are occupying positions in the Defence Department. Whatever danger there may be in the employment of Germans in the Defence Department, there are some positions in respect of which the danger is greatly increased. According to this return, Mr. Ampt is “ Acting Chemical Adviser to the Defence Department at £354 per annum, plus £96. At present employed with the Advisory Council of Science and Industry. Both parents born in Germany.”
Not long after the United States of America joined us in this war there was a great outcry in that country regarding the quality of the ammunition that was being supplied. Upon investigation, it was discovered that an enemy had done this thing. It was found that the ammunition was not what it ought to be, because some evilly-disposed individuals had destroyed its effective power. When I had the honour of visiting the Old Country as a delegate from the Commonwealth Parliament, it was pointed out to me at one of the munition works that one of the most critical operations in the- preparation of munitions was the accurate dispensing of the chemicals which go to make up the explosives. I was told that the slightest variation iti one of the ingredients of an explosive would be fatal to its successful use. In these circumstances, I view with uo little alarm the possibility of one of enemy birth being employed where his love for Germany might prove greater than his desire to serve the Commonwealth or the Empire, lest by any chance he should use his position to the disadvantage of the Empire. Now this gentleman is Acting Chemical Adviser to the Defence Department, but has been loaned for the time being to the Advisory Council of Science and Industry.
– It is a ridiculous thing.
– It is absolutely outrageous that a man of German descent should be employed in such a capacity. If I cannot induce the Government to take action in regard to this matter, I shall give them a warm time when next we meet.
– The honorable member promised to do something on a previous occasion.
– And as the result of my action in carrying out that promise, certain regulations were framed. I, with others, became interested in regard to the employment of this man Ampt, and sought to ascertain what work he was doing in the Department. As the result of inquiry, the Secretary to the Defence Department, under date. 19th February” last, wrote to the secretary of the AntiGerman League as follows: -
Dear Sir. - ‘In reply to your letter of the 15th inst., I am directed to inform you that Mr. Ampt is not employed in any position in connexion with this Department.
We were satisfied that this man was not employed in the Defence Department, and allowed the matter to drop. But the later return, to which I have referred, and which came to hand only three weeks ago, shows that Mr. Ampt is employed in an advisory capacity by the Defence Department, although he has been loaned for some little time to another Department. It would appear that the position taken up by the Department is that this man occupies merely a consultative position. He is not actually engaged in departmental work; but he is certainly employed in a capacity that is a menace to us. When inquiry was made last February, the Department should have come out boldly with, a statement as to what this man was doing, rather than lead us as it did to suppose that he was no longer in the Service. He is still in the pay of the Department. I maintain that such a position is untenable, and that it is unwise in the extreme that it should be allowed to continue. In the interests of our Empire, and of the very life’s blood of the 300,000 men and more whom we have sent to the Front, every German ought to he weeded out of the Defence Forces.. One possible enemy in our ranks is worth more to Germany than 1,000 men in her own ranks.
In this list there also appears the name of another German named “ Kold,” but who has been allowed to assume the name of “ O. Manners.” I refer to this man for the reason that there, have gone to the Front, as members of the Australian Imperial Forces, men who, because of their German names, were in the first instance unacceptable. They were allowed, however, to change their names in order that they might proceed to the Front. Knowing the character and disposition of the German people - knowing, as we do> their determination to win this war at any price, and without scruple as to honour and dignity - we ought not to allow any Germans to go to the Front as members of our Forces. The menace is. a. double one when we allow such men to enlist under an assumed name, and so to hide their nationality. I do not know what this practice has led to on the field of battle. I have heard rumours, which I shall not repeat, because to do so might be not only dangerous, but unfair. A consideration of the possibilities, however, ought to prevent us -from allowing anything of the kind to occur.
– I suppose the honorable member knows that many young Australian soldiers of German parentage have done good work at the Front.
– Ye3 ; I have already said that there are 25,000 Germans in Australia, and that I have no doubt that many of them are loyal to the British Empire. In a letter I hold from the Department, I am told that there are at present on active service several officers who are of enemy descent, and who, in some instances, have changed their names in order that they might go to the Front. Surely it is unwise to allow this sort of thing to be done. It is done, however, and done with the sanction of .the Minister for Defence. There is a regulation which provides that no man shall change his name without the consent of the Minister. That being so, every man who has been able to hide his nationality under an assumed name has done so with the direct permission of the Minister.
As the war proceeded, certain regulations that were deemed necessary at the outset to avoid the possibility of danger from these sources were set aside. Let ma quote the following Defence circular, which is known as Circular 86 :-r
With reference to Defence Circulars No. 143 of 10th- February, 1916, and No. 407 of 14th July, 1916, relative to the enlistment of men of enemy origin, it has now ‘been decided that with regard to men of enemy origin born within the Empire, instead of having to obtain, before enlistment, a certificate of loyalty, all applicants will be accepted for service in the Australian Imperial Forces on the approval of the majority of the executive of any local Recruiting Committee…..
That practically means that an essential safeguard, which’ at the outset of the war was imposed, has been discontinued. Every German resident is loyal to tha British Empire until he is found out, and under this regulation a German, who seemingly is loyal, but who carries in bis blood the natural disposition of bis race, is permitted to go to the Front with our Forces without being required, as he had to do originally, to sign a certificate of loyalty. He -may now go «to the Front provided that be is approved by a Local Committee. In country districts these local committees are generally of small ^concern.
– I am inclined to think ‘that when that incident occurred the honorable gentleman was Minister for Defence in ;a Government which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) supported.
– It is a wonder the honorable member does not want to shut out/ every one who has even a trace of German blood in his veins.
– We ought to be able to wim the war by the strength and power of our own nationality. It ought not to be necessary for ras to rely on the assistance of a handful ©f men of enemy descent. I shall leave this question now’ du the hope’ that I have said enough- to arouse the Government to a sense of what at ought to do in the matter. I am too much of a Britisher to hope that we shall win the war by the added strength of men of German nationality in -our Army. If there is a German who is loyal to us, then he is disloyal to the land that gave him birth.
– Does the honorable member think there is no path of virtue which these men might tread im the difficult position in which they find themselves?
– I am not judging them individually. Individually there are in Australia many Germans who are just as good as the rest of us, but the presence of such -men, collectively, in the Defence Department is dangerous, and ought to be discontinued.
I propose now to refer briefly .to the fixing of the price of meat. If the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) had not spoken on the subject yesterday, I should have had a good deal to say with regard to it; but they have put the case so clearly that I shall not occupy the time of the Committee at any length in discussing it. -Suffice it to say that the question bristles with technicalities. It is difficult to arrive at any conclusion that would be satisfactory to all classes; but two_ salient points in connexion with the problem are deserving of special attention. In the first place, I would remind honorable members of the importance of the primary producers to the welfare of the ‘community. The fact is that owing to certain conditions which have been evolved the producers of meat to-day have been compelled to pay very large prices for their stores, and a regulation which is going to have the effect of largely reducing the selling value of fat cattle will very prejudicially affect them, and in many cases occasion them very serious loss. It is suggested that consumers are paying a high price for meat; but when we look into the question we discover that, whatever the price of the beast may be, the cost to the consumer is about 100 per cent, more than what the producer receives. This means that between the time the beast leaves the hands of the actual producer and when it gets into the homes of the people for consumption, the beast has by some process or other practically doubled in value ; and inquiry should have been made as to the possibility of reducing the intermediate cost. If some reduction could be made in intermediate charges, the people would get cheaper meat, and those engaged in the production of both cattle and sheep would not suffer materially. An announcement has been made by the Government that under certain conditions they propose to fix a cash price over the counter, approximate to the export value.
– Is that the decision of the . Government?
– It is not publicly announced ; but we know pretty well that it is to be something of that nature. This announcement, made in and commented on by the press, has already had the effect of seriously interfering ‘ with the interests of the producer. The very fact that it is in contemplation to make an alteration prevents men from going into the market to replenish their stock; and this must diminish values. Apparently, the InterState Commission has not considered how the price to the public might be reduced by a judicious control of intermediate traders, because, had it done so, I am satisfied we should not have had the almost farcical, if not laughable, report placed before us. The idea of gentlemen such as those who constitute the InterState Commission - men without anytechnical knowledge of cattle or sheep, who trust entirely to evidence submitted from day to day - presuming to. suggest to the people of Australia that the price of meat can be reduced by fixing the price of meat, on the hoof! The -idea i3 absurd! The prices on the hoof might be fixed, but unless special attention is paid to the intermediate traders, the price of meat to the consumer will not be reduced.
– And the very man we wish to encourage will be hit.
– That is so. If the people are to have cheap meat, as a continuous thing, it must be by encouraging increased production, which would bring the law of supply and demand into opera-, tion, and within twelve months abolish present conditions without entailing material loss on any one. The onlypersons able to judge the value of meat on the hoof are those connected with the’ trade, but this all-wise Commission suggests that all that is necessary is for an official to declare the ‘weight on which the purchases are to be made.
– A guessing competition !
– That is just about what it amounts to. The Commission say that this declaration must be made by an impartial expert, forgetting, apparently, that the only experts are those who have had a life-long experience in the cattle trade. These men pass their eye over a beast, and form a more or less accurate estimation as to what its dead weight will be; and I venture to say there are not half-a-dozen disinterested men in Australia competent to assess the value of a beast.
– Even men in the trade cannot do it.
– They very often make mistakes. The Government cannot be blamed for refusing to accept a stupid recommendation like that of the Commission.
– Stupid ? _Mr. PALMER.- Yes, absolutely stupid.
– Quite impracticable, at any rate.
– Quite impracticable. At a time when we require nothing ‘but what is practicable, no impracticable suggestions should be entertained; and the Government are much to be commended for refusing to attempt the impossible. A man in Sydney or Melbourne might be found to make this calculation; but we have to remember the thousands of markets all over Australia, and also the fact that it would be necessary to bring an expert 50 or 100 miles in some cases to value stock on the hoof. The Government are taking a very much wiser course. They suggest that the retail price is to be fixed at something or other, for cash, though what the scheme is as a whole has not yet been determined. Had the Government attempted to act on the recommendation of the Inter-State Commission, they would have been landed in a difficulty. A shortage would certainly have been created, and the price of meat, instead of being reduced, would have been further enhanced by the increased demand, while that spirit which is necessary to create increased production would have been killed. It is unnecessary for me to go into the technicalities of the matter, in view of the splendid speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) yesterday; but I must say that, in my judgment, whatever delay has taken place, the Government are perfectly justified in obtaining sound data, as against the unsound data in the Commission’s report.
I now wish to say a word or two in regard to the returned soldiers, whom we cannot honour too much. Unfortunately, a number of the friends of these men think that they can best show their regard by treating them. In Great Britain there is a no-“ shouting “ law, and no man there may pay for the drink of another. I would not suggest any invidious distinction between the soldier and the civilian ; and I think that the bulk of the people of Australia would be prepared to impose upon themselves a self-denying ordinance, in order to save us from the distressing spectacle of wounded and maimed men going about our streets intoxicated. Any man who gives drink to our returned soldiers degrades the uniform of the King; and I strongly suggest that, by regulation under the War Precautions Act, “shouting” should be prohibited throughout the Commonwealth. The great majority of the returned men are good, sound, and honest - only the comparatively few allow themselves to-be overcome by drink. I exalt the soldier to the highest pedestal, and would remove any evil which might act as a stumbling-block on his path in life. And for the good of these men, for the welfare of Australia, and for the reputation we desire to maintain, some agreement should be come to between the Commonwealth and State Governments to make “ shouting “ illegal.
– Why do you not help us to remove other evils?
– Tell me of other evils, and I shall help you to remove them.
– The high price of food is one.
– I have suggested the way in which I would reduce the price of meat - by encouraging its production.
-Not much chance of a reduction from the crowd who sent you here!
.- During the absence of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) from the chamber, representatives of country districts have been making severe remarks about his administration, and declaring that the metropolitan areas are favoured as against the country districts. I do not think, that that charge is true, for there are many postal grievances that require setting right in the cities. For instance, in Sydney there- was at one time a machine in operation for transmitting telegraph messages from the central office to a suburban office; but, on the advice of some one, two boys, with bicycles, were substituted to do this work. The route which the boys have to traverse is one of the steepest and most dangerous in all Australia, and though as yet no accident has happened, I am daily expecting to hear of one. Apart from that, however, if, while these boys are away, any urgent telegrams arrive, delivery is delayed for a considerable time.
I never remember a PostmasterGeneral having so many shots fired at him as there have been fired at the honorable gentleman to-day, and I never knew a Postmaster-General take so little notice of shots. Honorable members opposite have the matter in their own hands, for the Postmaster-General is virtually a servant of the party, and might be replaced at any time by the Caucus if he gave any ground for dissatisfaction, just as any ordinary employee might be replaced. The attitude of his supporters towards him reminds me of some Chinese in Sydney, where there is a very nice joss-house. They appealed to the Joss for rain, and when it did not come they installed a new Joss, which, as rain fell soon afterwards, they retained, chopping up the old one. If honorable members opposite cannot get what they want from “their present postal Joss, why do they not try another ? My view is that the Postmaster-General is as generous to the country as to the cities. Country members are always firing shots at him in Parliament, and I have done my best, by personal representations, to get certain results, though I have not succeeded. Some day the officials of the Department will find out that they have been making mistakes, and that what I have suggested is right.
To come to another matter : About two years ago it was decided to strike and issue medals to the mothers and other relatives of our soldiers, a proposal which met with the approbation of Parliament and of the public. Those medals have not yet been issued. A very good design was. chosen, and tenders were called for, but the Department, although several firms of repute, possessing the necessary machinery and material, tendered, gave a contract to a man who styled himself an engineer, but had neither dies, machinery, nor material for making the medals. The matter having been brought under my notice, I made inquiries, and asked questions on the subject here, and had other questions asked in the Senate. “ From the answers it appeared that this engineer was filled £200 early in the war for trading with the enemy, and had broken the Wages Board regulations of Victoria. The Department consequently has to exercise a certain amount of supervision to prevent a further breach of the law in connexion with the manufacture of these medals. I. think that when tenders are called, the Government should get what it wants from those who specialize, in the kind of work that is to be done. For a supply of building stone the Government should go to the quarry masters, for jewellery they should go to a jewellery firm. They have not done that in this instance. When I asked why the medals had not been issued I learned that the necessary enamel is not obtainable. Now, at no time in our history has the encouragement of local industry been more important than at the present time. Enamel has been largely made in Germany, sent to England, and shipped thence to Australia; but a reputable firm in Sydney, which employs a specialist at high wages, makes an enamel which,’ I am told - and my observation confirms the information - is in some of its colours even better than the imported article. Indeed, the firm contends that its enamels are second to none in the world, and will meet all requirements. The successful tenderer for the making of the medals to which I have referred cannot get all the material that he needs for their manufacture, and will not be able to get it, because those who should have been given the contract are holding it, needing it for their own work. It is the military officers who guide the Minister for Defence in matters like this, and I am beginning to think it would be far better if the business transactions of the Department were intrusted to civilians. The Department says that it will see that the wages conditions are observed in the carrying out of this contract, but had the work been given to persons who are specialists there would have been no reason to fear a breach of the law. The Government should see that the conditions of its various contracts are carried out in thespirit and to the letter, and, when conditions are not being fulfilled, the contract should be broken. There have been plenty of opportunities for breaking this particular contract, but the Government seems to think the delay in the issue of the medals unimportant. At the next election, God help the Minister if the women of Australia get to know of this. Nothing annoys a woman more than to promise her something, and not to keep the promise.
The Department wants waking up. I am a loyal Australian and a lover of the country, and for years past everything I have worn, from hats to boots, has been of Australian manufacture. The encouragement of Australian industries, both primary and secondary, is of the greatest importance, and a contract should not have been given to an American gentleman who had been found guilty of trading with the enemy, when the work could have been done by a firm which has spent hundreds of pounds in producing the enamel necessary to carry it out. A socalled “ National “ Government should not do anything likely to lessen national feeling. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) may have no knowledge of this matter personally, but I hope it will be brought under his notice. I introduced a deputation on the subject to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Wise), but nothing appeared in the newspapers about it. The jewellery industry is one which should employ a great many persons. It is light work, and would give employment to women as well as to men.
– I wish once more to enter my protest against the manner in which the Estimates are dealt with in this Parliament by successive Governments. Here we are discussing Estimates when half the members of the House have gone away to their homes, though it is the only chance that is presented for bringing really vital matters before the Government and the country. It is just about time this system was entirely remodelled and honorable members were given the fullest opportunity of dealing with important matters which they wish to bring under the notice of the Government, without having to wait until the expiring hours of the session to do so. My remarks do not apply to the present Government more than they do to the Governments which have preceded them. I think that Ministers on this occasion have allowed more time for the discussion of the Estimates than was given by preceding Governments. I remember that a Labour Government “ bullocked “ the whole of the Estimates through the Committee in one night.
– Are we not discussing Estimates every time a Supply Bill is before us?
-No. ‘When a Supply Bill comes forward it is the opportunity for a free-and-easy discussion, and nothing comes out of it. I hope that honorable members will insist upon opportunity being given to discuss the Estimates before we are met with the taunt that it is useless to discuss the items upon them because the money provided, or, at any rate, most of it, has already been spent.
In attempting to fix the price of meat, the Government have undertaken the most difficult problem that could face them in carrying out the policy of pricefixing. Every other problem will be child’s play to them compared with this. Take the difference between Queensland and Tasmania. In Queensland stock are fattened naturally in winter, but in Tasmania that cannot be done, except by means of artificial feeding. If a Tasmanian grazier wishes to fatten sheep for the market he must commence- operations at least twelve months ahead. He must plough his ground and cultivate it, and sow rape or artificial grass for the purpose of feeding his sheep during the winter, and it is fully twelve months before the beast is ready to go on the market. Compare these conditions with those which prevail in Queensland, where the climate is such that stock can be fattened during the winter on natural grasses in the open without costing the grazier1s. One of the best experts dealing with stock in Tasmania, a man who has spent the whole of his life in dealing in stock, has told me that it would cost about £7 per beast to move cattle from Queensland to Tasmania, when the freight and loss in weight ‘are taken into account. I remember coming down the coast of Western Australia on a steamer which was conveying 178 head of cattle from Wyndham to Fremantle. No less than forty-seven of the cattle died during the voyage, and had to be thrown overboard. Such losses as these will make the task of the Government extremely difficult. It is an unquestionable fact that the price of meat is too high. I know that it is sold in Melbourne’ at a price which is altogether out of proportion to the return secured by the producer. I agree with those honorable members who say that it will be utterly impossible to fix the price of meat on the hoof. But if it were possible to do so, how would it give relief to the consumer, in face of the enormous leakage that takes place between the time when the animal is sold under the hammer and the time when the meat is sold over the block? The only way in which the consumer ‘could obtain any benefit would be by fixing retail prices over the counter, but I venture to say that if that were done the system would break down, because the prices would have to be altered so continuously, and because the enormous variations in the climatic conditions of the different States render it almost impossible to arrive at anything like parity.
– Does not the honorable member believe in fixing the price of the live animal by weight?
– I do not think that it will be possible to do it.
– It is done elsewhere.
– I know that it is done in Chicago, Idaho, and other places in the United States of America; but it is the Packing Trusts who have the producer and the consumer alike in the hollow of their hands who insist upon it, not in the interests of the consumer or the producer, but in their own interests.
The system which the PostmasterGeneral has adopted is absolutely rotten. He is no more entitled to make the disposal of the postal facilities in the backblocks of Australia the subject of his balance-sheet than a Treasurer would be in making the educational system, the police force establishment, or the Judiciary subject to the national balancesheet. But until we can get out of the official mind - and the Ministerial mind - the idea that this is the policy which should be pursued, there will always be the complaints which honorable members are voicing to-day. Imagine effecting a saving by cutting down a mail service from three times a week to twice a week. Where people have a little post-office in a small district which they conduct for an allowance of £5, £10, or £15 a year, imagine the Department coming along when these people remove out of the district, and saying to some other persons who are willing to do the work, “ You must take it at the price we offer, or else we shall close the office.” The Postal Department is the greatest sweater in the Commonwealth in the matter of its treatment of some of the smaller post-offices.
– In the country districts only.
– I am speaking of country post-offices. The terms and conditions which are imposed on some of the people conducting allowance offices are a disgrace to this Parliament, to the Government, and to preceding Ministries.
– We pay more forthese allowance offices, in proportion to the services rendered, than we do . for the official service.
– That is the official mind speaking again. Who can compute the advantages of a postal service by the number of people living in a particular locality? Yet that is the system which is followed, and one which this Parliament should alter. I care not how many people are working at a little saw-mill in the bush, which receives a mail two or three times a week. The telephone is an absolute necessity to those people. Those who know anything about saw-milling in the forest know that, because of the liability to accident, it is, perhaps, the most dangerous occupation that any men could follow in Australia; and the absence of the facility to. Bend a telephone message for a medical man may mean the losing of a life. We must not take into account the number of people who are living at the spot, or the number of messages which may pass over any telephone line connecting the locality with the larger centre.
– Employers are compelled to compensate their men for accident, and they have the right to pay for the protection of their men.
– It is not a question of the employer insuring his men. It is a question of saving the men’s lives. We are quite right in compelling an employer to insure his employees under the Workers’ Compensation Act; but why should a man, who has probably put every penny he has in the world into some little bush industry, be compelled to go to the expense of erecting a telephone line, while in the big congested cities the people are. given the benefit of two or three mail deliveries every day ? It is high time-it is more than high time - that the whole system of the postal service was reformed and entirely altered . I do not wish it to be altered in the way some would alter it - by appointing a Postal Commission. God knows, the position is bad enough now, when Parliament can bring some influence to bear on the PostmasterGeneral. I do not wish the control to be removed to an official under whom a hardandfast balance-sheet will dominate the service. That would be no reform. As a matter of fact, it would be a retrograde movement which, I hope, this House will not sanction.
– There is no country in the world, with the distances of Australia, which is provided with the postal service that Australia has.
– In making a comparison with other countries, the official mind is again speaking. W.e know that the Minister has taken for many years a very deep interest in postal matters, and I hope that he will not allow himself to become the gramophone of officialdom.
– The honorable member need have no fear on that score.
– I have had my suspicions for some time that there is a tendency growing up very strongly in that direction. Let me take the case of the Bothwell Post Office in Tasmania. It is the nearest post-office to the hydroelectric works, the third largest of the kind in the world. The postal service to Bothwell is worse than it was fifty years ago, when the mails had to be conveyed from Hobart by coach.
– How do they carry them now? By aeroplane?
– Partly by train, and partly by motor car. Yet, although Bothwell is not more than 48 miles from Hobart, the mail is not delivered until 10 o’clock at night. The PostmasterGeneral knows that I have taken a deep interest in these matters, and I hope that he will accept the remarks that I am now making as voicing what I believe to be the views of the great majority of the representatives of country electorates, and assuredly the views of the people scattered from one end of Australia to the other. Let him always keep in front of him the fact that postal and telegraphic services cannot be measured by the balance-sheet of the Department, but that they must be gauged by the benefits they confer. on the people, and by the necessities of the people themselves:
I particularly wanted to speak about the Shipping Board. I have already informed the Assistant Minister in charge of shipping that it was my intention to move to reduce the Estimates of his Department by £1, in order to thoroughly test the question of “the constitution of the Board; but I find that by the time the Estimates of the Department may come before honorable members, there will probably be no opportunity for me to do so. Therefore, I have to take this opportunity, and as you, Mr. Chairman, have informed me that I should not be in order in moving at this stage a reduction of any item, I must endeavour to have the question decided when the Estimates for the Navy Department are before the Committee. It is almost unnecessary to say what shipping means to Australia. It is the lifeblood of the Commonwealth, as it has been the lifeblood of Great Britain. From the very dawn of her history Great Britain has depended upon her shipping. Australia, to a greater extent than any other country in the world, is similarly dependent. Situated 12,000 miles away from the markets of the world, we must be able to ship our products or become bankrupt as a nation. There is no hope for Australia unless we can export our great primary products.
– It is no use expecting to create a large and prosperous farming class unless we do export.
– Australia produces about 150,000,000 bushels of wheat per annum, and of that only a very small portion is required for the home market. We must export the surplus, or go out of the trade. The same remarks apply to meat, wool, and minerals. What has Australia done to maintain its shipping? Nothing.
– The honorable member knows that that statement is not correct.
– It is correct. Australia built less ships last year than in any of the last twenty-five years.
– The honorable member has beenin Parliament a good many years, and I have never heard him speak of shipping before.
– I have dealt with this matter before. Prior to the war there was no necessity for urging this policy, but nearly two years ago I introduced to the Prime Minister, and afterwards to the Minister for the Navy, a man from Tasmania who was prepared to lay down at once the keels of one or more ships of 1,500 tons each, and guarantee to have them launched in nine months. He had the money to provide the slip and everything else; all he asked was that the Government should finance him with progress payments to the extent of 50 per cent, of the actual wages paid.
