7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30. p.m., and read prayers.
– In reference to the supply to honorable members of copies of the Estimates and Budget papers, I desire to inform the House that, in view of the bulky nature of these documents, and the great shortage and high price of paper, it has been found necessary to reduce considerably the number printed. I, therefore, ask honorable members to assist in economizing by preserving the copies in use by them. It is not proposed on this occasion to supply to members the usual bound copies of the Estimates. I make this intimation early, so that honorable members may conserve the copies that they have already received.
War Precautions Regulation
– Will the Acting Minister of the Navy supply us with a copy of the War Precautions Regulation under which certain Australian vessels have been taken over by the Commonwealth?
– I shall obtain for the honorable member a copy of the regulation.
– Has the Government any information in confirmation of the news posted at the newspaper offices regarding victories on the Western Front?
– I cannot supply the House with official information regarding , the reports of military movements which have caused such gratification throughout the country; but I cabled to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to-day, telling him that, as Parliament is sitting, I think we should get prompt official news of what is happening, and asking him to have the matter attended to if possible.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Defence if the soldiers who are to be returned on leave include all who enlisted in 1914, wherever they may be serving at present ?
– It includes all who embarked in 1914.
– No matter where they may now be serving, whether in France or in Palestine?
– I understand so.
– There were many who could not embark in 1914 for lack of shipping. I understand that the Light Horse went away in February, 1915, and that they had then been in camp for many months.
– Leave is to be given only to those who embarked in 1914.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received a copy of a circular, couched in rather truculent terms, which has been sent to various members from the Australian Protectionist Association, Victorian branch?
– I have not got one.
– Perhaps they do not regard you as a Protectionist. Are the Ministry and their followers supporting the restriction of the importation of luxuries for the sake of national efficiency, or is there an understanding that it has been done with the object of increasing the sale of locally-manufactured goods for the profit of those concerned ?
– I have not seen a copy of the circular referred to, but I shall be glad to study it with the honorable gentleman. The restriction of the importation of luxuries was done by regulation some little time ago, the Government being influenced in its action by the desire not so much to encourage the consumption of luxuries of local manufacture, as to conserve the national efficiency by doing away with articles of consumption which might be regarded as needless at the present time.
– When at Canberra, a couple of Australian girls belonging to well-known Western Australian families, whose brothers are fighting at the Front, but who are married to naturalized Germans, gave me to understand that their properties had been much injured by reason of the action taken towards them by the Government. Will the Acting Prime Minister make inquiries, and if there is no charge of disloyalty against the husbands, will he see that the interests of their Australian wives are properly protected?
– Do I understand that the husbands’ are internees?
– Yes ; they are Germans who have been naturalized.
– It is not likely that they have been interned unless suspected of disloyalty, though at the beginning of the war there were certain voluntary internees, men without means, who felt the difficulty of the situation. If the honorable member will give me the names of the persons concerned, I shall confer with the Minister who knows most about these matters, with the object of seeing that the property of Australian women is not injured unnecessarily.
Lt. Colonel ABBOTT. ; Has the Acting Prime Minister taken into consideration the fact that, during the absence, on active service of men of the Australian Imperial Force, most of the money for the payment of the war has been raised by loan, and now that they are returning to
Australia, and additional direct taxation is being imposed, men who have been away for three years will be hard hit, as in many cases they have lost theirbusiness connexions, and will have to start afresh. Will the honorable gentleman take into consideration the advisability of making a concession to returned men by exempting them from additional taxation for a period of, say, twelve months, to give them an opportunity to get into their stride again?
Mr.WATT.- I would not like to make that promise definitely off hand without seeing the probable financial effect. The honorable member is aware that concessions under the income tax law are given to men on service, particularly in relation to earnings by personal exertion; but as to whether that should be extended after the return of the men to enable them bo repatriate or restore themselves to vocations in life I have not considered. I shall, however, consider the matter.
Board of Business Administra tion .
– Has a report been received from the Board of Business Administration, presided over by Mr. Swinburne, and, if so, is it the intention of the Government to make it public?
Mr.WATT.- I do not know that any report has been received, but I think the Minister is dealing with that Board daily as a departmental adjunct of great value. I shall inquire whether a formal report has been presented.
– Has any scheme been evolved to meet the case of country butchers, in view of the price fixing, to enable them to carry on business without loss?
– There is a question on the notice-paper relating to this subject. I have been endeavouring to get information, and some has just been handed to me, which I shall give tomorrow.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House all the available reports and recommendations in possession of the Government in connexion with the payment of £3,000 for an option over the property of the Blythe River Mining Company Limited?
– Yes. The reports are very voluminous, and it will take some time to prepare copies. If, however, it will suit the honorable member’s purpose, I shall make the papers available immediately for his inspection.
Auditing of Accounts
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How long is it since a complete public audit of the Northern Territory accounts was made by a Commonwealth Government auditor, independently of the local auditors?
