7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WATT (Balaclava- Acting Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [3.1]. - (By leave) - I wish to acquaint you, Mr. Speaker, and honorable members, that His Excellency the Governor-General, on behalf ofthe Commonwealth Government, to-day despatched the following cablegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies -
The Commonwealth Government sends its congratulations to the British and Allied Governments on themagnificent successes that are crowning the Allied arms in all theatres of operation,and particularly on the surrender of Bulgaria, which these successes have undoubtedly brought about. The Government hails these victories as indications of the early ultimate success of the Allied efforts in the cause of liberty and civilization.
I am sure that the message rings true to the sentiment of the House generally. Although the official information possessed by the Government is not so full as the news that has been published in the press, there is every reason for a feeling of profound satisfaction with the dramatic change in the war situation, and I think that we have done well to express as quickly as we could the national gratification and gratitude.
.- (By leave) - There can be no two opinions about this matter. We all hope that this is the beginning of the end ; that we may soon see the conclusion of the war which has afflicted humanity for now more than four years. To use the words which you, Mr. Speaker,read each day in the opening prayer, we hope that we may soon have “ an honorable and a lasting peace.”
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House when an amending Arbitration Bill will be introduced to rectify the anomalies in the law, and to deal more effectively with the continuous and disastrous develop ment of scientifically conceived industrial disputes ?
– The honorable member wishes to know when a measure to amend the arbitration law will be introduced. The Government had such a measure in preparation when a recent judgment made it necessary for us to deliberate on the matter yet further, and it is still under consideration.
– Is the House to under stand that the taxation proposals outlined in the Budget speech are the wellconsidered and deliberate determinations of the Government? Does the Government propose to stand by them, or will it permit any alteration of them? Would it, for example, permit the alteration of the proposal to tax 3d. amusement tickets?
– For an ex-Treasurer to attempt in this fashion to impale his unfortunate successor on the horns of a dilemma is unusual; but, in reply to the honorable gentleman’s moderately expressed, but evidently deeply premeditated, question, I may say that had not the proposals alluded to expressed the considered judgment of the Government, they would not have appeared in the Budget. As to what we may do as to the details of any particular measure, my honorable friend will have full information when that measure has been introduced.
The following paper was presented : -
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1917-18, with Appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister let the House know how matters stand regarding the election by farmers of representatives on the Central Wheat Board ? Will the honorable gentleman consider the advisability of appointing to the Board only bona fide wheat-growers, not mere holders of wheat. scrip?
– The Cabinet determined to give to the wheat-growers direct representationonthe Central Wheat Board, andconveyedthe intimation of its intention to the four States concerned. I am not aware whether replies to our communication have or have not been received.
– Is the Minister in charge of Price Fixing aware that retail butchers in Sydney cannot obtain supplies of beef except at prices from1d. to l½d. above the proclaimed prices? Will he take steps to see that supplies of meat are made available to retail butchers at the proclaimed prices?
– I am not aware that the facts are as stated. They have not been brought officially under my notice.
– The facts are as stated.
– As a surplus stock of sugar was carried over from last year, has there been any proposal made for limiting the production of sugar this year, with a view to keeping up the price of that commodity ?
– This year the sugar crop, owing to climatic conditions, will not anything like equal our consumption, and the probability is that the whole of the surplus carried over from last year will be consumed within the next twelve months.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the flow of honey has now commenced; that in the past the bee-keepers of Australia could buy tins in which to put their honey; and that, owing to the Government restrictions affecting the collection and distribution of petrol and similar tins, they cannot at present obtain such tins?
– The collection and disposal of second-hand kerosene and petrol tins is controlled by the Munitions Department. I think that if application is made to the right quarter, no person need go short.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received any information regarding the copper position? Are the producers of copper to be allowed to negotiate for the sale of their product to Allied countries?
– We have arranged an extension of the sale contract to the 31st December. So far as I know, negotia tions have not been carried further than that, but in a cablegram which I have sent to the Prime Minister since the House last met, I have stated that representations to the effect mentioned by the honorable member had been made, and I asked him. to consider how far he was at liberty to urge that suggestion upon the British authorities.
Applications for Release
– I have received from several members of the Australian Imperial Force applications for release. Most of them are from men who left Australia in the early stages of the war, and one applicant bears the regimental number 3 . Three brothers in one family enlisted; one has been killed, and another has returned to Australia on furlough. He is a married man and has a family. When he enlisted he let his farm on the share system, and, on his return, found that all the work he had done upon the property over a course of years was going to ruin. There are other cases somewhat similar in character. Would it not be possible to appoint a Board, or, some other tribunal, to deal with applications of so serious a character?
– Unfortunately, I am not able to answerthe question, because it relates to a matter under the control of the Defence Department. If the honorable member will frame a proposition, either in a letter or by way of a question on notice, I shall see that the suggestion is considered by the Defence Department.
– Have the Government yet considered the advisability of giving effect to the recommendations of Mr. Commissioner Martin in regard to the fixation of the prices of jam fruits for the coming season ?
– The matter is still under consideration.
– In connexion with the recent alterations to the Tariff, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether any member of the Inter-State Commission was consulted and asked to submit recommendations ; and, if so, were such recommendations given effect to?
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) a letter notifying his intention to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and the recent decision of the High Court in connexion therewith.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places, .
.- The decision recently given by the High Court in regard to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is momentous and far-reaching in its effect upon the industrial peace of Australia, and, if the present position is allowed to continue, nothing but ‘ industrial chaos can result. I take this action to-day because of the seriousness of the position. Some twelve months ago I had occasion to draw the attention of honorable members to a campaign which was then strongly in progress to get rid of the Arbritration Court and, particularly, Mr. Justice Higgins. We are well aware that on the Government side are many honorable members who, if not pledged to the abolition of the Arbitraton Court, are, at any rate, strongly antagonistic to the President of that tribunal. They are prepared to do anything which will result in ridding the country of that Court and its President. Whether that is the attitude of the Government I do not know, but one Minister has stated plainly and bluntly that it is his intention to contract himself outside the scope tff the Court.
– That is not so.
– I should like the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) to say whether that is so or not, for throughout Australia he is understood to have stated that intention. There appears to be a growing inclination on the part of the Government to remove as much as possible of the Commonwealth Public Service from the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. I desire from the Government a statement of whether it ia their intention to adopt that policy, and whether they support the Acting Minister for the Navy in his announced intention of contracting himself out of the Court’s jurisdiction. Immediately after the gazettal of the award dealing with the station hands indignation meetings were held throughout the Commonwealth by the organizations representative of the pastoralists, farmers, and settlers, and I do not suppose there is on either side a country member who did not receive a request that he should take active steps to get rid of the Arbitration Court and Mr. Justice Higgins.
– I rise to a point of order. I am loth to interrupt the honorable member, but it is plain that he is travelling far beyond the definite matter . to which he referred in his notification to you, Mr. Speaker. I understood that he intended to discuss only the recent decision of the High Court in regard to the Journalists case. I suggest that in discussing the future of arbitration he is opening up an extended field for debate, and is out of order, and that he should confine his remarks to the definite matter referred to in his notice, as the best means of focussing attention on the matter which he wishes to discuss.
– I ask honorable members if they find it necessary to converse while another honorable member is addressing the House to do so in such tones as will not disturb either the honorable member who is speaking or those who wish to listen to him. In regard to the point of order, I find, on perusing the terms of the notice which the honorable member for Darling sent to me, that his motion is for the purpose of discussing “ the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the recent decision of the High Court in connexion therewith.” It seems to me that the terms of the motion do not absolutely limit the hon- orable member solely to the discussion of the recent decision of the High Court; but he will not be in order in discussing arbitration and conciliation generally.
– The decision given by the High Court on Friday last has been universally welcomed by the employers’ organizations, especially the pastoral organization. The award in relation to station hands caused consternation among different station owners arid pastoralists of Australia, and they circularized every country member of this House. The next step was a series of questions submitted by the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) and Barker (Mr. Livingston), signifying their attitude towards the Arbitration Court.
– We did not say anything about the Arbitration Court.
– Then, let me say that the questions signified their attitude towards Mr. Justice Higgins.
– That is quite a different matter.
– After these honorable members had submitted their questions, it was not long” before the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) got to work, and he, in his hatred of Mr. Justice Higgins in the Arbitration Court-
– Do not say that.
– I do say it, and I say it feelingly, because I know what I am talking about.
– I ask the honorable member not to make use of expressions which convey an imputation against another honorable member. Every honorable member must give credit to other honorable members for being actuated by proper motives.
– Prior to his departure from this country, the Prime Minister attacked the Arbitration Court on several occasions, and the President of that tribunal, in no unmeasured language, which conveyed to me the impression that he was emphatically opposed, not only to the institution itself, but also to the Justice presiding over it.
– That remark is entirely unjustified.
– I could gather no other meaning from the language employed by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member referred to. was the author of the Act.
– As one honorable member has interjected, he is in different company now, which probably is the reason for his change of attitude.
This is the absurdity of the position as we now find it: Parliament gives to the President of the Arbitration Court power to arbitrate, but it gives him no power to enforce his awards. Such a ridiculous situation has not occurred previously in the history of Australia. The Australian Workers Union had a case in the Court recently, and its costs were taxed three or four days prior to the High Court decision. Those costs amounted to £80, and, although judgment had been given in favour of the union, if that money has not been paid into the Court it cannot be recovered. The Australian Workers Union has nine cases in the Court ready for hearing, and they have successfully prosecuted many pastoralists for breaches of the award, and it is to this fact that we can trace a good deal of the hatred which is displayed towards the, tribunal.
– That statement does not do the honorable member credit.
– We have obtained judgment against unscrupulous employers, compelling them to pay proper wages. That is why my friend is squirming, and why we have these attacks on the Arbitration Court. I venture to say that if the Pastoralists Union and their friends inside this Chamber had had their way, the Court would have disappeared long ago. The Federal Pastoralists Council met on the 14th November last, almost immediately after the station hands case had been heard, and they decided on an attempt to abolish the Court. With a view to ascertaining the attitude of the Federal Government in regard to” the matter they resolved that a deputation of the branch secretaries of the Pastoralists Union should interview the Government. It was also suggested, that these secretaries should be asked to. confer upon the provisions in a Bill which the Federal Pastoralists Council had suggested for the amendment of the Arbitration Act. Apparently the Pastoralists Union had already drafted a measure, and provided the machinery necessary for usurping the functions of the Court, and “ mould it nearer to their heart’s desire.” We know perfectly well that the proposed Bill was submitted to the Government, and that at least one member of the Cabinet conferred with the secretaries of the branches of the Pastoralists Union in regard to the matter. We do not know what took place at that conference, but one thing is certain, that several honorable members on the Government benches have in no unmistakable terms expressed their desire to abolish the Arbitration Court and its President. One Minister has stated that he would contract himself out of the Court.
– Which Minister has sa’id that?
– The Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton).
– He said that a Bill would be introduced.
– No. He is reported to have said that he would contract himself out of the Arbitration Court, and he has not denied the report.
– I said that a Bill would be introduced validating the shipbuilding agreement.
– The Assistant Minister for the Navy may have made use of the picturesque language that the honorable member opposite sometimes adopts, but he did say that theBill would be introduced. Clearly that is what he meant.
– We are told by the President of the Arbitration Court that he still has power to arbitrate, and that the parties who have cases before him have no need to fear so far as arbitration is concerned ; but what is the use of arbitration if the Arbitration Court has no power to enforce its awards?
– No Wages Board in Australia has power to enforce its awards.
– We arereferred to State Courts, to stipendiary magistrates and police magistrates. We donot want police magistrates to do work which should be done by Commonwealth tribunals.
– Arbitration may proceed without the power of enforcement lying in the hands of the individual who arbitrates. Some other authority may have the power of enforcement.
– What other authority has the power? There is no Court constituted under . the Commonwealth which has the power to enforce penalties imposed by an Arbitration Court.
– Has the honorable member read the High Court judgment?
– I have read that portion which concerns us most - the portion which states that the Arbitration Court may make awards, but cannot enforce them; and I gather from remarks made by Mr. Justice Higgins that, though he still has power to arbitrate, he has no power to enforce his awards. His Honour goes on to point out that the penalties can be enforced in Courts of summary jurisdiction. We wish to know whether the Government are prepared to give tothe High Court the power of enforcing the awards made by the Com monwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, or whether they will create a Court of less power to enforce those awards.
– Do honorable members opposite want more Courts ?
– This is one Court too many for my honorable friend, hence the great agitation to get rid of it. We do not desire, nor will we consent, to be sent to Courts presided over by stipendiary or police magistrates to secure the enforcement of these awards. We say that the Commonwealth Government have the power to grant immediate relief, and we desire to know whether they will grant that relief or whether they are going to plunge Australia into industrial chaos. There are on this side of the House honorable members who have been fighting for quite a considerable time in the cause of arbitration; but outside there is an ever-increasing feeling against arbitration.
– On the part of whom?
– On the part of members of different organizations. The Australian Workers Union is taking a ballot in all the industries covered by it, and I venture to predict that the decision of the union, which comprises some 80,000 or 90,000 members, will be in favour of arbitration. Generally speaking, the great majority of unionists believe in the principle, and are prepared to stand by it. The question now arises as to whether the Government are willing to give us the necessary machinery to carry on arbitration, or whether they intend to allow the whole system to go by the board and. to plunge Australia into industrial chaos.
– No; that is what you would do.
– Is the honorable member prepared to urge in this House that immediate relief be given us ? He is not. He is one of a large number of men who have to pay wages much against their will.
– That is a shocking and extraordinary statement.
– The honorable member did not pay anything approaching the wages fixed by arbitration awards until he was forced to do so.
– I have never paid less than any other employer. I have always paid proper wages, and the honorable member knows it.
– Until the honorable member was forced by the Court to do so, he did not pay a living wage.
– I have never been forced by any one to do so.
– There are others in this House who occupy the same position ; they had to be forced to pay a living, wage. While they could get labour for 5s. per week, they were prepared to accept it.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that we never got anything of the kind.
– To return to the main question, from which I have been drawn aside by these interjections, I would point out that in the Age of the 26th ult. there appears a statement made by the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton). The paragraph reads -
Referring to recent industrial trouble, Mr. Poynton remarked that a decision had re- cently been given against him in the Arbitration Court. His colleagues, however, had agreed to stand by him, and necessary legislation would be introduced to make shipbuilding in Australia a war work, “ and we’llcontract ourselves outside the Arbitration Court.”
The latter part of the last sentence is in inverted commas. No doubt, the, honorable member has seen that statement, as attributed to him by the Age, and he hasnot contradicted it. Mr. Bavin, barrister-at-law, and a leading authority on Commonwealth arbitration matters, in referring to the High Court judgment with respect to Arbitration Court awards, has said -
The effect of the judgment is, in my opinion, not to invalidate the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Courts ; only to make it necessary for the Federal Parliament to vest the duty of enforcing those awards in other Federal Courts - that is, either the High Court or State Counts vested with Federal jurisdiction, or inferior Federal Courts.
Mr.F. A. Russell, barrister-at-law, and also an authority on arbitration matters, has said -
I am disposed to agree that an amending Act could give authority to enforce awards in special or inferior Commonwealth Courts, or confer the necessary powers upon existing State Courts.
We are perfectly sure that this Parliament has the power to immediately create a Court - or to give to the High Court the power - to enforce the awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Either that should be done, or Mr. Justice Higgins should at once be appointed for life, and the necessary power given to him. The position is clearly before the Government, and we wish to know whether they are prepared to avert a national calamity in Australia by granting what is desired.
– Threatening again.
– I am not threatening, but I do not desire to see industrial chaos in Australia. During my short life, I have seen quite enough of strikes to cause me not to desire any recurrence of them. I wish the Government to take action immediately to safeguard the interests of Australia by creating a Court where employees can have their awards enforced. Will the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) stand behind me in that demand? I trust that the Government will take early steps to clear up the industrial situation in this regard. There are pending cases in which employers have refused to pay the wages provided for in the awards of the Arbitration Court. That Court has power to make awards, but it has no power to compel employers to observe them. We do not wish to have to go to Courts presided over by stipendiary or police magistrates to secure the enforcement of awards about which they know nothing. Imagine having to go before a Police Court in Sydney where nothing is known of the industries to which these awards relate, or of the merits of the case. Is it not better that the employees should be able, in each instance, to go to the Judge who has made the award ? Honorable members, if they give this matter a moment’s consideration, will recognise the disadvantage under which employees would labour if they were compelled to go to these inferior Courts for relief. We object to go to them, and for the reason that we believe that, unless relief is granted, strikes will immediately take place, and that Australia will be plunged into industrial chaos, we ask the Government to take action in the direction I have indicated .
– This question would have been considered with more success in the House if, in introducing it, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) had not worked himself into such a fine frenzy, and if in the production of his anger he had not hurled charges at honorable members on this side. It always appears to me to be possible to consider a proposition, whether it be of a political or a ‘ judicial character, in an impersonal way. That is how I have been endeavouring to consider this matter, and it is the way in which the Government will deal with it when called upon to do so. The honorable member has_ opened up the wide question of arbitration powers generally, when I understood he was to deal only with the situation created by the recent decision. The honorable member has suggested that there is on the Government benches, and in the party in power, a desire to abolish arbitration.
– To do away with its effect.