– We have given him a better contract than that.
– This gentleman was prepared to give a mortgage over the ships, and to make a contract , to charter them at a price which would have paid off the Government liability in five years. The offer was not accepted. I was told by the Government that ships of - that class were not a sound commercial speculation. The Minister has interjected that a contract has since been given to the same gentleman. That is a contract for two steel ships. The offer he made was to build wooden ships.
– Of 900 tons, and he wanted £25,000.
– The Minister has been wrongly informed. The offer made by Mr. Finlayson to the Prime Minister in my presence, and subsequently to the Minister for the Navy, was to construct wooden ships, of 1,500 tons each, for £26 per ton. The Government are paying how £31 per ton for similar American ships, built of Oregon. The life of an Oregon ship is not more than ten to twelve years. The life of a ship built of Tasmanian hardwood is at least fifty or sixty years. I have seen on the slip schooners that have been trading about the coast for forty or fifty years; the planks in them were as sound as the day they were put in, and the adze, fairly rang on them. There is no Oregon ship that any company would buy after a life of ten years. By that time one could kick a hole in the planks.
I believe that since the Assistant Minister for the Navy took charge . of shipbuilding he has’ been pushing ahead with the work as fast as he could. I have discussed with him this matter, and the constitution of the Shipping Board, and he has met me fairly and freely. He has put all his cards on the table, and I know that he has spared time for me when an accumulation of work was demanding his attention. Therefore, so far as he is concerned, I have reason to be thankful, rather than to complain. Whenever I have asked for information from him, either privately or in the House, he has taken trouble to get it for me as speedily as possible. But the Government and the Parliament must take a fair share of responsibility for the delay that has taken place. Up to the present time, we have failed miserably in regard to ship construction in Australia. Contrast our inaction with what Canada has done. The wheat crop of Canada is one-third or onefourth more than that of Australia. The Dominion has built since the war 80 to 100 ships, which are conveying grain to Europe.
– Canada has ‘been shipbuilding for many years.
– There is no reason why 100 ships of from 1,000 to 2,000 tons each could not have been built in Australia since the war. Ships are being built along the Pacific coast of America, from Vancouver to Seattle. Canada has built nearly 100 ships, and there is not a surplus bushel of wheat inthat country.
– The Victorian Government built a steel ship twenty-five years ago, and it is still sound.
– It is unfortunate that since Federation the shipbuilding industry has been on the decline. When I was a lad, from my father’s verandah I could see sometimes four or five schooners being built, and they are to be found to-day running out of every port of Australia. The old Tasmanian schooners and ketches, built forty, fifty, and sixty years ago, are as staunches on the day they were launched. , In 1902 there were built in Australia 29 wooden steamers, 1 composite ship, 74 sailing ships, and 17 oil motor vessels - a total of 113, having an aggregate tonnage of 4,082. We have built in Australia fully a dozen of the fastest clippers that ever sailed in Australian waters, and they are to be seen to-day. I refer to vessels like the Thomas Brown and the Harriet McGregor.
– I have made contracts for twenty-six steel ships, each one of a greater tonnage than the total tonnage of the vessels which were built in 1902. .
– In 1916 Australian ship-yards launched two motor vessels and two sailing boats of a total of 48 tons.
– Is not the reason that most people who were interested in shipping were getting vessels of a larger type from Great Britain?
– There is something in that argument; but I am referring to what could have been done since the outbreak of war. Private enterprise was absolutely stifled by the Government entering this business. If the Government had not dealt with shipbuilding at all, quite a number of wooden ships would have been built before now.
– How many vessels were launched in 1915?
– Four steamers and two sailing ships, of a total of about 700 tons.
– What about the years 1913 and 1914?
–I have not the statistics for those years; but I find that, in 1903, 15 steamers and 57 sailing vessels, a total of 4,500 tons, were built.
– That is not the tonnage of one of the vessels we’ are having built, now.
– The Minister talks ofwhat he intends to do, and, as an old Scotchman said to me, “I think there are more politics than chips in the shipbuilding scheme.” Australia is the one country in the world that has done nothing in shipbuilding since the war. Japan, which was one of the poorest nations in the world, is rapidly becoming one of the richest by building ships and manufacturing munitions. Canada has supplied £175,000,000 worth of ammunition to Great Britain, and has contracts in progress for a further £50,000,000 worth. She has constructed between 80 and 100 ships; she has sent every bushel of her surplus wheat abroad. . To-day Australia has nearly three years’ wheat stacked in the country; I will say nothing as to the condition of it. Now is the time when we require ships, and we have not got them.
Mr.Considine. - What about the concrete vessels?
– Concrete ships are being built in Norway, Sweden, France, England, and America, and I cannot understand why anybody should talk about paying royalties to any firm in connexion with their construction in Australia. I should like at this stageto utter a word of warning with Tegard to the Isherwood type of boats. As one who desires to see the shipbuilding scheme a success, I advise the Minister ‘ to ascertain the extent to which the Isherwood type of boat has been constructed in Great Britain, and whether it has been a success.
– All I know is that the output is increasing by leaps and bounds all over the world.
– Of course the output of every class of ship is increasing at this time; but there are grave doubts of the ‘success of the Isherwood type. We hear great talk of what America is doing in shipbuilding, but Great Britain to the end of April had built as much shipping as the rest of the world, including America. I repeat that the one country that has done nothing in ship construction is Australia. We must all take our share of the responsibility for that. It will stand bo the discredit of this Parliament that when the people of England were short of food, although we had several of the best timbers in the world, and although hundreds of men were prepared to enter into the shipbuilding business, we have done nothing.
I desire to refer briefly to what I regard as a most serious blunder made by the Government in connexion with the appointment of the Shipping Board. Unquestionably Australia has been for many years, to some extent at least, at the mercy of the shipping companies. Now the Government, acting under the power conferred by the War Precautions Act, have appointed a Board to take complete control of overseas shipping, and of the whole of the Inter-State trade. Who constitutes the Inter-State Shipping Committee? The Controller of Shipping, ex officio chairman, Admiral Clarkson, C.M.G.; the Deputy Controller of coastal shipping, Mr. David Hunter; Mr. W. T. Appleton, managing director for Huddart, Parker and Company Limited; Mr. C. H. Hughes, manager in Melbourne for the Union Steam -ship Company of New Zealand; Mr. C. M. Newman, manager for Howard Smith and Company Limited ; Mr. Northcote, manager of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company ; Mr. D. York Syme, junior, managing director of the Melbourne Steam-ship Company Limited ; and Mr. Turnbull, manager of the Australian United Steam-ship Navigation Company. With the exception of the chairman, Admiral Clarkson, the Committee consists entirely of managers and managing directors of shipping companies.
When I referred to this matter casually a few days ago the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said, “ We have followed the example of Great Britain.” Let me say at once thatI do not think the Government could have got a better man than Admiral Clarkson for the position of chairman. I have only met him in his public capacity, and I believe it would not have been possible for the Minister to have made a more suitable appointment. It cannot be pretended, however, that he represents the public of Australia, or that he has had any experience of mercantile shipping or of the trade between the States. It is impossible for a Board such as this to continue if this Parliament is to have any control over these matters. I have suggested to the Minister that a workable Board would be one consisting of Admiral Clarkson, as chairman, four shipping men, and four members of this House - two from each side, representing the trading and the consuming public. Shipping men, after all, are middlemen.
– Will the honorable member tell me in what way the public is not getting a fair deal ? If he wants to strengthen my hands, let him make out a case.
– I propose to do so, and I shall begin by referring to the position of the coal trade.- If the Minister will read that exceedingly interesting and well-written work, by Danvers Powers, on the coal industries of Australia, he will see that the writer, in dealing with the Coal Vend, points out that it has entered into an agreement with four shipping companies that they alone shall be allowed to convey coal for consumption in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and’ Western Australia. He does not mention Tasmania; I include it. In addition to them there are companies outside the Vend, such as James Paterson and Company, and one or two other smaller enterprises engaged in the trade. In a return laid on the table of the House by the Minister to-day, it is stated that no increase in freight has occurred’ except along the Queensland coast. I say deliberately that that statement is incorrect. The freight on coal from Newcastle to Melbourne before the war was 5s. 6d. per ton; to-day it is 8s. 5d. per ton.
– Will the honorable member point to any increase that has been made since the appointment of the Board ?
– There has been no increase since the appointment of the Board, which is of very recent date; but the . men who were responsible for the increase to which I have just referred constitute the Inter-State Shipping Committee to-day. These are the men who are to regulate fares and conditions.
– But this increase was made before the Board . was appointed.
– That does not in the least affect my argument. The very people to whom we should have to apply, to settle a dispute in this regard are the members of the Board who, before their appointment, made this increase. Then, again, take the increase in the freight on timber. I have shown that there has been an increase of, roughly, 60 per cent, in the freight on coal between Newcastle and Melbourne, and I have here a telegram, which I shall hand to the Minister, showing that the freight on timber from Hobart to Melbourne and Sydney before the war was 3s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, whereas it is to-day 4s. per 100 super, feet.
– That increase was made under a War Precautions Act regulation, which permits of an increase of 10 per cent.
– Let us see whether the increase in the freights on timber from Hobart to the Minister’s own State, South Australia, comes within that regulation. As a matter of fact, before the war freight on timber from Hobart to Adelaide was 3s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, and occasionally 4s. per 100 super, feet. It is now 6s. And so with fares. Under our mail contract the contracting shipping companies were not allowed to increase fares as between Australia and Tasmania, and the eastern States and Western Australia. They have not increased the fares, but they have abolished return tickets, and now compel passengers to take out single tickets. In this way they have increased the cost of travelling.
– That is “ high finance.”
– Some people would call it by another name.
– The State railways have taken the same action with regard to Inter-State tickets.
– In some States while passengers are required to take out single tickets, no increased cost is involved. Two single tickets are supplied for the price formerly charged for a return ticket.
– The honorable member seems to think that all services can be run for nothing.
– Not at all.I am not questioning the service. I am simply pointing out that the Government have placed the whole of the Inter-State shipping trade of Australia in the hands of a Board, consisting, ‘with the exception of its Chairman, solely of representatives of the shipping companies. If there was a case in dispute in regard to any shipping matter, to appeal to this Board would be very like going to law with his Satanic Majesty, and holding the Court in Hades. The Act providing for the creation of this Board declares that no increase in excess of 10 per cent, shall be made without the consent of the Prime Minister. If the shipping companies wish to increase their rates beyond 10 per cent, they apply for permission to the Prime Minister, and the only men to whom he can go for information on the one side are the representatives of the companies, who are in reality the Board. Whether it be the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) or the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that is appealed to, he cannot have time to deal with such a matter. He has so much to attend to that it is impossible for him to go into any question of disputed shipping rates. In such a case the complaint would have to be handed over to another authority, and the whole of the evidence would come from the companies of which the members of this Board are managers. i do not wish to say anything harsh concerning these companies; but I certainly think they have had an exceedingly good innings’ in the Australian coastal trade.
As the result of the increase in coal freights, as between Newcastle and Melbourne, from 5s. 6d. to 8s. 5d. per ton, we find that within 50 yards of this.building, third-rate coal is being supplied at 34s. per ton, and in the suburbs up to 42s.
– The increased- freight does not account for such an increase in the price of coal.
-But in most cases the companies that are represented on the Board are the suppliers.
– Where are the watch-dogs of the people?
– When I listen to some of my honorable friends opposite I am reminded of a recent fellow-railway traveller of mine, who was complaining bitterly that the price of milk had been increased by1d. per quart, but who, when we stopped at a wayside station, cheerfully paid 3s. 6d. for one “ shout.” When he returned to the carriage I remarked to him, It is curious that you should complain of a rise of1d. per quart in the price of milk, when you do not object to give 6d. for a third of a pint of beer.” It seems to me that honorable members of the Labour party believe that all reductions in prices should be ‘borne by the producer. They demand that the producer shall pay the highest price for everything he requires, and be content to receive the lowest price for everything he sells. Surely that is not equitable.
Returning to the question of shipping, I propose to give some figures showing the profits that Inter-State shipping companies are making. I read a few days, ago that a vessel loaded 4,400 tons of coal at Newcastle in ten hours by the use of four electrically-controlled cranes. In Melbourne she discharged the same quantity, and got away in four days. The increased time occupied in discharging here was due, not so much to any fault on the part of the workers, but to the fact that on the wharfs of Melbourne today they are using the same old whip and basket that was employed fifty years ago. I have seen coal being discharged from a ship here in such a way that a party of schoolboys would have pelted it out almost as quickly. Until the recent strike, wharf labourers engaged in discharging coal worked only six and a half hours out of the twenty-four.
– Does not the honorable member think that six and a half hours is long enough to work when discharging coal?
– I am not suggesting that it is not. I am only pointing out that, prior to the strike, the wharf labourers would work only one shift a day, with the result that for the remainder of the twenty-four hours the ship and its officers and crew were idle, and costs were thus increased. They are now working a second shift. It would take a vessel about three days, steaming 10 knots an hour, to come from Newcastle to Melbourne, and she would go back in the same time. Assuming that she loads 4,400 tons in a day at Newcastle, and discharges here in four days, her earnings in that period, allowing 2s. for loading and discharging, and about Is. for wharfage dues, would be roughly £1,200; whereas, according to figures I have obtained from the very best authority, the wages paid for officers and crew on a vessel of that tonnage would be exactly £472 15s. per month.
– Does that include office work?
– No. It covers the wages of the whole ship’s crew.
The Board, as constituted, cannot possibly satisfy the people of Australia. -We say to the companies that we will take their boats, which must run whereever the Board decides; and the Board consists of the managers of the companies. A greater farce was never staged by, Gilbert and Sullivan.
– It is a copy from the British system.
– It is; and it is a scandal and a disgrace to the British Government and the American Government that they have allowed the shipping interests to beat them. It is the one interest with which the British Government hasnot attempted to deal.
– . These people do not gain by what the honorable member complains of. ,
– I suppose the Minister will say that they are losing money?
– No, they are not losing money, but it is the Government that gains.
– I have here some figures which I do not think the Minister can refute. An American schooner last week took away 2,200 tons of wheat, which she took only because she was compelled, for there are other’ cargoes that pay better. The freight was £4 15s. a ton, and this vessel, running between here and San Francisco, had a dead weight freight of £10,000 in value.. Her return freights will be greater, and she will make two trips in the twelve months. On her return trip she will earn £15,000, or £30,000 on the two trips inwards, while she will earn £20,000 on her two outward trips, making £50,000 in all, whereas before the war she was not earning a quarter of that in the time, and were it not for the war, she would not be worth a quarter of the money.
– We cannot control the American boats.
-We can control our own boats, which are doing worse.
– Or better - it depends on the point of view.
– It depends on the profiteers’ point of view. The last Commonwealth steamer leaving Australia took over 8,000 tons of wheat at 5s. per bushel, earning, roughly, £80,000 cash for her freight. That is the freight we are charging; and the British Government is paying millions in order that her people may get the loaf at something like a reasonable price. It is a disgrace to us that this question of freights has not been considered. I do not desire to see the Commonwealth fleet paying for itself in two years, at the . price of starving the people in England. Ministers boast of what our ships are earning. From whom do the earnings come? From the Mother Country - from the poor of England. We may do without most of our luxuries, but people cannot do without bread. If the British and American Governments will not take the lead, then, for God’s sake, let Mr. Hughes, when in England, see what can be done. There are only three Governments interested; and if the. British and American Governments would determine to regulate freights, the neutrals would be bound to come in.
– Do you not think that the British Government should have taken possession of all the shipping?
– I do; it is the one thing in which they have failed. The British Government have done much good work, better work than anybody would at one time have thought possible ; but it has been beaten by the shipping interests, which, I may say, have also beaten Australia ever since I can remember.
– There is a fourth Government concerned - the Government that sends the submarines.
– Submarines have no effect, or very little, on the trade between Australia and America. The insurance rates in the mercantile world are not, in any way, proportionate to the increase in the cost of freight. How many vessels have been lost in the practically open sea between here and America? Any number of American schooners are coming here, and five or six of them may be seen lying in our ports at a time.
– How do you make out that the freight is 5s. per bushel for wheat?
– The freight to America is £4 15s., and the Commonwealth freight is 5s. per bushel to England.
– We are not sending any wheat to England; it goes via America.
– For how long has that been so?
– A long time.
– Well, how far out am I in my calculation?
– You are 2s. 6d. out.
– Some one challenged my figures in regard to England; and I say that the freight on the last vessel that left here was 5s. a bushel, or £9 5s. a ton.
– No wheat has gone . at these rates since I took office.
– No vessel of the Commonwealth line has gone to England since the present Minister took charge; but the freight is 5s. per bushel, and that is the price fixed by the Government for our own steamers. However, my point is that the shipping interest has prevented the Government and Parliament cif England from dealing with freights, which, as between here and the Old world, are nothing short of a scandal. All I desire is that, as in the case of the Wool Board, there shall be some representation of this Parliament on the Shipping Board. Will the Minister say that the presence of two members of Parliament on the Wool Board has not been of great assistance to . the producers of Australia and to this House ? Will any one say that it is not possible to get men in this House competent for the position? I should resent any statement to that . effect, and say that if men outside alone have the brains necessary for such work, they ought to be here in place of us.
– It is only fair to say that, when my friend and myself were placed on the Wool Board, neither of us was a member of Parliament.
– That does not alter the position. The fact that those two honorable members are on the Board is of great assistance to honorable members and the Government, and an insurance to the wool -growers of Australia. If a question regarding wool arises, it is not the Minister who replies, for the Minister refers the question to one of those two members who are more directly interested. I make the suggestion as offering a safety-valve for the Government. The Inter-State trade is the salvation of a State like Tasmania; and if it is taken away from us, we are bankrupt indeed. There are hundreds, I might say many hundreds, of men out of work in the Huon district of my electorate, owing to the closing of the saw-mills in the absence of shipping. I’ undertake that to-morrow I could sell half-a-dozen cargoes of timber in Melbourne in a few hours if there were any means of getting it here. As it is, building is stopped while, just across the water, millions of feet are rotting.
– That is not the fault of the Shipping Board.
– But it is a very important fact, not only to my State, but to every State in Australia, that the whole of the Inter-State trade is placed in the control of an all-powerful Board created under the War Precautions Act, and that that Board should consist entirely of men whose interests may not always run with those of the consumers, and may be diametrically opposed. I have not sprung this subject as a surprise on the Minister. We have talked the matter over; and, as I say, he has met mevery fairly. I do not think that there is an ounce of prejudice in the mind of the honorable member on the subject.
– Which Minister is that!
– I allude to the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), who has not, so far as I know, the slightest interest in keeping those people on the Board; but it almost approaches a scandal when those whose interest it is to get everything they can for their companies, and they alone, are placed in control of the shippingof Australia. I have no axe to grind. I want neither’ a position on the Board nor any other position; a member of Parliament is freer without these entanglements. But if there were four representatives of the shipping companies, and four members of this House - two from each side - on the Board, it would be more satisfactory to the people. I would leave the Government representative as umpire, he being as fair a man as could be selected.
– What about the representation of the workers?
– My proposal provides for that.
– Senator Guthrie is on the Board.
– No man would better look after the interests of the seamen; but he is on the Overseas Shipping Board, not on the Inter-State Shipping Board.
– It must be remembered that the ship-owners are supplying the whole of the capital, and maintaining the staffs.
– When the Government take over a vessel, it does so for very liberal payments. For a vessel of 5,000 tons, it pays £42,000 a year; for one of 3,500 tons, £31,500; for one of 2,500, £23,240; for one of 2,000, £19,200; and for one of 1,500, £14,844. Everything earned in excess of those amounts goes to the Government.
– And the Government would benefit by any increase of rates.
– Only in connexion with the freights earned by commandeered boats, but none of those boats have been, commandeered.
Mr.Poynton.- Rates have not been increased by so much as a1d. since the Board was appointed.
– I say that it is not possible, even on a Shipping Board, for any man to serve two masters. The representatives of the shipping companies on the Board cannot give their best to their companies, and, at the same time, serve the public faithfully. The shipping companies should be represented, and I would give them a representation of half the members of the Board, but I would not allow their representatives to comprise the whole Board. Nothing of the kind has been done in connexion with the appointment of any other Board.
– What about the Central Wool Board?
– That Board cannot increase the price of wool, which is sold under contract to the British Government.
– How do the local manufacturers get their wool ?
– They are satisfied with the prices charged to them, which are lower than those charged to any one else. No other manufacturer in the world gets wool so cheaply. I have tried not to say anything severe, although I feel strongly on this matter. In the interests of the Government, of the Parliament, and of the people, representation on the Inter-State Shipping Board should be given to others besides the shipping companies.
– The. honorable member has put his case to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt).
– I had not more than a minute’s conversation with him on the subject. I went to the Honorary Minister before I spoke to any one else, and put the case as fairly and as strongly as I could.
– You have not made out a case to-day. You cannot show that the Board has increased freights.
– If the Minister says that he will alter the constitution of the Board, if it can be shown that it has increased freights, my reply is that I would not have to bother him in that event, because Parliament would not stand any increase on the present rates. They are already too high. But the Board is empowered to increase freights of ‘ its own motion up to 10 per cent., though for any increase above that it must get the sanction of the Acting Prime Minister.
– An increase would not be to the advantage of the shipping companies, because the amounts that the ships may earn for them are fixed.
– Only in the case of commandeered ships, and I do not think that any of the Inter-State vessels has been commandeered.. I am not talking of the vessels that have been taken out of the Australian trade. I think that the only vessels on our coast which are running wholly in the interests of the Government are those belonging to the Government ofWestern Australia.
– I understand that these ships are running for us at fixed rates, and that everything they earn above those rates goes to the Government.
– If that is so, the prices for coal and timber must come down at once. It is bad enough to be profiteered by private companies, but we are not going to allow the Government to be a profiteer.
– There is to be no profiteering by the people themselves; it is only . the individual profiteer who is to be allowed to exploit the public.
– The interjection reminds me of the story of the good boy who protested against a proposed robbery of the farmer’s orchard, but when his. companions went that way, he said, “ Well, if you are going, I might as well be in it.” He “pitied the farmer, but joined in the plunder.” Is it right that consumers in Melbourne should have to pay from 34s. to 44s. per ton for coal, according to the locality in which they are living?
– It is a robbery.
– Then why do you not stop it? I am doing my best to stop it.
– You aredoing well, but this should not come from that side of the House..
– When a member thinks that a wrong is being done, ha is not a proper representative of the people if he has not the manliness to denounce it, no matter where he may sit.
– The honorable member is man enough to vote as he speaks, which is more than many members opposite do.
– Before I mentioned this matter to any one, I put the case before the Assistant, Minister.
– I again say that you have not shown that the freights have been increased since the appointment of the Board. What complaint then is there against the Board?
– I have shown that the prices of two essential commodities have been increased since the war broke out, the increase in freight affecting one of them being nearly 60 per cent. The Minister is like a burglar who has robbed a house, and says to the policeman, “ Leave me alone ; I have not taken anything since you saw me.” Any man, or body of men, who take advantage of the war to increase prices unduly, and to fleece the public, should be stopped and punished. We are placing the shipping companies in an impregnable position, and enabling them to do as they like. That is dangerous to the community, and whatever may be the result, I have tried to do my duty in laying the facts before the Committee.
.- I am pleased that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has given us the benefit of his investigation of the operations of the Shipping Board. If, as the Assistant Minister for the Navy has stated, any surplus profit over and above certain fixed earnings for the ships goes into the Consolidated Revenue, the people of Australia are being exploited by the Commonwealth Government.
– My point was that there was no inducement to the members of the Board to do any exploiting, because nothing would go into their pockets. There is not one item showing an increase since the Board has been formed.
– My figures gave a comparison between the rates prevailing prior to the war and those which have been imposed since the war began.
– It does not alter the fact that if the surplus profits are going into the Consolidated Revenue it is time the Government, and the people responsible, should bring about a radical alteration: I do not desire to have the people paying extra freights any more than I desire to see them being exploited by the meat profiteers.