– The Auditor-General has furnished the following reply: -
A complete public audit of the Northern Territory accounts, independent of the local auditors, has been, and is now, regularly, made at the Audit Office, Melbourne; and as to the Customs accounts, by Audit Examiners in Brisbane, so far as vouchers; certified statements, and entries received, enable this to be done. Audits are also made by Audit Inspectors from time to time at the Department of Home and Territories. In the years 1911-12 and 1912-13. an Audit Examiner was stationed in the Northern Territory to make the direct audit of accounts, in addition to the foregoing. The local auditor was then transferred to Melbourne, and his detention in the Territory was not justified. Since then, as the AuditorGeneral’s reports to Parliament show, it was arranged for the Government Accountant at Darwin to make local audits on the AuditorGeneral’s behalf. An Audit Inspector is now nearing Darwin, hawing received instructions to conduct an exhaustive examination of the Territory’s accounts, and to make other certain special inquiries.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the wholesale price of Australian olive oil -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Price has been fixed in New SouthWales at prices prevailing on18th May, 1918, and matter is subject of inquiry in other States. 3.(a) 12s. 6d. per gallon,
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Min ister for Defence, upon notice -
Commonwealth Cabinet decision of 8th July, 1901, will the Minister furnish a complete copy of the said opinion?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following memorandum by the AdjutantGeneral has been submittedto me for advice: - “ Attached herewith is a communication from Major Carroll, A & I. Staff, relative to the retention of the rank held by him in South Africa as brevet rank in the Commonwealth Military Forces. “ He claims that under a Cabinet decision of 8th July, 1901, he is entitled to the brevet rank of Major from the date he attained the rank of Major in South Africa. “ The Cabinet decision of 8th July, 1901’, was altered on 30th April, 1902, grantinghonorary’ rank to certain officers instead of brevet,’ “ Major Carroll claims that twenty-nine officers who returned to Australia before 30th April, 1902, retained their rank, whereas he also returned to Australia before that date, and was not permitted to retain rank as brevet rank. “The facts are 240 officers held higher rank in South Africa than their Australian rank, twenty-nine were granted brevet rank, and the remainder, of whom Major Carroll was one, were grantedhonorary rank. “ Major Carroll claims that, because he returned to Australia before the second Cabinet decision,he is entitled to the same consideration as the twenty-nine officers referred to. These twenty-nine officers, however, were granted their brevet rank - vide Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 57, of the 5th December, 1902 - eight months after the second Cabinet decision, and it could be presumed, therefore, that such recognition was granted to them in accordance with the supplement to the Cabinet decision of 30th April, 1902, which reads as follows: - “ On the recommendation of the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, the Cabinet has decided to substitute the word ‘ honorary ‘ for brevet’ in their minute of 8th July, 1901. “As a further supplement to the minute above referred to, the Cabinet desire that the cases of all officers serving in South Africa should be carefully considered on their return to Australia, and all such officers who have distinguished themselves, or who have performed services of exceptional value, should be recommended, through the necessary official channels, to the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth for his consideration. The General Officer Commanding should then submit those cases which he may consider deserving of promotion or reward.” “ If Major Carroll’s application to be ‘ entitled ‘ to this rank is to be recognised and approved, it will necessitate, after a lapse of fourteen years, a reconsideration of the status of the remaining 211 officers who were only granted honorary rank, of whom I myself am one, who returned to Australia before the second Cabinet decision, yet I do not consider that I have the slightest grounds on which to base a claim similar to Major Carroll. “Major Carroll has been informed on many occasions that th’is matter will not be re- opened, but persists in submitting his claim under a different guise from time to time. “He again asks that the question be submitted for the opinion of the Crown Solicitor as to whether he is entitled to this recognition, notwithstanding the fact that he was informed of the opinion of the Crown Solicitor given on 29th January, 1909, viz.: - That he was not legally entitled to have the full rank of major in the Commonwealth Military Forces, owing to his having; received promotion to the rank of major’ in South Africa, until the Commonwealth Government consents to and approves of the appointment as major. “ Major Carroll’s claim now, however, is not for the full rank of major, but for the brevet rank, and it is considered that, until the Commonwealth Government consents to and approves of his appointment as brevet major, he is similarly not legally entitled in law to such brevet rank. “ Referred for decision as to whether this matter ls to be again referred to the Crown Solicitor.”
In 1901 Captain Carroll, who was serving with a Queensland contingent in South Africa, was appointed by the late Lord Kitchener (then Commander-in-Chief of the Forces there) to the rank of major, subject to the approval of the Queensland Government. The approval of the Queensland Government was subsequently given, and, in my opinion, the appointment became complete.
Major Carroll returned to Australia in March, 1902.
At the time of his return there was a Cabinet minute in force to the effect that all officers who were promoted in South Africa should on return to Australia retain the higher rank as brevet rank in the Military Forces. Tie Cabinet minute would, therefore, apply to Major Carroll’s case.
A Cabinet minute has no legal effect in itself, and .it is a question of policy whether it is to be given effect to in any particular case.
The Cabinet minute referred to was altered after Major Carroll’s return, but as he had returned before the alteration, he was entitled to have his case considered under the Cabinet minute in force at the time of his return.
In an opinion dated 29th January, 1909, on this matter, given by Mr. Powers, when Crown Solicitor, Mr. Powers (inter alia) said: “Under section 70 of the Constitution, the consent to promotion in the Commonwealth Forces should have been given by the Commonwealth Government, not by the Queensland Government, _ notwithstanding the control of the contingent raised by the State Government continued in the State Government.”
It is not quite clear to my mind what Mr. Powers meant by this; but it may have been considered to cast some doubt on the validity of Major Carroll’s appointment to the rank of major in South Africa. It was probably not intended to do so.
In my opinion, the appointment of Major Carroll to the rank, of major in South Africa became de facto complete on the consent of the Queensland Government being given to such appointment, and its validity was not open to question on the ground that the Queensland Government had no power to’ consent to the appointment. The effect of the appointment was not to give Major Carroll the rank of major in the Commonwealth Military Forces in Australia, and would not have clone so even if the consent had been given by the Commonwealth Government, and not the Queensland Government. Major Carroll’s case, in my opinion, would come equally within the first Cabinet minute, whether the consent to his appointment as major had been given by the Commonwealth Government or by the Queensland Government. (Sgd.) Gordon H. Castle, Crown Solicitor,
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 241.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Westernport, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended “ -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 247.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the statement made by the representative of the Crown at the sittings of the recent Commission relating to Irish internees, to the effect that the evidence proved the existence of a treasonable conspiracy, does the Government propose to institute a prosecution against any of the alleged offenders?