– If that is so, I have never heard of it; and I might be expected to hear; as one of the sounding boards for the time being, of some echoes of it. So far as the Government are concerned, we have shown our desire to uphold this Act by the most recent of all tests. In this case, where the whole force of the Act, its judicial as well as its arbitral provisions, were attacked by the appellant, the Attorney-General, with the full concurrence of the Cabinet, briefed, as leading counsel, Mr. Starke, one of the best barristers in Australia, to uphold the Act.
– He was the man who threw the bombshell into the Court.
- Mr. Starke, Mr. Mann, and Mr. Weigall, all eminent men, were by the wish of the Government employed by the Crown Law authorities to uphold the structure and principles of the Act.
– Nobody outside believed that.
– There is no politics in this matter at all. I conceive it to be the duty of a Minister, whether or not he believes in an Act, to administer it so long as it is the law. I have my own views, definite and clear, as to what arbitration ought to be, but I have never allowed those to upset or interfere with the administration of the law as it now stands. The charge that there is somewhere a sinister and lurking desire to upset the Act, either on the part of its administrators or the supporters of the Government, is, so far as I can judge, absolutely foundationless. It is true, I believe, that before the Prime Minister went to Britain representations were made to him - I do not know whether by both sides or by whom - to cause him to consider the situation in order to see what difference in procedure or in practice should be embodied, in an amending law. We announced before the Prime Minister left that we would introduce a Bill dealing with this law; and surely it is the duty of the Government when an important law is under discussion to hear the representations from rival sides?
– You did not hear representations from us.
– I did not hear any representations from anybody; I am simply telling honorable members what the Prime Minister did. I understand from my colleague (Mr. Groom) that the Prime Minister heard both sides.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections. There is a habit growing up in the chamber every time an. honorable member rises, especially if he be a Minister, of harassing him with interjections, which make it almost impossible for his remarks to be heard.
– If the practice to which you refer, sir; were to be allowed to continue it would be impossible to conduct an orderly debate. I am endeavouring, in a few moments, to deal with the phases of the question to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) made reference. The fact that we are drafting a Bill, or contemplate the introduction of new legislation, does not justify the supposition that we seek the overthrow of a system to which this Parliament has committed itself. That is all I shall say on that point at this particular time. In a more definite way, and at a more appropriate time, I shall be able, with the aid of my colleagues, to announce the policy of the Government, which is not now in question.
As to whether this decision of the Court to which the honorable member for Darling more particularly refers threatens arbitration at its source - for that is the point, and the only justification for submitting an urgency motion - I shall give the facts so far as the Government know them. In the meantime, I desire to quote from a report in the Age of a speech by Mr. Justice Higgins after the judgment had been given. Mr. Justice Higgins, who presides over the Arbitration Court, said this for the information of the public -
It may help parties who are interested in cases actually pending or to be brought forward to know that the Arbitration Court goes on as before.
That is the decision of the learned Judge in charge of the Court, and it implies that chaos has not come again.
– What is the use of arbitration without enforcement?
– At any rate, that is the point of view expressed by the best judge of the matter, in comment on the problem, as to how far the judgment of his brother Judges has impaired his power to arbitrate. I dare say he has given to the public a reliable notification when he says that arbitration will go on as before; and that is a complete answer to the honorable member’sstatement that the Government should immediately spring into the breach, before knowing the facts, and submit some cure.
– The honorable gentleman does not understand what Mr. Justice Higgins means when he says that arbitration goes on as before. It is a fact that it does go on, but immediately a decision is given it ceases to exist.
– I will take that point; and I think I know as much about the matter as does the honorable member. I had been identified with the study and amendment of the industrial laws in the State of Victoria long before the honorable member was familiar with such law, and I say that until this Arbitration Court, presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins, was established the great bulk, if not all, of the arbitral tribunals of the country had no power of enforcement, and the bulk of them have none to-day. The fact that the administration of the law is separated from the arbitral power does not destroy the arbitral power.
– It does not go on as before.
– A Wages Board, or a tribunal of another kind, may determine on the merits of an issue, and the award becomes law; but the actual enforcement may be left to the Executive authority, or the interpretation of it left to the judicial authority, as in the States. The honorable member is either unable to see the distinction between these important functions, or is throwing dust in the eyes of his colleagues in the House, in his endeavour to show that,because a judicial power has now beenraised by the decision of the High Court, the arbitral power in arbitration cases has been overthrown. That is either a misconception or a misrepresentation of the facts.. The facts in the possession of the Government are that there was an appeal against the journalists award. I am just at this moment informedthat the technical judgment was given on the Waterside Workers’ case a few days ago, although the original issue arose in the Journalists case. The Minister in charge of the Law Department has not yet received the full text of the judgment, and is unable to consider, except by means of the scanty information such as we get in the press, what the exact legal effect is. It will be his duty, when he gets the judgment, . to consider and submit it to the Cabinet, with a view to deciding how far, if at all, it is necessary to repair the functions of this Court as a result of the recent decision. The Government will not act precipitately, as the honorable member desires it to do, because there is no necessity, while there is a danger in doing so. I trust the honorable member will accept the assurance I have given that there is no sinister or improper desire on the part of those in power to rob this Court of its authority as a consequence of the judgment, or incidental to it. In due course measures will be introduced, and will be open to debate.
– If the enforcement of awards has been done away with, will the Government provide some remedy?
– The honorable member may rest assured that we will not permit arbitration to be broken down accidentally ; if it is to be broken down, the breakingdown measure will originate and finish in this Chamber. As Ministers, we will endeavour to enforce the law, and if an amendment is necessary to secure its enforcement, the honorable member may rely that an amendment will be made.
– I am aware that the decision of the High Court, as the Acting Prime Minister has pointed out, was given, not on the case originally before it, but on the Waterside Workers’ case. The official law reports, as a rule, are not much fuller thanthose contained in the Argus, and I have read carefully the judgments of the High Court bench as reported in that newspaper. We have heard before in this country of “ yes-no “ decisions ; that of the High Court is certainly one. The first question which the full bench was asked to answer was -
Is the Constitution of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration beyond the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and in particular . as to (a) the arbitral provision, (&) the enforcing provisions?
To that question the answer was (a) No ; (b) Yes. The second question was -
Is the award invalid by reason of the appointment of the President for seven years only?
To which question the answer was “ No.” The third question was -
Is the award enforceable by the said Court?
To that, also, the answer was “No.” Therefore, apparently,, the Court can sit and hear evidence and make an award, but has no power to enforce that award. The Chief Justice said that the Arbitration Court - was invested with ample” and complete jurisdiction to declare and enforce the mutual obligations of the parties. The exercise of the power to impose penalties was admittedly an exercise of the judicial power. If the Court had not the power to impose penalties, then that power would be non-existent elsewhere.
If the Arbitration Court had not the power to enforce its awards, no other Court could do so. Mr. Justice Barton’s opinion was that -
The power of adjudication was combined with the power of enforcement.
Mr. Justice Isaacs read the judgment of himself and Mr. Justice Bich. In it occurs this passage -
Once an award was made the dispute was settled, and the arbitral function was at an end. Enforcement by a Court was an entirely separate matter.
They therefore - held that the arbitral provisions of the Court were within the Constitution, that the enforcing provisions’ were beyond it, that the award was not invalid by reason of the appointment of the President for seven years, but that it was not enforceable by the Court.
Mr. Justice Higgins, the President of the Arbitration Court, said that he considered - that the’ award was not invalidated by reason of the term of the appointment of the President, and was enforceable by the. Court.
He also thought that the awards “ should be enforced by Courts of summary juris diction.” Mr. Justice Duffy, too, “ held that the question should be answered on investigation of section 72 of the Constitution.” He gave the same answers to the questions as Mr. Justice Higgins. Mr. Justice Powers said that -
The awards could be enforced in the State Courts, and Parliament could give power of enforcement to the High Court. If Parliament gave (hat authority, the President, or Deputy President could, as a High Court Justice, enforce the awards.
As I read the judgments, the Chief Justice and Justices Barton, Higgins, and Duffy think that the Court has complete power to enforce its awards. If the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) finds that the Court has not that power, and that the power can be given to it by an amending Act, the law should be amended so as to leave our arbitration jurisdiction where it was believed to be. We have been told that during the war no action should be taken by the workers to alter the position. Of course, that advice waa not offered to the doctors who were on strike. If it should be found that the workers are in a different position in regard- to arbitration from that in which it was thought that they were, the Government should put matters right. If the workers ought not to try to change matters during the war, the employers should not do so bv an appeal to the High Court. I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether many of the awards have been enforced by the Arbitration Court itself, or whether their enforcement has been left to other Courts. I have no faith in some of the local Courts in matters of arbitration. In saying “this, I do not reflect on the honour or_ integrity of our justices of the peace in general, but they would be naturally biased in respect to some arbitration matters. While not interested in a case directly before them, their friends, if they were employers of labour, might be interested, and their turn might come next day or next week. The Victorian Government have decided not to allow a Wages Board to sit to deal with matters which arise from time to time. They have said that no trade or calling that has appealed to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall be allowed to appeal to a Wages Board. That decision affects the employees of the leather industry, who have obtained an award from that Court, but new businesses have come. into existence since the award was obtained, to which it does not apply, because those concerned in those businesses were not named as parties, and an award applies only to the parties to the case before the Court. We, on this side, were desirous of giving the Court power to make a common rule which should apply to the whole industry in which a dispute arose. We all wish to see the multiplication and extension pf businesses, but it will be wrong if arbitration awards are not made to apply to all whom they properly concern. If the decision of the High Court that the Arbitration Court cannot enforce its awards is to stand, what is the alternative? In this chamber, and out of it, I have advocated arbitration as opposed to direct action.
– I never did. Strikes are the best.
– That is not my opinion. I favoured Wages Boards when there was no opportunity of getting an Arbitration Court, but there are objections to the. Wages Board system. In many cases an employee has jeopardized his position by sitting opposite his employer on a Wages Board. Many employees have been dismissed for their action in regard to Wages Boards. I gave several instances on one occasion when an Arbitration Bill was being discussed in this chamber As a believer in arbitration, I say that the Government should declare, if the Arbitration Act has been weakened, that both employers and employees will be put again in exactly the same position as they occupied before the High Court gave its decision. It is the duty of the Government, if it has the constitutional power, to repair the damage to the Arbitration Court which I conceive to have been done by. the decision of the High Court, and to give the Arbitration Court all the powers that it was believed to have before its validity was questioned.
.- I should not have risen but for the direct attack that has been made on the Pastoralists Union, with which, although I am not connected with it now, I have been intimately connected in the past. It- is not true that the ‘Pastoralists Union has tried in any way to break down the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), when president of the Australian Workers Union, advocated arbitration; and after we had had a taste of it, we managed to carry on our industry with great success. However much credit we may give to the President of the Court, there is undoubtedly the feeling that he is not altogether unbiased.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I. shall not voice any sentiments of opposition to that Justice; I have never yet done so, and I do not intend to do so now. But if the position is that he cannot enforce penalties himself, it will, instead of creating industrial unrest, bring peace and satisfaction into the pastoral world. On one occasion, when I appeared before Mr. Justice Higgins, he alluded to the unhappy mess that we had made in framing the rules that we had to work under; but his own rules were so bad that we had to go to him for an interpretation of them, and he had to alter them to make them intelligible. The pastoral industry is a very large one, and it is difficult in some instances to’ say what new awards mean. We are not allowed to put in a contra account against the men. Pastoralists have been fined heavily for merely technical breaches of the law. Mr. E dolls was fined £100 ; Mr. Kelly, £50 ; Mr. Whitty £20; the Eureka Estate, £50; and the Gurley Estate, £50; for mere technical breaches of the law ; and Mr. Justice Higgins has said that he could fine up to £1,000 for such breaches.
– Is not that the law?
– If a man is to be fined as much as £1,000 for a technical breach of an award, I do not know what the honorable member would do to him if he committed a more serious offence. I believe that the Arbitration Act can continue; and that redress for any breaches of awards can be found. I am also of opinion that it would be in the best interests of industrial peace, in the pastoral industry, at any rate, if Mr. Justice Higgins were allowed to not only make the awards, but to also mete out the punishment to any offender.
.- The Acting Prime Minister appeared to argue that in the majority of arbitration laws the arbitral functions are distinct and apart from the responsibility for, or the power of, enforcing awards. But the honorable gentleman waa dealing largely with Wages Boards proceedings. In New
South Wales there is a system of Wages Boards similar to that in Victoria, but there is also an Industrial Court to which appeal may be made from the decisions of the Boards. In these matters the Industrial Court is supreme. Similarly, the Federal Arbitration Court hitherto has had power to enforce its awards. In my opinion, the antagonism of many honorable members on the Government benches, and a large section of the outside public, is not so much to the Arbitration Court as to the gentleman who at present presides over it. Certain honorable members have been loud in their denunciations of Mr. Justice Higgins; and, as the honorable member for Darling mentioned, the President of the” Federal Arbitration Court has been attacked by no less a personage than the Prime Minister pf the Commonwealth. We have also heard honorable members inquiring as to the duration of Mr. Justice Higgins’ appointment, and as to whether any action was being taken by the Government in regard to the renewal thereof. The whole of the criticism of honorable members opposite who have spoken has been directed against the President of the Court. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that he favours arbitration. I do not agree with my leader upon that point, because my opinion is that there is nothing to arbitrate about. But Parliament ‘ has established an Arbitration Court, and the workers are lucky in having as its first President a gentleman of such high character as Mr. Justice Higgins, who, according to his idea of justice, has endeavoured to mete out fair play to the workers.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the Judge.
– The judgments given by Mr. Justice Higgins in the past have given rise to a considerable amount of comment. Now, by a decision of the High Court, his powers in regard to the enforcement of awards have been limited, and it is proposed that some other Judge or magistrate shall deal with breaches of awards. The experience of the workers has been that in the majority of cases they get anything but justice from those gentlemen. In ‘regard to the present state of affairs, it seems to me that we are approaching the lamentable conditions that exist in the United States. When the eight-hour law was passed in that country, an appeal was made to the High Court of the United States, and the law was found to be unconstitutional. Now, in Australia, when the workers succeed in gaining benefits of any value from the Arbitration Court, questions as to the con- ‘stitutionality of the Court and its actions are raised. It is noticeable that a lot of American methods are being introduced into the industrial affairs of this country.
– The Industrial Workers of the World, for instance.
-We on this side often suspect that honorable members opposite know a good deal more about the Industrial Workers of the World than we know. There is a growing tendency on the part of the employing classes to question the judgments delivered by the Arbitration -Court when such judgments confer benefits on the workers. They are following the policy adopted in the United States of appealing to the High Court upon questions of constitutionality. Not believing that an Arbitration Court can be of any lasting benefit to the working classes, I am not much perturbed by such actions ; but I know that the.re are certain sections who are not yet able to help themselves, and that it is necessary for them to approach the Arbitration Court. It is an open secret that a committee of employers has been drafting a new Arbitration Bill which will safeguard the interests /f their class. The Acting Prime Minister has stated that the Government had briefed some of the leading lawyers in order to safeguard the Arbitration Act.
– He stated that they appeared in Court as representatives of the Commonwealth to sustain the provisions of the existing law.
– We briefed distinguished counsel.
– The honorable gentleman did not state in what manner counsel had distinguished themselves. In my opinion, one of their particular distinctions has been an attempt to extinguish the Arbitration Court. If, whenever the workers succeed, after spending thousands of pounds, in getting a satisfactory award from the Arbitration Court, duly created by the representatives of the people, they are to be dragged before the High Court in order to have the award declared unconstitutional, honorable members will need to be very careful unless they wish to precipitate further., industrial trouble. The workers of this country will not take such American tactics lying down. And if the
Government wish to get along with a reasonable amount of harmony, tactics other than those now being adopted by the Employers Federation will require to be adopted, and the workers guaranteed a fair deal, whether from Mr. Justice Higgins or from any other Judge who may preside over the Arbitration Court.
– Thousands of my constituents are members of unions registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I believe that the majority of them claim to have received benefits from arbitration. I have always differed from them on that point. When the Arbitration Act was placed on the Labour platform, seventeen years ago, I objected to it; I still object. I believe in the good old-fashioned strike - not the general strike, but sectional strikes which the workers can win. I, personally, shall welcome any juggling on the part of the present Government in order to bring the Arbitration Act into discredit, so that we may get back to the sectional strikes as the only real way of fighting the employers. What the worker has received from the Arbitration Court has not been in his true interest, in spite of what the employers say to the contrary. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) admits that he is willing to work under the Arbitration Act, but knowing that his willingness to do so could not possibly be in the interests of the workers, his statement merely fortifies me in my attitude towards the Act. However, as the workers have accepted the measure, I am prepared to work under it, but I have always contended that no section of unionists is entitled to be registered under the Act and accept its benefits and at the same time claim the right to. strike. The view which I have always placed before those men who have sent me to this Chamber is that if the workers are prepared to submit to arbitration they must give up the right to strike. I have always condemned unionists who are registered under the Arbitration Act who go on strike. It is not playing the game. On the other hand, it is not playing the game for the Government or the employers to say that they want to work under an Act which is useful to one section only. But that is evidently what is now attempted, because there has been no denial to the statement made by the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), as reported in the press, that so far as shipbuilding is concerned the Government intend to contract themselves out of the Arbitration Court. I asked in the House whether the statement as reported was correct or not, and the Minister refused to answer the question.