I am very dubious as to the value of the proposed scheme for fixing the price of meat. My view is that we cannot fix the price in a way which will benefit the public generally unless we take control over the businesses affected. If we propose to give the public the benefit’ of cheap meat by fixing the price on a fair basis, it will call for so much investigation in regard to the. various companies and individuals concerned, and the addition of such a large army of officials to the already existing great army of Commonwealth servants, that I cannot see the difference - between adopting that course and going the whole hog - taking full control. To get an effective system of price-fixing will practically mean taking full control, but I do not think that the interests represented by honorable members who sit behind the Governmen would permit such a system to be inaugurated. If they would do so, the method proposed would prove to be so little different from actually controlling the whole industry that we might as well go the whole hog.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), in his remarks concerning the employment of the descendants of alienenemies in the Defence Department, wasreally reflecting upon His Majesty the’ King and the Royal Family. The honorable member, said that he could not trust people of German extraction. He said that there was something in the blood in their veins which prevented him from reposing any trust in them. I am reminded of an incident that occurred the other day. A friend of mine was having a drink with another man, and he said, “ To hell with the Kaiser!” The other man said, “Hear, hear!” to that, but whenmy friend added, “and all his relations “ he objected strenuously. When the honorable member said that people whose forefathers might have been Germans many generations ago could not be trusted, he was reflecting on His Britannic Majesty, and also on Lord Milner, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, because, on -page 91, of Stead’s War Facts, I find the following -
According to the British law, that is to say, jus soli, he would be so regarded, as he was born in Bonn, in Germany. According to German or French law, that is to say, jus sanguinis, he would beregarded as an Englishman, for his father was British in the eyes of that law - although, according to English law, he, too, was a German. Lord Milner’s grandfather, an Englishman, settled in Germany and married a German lady. They had a son, Charles Milner, who went to London, where he practised as a physician. Later he returned to Germany and became reader in English at Tubingen University. He married a daughter of Major-General Ready, at one time Governor of the Isle of Man. Their son Alfred, now Lord Milner, was born on 23rd March, 1354, at Bonn, on theRhine. He was educated at Tubingen, but later went to King’s College, London, and then to Balliol College, Oxford. He was assistant editor of Pall MailGazette, under W. T. Stead. Then he became private secretary to Mr. Goschen, when the latter was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He spent four years in Egypt as Under-Secretary of Finance, under Lord Cromer. On his return to England he was made Chairman of the Board of Inland . Revenue. He went to Africa as High Commissioner and Governor of Cape Colony in 1897, and remained there as High Commissioner and Administrator of the conquered Transvaal and Orange Free States until he retired in 1905. Since that time he has held no public office.
The matter of nationality should be determined according to an individual’s actions. Because we are at war, we ought not to condemn persons whose conduct otherwise is irreproachable, and against whom nothing can be alleged beyond the fact that they are of enemy extraction. If citizens of this country, who are legally liable to all the pains and penalties to which the people of Australia are liable, do anything that can be proved to be seditious or inimical to the interests of the Empire, they should be dealt with according to the laws and regulations of the country, but when people are encouraged to come here and live in accordance with . the liberties they take on when they assume our nationality, they should not be subjected to persecution solely because of the fact that they have in their veins German, Austrian, Turkish, or Bulgarian blood. We should not persecute any one because he may happen to be of enemy descent, perhaps through a grandfather or a great-grandfather, so long as nothing but that fact can be alleged against him. In any case, a person should be given a fair trial under the laws to which he has become liable as a citizen of this country.
Last night the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) read some extracts from an article in the Nineteenth Century, dealing with the espionage system of Germany. The writer of the article made an attack upon those persons who are urging the Governments and the peoples of the various belligerent countries to seriously consider the question of peace. Mention was made of the Bolshevik leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, and of members of the Industrial Workers of the World and Sinn Fein organizations. It was said that the man who advocated peace must, of necessity, be consciously a paid tool, or, unconsciously, an instrument of the Central Powers. I repudiate any sympathy or any connexion with the Central Powers, or any suggestion that because I disbelieve in the war and do not believe that the interests of the working classes of this country, or of the Empire, or of the world generally, are to be served by war, and because I believe that their interests lie in the speedy attainment of an honorable and lasting peace, I am to be regarded as one of the unconscious tools of the Kaiser. I hold that I am free to put forth my views so long as I do not transgress any of the laws of the land, without that implied suggestion being made. No one will accuse The Round Table of being a seditious or disloyal publication. In its quarterly review of the politics of the British Empire, The Bound Table, in its March issue, has an article headed, “ Three Doctrines in
Conflict.” It contrasts the Prussian point of view with the principles for which the Allies stand, and takes as the third doctrine the principles represented by the Bolsheviki. It is a very temperatelywritten article, and, although I do not indorse the views expressed, it deals with the matter from a very reasonable and sane stand-point, and honorable members would do better to study it than to persist in attempting to persuade the people that those who urge that peace should be considered from the most favorable stand-point at all times, are working in the interests of Germany. The article states -
Yet Bolshevikism, riddled though it is with inconsistency, has a unity of its own, and the inner forces that comes from unity; and with that force it may yet make much history in Europe. Its unit is not intellectual - it is emotional. Its devotees do not think alike - they feel alike. It is the emotion expressed in the simple battle-cry which to-day, as when Marx penned it seventy years ago, can set the waves of passion surging, at moments of crisis and suffering, in any crowded concourse of wage earners: “Workers of the world, unite! You have a world to win and nothingto lose but your chains.”
It is the emotion which springs from a consciousness, of wrongs daily and hourly endured, of’ a human birthright withheld, of gifts wasted and perverted in soulless drudgery, of the existence of a world of great power and beauty and happiness beyond the utmost reach of the individual, but just not beyond his ken. It is the revolution of the soul of man against the outcome of a century of industrialism.
No man can understand the appeal of the revolutionary movement till he has experienced or realized in imagination . the degradation which the modem industrial system, with its false standard of values, its concentration on wealth and material production, its naive detachment from ethical principle or civic obligation, has brought upon the masses who have served as the cannon fodder for its operations.
I commend that article to the attention of honorable members, because it shows, what is known to every honorable member who has given any study to sociology, the conditions under which the peoples in Russia, and the people of Europe generally, were suffering, and the tyranny that was perpetrated during the regime of the Czar. The facts which are coming to light to-day prove conclusively that the Russian autocracy deliberately entered the war for the purpose of staving off the revolution. The Russian people associated the war with the Russian autocracy.
– What was wrong with the first genuine revolution ?
– That was a revolution promoted by the middle classes and business men.
– Kerensky was not a business man.
– Kerensky belonged to the Russian Labour party, which, although having the same name as the party in Great Britain, is not “identical in politics. The working classes and peasants are identified with the Social Democrats and the Social Revolutionary party. Kerensky belonged to neither of those. He represented the idea of a parliamentary system of middle-class republics, based upon the maintenance of the present industrial and political system as existent in America and France.
– With a broad franchise ?
– Yes; but neither of the two other groups believes in that system of organization. The. Bolsheviki, in the system of Government which they are now operating in Russia, have very closely followed the system advocated by Prince Krapotkin, as outlined in his book The Conquest of Bread. They do not believe in the centralization of authority in a Federal Parliament, but in a diffusion of power amongst the communes or Soviets. It is mainly a Federal system, and beyond question is the most democratic form of Government that has been instituted in the world. No matter how much honorable members may disbelieve in the doctrines of the Bolsheviki, there can be no question that the machinery they have evolved for the government of Russia is the most democratic in existence.
– Corruption and bribery are associated with it.
– I do not say that the honorable gentleman is deliberately making a misstatement, but his information is certainly false.
– Is it not a fact?
– It is not. If the honorable member will supply me with the authority for his statement I shall be in a position, to rebut it. I have the same opportunity as the honorable member has of becoming acquainted with the facts as to what is taking place in Russia, as described in the British journals. Those publications do not say that the regime of the Bolsheviki was instituted with murder and pillage. In fact, judging by those authorities, Dr. Kent Hughes who recently returned from Russia, gave a very distorted account of what has taken place in that country. He said that it was a comic-opera revolution, and that only three people were killed.
– He was referring to the time when he was there.
– There has been no successful revolt since, and there has been no general murder and pillage. There have been individual murders and thefts such as take place in every country, but they are no argument against any particular form of administration. The ideas for which the Bolsheviki stand are recognised by even such a periodical as The Bound Table as being essentially humanitarian. These magazines do not agree with the Bolsheviki methods of expropriating landlords and industrial magnates; they do not agree with Russia pulling out of the war; but they recognise that if the Russian people believe they were right in withdrawing from the war, they were entitled to do so, just as the people of Britain would be justified in withdrawing if they were of that opinion.
– I do not think that the British people would break their
– The Russian people and the Government now in existence made no treaties; the Russian Czar did.
– And the Allies thought that the Russian people were supporting them.
– At the beginning of the war the Russian people fought because there was an autocratic power which forced its citizens to war at the point of the bayonet. There was in Russia a Government which stripped women naked in the streets, and flogged them; which placed naked girls in open trucks with drunken Cossacks; which committed such, unspeakable crimes that, when the alliance between England, France, and Russia was being arranged, the Czar dare not land in England because of the outcry against his misdeeds. That was the Government which, when the workers of Russia peacefully assembled outside the Palace, found cause, with the aid of agents provocateurs, like Father Gapon and Azoff, to send the troops against the unarmed people and kill 6,000 of them on “ Bloody Sunday.” That Government was maintained in power by British money after the revolution in 1905. The aspirations of the Russian people to establish a democratic form of organization, and to achieve the same freedom as we enjoy in Australia, were thwarted by the Czar, and in the end they destroyed him and his Government.
– Does the honorable member forget that the British Government recognised the first revolution as justified ?
– I know that as soon as the Kerensky Administration, known as the Provisional Government, was established, and stated its intention to continue the war, the British and other Allied Governments recognised it. But as soon as that Government was overthrown by the Bolsheviki, and the vested interests of the Allied Powers were menaced owing to the repudiation of the debts incurred, not by the Russian people in their struggle for freedom but by the Russian Czar, in order to enable him to engage in war and hold down his own people, the Allied Governments no longer recognised the revolution. But the chief cause of the Allies’ hostility to the Bolsheviki was that the new system of society introduced by them meant the termina1 tion of the capitalistic system. It meant that a new form of society would emerge from the war, and that not only political, but also industrial freedom, was to be born of the sufferings and trials of the Russian people, and the massacre of their sons in this international war. What is happening to-day? I said on a previous occasion that ultimately it will be found that the doctrines of the Bolsheviki would not be confined to Russia, but would cross the frontiers of Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. To-day the cables tell us that Austria is rendered impotent for an offensive against Italy because of the internal unrest. Austrian prisoners, who have returned to their country from Russia, have been interned because they are infected with the doctrines of the Bolsheviki. Men are being shot in Germany because they are trying to overthrow the autocracy of Germany as the autocracy of Russia was overthrown.
– Set it going in Germany, and we will forgive you a lot.
– I hope the honorable member will be here when it does take place. I hope that, when the revolution spreads from Russia to Austria and
Germany, he will be here to indorse a reconstitution of society in accordance with the principles enunciated by the very people who will nave brought about in those places what, from his point of view, is so desirable an effect. I do not suggest that the reconstitution of society should necessarily be brought about by the same means ; but I should like to see the accomplishment of the same objective in not only Continental countries, but every part of the world. It would then be impossible for dynastic ambitions, or the struggle between conflicting groups of commercialized countries, to bring their working men and women into conflict one with the other.
– The honorable member would not expect the honorable member for Kooyong (‘Sir Robert Best) to become so civilized as to approve of that.
– I believe that, had I been reared in the same environment - had I imbibed the same views that he and others like him have - I would most likely have to-day the same mental outlook. I find fault with no one for the views he holds; but I do find fault with those who attribute to me anti-British motives when I urge that the interests of the workers of, not only the Empire, but of every country where they are engaged in producing surplus profits, do not lie in fighting one another, and that any system that makes for war should be put an end to.
– I do not .think any one has found fault with the honorable member for holding such an opinion.
– My allusion was to remarks made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), and to his attempt to connect, at all events, some honorable members on this side with the views expressed in the article from which he quoted.
My main object in speaking as T have is to show that our wars with Spain, with the Dutch, and with France - what are termed wars for colonial expansion, which occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - were largely the result of conflicts between trading companies. In the one case war arose from an attempt to levy toll on Dutch fishermen off the Scottish coast; while in another it was due to disputes between the Dutch East India Company and the British East India Company - both trading concerns. Disputes’ arose again over the Mississippi, and the rights of various trapping companies in Canada; while in regard to India proper conflict occurred over the rights of the British Chartered Company and the French company in opposition to it. We all know the story of Olive’s conquest.
– The honorable member has some nasty information.
– I am trying to point out that the wars of those days arose from conflicts between trading companies, whereas our war to-day is caused by a totally different set of conditions.
– Were these trade wars?
– Certainly. Pursuing this line of thought, we And that after the French Revolution Europe was devastated by war from 1805 to 1875. It was convulsed by wars in 1859, 1864, 1866, 1870-1, and there was also the American Civil War of 1860-64. While the commercial future of Continental countries was ‘being interfered with by these devastating wars, industry in Great Britain flourished, because after the battle of Trafalgar Britain held the supremacy of the sea.
– a good thing, too.
– I do not say it was not a good thing. If the honorable member follows my line of argument he will recognise that during all these years until the Crimean war took place Britain enjoyed an era of prosperity and peace. During this period we had the Liberal party in power with their slogan of “Peace, retrenchment, and reform.” After the Crimean war a complete change took place in the methods of fighting, or rather in the nature of the armaments used. Until then wooden ships had been used in war, but in out contest with Russia it was found that wooden ships could not withstand the fire of the Sebastopol and other forts. The American Civil War disclosed the same fact. The Alabama was brought into existence, and ironclads began to supersede the wooden ships, which until then had been used. A new departure then took place in manufactures. The development of the textile industry in Great Britain necessitated the employment of more machinery, and this in turn necessitated improved methods of transport in England. Owing to the inventions of Stephenson and Watt, translated into the steam engine and the railway system, there arose a demand for steel to build our railways, and to make machinery for our expanding industries. In this way huge steel manufactories were brought’ into existence. The developments of industry involving the- use of much machinery resulted in the establishment of great steel manufactories such as those of Vickers Limited, Cammel’s Baird’s, Schneider’s, Krupp’s, Skoda’s, and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation of America. Every one of those owed their origin as steel manufacturers to the requirements of peaceful pursuits. They were engaged in the manufacture of steel rails, machinery, and so forth. But, with the development that took place in armament and the building of ironclads, these enterprises were converted into armament manufactories. They devoted their factories to the building of battle-ships, cruisers, big guns, and small arms. The American Civil War led Hotchkiss and Company, and all such firms that were previously manufacturing sewing machines and agricultural implements, to convert their establishments into factories for the making of small arms, just as similar works in Britain” and on the Continent’ have been converted into munition factories during the present war. In the course of time an international armament ring was formed. Japanese, American, German, Russian, French, and British armament manufacturers formed an armament trust. And what policy did they pursue? They appointed to their Boards of Directors retired British Admirals and other men of influence in other countries, so that they should have ready access to Ministers and heads of Departments. They knew that in this way they would be able to facilitate the granting of contracts. These factories which had their origin in peaceful pursuits became then one of the immediate causes leading up to the war, for armaments, like wool and meat, are produced for profit. Scare articles were written in the German newspapers, and Germans subsidized French newspapers to make attacks on Germany, so that Krupp and Company would secure contracts; all this was exposed by Liebknecht in the Reichstag, and by Ramsay
Macdonald in the House of Commons, before the war. Ramsay Macdonald dealt with the international ring, and pointed out the dangers of it. Just before the war he asked in the House of Commons where the next war was going to take place, being led to put that question by the activity that was being displayed in. armament manufactories.
Let me show now how modern armaments affect the peace of the world to-day. Among the essentials of the equipments of modern warfare are steel, copper, manganese, cotton, oil, and rubber. Combinations of powers that build up huge armaments - that go in for defensive, naval, and military work- - if they have not within their own territory oil deposits, deposits of iron, copper, and manganese, and also cotton growing country, must seek to gain such country. Any power that occupies country producing all these commodities has necessarily an advantage over a nation that does not. Consequently modern armaments play an important part in war making. The nations struggle to obtain, either by actual annexation or by bringing within their sphere of influence, countries where these essentials are produced. What, may I ask, wasthe trouble in Morocco which brought France and Germany to the verge of war? The origin of the trouble was a quarrel between Schneider and Company, a French firm, and Krupp’s, in regard to mineral deposits in Morocco. Both companies were backed up by the nations to which they belonged, and in connexion with that incident the verge of war was reached. Then there is the Persian Oil Company. Why is it that we insist on Mesopotamia being under British influence, and occupied by British troops?
– To protect India.
– That is one reason, but the presence of oil deposits in the vicinity has something to do with it. The Navy to-day is in need of oil.
– And it is quite right.
– I am merely trying to point out that the modern development of armaments has made it essential that each group of Powers should have within its control country which produces the essentials of modern armaments. The Powers try by secret diplomacy, and by other means, to secure this, knowing that if they succeed they will take from their opponents an important weapon. Take Alsace-Lorraine for instance-‘ -
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45p.m.
– When we rose’ for dinner I was pointing out that the controversy between France and Germany over Alsace-Lorraine is not so much concerned with the population of these countries as with the large iron and coal deposits there found. In this connexion, I shall quote from an article that appeared in the Age of the 4th May last -
Peace and Iron must be Combined.
At a festival conference of the combined iron and steel industries of the German Empire, held in Berlin, and attended by the leading representatives of the mining and smelting concerns in Westphalia, Lorraine, and Silesia, Dr. Reichert, chairman of the various industries, addressed the gathering on Ore and Iron in Germany’s future. He said. . . . “ Since the outbreak of war we have known how to appreciate the fact that in time of peace we were able to conquor the world’s market. The iron industrialists of England, France, Italy, and Russia combined had been unable in this war to produce more iron than Germany alone. At first we thought it a danger that our greatest iron region lay so . close to the frontier. Had Lorraine been lost to us - the German ore land - We would not have been able to produce more than a quarter of the iron and steel produced in peace, or have been unable to supply our army and navy.” Dr. Reichert added that in the heavy Flanders battles more iron was used in a few hours than in the entire Franco-German war. “An industry which employs 2,000,000 men and gives bread to 8,000,000 of the German population must be placed in a secure position, and have a foundation on which it can build a future. The extension of our frontier, necessary for securing our industrial future, must not be spoken of as annexation. Only narrow strips of frontier are in question, and these may be won in the shape of rectifications of frontiers.”
As I previously pointed out, the minerals and other products that are essential to the conduct of modern warfare have become one of the main causes of international conflict. Lands which yield coal, cotton, rubber, iron, manganese, and other essentials in the production of explosives, guns, battleships, and so forth, and which are outside the jurisdiction of any particular power, are made the subject of secret diplomacy. This causes friction, and eventually ends in war, which is waged until the territories are secured by one or other of the competing nations. From the time of the Crimean war to the present, the steel manufacturing establishments, which were originally established for the purpose of providing steel rails when the railway system was introduced, and heavy machinery for use in coal mines when coal replaced water as a power-producing agency, have been transformed into huge establishments for the creation of machines intended for the slaughter of the human race. From the Age of the same date I quote the following as a case in point : -
Chief among the industrial stalwarts is Pio Perrone, who is the Krupp of Italy - head of the great Ansaldo Munition Works near Genoa. This monster establishment had an interesting evolution, first, because it was one of the pioneers launched without German aid, consent or capital; second, because, by a curious circumstance, it was founded by two British engineers as a workshop to repair locomotives used on the Italian railways. For years it was operated by the Armstrongs of England.
One day ,a wide-awake and equally widevisioned Pio Perrone, aided by his brother Mario, acquired a financial interest. They were engineers who believed in Italy for Italians. They brought in undiluted Italian capital and surrounded themselves with Italian, experts. Before long they were in active competition with Krupp, of Germany, and Vickers, in England. The one-time repair shop expanded into a mighty plant that builds battleships, cruisers, destroyers, field artillery, machine-guns, and motor cars, i When Prussianism ran amok, in August, 1914, the men who conducted the Ansaldo works did a fine and patriotic thing. They knew that Germany would employ every effort to keep Italy out of the war, and they also knew that sooner or later national self-respect would dictate a rupture. Without Government contract or Government subsidy they started to do their part in making Italy ready. Realizing that the inevitable war would strip Italy of her men, they broke all Italian industrial precedents and hired women workers. During” tHe ten months that Italy was neutral the Ansaldo works built more than 1,000 guns of all kinds and laid down and partly completed a small fleet of warships. Most important of all, they pointed out to the Government that, whatever contingency might arise, Italy had one industrial asset to hurl into the breach. When Italy did declare for honour the Ansaldo organization was placed unreservedly at the disposal of the Government.
Armaments, like other commodities, are’ produced for profit, and those producing them have an interest in .subsidizing newspapers to stir up national strife.
Thus the German Government subsidized French newspapers to attack Germany for the purpose of giving an opportunity to German armament agents iu the Reichstag, to quote these newspapers, as an argument for further naval and military expenditure, with the inevitable contracts for ammunition firms such as Krupp’s. The same game was. played in Japan, where huge bribes were offered in connexion with contracts of the kind, and it is clear that those interested in producing armaments, naval or military, are naturally interested in creating strife between nations.
In modem life the conditions under which men and women work, and are brought together, colour their whole existence. The honorable «. member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) last evening referred to the works of Sir Chiozza Money and Professor Thorold Rogers, and stated that he believed in the economic interpretation of history, or, as otherwise expressed, the materialistic conception of history, from which the doctrine of economic determinism has been deduced.
– I might have known that the honorable member would not make use of such a term, because it requires a certain amount of comprehension. The honorable member did refer to the economic interpretation of history, and the economic interpretation of history is another term for the doctrine of the materialistic conception of history, from which has been deduced what is known as economic determinism.
– Is that it?
– And that, broadly speaking, means that the conditions under which people have to work form one of the most powerful factors in determining their outlook on life. It largely determines their views in regard to morality, politics, and religion - tints their view of life in every aspect.
– You must have been reading a German textbook!
– It is taught by the author whom the honorable member quoted on the economic interpretation of history.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member has evidently never grasped what the teaching is. As a homely illustration, we may take the relations of employers and employed in our Australian life. When the employees are out on strike, and others go strike-breaking, unionists, who have built up organizations to better their own conditions, look on them as most reprehensible persons; call them scabs and regard their action as detestable. On the other hand, people with directly opposite interests, whose views are determined from the employers’ stand-point, by their education, environment and business training, regard the men who go strike-breaking as patriots engaged in rendering a public service. Here are two different views, both determined by the economic conditions under which those holding them maintain their existence in society. When the workers look around, they -see, in the light of the past, that both sides engaged in warfare to-day are governed by the same motives. Commercialism has divided the world into so many huge national workshops - into two conflicting groups competing for commercial supremacy, and the right to hold the lands necessary to that supremacy. That this view is not exaggerated is shown by Colonel Arthur Boucher, a French military writer, who, months before the war, published a book Germany in Peril, from which the following is quoted -
Strange is the situation in which France finds herself. It is regret at having lost her two fine provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which have remained so piously attached to us; it is our unshakable determination to succeed in wresting them from the domination of their invaders, and our hope to see the tricolour waving from their public buildings; it is, therefore, a question of sentiment which is, above all, the cause of our hostility towards Germany, and this hostility compels us to undertake in the Triple Entente, covered by France and Russia, the protection of the vital interests of our Allies and friends; For, if we are victorious, Europe is for ever delivered from German domination; simultaneously Slavism has hurled Germanism to earth; Russia becomes completely free to consolidate her immense Empire by increasing it. If we are victorious, England remains the mistress of the seas, her Fleet has no longer anything to fear from that of Germany, her trade is sheltered from competition. In order to resist attacks which threatens her on all sides, Germany is compelled to develop her military power to the supreme point, and in the ultimate resort this power becomes concentrated against us.
This expert points out the advantages of the alliance, and declares that it is a matter of trade supremacy with Britain, with France a matter of sentiment concerning Alsace Lorraine, and a matter of territorial aggrandisement with Russia. Here is another quotation from the same book -
Germany is threatened to-day on all her frontiers, and finds herself in such a position that she can only insure her future and face all her foes by seeking first of all to eliminate us from their number by concentrating, from the beginning, all her forces against us.
To be in a position to resist attacks which menace her on all sides, Germany is compelled to develop her military powers to the supreme degree. … It was to guard against the Russian danger that Germany made her (military) law of 1913.
Thus, we see, when the time comes - and it may come soon - when Slavism desires to make an end of Germanism, the friendship of Russia can serve us if we are fully decided to fulfil all our duties towards her. Germany does not doubt that France, remaining immutably attached to her treaties, would support her Ally with all her strength - choosing, however, the most favorable moment for intervention.
These quotations, read with the revelations of Baron Rosen, the Russian Ambassador to the United States of America, and the secret treaties which have been made public, conclusively prove that Russia was preparing to force this war. The Belgian’ Ambassador in Paris, Baron Guillaume, repeatedly warned his Government that Russia was using France and the three-years’ service law to forward her own interests. The time does not permit me to read all his reports on the subject, but writing on the 9th June, 1914 - two months before the outbreak of the war - he said -
The press campaign of the last few days in favour of the Three Years Law has been one of extreme violence. Every possible means has been adopted to influence public opinion, and it has even been sought to involve the personality of General Joffre. We have witnessed, too, the French Ambassador at St. Petersburg taking - contrary to all usage - a somewhat dangerous initiative for the future of France. Is it true that the St. Petersburg Cabinet imposed the adoption of the Three Years Law upon this country, and is pressing to-day with” all its weight to secure the maintenance of that law? I have not succeeded in obtaining light upon this delicate point, but it would be the graver, seeing that those who direct the destinies of the Empire of the Tsars cannot be ignorant of the fact that the effort which is thus demanded of the French nation is excessive, and cannot long be sustained. Is the attitude of the Cabinet of St. Petersburg based, then, upon the conviction that events are so near that the tool it. proposes to place in the hands of its ally can be used?