– It is not the practice to disclose the intentions of the Crown Law authorities as to possible proceedings for alleged offences against the laws of the Commonwealth,
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am not able to give a detailed answer in the hurry of to-day, but I assure the ‘honorable member that the suggestions he has made are receiving full consideration.
Central Wool Committee: Wool-tops Industry : Sale of Wool and Skins - Australian Imperial Force : Interpretation of Service under Wak Conditions : Deferred Pay of Deceased Soldiers : Stoppage of Military Pay -. Applications for Discharge : House Rent and Eviction of Dependants: Treatment of A.W.L’s. : Long Service Furlough - War Pensions - Drill of Compulsory Trainees - Shipbuilding - Northern Territory Administration - Employment of Eligible Men in Defence Department - Tariff Amendment - Naval College : Entrance Examinations: Case of Cadet Midshipman Rubie- Navy Department : Hire of Launches : Sale of Gunboat “ Albert “ - The War : Purchase of Scrap Railway Material - Copper Producing Industry: Contract with British Government.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– It is with some reluctance that I bring under the notice of honorable members a subject to which I know the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has been giving a good deal of attention and time, namely, the position of the wool-tops and kindred industries. The wool-tops industry has a long history behind it; and it seems to me that the action of the Wool Board at the present time, perhaps with the concurrence of the Government, will have the effect of chopping the industry in two, and thus inflict great hardship on the people of my own district. This industry was established by means of ia bonus granted by this House, and for many years it has been struggling along. By energy and perseverance, and with the assistance given by the country, an industry has at length been established which ought to be a credit to the community. Mr. F. W. Hughes and others who produce wool-tops in New South Wales were given a bonus on condition that they found an export market; and this they did, with a good deal of expenditure and much worry. When the war broke out, this firm ceased to receive any further assistance from the bonus; in other words, the industry had been placed on a sound and payable footing. All the profits were devoted to the extension of the business, and all acquainted with the subject know that the best efforts of the firm have been devoted to making the industry a permanent one. When the bonus was granted, this permanency was, perhaps, the main object that Parliament had, for it is no use growing wool and leaving other countries to manufacture it. The Government and the House agreed that the bonus was. granted with a view to the development of a sound secondary industry. At the outbreak of the war this company had large contracts which continued until the Prime Minister formed the Central Wool Committee. For a time the Committee allowed the wool-top industry to be carried on under the old system. Then an arrangement was made by which F. W. Hughes and Company and Whiddon Brothers were to get .their wool from the Wool Committee. That agreement lasted for a certain period. After it expired there was a continual stream of correspondence between the manufacturers, the representatives of the men, the Government, and myself with a view to arriving at some finality so that the industry might be placed on a proper basis.
– I do not call it a stream of correspondence; it was a deluge.
– The Acting Prime Minister will understand my feelings when there are 500 or 600 men out of employment in my district through some hitch. There is a demand for wool tops, but through . some failure in the negotiations between the Government, the Wool Committee and F. W. Hughes, those hundreds of men are unemployed. The Government refused to continue the old agreement, and the trouble now is “to arrive at some arrangement by which the industry may be carried on. I was pleased to receive an assurance last week from the Acting Prime Minister that there was a likelihood of an arrangement being made for the continuance of the industry, but on Tuesday a deputation from the union waited on me and informed me that according to the arrangement suggested, F. W. Hughes must get his wool from the Wool Committee.
– He must use appraised wool.
– Appraised wool is obtainable only from the Wool Committee. The wool top industry has been built up through F. W. Hughes being able to buy sheep in the market. Having a large contract to supply a foreign country with tops he was a big buyer of sheep, and he had to get rid of his mutton in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. The great sin he has committed in the eyes of the meat trade is that he has kept down the price of meat.
-But he did not hurt either the producer or the consumer.
– No; because of the profits he made on the wool tops he was able to sell meat cheaper. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to look into this matter again, and see if F. W. Hughes cannot be allowed to re-employ all his former hands. By reason of the Wool Committee’s stipulation thathe should buy only appraised wool he is prevented from buying sheep, and is forced almost out of the mutton trade. He has said to the union, “If I buy sheep skins and take the wool from them I must put it into the Pool and buy it back again.” That seems a very unbusinesslike arrangement. We export dry sheep skins by the hundred thousand bales.
– Not now.
– We used to do so, and those sheep skins were not re-appraised before being shipped away. If one man is allowed to ship dry skins, why cannot another man be allowed to use green skins ? Unfortunately, every member of the Wool Committee is a grazier.
– Mr. Gibbs is not.
– Although Mr. Gibbs was formerly a manufacturer ina small way he has interests in the squatting industry. The members of the Committee look at this question only from the point of view of the producers.
– To whom does the wool belong?
– The British Government are paying for the wool, therefore it belongs to them. I understand that, after the wool is appraised, the squatters get their money.
-Up to a certain point the wool belongs to the grower; after appraisement it belongs to the British Government.
– The wool-top industry has been built up through Hughes and Company being able to buy and utilize the whole sheep. The mutton was sold in the market, the skins were tanned, basils were made, and the wool was converted into tops; but now the employees have been told that only those engaged in top production will be employed; those engaged in fellmongering and tanning will not be required at all. Surely the Wool Committee could evolve some better arrangement than that.
– If F. W. Hughes and Company care to continue all their operations, they can do so. In one respect only have we disturbed them, and that is vital.
– The company’s whole system of buying has been changed.
– What objection is there to that ? If Mr. Hughesputs his skins, dry or green, into the Pool, he gets paid for them.
– F. W. Hughes built up the wool-top industry through being able to treat the green skins. Following that method, he was able to produce a better top at a cheaper price.
– How is it possible to pay a firm making tops at a poundage rate without an appraisement of the wool?