– I asked the honorable member to give notice of it.
– The attitude of the Minister towards the Arbitration Court is evidently quite in keeping with the desire of the Government to interfere with the Arbitration Act. Just as I have said to the unionists, that they cannot have arbitration and theright to strike as well, I say now to the Government and to the employing section of the community, that they cannot bring into existence an Arbitration Act so moulded that it will benefit their side only. Personally, I would welcome such a measure with joy, because then we could revert to the old days, and the employers would get a tasteof strikes conducted by men with experience of the past. Perhaps the employers would not like that.
– I ask the honorable member not to go too much into that phase of the question, because it is not covered by the motion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, butthe matters are so much interwoven that it is hard to distinguish them.
– Under the Standing Orders a special motion for adjournment must be on a definite matter of public importance. General principles cannot be discussed on such a motion.
– The Conservative press say that the worker has no right to the use of both machines for the settlement of disputes.
– The workers did it recently at Innisfail, in Queensland.
– Does the honorable member think that it was right for them to do so ?
– Exactly, but the Government are proposing to do the same now in connexion with the Arbitration Act. No attempt has been made to hide the dissatisfaction of the employers towards the President of the Arbitration
Court-. They have openly stated their objection to him and to the Court over which he presides.
– Under the terms of the motion and under the standing order, which states that a motion of this character can be moved only to deal with a definite matter of public importance, the honorable member cannot discuss .generally the principles of conciliation and arbitration and matters incidental thereto.
– I understood that on the point of order raised by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) at the outset of this debate the ruling given was that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) had not gone beyond the terms of the motion, and I must certainly draw attention to the fact that this question opens up the whole phase of conciliation and arbitration.
– Yes; under an ordinary motion to discuss conciliation and arbitration it would do- so. But it cannot be done under the standing order which limits a special adjournment motion to a definite subject.
– After quoting Mr. Justice Higgins, the Acting Prime Minister said that “ we would still go on as before.” What has been the position so far ? Not only could the Court arbitrate, it could do all that was necessary to see that its decisions were carried into effect. Seeing that it no longer has the power to see that its decisions are carried into effect, we cannot be going on as before. There has been an alteration. There is evidently a desire to interfere with the Arbitration Act, because the Assistant Minister for /the Navy (Mr. Poynton) proposes to* contract shipbuilding out of the Arbitration Court. If that can be done, then the Government can contract the whole of its activities outside the Court, and thus defeat the intention of the Act. -Personally, I hope that it may be done, but I represent men who think differently, and in their interest I wish to see the Arbitration Act .maintained -as it is. Mr. Knox, chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, has said that the Act must go, because the employers cannot afford to pay ‘the wages given under the awards of the Court, If it has to go, let it go fairly and squarely,and let it not be juggled away, as, apparently, the Government are attempting to do.
.- 1 do not quite agree with the remarks of the honorable member who has just resume:l his seat. What was the use of Parliament passing an Arbitration Act, and appointing’ a Justice at a huge salary, a man of integrity and honour, to pres.de over the functions of an Arbitration Court, and saying to him, “ You can give judgment, but you must stop there “ ? It seems to me to prove1* the old adage that “the law is a ‘hass.’ “ We pass Bills with and without penal clauses attached to them, and then we employ at great expense men with legal learning, to pile up costs like mountains which the workers are called upon to pay. 1 welcomed the words of the Acting Prime Minister when he said that there was no desire on the part of honorable members opposite to absolutely destroy conciliation and arbitration. I believe that he and his Government are prepared to bring down a Bill to clear up these matters. If this is done, Ministers will merit the good-will of the community at large. Surely no costs should be incurred by any citizen who appeals for justice in a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Next to the Court of Heaven, a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is one in which men are surely placed in a high position to administer justice. How, then, is it that we find the fool game played, and wonder expressed that certain men get judgment? _ It is simply because the man with the most wealth can’ employ legal minds to twist sentences, or shift a stop in a line, in order to give it a different meaning, against equity.. Gronlund’s The Cooperative Commonwealth, speaking of the Courts of Conciliation in Denmark, says-
Denmark will furnish us a model of popular administration of justice in her so-called “ Courts of Conciliation,” which have been in existence in that country since 1828, and during that period have given immense satisfaction, so much so, indeed, that similar Courts have to a certain extent been adopted by other countries in Europe. The ‘distinguishing feature of these courts is that no lawyers are allowed there. All suits whatsoever, without regard to the amounts- involved, - must, in the first place, be brought before these Courts. The judge takes down the oral complaint of the plaintiff and -the oral defence of the defendant, and renders judgment accordingly. If, however, either of the parties is dissatisfied with the judgment, the Judge refers the case to the regular Courts, in which Courts, however, no other evidence is allowed to- be introduced . but that which was laid before the Judge sitting in the Court of Conciliation.
In other words, they may have legal assistance in the second Court, but no fresh evidence can be introduced. That is why such a small percentage of cases, three or four out of every hundred, is carried to the second Court. The average cost of a civil case in circumstances such as I have just quoted is under 10s. per case. Compare that figure with the £3,500 spent by the unions in the tramways case before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, owing to the incompetence of the law. I regret deeply that employees or employers are put to so much unnecessary expense in quibbling about points of law. What is the duty of the average barrister but to sit in his chamber and turn up old books seeking for points, caring nothing about justice, and striving only to win his case upon a technical point!
I have always been opposed to strikes. My brain could not conceive, my lips utter, or my heart desire, the promotion of a strike; because behind the striker, as behind the soldier in time of war, I have always seen the suffering of the women and children. But if the worker cannot get justice in the Courts, the strike is his last resort,- and then it has my support, but only as a last resort. The vast majority of the workers of Australia do not want to lose the right to approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. After years of the working of arbitration in Australia, and when we have one Court controlling the whole of the Commonwealth, a legal technicality is brought forward, and an infamy is placed on the whole of the people. I hope that the Cabinet will deal with this question immediately, because there is grave reason to fear that unless it is settled much trouble and turmoil will come upon us. Have we not enough trouble as it is with this cursed war upon us? Who wants industrial trouble in Australia? So far as I- am aware, no one does. If there are any who do, they are few in number, and have no influence with the people. Let us insist, in connexion with every law we pass, that the Judges administering it shall have power to enforce their judgments, since, with all the facts before them, they must be best fitted to do so.
– My remarks will be very few, because this is a matter that evidently, and particularly since the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has stated the intentions of the Government, can be discussed properly and fully only when an amending Bill comes before the House. I desire to express the view that this country has accepted the application of conciliation and arbitration to industrial matters aa a principle of government. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament is given explicit power to pass laws providing for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. I have repeatedly heard in this chamber leaders of various Governments express the view that, in respect of this principle, we are simply at the experimental stage, but that we are proceeding along a line which bids fair to achieve some satisfactory result in’ the direction of preventing the recurrence of strikes and lock-outs. We are all of the opinion that anything that will insure continuity of industrial operations is something that we should all attempt to achieve. Industrial disputes and strikes - all interruptions to the continuity of industrial operations - are destructive in every direction. They are destructive, not only of the industrial welfare of the community, but of the individual. I know of nothing more demoralizing to the efficiency or morale of the workers than continual interference with and interruption of their industrial operations. Having established this principle the question is how best to make it effective. The Conciliation and Arbitration Court in its operations has not been a success. No one will claim -that it has accomplished what, even allowing that it was, at the best, but an experiment, we hoped it would do.
– Even so, it is more successful than is the principle of the strike.
– Exactly. Even the incomplete and unsatisfactory application of the principle has proved to be better than unreasonable and uncontrolled industrial disputes. If that is so, oUr business should be to establish on a stronger foundation the Arbitration Court, so that it may achieve all that we hope and desire. Unfortunately, this recent decision . of the High Court deprives the Conciliation and Arbitration
Court of a power which, until now, the public generally considered it possessed in the fullest degree. .
– Did it ever enforce obedience to its awards?
– It was, at all events, a Court of appeal in regard to the enforcement of its awards. It was able to bring to bear a certain amount of satisfactory adjudication when other efforts failed.
– It only enforced its rulings against one side.
– I do not suggest, and do not think it is fair to suggest, that either the President of the Court or his deputies have shown a bias. I have heard people on both sides of cases express very strong opinion regarding the views of the presiding Judges.
– The reference in the interjection was not to the Judge, but to the action of the men after an award is given.
– The fact remains that some honorable members opposite have to-day declared that, whatever they may think with regard to the Court having the power to enforce its award, they are not opposed tothe Conciliation and Arbitration Court having the power to arbitrate. They have, however, a decided objection to the President of the Court. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), who have been referred to during this debate, have both said to-day, as well as before, that it is not the Court, but the President of the Court, to whom they object.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) indorses that view. The recent decision of the High Court is, therefore, satisfactory from the point of view of those honorable members. I venture to suggest that if they object to Mr. Justice Higgins or to Mr. Justice Powers, who has acted as Deputy President of the Court, there is an honorable course to take in order to secure their removal from the bench. I have heard some of the workers who have had cases before the Court express a view which would rather encourage them to take action against Mr. Justice Higgins. But honorable members opposite will not take the honorable course open to them in this matter. They will attack the Court, and the President of the Court, in a general way, but they decline to make against the President a specific charge of bias or partiality.
The position of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is not a sinecure; it is not one to be envied. It is, perhaps more than any other judicial position, one that calls for ‘the exercise of very clear judgment and considerable patience. On the whole, I think Mr. Justice Higgins has acted - and that the decisions of the Arbitration Court generally have operated - in a fair and impartial way. If it is a fact that the awards have in most cases been in favour of the workers as against the employers, that is not an argument against either the Court or the Judge. It simply shows that the employers have not been dealing fairly with their employees, and that it was necessary to invoke the assistance of the Court to compel them to do justice to them. I hope that honorable members opposite, who attack the Court and its President, do not object to the employees securing a fair deal. It would be easy to establish the point that their objections to the Court and the President arise from their objections to the awards. They think that the President has given the workers too much. Do they think that the workers are getting too much, and that the President is biased in their favour? They are not prepared to say that, although they suggest it by all kinds of innuendoes against the President of the Court.
Since the High Court has declared that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has no power to enforce his own awards - that the Court has no power to enforce awards made by it - this tribunal has been stripped to a large degree of its usefulness. I am one of those who entirely favour the principle of conciliation and arbitration. I believe it should be applied not only to industrial, but to international, disputes. The whole world is fast coming round to that view. What, however, would be the position if an international Court of Arbitration had power to make an award, but no power to enforce it? The whole world just now is discussing the question of a league of nations to establish that very principle, so as to avoid resort to war as a means of settling international disputes. But if that league of nations is to be’ placed in the same position that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been - if it is to have power to consider a case, and to arrive at a verdict, but no power to enforce its decisions, the whole scheme must collapse. In such circumstances the purpose and effect of a league of nations would be absolutely futile. I venture to suggest, therefore, that the Government must consider .this question, not merely as a passing phase of industrialism, but as an urgent matter demanding immediate and serious attention. I hope that, for the safety of industrial affairs in Australia, for the sake of the peaceful development of the Commonwealth, and in order to avoid the industrial chaos to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has referred, and which seems to be apparent, the Government will take this matter into their early consideration. We all desire peace in Australia. We desire that it “shall have peace in its development, and peace amongst its people; that they shall all work together for the one end, and be, in fact, one people with one destiny. And can any one suggest a better plan - is there anything be’tter than a. Conciliation and Arbitration Court clothed with the fullest possible power to preserve peace in our industrial operations ?
.- If there was one thing, more than another that brought me into the Federal Parliament at its inception, it was the desire to secure the application of the principle of conciliation and arbitration to the industrial affairs of the whole Commonwealth. I looked forward to the realization of one of the dreams of the leaders of the Labour movement in Queensland in those days - the complete abolition of strikes. Some honorable members have been’ through a strike. I have passed through two, and I hope I shall never see again what I witnessed in connexion with those two industrial upheavals. I saw children practically starving and women wanting food. The women, however, were better unionists than the men proved to be in the two strikes in which I was involved.’ The Commonwealth Constitution provides unmistakably that the Parliament
Shall have power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– That was one of the great arguments in support of Federation.
– It was one of the strongest arguments used in the western portion of Queensland in support of Federation. There we had passed through a couple, of strikes, and their effect had been such ihat the workers were prepared to go to any lengths to prevent any recurrence of the conditions which prevailed in connexion with those strikes. If the section in the Constitution means anything, it means that we have the power to enforce the laws made under it. Yet we have some of the originators and f ramers of the Constitution, including the Chief Justice (Sir Samuel Griffith), Sir Edmund Barton, and others, as High Court Judges, declaring that we have not the power we all thought we had under that Constitution. It is just as though we were presented with a gun of the largest calibre to use against those who were opposed to the arbitral powers of the Constitution, but ordered not to load it; in short, that while we may arbitrate and conciliate, we have no power to enforce the decisions of the Court. In my peregrinations throughout Australia I have come across good employers, and also some of the very worst. After the Queensland strike of 1S91 the pastoralists, not. content with ‘beating the men to their knees, desired the “State Government to deport the leaders from Australia, and, further, they blacklisted, every man who stood up for a living wage for his fellow-workers. As a matter of fact, I reckon that the pastoralists of Queensland owe me a lot of money, seeing, that jobs for which they then paid me 12s. 6d. they have now to pay 30s. However, as in the case of the Arbitration Act, although I could send them in a bill, I have no power to enforce the demand. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his manifesto to the people ‘of Australia, said, that if his Government were returned to power the unionists and workers of the country might rest assured that none of the arbitration or industrial legislation would be interfered with” or altered during the currency of the war. When that promise was made there were those of us on this side who prophesied exactly what Mr. Hughes and his supporters would do if they were returned to power; and our prophecy is coming true to-day. It is proposed to alter the maternity grant, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, and the Electoral Act, and that is just precisely what we anticipated. The present Government sold the people a “pig in a poke”; but sooner or later the Government and their supporters are going to face their masters, I should advise them to induce thePostmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to write another poem about the “writing on the wall.” What we are now faced with in regard to the Arbitration Act is judge-made law, and nothing else. I venture to say that when that Act was passed not one man who took part in the debates had any other idea than that the Constitution gave us power to enforce awards when they were once made. I hope the Government will do something toredeem the promise to which I have referred, and find some means to avert trouble on this score, particularly in such times as these.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr. JUSTICE HARVEY.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Marketing of Tin
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon, notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Professional Officers’ Award: Preference to .Soldiers
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What is the reason why the award of the Arbitration Court relating to the professional officers of the Commonwealth Public Service has not been applied to the officers of the Commonwealth Railways Branch?
– The award only classified certain stated positions, and only deals with members of the claimant organization, which, it is understood, does not embrace any Commonwealth railway officers. In any case, Parliament, in the Commonwealth Railways Act, has vested in Che Commonwealth Railways Commissioner the power of determining the salaries, wages, and allowances of Commonwealth railway employees
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The internment of the persons referred to is not intended as a method of punishment, but is undertaken solely as a precautionary measure, for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare of the country. It is not intended to release the persons referred to. As regards the question of the absence of other Wran formal evidence on their behalf, it may be mentioned that at the recent inquiry Mr. Justice Harvey gave the internees an opportunity to give evidence on their own behalf, and promised that they would not be required to answer any questions which they feared might tend to incriminate them; but they did not avail themselves of the opportunity.
– Oh the 27th September the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
In the Argus of Tuesday, Admiral Clarkson is reported to have said that there are 277,460 tons of coal in Victoria - I presume imported from New South Wales - and that the present cost of the coal is 35.46s. With the appliances which lie intends to erect, the cost will be reduced to 28.77s. Do the figures refer to the cost of coal delivered in Melbourne? At Newcastle the coal costs only 15s. per ton f.o.b.
The reply is as follows : -
On the 27th September the honorable member for Hunter asked me a question in. regard to a statement which appeared an the Argus, wherein the Controller of Shipping was reported to have said that there were 277,460 tons of coal in Victoria, and that the present cost of the coal was 35.46s., and that, with the appliances which he intended to erect, the cost would be reduced to 28.77s. I have since been advised by the Controller of Shipping that he made no such statement. The honorable member has apparently confused the figures, which, instead of being shillings, are pence, and evidently refer to the cost of handling, and not to the cost of the coal. The remarks in the press relate to figures supplied by the Melbourne Harbor Trust, and not by the Controller of Shipping.
-On the 27th September the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked -
Can a statement be furnished, without undue labour and expense, showing the total number of temporary clerical employees in the service of the Commonwealth as on the 30th June, 1918?
The answer is as follows: -
On the 27th September I informed the honorable member for Batman, in reply to a question, that information was being prepared showing the total number of temporary clerical employees now in the Commonwealth service as on the 30th June, 1918. I have now ascertained that the total number of temporary clerical employees on the date mentioned was 1,087.
– On the 20th September, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) asked -
Honorable members know that the sailing ship Jahn Murray, purchased by the Commonwealth from the Government of Victoria, was wrecked; Did the Government insure the vessel, or are they carrying their own insurance? If it was not insured, will any action be taken as regards the person responsible for that not being done? If the Minister has not a reply ready now, will he, on the next day of sitting, give me the information which I desire?