On the 8th May, the preceding month, he had sent this communication -
It is incontestable that during the last fewmonths the French nation has become more Chauvinistic and more confident in itself. The same men, instructed and competent, who, two years ago, showed lively anxiety at the mere mention of possible difficulties between France and Germany, have changed their tone. They now say they arc certain of victory. They dwell largely on the progress, which is truly very real, accomplished in the Army of the Republic, and contend that they could at least hold in check the German Army sufficiently long to enable Russia to mobilize, to concentrate her troops, and to fling herself upon her western neighbour. One of the most dangerous elements in the situation is the re-‘ enactment, in France of the Three Years Law: It was imposed light-heartedly by the militarist party, and the country cannot sustain it. Two years from now it will either have to be abrogated or . war must ensue.
– Have you read the French diplomatic correspondence?
– I cannot read French.
– For the benefit of English readers it has been translated into English.
– It is my desire to get all the facts.
– Then you should read the correspondence. It will give you a different view of the matter.
– He does not want’ any other view.
– The honorable member may speak for his own mental outlook, not for mine.
– I judge by what I hear.
– The Biblical injunction is, “ Judge not lest ye be judged.” My object has been to show that, months before this calamity overtook humanity, there were persons who were anxious to protect themselves, and to prevent the slaughter that has ensued. I. do not doubt that the French correspondence referred to may show that the same sort of thing was taking place on the other side. My contention is that the secret diplomacy of both sides brought about the war, or Was one of the principal causes of it. Each group of Powers was afraid of the other. This engendered hatred and suspicion. Then there was the commercial competition, the desire to acquire territories producing the requirements of modern warfare, and the intriguing and diplomatic interchanges which this occasioned resulted in the expansion of armaments. The arming of Europe had become a thing of such magnitude that the various countries were facing inevitable bankruptcy. The breaking point must have come. I do not minimize or apologize for German militarism, which is the most brutal manifestation of militarism that the world has seen.
– If every one acted like the honorable member, Germany would have been in England before this.
– It is not difficult to make an’ interjection of that character, but the interjection does not throw light on the situation; it merely manifests a spirit of spitefulness, which is not creditable to the Minister. My opinion is that the present constitution of society breeds the conditions which make war inevitable. Secret diplomacy, and the hatreds engendered by modern industrial conditions foster militarism in every country.
– That is not the question. The war is upon us; what are we to do?
– Those are questions the honorable member can answer for himself when I have finished my speech. Militarism will always breed the brutality and cruelty which characterizes German militarism. It is because it has not been known to the British people until lately, that we have not developed the same system that they have on the Continent. The Dreyfus case, in France was a manifestation of militarism as bad as anything in Germany. Here in Australia we have had a similar manifestation in connexion with child conscription, and the callousness of military officials in their bearing towards the civilians. It is because militarism has not taken root in British countries hitherto that it has not borne with us the fruit it has borne on the Continent. Let the war be brought to a conclusion, and Germany be defeated, and what will happen ? We shall hear again of the balance of power - that great fetish of European government. We shall be told that to maintain it there must be a new arrangement of the nations, and to prevent any Power from becoming a menace to the world we shall be asked to accept conscription, and to build up fresh armaments.
The people of Australia will be told that Germany is out of the way, and that they must be on their guard against a nearer enemy. This will be the excuse for conscription and militarism. To hold on to New Guinea and the islands of the Pacific, large military and naval credits will be proposed. Honorable members may know the story of the young nigger who was brought before a magistrate for throwing a brick at another boy. When asked why he had done this, he said that he had been called a black rascal. “ But,” said the magistrate, “ surely you are one?” “ Yes,” he answered, “ I may be; but suppose he called you a black rascal?” “Oh,” said the magistrate, “I am not one.” “ No,” replied the young nigger, after a moment’s hesitation, “ perhaps you are not; but suppose he called you the sort of rascal that you are, what would you do then?” British militarism may not be the “ black “ rascal, but in all countries militarism is a rascal, and when it has taken hold of the people it becomes a “ black “ rascal. We may not have the brutal and vicious militarism of Germany, but everywhere when militarism is given time for development, and the minds of the people are suitably moulded, it becomes as brutal and as obnoxious to those who suffer under it.
– Then help us to kill the German militarism to begin with.
– You might ask us to do that if you were not engaged in producing militarism here; in moulding the minds of the people on military lines, and in abusing the Defence Act to brutalize youngsters by putting them into gaols for failure to attend drills, and punishing their parents as well.
– The party to which the honorable member belongs has always claimed all the credit for our compulsory military service law.
– Well, I claim no credit for it. I am sorry if this party has been associated with the penalizing of parents and the punishing of youngsters by imprisonment in forts. When the separation of Sweden and Norway took place, it was expected that there would be war between the two countries, and their respective armies were marched to their borders. But the working men and women, through their trade unions and political organizations, raised such an agitation that when the conflicting armies marched to the frontiers there marched with the soldiers mothers carrying their babies in their arms. The women appealed to one another and to the men, and asked that their flag should not be stained with the blood of one another. They held up their babies, and asked the soldiers not to fire. The result was that the Norwegians and the Swedes fraternized, and there was no conflict. These people did not have flying over them the flag of any country that would ask them to shed their blood, or create widows and orphans or cripples because there was a desire on the part of some of them to separate from the others. But over them floated the red flag of international brotherhood. -
Mr.GREGORY (Dampier) [8.16].- I have been asking myself whether it is the desire of the honorable member to prove that in this terrible crisis - the most terrible in our history - our attitude is right or wrong, or whether he” is’ with us or against us. He has told us a long tale of the horrors of militarism; but we are in this war, and how are we going to get out of it? . Not with speeches of the kind that the honorable member has delivered, nor with the help of men like him. The question that every one should ask himself is : Are we justified in the action we have taken; should we have sent our boys to the Front; and, having sent them there, should we support them ? History, as I have read it, ‘ has proved quite clearly that the word of Germany cannot be taken in one single respect. She guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium, and she agreed to abide by the decisions of the Hague Conference, but has she kept her word in regard to either matter ? So far as Germany’s conduct of the war has been revealed to us it is not” civilization, not even barbarism, but Hell itself. Has there been any act too vile or atrocity too bestial for the German hordes ? Yet we have the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) trying to raise doubts in the minds of the people as to whether we are right or wrong in our attitude towards the war.
I want to make my position clear. I have held my peace for a few months in order to see what action was to be taken in regard to the promises that were made at the Recruiting Conference. The Government have given . away almost everything that was asked for.
– Have they?
– Except in regard to releasing criminals from gaol.
– We have gained next to nothing.
– This is a very fine joke.
– The honorable member had better remain quiet. No one but himself can feel proud of his presence here.
– My electors sent me here.
– The climate is very cold, especially near the ground, where the honorable member and most of his constituents come from.
If we cannot keep our boys at the Front supplied with reinforcements within the next few months, I am going to do my best to force this Parliament back to the country, so that the people may deckle whether they will have a Ministry in office with the power that- they think is absolutely necessary for the protection of this country, or whether they will place the conduct “of affairs in the hands of honorable members opposite. If we had submitted that question to the people, they would .have given a very different answer to the one they gave last year in connexion with the conscription referendum.
The hour is late, and I have promised the Acting Prime Minister that I will speak for a very short time only in order that other honorable members may be enabled to speak before the> conclusion of the debate. It is a pity, in dealing with the Estimates, that “the whole of the financial position of the country, especially at a time like this’, when our obligations are so. enormous, cannot receive the proper consideration that should be given to it. We are in a” bad way at the present time. Certainly we have not been short of money, but we have be’en going to the Old Country for loans. We are able to produce so much in Australia, yet we have to go cap in hand to the Old Country, which has done so much in connexion with the financing of the war, in order to borrow money for the purpose of carrying out public works. I am sorry that the last Loan Bill did not include’ a provision which is . to be found in a New Zealand Act, namely, that every person with an income of £700 - I would mate it £300 here - who dees not contribute to the war loans is compelled, through the Commissioner of Taxation, to lend in his just proportion. Australia should be compelled to finance its own requirements. There is something contemptible in having to go to Great Britain for money at the present time. Our obligations will be enormous. We will require _money for war pensions, and for repatriation, and I assume that large public works will have to be commenced in order to absorb our men temporarily when they return. Enormous sums of money will be required, but I hope, that wel shall be able to finance ourselves, and at the same time exercise economy in” connexion with our public works. I have heard Ministers boast of what Australia has done, but it makes me ashamed to sit behind them, because we find that we have not sent one bit of war material to the Old Country. We are not even manufacturing the shells1 or the rifles Which our boys are using at the Front.
The wealth of Australia is due entirely to its primary industries - agriculture, grazing, mining, and timber. These are the great industries that have made the country as prosperous as it is to-day. Rarely do we find any mention in a Year-Book of the export of any of the products of our secondary industries. The curse of Australia is the abnormal growth of the big capital cities, caused wholly by the consideration that is extended to our secondary industries, and creating political influences which are a menace to our primary industries and to our future. People are drawn from the -country to the city, to the great detriment of the primary industries.
– It is no wonder when the primary producer has often to suspend operations for six months in the year because he cannot get roads over which to cart his produce.
– It was my desire to address myself to the need for developing the primary industries, but my promise to curtail my remarks will allow me to only do this briefly. It may be a subject of interest to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), who has done so little to induce a single man to go out into the back country. A penny stamp should enable a letter to be sent to any part of Australia, but we find that the man who dares to take up the responsibilities attached to the development of the resources of the country is asked to pay so much each year for tie privilege of having a letter delivered to him.
Dealing with the Government’s proposal to fix the price of meat, history has shown us the result of price fixing when applied in the early days, and I think that the policy as now carried on is a grave mistake.
– The whole world is being compelled to adopt that policy because of the war.
– When a war is in progress one may be compelled to do things that would not be attempted in normal times, and, perhaps, it is wise to take action in many directions, mote especially when we find people, joining together and endeavouring to reap an advantage from the fact that there is a war in progress, as we find profiteers -doing in many instances to-day. For that reason I quite agree that action must be taken in many directions, but the question is how best it can be done. I am quite satisfied that the enormous prices of meat to-day are not due to the pastoralists or graziers. I believe that they have been brought about by a combination, and by reason of the existence of the wretched regulations which control trade in Australia to-day. There are too many regulations governing the handling of all goods. We have factory laws, and industrial laws, which occasion expenditure in all directions. It is the trivial regulations that have to be observed, which considerably, add to the cost of living. A little while ago an application was made to the Federal Arbitration Court for an award in connexion with the” Wharf Labourers Union, and a large number of people had to come from Western Australia to attend the Court. They came to Melbourne early in March, and it is only within the last few days that an award has been given, and they have been able to return to their State. Parties had to attend the Court from all the States, accompanied by solicitors and barristers, and so on. I suppose that the cost of those proceedings would amount to nothing less than £15,000. Some one has to pay for it. It is the general public who will have to pay in the long run.
I believe that there are many combinations in connexion with various businesses. One of the first actions of a Government should be to make any combination in restraint of trade absolutely illegal. A combination which will attempt to fix a price other than that which is fixed by law, whether it be among grocers, or butchers, or in any other line of trade, should be made the subject of a criminal charge, for which the penalty should be imprisonment. If meat is bought wholesale at 6d., and retailed at ls. or ls 3d. per lb., the difference is not going into the hands of the grazier or small farmer. But I am afraid in our attempts to regulate this matter we may do an injury to agriculture, and I refer more particularly to the mixed f armer, who is the man who makes the greatest success at agriculture. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I have no desire to make offensive reference to the gentlemen who comprise the Inter-State Commission, but a perusal of their reports show that they have been anything but practical in the manner in which they have dealt with the meat question. They started off on wrong premises. They strive to show that although there was a very bad drought in Australia. in 1914, the flocks and herds are now equal to what they were in 1913. A glance at the statistics in Knibbs will show the number, of sheep and cattle we had in Australia in 1911, the year which preceded the worst year’ we had in Australia so far as our flocks and herds were concerned. In 1911, which was” our best year in this regard, we had 345,000 more cattle, and 8,000,000 more sheep than in 1913, the year upon which they based all their calculations in regard to the stockcarrying capacity of Australia. IE was on the figures, for that year that they were trying to show that although Australia suffered a serious drought in 1914, it had made good since owing to the intervening good seasons. According to Knibbs there were in 1911, in the four States dealt “with by the Commission, 10,298,000 cattle, and in 1917, 8,995,000 cattle, or a reduction of 1,303,000. Of sheep there were in 1911, 85,000,000, and in 1917, 69,000,000, showing a decrease of 16,000,000 sheep. Is it fair in ‘those circumstances for the Commission to base its arguments on the figures for 1913? As an instance of how unpractical the members of the Commission are, they reported that in three States the limit of safe grazing has now practically been reached. I never heard of a more foolish statement on the part of men who had made a careful inquiry into an industry. They overlook the fact that as there has been a big reduction in the area of land under cultivation, the country must naturally be able to carry more sheep. But what most astonished me was the recommendation, on page 54, “ that no action seems necessary in regard to retail prices which, the evidence shows, will conform to wholesale prices.” Apparently, the only prices to be fixed are those of the producer’s stock, and the proposal to fix -the live weight on the hoof is so preposterous that it is no wonder- the Government rejected it. I urge the Government to take extreme care- in regard to any action they may propose. If they intend to fix any prices they must be the’ retail prices in the shops. I do not see how the problem can be tackled in any other way, and even then there will be difficulties, because all customers will demand a prime joint, and if they are asked to pay more than the fixed price, they will say that the meat is not prime. The difficulty will be to say which meat is prime and which is not.
Some time ago the Government decided to allow the producers to appoint a representative on the Central Wheat Board. Mr. Giles, of South Australia, was elected by the farmers of the Commonwealth as their representative. He has attended the meetings of the Board, and “has made certain statements at Ouyen and other places in regard to the work of that body. According to a speech made in this House by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) Mr. Giles said that £45,000 had been paid in chartering fees on ships owned and commandeered by the Government; that wheat was being sold for 10s. 6d. per bushel in California– that Mr. Hughes was applying the profit made on wheat to the credit of the Commonwealth ships in order to show that they were making a success, paying for themselves in a year, and that this money was coming out of the farmer’s profits; that the Government were disloyal in taking wheat from the farmer at 4s. 9d. per bushel and selling it at’ 10s. 6d. A further statement was made by him to mo and to others that in the early stages of the war, and prior to the formation of the Central Board 1,000,000 tons of shipping was offered to the Government at a very low rate - 75s., I think - and was refused. According to the honorable member for Cook these statements have been censored, but the Hansard report of them has been distributed throughout the country, and the enemies of the Government, and the farmers themselves, who do not know what has been happening in connexion with the Wheat Board, have a feeling that the Government have not acted fairly towards them. I say they should be treated fairly. I know something of the working of the Board, and I believe it has been actuated, by a teen desire to get for the farmers the best possible price for their wheat. I know nothing as to the accuracy or otherwise of the statements made by Mr. Giles rer’garding Commonwealth ships, but in order not to encourage suspicion, the sooner the Government allows Mr. Giles’ statements to be made public the better. Then if he is proved to have made untruthful statements he can be punished. I asked the Acting Prime Minister to promise that Mr. Giles will be given that opportunity, but he very properly asked for time to consider the matter. I advise the Government now to let Mr. Giles make his allegations, and they can be contradicted if they are untrue.
– Why allow him to make statements which, if made by anybody else, would lead to a prosecution?
- Mr. Giles is the farmers’ representative on the Wheat Board, and he has equal authority on that body with the Minister for Agriculture in each of the States interested. Having, as a member of the Board, obtained certain information, he made a public statement to which the censor has refused publication. There should be nothing to hide in connexion with the administration of the Wheat Pool.
– The assumption is that the statements were censored for military reasons.
– If there be any reasons of that kind, I shall withdraw my objections, but if only the work of the Board is in question, I cannot see why the Government should not allow Mr. Giles to make his charges. There cannot be any military considerations in this case. If I had anything to do with the administration of the Pool, I should create three Boards instead of two. There should be one Board consisting of the Premier of each of the producing States, with the Prime Minister, and it should deal solely with financial matters. There should be a central Board, upon which not only the States would be represented, but also the producers to a greater extent than at the present time. . Then there should be another Board in each State to control the handling and shipment of wheat.
There are a number of other matters upon which I desired to speak, but I have promised to make my remarks as brief as possible. Probably the Estimates will be passed to-night, and they include provision for some very large public works. There is page after page of details in regard to wages and other small amounts, but at the end of the Estimates we find one item for £200,000 in connexion with the Naval and Defence Departments, and not the slightest information is given to the Committee as to how the money is to be expended. Then there is to- be a large expenditure in connexion with the building of an arsenal. By the time the arsenal has been completed, and provision has been made for the employees, it will cost the country something like £3,000,000 to £4,000,000. The township alone will cost from £1,750,000 to £2,000,000. The arsenal is to be established on a site near Canberra, a magnificent spot for a monastery, but, to my mind, not at all suitable for an undertaking of this sort. A further objection is that we shall be creating a second Broken Hill on the doorsteps of the Federal Parliament House. I should like to know whether we are to come to a decision on that item to-night, because I fear that, if we pass the item on the Estimates, this House will be definitely, committed to the scheme.
– We should have an assurance that nothing will be done until Parliament meets again.
– Because of the promise I have made, I shall not further prolong myremarks; but I hope that in considering the fixation of meat prices, the Government will take all possible care not to injure to any greater extent than is necessary, the great industry that has done so much to produce Australia’s wealth.
.- About two years ago my attention was directed to the lack of appreciation on the part of the Navy Department of the necessity for some cheaper form of coastal reconnaisance than that which might have been thought to suffice some twenty years ago. I found in port a number of small armed vessels, some of which were built in the early nineties, and all of which are of no military value atall to-day, but were- carrying crews, at great expense to the Australian taxpayer, and making believe that they were doing valuable war service on coastal reconnaisance. My mind was naturally directed into the channel to which any honorable member would turn , in such circumstances. I asked why the work of coastal reconnaisance could not be done in the same way as in every other country of the world, namely, by aeroplanes ? I was told in the first place that the difficulty of procuring aeroplanes was insurmountable. Subsequently I found that that was mainly an excuse, and that there were plenty of aeroplanes everywhere except in Australia, where a few were needed for this purpose. I then approached the Navy Office and found there was a gentleman of wide military experience in this branch, who already had been urging upon the Department the necessity for taking steps now while the war was on to acquire the information necessary to enable our returning military flyers to be converted into the type of flyers required for naval reconnaisance. This gentleman had been active and energetic in pressing his views, even offering to sacrifice himself individually for the good of the Department. He had received no encouragement whatever. After I had pressed the . point for a few months I began to realize that the central administration of the Navy Office was against any reform in this direction. As with almost everything else in that office, the whole of its energy was devoted to keeping out new forces and new activities.
– That energy is not devoted to keeping out new men from overseas.
– I am dealing not with a special officer, recently imported, who is a very gallant gentleman with a distinguished naval career, but with this question as it has come to me. I very soon began to find that the Minister who was then in charge of the Navy was allowing the Central Administration to remain in charge of itself.
– What about the present Minister?
– There are various kinds of Ministers. There are Ministers who slave in their Departments; there are Ministers who supervise their Departments. I am afraid that my personal friend the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook), so far as I can ascertain his administration from my own experience, is a gentleman who neither slaved nor supervised, but slept in his Department. I could get nothing done. To show the stubborn and stupid resistance of the Central Head-Quarters to this proposed step - a step absolutely necessary unless the whole of the experience of our military fliers is to be wasted, since they will all grow stale and get off the job unless we keep them together - I may say that when I suggested to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) that he should call for applications from all returned aviators, select the best and attach them to the Royal Naval Air Service, to get this information, the proposal was turned down. I find that an actual offer from the gentleman to whom I have referred - and who was the first to approach the Minister - to go, at his own expense, to England and find out for the Department some of the things that would be useful to them, was rejected. That offer was actually turned down, and turned down in a way that could hardly have been encouraging to the gentleman who made it. It may be said by honorable’ members that perhaps this gentleman had no experience. I have here a copy of a letter he wrote to the Department on 3rd September last. I shall not weary honorable members by reading the whole of it, but in order to show them the experience of this man, who was willing to make these inquiries for nothing, and whose offer was ignominiously turned down, I shall quote the following from it-
I graduated in England in the military wing of the Air Service, gaining my certificate on the 31st March, 1916. I was about five months on active service on the Egyptian front, and some three months mainly employed flying new machines across to France. ‘ I have flown all types of machines, and have carried out work on active service in all branches, namely, artillery co-operation with field batteries and monitors, bombing raids, reconnaissances, night flying and photography. I have Also been employed test-flying new machines and old ones which required adjustment before being taken on service. I have been mentioned in despatches for ray work in the field, and have also done work as instructor in advance flying and lecturer on engines, and the care and maintenance of machines. I have also been through a course or scries of examinations at the Uni versity of London, by which I am qualified as Inspector in the Aeronautical Inspection Department. This Department inspects all materials used in the construction of aircraft and engines, both before, during, and after con- _struction.
He then went on to deal with his indebtedness to private firms who had provided certain facilities and so on, and concluded by telling the Minister who has asked for this information -
I may say that Captain Thring, R.N., has a copy of my certificates, but I would be happy to forward the originals should you so desire.
He then proceeded to set out the matters which the Navy Office might, in his opinion, care to know about. He wrote -
He offered to do this for nothing, but has received no satisfaction from that day to this. He has not even had an expression of regret that so handsome an offer could not be accepted.
I mention this merely to prove the stubbornness of the Navy Department. What I urged at the time was that we should start to get ready to establish and organize a coastal aerial reconnaissance. I was not so much concerned then, nor am I now, as to the establishment of the naval air service for use with our naval unit, since our naval unit is dispersed to the ends of the earth, and will be until after the war. My chief concern is that there shall be no waste of the experience of out military aviators, and of the enthusiasm, engendered by the training they have received. After a good deal of trouble, I threatened in a letter to the Navy Office to move to reduce, their Estimates. That was a long time ago. Since then there has been a succession of political troubles, and this was so essentially a non-party proposition that I did not want its consideration to be in any way tainted with the party feeling which existed in this chamber about that time. I consequently desisted. But I find now that unless some pretty straight talking is indulged in here it is practically certain that the first plank in the Government’s platform - the policy of preference to returned men - is going to be thrown over, by this Department, so that I feel it necessary to speak.
I have no word to say against the very distinguished and excellent gentleman who has been imported by the Navy Office - not to carry out any policy arrived at by the Government before he was asked to come here, but mainly and solely, I believe, to defend the Minister against myself, in our mutual correspondence and interviews. This gentleman will almost certainly “have the keenness of his branch of the profession to establish an efficient flying adjunct to the Australian Naval Unit. ‘ But I do not see in the Department’s attitude the slightest sign that- it proposes to do much to organize our returned military aviators for the work of coastal reconnaissance. Further than that, I should like to say that the Department appears to be blindly unaware that unless it gets the whole control of aviation in” Australia it is only going to do what this House has declared against over and over again; in other words, it will simply effect a duplication “of Departments. We have had to compel the Navy Department to give up the policy of having its own separate works branch. There was a ridiculous system by which it kept a works manager and a whole host of men under him. The dividing line between’ these -men and those employed in the Works Department was that the moment the water level was reached, in came the Navy works men to work underneath. As soon as they got above water level, -the Works Department came in and finished the job !
– I have already arranged that a conference shall take placebetween both branches of the service before anything definite ls decided in regard to construction so as to prevent the very thing that the honorable member is talking about.
– In regard to aviation?
– I am glad to hear it. May I say that 1 am also glad that my honorable friend (Mr. Poynton) is. administering this Department. I wish to assure him that no word that I am uttering now is intended to reflect upon him. He is new to the Department, and I am making no charges or suggestions against him. The works branch of the Navy Office has been abolished, but under the beneficent and slumberous influences of my old friend the Minister for the Navy, what has happened ? No sooner was the Works Department abolished than a super-spy staff - a new anti-spy Department - was established in the Navy Office. We thus have two sets of sedition and enemy hunters, both travelling over the same ground, both getting in each other’s way, no doubt, and-
– And both capturing each other ?