– I am not looking at the financial position at all.
– But I must.
– When the Prime Minister announced that he had appointed a Wool Committee, I and other honorable members asked him how local industries were to be carried on, and he replied that none of the local industries would be injured ; on the contrary, they would be encouraged.
– No industry has been injured.
Mr.RILEY. - Hundreds of men in the wool-top industry have been out of work for three months.
– The men are the sufferers, but that is not the fault of the Government.
– Cannot the Government arrange to pay a poundage rate for all tops produced, allowing the manufacturer to get the wool where and how he chooses ?
– It is not possible to do that.
– But it has been possible to allow hundreds of thousands of dry skins to be exported. Why cannot a man be allowed to use his green skins without putting them into the Pool?
– No one is exporting dry skins now.
– Hundreds of thousands of bales of dry skins have been exported.
– They are not permitted to export them.
– They have been exported.
– Before the war?
– Yes, and since the war. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs I got him to prevent the shipment of thousands of bales of dry sheep skins to America.
– The Central Wool Committee was not in existence at that time.
– That is so.
– Are these people not allowed to buy sheep in the open market and deal with the skins?
– Yes; but if they do so they have to scour the wool and -submit it to appraisement. Surely they should be permitted to avoid having to cart the skins all over the place, re-purchase them, dry the wool and wet it again to put it through thecombing process.
– The honorable member knows the true position. Why does he not state it?
– I do not propose to deal with the financial part of the position. I simply maintain that a Committee that can only come to an arrangement which will throw nearly 400 men out of employment does not provide a satisfactory solution of the business.
– - That is not the inevitable effect of the agreement.
– It is the effect of it.
– Only because some persons have determined that it shall have that effect.
– Cannot the Government prevent it?
– We might do so.
– That is what I am asking the Government to do.
– The honorable member should not put the blame on the Government or on the Wool Committee for having drawn up a wrong agreement. The agreement was perfectly right.
– Supposing that an agreement is drawn up which is considered to be satisfactory and stipulates that certain men are to be re-employed, and it is found that it has not had this effect because this firm follows the line of least resistance, buys its wool from the Central Wool Committee, and does not trouble about the fellmongery business.
– If the firm chooses to go out of business in every respect except in regard to the making of wool tops we cannot prevent it from doing so.
– Well, that is the position.
– It is all bluff!
– That is what Mr. F. W. Hughes has told the men. While I regard with a good deal of favour the formation of committees for the control of the various undertakings taken over by the Government, still I am forced to the conclusion that it is not altogether in the best interests of the country that the members of these committees should give their services gratis to the community, because I find that the Shipping Board and the Wool Committee are comprised of men whose whole interests are centred in the industries they are appointed to manage. The Government should have more control.
– Is the honorable member aware that the Government have a nominee on the Wool Committee; that the British Government know everything that the Committee is doing, and that nothing is done without their approval ?
– The Wool Committee say that the Government nominee runs the show.
– He may be the Government nominee, but he is also a large producer of wool. He is a squatter.
– He does not produce a pound of wool.
– Do you say that he is not interested in some stations?
– I ask the honorable member to address the Chair, and I ask honorable members generally to cease interjecting.
– While I admit that the Wool Committee have done a great deal of good work for the community ‘gratis, I consider that in this connexion they have fallen away from the promise given by the . Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the whole of the wool industries in Australia would be kept going. The firm of which I am speaking employs about fifty mechanics. It is impossible to import machinery from Germany or America. Consequently it has established a complete engineering works, taken all its machinery to pieces, made patterns, and turned out the most up-to-date machinery that is employed in the Wool industry. It has been enabled to do this out of the profits derived from the manufacture of wool tops. It has extended its business in this way, but. all that is now to be cut off.
– Well, that is the information I have. I understand that the firm is not going on with this part of its work while the present agreement lasts. If the Acting Prime Minister cannot put a fence across the works separating the fellmongery work from the wool-top making, and keep complete control over the latter, he should, at any rate? not allow the fellmongery work to cease, because of some hitch which has taken place.
– Why does not the honorable member tell “the House that Mr. F. W. Hughes and Mr. J. C. Watson, the ex-Labour leader, are starving all these men in an endeavour to use them for the purpose of securing an inordinate profit?
– That is not stating the position fairly.
– I have endeavoured to keep personal feeling out of the discussion of this matter. I might just as well say that the wool kings are endeavouring to starve Mr. Hughes and his industry for their own aggrandizement, but I refrain from doing so. I hope that the Government will see their way clear to keep this industry going as it was before they took control of the wool clip.
.- I regret that I have to disagree with the attitude taken up by my friend, the honor able member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), for whom every allowance must be made, because he represents1 the district in which this firm is operating, and has been approached by the union in his own electorate.
– Do you not think that the honorable member is entitled to “ barrack “ for men who are out of work ?
– He has a right to “ barrack “ for men who are out of work.
– I ask the House to allow the honorable member to make his speech without interjections.