The reply is - i
On the 20th September, the honorable member for Yarra asked the Acting Prime Minister a question as to whether the John Murray was insured. I have since ascertained that the John Murray was included in the insurance scheme under which the Commonwealth Government line of steamers carries all the risks of the vessels owned and managed by that line. An insurance fund was inaugurated for the purpose.
– On the 27th September, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) asked -
Is the Acting Minister for the Navy able to give us the names of the Inter-State traders which are to be taken over by the Commonwealth, and the terms on which they will be taken over?
The answer is -
On the 27th September, the honorable member for Franklin asked me a question in regard to Inter-State vessels requisitioned by the Commonwealth. I now lay on the Table of the House a list showing the names of the Inter-State vessels which have been requisitioned by the Controller of Shipping under Statutory Rules No. 87. The terms upon which these vessels were taken over are contained in the schedule to the Statutory Rules referred to.
The following is a list of the vessels: -
Ashridge, Arawatta, Aramac, Age, Alabama, Aeon, Auchinish, Beulah, Bulga, Barwon, Buninyong, Burwah, Bombala, Camira,Chillagoe, Corio, Ceduna,Cantara,Chronos, Cooma, Dilkera, Dimboola, Excelsior, Five Islands, Gabo, Goulburn,Hexham, Hobart, Iron Monarch, Junee, Karitane, Koonya, Kapara, Kadina, Kilbaha, Koonda, Komura, Kooyong, Kooringa, Lammeroo, Leura, Maianbar, Morialta, Macedon, Mallina, Moira, Moorabool.Monaro, Melbourne, Marjorie, Nardoo, Omana, Paringa, Perth, Period, Rupara, Saros, Tarcoola, Time, Taviuni, Tintenbar,Urilla, Victoria, Wallarah, Wyandra, Wodonga, Werribee, Woolgar, Wear, Yankalilla, Yarra
Employed at Reduced Wages.
– On the 20th September, the honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked me a question, on notice, in regard to the employment of returned soldiers by private employers at reduced rates of wages. I then promised to make inquiries in the matter, and have now obtained the following information from the Minister for Repatriation:-
A number of men have been placed for training in private workshops who receive an amount of money made up in the manner suggested by the honorable member. This arrangement was arrived at by a conference, convened by the Minister for Repatriation, between representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures and the Trades Halls of the various States, to consider the conditions under which injured soldiers could be trained in industries to which their incapacity offers no bar, or a temporary one only.
Under this arrangement, returned soldiers may now, subject to the approval of the Department of Repatriation, enter industrial establishments for training in the proportion of one to six of the fully-paid journeymen continuously employed at the trade in the establishment concerned.
The Department of Repatriation guarantees that the minimum wage will be paid to all trainees. The trainee’s efficiency is re-assessed at regular intervals by a district committee, consisting of a chairman appointed by the Minister, two representatives of the employers in the trade of the trainee, and two representatives of the union covering the trade or calling concerned, and the employer pays on this assessment.
In case of the absence of a trainee from duty, if an employer decides not to pay his own contribution, that of the Department of Repatriation also stops. If a trainee feels aggrieved at a decision in this regard, he has the right to appeal to the Soldiers’ State Industrial Committee, which is composed of representatives of the Manufacturers’ Association and the Trades Hall and an independent chairman appointed by the Minister.
The amount paid by the employer is the full value of the trainee’s labour, while the man is taught a trade which enables him eventually to become a full-wage earner. Employers derive no advantage from the presence of trainees in their establishment, but the co-operation of employersin the provision of training facilities lightens the cost of the vocational scheme to the Commonwealth, while at the same time it broadens the area of opportunity for the maimed soldier.
– On the 20th September., the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked -
The reply is as follows: -
– On the 20th September, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked -
In view of the replies given to the questions of the honorable member for Brisbane by Mr. Fisher, as Prime Minister, on the 16th July, 1915, and by Mr. Hughes, as Prime Minister, on the 14th March, 1917 -That the practice of using the national flag and national emblems for trade and advertising purposes would be investigated -
Whether any definite action has been taken by the Government in the matter?
Has the attention of the Minister been called to the fact that the following trade advertisements, amongst others, are at present being published, in which the national flags and emblems are used: - Lippett’s Wines, Foster’s Lager; Johnnie Walker Whisky, John Bull Oats, Fluxite?
Does the Government propose to put a stop to this?
The answer is that the matter was fully considered by the Prime Minister, but it was found impracticable to frame any legislation or regulation to prevent the use by traders of advertisements suggesting loyalty and zeal for the Allied cause.
Statements by Mr. Clement Giles.
– With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr, Sampson), on the 18th September, regarding the statement made by Mr. Clement Giles, the wheatgrowers’ representative on the Australian Wheat Board - that he was informed, while in London, in August or September, 1915, that an offer of over 1,000,000 tons of freight had been made at 75s. per ton to the Federal Government and refused - I have received the following report from the manager of the Australian Wheat Board, with an indorsement by Mr. W. J. Young, of Elder, Smith, and Company, that the report correctly sets out the position as regards the regulations -
At a recent Wheat Board Conference, an allegation made publicly by Mr. Giles, that 1,000,000 tons of freight available for wheat in 1915 had been “ turned down,” was discussed. Subsequently Mr. Giles exonerated the Wheat Board from responsibility for failure to secure the alleged freight, but stated that a definite offer of 1,000,000 tons at 75s. per ton had been refused.
When the question was asked in the House as to the correctness of the statement that 1,000,000 tons had been refused, I consulted Mr. Alfred Bright, of the chartering agents, and the Prime Minister’s Department; neither Mr. Bright nor the Prime Minister’s Department had heard of the alleged offer, nor was there any record, or had anything been heard of it, in this office. I, therefore, telephoned the Prime Minister’s Department that the statement was quite incorrect (or used words to that effect). In answering the question in the House, Mr. Hughes gave the allegation an emphatic denial.
Mr. Giles afterwards informed me that his informant was Mr. Clark, who was in charge of Elder, Smith, and Company’s Chartering Department in London.
I consulted Mr. Walter Young, who then gave me the following information, of which Mr. Bright was ignorant, as the’ negotiations had occurred before the establishment of the chartering organization: -
Elder, Smith, and Company, on their own behalf, started negotiations- entirely on their own account - with freight contractors in Great Britain.
The best proposal obtainable was to charter 1,000,000 tons, subject to liners (not then under requisition) and all Government transports being controlled and brought into the venture.
Freight proposed was 82s.6d. net.
Contractors were to have first refusal of supplying further tonnage at same rate.
Contractor’s profit or loss was to be limited to 10 per cent.
In the event of loss, contractors were to receive 2½ per cent, commission for services rendered.
Where out and home-time chartering was necessary, whole voyage was to be taken into consideration, including financing and expenses. 8.Mr. Young put the result of the above negotiations verbally before Mr. W. M. Hughes (then Attorney-General), who decided that there was no basis for consideration.
Mothers of ex-Nuptial Children.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked for information as to the intention of the Government with regardto placing the mothers of exnuptial children on the same footing as widowed mothers. The rule of the Defence Department is as follows : -
Separation allowance is payable at. the rate of 2s. per diem for a woman who stands in the same relationship as a wife to the soldier concerned, provided that the woman has been entirely dependant upon the soldier for her maintenance and would otherwise be destitute. In such cases proof is required that the soldier- was living with the woman to whom payment is to be made on a bona fide permanent domestic basis. Separation allowance at the rate of 6d. per diem is also paid for each child under the age of 16 years of a soldier and his unmarried wife when in charge of its mother. In these cases, the soldier must allot two-fifths or three-fifths of his pay respectively to his unmarried wife.
– In reference to a question asked on Thursday last by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) about the equipping of military hospitals with proper spinal beds, I have ascertained that at every hospital where proper spinal beds are required these can be obtained without difficulty, and have been obtained wherever necessary. The beds have been provided by the Red Cross Society and private donations, but, if any difficulty should be found in this respect, can be obtained from Ordnance Stores.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked -
Whether it is a fact that a question was asked in the Queensland Legislative Assembly by Mr. Whitford, member for Burrum, as to the correctness of a, report that on returned soldiers applying for employment at the Acetate of Lime Factory, Bulimba, they were asked if they belonged to a union, and on replying in the affirmative, were told that they were not wanted?
I have been informed that the manager of the works at the Acetate, of Lime Factory, Bulimba, advises that returned soldiers are engaged by him on their likely suitability for the work. No question as to their belonging to a union or not is ever asked by him of the applicant.
– Some days ago the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked me if I would lay on the table, of the Library the papers relating to an importation of jute , by the s.s. Durban. I have consulted with the Minister who controls the importation of -jute, and have laid the papers on the Library table.
Omissions From “Hansard.”
Debate resumed from 27th September (vide page 6497) of motion by Mr. Groom -
That, during the progress of the present war, Mr. Speaker be, and is hereby authorized, at his discretion, to direct the omission from Hansard of any remarks made in the House of Representatives in the course of debate, or in any other proceedings in. the House of Representatives, to which his attention may be directed by the Law Officers of the Crown as being calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.
.- I am surprised at the indifference of Ministerial supporters to a motion, which has for its object the curtailment of the privileges of members. At the present time a member has the right to express freely his views and the views of his constituents. As the views of the constituencies differ widely on various questions - there is, for instance, often a difference on many questions between city and country constituencies - the views to which utterance is given in Parliament also differ widely. But hitherto a member has been at liberty to express any view which he desires to make public. Should the motion be carried, this liberty of speech will be taken away, and some members will be prevented from stating their own convictions and the opinions of their constituents. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) strongly opposed the motion, arid he was followed by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). The constituencies which these gentlemen represent differ widely in character and in their political views j but it seemed to me to be in bad taste for the honorable member for Kooyong, remembering what his opinions are upon a certain question, to reply to the honorable member for Batman as he did. One objection I have to the motion is that it provides for the censoring of parliamentary speeches by the Law Officers of the Crown. I have nothing against these gentlemen personally, but I hold the opinion that a legal man is the most incompetent person that could be chosen to act as a parliamentary censor. The law is a profession which makes a man very Conservative. With the lawyer everything is settled by precedent; he is opposed to anything that seems to him new. Again, the motion places Mr. Speaker in an invidious position, because it compels him to order the elimination from a speech of any passage which the Law Officers of the Crown may think should be eliminated. I look upon the motion as an insult to this Parliament. It will go forth to the Empire that in Australia the representatives of the people are not thought fit to be allowed to give free expression to their opinions, and their speeches have to be submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown in order that passages considered out of accord with the sentiments of the electors may be struck out. We boast of our Democracy, and yet it ia proposed that the Crown Law officers shall say what in our speeches is” to be published. There was a long Caucus meeting of Ministerialists just before the resumption of our sittings, and I feel confident that many of them were not in favour of this proposal. But they have to remain dumb dogs ; they cannot bark now. How are public questions to be dealt with if the views of members are not to be permitted free expression ? No Opposition has been more loyal to the Presiding Officers, although these were chosen by its opponents, than the present Opposition, which has unquestionably complied with every decision of the Chair as to what was or was not within the rules .of debate. No Opposition has ever been more ready to help the Government in the conduct of public business. If there must be some tribunal to decide what shall, and what shall not, appear in Hansard, it ought to be, not the Crown Law Department, but men who, by reason of their parliamentary knowledge and experience, can judge fairly” what remarks ought to be censored. Every honorable member who votes for this motion will regret it some day. The representatives of the people above all others should have the fullest opportunity of expressing their thoughts. Without that liberty what is Parliament 1 Already under existing powers some speeches in Parliament have been censored, and in some cases rightly so. Therefore, there is no necessity for this motion. Whenever any measure or proposal is brought before Parliament, the Minister introducing it states the reasons for so doing, but the Minister who introduced this motion did not say one word or quote one concrete case in justification of it. When Parliament is asked to take action there should be some justification in either past or prospective circumstances. No honorable member who is anxious to preserve the rights and privileges of Parliament can vote for a motion of this character. If the Government could convince me that such power as they are seeking is necessary, I might be induced to concede it, but not to the Crown Law officers. The Speaker even now has power to remove from Hansard anything which, in hia opinion, should not appear. Or it is competent for the Staff to represent to Mr. Speaker that certain matters should not be published, and Mr. Speaker can then submit the matter to the House. In this way Parliament would retain control of its own affairs. I guarantee that not one member of the British Parliament would give t to an outside authority power to censor parliamentary debates. Certainly, men.’like the late Charles Cameron Kingston would have availed . themselves of every Opportunity provided by the usage of Parliament to resist a motion of this character. What is the value of an Opposition unless it has power to criticise the actions of the Government? Do we not know that things are being done to-day by the Government, which, but for the war, the Opposition would not permit to be done? Is the object of this motion to prevent us from criticising the Government’s expenditure proposals, or the flagrant injustices they are allowing to be perpetrated on some of our soldiers ? What is the object of the motion if it is not to stifle the voices of honorable members on this side? It cannot be directed against the Ministerial supporters, because they are silent; they have not the courage to criticise the Government, and but for the speeches of Opposition members, Hansard would be a very small production. Honorable members “ opposite follow behind the Government as a lap dog follows a lady. There is some ulterior motive behind this proposal. There are very few statesmen amongst the Ministerialists, but there are a few politicians, and politicians always keep their minds on the next election. It appears to me that one of the objects of the motion is to enable the National party at the next election to bring a charge of disloyalty against any honorable member who, in his desire to preserve the privileges of Parliament, and to see justice done to the people, votes against the Government’s proposal. No honorable member will submit to the whip, and if injustices are perpetrated, this motion will not prevent us from exposing our view of such things. Nobody is less acquainted with the functions and privileges of Parliament than are the officers of the Crown Law Department, and we shall be placing Mr. Speaker in a humiliating position if we give to those officers the power to direct him to have removed from Hansard any portion of an honorable member’s remarks. Whether publication of a particular utterance or passage is wise or unwise must always be a matter of opinion. One member of the Ministerial party told me that one of the objects of this motion, as explained at the party meeting, was to. enable Ministerialists at the next election to bring a . charge of disloyalty against those who opposed it. Honorable members ought to know what statements are to be erased from Hansard. I have noticed in the press a report of a meeting held at Eaglehawk in connexion with the price of meat, at which it was said that it was not possible for the Government to interfere with the pastoral industry, because of the support they were getting from it. That statement was perfectly true; the Government dare not do anything to offend the pastoral interests who are so much behind them; but if I made it in this chamber it would be struck out of my speech because it would be considered to be detrimental to the conduct of the war. The Law Officers might consider it to be detrimental to recruiting. They must act in accordance with the wishes of the Government of the day.
No honorable member should record a vote which will deprive him of privileges. I am quite satisfied that the Government are acting in a party spirit in submitting this motion, otherwise they would have advanced some valid reason for it. Possibly it has been brought forward with a view to testing the feeling of honorable members of the Opposition in regard to another motion, which has for its purpose the curtailment of the time to be allowed for debate. Our Standing Orders have been framed with the object of giving every honorable member a fair opportunity of being heard; but the Government propose to curtail that privilege, and by the motion now under considera tion they seek to take the control of Hansard from the House and Mr. Speaker, with whom it has rested since the establishment of Federation. This is the first occasion on which any step has been taken to detract from that privilege, and no valid reason has been advanced for it. Of course, every Government likes to rush its measures through; but there should be a limit to the means of giving effect to that desire. An honest Government does not fear criticism. No Government is perfect, and no Government Bill is perfect. There is no measure which is so much in the interests of the people as that which has been subjected to criticism by an Opposition. It is only when a Bill is subjected to fair criticism that anomalies can be discovered in it. It is only by the criticism of Bills that a Government’s want of capacity can be determined. Every measure brought forward in the British Parliament has to be submitted to the ordeal of criticism from the Opposition.
– There is nothing like this in the British House.
– There is some culture in the British Government; there is none in the Commonwealth Government. No Ministry ever existed so indifferent to the wants of the people as that which holds office to-day. Can any honorable member point out how this motion will help to win the war, or be of benefit to the people of Australia? It can be nothing but a blot upon this House, preventing honorable members from giving adequate expression to the will of the people. Possibly, there are among members of the Opposition some who are thorns in the side of the Government. If this motion is to be used for the purpose of picking out those few thorns it will not redound to the credit of the Ministry. I have studied for many years the procedure of the British Parliament and State Parliaments. Every honorable member must realize the struggle that has taken place to secure the privileges which we enjoy, and it is due to every honorable member in this House to study the position well before giving his vote upon a motion which seeks to deprive us of those privileges.
– What special privileges does the honorable member refer to?
– I have no desire to be robbed of the privilege of being able to express the views of people I represent. My constituency is a city one. The cities are the breeding ground of democratic ideals. In representing the views of a city constituency, I may be found to be more advanced in my ideas than honorable members who represent country constituencies, but yet my words may be struck out of Hansard because they do not appeal to the representative of some suburban or country constituency. I really think that honorable members should give the motion a little more consideration. Ministerial members have possibly discussed the matter in their room, and come into the chamber prepared to vote for it, but I believe that “there are some of them who are not in accord with it, and I appeal to them not to support it. The Government have advanced no concrete case or reason for asking for the power which the motion seeks to give. If, in the excitement of debate, an honorable member makes a statement which ought to be left out of Hansard, then by all means let the Hansard Staff, through Mr. Speaker, draw attention to it. On many occasions since the 17th May, 1917, Mr. Speaker has drawn attention to remarks made by honorable members with regard to the Governor-General or to our Allies to which exception might be taken, and in every instance his request for omission has been complied with. It is a credit to the House that I am able to make such a statement regarding the attitude of honorable members. My statement cannot be denied, and I ask, therefore, why this motion has been brought forward unless it is to serve some ulterior motive.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing motives.