– No doubt. All this is being done for the prestige of each Department! That service should be under the one roof. Both branches of aviation should also be under the one roof. No question of an excess of esprit de corps as between either branch should stand in the way. of common efficiency. It is here that a ‘ difficulty occurs. A navy aviator will sometimes say, “A military aviator is no good so far as our work is concerned; he has not had to do the things we have to do.” And you will sometimes hear a military aviator say, “ The navy aviators have a very easy time of it. They never have to do what we have to do.” In England, in order to stop the mischievous operation of this service jealousy a new authority has’ been created, and both branches have been put under that one authority. The service here is not big enough to warrant the creation of a Ministerial Department to handle it. but it is most important that we should wipe out this jealousy and bring the two branches under the one roof. I do not hesitate to say that the Navy Office ought to control this service. It must realize, however, that it has a twofold duty - not only the duty of making its sea-going naval unit efficient by the addition of aerial observation ; but the duty of seeing that a coastal reconnaissance around Australia is carried on as well.
– It was understood when the Flying School was established at Point Cook that it would provide for both branches of the service.
– Yes, but it was placed under the control of the military branch of the service at the time. The Point Cook school has had a very poor chance since the war. It is admitted that it is not a final school for aviation training, but merely a preliminary school, where a man who wants to fly may obtain his cadetship, and thereafter graduate, if he is fit, through the Royal Flying Corps.
– But is not the Point Cook school suitable for both branches?
– I believe it is; but I know nothing of the technicalities of aviation, and I make no claim in that direction. I am simply dealing with the common-sense side of the question, which, I think, will appeal to honorable members.
It is saddening . for a member of this House to find that, after four years of war, the Navy Office is carrying out its coastal reconnaissance with old vessels such as the Gayundah, which could not catch anything if she wanted to, and could not escape anything that wanted to catch her. She carries good Australian men - trained seamen - but is simply playing about the coast, and wasting the tax.payers money.
– She is not a bad boat.
Mr.- KELLY. - I should not like to have to rely on her to go after any ordinary vessel.
– Not after a Dreadnought.
– Not even a harbor tug. On the Gayundah one would not hope to catch the boat one was after.
– She is a good ship for training .purposes.
– That may be so. I have no experience of the technicalities of these questions, but I think that a vessel to be used for such purposes must be of such a type that she can catch any ship that she wants to catch, so that she may find out what she wants to find out.
The Navy Office is composed, I think, of gentlemen who have directed their own policy. It is largely the fault of my old friend, the Minister for the Navy, that that situation has arisen. We cannot be too careful and too insistent in parliamentary government that the lines of policy which a Department is to follow shall be laid down by its Ministers, and a Minister cannot watch too carefully to see that his Department follows that policy. There is one great predominating policy throughout Australia, and that is preference to returned men. Here we have in the Navy Department a definite chance of giving preference in a case where the men to whom that preference would be given are better qualified than are outsiders. If we do not give them that preference now, what faith will any one in Australia have in the policy? It must be done, and I strongly urge the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) to take a firm grip of the situation, and to see that this right thing is done. .
I shall only say a few words more in regard to this problem of aviation, and I direct my remarks now to my honorable friend the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise). We have coming back to Australia a regular staff office organization to handle the problem of military aviation in Australia. The gentleman in charge of that staff is Colonel Reynolds. He is a very excellent officer, against whom I have not a word to. say but that he is not an aviator - that he has not graduated through the ranks of knowledge of that branch of the profession. We cannot secure that enthusiasm which we ought to have in so highly technical an arm unless the men composing it know that there is to be no favoritism in determining who shall be at the head of it. Every man should know that he will be able in time to reach the top, and that a man is not ‘ merely to be put over them without knowing their troubles and the difficulties with which they have to contend. They ought to know that the man who controls them is experienced as they are experienced, “has served as they have served, and has’ suffered the same hardships and “difficulties. If after this gentleman returns the matter is gone into thoroughly, I hope lie will be transferred to a sphere of usefulness, where his qualities will enable him to give better service to the country. Do not keep a man who knows nothing of aviation in charge of the Aviation Service on the Military side.. I am grateful . to honorable members for listening to this small advanced statement. I have for a long time had this trouble within me, and I regret very deeply to have to make this statement in the absence of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook). My only satisfaction is that that honorable gentleman knew I was going to make such a statement. Had time allowed I should have quoted from correspondence to show that I have exhausted every means to make the Minister control his own Department. Having failed in that, my surprise may be imagined when I found that he had omitted to let his successor, the Acting
Minister’ (Mr. Poynton) know anything about our differences on the subject. For that reason no one must entertain other than a feeling of generous and sympathetic hope that the Acting Minister- will rise to the occasion, and avoid anything that may militate against the efficiency of that common scheme of Australian coastal reconnaissance that I have all along desired to see established.
.- The honorable member who has just spoken, like others, finds himself in the unfortunate position of not being able to devote sufficient time to the discussion of topics of public importance. I regret very much that that honorable member did not explode on the particular question to which he has referred long ago, because it is necessary to ventilate one’s opinions very vigorously here before reform can be brought about in some of our Departments; and I can only hope that his words to-night will have due effect.
I am glad to notice that some honorable members opposite are prepared to take the stand that might naturally have been expected of them, in days gone by at any rate, and that they do not support those who are endeavouring to depreciate the efforts of the Ministry to fix the price oi meat. Not only in respect to meat, but in regard to all commodities, it will be absolutely essential, for the Government to take some action to protect the people of the country against those who continue to fleece the public. It is no argument to tell the people of a country overflowing with the gifts of Providence that food is cheaper here than in other parts of the world. With our great supplies we ought to be able to distribute the necessaries of life at prices that are fair and reasonable to producer and consumer alike. The remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), and others, recall to my mind the bitter complaint uttered” by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at Bendigo only a few months ago. I do not know whether at that time there was any engineering going on, or what influence was at work, but it is rarely we find gentlemen of the calibre of the Prime Minister speaking so vigorously of those who support him. He declared that he would not be dominated by rich men, or by the Conservative element in the
National party - that if he had to be dominated he would go back to those with whom most of his political life had been spent. There was evidently some special meaning in those words. So far back as last October, the Government had in their possession the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission regarding the price of meat, and I wonder whether the Prime Minister was thinking of those recommendations when he spoke of “domination.” It is my hope that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and the Government generally, will not allow themselves to be dominated by the rich people of the country.
I am out to-night to do a little special pleading on behalf of a long-suffering community. Members on this side of the House are not intent on downing the producer, but we believe that with proper organization there would.be a better time for both producer and consumer.
– Do you think the retail price can be regulated?
– That is not recommended in the report.
– Whether we fix the wholesale price or the retail price, one must have an effect on the other.
– I think the opposite.
– For many years past the retail price of butter has been regulated by the wholesale price, and the price is now fixed by the Government.
-: - That does not always follow.
– It followed in the case of butter, and that is a line of production in which organization, especially on co-operative lines,- has gone furthest. If we wish to fix both wholesale and retail prices let us do so, but there must be some amendment to the present system. The Queensland Government has adopted a method of entering into business themselves. . I am glad that the Commonwealth has now a number of Government factories, because the experts in those factories will be able to determine what ought to be charged by those who conduct private establishments of a similar kind. We were told last night that a standard military suit can be turned out at the Government factories for 30s., and I know that the establish;ment of these factories had a material influence on the prices charged by private manufacturers, who, earlier in the war, were supplying the Government with uniforms.
In this connexion, I should lite to quote from The Soldier, the official organ of the men, of 24th May, as follows: -
Therefore they (the Queensland Government) have purchased five large holdings, carrying 108,500 head of cattle and 3,000 horses, the purchase price aggregating £688,460, and being paid principally in Government debentures.
The ultimate object of the Government is to establish -a chain of stations extending from the far north to the New South Wales border, and in close proximity to the various railway termini. With fatteningdepots further west the Government will then be in a position to supply the needs of its ever lengthening chain of State butchers’ shops.
Last night we heard something about producers withholding cattle from sales, and. this article goes on -
Cattle were being withheld from the market, and the retail butcher and the general public’ were the sufferers. The Government promptly drafted two batches of cattle, totalling 250 head, into the Enoggera sale-yards, and the prices came down with a run.
Of course those who have cattle to sell do not like to hear of prices coming down with a run, but in normal times, with- proper organization, there is no reason why a regular price should not be obtainable every week in the markets, and the public enabled to obtain meat at reasonable prices.
– Do you know that the Queensland Government obtained 50s- per 100 lbs. at Enoggera sale-yards, and at the same time compelled the meat companies to sell meat to them at 32s. 6d. per 100 lbs. ?
– I am merely quoting from a newspaper- article, and if my information is wrong the honorable member will be able to contradict it, and thus, dispose of my argument. At present I am speaking on behalf - of producers as well as consumers, and contending that in the interests of both there should be better organization of the industry. However, let me further quote -
According to the weekly reports of the Brisbane Stock and Produce Agents’ Association, the average prices ruling at Enoggera during the two weeks prior to the arrival of the State cattle, and during the two weeks in which these cattle were sold, were as follow : - 3rd October. - Beef sold at from 58s. to 60s. per 100 lbs. 10th October. - Beef Bold at 60s. per 100 lbs.
Then came the draft of bullocks from the Queensland Government stations - 17th October. - Beef sold at 52s. 6d. per 100 lbs. 24th October. - Beef sold at from 45s. to 50s. per 100 lbs.
Thus on 17th and 24th October, there were phenomenal decreases in the price of cattle at Enoggera in consequence of the stock in the market being augmented by drafts from the State stations. .
Perhaps the argument will come with more force when it is shown that the drop in the price of cattle due to the sale of the Government stock, works out at an average of £3 6s. 9d. per bullock - for the price of a 700 lbs. animal on the dates already mentioned worked out as follows: -
That is one method of enabling people to obtain meat at cheaper rates. However honorable members may criticise the Queensland Government’s method, they will not deny that the operations of that Government in the live stock market and in their butchers’ shops has resulted in keeping meat at a fair and regular price. When in Western Australia, some three months ago, I was informed by an experienced grazier that in the Perth market £16 per head was considered a satisfactory price for a 700-lb. bullock, and the present “ National “ Government of the State is offering 21/2d. per lb. for meat at Wyndham. Making a liberal allowance for the freight from Wyndham to Perth, that price will enable the consumers of Perth to obtain meat much more cheaply than it can be bought in Melbourne. The graziers and others in Western Australia are in no better position for supplying the consumers of the State than are our graziers. I inspected the meat in a number of butchers’ shops in Perth, and tasted it at my hotel. I found that it was excellent in quality, and from 2d. to 3d. per lb. cheaper than- similar cuts- chops, steaks, roast beef, &c. - in Melbourne. The Scaddan Government was criticised adversely for entering into the meat trade and taking controlof slaughtering establishments and butchers’ shops, but its action has kept the price of cattle within moderate bounds, -and has given the people “ of . Western Australia cheaper meat. While its balance-sheets may have been unsatisfactory, the people of the State have benefited by its policy, and the “ National “ Government that has succeeded it has not dared to alter any of its regulations in regard to the supply of meat.
The honorable member for Dampier referred to the proposal to construct an arsenal. I trust that the Government will proceed with that work as soon as possible. I am not particularly concerned about the site, but as we have land at Tuggeranong, near the Federal Capital site, we can make that asset very valuable by establishing a great arsenal there, with workmen properly housed and employed under proper conditions.
One of the first activities of the arsenal should be the production of steel for ship building. Let us not run away with the idea that the engineering and steel works of the arsenal must be devoted exclusively to defence objects. Our navy and our mercantile marine will require repairs from time to time, and will have to be supplemented. Therefore, altogether apart from defence, the Government will need large quantities of steel plates and other steel material. We have delayed too long in this matter. The Broken Hill Steel Works and the Lithgow Steel Works cannot supply us with all the steel that is needed. To-day - probably because little railway construction is going on - we can supply ourselves with all the rails that we need. But for other steel material we must establish more steel works. I trust, therefore, that for industrial as well as for defence reasons the arsenal will be proceeded with.
The manufacture of woollen materials of various kinds should prove of great value to Australia. Here wool is plentiful, and of good quality. We are now spending millions of pounds in importing woollens, although we are the biggest, pro,ducers of wool. Were we to manufacture wool in all branches of the trade we would be able to give employment to thousands of persons, and would increase our revenue by millions of pounds.
The cement industry is the third big industry that should prove of great value to us, and, of course, there are many more.
Therefore I urge the Government, even at the present time when every penny counts, to’ establish’ works which will afford employment for our people, and for the soldiers who are soon to return to us.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) says that Parliament is to meet again in August for a financial session. Such promises made on the eve of an adjournment are rarely kept, and we may not meet until September, just in time to pass Supply for the payment of the public servants.
– There will be a revolution before then.
– I hope that that will be prevented ; but something must be done to make the people contented. The Treasurer in his statement on the finances gave us a sugar-coated pill, and left out of account the municipal and private borrowing of Australia. In about twelve months’ time the loan money on which interest will have to be paid will be no less than £800,000,000, and within the next six years State debts amounting to £78,000,000 will have matured. To renew these loans we shall have to borrow at 6, instead of at 3 and 3^ per cent., and this will greatly increase our interest bill. To meet these heavy obligations we must increase our primary and secondary production, and only by the establishment of industries can we do this.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) may congratulate himself on the fact that members have agreed” to curtail their criticism of the Estimates. No doubt, he is a hard working man, and is satisfied .with the administration of his Department, but very few other persons in Australia are satisfied with it. The other day it was published in the newspapers that a man had just enlisted in Victoria who had heard of the war only quite recently. No doubt, the administration of the Postal Department was largely responsible for his ignorance. I protest strongly against the way in which the country services of my electorate have been treated, and the same criticism applies to the treatment of the country services throughout Queensland and in the other States. I have brought this matter before the Deputy Postmaster-General at Brisbane, a man well fitted for his position, against whom I have no complaint. He has done his best with the limited amount of money at his. disposal, but I blame the PostmasterGeneral for cutting down country postal services to make the departmental expenditure balance its revenue. It is almost impossible to obtain telephone lines in outside places. The people of one small locality were compelled, not only to find the posts and to dig the holes for them, but also to make a cash contribution in order to obtain a telephone line of a few miles in length. In the interests of those who, at great inconvenience, have gone out into the country, the Postal Department should do what it can to extend the means of communication. The Departments usefulness should be judged by the measure of the conveniences it affords to the people. It would be a very nice thing if the Department could be made a paying concern ; but in the present state of our development the Government should aim rather at conveniencing . the people than at making revenue by its operations. Liberal advantages should be given to those in the country districts.
– How can that be done with a Postmaster-General who is looking for surpluses all the time?
– The country districts are getting as much now as they did before I came into office.. ‘
– I am finding fault, not
Avith the honorable member’s predecessors, who are not here to listen to me, but with the honorable gentleman, who has an opportunity to rectify the mistakes of ..the past.
– There was no war a few years ‘ago.
– I should be glad if the Postmaster-General would cease looking for surpluses, and would give us more advantages. The Australian Year-Booh for 1916 show3 the drift of population from the country to our capital cities. The population of Sydney is 40.3S per cent, of the population of New South Wales; the population of Melbourne 47.11 of that of Victoria; while, in comparison with the population of the States of which they are the respective capitals, Brisbane has a population of 22.76, Adelaide a population of 46.10, Perth a papulation of 37.89, and Hobart a population of 19.86. Copenhagen has a population which is only 20 per cent, of the population of Denmark, and of nineteen other, capitals that are mentioned, only three have a population equal to 10 per cent, of that of the country in which they are situated. There are many reasons for the drift of population to the cities, but the lack of conveniences is a great cause in this country. The Postmaster-General can do something to rectify this state of affairs. He should strongly represent to the Government the need for advancing more money for the development of the means of communication in the country districts.
An amount which appears upon the Estimates for the erection of a post-office at Caboolture has been the subject of correspondence between the Department and myself, but nothing has been done in connexion with the building.
– I have had sums on the Estimates for post-offices in my own electorate since 1913-14, but on account of the war I have done nothing with them.
– My duty is to urge that this money should be spent because the present building is used, not only for the postal and telephone service, but also as a residence for the postmaster and his family, and there is nothing but a pine partition dividing the postal part of the building, which itself is a’ small wooden affair; from the apartments used as a residence, and the telephone switchboard is on that partition. The Department should either find the postmaster another house in which to live or spend the money provided .on the Estimates for the purpose for which it is intended. It is quite evident that the official who recommended the expenditure was convinced of the unsuitability of the present building. I have used every endeavour to get the Deputy Postmaster-General to make a start with the work, but he says that the fault lies with the Central Office, and . when I have approached the PostmasterGeneral he says that he is acting on the recommendation of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. I propose to put the correspondence bearing the Minister’s signature in Hansard, so that the people in my electorate will be able to judge the real position for themselves.
– If that is’ the case I shall watch closely what I will send to the honorable member in future.
– I hope that the Minister does not desire to intimidate me or accuse me of not playing the game with him. I take it that when he writes an official letter it contains matter which he would not be ashamed to put before any body of electors. If he writes letters other than that, then I submit that he should think twice before doing it. On the 8th February, 1918, I received the following letter: -
With reference to the inquiry preferred on the 5th instant by the Caboolture Chamber of Commerce Secretary (Mr. J. J. Kipping), regarding the position of affairs in regard to the proposed erection of a new departmental building for postal purposes at Caboolture, I regret to inform you that after approval had Been received for the erection of the building in question, it was found that the expenditure involved - owing to increases in the cost of material and rates of wages - would be seriously in excess of the authorized amount. The matter was again gone into by the Central Office, which has since intimated that in the circumstances the proposal will have to stand over until the construction of the building can be carried out at a more reasonable cost.
I shall be glad if you will advise the Caboolture Chamber of Commerce accordingly.
Acting Deputy Postmaster-General.
After using every endeavour with’ the Deputy Postmaster-General I submitted the matter to the Postmaster-General, and on the 4th May, 1918, I received the following letter: -
With reference to your letter of the 16th ultimo regarding the desired erection of a new building for postal purposes at Caboolture, Queensland, I beg to inform you that an amount of £460 was provided on the 1917-18 Estimates for the erection of a new building at that place, but on 31st October last, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral reports that the estimated cost of construction was then set down at £567, and in view of that increase he recommended that the question of proceeding with the work be allowed to stand over until -the building could he erected at a reasonable cost.
In reply to an inquiry by this office as to how the office work would be conducted if the proposal was postponed, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral stated that the work would be conducted in the existing building, and that, although the office space was ‘ rather limited, the work could be performed there without inconvenience to the public until normal conditions again prevailed, and better accommodation could be provided at a reasonable cost In the circumstances, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral’s recommendation was approved.
The Deputy Postmaster-General has been advised of your representations, and asked for a further report in the matter, on receipt of which you will be againcommunicated with. The enclosure to your letter is returned herewith, as desired.
William Webster. 1 received a further letter dated the 17th May, 1918, as follows: -
With reference to my letter of the 4th inst., regarding the desired erection of a new building for postal purpose at Caboolture, Queensland, I beg to inform you the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, reports that the building, which is an old one, is quite suitable under existing conditions for the conduct of the business of the Department and the public, and that the only strong reason put forward to him during his visit to Caboolture, some time ago, in favour of a separate office for the transaction of public business, was that owing to the close proximity of the telephone switchboard to the postmaster’s quarters, the postmaster was apt to be disturbed at night time. The Deputy Postmaster-General adds that until a more reasonable tender is obtained, he cannot recommend that this work be proceeded with.
I regret to have to speak out so plainly, but in the interests of my constituents it isnecessary to do so. The matter has been hung up for a long time. My predecessor (Mr. Stumm) endeavoured for a long time to get something done to have this state, of affairs rectified, and I’ submit that it is nearly time the work was commenced. There were some difficulties inregard to the transfer of the adjoining block of land owned by the Police Department, but that trouble has been overcome, and any delay which has since occurred has been due to the Department. There has certainly been an increase in the cost of labour and material, but there is not likely to be any alteration for the better in that respect for a considerable time to come, and the longer the matter is delayed the greater will be the inconvenience to the people of Caboolture, and particularly to the postmaster and his family who are compelled to live in this small building.
– We still hear a lot of talk about amity being brought about in the community and about that ill-feeling which has been engendered by circumstances over which many of us are supposed to have no control being wiped away, so that we may all live as a happy family, but I have not seen the slightest evidence of any intention on the part of the Government, or the State Governments, or private employers, to wipe out the differences which exist and so enable us all to get down to a common ground where we may look after those matters which concern us most. No matter what leaflet we endeavour to issue it is censored; any trenchant article on current affairs which we attempt to publish in one of our newspapers is so disguised by the censor that it cannot be recognised either .by the writer or by those who believe in the policy of the paper, whereas our opponents are allowed to do what they like, say what they like, and write what they like. That is how the Government are going to work to bring about a kindly feeling- in the community. No cause or party has ever lasted for any length of time by persecuting its opponents, and honorable gentlemen opposite cannot hope to hold the respect of any portion of the community if they continue to follow the line of downing all those who disagree with, them politically, ls it a crime to differ from the opinions of those who hold opposite views to ours ? The anti-conscription party in the recent referendum fight won by a fair vote. Surely, in a community like ours, Democracy should be allowed some ‘method of showing to the world the great victory it gained over the other section of the community who sought to impose something on them which they deemed hideous. So-called patriots hold patriotic gatherings and wave flags and shout and howl “ God Save the King “ as if it were a proof of their patriotism, but when other “‘persons attempt to show strong feelings in regard to their political views they bring down anathemas galore on their heads, and they are suppressed at every opportunity. Not far from Maldon the anti-conscirptionists decided to erect, a monument to commemorate the great victory of Democracy when conscription was defeated. I can quite understand the local people having a difference of opinion on the subject, and some of them considering the monument an eyesore, but one of the recruiting parties sent out by the Government deliberately demolished the monument. It was rebuilt. Then another party left Daylesford at 6.30 one night in two motor cars, one owned and driven by a man named Murphy, a hay and corn dealer, and the other by Mr. Cox, who is a squatter, or cockie - one of the big bugs of the district. With them in the car were six soldiers, named Trickett Graff, Jenkins, Fraser, Gregory, and Paxton. They held forth in Maldon, but found that, because of the peculiar action of the previous recruiting party, the enthusiasm of the young men had fallen off. They were so enraged at the failure of their efforts that they decided to again destroy the monument, and, I believe, that they stole the dynamite with which they blew it up. If this had been a monument in connexion with the victory of the conscription party, and the anticonscriptionists had dared to demolish it, they would be in gaol, like the Industrial Workers of the World men in Sydney, and serving sentences of fifteen years. Practices of this sort should not be allowed to continue. People may disagree with what, has been done by others, but when an army invades a country and demolishes any local monument, they are called vandals.
– What sort of monument was it?
– It was made of rock and cement. I remember that, in one of the Soudan campaigns, some British soldiers foolishly blew up a tomb. They thought they were doing right, but afterwards it was admitted that they had committed an act of vandalism in destroying something that was of historic value. Although the British were fighting against the Khalifa they were not justified in destroying the* tomb of the Mahdi. That sort of tiling is all right amongst savages-, but no civilized Government countenances it. What would take place if the anticonscriptionists carried out reprisals to the extent of using dynamite?
– Suppose they blew up the rooms of the Employers Federation ?
– Quite so. The Employers Federation, the Pastoralists’ Association, and the Chamber of Manufactures are ulcers on the body politic, but we do not attempt to blow up their offices because we disagree with their politics. The soldiers who committed this offence were supposed to be engaged iu recruiting, engendering kindly feeling amongst the people in the country, and trying to convince them of the necessity for rein- . forcing our troops because the Empire was in danger.
– -What was the motive behind the erection of that monument?
– It was erected by Democracy to record that the Australian people would not submit to the treatment. that the. Kaiser deals out to his people. It showed that Australians would not be shackled. The only thing the honorable member for Echuca can appreciate is something narrow minded.
– I think the erection of that monument showed a narrow mind.
– The honorable member’s idea of patriotism is to wave the flag and shout Rule Britannia.
– Yes ; so long as it is the British flag.
– The honorable member would wave any flag if it paid him. The Government should not encourage violence of the sort I have described. The heinousness of the offence lies in the employment of’ soldiers for the purpose, and the men who took the soldiers to that monument in order to destroy it ought to be punished. Unless the Government discountenance actions of that kind, they cannot expect that harmony which they say they are so anxious to create in the community.
I have a few words to say in regard to price fixing. The Government fixed the retail price of rabbits at ls. 6d. per pair, but they did not fix the wholesale price. I believe that the people ought to get qheap food, but I do not’ think that the retail traders should, suffer whilst the wholesalers are allowed to go scot free. A common sense policy would be to fix both wholesale and retail prices. Instead of doing that, the Government fix a retail price, which the vendor must not exceed or he will be punished, but the wholesaler is allowed to do ashe likes. I have not a great deal of love for the shop-keeping class, because they are a lot of Conservatives, but they, are respectable in every way, with the exception of their political opinions, and they ought to have a fair deal. I ask the Minister in charge of prices why he did not also fix. the wholesale price for rabbits?