– Are members of Parliament to allow certain individuals to avail themselves of the sufferings of men, to whom they could give employment if they wished to do so, in order to make a better bargain with the Government? Honorable members will recollect this case. Mr: F. W. Hughes secured a bounty from the Commonwealth Parliament on the understanding that it would give employment to a large number of skilled operatives. After securing the bounty, he issued a prospectus inviting subscriptions for the formation of a company. He pointed out that the manufacture of wool tops would enable the company to obtain automatic machinery, which would practically be operated by a few girls. I believe that the machinery is so ingenious that it operates almost automatically. This gentleman secured a bounty from Parliament on false pretences, and he was enabled to do so by the employment of peculiar methods, He did not appear on the scene sometimes, but he got other people to take up his case, and support him in his contention that if the bounty were given, it would provide employment for a lot of skilled labour. He secured a bounty, and enjoyed it for a couple of years until the Inter-State Commission, comprising Mr. Piddington, Mr. Swinburne, and Mr. Lockyer, investigated the request of the company for a renewal of it, and unanimously recommended that , payment of the bounty should be discontinued. The Commission said that it should never have been paid, and payment was immediately discontinued. The honorable member for South Sydney has just told us that the bounty ceased because it was found that the industry was able to pay its way, but when the company made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs of the day, ‘ it urged that the bounty should be continued, because otherwise the industry could no longer be carried on. I am sorry that 1 have not with me the numerous notes which I possess on this matter. I did not know that this discussion was coming on to-day. The firm of F. W. Hughes and Company went into liquidation, giving the shareholders the option of accepting shares in a new company, or debentures carrying 7 per cent. Most of them, I believe, took debentures, thinking it better to get a certain 7 per cent, than to run the risks that might attach to ordinary shareholders in the new company. However, they were very foolish, because, as the Central Wool Committee could tell us, the contract for wool tops which Mr. Hughes was able to get from the Commonwealth Government enabled the company on a paid-up capital of about £5,000, and, of course, a considerable amount of debenture capital, to make a profit of £70,000 in a year. I believe that the Commonwealth Government’s share in this business was £70,000. I brought this matter before the House. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) accused me of being actuated by political spleen, and the Prime Minister said that I was indulging my private venom.
– Fancy accusing the honorable member of venom!
– Who was right?
– Neither. My contention was that, when the Central Wool Committee had such a valuable concession to offer, it should have invited every woollen manufacturer in the Commonwealth to enter the business.
– We did.
– I challenge the honorable member to produce any advertisement announcing that the Central Wool Committee were willing to enter upon the manufacture of wool tops with any company upon certain terms. I challenge him to produce any advertisement inviting tenders. The position is that the Government said nothing about the matter, but Mr. F. W. Hughes, who secured a position on the Central Wool Committee-
– He was elected by the fellmongers as their representative.
– He was elected at a meeting called at short notice. He happened to be over here at the time of the meeting, and was elected. I believe that even the honorable member for Hume was very glad when he resigned.
– Quite true.
– The Central Wool Committee found what I ventured to suggest it would find, namely, that the agreement which Mr. F. W. Hughes was able to induce the Central Wool Committee to sign contained certain clauses, such, for example, as that he should be allowed to take certain sums out of the profits of the business for amortization. The auditor who has gone through the accounts will admit that that provision afforded Mr. F. W. Hughes an opportunity to take profits out of the business to provide for plant and repairs, and so forth, in such a manner as to prevent the Government obtaining a due share of the profits, and to enable him to secure an inordinate share of them.
The Government decided to abrogate that contract. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that, acting under the advice of the Central Wool Committee, they had determined to offer Messrs. F. W. Hughes and Company a new agreement, which would enable the company to make 16 per cent, on the shareholders’ capital, or 121/2 per cent, over all.
– And the company would not work for what that meant, namely, £1,200 a week, or over £62,000 a year.
– The next step taken by Mr. F. W. Hughes was to discharge his 500 or 600 employees. They were dismissed in order that they might, in their suffering, be compelled to appeal to various people, including the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr.Riley), to try to obtain redress. What did most of these, employees know of the intricacies or the financial aspect of the business? All that they knew was that they were out of work, that they were suffering, that their children were almost starving, and that they wanted some redress. Accordingly they brought pressure to bear upon honorable members. Mr. F. W. Hughes has now succeeded in inducing the Government to depart from the rigid attitude they took up when they said to him, “ We will give you 121/2 per cent, on all funds invested, and we will give you a fresh agreement.”
I understand a new agreement has been framed, whereby Messrs. F. W. -Hughes and Company are to be given a poundage rate, and the. honorable member for Hume said it means £60,000 a year.
– No.I say that the terms under which Messrs. F. W. Hughes and Company locked out their men were equal to £62,000 a year.
– Quite so. As the result of this pressure which has been brought to bear in the interests of the suffering employees, and because of the annoyances to which the Acting Prime Minister has been subjected, the Government have made a more liberal agreement; but even that does not satisfy Mr. F. W. Hughes.
– It is not a more liberal agreement, but it is on a different basis, as I shall explain presently.
– Evidently Mr. F. W. Hughes is not satisfied with the new agreement offered him, and is going to bring further pressure to bear on his unfortunate employees by keeping them out of employment.
– That is the position.
– Should we submit to it? A few weeks ago I received a telegram containing words of reproach from the president and secretary of the basil workers at Botany. It said, in effect, “ Are you aware that as a result of your action we are out of employment? Are you willing to help us?” I ignored the reproach, and telegraphed back, “ Will be pleased to help you all I can. What settlement do you propose ? Are you in favour of the Government’s proposal to allow F. W. Hughes and Company a 121/2 per cent, profit on all funds invested, or are you in favour of nationalizing the industry?” To that inquiry I have received no reply.
These unfortunate men are being used by Mr. F. W. Hughes, and I think we ought to find some other way of helping men who are out of employment. They should not be compelled to support the demands of a gentleman who has been living upon this Commonwealth for several years, and who is prepared, apparently, to seek advantages that he has no right to secure at the expense of the general body of taxpayers. I know it is very hard for the employees, but when Mr. F. W. Hughes was earning these large profits, which, as the honorable member for Hume says, were equal to 121/2 per cent, on the capital invested, he was not passing on to his employees any of these concessions. They were complaining of having to work under sweated conditions in the industry- Why did not Mr. F. W. Hughes consent to pass on some of these huge profits to his men, who were working three shifts a day?
– Does the honorable member expect an employer to be an angel ?