– I am not speaking in a personal sense; I am dealing with the Government as a corporate body. This motion displays a lack of wisdom on the part of the Ministry. I strongly object to the proposal to vest this power in the Law Officers of the Crown. They should not have power to dictate to Parliament. Lawyers are the enemies of Democracy, and have been the curse of the British Parliament. There are too many of them on the other side, and this motion displays on the part of the Government a state of mind that demands their im- mediate removal from office. Are we to ask the people at the next general election to return us to a Parliament, our speeches in which may be censored by the Crown Law officers ? Law officers may be good judges of criminals, but they are bad judges of speeches. I honestly regard this as a dangerous proposal. It has been put forward to serve an object that has not been disclosed, and which the Government and their supporters have not the courage to make public.
– Will the honorable member say that-
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) has no cause for worry. He and his class have just now the opportunity of their lives. The Government have appointed fifty-six individuals closely connected- with the wool industry to watch over their interests, and the Government have not as much voice in the management of the wool industry as one could squeeze out of a newspaper. Every Government Department is practically being handed over to the control of committees of outside persons.
I shall always protest against any curtailment of the privileges of Parliament; any interference with the rights of the representatives of the people. I shall always object to honorable members being deprived of the opportunity to give full expression to their views. If . this motion be carried honorable members will not be able to speak with the freedom which they now enjoy, and before they are much older those on the Government side of the House will agree that I was correct in urging them to vote against this proposition. Their party will not always be in power, and there may come a time when this motion may be used against them. Even the present Government may use it against some of their own supporters. Six months before election time many members are disposed to jib against the Government which they have been supporting, and if that occurs a few months hence this motion will be used with great effect. Honorable members may desire to make statements in the best interests of the country, but it will be said by the Government that they ought not to be published, and on the mere ipse dixit of the Crown Law officers portions of their speeches will be omitted from Hansard. Not one member of the Ministry has uttered a word of justification for the motion, and I contend that
Parliament should not be deprived of any privilege without ample reason being given for it. Mr. Deakin, Mr. Fisher, the late Mr. C. C. Kingston, and the late Sir William Lyne would not have dreamt of submitting such a proposal to Parliament. . They proved themselves brainy men in this House, and it is only men of a lower calibre that would father such a mot-ion as this. I am satisfied that the leaders of thought in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth would not have tolerated such a proposition. I had the pleasure of being personally acquainted with them, and I know that they were high-minded men. Are there no high-minded men on the Government side of the House to-day ? Cannot honorable members opposite rise to the occasion and realize how important it is that this motion should be negatived ? There are times when plain speaking is necessary, and when, for the protection of the people, an honorable member must give free expression to his views. If this motion, which springs from ‘ narrowmindedness, be carried, however, that will be no longer possible.
When it goes forth to the Empire that such a motion as this has been tabled here, very little will be thought of the National Parliament of Australia. People will come to the conclusion that the minds of those in authority are very small, and that their conception of their responsibility shows them to be unfit to hold office. I am, quite satisfied that when I vote against this motion I shall only be doing my duty to myself arid my constituents. The Government have no right to cast this reflection on the Opposition, simply because criticism is offered of the present Administration. The safety of any country depends largely on the presence of a strict and stern Opposition in the Parliament.
– There will be no censoring of the honorable member’s speeches.
– I have no fear of any action being taken by the Crown Law authorities in regard to my speeches, and I am satisfied the same may be said of a number of honorable members on this side. I do not object- to the motion because of any fear that I shall make statements likely to endanger the Empire. God forbid that I should, for I would rather be turned out of Parliament at once if I thought there was any fear of such a thing. My honest opinion is that when the Government decided to table this motion they had not given it the consideration it required. If I have failed to convince my colleagues, and honorable members generally, of the danger of a motion of the kind, the only effect of which can be to rob Parliament of its privileges, it is because my language is not equal to the occasion. It is a dangerous motion, and it will recoil on the heads of those who introduced it. It will not add one soldier to our Forces, or a single sovereign to the war fund; indeed, it will do nothing to assist in our paramount object of winning the war. Further, it will engender feelings in the community that ought not to exist, and it ought to meet with the direct opposition of every member of the National Parliament.
.- One of the gravest reasons for opposing the motion is that the Government have made out no case for such a serious interference with the traditional rights of a British Parliament. It seeks to interfere with the privileges of Parliament, which have always been recognised as the greatest bulwark of British nationality. The difference between a British community and most other communities lies in the fact that we . have self-government, and ‘we pride ourselves on the fact that the people, through their elected representatives, can give expression to their desires and aspirations. The British parliamentary institution is founded on the fact that the common people have the right to elect their men to Parliament to decree the laws by which the country shall be governed; and that this may be given effect to in a proper and logical way, it has always been laid down by the mother of Parliaments, the British House of Commons, that an elected member shall have the full right and privilege to say that which he desires on behalf of those who- elect him. In the British House of Commons no restriction whatever is placed on the ideals that may be advanced, so long as these ideals’ are couched in proper parliamentary language. The British Parliament is at the seat of the Government which has the conduct of the war, and is only a short distance from the scene of hostilities; and although the Old Country is honeycombed with German agencies and spies of enemy countries, it has never been thought fit to attempt to introduce a proposal of this kind there. So jealous is the British community of the privileges of parliamentary institutions that they would never dream of interfering with them. The history of the fight in Britain to obtain the present system of government has come down through the ages, and the freedom at present enjoyed, which has been bought with the life-blood of many hundreds of brave reformers and pioneers, has been handed to us as a sacred trust, and we must ever defend the right of the people to govern themselves in the way they decide. It is the duty in any Parliament of .a British community to see that that trust is observed inviolate, for it lies at the very base of the British parliamentary system. There is the right in all British communities to give free expression to public opinion in Parliament. If there were not this freedom of speech, we should not be able t/> have that free discussion which gives the correct reflex of the minds of members. Under the motion, if a member rises in Parliament, and expresses certain views which may displease, not Parliament - and this is the most dangerous feature - but some officer in the Crown Law Department, his speech may be censored; because some Crown Law official, who is a servant of the Government of the day, does not approve of the remarks of some honorable member, the attention of Mr. Speaker may be directed to them as imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth, as calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign Powers, and to interfere with the successful prosecution of the war. Such wide interpretation can be placed on these conditions that, especially in a time of wai-, almost anything that a member may say could be construed into a breach of one or other of them. The Leader of the Government has already publicly stated that the safety of not only the Commonwealth, but of the Empire and the Allies, depends upon the introduction of conscription; the Government have clearly indicated that in their opinion, if conscription is not made the law of this land, there is danger of the Empire tottering down1 around us. If it be the intention of the Government to introduce conscription during this session, the motion presents one of the greatest means by which they can carry it without discussion. All the Government need to do after they carry this motion, and doubtless they will be able to do so with the brutal majority which has already settled the question-
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw the expression, and will describe the Government’s majority as a most docile one, which has already decided in the Caucus ‘room that the motion should be carried. After it is carried, the Government may introduce a measure to impose conscription, and they will also, by means of another motion on the business-paper, limit the time for discussion of any business that may be declared urgent. This is what would then happen ; and here is the exposure of the plot. The measure for the imposition of conscription would be brought in, and declared an urgent measure. The Government would say, “ This Bill has been brought in for the safety of the Commonwealth.”
-The honorable member will not be in order in anticipating the discussion on another motion:
– If I show that the Government is likely to declare that the imposition of conscription is for Hie safety of the Commonwealth- .
– The honorable member cannot know what the Government is likely to declare.
– Well, the motion is to apply to language likely to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. Suppose that I, in the House, point out that it is against the interests of the country to introduce any form of military conscription, a Government servant in the Crown Law Office may immediately direct the attention of Mr. Speaker to my remarks as calculated to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. This interference with f reedom of speech seems to be the real reason for the motion; the Government has given no other reason. What evidence is there of disloyalty ? What utterances have been heard in this chamber calculated to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth, to interfere with the prosecution of the war, or to do any of the things spoken of in the motion?’ Do not Ministers see that the motion is a serious reflection on them? Is it not equivalent to a declaration that they have allowed disloyalty to become rampant; that for four years they have permitted statements calculated to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth to pass unchallenged?
Could a greater condemnation of their conduct of the affairs of the country be uttered by any member on this side than that conveyed by the motion itself? The war has been raging for now over four years, but no necessity has been shown to exist for interfering with the traditional rights of a British Parliament. Before the House takes such a serious step as to carry the motion, the Government should give strong reasons for it. I have shown that in the Mother of Parliaments it has not been attempted to pass any such motion.
– You have said so.
-I challenge the Postmaster-General or any other honorable member to show that a similar motion has been moved in the British House of Commons.
– They have not had the reasons that we have had for moving it.
– That is the crux of the position. Will the honorable member for Hindmarsh give us the reasons? Will he give definite instances?
– The honorable member knows them.
– I do not. There have been idle mouthings on the subject by the honorable member, but they count for noting in such a serious moment as this. Definite cases must be produced. But what honorable member behind the Government can mention an utterance by any member on this side calculated to do any of the things mentioned in the motion ?
– Then why do. you make such a song about the motion ?
– The honorable member should be the last to ask that. The traditional rights of a British Parliament are being infringed. The liberty of the elected representatives of the people to express their views freely in the P arlliament of the country is being taken away.
– The motion has nothing to do with that.
– It has everything to do with it; no side-tracking will prevent that from being plainly seen. The difference between British and many other communities is that the people of British communities are permitted to govern themselves, and their representatives in Parliament assembled have the right to ex press their views freely. This is the safety-valve of British communities. In countries where the people have not the right of free speech that we enjoy, they are forced to take violent steps to remedy the disabilities under which they labour.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 745 p.m.
– The Government have absolutely failed to make out a case for the adoption of this motion. They can refer to no parallel in any British Parliament. The Mother of Parliaments - the British House of Commons - has not seen fit to adopt this course. The Canadian Parliament has not found such a censorship’ necessary, although there are in Canada more diverse political and racial elements than are to be found in Australia. Statements likely to interfere with the successful conduct of the waT, or imperil the safety of the nation, would be more likely to be made in a country with a mixed population such as Canada has, but the Canadian Government have not proposed to interfere with the traditional rights of Britishers to decide in Parliament that which they believe to be in the best interests of the people. Honorable members are familiar with the. circumstances existing in South Africa, and one would naturally think that there, if anywhere, such a proposal might be required. Yet, even in that country, notwithstanding great differences of opinion - to use a mild term - the Government of the day respect the traditional rights and privileges inherent in the British parliamentary system. In no. British community has the adoption of such a motion been considered necessary, and it has remained for the Government of the Commonwealth to propose that the official records of Parliament shall be submitted to a censor. We know from bitter experience how the censorship has worked. Ordinary electioneering propaganda has been stifled by the censor, and, knowing that, how can we expect, if we adopt this motion, to get anything like a fair deal from the censor. No British Parliament would submit to the censoring of its proceedings. Surely this Parliament is capable of managing its own affairs, and of controlling the conduct of its own members. The Government supporters, with the generous assistance which the Opposition are always prepared to give to enable them to do that which is right, are surely capable” of conducting their business without the interference of some jack-booted military autocrat. The proposal reeks of the mustiness of past ages. In fancy one can almost hear the clanking of the old-time chains. We are back in the dark ages when to speak one’s mind was a crime, and when the reward of the reformer, or any one who was opposed to the powers of the day, or who stood for progress, was the dungeon or the gallows. This proposal strikes at the very root of our system of parliamentary government, and, in all seriousness, I ask honorable members to pause and consider carefully before they attempt to interfere with the traditional rights of Parliament. The Government say that it is necessary to prevent the publication of seditious utterances. I am prepared to agree that disloyal utterances should not be allowed to go broadcast while the country is at war, but the Government’s motion reminds one very forcibly of the story of the Chinaman who burnt down his house in order to roast a pig. The censoring of dangerous utterances in Parliament can be easily and simply dealt with by the House it-‘ self. If we are not careful of what we are doing, the people will become disgusted with the parliamentary system; they will say that no longer is the system” of any use to them, and we may find ourselves in the position of many European peoples who have no parliamentary system or constitutional methods of bringing about reform. Such people are forced to adopt other methods to obtain that which they believe to be in the interests of their country. The Government might well reconsider these proposals, in order to discover if some other way cannot be found to deal with disloyalty, if such a thing exists in this House. If it does exist, surely the House is capable of coping with it without allowing outside interference with the traditional rights of Parliament. Not one speaker has mentioned an instance of disloyal utterances by any honorable member in this House. Before the Government can justify the carrying of this motion, they must show that disloyalty does exist, that honorable members are engaged in promulgating seditious ideals, and are expressing opinions that will undermine the stability of the Empire and imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. The Government have utterly failed to do that. I believe that if the Government will calmly reflect upon this proposal, bearing in mind the history of the achievements under the British parliamentary system, they will recognise the wisdom of withdrawing it. What is to become of the expunged matter if the motion is adopted? Are the censored speeches to be destroyed, or will they be kept and incorporated in the permanent records after the conclusion of the war? The official records of Parliament cannot be correct if any portion of them has been deleted. If the Government, in their foolishness, are determined to pass this motion, I seriously ask them to at least see that the true records are preserved, so that after the war is over, and it can no longer be said that their publication can .be injurious, they may be incorporated in the permanent reports. If that is done, students of Australian history, who may desire in later years to learn what happened in the. Commonwealth during the war, will at least have complete and faithful records to guide them. I move as an amendment -
That the words “ at his discretion,” in line 3, be struck out, and the following inserted in lieu thereof : - “with the unanimous concurrence of the whole House.”
Amendment not seconded.
.- Nothing could be more farcical than the amendment which has just been submitted. The honorable member for Dalley gave his case away when he suggested that the dangerous utterances which may be made in the House during the course of debate should be reinstated in the records after the conclusion of the war. He thereby admitted that dangerous statements may be expected to be made.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member suggested that those statements which might have been dangerous when uttered should be reinstated when the danger has passed. I support the Government warmly in urging the adoption of the motion. It is made to appear from the other side of the House that the motion is to have general application, but such is not the case. It will have specific application only. There is such a thing as shutting the stable door after the horse has escaped. A remark made in this House and finding circulation in Hansard may do considerable damage. The Government have been twitted with having cited no cases that have occurred in the past justifying their bringing forward the motion, but I remember a speech delivered in this Chamber upon the right of the Italian Government to conscript Italians resident in Australia. So far as I know, it had no dangerous results, because the common sense of thi House was opposed to the honorable member, but it might have been better had certain remarks been deleted from Hansard. I have seen it stated that an honorable member was likely to be appointed representative; in the Commonwealth for a Government which was in distinct antagonism to the Empire and our Allies.
– It did not come off.
– It did not, but the very fact that there is in this Chamber an honorable member who is prepared to take the affirmation that he will serve his country loyally and truly, and at the same time is willing to take up the position of representative of an element which, for the time being, we regard as dangerous to the Empire, is quite sufficient justification for this motion. I have listened very patiently to several speeches from honorable members opposite, but I have not heard a single argument showing that there is danger in what is proposed to be done. The most loyal member of this House may, in the heat of debate or controversy, give utterance to something which it may be inadvisable to publish. That is the point. There is no need to regard the motion as reflecting on one side of the House or the other.
– Why should ‘the Law officers be the judges ?
– Authority is not vested in the Crown Law officers. They merely draw the attention of Mr. Speaker to any matter which they consider should not be printed in Hansard, and Mr. Speaker in his wisdom will decide whether any such statement made in the House is likely to prejudice the Government. When I speak of the Government, I refer to Parliament as a whole, which is the governing factor in this country. No honorable member can speak as an individual. He speaks as part of this House in its corporate capacity, and his utterances carry more weight than they would if he spoke as an individual. Therefore, every honorable member must observe the responsi bilities cast upon him and the oath of allegiance he took on entering the House. If honorable members are truly loyal to the welfare of the country and the Empire they will be careful not to say anything which may prejudice us with our Allies. Mr. Speaker is the custodian of the honour and dignity of the House, and I have enough confidence in him to believe that he will give as much consideration and justice to honorable members of the Opposition as he will give to honorable members on the Ministerial side.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the Crown Law officers having anything to do with speeches delivered in Parliament ?
– I am opposed to any honorable member saying foolish things.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjections. I have asked them to do so quite recently, and I do not expect that immediately afterwards another series of interjections will spring up. The practice is disorderly.
– There is always the possibility of things being said in the heat of debate which are better left unsaid, and in view of the seriousness of the position so far as the war is concerned, there should be some power vested in Mr. Speaker to prevent injurious statements going forth to the public and doing injury to the Empire and the nations with which we are allied.
– On a point of order, is the amendment in order?
– The amendment-has not been seconded, and is therefore not before the House.