– Is not that what they propose to do with meat also?
– The Government will take good care that Parliament adjourns before they tackle the meat question. They ought not to be allowed to hurry into recess without announcing their decision, but they have the numbers, aud they have cracked the party whip.
The price of bread has,, been fixed at 71/2d. over the counter. In certain circumstances a man who delivers bread in the country may charge 8d. Why the people in the country should pay more for their bread I cannot understand. According to a letter I have received from Ballara,’the one baker in the district compels his customers to pay 8d. per loaf over the counter, although the fixed price for the district is 7id. It is the duty of the Government to see that traders do not evade the law, . and that one section of the community is not penalized because of living in a district which is not under close Government supervision. I admit there are bakers who suffer certain disadvantages, but if one man may break the law, all may do so.
Prior to Government intervention to make illegal, the increase which had been made in the price of tobacco, the combine was giving to the retailers a discount of 21/2 per cent, and a rebate of 3d. per lb. But the moment the Government interfered, the combine got even with the retailers by discontinuing the rebate. Everybody knows that in tobacco retailing there is a very small margin of profit, but the combine have been allowed to flout -the Government regulation by . depriving the retailers of the 3d.per lb. which they used to get by way of rebate.
Owing to the high cost of living, it is the duty of the Government to fix prices according to the cost of production, and then take steps to insure that no section of the community is imposed upon by another. A few evenings ago we had the laughable spectacle of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) condemning the attitude of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) upon the meat question, and urging those who, like himself, represented working-class constituencies, to show their objections to the policy of those who were adverse to the fixation of meat prices. But, after the honorable member had given expression to his opinion, we heard no more from him, or from any other member on the Government side, although they well knew that a section of the community are making fortunes, to the disadvantage of all other sections, and that no attempt is being made by the Government to prevent this sort of thing. The public have to suffer, and they deserve all they get, having regard to their political madness on the 5th of May of last year, when they returned the present Government to power. It would not be so bad if only those who voted for the Government and their supporters suffered under this system of profiteering, but, unfortunately, those who did not do so have to suffer with the political criminals who did. I suppose, however, it is useless for me to discuss further the question of prices, since the Government are not likely to do anything to bring about better conditions for the people.
I should like to say a few words now in regard to the Defence Department and the Department of the Navy. The Cabinet, I believe, decided that these Departments should be treated differently from all other branches ofthe Public Service, in that works required by them should not come within the purview of the Public Works Committee. They have only to say that a certain work shall be carried out and it must be carried out. There is no one to criticise their proposals. The Government apparently are afraid to take the proper course to admit of that criticism, and having regard to the dignity displayed by some of the naval and military officers when before the Public Works Committee, I can well understand their attitude. One naval officer, when the Committee dared to question him’ as to the advisableness of carrying out a work proposed by his Department, seemed . to think that it would be little short of sacrilege to touch a brick or a plank that the Navy Department had decided to place in a certain position.
Of all branches of the Public Service, the Naval and Military Departments are most in need of supervision. Even honorable members opposite admit that that is so. From time to time we read in the newspapers of works and utilities controlled by these Departments in a way that is by no means creditable to those responsible for them. They may be very good naval and military men, but they are bad business men, and they are “ down “ at once on any experienced public servant, possessing business knowledge, who attempts to point out what they ought to do. The toleration of this sort of thing, under the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), might have been considered ex cusable, but it is inexcusable for a Ministry led by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) to allow such a system to go on.
– A very fine compliment. Mr. Watt. - It is invidious, and, like most compliments, embarrassing.
– It is useless to attempt to induce the Ministry to do anything. They have their supporters whipped into silence, and, notwithstanding the protests of the Opposition,- they will allow things to go on as they have been. I shall say no more.
– I regret having to trouble the Committee at this late hour, but, since I never speak unless I have something to say, I hope my honorable friends will bear with me. I should not have risen but for the speeches made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). Both have referred to a proposed work of great importance to this country - an undertaking that has been dangled before the eyes of the people for the last three or four years. I want to hear from the Government, before this Appropriation Bill is passed, what they intend to do in regard to the establishment of an arsenal. When Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister, in 1915, he proposed to refer to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report the suggested duplication of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. I then urged that the Committee should also be requested to report as to the best site in Australia for such a factory, and, after a little trouble, I induced the right honorable gentleman to agree to my proposition. The Public Works Committee made inquiry, and enlarged the scope of its investigation into the determination of the best site, not merely for a small arms factory, but for an arsenal. Subsequently a Special Commission was appointed, some members of which were even sent to India to inquire and report as to the main essentials of an arsenal. The Commission and the Committee reported, and three sites, all within the Federal territory, were selected. These are known as sites No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, the last being better known as the Tuggeranong’ site. At one time the Government appeared to desire to get away from the recommendations, but I obtained a promise some time ago that the site of the arsenal should not be determined until Parliament had had an opportunity to voice its opinion. Some time has since elapsed, but nothing has been done. In 1915 it was said, “Why talk of establishing an arsenal now that we are at war?” Had we made a start then we should have been able by now to construct both large and small guns, and to provide many essentials- to the conduct of this great war. The Special Commission made most exhaustive inquiries, and a remarkable feature of the whole matter is that it. has visited the Tuggeranong site again and again as if there were a desire on the part of some one to reject it in favour of some other site. In every instance, however, it has reported in its favour. After inspecting suggested sites at Lyndhurst, Bathurst, Albury, Cootamundra, Lithgow, Yass, and other centres, it has come to the conclusion that while some of them are fairly good, none is as satisfactory as the Tuggeranong site.
As the honorable member for Maribyrnong has said to-night, Tuggeranong is within the Federal Territory. The surrounding country belongs to us, and by the establishment of an arsenal there a large area of land which the Government resumed at a cost of £5 per acre would enormously appreciate in value. An arsenal in full swing would involve the employment of 4,000 or 5,000 men. That would mean a population of 20,000 or 25,000 in the arsenal town, so that by accepting the recommendation of the Committee and establishing the arsenal at Tuggeranong the1 Government would greatly enhance the value of property which it has already purchased. I fail to understand why the Commission has been sent round the country searching for something better than a site which the Commonwealth itself owns. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) said he was not particular regarding the site, neither am I as long as the best site is chosen.
– Oh !
– A laugh from a Victorian representative! The Victorian view, as far as I can gather - and I want to speak candidly - is that the Federal capital should not be built. The people of Victoria want this Parliament to continue to sit in Melbourne till the day of judgment. If the representatives of this State had to travel a thousand miles every week, as some of us have to do in order to attend to our Parliamentary duties, they would take a different view. I willingly admit that Victoria has treated us most hospitably. The State Government has given us the use of these fine buildings and has extended to us the most generous consideration, but Melbourne lacks the Federal atmosphere, and I invite my honorable friend who laughed to adopt the Federal, and not a merely parochial, view. Why should he be afraid to see the Governor-General and the Commonwealth Departments, with the numerous public servants taken from Melbourne to the Federal Capital ? If Melbourne cannot afford to lose all these, then it should wither and die. Behind these genial laughs, on the part of representatives of Victoria, there is always a sinister desire to keep the Seat of Government in Melbourne. After seventeen years of Federation we are no nearer our permanent Federal home than we were at the outset. What is the use of spending over a million of money at the Federal Capital if the compact we made is not to be kept? The world to-day is engaged in a terrible war over the tearing up of “ a scrap of paper,” and yet there are some honorable members who would tear up the agreement that was made with the people of New South Wales, with regard to the establishment of the capital in that State?
The Commission estimates that the construction1 of an arsenal would involve a first expenditure of £1,440,000, and that 1,200 employees would be at once taken on in connexion with the manufacture of arms* and munitions. A great industrial centre would in this way be established near the Federal Capital, where we have our own land and a railway running into the very centre of it. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) should say “ This site is within 10 miles of the capital; its selection would industrialize the capital.” How can he hope to establish a big capital city unless we have there opportunities for employment. And where is there a better opportunity to find work for our returned soldiers than we should have by establishing them on Commonwealth lands? We have 600,000 acres of good land in the Federal Territory.
– And not a returned soldier yet settled on it.
– Quite so. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) cannot make up his mind as regards afforestation there. Many . returned men could be employed in planting trees in the Territory, and in the off season they could work their own land, and make their own homes. Holdings of 10,000 acres in the Federal Territory have been leased to constituents of mine, and the sound of sheep and cattle bells is heard where school bells should be ringing. Instead of only flocks of sheep we should have troops of happy children there. In Canberra there is some of the best agricultural land in New South “Wales. I have travelled over scores of old farms in the Territory where men have made a good living on 200 or 300 acres The old homesteads are still there, and it is time that we re-established them. It is true that Canberra is over 2,000 feet above sea-level, but the climate is invigorating, and it would do some indolent Victorians good to visit such a district. What do the Government propose to do in the way of preliminary works at the arsenal ? Amongst others there are a railway to cost about £90,000, water supply to the arsenal to cost about £25,000, the construction of the town £650,000, and all these would give employment of a reproductive character to thousands of men in a good climate. We cannot establish a capital unless we have plenty of work and men, which are the basis of auccess of any city. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), referred to the establishment of steel works there, but he forgot to mention that there is in the neighbourhood of Tug: geranong one of the best ironstone deposits in New South Wales. There is also plenty of limestone for the manufacture of cement, and amongst the railways projected is one to Jervis Bay, which is one of those natural ports which will be established some day notwithstanding the opposition of the great cities. The curse of Australia is centralization; and why should not Jervis Bay, Portland, and Port Stephens be developed ? The present is the best opportunity we could possibly have for the establishment of the arsenal ; and I should like to know from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise), and the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), who up to the present have been giving usdeeds and not words, when we are likely to have some work done. We are promised a financial session in eight or ten weeks’ time, though I hope it will be twelve, for I do not clamour for a short recess when I desire a spell, and, in any case, an opportunity should be afforded us to do the best we can for recruiting.
I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral should ask the Government for a grant of, perhaps, £250,000 in order to provide proper postal facilities for our pioneers of civilization in the back country. I do not join in the cry against the PostmasterGeneral, because I have held that office myself, and know its difficulties; but there are other honorable members who, like myself, are dissatisfied with the whole administration of the Department; in fact, some of the administration is absolutely rotten, though I do not blame the Postmaster-General particularly. If the Government do not hearken “to the voice of reason in this connexion there is a majority on this side who are dissatisfied, and may send them where other Governments have been sent. I am only pointing out what might be done, and in what I am prepared’ to take a hand myself; my only fear is that if we did put this Government out we might get a worse one- from the other side. New members of the House may think they are doing a great thing in obtaining postal facilities for various districts, but really that does not count for very much beyond giving a feeling of satisfaction that, one is helping those who require help.
Before the Appropriation Bill is passed I should like to know what the Government propose to do in the matter of the arsenal. The whole business has been strung on for two years, and it is time we got to work making our own guns and ammunitions.
– Do you not think it is equally important to get the men to use the guns and ammunition when they are made.
– What better repatriation could you have than setting the returned’ soldiers to work of the kind? It is infinitely better than keeping them hanging about the big cities, and giving them a distaste for country life: The nurse of centralization is even creeping into the repatriation scheme; though I must say that if we had all done as much for this scheme as has the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) our returned Soldiers would be happy men to-day. Our great idea should be to make these men robust citizens in the bush where they can carve their own way to success. I have some figures Here which show that near Canberra there are about 600,000 acres, twothirds of which, in the opinion of men of the district who know, is fit for cultivation, while the other third is suitable for forestry. This latter area would carry about 600 pine trees to the acre, and already 500,000 from the Canberra Nursery have been planted in the Territory, and at present are doing well, presenting all the appearance of a green field of wheat. Millions of, trees ought to be planted within the Capital Territory, and would be a good commercial proposition. The Government may say they are handicapped for lack of money, but such trees would always be a good asset.
– They would begin to be a good asset in ten years, and fully developed in thirty years.
– If they begin to reproduce in twelve years we shall do well, and in the meantime they will give excellent employment to returned soldiers. What money do the Government propose to devote to afforestation ?
– They will devote as much as they can.
– Unless the Government are prepared to back up the honorable gentleman in this work we shall have to put a little “ginger” into our debates. I gathered from the Supply Bill that there is about £5,000 available for this work, but that is not of much good. The best advice possible should be obtained so that the right trees may be planted in the right place. As to the 400,000 acres or so of cultivable land, this might be devoted to the returned soldiers with some fixature of tenure, so that they could make their homes there”and devote their attention to them in the off season of planting. Is it proposed by the Government to do anything in this direction? If not, we may have to find another Government that will. Expert reports on afforestation have been obtained, and employment found at intervals for 150 men. But there is room there for 500 men. I have seen it recommended that we should experiment there with shrubs. The Commonwealth Government are finding money for the employment of men in connexion with State forestry operations. It is time that we dropped that and did some practical work for ourselves. The idea prevails in this country that the Federal Capital question is only a plaything in politics, that there is no intention of removing the Parliament to the Capital. We may yet have to make the question a party one, to be fought to a “finish on the floor of the House, though, of course, this is not the time to press for big expenditure, and I recognise that. At Wagga, about two months ago, a conference was held to urge the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra, through to Jervis Bay, the route of which has been surveyed.
– To give us a new port.
– The line would do that. It was realized, however, that in the present crisis all our expenditure should be devoted to the prosecution of the war, and consequently the matter is to be allowed to stand over for a while. I cannot make up my mind to criticise very harshly to-night the administration of the Postmaster-General, because I know the calls of the war. My district, however, has many postal grievances. The Government should make up their mind in regard to the Postal Department. Are our post offices to fall into disrepair, the allowance offices to be closed, and the telephone .lines_ to be pulled down - which has happened in some places - or is the position to be bravely faced? The Postmaster-General cannot make bricks without straw, and I am sure that honorable members would support him in asking the Treasurer for £500,000 to pay for postal conveniences. I hope that he will do that, and that the matter will, be brought before us when we meet for the coming discussion of the finances. Many of the Ministers represent country districts. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) knows the want3 of a large country district, and what is true of Gippsland is true of other districts. The Postmaster-General is the only Minister who is trying to make a surplus, but the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) is really responsible for what surplus there is, because he had the courage to impose telephone rates that would make the telephone service pay. It is easy to make a service pay if you cut down conveniences and increase charges.
I appeal to the Government to give consideration to these matters during the recess. They are of great importance to the people in the, bush. I am not the only one who feels their importance, though many of the others will not speak during this debate. It is not pleasant to have to speak harshly to Ministers with whom I am on terms of good friendship, but something definite, must be done.
I must insist also on a definite statement about the arsenal. Is it going to be established at the Federal Capital site, or are Ministers frightened of the bogy which the proposed establishment of an industrial centre within 10 miles of the Capital seems to have created? Personally, I think the bringing of a large industrial population near to the Capital should make it a success. It is three years last May since I succeeded in getting the matter referred to the Public Works Committee. We have now been in temporary residence in Melbourne for over seventeen years.
– With the Melbourne Age running the Victorian members.
– It has not run one or two of them very far. Still, the Victorian newspapers do not create a Federal atmosphere. We should not have got Protection had the first Federal Parliament met out of Melbourne. As a Protectionist, I am glad that we were meeting in Melbourne when the Tariff was under consideration.
– Does the honorable member think that the Tariff will be repealed when we get to Canberra ?
– How are we to establish and keep our industries without a protective Tariff ? Why should we send our wool and other products overseas to be manufactured and brought back to us ? No Government will be able to live in this country which will not give a Tariff under which our own people can be employed. No Government will get any lengthy support from me which will not foster industry. Let us have ringing anvils and the smoking stacks of factories and foundries throughout the country, giving employment to our own people, instead of sending our raw material to be manufactured in other countries.
– The references to the PostmasterGeneral and his tendency to spend all his money near the metropolitan areas remind me that in a populous centre in my electorate within easy distance of Sydney, you must, to telephone on Sundays, arm yourself with ten pennies, and drop them one by one into the box attached to the instrument, before you can make connexion. It costs three or four times as much, to use the telephone there as it does to use telephones much further out where more fortunate terms have been secured from the Postal Department.
I wish to call attention to a few matters affecting our soldiers which should have immediate attention from Ministers. Our pensions law is not creditable to the Parliament that passed it, and we shall, not .have done our duty towards ‘those who have fought for us until we have materially liberalised- its provisions. Many pensions of only 7s. 6d a week are being given, and still more of only 10s. a week. The Act is inelastic, so that fair administration to meet the varying conditions is impossible. The proposed recess is needed to enable Ministers to give a continuous consideration to these various problems, which is impossible when Parliament is in session, and I hope advantage will be taken of the opportunity to carefully review the treatment of returned men.
In many cases dependants have been deprived of separation allowances and allotment money because the soldier at the Front has been punished for some infringement of military regulations abroad.
– And because of the bungling of the London office.
– I shall say something about that if I have the time. The matter to which I am now referring affects an immense number of innocent persons. Had their menfolk remained at home, pursuing their ordinary civil avocations, they would not have brought themselves within reach of the law. But when men who have been used to independence and freedom come suddenly under military discipline, such as that of the British Army, many of them-, do things which, though not evil in themselves, Bring upon them punishment. It is quite wrong, however, that their dependants should be deprived of sustenance because of these breaches of discipline. That should nol happen except where the offence has been a crime such as would be punishable in the ordinary civilian. If the present system is bad where it affects the dependants of living soldiers, it is still worse where it affects those of men who have given up their lives for the Empire. I hope that the matter will be reviewed and a better and more humane system introduced.
I again appeal for consideration for the members of the First and Second Divisions who have now been away for over three years. We should” treat our fighting men as» the Republic of France treats hers, and after three years’ service, give them an opportunity to return to their friends and relatives for a time. No language can express my feelings in regard to the treatment of the men of the First Division who have now been away for four years.
I should like to devote time to the consideration of the whole scheme of repatriation, but I dare say an opportunity for that will occur early in the next session. We are attempting too much in some directions at the expense of efficiency in others. I think that we are undertaking too much in supplementing the efforts of the States to settle men on the land. We are commencing with a scheme under which an expenditure of £2,000 or £3,000 will have to take place in connexion with each settler. It is evident that that system cannot continue until the last man is back, and the result will be that some soldiers will get a small fortune for what they have done at the Front, while others will find it difficult to find ordinary occupations open for them when they return.
It is said, I think by the present Minister for Repatriation, that the Government contemplate the expenditure of something approaching £60,000,000 in the re-settling of Australian soldiers when they return. At the same time” we are told that, on account of the war, we cannot go on with the construction of the Federal Capital. But what more suitable work could be found for those men who will return to Australia than the building of the Capital of the country which they have defended? By spending much less than £60,000,000 we have the opportunity of providing employment for every kind of mechanic who has gone away, and for establishing in small businesses every man suitable to that kind of employment. In the work of constructing the Federal Capital we have the opportunity to find employment for every man at the work at which he has been engaged, and we can establish men in businesses without the risk that: is undertaken when they buy businessesas they are now doing. In the ordinary course of life about 60 per cent, of the people who engage in small businesses donot meet with success. How much higher will the percentage be under “the artificial, conditions surrounding returned men ? If we undertake to spend at the Federal Capital some of the millions that will be spent in fruitless .efforts by providing.” businesses and land for these men, we shall be adding to the value of our property at. the Capital as much as we spend on it. While we are helping the men who have helped us, we shall also be developing theresources of our own lands at the Federal Capital; and without any disturbance to existing conditions in any part of Aus- tralia we shall be’ able to establish there-, every kind of occupation, and give toevery man who>.comes back a chanceunder new conditions of re-establishing: himself in society.
While we are attempting to assist monto return to civil life we should seek “to do-‘ so in a truly economical way. I do not. mean by a cheese-paring economy which some people advocate so much, by not spending a pound, although it may return us £2 ; I mean that we should seek to spend our money in such a way that it will return the most value to the Commonwealth. Of all the proposals for land settlement,, and returning men into the businesses in which they were formerly engaged, none offers the same promise of such a. rich return for the money expended as does the development of the Federal Capital. A capitalist’s objection to afforestation as an industry is that the time one has to wait for a return is longer than a man’s active lifetime; but here we have the nation,, which lives for ever, with the opportunity of spending its money to-day in such a way that in ten, fifteen, or thirty years it will come back to it, not once or twice, but ten times. No industry in which a State can indulge i3 so reproductive as the planting of trees, for at the end of twentyfive or thirty years the expenditure is recouped tenfold. I hope that the whole subject of repatriation will be gone into most carefully, and whatever is done by the Commonwealth, I hope that it will not go any further in the matter of land settlement without a very careful review of the whole subject, and that it will not be committed to any further guarantees to the ‘States until we have a clearer knowledge of the possibilities in that direction.
The time has come when consideration should be given to the question of the increased efficiency to the country . that would result from a cessation of the heavy expenditure in connexion with indulgence in intoxicating liquors. From the beginning of the war there has been an agitation to secure a further curtailment of the opportunities presented to soldiers, and also to civilians, to spend their money on intoxicating liquors, when it could be spent to more advantage to the country, whose efficiency would be vastly improved if the opportunities to indulge in. intoxicating liquors were curtailed. One of those opportunities falls more strictly within the realm of State activities; but the Commonwealth government might properly legislate on the lines of antishouting during the war. I am quite certain that the passage of a Bill in’ that direction would immensely increase the efficiency of the people who have to bear the burden at home, while at the same time it would materially assist the soldiers in returning to their occupations when they come back.
I know that all the proposals we make at the present time are made under the shadow of what is going on in Flanders, but we have the right to “assume that, however -great may be the disasters that fall upon our armies there, and however the war’ may be prolonged, the end of ‘it will be victory for those who are associated with the Empire in upholding the rights of free peoples; and whatever else we may lay aside, matters affecting pensions for our .soldiers and their dependants, and the re-settlement of our soldiers in the country for which they have fought, should have our constant -attention, so that the financial burdens which the country has to bear may be equally distributed among all sections of this people, and so that there shall not be found in Australia, when the men come back, such a state, of unemployment as has usually followed wars in other countries.
, - I had -hoped to have something to say on the question of price-fixing, and especially in regard to meat, but at this late hour I shall content myself by saying that, in view of the high prices which are being charged for meat throughout Australia to-day, I feel it is incumbent on the Government to do something. “We have their assurance that they will do something, and if if be possible to make some alteration in the prices without at the same time seriously affecting the primary producer, I hope that they will so act. Those of us who were privileged to hear the speech delivered by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) yesterday realized, as we had perhaps not realized previously, the extent to which Australia depends on the primary producer.
A number of the speeches that have been delivered during this debate have followed the line that one of the greatest curses in Australia at the present time is the concentration of population in the capital cities. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) laid particular stress on that matter, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) advocated an increase of postal facilities, arguing that it would bring about an exodus of people from the cities to country districts. Nothing would do more to induce people to settle in country districts than would an improvement to our main roads. I realize that these roads do not come under the jurisdiction of this Parliament; but experience has shown us that neither the local authorities -nor the State Governments will act in the matter, and to-day we have in Australia a continent of magnificent distances and disgraceful- roads.
I would like to see the Federal Government approach the State Governments with a view to taking over the maintenance and construction of main roads. Europe has always been famed for its roads, and their value has been proved, first of all in times of peace, but latterly during the war. During the defence of Verdun, the railway was cut, and it was impossible for the French to convey any material to the fortress by rail. However, convoy after convoy, 10 yards between each section of ten motor cars, passed over the road to Verdun, and conveyed food and munitions to the men in the fortress, enabling them to withstand what may be regarded as the mightiest attack that has ever “been launched against any fortified position.
Those who have motored from Melbourne to Sydney know the condition of the roads lying between these two capital cities. Looking at the matter entirely from a military stand-point, I am sure that it will be agreed that it is absolutely necessary to improve our main roads.