– The majority of employers are not of this type; civilization could not continue if all employers were. My experience is that 75 per cent., and even more, of the employers are prepared to do the fair thing by their employees.
– The honorable member would be nearer the mark if he said 1/4 per cent.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member must admit that Mr. F. W. Hughes paid the award rates.
– At all events, my experience is that only a small percentage are wasters. Mr. F. W. Hughes is, apparently, one of the small percentage who are prepared to do a very unfair thing towards the people who work for them.
I can believe now a statement I read in the press some years ago, that Mr. F. W. Hughes went to Colombo, and that, as a Colombo newspaper stated, he was there inquiring into the conditions of labour, because he found there were so many labour troubles in Australia in connexion with his industry that he was going to transfer his business to Colombo. When I wrote to the press drawing attention to this statement, Mr. F. W. Hughes denied it.I then wrote to the editor of the Colombo newspaper which had published this statement but received no reply. I imagine, because of theconduct of Mr. F. W. Hughes since, that he is one of those men who, if it would pay him, would to-morrow shift his whole plant, box and dice, to some Eastern country, where he could use sweated labour. The Government could help in this matter. The contract has not yet been signed, and if there is any means of bringing pressure to bear on this gentleman, and there ought to be, it should he used. I am sorry that the Government did not give us a chance of looking at the agreement before they made it. They should have asked Mr. Hughes the question, “ Are you prepared to give your employees some share in these extraordinarily profitable contracts in which you are about to enter?” That would have been a very simple matter. The Government could well spare a few thousand pounds out of their share of the profits. They have no right to .make £60,000, or whatever the amount may be, at the expense of the men and women in the Botany fellmongering and wool-tops works. This is sweated money.
– The employees are paid the award rates.
– The award rates are sometimes far from being the wages that people should be paid. A Judge hears evidence before fixing rates of payment, but Mr. F. W. Hughes, no doubt, would be able to produce plenty of evidence to show that his concern was not a paying onn. The letters I have received from a secretary of a union, whose members are employed by Mr. F.W. Hughes at Botany, show that they are not getting a fair deal, but are working under sweating conditions. In the Commonwealth balancesheet some £70,000 or thereabouts will, I suppose, appear as the Government’s share of the profits of the wool-tops contract. The Government should surrender some part of that money. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) ought to ask the Government to do what many private employers are doing, and what is being done by the Commonwealth Bank, that is, to grant a bonus to their employees for work done during war-time. I am sure that every member would support the Government in paying out of the profits of the wool-tops contract a few thousand pounds to the employees in the industry. The firm concerned ought to do the same thing; but the. fact that F. W. Hughes and Company are not prepared to do their duty is not a reason why the Government should not do its duty.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has asked the House to reconsider a phase of the wool-tops problem, but in doing so he, quite unwittingly no doubt, misled honorable members as to the effect of the arrangement recently concluded between the Government, on the advice of the Wool Committee, and the company concerned. Most of those who have been following this controversy will know that practically ever since- the Prime Minister left for England the burden of effecting a settlement has been thrown chiefly upon me. The problems concerned have been some of the knottiest that I have had to tackle. I came to the task with a fresh mind, and only bit by bit did I realize the almost inextricable tangle involved. I am reminded by this discussion, and the conflict of opinion of two members opposite, of the difference between the position in which we are now and that in which we were when the first agreement was drawn. At that time the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) accused the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) with having made too liberal an arrangement with the company. He thought that the Government had been too generous to this particular group of men, and had allowed them to make too much profit from this subsidized industry.
– That was the general opinion.
– That was the view expressed by Mr. Higgs.
– With which the honorable member agreed when speaking about the new agreement.
– I did not put it in that way, because I thought that that would be a reflection on the Wool Committee, which was struggling with the elements of an important problem, and trying to knit it up with transactions affecting many millions of pounds. This subject is one which you have to get down into. As the “Self-made Merchant” told his son about business, “it is not very deep, but. like a nigger’s wool, it has a good many tangles in it.” That is what I have found. The honorable member for South Sydney now says that we have been so rigid in the present agreement that we are, in effect, injuring the industry. The statements of both honorable members axe wrong. I propose to describe as briefly as I can the situation in which the Wool Committee found themselves as the handlers of wool, and the chief advisers of the Government on this and all related problems. The duration of the old agreement ‘was at issue. The wool-tops companies said that it endured for the period of the war; the Wool Committee said, “ Nothing of the kind; it is for a certain number of parcels of tops,” and when permits for the exportation of a certain quantity of wool had been exhausted, the agreement automatically died. There came a time when the wool-tops companies, met by that decision, which the Government confirmed, threatened legal proceedings for the extension of the agreement. The Government said, “ Very well, go to law.” That was our attitude up to a certain stage. The position was not very satisfactory, because there were other doubts arising out of the interpretation of the agreement, particularly as to the moneys that should be paid into the Treasury by the wooltops companies, and we were threatening law in regard to that, so that there was going to be action and cross action. It seemed to me that, as it was a business matter, based upon bond fide considerations at the start, however these might have been misinterpreted afterwards, a business and not a litigious settlement should be sought. . I applied my mind to it to that end, as, if we went to law, the industry might not only be dislocated, but permanently injured. I, with the assistance of the Wool Committee, and of a sub-committee, spent three or four months trying to obtain a settlement, and at last we got one. I need not describe at length the many alternatives submitted by the wool-tops companies and the Committee to the Government. Broadly, the position of the Committee was this. The old agreement is dead. We want the industry to go on, not only to keep the operatives in’ the industry engaged, but because many of our Allies are wanting tops. This industry, which has been established through the prescience of former statesmen, should be kept going throughout the war. and, if possible, permanently. They said that we should make an agreement with the companies giving them 121/2 per cent, on their total capital, and as one at least of these had debenture capital, it would show a shade over 16 per cent, on the shareholders’ funds invested.