.- I speak upon this motion with some reluctance, because I am inclined to the opinion of a very eloquent honorable member that, seeing that the Government are determined to abandon all the customs and traditions of Parliament, they might just as well be left to do as they jolly well please on the principle of “giving certain men enough rope.” The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) has made a reference to Russia and an honorable member of this House. I am reminded that the House of Commons has not attempted, nor is it likely to attempt, to do anything such as has been proposed by the Win- the-war Government. I hold the view that no honorable members have the right to suppress any of the reports of the speeches delivered in this Chamber. Speeches delivered by honorable members belong to their constituents. We have no right to come here representing constituencies and making speeches of which we are ashamed: Honorable members of the Win-the-war party are getting an undue sense of their importance; they hold the idea that what takes place in this House is likely to influence the great battles which are raging in another part of the world. It is only a member of the Win-the-war party who could imagine that a speech delivered by any honorable member in this House would be likely to endanger the relations of theBritish Government with our Allies. In order to show the difference between the treatment extended in this Democracy to honorable members and that which is given to opponents of the Government in the Old Country, I may mention that a speech delivered in the House of Commons by Arthur Lynch, M.P., was issued throughout Great Britain in a pamphletentitled “Lloyd George’s Failures, and the Cry for New Men,” issued by the Society for the Study of Republican Institutions. The pamphlet states -
The objects of the society are -
The study of Republican institutions.
The promotion of good relationship between the Democratic Republics of the world.
The propaganda of Republican principles and ideals.
The work of the society is strictly constitutional.
The pamphlet adds -
For further information write to -
The Secretary, 59 Sarsfeld-road, S.W., 12.
Would the representatives of the Government permit speeches delivered by myself or by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), or by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), or any honorable member on this side, to be circulated throughout Australia?
– Does the honorable member say that a speech of his has been prevented from circulation?
– The Censor cut so many passages out of a speech which I wished to circulate that I didnot think it worth while issuing the remaining portion of it. It is depressing to some of us who have been asking for free speech for a quarter of a century to find that in this Democracy of ours there is so little liberty of speech or action, and that the men who are responsible for this state of things are children of the Democracy. I refer to the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), and to others I could name who in the old days helped to build up the Labour movement in Australia, and ondozens of platforms, dozens of times, demanded that the public of Australia should have representation in the Parliaments of Australia; that every one should have one vote, and that no person should have more than one vote.
– We did not go in for rebel wash in those days.
– Is it rebel trash to ask that leave should be permitted to have the speeches we make in this House reported in Hansard and circulated amongst our constituents and the general public? I do not think it is, and I am surprised that any one should be prepared to support the Government proposals.
I should like now to quote a brief passage from the address by Mr. Arthur Lynch, M.P., in order to show honorable members the class of criticism that is permitted in the House of Commons.
– It is a free Parliament.
– Quite so. There we have a free Parliament. Mr. Lynch, in his speech, delivered in the House of Commons, discussed the failures of the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, and, looking through the records, I find that he was by no means the only member who has discussed the incompetence of British Cabinet Ministers and the failures of some of the British Generals. He said -
The disasters which we are now suffering the Prime Minister has imputed to the defection of Russia, and that is treated in some quarters as in the nature of what, in coroner’s language, is called an act of God. The defect of Russia was not even an accident. It was in great part brought about by that same kind of incapacity which has always presided over the acts of our successive Governments. The defection of Russia was in part brought about because, upon the first mutterings of the storm in that country, instead of showing that prevision which we have a right to demand, instead of being accurately informed, our representatives saw and heard nothing, knew nothing, except their own rooted prejudices and their own reactionary ideas. They saw Russia struggling in the midst of a mighty movement, and the Government sent the worst Ambassador they could have chosen, one who almost ruined South Africa when it was ready to accept conciliation, by his reactionary notions, his firmness in wrong ideas, and his incapacity to see the light. I refer to the ruinous persistence in the ruinous ideals of Lord Milner. That was no accident. The feeling of Russia against this country was brought about by the revolt of the people against Lord Milner’s interference.
There was no attempt to censor that statement, nor was there any attempt to omit from the records Mr. Lynch’s criticism ofField Marshal Haig, whom he described as a failure. Mr. Lynch some months before had criticised General Haig, and had asked that he might be recalled. In this speech he proceeded to say-
I will deal with the records of Field Marshal Haig. Months ago in this House I suggested that he should be retired. I say that suggestion stands to my honour to-day, for had he been retired then the military situation could not have been worse, and the lives of 500,000 men would have been saved.
The loss of all these lives was attributed by Mr. Lynch toField Marshal Haig’s incompetency. That statement, however, was not cut out of the House of Commons record. Mr. Lynch then proceeded to discuss other appointments made by the British Government, and he accused the Prime Minister of incapacity. Does any one believe that anything we might say would be likely to prejudice “ His Majesty’s relations with a foreign power” ? By the way, I wonder why the word “friendly” was hot used in the motion. Why did they use the word “ foreign “ ? I have no doubt that the Government carefully studied every word used in the motion. Are honorable members so timid that they fear to give utterance to any statement which might offend a foreign or enemy power? I cannot understand the objection of the Government.
Certain actions of the British Government have been mentioned in this House. Recently I mentioned something which appeared to me to be singular, and that was the arrangement that had been made with regard to wool, and which had the effect of preventing Japan from obtaining wool except by purchasing wool tops from the Colonial Combing and Weaving Company. I suppose that statement will be cut out of Hansard. I observe, also, that the British Government have asked that their metal contracts shall not be discussed in this Parliament. Why should they not be discussed? Some of us are coming to the conclusion that the producers of various commodities in this country ought to discuss the contracts that are being proposed. Why should we not discuss them? Honorable members ought to realize that a man on entering this House takes the responsibility of his utterances. If they are calculated to injure his country his constituents will deal with him.
– There are so many irresponsibles.
– Our constituents are not irresponsible. If the Government are foolish enough to take a wrong action, honorable members should be free to criticise that action, and to have their utterances recorded. Such criticism cannot do any injury to the Empire. The whole of our history goes to show that the freer and more open our discussions the better it is for the safety of the Empire. One of the objects of this very war is said to be to put a stop to secret diplomacy, but we have the Government proposing that we shall meet in this House and enter into a secret combination, and that our constituents shall not be allowed to know what we say here regarding matters of public concern. The Government, however, do not appear to care. Their programme is so reactionary and tyrannical that they would appear to have no regard for the traditions of public life in this country, and I suppose, therefore, that we shall have to put up with this action until the nextFederal election.
– In view of the announcement made this afternoon by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) as to the unconditional surrender of Bulgaria, we are all hopeful that the seriousness of the situation in Europe is almost over, and I would ask the Government whether they think it worth while, in the circumstances, to proceed with this motion. The only reason for it is the fear that some statement made in this House might, if published, cause dissension amongst the Allies. What harm could possibly be done by any statement made here ? The Acting Prime Minister will admit that statements appear in the official report of the House of
Commons, -which, if made in this House, would he censored. We are farther away from the scene of conflict than is the British Parliament, yet we are not allowed to make use of information at our disposal which ought to he disclosed. For instance, the shipping companies of Australia have manned three Australian ships with the coloured labour of a friendly Power. To this the seamen of Australia object. Coloured foreigners have actually been brought here as passengers, and have replaced the white crew of another vessel. Such an action is opposed to our view that the coastal vessels of Australia should be manned by white crews. A matter of this kind, which is of vast importance to my constituents, would be struck out of Hansard in the event of this motion being carried. We are not to ventilate it, because these coloured crews belong to a friendly Power. Surely we are to be allowed some liberty ? . Surely, as a representative of a Division in this House I may be allowed to place before the Parliament and people of Australia the fact that the shipping companies are obtaining cheap coloured crews from a friendly foreign Power? The Acting Prime Minister will not say that I am going beyond my province in mentioning this matter in order that it may be ventilated.
– Hear, hear!
– Yet,’ because a friendly Power might feel aggrieved at this statement, it will not be published. Again, British newspapers have widely published the terms of the secret treaties made between the Allies in 1915. They emphatically assert that it was because of these secret treaties of 1915 that the war was not concluded in 1916, when, according to Lloyd George, the Germans were howling for peace. If -that fact were mentioned in this House it would be censored. Why should we occupy in this respect a position different from that of members of the British Parliament ? Bc1 fore Italy could be induced to join the Allies, it was necessary, in connexion with these secret treaties, to promise’ her, not only the Trentino, but what is known as the irredeemable portion of the Austrian Empire, the Tyrol, as well as the whole of Dalmatia and the islands, a suzerainty over a large portion of Albania, and some thousands of square miles of territory in Asia Minor. Then, again, under these treaties, France was not only to get back the whole of Alsace-Lorraine, but a portion of the west bank of the Rhine, while another portion of the west bank of the river was to be made a buffer state. She was also to get a large part of Asia Minor. These are well-known facts, but are not allowed to be published here.
– They have been circulated in Australia.
– In monthly magazines. .
– In publications sanctioned by the British Government.
– I am confident that this portion of my remarks will not appear in Hansard.
– Not at all; - they are entirely wide of the issue.
– Unless the Government desire in some way to curtail the ventilation of facts of this character, I fail to understand why this motion is proposed. The war situation to-day is certainly not what it was when the motion was introduced. The Government, in the whirligig of time, may be on this side again, but I feel sure that our party would never attempt to prevent the Opposition ventilating their views. Of course, if members’ speeches were too protracted they might be gagged by our party, for I have always held that the majority should rule, and the minority not be permitted to retard the business of the country. However, as I have said, British newspapers and the British Hansard are full of material of which we are not allowed to speak and have printed here. Is it worth while the Government besmirching themselves by placing this motion on the records ? If I desire to explain to my constituents the true situation with regard to our Allies, and their association with Britain, with its effect on Australia, I ought to be allowed to do so. The Government possess great powers now in this connexion, and I- cannot see what further powers they require. Have they proposed this motion because they have found that in the past they have been using their present powers unconstitutionally ? Where is the necessity to still further buttress the ,powers relating to the suppression of speech 1 If there is nothing in the motion beyond what appears oh the surface, then this seems to be a very foolish act on the part of the Government and anything but statesmanlike at this time of day.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 6448), on motion by Mr. Watt: -
That the paper be printed.
.- This is the first opportunity I have had to lodge my protest against many actions of this Government. While one may conceive that in the fixing of prices the Government have met with some difficulties, their explanations are of very little use to heads of families and mothers of children who have not the wherewithal at the present time to satisfy the right of all Australian children to sufficient meat, bread, and groceries. However, before dealing with that matter, I should like, in a pleasant way I hope, to refer to the trouble about the flying of the red flag. If we look into history we find that that great superman, JuliusCaesar, used the red flag once on behalf of right, and for the benefit of the plebeians, who were the workers of ancient Rome. I hope sincerely that the efforts on behalf of the Seventh War Loan will result in subscriptions amounting to four times the amount needed; and further, that some of the rich patriots of Australia will follow the example of two unions who have lent £100 each free of interest, and hand over some of their thousands on the same terms. What is this loan flag ? There is no such flag flown on the seas, but it is curious to observe that the Government in advertising the Seventh War Loan, and as an inducement to people to subscribe, are issuing an honour flag, and that this flag consists of the Australian flag shown on a red flag. And, still more curious to relate, the Government are not content with that, but in the picture of this honour flag show the very halyards as coloured red. It will be seen that honour is paid to the red flag by making it the principal portion of the honour flag, in much the same way as the Union Jack - God bless it - is formed of three combined crosses.
I take it there is no member in the House whose heart does not beat in unison with the prayer of the Speaker at the opening of our proceedings for an honorable and lasting peace. But how are we treating the men who come back from the Front? How are we treating their dependants, women, and children? I say that their treatment is an infamy and a disgrace. This is not altogether blameable on the Ministry, but there are some men who ought to be dismissed when they make inexcusable mistakes. There can be no need for cases such as I am going to mention. The first is that of a woman with three children, who received sudden notice that no more money would be paid to her, as her husband, who is at the Front, had been absent without leave. These are the sort of cases I have to meet every time I ask for volunteers. In the one under notice, after a cablegram had been sent out and inquiries made, it was found, through the Commanding Officer some nine months afterwards, that this man had not been absent one day from the fighting line. Why is not an example made of those responsible for these mistakes?
To come to another matter. When God grants to any woman the sacred gift of motherhood, and she brings a child into the world whose father is cowardly enough not to acknowledge him, and that child grows to man’s estate, and the mother gives him to fight for his country, she is treated differently from the married mother. This Parliament, to its honour, has struck out from every Commonwealth law the word “ illegitimate,” using in its stead the word “ ex-nuptial.” Does the Minister for Defence think that the hearts of the mothers of ex-nuptial children do not bleed like other mothers’ hearts when their sons are killed or wounded ? Yet these mothers are not to receive pensions ; and in this way a few paltry pence are saved ! It is contemptible and un-Australian. The people of this country desire that our soldiers and their dependants shall all be treated alike. I hope that Parliament will say to the Ministry that every mother who has given a son to the war shall be treated in the same way.
To-day I asked the Acting Prime Minister the following questions: -
I was told that my statement of facts was substantially correct; but the Minister was misled, I think, by. one of his officers in the answer he gave, which created the impression that the Americans are doing for their soldiers only what is referred to in my questions. Every one knows that, in addition, they are giving pensions to the injured and to widows and other dependants. I ask only that half what the Americans do for their soldiers and soldiers’ dependants shall be done for our Australian lads and those dependent on them. While on the subject of insurance, let me read a letter which I have received from a lady whose husband is known to all but, perhaps, some of the newest members of theHouse. She writes -
Sir, I think you will like this fine piece of patriotism. If a man doesn’t go to the war they brand him disloyal and a shirker, and, if he goes, just see their bounty to his dependants on a soldier’s pay re insurance. - insured his life three years ago for £250, paying £11 l1s. 8d. per year; he goes to fight for his country, and leaves a wife and six children, the youngest 8, 11, 13.
The insurance company rate is now -
so I had to pay £381s.11d. in ten months; if he were here it would be only £1111s. 8d.
I obtained from the State Accident Insurance Office of Victoria the information on which I based my questions to the Acting Prime Minister. The cost of insuring an American soldier or officer for £1,000 would be about £8 6s. 8d. per year; but the rate based on the charges referred to in this letter would be £152 7s. 8d. a year. Am I wrong in asking for our men only half what the Americans give to theirs ? Will any one say that we should not do as much for our soldiers as the Americans do? It is all very well to say that we provide pensions, but so do the Americans.Facts; like those stated in the letter that I haveread make it difficult to get recruits, and I wonder that so many volunteer.
It is interesting to know that the Victorian electoral division which has given the smallest number of recruits is Bendigo. The honorable member for Grampians, by his splendid services on the recruiting platform,got just a few more for his division. Bendigo is the only constituency in which fewer than 200 men have enlisted, its enlistments being 155. Grampians comes next, with 218.
– Kooyong gave the devil’s number, 333. Henty and Melbourne Ports each gave 469, the largest number given by any Victorian constituency. Melbourne gave 462; but its population is smaller.
– I think that the Batman figures are very high.
– They might well be, considering the splendid member representing Batman. The Batman figures are 328, there being only eight divisions with bigger numbers.
– Is that for the whole State?
– To what period do the figures refer?
– To the period between the 1st January, 1918, and the 30th September, 1918.
– The Batman men had all gone earlier than that.
– In New Zealand soldiers and their dependants aTe treated better than in Australia. Let me refer to a debate in the .Senate, of which I have distributed a number of copies, and which is worth reading. I am sorry that Senator Millen could not see his way to provide allowances for more than four children in a family. .Senator McDougall asked why it was proposed to stop at four children; to which Senator Millen replied that it was deemed advisable to stop at an amount a little in excess of the living wage. Senator Guthrie asked what the .position would be if a soldier had five children, to which Senator Millen replied that if the Senate wanted the schedule raised, it could say so. Therefore, the .present position is not altogether the fault of the Ministry; it is the fault of the Senate in not requiring that every Australian child should be provided, for with an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week. Senator Guthrie pointed out that many men had larger families than four children and asked why an allowance should not be made for every child. He asked, “What would be the position of a man who had eight children ?” to which Senator Millen answered that that would be the man’s own responsibility. I am sorry that Senator Millen has taken up this attitude. For more than a quarter of a century I have advocated the giving of child pensions. I know, as few laymen know, how many deaths occur even in this Australia of ours for want of proper food and clothing, and I know how great is the death Tate of children in the old land. In New Zealand provision is made for every child. Will any man or woman say that 3 s. 6d. per week is enough to provide milk and .proper food for a child ? Would any member bring his own son or daughter up on that sum? If a. young tree lacks light; -nourishment, and moisture, it will never reach its full growth. We know that the average child in a populous suburb such as Collingwood is 2 inches lower and 9 lbs. lighter than the average child of the same age reared in a suburb like South Yarra.