How does our railway system compare with European systems? Taking into view the scarcity of our population, we have a magnificent system of railways, but those who travel from Melbourne to Sydney week after week know the inconveniences that have to be put up with, and those of us who went north during Brisbane Cup week know that the Railway Department was taxed to its utmost to convey ‘a few hundred pleasure seekers. “What would happen if this country, in time of war, found it necessary to transfer men and munitions from one ‘part of Australia to another? The raiLway system would break down. We must therefore depend upon our main roads from a military aspect. But what about the commercial and economical aspect? Honorable members have dwelt upon the concentration of population in our cities. Queensland is favoured in that respect, because Brisbane was not made the only recognised centre of the State in the early days. Men realized that- concentration was a curse, and, when laying out the various lines of railway, they decided that there should be more than one system. Consequently we have in Queensland the finest railway system in Australia; and as a result Brisbane contains only 22 per cent, of the entire population of Queensland, whereas Melbourne- contains 47 per cent., or nearly half of the population of Victoria. I am aware that suggestions have been made at various times that the Commonwealth should assume control of the various railway systems, and that the States have refused to hand them over, because they are revenue producing. No such argument can be applied to the Federal control of the main roads. The States would be only too glad to hand over to the Commonwealth the construction and maintenance of the roads, and if we have the best interests of Australia at heart and wish to make it economically secure we must develop our roads. We are crying out for land for soldiers ; yet within a few miles of railway lines are millions of acres of land superior to any in Australia, but not capable of utilization. Men who have gone upon the land have found it impossible to engage in mixed farming at a greater distance than -five miles from the railway, because the roads are impassable. If, on the other hand, the roads through those districts were improved settlers could go. out twenty miles beyond the railway, and the land bordering on the roads could be brought under cultivation. One of the reasons for the present high cost of living - and it is increasing by leaps and bounds - is that the men in the country have to carry upon their backs too many of the dwellers in the cities. We must offer attractions for men to leave the cities and settle in the country. I believe that when the war is over there will be a great exodus of people from the older countries of the world to Australia. In the past we have played more or less with the matter of immigration. We have brought some hundreds of thousands of people to Australia, but the stream of immigration has, nevertheless, been very thin. But to-day there is at work throughout the British Isles and Europe the greatest army of immigration agents that the. world has ever seen. I refer to the Australian soldiers, each one of whom is loud in his praise of his own country and tells the people of other lands of the wealth that awaits the energetic settler here.- And population will come. At the present time numbers of men are leaving the’ cities and going upon the land, but there is a stream, almost as large, if not larger, in the opposite direction - men leaving the country and coming to the cities because the conditions of rural life are not satisfactory. Honorable members have appealed to the PostmasterGeneral, and through him to the Government, to increase the postal facilities in order to make country life more endurable. What would be the result if the people could be induced to go in large numbers into the country and we had closer settlement? Educational and social facilities would be improved. At the present time children must go very many miles to a small school, where the teachers may be doing excellent work, but where the scholars ‘cannot expect to receive aneducation equal to that which may beobtained in larger centres. Multiply the number of units in any community and we at once make it possible to provide increased educational facilities. Further than that, we shall strike a blow at the increased cost of living. , Therefore I hope the Government may be induced to approach the State Governments, and, through them, the various local authorities, with a view to at least taking oyer the main roads of Australia and seeing that they are put in a state which will make possible traffic over them.
Several honorable members, amongst them the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), mentioned the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) at one stage of our proceedings sought to place before honorable members a suggestion to give assistance to Imperial soldiers on the same footing as to Australian soldiers in connexion with repatriation. But it was pointed out that the Bill then under discussion was for the repatriation of Australian soldiers, and, in the circumstances, his scheme could not be entertained. The honorable member for Werriwa argued that we should do more for the utilization of the Northern Territory. Why cannot the suggestions of the two honorable members be operated together. There are in India many Anglo-Indians, both in the Army and the Civil Service, who at the end of their career in that country have little or no -desire to return to England, because they have become unacclimatized. Australia appeals to those people. Why cannot we lay ourselves out to do something with the Northern Territory? It has been said that it is impossible for the small man to make a success there. There is in the Territory a very large firm, Vestey Brothers, who have invested in freezing works and pastoral holdings close on £1,000,000. That firm has’ sufficient faith in the Northern Territory to invest its capital there. Surely the National Government can do what a private concern can do? Why cannot we form a company, as it were, of returned soldiers, and .men from overseas, the Com- monwealth finding .the capital for the development of the Territory ? Of course, men will not, of their own accord, leave other portions of Aus’tralia to go to the Northern Territory until the conditions there are equal to what they are in the more settled parts of the Commonwealth. But if the Commonwealth will stand behind these men and say to them, “ We will employ -you until the time has arrived when you feel disposed to go out and work for yourselves,” I make bold to say that the claims made by the honorable member for Werriwa and others will be realized.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the payment of pensions to the inmates of institutions. At Dunwich, in Queensland, is an institution originally founded for old men and women. But there has always been amongst the inmates a small percentage of younger men and women- who, through accident or illness, are incapacitated. When the Oldage and Invalid Pensions Act was instituted, an arrangement was made with the State Governments whereby the pensions of inmates of institutions should be paid over to the State Governments, who would accept the responsibility of looking after the pensioners. Many people apply for a pension, being convinced that they arc capable of looking after themselves, or have some one who will look after them. Should those people, later on, enter an institution, the whole of their pension is not taken from them. They are allowed 2s. per week to enable them to buy little luxuries, such as tea for the old women and tobacco for the nien. There are, however, a number- of persons who entered the Dunwich institution prior to the inception of the Pensions Act, and they are denied by the Commissioner of Pensions this amount of 2s. per week. I have brought this matter before the House on several occasions, but, so, far, have been unable to get ah undertaking from the Government that they will take action in the direction I have suggested. I have here a “ notice of rejection of claim “ -
To Mr. Chas. Furlong. -
T have to acquaint you that your claim for n pension has been rejected on the ground that you are sufficiently provided for in Dunwich.
Deputy Commissioner of Pensions.
The Commissioner does not take into consideration the fact that a number of the inmates of the institution have left it, and remained out for a few weeks, having either relatives or friends with whom they could stay, and have then claimed a pension. When they have received it, they have at once returned to Dunwich, and have been entitled to draw their 2s. per week. But, because Mr. Furlong and scores of other men have no friends to whom they can go, and cannot look out for themselves for a period in order to enable them to apply for a pension, the allowance of 2s. is refused. Mr. Furlong’s case is a deserving one, and Ishall read to the Committee a letter I have received from him:-
My pensionhas been lately refused by the Deputy Commissioner here, as you will see by the enclosed letter. Why, I cannot say, as I supplied requirements of the Act. Was going to appeal against the decision, but think would have but little chance of its being revoked, unless by the chief office, Melbourne. Venture, therefore, to address you, with many apologies for so doing, and hope you will interest yourself in my behalf, particularly as I consider have been harshly treated, being entitled to it under the law.
Have been about forty-two years in the service of my country. Seven years in the Sydney Post-office in my youth, ten years an officer in the Army, and about twenty-five years in the Post and Telegraph Department, Queensland, not quite continuous, as I left it more than once, but was always taken back in the classified branch, and given charge of a country station. After retrenchment, when walking about Gympie doing nothing, I was permitted to take charge of the One-mile Post and Telegraph Office, in which there were four hands employed, to enable the postmaster there to go on leave. Have been an inmate worker here for many years; eight in the Home Department Branch and post office conducted by Mr. Agnew.
I could have applied for pension years ago, but did not do so, as I was earning sufficient for my simple wants.
Here we have proof that this is a deserving man. I know of many cases at Dunwich where people who have done very” little for this country in their youth - who have been practically a burden upon the country throughout their lives - are in receipt of this pension because they resorted to a subterfuge to obtain it. But a man of this type, who does what he thinks is right, is refused a pension. I claim that an injustice has been done this man and others like him. He goes on to say -
As my health is getting very shaky, I thought it desirous to do so in anticipation of not being able to work much longer (eighty-four years of age), and seeing so many here younger than myself without any claim of service to the country getting it, and amongst them very many Germans. Some time after retrenchment I had about two years’ work as an extra in Money Order Branch, Brisbane.
This man’s record shows that he has worked and has done his utmost to live an honest life.
– He is a man of good type.
– Yes, he is of the type that have built up Australia. He goes on to say -
I came to Queensland in 1872, and have been here ever since, with the exception of perhaps two months I spent in New South Wales.
This shows that he recognises what a fine State Queensland is. Other Queensland representatives will support my statement as to the class of men who are in Dunwich. Furlong goes on to say -
I may mention, in conclusion, that in December, 1857, I gave up £21 5s. a month in the Postal Department, New South Wales, and paid my own passage to Calcutta for the purpose of joining the volunteer service which was being formed during the mutiny.
He held the Empire so dear that he gave up a good position and went to India at his own expense to join the volunteer forces formed to put down the mutiny. And now in his old age his application for a pension is turned down because the Department say that his wants are sufficiently provided for in Dunwich. I have nothing but praise for the superintendent at Dunwich and the men associated with him. The institution is a model one. No institution in Australia is conducted on sounder or better lines. It is ideally situated and ideally run. Being “ sufficiently provided for” at Dunwich means three meals a day and a clean bed to sleep in at night. This man asks for 2s. a week to buy what to men outside are a few necessaries, but his request is refused. His letter continues -
I arrived too late, and a month or two afterwards was gazetted to a regiment in China. I merely mention these facts to strengthen my opinion that I have been harshly treated in the refusal of a pension, and when I cannot work, ‘ which may be any day, shall be without money at all. which even here is required. 1 have been here many years, and came suffering from diabetes, which I also had previous to admission for several years.
This is but one of many cases that I might have brought up at this time to strengthen my plea. The Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) has in his electorate a number of similar institutions, and the same thing applies there. Men who resort to a subterfuge secure a pension of 2s. a week ; men who do not, but apply for the pension in a straight-out manner are refused. This is a matter for the Treasurer to consider, and something should be done in such cases.
I wish now to refer briefly to an injustice that has been done to- a number of other men. The Public Service Act provides that at the end of twenty years’ continuous service a public servant shall be entitled to six months’ furlough or six months’ full pay.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr Higgs), when he was Treasurer. in a previous Government, had to deal with cases of this kind. I know of two public! servants, one of whom was continuously employed for thirty-three years, and the other for nearly forty years. When they resigned or retired they were granted six months’ pay. I claim that if a man is entitled to six months’ furlough or six months’ pay after twenty years’ service he should receive nine months’ pay when he- retires after thirty years’1 continuous service. This contention, however, is not accepted by the Government. I think the Government may decide that all future cases shall be dealt with according to the time served. I make an appeal for these men and others who have worked loyally for the State, and I ask that their case may be gone into by the Treasurer with the object of seeing whether something can be done to remedy the present injustice.
Motion agreed to.
Department 1 (The Parliament), £43,201, agreed to.
Department 2 (The Prime Minister), £183,238
.- I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) what has been decided by the Government with regard to the invitation to journalists to visit the Old Country. What proportion of journalists will represent that section of the voters of the Commonwealth whom we claim to represent in this House?
– The invitation from the; British Government was for twelve representatives, and invitations have been issued to twelve representatives of the press to take part in the delegation. Two of these are to represent Labour journals. One is the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who is in England. I cabled to him through the High Commissioner, and have received to-day his acceptance of the invitation to accompany the delegation when it arrives in England. The others are not yet determined, because several have not definitely replied to the invitation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department 3 (The Treasurer), £772,404, agreed to.
Department 4 (The Attorney-General),. £77 130
.- Will the Attorney-General furnish the Committee with the reasons for refusing to release certain men who are now being held in connexion with the’ prosecutions under the Unlawful Associations Act on the same terms and conditions on which it was proposed to release Edward Moyle, of South Australia, who was imprisoned on a charge laid under the same Act?
– The promise made by the Prime Minister was that all who were at the time of the Recruiting Conference held under the authority of the law, would have their cases reconsidered, and that each case would be ‘ dealt with on its merits. Acting upon that promise, a number of releases were made. In Moyle’s case an offer was made to him, the details of which are- known to the honorable member. In the other cases, it was felt that the circumstances did not justify the same -treatment. The merits of each case were considered.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department 5 (Home and Territories), £548,615, agreed to.
Department 6 (Defence - Military),. £1,413,292.
.- I wish to ask the Treasurer whether, in the new Estimates to be prepared for the financial year 1918-19, he will endeavour to confine to expenses from ordinary revenue those items which should legitimately be paid out of revenue. If the honorable Treasurer looks through the Estimates prepared by his predecessor, he will find, under War Loan Services, many items that ought to be paid out of ordinary revenue. I might instance a presentation watch, the cost of which was met out of loan moneys, and -thus left to be paid by posterity. I hope the Treasurer will have regard to this when he is framing his next Estimates.
– I should like to know from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) whether the vagaries of the censor in connexion with the correspondence of members of this House are to be permitted to continue? Is no action to be taken by the Government to free our correspondence, telegraphic and postal, from the kind attentions of the censor? By what right or reason does the censor send to this House for copies of members’ speeches?
– I have myself been somewhat surprised in scanning the Estimates at some of the items against war-loan expenditure, and I promise the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) that I shall scrutinize them very carefully before the presentation of the next Estimates.
As to the censorship, I can readily understand that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is somewhat upset when he thinks that he is singled out for the special attention of the censor. I have made inquiries, and I can assure him that he is wrong in that respect. The censorship of letters, telegrams, and the press, is general; and the rule is that, if any matter deals with military or other defence affairs, it shall be referred to the censor. The unfortunate thing that happened to one telegram addressed to the honorable member-
– Two telegrams.
– That is beyond recall, and, apparently, was a mistake. Wherever the human element is introduced into a machine, it must be allowed for. Honorable members generally have no more right in regard to their correspondence than have ordinary members of the public; that is the view I strongly take. If John Jones, the man in the street, is liable to have his telegram inspected by the censor, so should my honorable friend and myself be liable.
– Yes, at my private house, but not here.
– The incident was peculiar; but, so far as I can learn, no special attention is being paid to any honorable member, or any group of honorable members, the whole administration being conducted on a system.
– The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Chapman) raised the question of the arsenal site. The
Government have, given careful consideration to the matter, and, after a thorough investigation by a competent Committee, it has been decided that the best site is at Tuggeranong, in the Federal Territory-. The matter has also been referred to the Imperial authorities, and the necessity for this work is thoroughly recognised: the Government intend to proceed with the work there at once in accordance with the announcement made by my colleague when the Loan Appropriation Bill was before, us.
– I desire to invite the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr. , Groom) to some questions I addressed to him in the House . on 8th August last, and his replies thereto, as reported in Hansard, page 828, for that year. Amongst the questions I asked was, how many persons were then interned at the concentration camps in Australia, and I was informed that there were 5,400 men, and 101 women and children. I also asked how many pf these were born in Australia, in enemy countries, in territory of the Allies, and in neutral territory, but the Minister was unable to give me any information, as only nationality, and not birthplace, was considered in the classification.-
Amongst those interned is a friend of mine, whom I have known for’ over twenty years. He is an Australian-born gentleman of German parentage, and I have had some correspondence with him for over two years, at any rate. I have sent repeated letters to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and had repeated interviews with him, in seeking to have this gentleman released from internment. At one time the Minister for Defence yielded to the persuasion of a deputation of Queensland members, and allowed an inquiry to take place in Brisbane in regard to this gentleman’s position. I attended that inquiry, and gave evidence on oath in regard to my knowledge of his character. I believed then, and I believe now, that he is wrongly interned. I claim for him, a3 I claim for others, that, as an Australian citizen, he is entitled to special consideration. However, there he is, and my efforts, and the efforts of others also, on his behalf have proved unavailing. This gentleman has recently been told that his correspondence must be limited to one letter a week, and all his correspondence with members of Parliament must cease. This has led him to write to me through a third party. His letter is the one that has caused such a flutter amongst some of my friends opposite, and I now propose to read it according to their particular desire.
– You said it was from him.
-Through a third party?
– Through a third party. I told the honorable member personally, of course, in confidence, the name of the writer. I have no secret to hide. I identified myself with this man, and my correspondence has gone freely to him, and his to me, until quite recently. This explains why the letter has come to me through a third party, and why there is no signature.
– You told us there was.
– There is a name on the letter.
–,The honorable member need not try any of his funny business with me.
– I asked if the letter was signed, and you said yes.
– I said there was a name on the letter, and I now tell you why there is not the name of the writer. I do not wish to create or import any heat into this matter.
– There are four names in the letter. .
– I am not afraid of any hitting out; I am prepared to both five and take it. All sorts of suggestions ave been made regarding this letter; and I was particularly amused at the emphasis which the honorable member for Wentworth laid on the introduction to the letter, “ Dear Mr. Finlayson.” Why, I have written to the honorable member for Wentworth, and called him “Dear Mr. Kelly,” and I have had replies from him beginning, in the most generous fashion, with ‘Dear Mr. Finlayson.” I am quite sure that he did not intend to kiss me or lend me a fiver ; it is the common mode of address.
– On appearance, it would be a kiss, and not a loan.
– I desire to read . the letter without interruption, if honorable members will allow me. Honorable members will see that if. there was any jreason at all for refusing to read the letter previously, it was consideration, not for myself, but for other gentlemen whose names are mentioned. I have also a copy of a letter I have sent to Mr. Hall, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, and that I shall also read. The following is the letter I have received from the gentleman who is interned : -
Sydney; 9th April, 1918.
Dear Mr. Finlayson. - I am still alive, and that’s all, and still in this God-forsaken place. I don’t know when you and the rest of the Labour members are going to wake up and do something. Two years ago, you, Page, Mullens, Ferricks, Turley, Maughan, and the rest of them were going to play hell; the lot of you said it would only be a matter of days and I would be home again, but in the two years none of you were game to do anything; all you do is ask Pearce and his German and Austrian advisers to release me; they say. no, arid that ends it: the lot of you go to sleep again; then Tudor wakes up and says to Carmichael, the Labour party will cooperate with Hughes, Pearce, and Co. The whole box and dice want turning out; why’ don’t you members challenge the Government? There are over 300 naturalized and over forty Australian-born here; in no other country is there naturalized or native-born interned, oven in England, if they have reason to intern a naturalized person, they denaturalize him first, and then he has a Court of Appeal; but in Australia that is not done, and the Labour party, that should be a working man’s party, are not game to put up a fight. All the lot of you seem to say is, win the war by disuniting your own people. I have worked “my soul case out for unionism and the Labour party, and this is my reward - not one game to put up a fight for me. The Industrial Council were going to play hell, but done nothing. I am taken away, and my wife and family left to starve on the15s. a week they are allowed, and I am here, next door to starving, all to satisfy a couple of scabs. Why, if the party had any go in them, they would refuse to sit till I was released. I can’t understand the party not being game to fight for their own people; how would you and the party get on if we workers were afraid of losing our jobs because we fought for Labour; even in here I have been helping the party; you yourself would have been beaten last time if I hadn’t fought and got them to write and tell their people to ‘vote for you; seven votes in one house always voted against you before; Pearce has now given instructions 1 must not ‘ be allowed to write to any member of Parliament; that’s what over thirty of my relations went to fight for; since I have been here not one Labour member has come out; several Torys have- Sinclair, Orchard, Kelly, and Hall - he wanted scabs the time of the strike; if you could sec Dr. Mannix and ask him to give you the information he got in Sydney about this camp, it would open your eyes. I have written straight, but I am compelled to; there are about 1,100 more coming in next week from the east, this the dumping ground; and if the party stands this waste of millions of money here, then I am done with it for good; where is the sense in keeping about 6,000 persons idle? 90 per cent, of them could be earning their own living. I trust you will read this to the members, and that they will be men enough to fight for their own people. I have as much right, and more than Hughes and Pearce together, in Australia. You will know who this is from. Remember me to Bill Wright, and I trust you will all fight hard. I saw in the paper this morning the total cost of internment was less than £800,000; that is a bare-faced lie. This place costs over £1,000,000 a year;” we know that; and then there is the thousands lost to Australia through these men being unemployed. I dont know how you people let Pearce gull you like that; no wonder the party is going down when there is in the party mongrels like Maloney, who wants to hang everybody who don’t bark Britain*. Hughes and the rest of them bark Belgium; but he has’ done worse, he has made paupers of his own people, deported them away from their own family in their own country, and there isn’t a man game to bring it up and protest; talk about Germany and Russia ! Why, this Hughes has more power and doing more brutal things than the two of them together, and the lot of you let him do it. I just got a letter saying my wife has had to give up working on account of .ill-health; that means starvation;, and 1 am wasting my life here, and on the rottenest food they could put before a man; why don’t you get a pass and come in here? That would make you sing out in the House, I bet. They give work here - ls., four hours making roads. 1 will never come at it; you get that two weeks out of ten. Kelly, Orchard, Sinclair were here, but not inside. Attorney-General Hall was here the time of the strike to get scabs; he got none; 95 per cent, of them here are workers, and you bet they will be bitter against the lot when they get out. I see Ryan, like a fool, withdrew that case against Hughes. He has the lot bluffed. I could keep on writing for a week about this persecution, so I trust you and the party will do your duty and have me released. I just got word the lad is just sent back to France to fight for the liberty and justice Hughe’s and Maloney talk about. God help the liberty! They are fighting for liberty for the Capitalist.
– There is something else, the direction saying where you are to write.
– The address to which a reply may be sent is given.
– Will you read it?
– And you will not give the name of the writer ?
– No, I have a suspicion that you are already on his track.
– I do not think that a man should be punished for writing that letter.
– I think he will be punished if they can get him.
– They ought to ‘let him out; he is on our side.
– You are right, he is.
– Did not the honorable member say, when he got back the letter, that he would quote the whole of it?
– I said that I would read the whole letter.
– You have not read the whole letter.
– I have given you the whole letter; and you cannot get any more. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Orchard), the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) have all read the letter, and know the man’s name.-
– I do not know the man’s name. I read the-letter hastily.
– Have -you read the whole letter except the name of the writer ?
– I have read the whole letter except the name of the writer and the address to which a reply may be sent. This is my letter to the Attorney-General of New South Wales - 14th June, 1918.
Dear Mr. Hall,
Yesterday in the House of Representatives, when discussing industrial matters, I was led to refer to the fact that I had a letter from a Brisbane friend, Australian born, of German parentage, in which he informed me (and here I quoted verbatim from Hansard proof of my speech), “ That during the strike Mr. Hall, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, visited the camp and invited the prisoners to volunteer for strike breaking. They refused, because this man tells me that 95 per cent, of them are workers, and would not go out as strike-breakers against their Australian comrades.” *
Mr. Pigott, member for Calare, has evidently wired you, and last night the member for Hindmarsh read a telegram from you, received by Mr. Pigott, in which you stated that the statement made by me had no foundation in fact. Later on in the debate I exhibited the letter, quoted the extract from the letter verbatim, and stated that I would advise you of the actual facts, as I am unaware as to what Mr. Pigott may have wired you. You now have it first-hand, and know therefore what the statement really was.
Believe me to be,
Yours very truly,
Honorable gentlemen now know that there is absolutely no foundation for the suggestion that was made that I was illegally in correspondence with a German. The writer of the letter is not a German ; he is an Australian. Secondly, the letter so far from being a friendly one, is delightfully abusive. I and my colleagues are the victims of this abuse, and the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Wentworth and their friends are commended.
– The writer blames you for not having carried out your promises to them.
– No; he blames me because I have not gone to the camp to see him, and he commends you because you have been there.
– He blames you for not having carried out your promises to them. Will you read that part of the letter again ?
– Does he not say something about having relatives at the Front?
– Yes. He has thirty relatives, besides his own son, who are fighting for us.
– On the first page he refers to a promise.
– That we would try to get him released.
– He does not say that. Will you read the exact words?
– You tried to get him re- leased.
– Yes, I did. The whole letter is in Hansard. It shows how disappointed and dissatisfied this man is because I and my friends have been unable to get him released. That I tried to get him released is true, and I should be . prepared to renew the effort if there were any prospect of success.
– Has he any direct relatives fighting?
– He has thirty relatives fighting, as well as his son. I have written and told the man many times that I am not angry when he writes letters expressing disgust, disappointment, and irritation at his continued internment, because I think that he is unjustly interned, and naturally he is resentful. -
– He says that you gave evidence on oath. Was that during a magisterial inquiry?
– What was the decision of the magistrate?
– It was against him. The magistrate held that he had expressed disloyal sentiments. My evidence was only as to his character and my knowledge of him. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was honest enough to tell me that, apart altogether from the magisterial inquiry, he had information through his secret service agents that would compel him to retain the man in the internment camp. I’ have tried earnestly and conscientiously to get the man released. He feels bitter because his life is being spoiled, his homehas been broken up, and his wife and children are being starved. This is another instance of the utter foolishness of the Departmental methods of dealing withthese cases; it is another instance of Prussianism.
– And of inefficiency in the Defence Department.
– I have no objection to the internment of disloyal citizens, especially Prussians, and in particular Prussians who are not naturalized. There is only one place for those who are disloyal at this time; that is, behind the barbed wire. But a man likethis should be given an honest inquiry. A fair deal would place him at liberty to work for his wife and children, and to maintain himself as a free citizen.
– If the honorable member will give me the man’s name I will look through the papers.
– I shall do that with pleasure. Now that I have read the letter I hope that my honorable friends opposite are satisfied. The honorable member for Moreton complained that the suggestion had been made that he had gone into camp with Mr. Hall and others to try to enrol scabs for’ strike breaking. Honorable members will see that the letter does not say anything of the kind.
– Your speech contained that implication.
– I said nothing of the kind, and the Minister for Recruiting was generous and frank enough, when he handed back the letter to me, to say that it did not bear the interpretation that had been conveyed to him concerning it. That the honorable member for Moreton, the honorable member for
Wentworth, and the Minister for Repatriation went to the camp legitimately and honestly I freely admit. I believe that they went there for the same purposes as those for which I should have gone there, had the opportunity presented itself. Neither the letter nor my speech associated the members of this House with the action attributed to Mr. Hall, and Mr. Hall denies that he went to the camp for the purpose stated.