– A very generous profit.
– That depends on amortization, risks, and other factors. The companies said, “ We do not object to the amount of money that we are going to get out of the agreement, but we object to the principle of remuneration;” and that was stressed very hardly on many occasions. They said, “If you are going to put every industry of this kind into shackles during the period of the war, we will submit with the others, but are we to be the only people whose profits are to be artificially limited?” I confess that there is something in that argument.
– The industry was not, as people would infer from your remarks, in the same position as others, because they were buying their wool in a restricted and fixed market, and they wanted to sell, and were the only people in Australia who were allowed to do so at the world’s extreme prices.
– That is perfectly true.
– To correct another misapprehension, I would liketo say-
– It is quite out of order to interject in this way.
– (The honorable member will be able to amplify his remarks later. I was about to acknowledge that there was a difference between this industry and every other industry in Australia. The question was: Was this difference so fundamental as to warrant the Government in saying, “ We will definitely limit your profits, while we decline to do similar things to any other industry in Australia” ? Therefore, I sought a compromise arrangement which would be no more liberal to the companies and no less decent to the Treasury, but would be based on a more defensible principle. After much argument, the Wool Committee recommended to the Government that we should build the reward on the poundage principle; that the amount of money these people could make should depend on what they put through. If there were a large turnover, they would then make more than if there were a small one. Instead of confining the award to a fixed percentage on the funds invested it was thought that the payment should be based on output, which would not destroy the stimulus which the other form of reward might destroy. In considering the problem on that basis we found ourselves up against difficulties.I am not going to plaster with epithets the reputation of any man engaged in this controversy. I have my own opinions as to bona fides in some cases, and I may express them’ at the right time, but not now. We knew that the individuals connected with the companies whose affairs we were trying to settle were engaged in a number of businesses. There was the tanning business, the glue business, and the meat business*^ and, associated with those, fellmongering and topmaking- the two branches of the wool business. Although we knew the antagonism to Mr. F. W. Hughes that had grown out of the butchering business, the “Wool Committee had nothing to do with that. They were, however, concerned in- getting the best bases for separating the wool businesses from all the other enterprises in which this man or company was engaged. We, therefore, made them the offer that he should manufacture tops as the agent for the Government during the war and the continuance of the wool agreement. We said that if the tops were to be made under the new agreement, it must be by the company with the necessary equipment, accommodation and capital, as the agent for the Government ; and there are many reasons for that view. Once having taken that decision, we were faced by the consideration that twothirds of the wool the manufacturer uses for tops is his own wool, in the sense that he has bought the sheep on the hoof, slaughtered them, and sold the meat, and brought the by-product, the green skins, to the fellmongery. As a cycle of business, that is perfectly sound : but in an arrangement by which a man receives wool from the Government and converts it from the rudimentary to the finished state, if it is wished, to arrive at what his reward is on a poundage basis, we have to decide the value of the wool when it starts, or at some stage of the operation, and at its finish, or there are great possibilities of grave miscarriage of. reward in the agency arrangements. I do not know whether I make that quite clear, because I find in this business that what is clear to me has sometimes proved obscure to others. I think honorable members may take it for granted, without further argument, that at the initial stage of an arrangement of this kind there has to be a valuation of the goods, just as when there is a sale there has to be a valuation before the goods are handed over. I suggested to the good folks interested that they should dry their skins that hitherto have come green, so that they might be appraised at the start of the operation ; but they said that that would so much alter the arrangements df their businesses as to be impossible. We then suggested that after the wool had been sweated and rough scoured, before it became the raw material for the topmaking industry, there should he a drying process and stoppage for appraisement, so that we could value it. They said that that was impossible, owing to lack of accommodation, and other difficulties which presented themselves. Having investigated the matter in every way that the experts of the sub-committee of the Wool , Committee were able to suggest, and the company finding that it was impossible to comply with our requirements, we said that they must use only appraised wool. This meant that they would be placed exactly where all other men are who use wool in Australia to-day. If we had not done that, we would have said to the two adjoining factories, “One of you must use appraised wool, while the other is at liberty to use their own wool.” There was in that position great possibilities of misunderstanding or impropriety; and the Government, therefore, stood .behind the Wool Committee and said that the fundamental requirement was the use of appraised wool.
I hope I am not wearying honorable members, but it is just as well to go thoroughly into the matter, so that the situation may be quite understood. Mr. Hughes’ company said, “ If you make us use appraised wool, what are we to do with the skins?” We replied, they could get them fellmongered at some other place, and put the proceeds in the Pool, as others did. This, they said, would be difficult but not impossible, and when we drew up the agreement they set themselves to so arrange that, instead of doing their own fellmongering, they would contract with other fellmongers to take the green skins and f fellmonger them, and when finished put them in the Pool. If pursued in a bond fide way, that meant that, instead of 700 men working in Hughes’ place,-there might be only 400 or 500 ; but the balance would be rapidly absorbed amongst the sub-contractors. Mr. Hughes went to work to adopt this plan, and I heard to my astonishment yesterday that he had told his operatives that there was work for only 400 of them. On that I say, “Very well; from every point, of view that is a breach of the spirit of the arrangement I made last week.”
– If he is compelled to have the f ellmongering done elsewhere, how can he continue’ to employ his men?
– I do not say he can, but he could arrange by contract for the scouring of the skins, and for the men to be employed where the scouring is done. In fact, Mr. Hughes had taken the objection that it was not only an uneconomic interruption of the cycle of his operations, but that it would disperse his employees amongst other firms. After much argument he consented to consider the matter, and see if the arrangement could be properly operated.