I asked the Prime Minister repeatedly before he departed for England why the Government did’ not take steps to prevent landlords raising rents during war time. The various municipalities have condemned many houses, justly so in some cases, but they have failed to compel the owners to build new houses Tn their stead. Consequently, houses are fewer, and rents are rising. There is one oldagepensioner, a woman, whose rent has been raised twice by a landlord named Anderson. A magistrate advised her t<* tender the lower rent to. the landlord,’ and then, if she were taken to Court, she need only take the bench into her confidence as to how she had searched everywhere for another house, and no magistrate on any bench would give the landlord an order to evict her. The Prime Minister answered my suggestions by saying that the control of rents was a difficult matter. He said he could understand persons who had carried out improvements which added value to their houses, increasing the rents, so as to get 8 per cent, from the property. If a landlord proves that he has spent money in improving a house, I do not object to him getting additional rent equal to 8 per - cent, on the cost of improvements. But why should not the Government declare that there should be no raising of rents while the war continues? I was interviewed by the tenants of a Jewish landlord who owns many terraces. I approached him with the request that he should cease raising rents whilst the war was on. He replied, “ I want my 6 per cent., and I intend to have it.” I said, “ I do not wish to give you an advertisement, but I shall do so if you take up that attitude.” He replied, “ I thank you for your courtesy in coming to me, but I have made up my mind.” I went away crestfallen, but next morning I received, with pleasure, a letter asking me to call upon him for a further discussion of the matter, and, to my astonishment, he said, “ I have further considered the matter, and I shall not raise the rents until the war is over, but after the war, . as I wish to carry out large improvements, you must not blame me if I then resume my land. But why does not Parliament issue a regulation under the War Precautions Act to make it unlawful for any man to raise rents during the war, and not put you individually to the necessity of approaching me to do what should be obligatory on every landlord?” Speaking with all the sincerity in my being, I ask the ‘ Government to consider whether the time has not come when they should declare that there must be no more raising of rents until the war is over.
In regard to the price of meat, I should be wrong if I did not recognise that the Government have to contend with difficulties; but I can imagine an astute -Prime Minister with a big love of humanity, tinged with a good deal of common sense, deciding to fix the price of meat on the hoof. If that can be done for a nation of 100,000,000 people like the Americans, it can be done in Australia. Then, in order to prevent the charging of exorbitant retail prices, the Government could open meat shops in all towns having a certain population. They could instal cold storage, and arrange for the Queensland Government to send down beef at the price at which they are selling it to our kindred overseas and the Homeland. That meat could be sold by the Government retail at an increase of fd. or Id. per lb., representing the difference between the cost in Queensland and the cost in other States. The people have a prejudice against frozen meat. When a butcher asks his customers whether they will have fresh meat or frozen, they almost invariably prefer the fresh meat. As a medical man, I tell the people that if meat has been properly frozen it is as healthy as any meat that can be had. Moreover, only the best meat is frozen. I am informed that a Victorian squatter, who was a member of the State Parliament, and a director of a cold storage company, has sent to the freezers as many as 400 sheep from which 200 have been culled and the rejected sent back to the station. The same thing happens with lambs - only the best are frozen. That squatter, when returning to his station at the weekend, always took with him’ a frozen carcass for his home consumption. ‘ I remember when in England dining at the Artists’ Club with Professor Owen, and he asked me if I could tell him what special quality there was in a four-year old wether saddle of mutton.- I replied that I knew nothing about the matter. “Well,” said he, “we had a dinner at the Forty Club the other night, and the piece de resistance was a four-year old wether saddle of mutton, and every member of the Forty declared that he had never before tasted a saddle of mutton equal to it.” Therefore, I urge the Government, if they really have the welfare of the people at heart, to open shops for the sale of frozen meat. I guarantee that the cost will not amount to more than Id. per lb. above the selling price in Brisbane. If they .’do that, they will enable the Australian people to buy meat at the prices at which it is being exported.
I turn now to the wheat question. How is it that through bad management we prefer to allow countless thousands of bushels of wheat to be destroyed by weevils and mice rather than sell it at a cheap price to the people? I have a photograph of a pyramid of 3,000,000 mice which were destroyed at a wheat depot; yet a man engaged in raising poultry can only get wheat for his fowls by paying an increased price. I look forward to the time when the people will take a hand in the government, as they will be able to do if we have the initiative referendum and recall, and will say that the farmer must have a fair price for his wheat, say, 4s. at the station. Allow the wheat to be supplied to the miller. The cost of gristing is not more than 25s. per ton. Compel the millers to supply flour to any baker. The percentage of profit has been mathematically ascertained. Allow the baker to sell bread over the counter at a fair price, and send to prison any miller who will not supply a baker because he does not belong to the. ring. If the Government were to adopt that policy, they would show that they have sympathy for the majority of the people. They are not the majority who are well-to-do and live in plenty. The men of wealth can always look after themselves; their money helps them to do that.
I regret very deeply nhat the Government of the day did not adopt the suggestion I made in 1912 in regard to the conversion of the State loans, and so save an immense sum of money. At the time I was afraid to tell the House that I had calculated the profit at more than £20,000,000. No Australian State has ever failed to meet its loan obligations. Bonds may fall as low as £73, but as the time for redemption approaches they rise towards par. If a person invests in bonds merely for the purpose of getting an income, it does not matter to him whether the price of the bonds rises or falls; but, if bonds are bought for speculation or in order to have liquid assets which can be easily converted into money, how gladly would such holders convert their State stock into Commonwealth bonds, which would have greater stability. The axiom of Euclid that “ The whole is’ greater than its part “ is as true to-day as when it was uttered, and the Commonwealth, ‘as ia whole, is a much greater security for a loan than any single State. My proposal was not adopted, although it did bring forth complimentary letters from almost every House of Parliament under the British flag, with the exception of Newfoundland.
Surely there is room for economy! Standardization is a word to conjure with in every factory to-day. Any firm which is able to standardize the parts of its machinery is sure of larger profits. I believe that the Government have gone in for the standardization of the Commonwealth motor cars - a very wise step. Why do they not standardize their Taxation Departments? There is an Income Tax Department for each State and an Income Tax Department for the Commonwealth in each State. In each there is a large number of public servants. The State Taxation Department does not bother me nearly as much as the Commonwealth Department does. I do not mean to say that the officers in the latter. Department are not able -to do their work. Perhaps they lack experience. “Is there any honorable member who can make out Ids income tax without looking up the ready reckoner which is supplied? There is no need for a ready reckoner in America, or in Great Britain, or’ in regard to any State income tax. But I had to obtain one, because, if any constituent of mine came to my office, and asked me what his income tax was likely to be, I could not give him the information without reference to one. Those wonderful curves ! _ Why cannot the tax rise by graduations, so- that any one <ian understand it. Let us standardize the Income Tax Departments, and have only one return, and only one set of officers, and let us apportion to the State its proportion of the revenue, the Commonwealth retaining the balance. The same arguments apply in connexion with the land tax. It is a great absurdity to go on as we are now doing.
It came out in evidence before the Public Accounts Committee that at one time, if a post-office up country had to be repaired, three different officials had to go and examine the work: There ought to be economy in avoiding duplication of work.
Let < us abolish the State Legislative Councils. They are useless, and generally represent one class of the community only. In Victoria no one can become a member of the Legislative Council unless he is a land-owner. It is idiotic. When Benjamin Webster returned to America he described to an intelligent American audience the franchise as he found it in England. It was a property qualification. He said that if a man owned a donkey worth £50 it was his qualification to vote, but if the , donkey should happen to die on the day before the election, he asked that intelligent American audience who held the vote - the man or the donkey. These silly old fossils in Victoria threw out women’s suffrage thirteen times and manhood suffrage fifteen times. They wasted over £70,000 of the money of the people of Victoria, and then had to pass the reform in the end.
Let us abolish State Governors. What good are they to the community ? If they give dinners, they give them to people who never feel hungry. They do not go about the highways and the byways, as the Old Book says, gathering in those who may be hungry.
Let us abolish the State Agents-General. If we have common sense, let us make them General Agents on a minimum salary, with a commission for the business they send to Australia. It was a reform which was promised before Federation was brought about.
Then. I come to our refreshment-room. We could afford to give 12,000 meals at 2s. 6d. per meal to honorable members outside, and yet not lose as much money as we are now losing upstairs. It would pay us to give 30,000 meals at ls. per head to hungry people outside, and not lose more than we are now losing on the dining-room. People outside seem to think ‘that honorable members eat at the country’s cost. I am merely pointing out that the dining-room is costing the country that needless amount of money. Honorable members cannot get meals upstairs as cheaply as they can get them in the city. I can get a meal at the Cafe Francais for 2s. 6d. that I cannot get upstairs for 5s. We are not saving money by having our meals in the House, but we are the means of the House losing money. My proposal is to get rid of some of the gilt feathers who are bossing affairs upstairs, and allow a co-operative company of stewards, waiters, and cooks to supply honorable members with meals, or to let an outside restaurant do so, which would have the opportunity of making some use of the food that now goes to waste when the House rises suddenly before a dinner adjournment. Under the advice of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), or one or two other cheerful individuals, honorable .members, are becoming so teetotal that the consumption of alcohol is not more than 4½d. per member per month. What is the use of keeping a bar open for that amount of revenue ? ‘Refreshments cost no more than 4½d. per month per member. However, people cannot say that we are not temperate. If an honorable member asks a friend to come to Parliament House to have a meal, he is charged 6d. extra. The press reporters have to pay 6d. extra. If that is not contemptible cheese-paring, I do not know what is. The dining room pays no rent ; there is no charge , for light, linen, cutlery, crockery or glassware, and possibly none for firing. This is a direction in which economy could . be brought about.
Next I come to the excessive payments to officers in the military service. We have 150 men in Australia and at the Front who draw more money than is paid to the Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Army. There are ten -to fifteen men drawing more money than Von Moltke was paid when he led the victorious Prussians through France in the Franco-Prussian War. He drew £1,500 per annum, whereas one officer in the Australian Army is paid £40 per week, and also draws a field allowance of £5 5s. a day. We are building up generals who have never smelt gunpowder at the Front. General Cuscaden is a man who has the lowest diploma of any medical officer in the Australian or British Forces. There is not a man in the Imperial Army who’ is not his superior in the matter of surgical diplomas. Has he ever gone to the Front, or smelt gunpowder there? No. He has stayed at home polishing the handle of the big front door of the Defence Department. He was educated in Ireland, but he had to go to Scotland to get his diploma. He would not be permitted to go into the Melbourne Hospital, or the Alfred Hospital as an inpatient surgeon. The Women’s Hospital? Yes. Belonging to the Government House push, I suppose he got shoved along.
I now come to the foolish expenditure at Canberra. I thank the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) for asking the Government whether the men in control to-day are those who were condemned by Mr. Wilfred Blacket, who sat as a- Royal Commission inquiring into the” Federal Capital Administration. What were his findings against the men who, with the malignity of a departmental conspiracy, sought to crucify the genius who, against the whole of the world, had won the prize for designing our Capital, and endeavoured to bring in a hotch-potch design by stealing the brains of one man and taking the ideas of another? Had their object been carried out, they would have stamped that design permanently Upon Australia, but they were prevented by the action of the Government controlled by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook). I thank him and his Assistant Minister (Mr. Kelly) for having been manly enough to send to America to ask that genius who had submitted the prize design to come to Australia. The Commission would not have been issued to Mr. Wilfred Blacket had it not been for the splendid action of the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster). One man who was chosen by .Mr. Griffin to devote his time and ability to the plans, of the future Parliament House was accused by the head of his department in the
Patents Office of being absent without leave, despite the fact that the Minister had asked him to do the work, and had provided him with a room for the purpose. Because he was an Australian who had graduated through a workman’s drawing school, and had gone to Scotland to learn his business there; because he was an honoured member of the State Service who had been transferred to the Commonwealth, he was not class enough for these gentlemen in the Home Affairs Department who held no diplomas they had won for themselves. When I read the findings of the Royal Commission, honorable members will see that it needs no words of mine to indicate the vast amount of money that has been wasted at the Federal Capital through inability and ineptitude. The Commissioner’s findings were -
Upon all the evidence, and particularly upon that which has been stated or referred to in this report, I find that the reasons why Mr. Griffin, between 18th October, 1913, and 15th November, 1915, performed no substantial part of his duties under his contract with the Commonwealth are as stated in four of the five charges advanced in his behalf, viz., charges 1, 2, 3, and 5, and are as under: -
That necessary information and assistance were withheld from him, and his powers were usurped by certain officers; (2) That he and his office were ignored, his rights and duties under his contract denied, and false charges of default made against him;
That the Honorable W. O. Archibald and members of the Departmental Board endeavoured to set aside his design and to substitute the Board’s own design; and
That there was in the Department a combination, including the Honorable W. O. Archibald and certain officers, hostile to Mr. Griffin, and to his design for the Capital city; and that the Honorable W. O. Archibald and the officers mentioned in my references to the evidence under these charges are severally responsible to the extent already indicated by me for this result. But I think it necessary that I should emphasize the fact that after Mr. Archibald’s accession to office it must have been perfectly clear to all the officers that the Ministerial policy was directed against the carrying out of Mr. Griffin’s design, and any acts they did in frustration of Mr. Griffin’s efforts were therefore done in furtherance, as they believed, of the Minister’s desires. I cannot say that this excuses them; still the greatest responsibility in respect of the obstruction to Mr. Griffin is with the Minister. Holding the views that he did as to the “grave mistake “ that he considered had been made in the engagement of Mr. Griffin, he should have adopted one of two alternatives - either to have cancelled the contract and reverted to the design of the Departmental Board, or else to have allowed Mr. Griffin’s contract to be performed and his design carried out.
As to the fourth charge - “ That in order to prevent Mr. Griffin’s design from being carried out, wilfully false estimates of its cost were given,”
I find that it wholly fails, and that no such false estimates were made.
Who are these men? We have in the first place Colonel Miller, who, when he deigned to live in Canberra, used to fly a flag over his residence to indicate that he was there. That is a right that the Governor-General alone should have. What diploma does Colonel Miller hold by examination ? He is only an associate member of the Institute of Engineers.
– What diploma does Mr. Wilfred Blacket hold?
– One that the honorable member does not, and never will, hold. Then we have Colonel Owen. He was sent to India to inquire into the building of an arsenal. Has he prepared any plans for such a building? Can any one say that if he did prepare such plans the building constructed in accordance with it would stand ? Next we have Mr. Thomas Hill, who is a licensed surveyor, and Mr. Murdoch, architect, who would not win a competition for a design for any big building. I have that from men of the highest architectural skill.
– Name one of them.
– Mr. Murdoch would be gladly taken back to the Queensland Service if the Commonwealth would part with him.
– I dare say, because they have not the very best architects in Queensland.
– Yes, they have.
– Mr. Murdoch is one of the best in Australia.
– He is not. I am prepared to stake my month’s salary against that of the honorable member, for the benefit of a hospital, that Mr. Murdoch would not be successful in a competition for a design for a big building.
– He is one of the best architects in the Public Service.
– Then they must be a pretty rotten lot.
– According to you, with the exception of the man whose cause you are advocating, they are all a rotten lot.
– I am not advocating any man’s cause.
– The honorable member is “pushing Mr. Griffin’s barrow.”
– I am not. Is Mr. Kirkpatrick of Sydney a good architect?
– He is good enough for the Commonwealth Bank to employ.
– Ask him whether he would have liked the assistance of Mr. Murdoch in designing the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney?
– Ask him his opinion of Mr. Griffin.
– He gave his verdict when, as a member of the Board, he awarded Mr. Griffin the prize for the best design for the Federal Capital, and he spoke well of him afterwards.
– Since then he has altered his opinion of Mr. Griffin.
– The honorable member is in error. What architectural engineer is the superior of Mr. Smith, a man with a European reputation, who was the other adjudicator on the Federal Capital design? ‘
– It is not “ a square go “ to tackle these public servants in this way.
– It is. I know that Colonel Miller made Mr. Archibald, when Minister for Public Works, tell an untruth. A man who gave up two pensions, an Imperial and a Commonwealth pension, to go up to Canberra was sacked. He was appointed to a certain position by a previous Minister, but was sent away. Subsequently he entered the service of the Defence Department, but his whole life and that of his family have been broken by this treatment. A reference to the files will show tha he was appointed in a certain way, yet Mr. Archibald, when Minister, was made by Colonel Miller to tell an untruth in regard to the matter.
– The honorable member is not only attacking Colonel Miller, but others.
– I would attack the honorable member if he deserved it.
– I can defend myself, but these public officers cannot.
– Can they not? They are wasting the people’s money. Does the honorable member approve of the composite design - the departmental plan - which was turned down by the present Minister for the Navy (Sir
Joseph Cook), who was then Minister for Home Affairs, on a petition signed by 150 of the best architects and engineers in Australia, who described it as a mongrel design ?
– The honorable member is confusing two different matters.
– I am not. Upon this .petition the present Minister for the Navy, to his eternal credit, turned’ down the composite design, and sent to the United States of America for Mr. Griffin.
– Mr. Griffin does not pose as an architect.
– Does he not? There was no architectural journal in Australia or the world but held the departmental composite design up to contempt; but it would have been forced upon this country if.it had not been for the action taken by the present Minister for the Navy. He saved Mr. Griffin’s design.
I understand that the Government have raised only some £400,000 by means of the War-time Profits Tax. Compared with the taxation of war-time profits in England and the United States of America that is a mere bagatelle. Mr. Baillieu, who is reputed to be a millionaire and to be making his second million, - asserts that the tax does not touch men like him; yet the Government are placing a tax of one penny on the threepenny tickets issued to little children who desire to patronize the moving picture shows, which are a means of education.
– A tax of 33 per cent, is to be put on the children’s tickets.