– Will the honorable member answer this question, of which 1 hope the Prime Minister will take cognizance? Is it to be assumed that because a German has a son fighting .at the Front he is loyal? I have instances of the internment of Australian born Germans whose sons are fighting at the Front.
– This man is not a German; he is an Australian.
– The men of whom 1 speak are Australian born.
– Is this man of German descent ?
– Yes, but Australian born. Previous to his internment, he had a splendid character. His life has been embittered and ‘practically ruined. He wrote to me from the bitterness of his heart, feeling that I’ had not done what I should have done. If any man is going to suffer it is I, who will catch it when this man is released.
– If you had allowed his wife and children to suffer without trying to help them you would have deserved it.
– The writer of the letter expresses a more kindly feeling for honorable members opposite than for me and those with whom I am associated.
– I do not know why you read that letter, or showed it to any one.
– I have read it, not for my own sake, but to satisfy the honorable members for Moreton, Wentworth, and Nepean. I hope that they are satisfied, and I hope, now that the case has come before Parliament, that the writer will be satisfied.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Brisbane has read the letter, because the reading of it has utterly removed a slur which his speech last night would have otherwise placed on three honorable members of this House. The letter makes no suggestion of any kind against the honorable members of this House that they visited the camp for any purpose connected with strike-breaking, or to get men to take the place of others who would not work in Sydney during the general strike.
– I am glad you look upon that as a slur.
– It would be a slur to say that an honorable member had gone to a German internment camp to get men there to work in any occupation usually followed by Australians. I do not believe that any man in Australian politics, or any man in Australian life holding national opinions, would stoop to so base an infamy. I speak now, not to renew any bitterness that has been removed in the hilarity with which the reading of the letter was greeted, but to counsel the honorable member for Brisbane that, in the future, when he gets letters, he should be careful to give their contents to Parliament, and not to misrepresent those contents. I find that the honorable member last night, in referring to this matter of obtaining strikebreakers, said -
In this connexion I may say that I. have in my possession, though not at the present moment, a letter from a Brisbane friend of mine who is now absolutely, wrongfully, in my opinion, in the internment camp in New South Wales; and he tells me that during the strike the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), and the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) visited that camp, but did not get inside. Mr. Hall, the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, visited the camp, and invited the Germans to volunteer for strike-breaking.
Beyond the fact that this internee .did not charge me or any other honorable member of this House with going to this camp for these purposes, let me say that I did not visit the camp either at the time of, or subsequent to, the general strike in New South Wales.
– I have said that.
– My honorable friend now acknowledges our absolute sincerity. I repeat his statements last night only to show him the grave danger of doing an .injustice to opponents by, perhaps, misapprehending correspondence, and incorrectly giving the facts therein stated. I am glad that the honorable member has read the letter. But I am sorry that the only member of the Labour party attacked with such virulence by the internee was the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who, no doubt, has been the recipient of this man’s abuse because of his loyalty to his country, and because of the violence with which he has attacked the author of this war - the German Kaiser.
– I assure the honorable . member for Brisbane that I, for one, have no fault to find with him in thinking that an individual was wrongfully confined in the concentration camp. My opinion is that, in the camp, there are some who should not be there, and that out of it there are some who should be there.
– Too true.
– The mistake that the honorable member made was in connecting my name, and that of two other honorable members of the House, with the name of Mr. Hall to get strike breakers. If the honorable member wished to attack Mr. Hall, what was there to be gained by mentioning the fact that I had visited the camp? I did not go there secretly. Any one might have known that I was there, because I got a permit to go to the camp, and my business was what I stated last night. I am afraid that the honorable member has not read the whole of the letter to-night.
– Yes, every word of it.
– Speaking from memory, I think that the letter was not signed, but finished up by saying, “You know who this is from.” It also said, “ Remember me to- . “
– I am quite sure that I read it all.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance that he’ did not wish to connect me with any movement to try to secure scabs there in order to break a strike in Sydney..
– I cannot find any reference to those words, “Remember me to- . “ However, I shall hand the original letter to Hansard to be copied.
– I accept the honorable member’s offer.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 7 (The Navy), £1,482,969.
– In view of the vast expenditure proposed and, indeed, carried out in connexion with, the Naval Department, and also the Defence Department, will the Acting Prime Minister see that, so far as it can be done, it will be investigated during the recess by the Public Works Committee, which has already done good work in this direction?
– Yes. In regard to some remarks by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) to-night, I may say that the present Government have referred more works than any former Government have of a naval and military character to the Public Works Committee. There is some difference of opinion between the members of that Committee and the Government as to whether some of the exempt items should not be removed from the exempt list. No inquiry was made into the Henderson Base by the Public Works Committee until the matter was referred to the Committee by my motion, and no wider scope had been given to inquiry into works at the Flinders Base than was also given upon my motion. In collaboration with the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) I will seewhether any reason exists why works which should not be exempt from a military or strategic point of view should not be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– I ask if the Ministry have any intention of reconsidering the constitution of the Shipping Board? Had there been anything like a full attendance of members, I would have moved to reduce the vote for this Department in order that the Committee might be afforded an opportunity of giving a deliberate decision uponthis matter. The constitution of the Board should not be tolerated for one hour. Apart from the chairman, Admiral Clarkson, the only persons on it are those who are directly interested in the shipping industry. What would be said if the only persons sitting on the Wheat Board, the Wool Board, or the Mineral Board were those whose interests were often diametrically opposed to those of the public generally ? If it was proposed that those Boards should consist of middlemen entirely, and that the producer or the buyer should be eliminated, the idea would be scouted.
– Bow many producers are there on the Wheat Board?
– The Minister for Agriculture in each State is a member of the Board, and represents the public’s interests. It is a mostrepresentative Board. The public are thoroughly represented upon it.
– ‘The wheat-growers are not.
– They are. represented by Mr. Giles. The producers are represented on the Wool Board.
– That is correct.
– There is no Board appointed in any portion of Australia which has consisted entirely of middlemen, whose interests are often diametrically opposed to those of the public, whom it is our duty to protect. Tasmania has not had a fair deal from the shipping companies. There are many hundreds of men out of employment in the Huon timber country. Nearly every big mill there is shut down, and timber is rotting on the wharfs, because boats cannot be got to take it away, though there is an almost unlimited demand for it in Melbourne and Sydney, owing to the fact that pine cannot be imported. The Tasmanian timbers are required for flooring boards and weatherboards, but because they cannot be shipped to the mainland, buildings are stopped, and men are thrown out of work. To whom do we appeal? To the shipping companies. If the Acting Prime Minister seeks advice, from whom does he get it? From shipping men.
– Broadly speaking, the men who are most qualified to run ships are those who have been running them.
– They are the most qualified men to run ships in the interests of the companies who are paying them to do it. Every man on the Shipping Board, with the exception of Admiral Clarkson, is a managing director or the manager of a shipping company, and the Board has the power to increase freights to the extent of 10 per cent. Of course, they must apply to the Prime
Minister to make any increase above that percentage.
– I think it will be found that the chairman has the right of veto within the 10 per cent.
– It all has to be done with the consent of the chairman.
– He is put there as the representative of the Government.
– I do not think that the Government could have got a better man than Admiral Clarkson to represent them. He is a strictly honorable and capable man, but under no stretch of imagination can he be said to be representing the public. When the Acting Prime Minister desires evidence to enable him to decide whether fares should be raised or not, he must obtain it from the very companies whose managers are on the Shipping Board. This is an intolerable position, and I hope that before the House rises the Minister will give some promise that the matter of the constitution of the Board will be reconsidered. I quite agree that the shipping companies should be represented on the Board. When we are dealing with companies which have spent large sums of money in the construction of vessels, we should certainly give them representation on the Board which has taken over the control of their ships, but it is worse than an absurdity to give them full and supreme control over the Inter-State trade of Australia.
– I have no hesitation in telling the honorable member that I will reconsider the whole matter, as soon as practicable, with my colleague who is intrusted with the control of shipping matters.
– I accept the honorable member’s offer immediately, and without hesitation, but I would like him to get evidence, and try to ascertain the desire of those who are using the vessels.
– Or who need them. That is a part of the question that must be investigated. I shall look into that matter, too.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department 8 (Trade and Customs), £779,953.
– Recently the Huon Peninsula Shipping Company was fined in the
Law Courts at Hobart for the nonpayment of light dues by a small boat that trades from Hobart to the Huon. By no stretch’ of- imagination can it be said that that boat use3 the Derwent light on South Arm, and it would make no difference to the Huon trade if that light were not there at all. But the small boats are compelled to pay the same dues as the ocean-going vessels. As far as I can gather, the decision of the Court was based on the regulation issued by the Department. The company appealed without success, but if the Minister will look up in Hansard the discussion on the Navigation Bill he will see that his predecessor (Mr: Tudor) said that the small boats would be excluded from the provisions of that Bill, and I, at any rate, understood that to mean that they should also be free of the payment of light dues, except in those cases in which the lights were actually used by them. Owing to the absolute slump in the apple trade these small boats are having a very bad time, and the payment of light dues represents a considerable item to them in the course of a year. I ask the Minister to give this matter consideration.
– The honorable member for. Franklin has my sympathy in regard to the appeal he has made. Only to-day I received a. letter from Mr Piesse, the Hobart manager of the Huon Peninsula Shipping Company, on this very subject. I know that it is a hardship that owners of small boats should be required to pay these light dues if they pass the Derwent light. I will discuss the matter with the Lighthouse Branch, and will also bring it under the notice of my colleagues.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. When referring to the letter quoted by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), I said that he omitted to read the words “ remember me to – .” I find now that that dash is continued on another part of the page, and that the phrase should read Remember me to Bill Wright.”
Department 9 (Works and Railways), £651,148-
.. - I should like to ask the Minister for Works and Railways if any of the officers who were severely censured in Mr.Blacket’s report have been sacked, or are they all still in the employ of the Department? Some months ago I asked a question of the Acting Prime Minister, who was then in charge of the Department, and he said that some of the officers were on furlough and some were still in the Department.
– During the short time that I have been in charge of the Works and Railways Department, I have not had time to read the report of the Royal Commission, but I promise to look into the matter.
– It is nine months since I asked the previous question.
– But that question was put to my predecessor.
– But surely there is some continuity in policy. Either the officers have been discharged or they have not. ,
– I cannot say; I have not had time to look through the report.
– It is a most unsatisfactory position from the taxpayers’ point of view.
– It is not. How the matter was dealt with by my predecessor I have not had time to inquire into.’
– Are the officers still in the Department or are they not? If the Minister does “not know it is a shocks ing state of affairs.
– It is not a shocking state of affairs. The honorable member knows that the report and evidence of the Royal Commission comprised hundreds of pages, and it has not been possible for me to study them in detail.
– But the previous Minister for Works and Railways must have considered the matter.
– I have not had time to look into the actions of my predecessor in that regard.
– What has become of the officers who were criticised?
– I cannot supply that information at the present moment, but I am prepared to look into the matter and give the honorable member the information.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department 10 (Postmaster-General). £5,107,421.
– A little time ago I asked the PostmasterGeneral to give special consideration to what I may term his country policy. He has anopportunity of making his name a household word in this country. But at the present time he is adopting a pernicketty policy and trying to create a surplus in a department that renders direct service to the people. When we make a complaint or statement in the House the only reply we receive from the Minister is that the statement is not correct; we get no further information. That attitude does not satisfy the representatives of country districts, where services are being curtailed and dismantled. I am sorry that the Acting Prime Minister is not present. It is very unpleasant to be pursuing a Minister who has apparently adopted a policy quite contrary to that of the other Ministers. All of them, with the exception of the Postmaster-General, are extending their activities in new departments and sub-departments. For instance, the Minister for Trade and Customs has had placed under his control quite a number of new departments, which he is staffing and spreading out in a most energetic way. On the other hand, the Postmaster-General, whose Department is the only one which renders direct service to the people, is at work, through his deputies, dismantling and curtailing facilities.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 1 o’clock a.m.
– I fail to understand why the Postmaster-General, who knows that his Estimates are under consideration, and who was here before we adjourned for supper, is not present. His is the one Department of the Commonwealth that cannot afford to adopt the policy of trying to create surpluses by a curtailment of its services. I am more content, now that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is present, than I should be if the Postmaster-General himself were here. The Postmaster-General has been obdurate to the many representations made to him in this Chamber, as well as in his Department, in regard to the undue curtailment of services. It would be impossible to have a better administrator than the Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria. No administrator in the De partment has a better grip of the service, is more sympathetic towards the requirements of country districts, and more ready to take up a proposition and analyze it in a business-like way. than is Mr. Bright. Indeed, I have seldom met a man possessing his rare qualities - a complete knowledge of the intricacies of a big Department, a good business grasp of his work, and fine manly attributes. He is ever ready to assist country members, and, until recently, I have been able to secure his approval to various propositions which are now systematically turned down.
– Does the honorable member’s complaint relate chiefly to telephonic services? .
– No, my complaint has to do more with deprivation of postal services. I have no desire to waste time. I am as anxious as is any honorable member to assist in carrying out any arrangement that the Government- have made with the Opposition, and I am prepared to sit down at once, if the Acting Prime Minister will accept my assurancethat there is general discontent throughout country electorates like my own in regard to this policy of curtailment of services in the very middle of the war. This is a time when every resident in country districts is anxious to avail himself of postal and telephonic services to obtain information as to the progress of the war, the daily lists of casualties, the arrival of transports, and the lists of returning men. All this business, added to the commercial requirements of the State, makes a big demand upon the Department. The farming community have for years contributed to the building up of the city services, and they consider the time has come when something should be done for them. I could, if the Treasurer desired it, give an alphabetical list - starting with the town of Apsley - of propositions that have been turned down.
– Have facilities been withdrawn from the honorable member’s electorate?
– Yes. Let me give a few illustrations. I put before the Department several propositions relating to Apsley. A proposal that the 5 p.m. mail at Apsley on Sundays be forwarded to Edenhope the same night was rejected on the 6th March last; the alteration of a mail service between Apsley and Hamilton was refused on 19th February last; a supplementary road mail service on Saturday, from Croxton East to Penshurst, was refused on 11th February last. A proposal to re-open the Lake Condah office was rejected on 1st May, and the re-opening of the Lake Mundi and Lyons offices was refused early this year. All these are recent cases. I have a complete list relating to my own electorate, but shall not weary .the Committee at this hour of the morning by reading the whole of it. There may be good reasons why some of these services should be curtailed. I am not going to say that the Department has no right to review some of these services; but the point ‘1 make is that, in many cases, these country districts enjoyed, twenty years ago, better postal facilities than they have to-day.
– I can understand that; I was then Postmaster-General in this State.
– I should be glad if the honorable gentleman held the same portfolio to-day.
– Does the honorable member suggest that, in the country districts of Victoria. there is practically a policy of deprivation of services?
– The policy of the Department, so far as many of its facilities are concerned, seems to be one .of refusal, deprivation, and curtailment. I am not going to urge that the Department is not right in some of these matters, but I object to what is undoubtedly a wholesale policy of curtailment. Country districts deeply resent these curtailments of services, some of which have been enjoyed for ten, fifteen, and twenty years. They wonder why, having regard to the increase in taxation, and the many additional contributions demanded of them, they are deprived of these facilities. The PostmasterGeneral has been an enthusiast in postal matters for many years, and has doubtless a standard up to which he feels he must live. He may have made good from his point of view, but it is at the cost of impoverished services in the country districts. If it is a considered policy of the Government that every Minister shall conduct his Department from a revenue point of view, then I urge its reconsideration. The Postal Department ought not to be run like an ordinary business which has to provide a profit, because it is not a commercial Department, but one created to provide certain facilities for the public. If it be necessary to increase the cost of those” services, in Heaven’s name- let us increase it, but give us the services. There are districts which are prepared to contribute more revenue if required; and the charge for the delivery of letters might, if necessary, be increased. At present a letter is delivered in Melbourne for Id., and in Capricornia at the same charge. However, as I say, that is a matter of policy for the Government, but it is more in the parcels post system that the disadvantages are felt. It costs as much to deliver from Apsley, Victoria, a parcel in Frances, South Australia, about eighteen miles from the border, as it does to deliver one in the Northern Territory ; and that surely is not common sense.
– The trouble about, the policy that is inferentially suggested is that it means ‘penny postage in the city, and twopenny postage in the country.
– I speak so far as parcels are concerned; the delivery of parcels ought to be on a different basis from that of letters.
– If cost is a determining factor, the city can get its work done cheaper because of proximity.
– I suggest that, if necessary, more should be charged for the delivery of letters in war time than is charged now, and I am sure that a twopenny postage would not be felt by anybody.
– The country benefits generally by the theory of equalization.
– What I suggest is that out of the money we are appropriating, or - as that is all spent - out of the Treasurer’s Advance, a sufficient sum be set aside for the Postmaster-General to work on, so that he may not be restricted in his operations by considerations of revenue alone. Let there be a policy under which the Postmaster. General may afford some compensation in the way of postal facilities for the disadvantageous conditions under which people reside in the far-back country districts. For this purpose something like £250,000 might be provided, even at the present time. As I say, I suggest that this be considered as a matter of policy, because I hate to be always nagging about these matters.
– It is not nagging at all.
– Not only in my own constituency, but wherever I go I am met with requests for more postal and telegraphic facilities. I do not now refer to the telephone service, because there the difficulty is the increased cost of material. I hope that the Government will take what I have said in the spirit in which it is offered, for I have not remained here till this late hour to raise the question for nothing. All the country residents of the Commonwealth are affected, and something ought tobe done.
– While I desire to pay attention, brief but sincere, to what is said, I remind the Committee that the Senate is sitting and waiting for the Appropriation Bill. My colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will be in charge of the measure in another place, which he is keeping going because I promised that he should have it before midnight. This, suggestion I hope the Committee will take in a friendly spirit, and give me due passage for the Estimates and the Bill.
No one who has followed the career of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) would accuse him of nagging; and the Government’ appreciate the generous spirit of forbearance shown by all honorable members in the consideration of the two Supply measures. We are mindful of the fact that they have stopped here till this hour to do their duty, and have abstained from undue criticism. As to the deprivation of postal facilities, there is nothing on which distant folk in the . country are likely to feel more keenly at this time. I do not for a moment attempt to criticise the administration of my colleague the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), who has studied his work very closely. He is a most assiduous man at his job, and it is but natural that he should collide with honorable members who desire either the preservation or extension of facilities.
– I am inclined to think he is cheeseparing with a view to creating a surplus.
– If so, he ought to be at the Treasury, for we require a cheeseparing Treasurer at the present time. I ask honorable members who feel as does the honorable member for Wannon not to labour the matter at this time. I shall have an opportunity ere long -to . confer with the Postmaster-General on the Estimates for his Department, and I promise to investigate the matter referred to as fully as I am able. The Government do not desire, as a matter of policy, to deprive the country people of postal facilities. We realize, as much as do the country members that the advantages of living in the city are considerable, the disadvantages of country life in sparsely populated areas are as plain as the sun at noonday.
– The people in the country have been paying taxes for half a century to provide facilities for the cities.
– And, as Treasurer, I think they will have to pay more yet.
– What’ as to the suggestion that postal facilities must be given, irrespective of whether they pay or not?
– I do not agree with that, nor am I in complete accord with . the suggested destruction of the principle of equalization of rates. I know how that would work on the constituents of the honorable member for Wannon and the constituents of all other country members. I take a middle course between the proposition that no service should be given unless it pays, and the preposition that the Post Office should be made a taxing machine. The middle course is thesafe one. for development. We should not install services that are not justifiable, as tested by two canons - first, the business canon; and the other, that of national development. It is the same problem that we have to meet in the matter of railways.
– And under our educational system.
– Sometimes we build a railway line ahead of the full productive result, knowing that this will come, and we can afford to lose for a little while. I ask honorable members to let the matter rest now, so that we may send the Appropriation Bill straight to the Senate.
– I understand there has been an arrangement that there shall be no delay, and by that agreement I am prepared to abide. I represent what, I suppose, is the largest constituency in all Australia, and there is no constituency in which the people at present suffer such discomfort under the Postal administration. However, I am satisfied to take the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister, in the hope that the matters referred to will be looked into, so that relief may be given to the people in the bush, on whom the regulations at present in force involve much hardship.
– The Committee will not accuse me of unduly taking up time when I refer to a postal matter which I feel it my duty to ventilate with all the emphasis in my power. It is not a matter of spending money, but one of sensible administration on the part of the Postal Department or the Railway Department, as the case may be. I remember reading some time ago about the PostmasterGeneral getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning to do certain work, and, considering that he is so energetic, it is surprising that he should object to attend in the chamber at half -past 1 o’clock in the morning to see his Estimates through. Up to a few moments ago I had intended moving a reduction of this item, but in response to the kindly expressed solicitations of the Acting Prime Minister, I forbear. I must, however, ask the honorable gentleman to place before the Postmaster-General- as forcibly as he can the matter to which I refer. I asked some time ago if the practice of sending mails by train from one station to another had been discontinued, and the Postmaster-General, saying that certain action had been taken, parried my question by declaring that it was impossible to continue the old order of things. When a man says that it is impossible to do something that has been done for a number of years it looks as though he were trying to dodge a difficulty, or placing rather a low estimate on the intelligence of the man he is talking to. I have impressed on the PostmasterGeneral that there must be a. change, for the people will not stand present conditions any longer. I could give quite a number of instances, one of which is in my own division. If a person posts a letter at Oxenford for Coomera - only a mile away - it has first to.be sent to Brisbane, and travels a matter of 100 miles before it reaches it3 destination. Then, the metropolitan journals are sent to Ipswich, from which place they are distributed by agents. Under the present ab surd regulation, if one of these newspapers is posted in Ipswich for Bundamba, Ebbw Vale, or neighbouring towns, it has-, as in the case of a letter, to go first” to Brisbane, and then be brought back for delivery. Mail matter travels three times over the same line before the addressees get it, and as a result Saturday’s paper is not delivered until the .following Monday. The whole trouble seems to be due to an absurd award of the Inter-State Commission, under which, I understand, all mail packages are now carried at parcels rates. When a package is sent from one station to the next, it is charged at the minimum parcel rate, and it can be readily imagined that the Postal Department cannot afford to send extra mails at that rate. I want the Acting Prime Minister to give me the assurance that there will be a conference with the railway authorities of the States with a view to an alteration of the system by amicable arrangement, and that the mails may bc carried as of old on a mileage, or some other rate than the parcels rate.
– I do not know much about the subject, though I know that the matter was dealt with by the Interestate Commission.
– I .know . only too much about it. Every mail is delayed for twenty-four -hours, and sometimes the delay is still longer.
– In-between mails are ‘ now cut out. - Mr. SINCLAIR. - In Queensland the practice used to be to put a number of. letters into an envelope, to send them from one station to the next, but now all letters go to a clearing station, which may be 140 miles away, and are then sent back again, so that a letter may travel over 200 miles to reach an address not a mile from the place at which it was posted.
– I- cannot promise any alteration, but I undertake to confer with my colleague the Postmaster-General on the subject.
– I hope that the Acting Prime’Minister will advise his colleague to adopt saner methods.
– A number of representatives have tonight spoken on behalf of the country electorates. I wish to put in a word for tho unfortunate people who live in Central
Australia and the Northern Territory, who have no one to advocate their claims for consideration. I hope that their position will not be overlooked.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted in this and the last preceding Session of Parliament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1917-18, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £17,416,635.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, read a first and second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise to urge the Acting Prime Minis-! ter and Treasurer to allow a longer period for the consideration of the next Estimates. Not only are members of the Opposition very restive, but members of his own party are criticising the administration of certain Departments. To put the Estimates through as these Estimates have been put through does not advantage a Government.
– We think it a scandal, but we largely blame the honorable member for it.
– I am really not to blame, because there were special circumstances in the case of my Estimates. I had no desire to shirk criticism, and had I remained in office, would have given a full opportunity for discussion. Members are entitled to the exercise of their rights of discussion, and it is to the interests of the country that the Estimates should be freely and fully criticised. Such criticism does not weaken a Government, but it helps to inform Ministers of defects in the administration of their Departments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 118.
Public Service Act - Promotion of A. A. Adair, Attorney-General’s Department.
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m.
The desire of the Government is to finish the remaining business by 3 o’clock this afternoon. The proposed sitting will give an opportunity for the exchange of messages between the Houses, and InterState and country members should be able to catch their afternoon trains. I hope that members will assist to form a quorum, though I realize that in this respect I am asking a great deal after the strenuous sittings of this week. I wish honorable members on both sides to understand that Ministers keenly appreciate the way in which they hare kept at work this week, and have thus enabled us to get through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.42 a.m. (Saturday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180614_reps_7_85/>.