– That is not fair. The Government should tax in an honorable, straightforward way the profits made by picture show people. Those responsible for the proposal to impose a tax of one penny on these threepenny tickets ought to be detained on Pinchgut Island. I have not discovered one company that has made a loss since the war ; I have not seen a single balance-sheet in the weekly issues of the Bulletin in which the profits made were not greater than those for the pre-war years. The Vacuum Oil Company in 1912-13 had a paid-up capital of £600,000. In 1915-16, the second and third years of the war, it increased its capital by £800,000, and in 1917 it increased it to £1,600,000.
– Is it a branch, of the Standard Oil Company?
– I think so.We are not allowed to understand how the Standard Oil Company operates its business, but I have no doubt that the two are connected. Would not those who have been obliged to flee from the devastated portions of France, Belgium, and other Allies which the Germans have overrun thank their Creator they could return to their businesses, their manufactories, or their holdings, notwithstanding that they had to forego all that they have lost during the war? Is it not infamous, then, for the Commonwealth Government to allow huge war-timeprofits to be made in Australia ? If it were known definitely to-morrow that it would not be permissible to make any profits in excess of the average profits of peace-time, would any firm increase its prices? Would we have increases in the prices of bread, meat, groceries, clothing, boots and shoes? I think not. ‘ Unjustifiable profits are being made by the war profits monger, who is a greater enemy than is the enemy who comes outagainst us openly in the field. I hope the Government will deal with this question of taxing excess profits.. Do not let us be mealy-mouthed in discussing the subject. Let us say boldly that there shall be no profits over the average profits made in pre-war years. Let us put a stop to the increasing of rents, and let the Government open shops for the sale of frozen meat.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- By the courtesy of the Minister for the Navy the papers in connexion with the discontinuance from the Naval College of Cadet R. J. H. Rubie have been placed on the Library table, and I venture to trespass on the attention of honorable members for a moment or two in order to call attention tocertain facts. This midshipman had a seizure at the College, according to the Navy doctor, and certainly he had some sort of fainting spell. He was recommended for what they call a “survey” by a Board of Naval Surgeons in Sydney. He went to Sydney, and the survey was in the lad’s favour. It was recommended that he be sent back to the College. The Naval Board then took a hand, . and said he ought not to be sent back to the College. An appeal was made to an arbitrator, and the arbitrator was against the doctor at the College ; but it was said by the Naval Board that he should not be sent back because a predisposition to epilepsy was too dangerous- to have about the Navy. There was no history of epilepsy in the boy’s family, and I never saw a healthier boy. After that, owing to the protests of the family, who knew what the decision of the Board in Sydney was, the Naval Board began to consider a way out, and suggested getting an outside expert to give them the benefit of his advice. Admiral Creswell, I think, suggests in the papers that it was excellent to get an outside expert’s advice, but held that, in any case, it would not be followed against the decision of the naval non-medical Board in Melbourne! The doctor at the College, who had decided against the boy on one fainting spell, described him as having a narrow and high palate, which was the only indication in an otherwise healthy boy of, perhaps, an abnormal mental condition or predisposition. The doctors in Sydney who had the boy in front of them, said that that was a mistake, for the boy’s palate was broad and entirely normal! If the doctor at the College could make so flagrant a mistake on a matter under his notice, one must be very careful about accepting his decision when the whole future of the lad is at stake. This matter was referred to Dr. (now Colonel) Jones, who is in charge of the lunatic administration of Victoria.
– A very able man.
– A very able man. He did not have the boy in front of him, but merely the file of documents, and, while he appeared to think the attack might be epilepsy, he went so far as to say that the boy should be taken back to the College and observed during a further term. What happened to Colonel Jones’ report?
It was pigeon-holed, and the boy was still kept from the College. There are some interesting features in these papers worth the passing attention of honorable members. If honorable members cannot believe in the truth of answers supplied to them by a Public Department, the control of this House over Public Departments has gone for ever. In these files we find, in the first place, Admiral Creswell pointing out - I presume, to his Min,ister, though I am not quite clear as to that- that the overwhelming bulk of the evidence is in favour of epilepsy, and that, therefore, the boy should not be continued at the College. As a matter of fact, the overwhelming evidence is in the other direction - in other words, that the boy should be kept at the College. There was only one doctor and the non-medical men in Melbourne who thought that the boy should be sent away. That is one instance of a lack of candour on the part of a prominent person at the Navy Office. Another instance of lack of candour came within my own experience, and I protest to the Minister in charge of the Department against that sort of thing. I saw the Secretary to the Navy about the matter. At that time I did not know that the evidence of everybody, except the doctor at the College, who made the initial blunder about the configuration of the lad’s palate, was in favour of his retention at the College, and I urged that outside evidence should be got, in the absence of any history of epilepsy in the family or anything in the appearance of the boy to suggest such a thing. The Secretary to the Navy, in a very frank and kindly way, said that outside expert evidence would_ be got, but after about a fortnight or so the lad was dismissed. I then asked by letter if the outside evidence I had suggested had been obtained, and the reply I re’ceived was as follows: -
In reply to your letter of 1st August regarding the case of Master Rubie, late Cadet Mid- shipman at the Royal Australian Naval College, I am directed to inform you that’ tha most careful consideration was given to the medical evidence in this case, and expert opinion was taken.
My letter referred to expert opinion that was to be taken after my interview, and no expert opinion was taken after that interview.
– The reply is misleading.
– It is absolutely misleading to a member of this House who was seeking information to which he was entitled. It was not only deceiving to me as to the promise given, but it was misleading as to the facts, because the most careful consideration had not been given to the medical evidence in the case, or the boy would still be. at the College. Attention had been given only to the fiat of Admiral Creswell and the Board over which he presides. This was that the boy must be “ fired,” and no further effort made to ascertain whether he was well or ill.
– Admiral Creswell was in favour of having an expert from outside?
– Provided the expert opinion was not followed.
– “.Heads I win: tails you lose.” -
– Of course. Admiral Creswell had expert opinion himself outside many years ago, and he is still in the “Department, despite that expert opinion. He was given the benefit of the doubt; and I do hope that the Minister who presides over the destinies of the Navy will follow the suggestion made by the Medical Board in Sydney, and indorsed by Colonel Jones, of this State, that the boy be given a further chance at the College, and observed in the future. The boy is no weed or weakling; he is admitted on the .papers to be the best of the bunch physically with which he entered the College. It may be that there is a tendency to epilepsy, though that is extremely improbable. If it is, the Department could have the boy observed, and, if necessary, quietly passed out before any harm resulted to the Navy. Do not “ fire “ this boy on the mere ipse dixit of a man who knows as much about medicine as some people say he knows about the Navy. I desire this boy to be given another chance; and I appeal to the Minister in charge to give it to him. It is pretty damning to a fellow who desires to serve his country, and enters full of enthusiasm, and wins prizes in all directions at the College, to be “ fired “ against the will of the persons to whom a medical appeal was made-fired at the whim of the College doctor, backed by the opinion of non-medical laymen.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways to the refusal of a pass to the secretary of the Railways Union over the transcontinental railway. We have read in the newspapers of how the whole of the working of the railway is held up on account of this trouble. About a week ago I mentioned the matter privately to the Minister, and asked whether it was correct that the Government had decided that they would not grant the ordinary leave pass which is granted on every other railway in Australia. The Minister informed me then that the ordinary leave pass was granted in exactly the same way as in other railway services. This union secretary had asked for a pass for two months.
– ‘For six or eight weeks.
– I presume we are all anxious that this railway should be worked on proper lines; and if there has been any breaking away from ordinary railway usage in the matter of leave passes, I should like to know what action the Government are taking with a view to the settlement of the dispute. It is easy to stop a dispute of the kind at the start; but, like a fire, once it gets out of control no one can say where it will finish. I merely wish to point out the difficulties that might arise in the event of the trouble spreading to the . State services at both ends of the transcontinental railway.
– It is perfectly correct that the honorable member spoke to me about this matter, and asked me whether the Government were granting ordinary leave passes from station to station, in accordance with the practice in other railway services: I gather from the Railway Commissioner that the practice on the transcontinental railway is the same as that followed elsewhere; that is to say, when a man gets his six days’ leave, or whatever it may be, he is given a pass from station to station. The case in point, however, is not a ease of that kind. This officer asked for leave of absence for six or eight weeks, and for a station-to-station pass during that period.
– I presume he would not get paid during that leave.
– He asked for leave of absence, without pay. It is understood that this pass was intended to be used for union organizing purposes; and there is no such practice elsewhere, except in Western Australia and in South Australia, in a very modified form.
– The climatic conditions under which the men work, and what they suffer by reason of the lack of population, make their position worse than that of men on any other line in Australia.
– I spent four or five days on an inspection of the line, and had an opportunity for an examination of their conditions, and I ‘think that the honorable member must admit that no other Railway Department makes better provision for supplying the needs of its employees than the Commonwealth makes for the men on this line. I consider that the housing accommodation must be improved, but while ballasting operations are proceeding, and the permanent position of stations is uncertain, it is impossible to erect permanent homes at all stations. It is incumbent upon us to take every care of the comfort of the men employed on the line, and to do what we can for the education of their children. The Commissioner is not to blame for the present stoppage of the trains. I do not wish to discuss the matter, because negotiations are in progress. The Government is doing its best ‘ bo arrange for trains to leave from both ends of the line to-morrow. I expected to get a communication this afternoon, but it has not yet come to hand.
Mr.Blakeley. - Are the trains to be manned with non-union labour?
– I am not aware of the exact conditions; but the Commissioner is’ doing his best- to keep the traffic going. That is an obligation upon . us, seeing that the railway is practically the only means . of communication between Western Australia and the other parts of the Commonwealth.
– I do not wish to say anything to prejudice the matter at this moment.
– I think that honorable members can trust the good sense of the Commissioner. No consideration was shown to the Department by the men. They went straight off duty.
– They gave you over a week’s notice. I spoke to the Minister over a week ago.
– “We have had no official intimation from the men that they intended to take action, nor has there been any official intimation from the representatives of the union as to the reasons for their action. A threat was verbally conveyed to the Commissioner a few days since that if a free stationtostation pass for a period of from six to eight weeks was not issued to Driver Wittorff, the local secretary, to travel over the railway on organizing work for the union, the men would cease work to attend a conference. That was the only communication that the Commissioner had, and the next thing that happened was that the men stopped work. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the case further at this stage. The Commissioner is now awaiting a reply to communications. Our desire is to bring about a resumption of the traffic as soon as possible. In the meantime, we must consider what steps can be taken to keep the traffic going.
:- I have a few words to say regarding an answer given by the Acting Prime Minister to-day to a question asked by me respecting the employment of returned soldiers under an arrangement whereby the pension or repatriation allowance of the soldier is regarded as part and parcel of his wages. The Acting Prime Minister’s reply dealt exclusively with the cases of returned soldiers who were learning a trade. The case I have in my mind is one which I endeavoured to bring under notice when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) moved the adjournment to discuss another matter. A returned soldier was sent to the Zinc Corporation “Works at Broken Hill to fill the position of cleaner, purely a labourer’s job, for which labourer’s wages are paid. The South Australian Branch of the Repatriation Department arranged that 60 per cent, of his wages should be paid by the Department and 40 per cent, by the Zinc Corporation. To his credit, the soldier refused to take the job under those conditions, and reported the matter to his union. I read an account of the case in the Barrier Daily Truth, and, after I had received a letter regarding it from the Barrier Branch of the Austratralian Labour Party, I wrote to the Repatriation Department concerning it. Although a considerable time has now elapsed since my letter was sent, I am still waiting for a reply to it. The Minister’s answer to my question was unsatisfactory, as it did not touch upon the position of unskilled labour. One of my questions was -
Is it a fact that a returned soldier working under this scheme loses a day’s work, and is docked by the employer, and is the Repatriation Department credited with the proportionate deduction of the day’s wages ?
In reply, the Acting Prime Minister said that, in the case of the absence of a trainee from duty, df an employer decides not to pay his own contribution, that of the Department of Repatriation also stops. It would appear, therefore, that the soldier’s pension stops, so far as the Repatriation Department is concerned, from the date on which he ceases work. Like other honorable members, I know the scheme under which, for the purpose of helping injured returned soldiers by assisting them to learn some trade and calling, certain arrangements are made for their payment, but the position of a soldier who is employed on ordinary work, such as that of a cleaner or mill hand, for which no great knowledge, skill, or length of training are required, is different. I want from the Government an assurance that returned soldiers will not be employed with the advantage to their employers that the Repatriation Department, or, rather, the Commonwealth taxpayers shall meet the difference between the amount the soldier is actually receiving and the amount which the employer is contributing to his wages. I want to have that system of employing returned soldiers wiped put. The Repatriation Department should cease to send unskilled workers to Broken Hill, or to any other place under those conditions. It can by no stretch of the imagination be considered a benefit to the returned soldier that his employer shall be able to secure his services at 40 per cent, or 60 per cent, less cost to himself, the difference being made up by the general taxpayer. It is, however, of great benefit to the employer to have such a practice adopted. This is a matter which- the Government should sit up. and take notice of. I can quit© understand some provision of the kind being made in the case of a soldier who is being taught carpentering, fitting, or some skilled trade, because an unskilled man would be of very little use to an employer in such trades. But there is absolutely no reason why a returned soldier employed at an unskilled job and able to perform it as well as any civilian should have 60 per cent, of his wages made up by the Repatriation Department. I fail to see how that practice can be justified. I should like to add that when an honorable member communicates with a public Department to bring a matter under notice, he should be treated with the courtesy to which a member of this Parliament is entitled, a courtesy which, I may say, I have received from other Departments with which I have communicated. The Repatriation Department absolutely ignored the representations and facts I brought under its notice. It is time that the Government took the matter to which I have referred into consideration, because the practice adopted is giving rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction and, as I have shown in the case to which I have referred, is not satisfactory to the soldiers themselves. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will reconsider the matter in the light of what I have said to-night, and will give some’ definite reply to the questions I submitted.
– I do not intend to occupy much time, but I think it necessary to reply briefly to what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) had to say in connexion with the lad Rubie. I clearly remember the case, which was brought under my notice, and that it was distinctly stated that this lad had had an epileptic fit. If that were so, it was of no use to continue his service in the Navy. I shall make further inquiries and see what can be done in the matter, but I do think that the honorable member has done an injustice to Mr. Macandie. I find from the correspondence ./hat the honorable member for Wentworth asked whether he could have an acknowledgment of his letter of the 26th June, and an immediate reply to the simple inquiry he made. Mr. Macandie replied to that letter by saying -
In reply to yours of the 1st, in regard to the case of the lad Rubie, Cadet Midshipman of the Royal Australian Naval College, I am directed to inform you that most careful consideration was given to the medical evidence in this case, and expert opinion was taken.
– I asked that. expert out-‘ side opinion should be taken subsequent to my interview with Mr. Macandie, and no such opinion was taken subsequent to that interview.
– All that Mr. Macandie says in his letter is that expert opinion was taken, and it appears to me that it cannot be said that there is in his communication any attempt at deception.
– It will be seen that there certainly was an attempt at deception, if my previous letter, which is not on the file, is referred to.
– I shall look up that letter, but I take it that Mr. Macandie states that, as a matter of fact, outside expert opinion in this case had been obtained, and the honorable member does not deny that.
– Before my interview, but not subsequently, as promised.
– Did not the Secretary tell the honorable member personally that there would be an inquiry?
– The honorable member for Wentworth is quite able to conduct his own case. It appears to me, on the face of the correspondence, that the honorable member has done Mr. Macandie an injustice. That gentleman could have had no object in deceiving the honorable member. He merely stated the fact that expert opinion had been taken in the case.
– Which it was said would not be taken notice of.
– That is a different matter. I am “dealing with the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth that he was misled, and, I take it, that he was wilfully deceived.
– I can say definitely, that I most completely misapprehended the position, as ‘ a result of the letter I received from Mr. Macandie.
– That may be; but it does not .follow that Mr. Macandie did deceive the honorable member. It is clear from the correspondence which the honorable member read that outside expert evidence was taken in connexion with the case of the boy Rubie, and the honorable member was so informed. He is not told whether it was taken after his interview.
– That is the question I asked in my correspondence.
– We shall find the honorable member’s letter. I shall . make further inquiries into the matter. I wanted to clear up the phase of it to which. I have referred, as I believe every Minister who has had to work with Mr. Macandie will agree with me when I Bay that I do not think he would deceive any honorable member.
– As a matter of personal explanation, may I say that I can understand the Acting Minister for the Navy wishing to defend his Secretary from an imputation which he, perhaps, resents. I wish to say, definitely and clearly, that in my interview with Mr. Macandie, who is not, in the. ordinary way, the Secretary of the Department, but the secretary of a Board, I asked him . if additional outside expert opinion would be taken.
– Order ! The honorable member is not . making a personal explanation in accordance with the standing order. If he has been misrepresented or misunderstood, he is entitled to set himself right ; but he is now merely amplifying aspeech he has already made.
– I am endeavouring to make perfectly clear what my complaint was.
– Exactly; but the honorable member should have done that in his speech. He is not at liberty nowunder the guise of a personal explanation to amplify that speech.
– I wish to say, in justice to myself as a member of this House and as a matter of personal explanation, that the answer given by the Minister is not an answer to the statement I have made.
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed. He is not making a personal explanation. He is merely amplifying a previous statement and at the same time replying to the answer given by the Acting Minister for the Navy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181002_reps_7_86/>.