After very careful attention to the matter, and without any prejudice, but solely with the desire to get the question settled, I say there is nothing whatever in the arrangement to stop the Combing and Weaving Company and Mr. Hughes, in this joint business, operating in every way except one, as they formerly have done. They can buy the sheep, slaughter them, deal with the skins, and make tops, basils and glue, just as they have done, but, instead of putting the green skins into those pits, they must, by arrangement, put them into these pits, and buy the wool required out of the Pool.No argument can convince me that that cannot be done ; and I speak as one who spent ten or twelve years in associated trades. Their argument against this plan is that it compels those concerned to twice handle at a certain point. We recognise that, but we prefer to pay the price rather than have the agreement complicated with any of the other businesses in which they are interested. I say that the Government have done the right thing in adopting this policy; and if Mr. Hughes, after the enormous worry the controversy has caused him - and it has caused him as much as it has caused the Wool Committee and the
– He may be used to it ! Mr. WATT.- I am sure that Mr. Hughes’ health, and also that of Mr. J. C. Watson, has suffered in this business. All their “ eggs “ appear to be in the one “ basket,” and they wonder whether it can be kept in a safe state or whether it will topple over and spill all their assets. If
Mr. Hughes likes to quietly ponder the position and carry out this arrangement, the troubles of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) will be over in a few days, or at least in a week or two. I agree with the’ honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) that it is important that the employment of the men should be safeguarded, but Iam not prepared to let that consideration weigh me down. I will not sign a bad agreement because 400 men are out of work. Much as I desire to see them back in employment, the thing is to see that the wool- . growers, the manipulators of wool, and the Government who make the contract, arrange a good square deal.
– Are the employees not entitled to have their case considered 1
– The plight of these men must not drive the Government, by pressure or suasion, into signing a wrong agreement. And now, as to the financial effect of the agreement itself. Under the old agreement the company combed 4,000,000 lbs. of tops of the highest quality ever turned out in Australia, and they earned, so far as I have been able to estimate, a net £64,000 per annum, based on the first accountancy period ending August, 1917. It is assumed that the second accountancy period was as good as the first, doubling the first half-year’s amount on a capital of £600,000.
– In what period of time did they comb this 4,000,000 lbs. ?
– That was the rate per annum. The agreement provides that they are to get the same return, as nearly as it can be judged, on the figures for the whole twelve months’ operations but instead of turning out 4,000,000 lbs., they have to turn out 6,000,000 lbs., that is to say, we are getting 50 per cent, more tops for the payment of the return than they got under the old agreement. That, I say, is a good business deal for the Commonwealth; and it is a fair and square one for the industry.
I am sorry to hear that as a result, or for any of the reasons arising out of this irritating controversy, one of the parties is determined or desirous of impeding operations by dislocating 400men.If Mr. Hughes came to the Government or to the Wool Committee, and said it was impossible to arrange accommodation to carry out the scheme, that would be another matter ; but no representations have been made to that effect. Until I hear to the contrary, I am inclined to think that this is not a bond fide attempt to get over the one remaining difficulty which was naturally thrown on the shoulders of the controller of the company.
I have heard some remarks made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) about Mr. Hughes and Mr. Watson, and interjections of the same kind; but I think that sort of thing should be kept out of the controversy We ought to be able to discuss these matters in a business way without calling any one a rogue or a liar. So far as I am able to judge, those men have been battling for their own hand in quite the ordinary business way.
– No, a little more than the ordinary business way.
– If the honorable member, out of the wealth of his experience, assures me as to that, I shall modify my statement; but, judging by my own experience in business, which may have been a little keener than his own, it seems to me that they are fighting for their own hand, for the best kind of agreement they can get. At one point of the controversy I told the owners of these works that, unless they settled up their accounts with the Government, and started the work within a certain time, the Government would seize the works. I told them that plainly, not as a threat, but as an intimation of intention.
– Is it an ordinary kind of business to push the Government to that extent ?
– It is not.
– We ought to be in Russia !
– Well, it has been sugguested in a cartoon in one of the foolish northern papers that I am a despot, or something of that kind. However, four and a half months’ negotiations appeared to be leading into a blind alley; and it was time something was done.
– These remarks are surprising after the censoring of our speeches.
– The honorable member’s speeches should, I think, always be censored. I hope honorable members will see that we have arrived at a perfectly sound business arrangement. There is one link in it to be operated, and I shall expect F. W. Hughes and Company to operate it in a bond fide way, otherwise we shall take our own measures. The agreement, as such, is not signed yet, but I have it here in the form of a memorandum comprising a great number of clauses, and signed by the three representatives of the Wool Committee, the three representatives of the Wool Combing Company, and the representative of the Government. In it the basis and fundamental provisions of the agreement are set forth. The matter is now in the hands of the draftsman. I ask the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) to realize that we have done all we can to bring about the re-employment of the men engaged in the industry, and we shall continue our efforts to that end.
– I believe that the Acting Prime Minister thought that the matter was settled, but it is the hitch in the negotiations of which I complain.
– I am not responsible for the hitch. That agreement will stand the light of clay as a good business scheme, fair to all the parties concerned, and anything short of it such as the use of un appraised wool, would be improper and dangerous.
.- The House is indebted to the Acting Prime Minister for the information he has given in regard to the wool top industry, and I hope that the company concerned will see its way clear to carry out the spirit of the agreement that has been made. At the same time, there is another aspect of the case that is worthy of a little attention on the part of the Acting Prime Minister. The employees in the industry have been out of employment for two or three months. Many of them have families to support. Prior to the dispute that arose with the company the Government, representing the Commonwealth, were partners in the industry. They were entitled to certain profits that accrued to the company as a result of its operations under the old agreement. That being so, the Government were partly responsible for the employment of a large number of men in the industry, and as they have received £70,000- as their share of the profits, it seems to me only fair that when the Government considered it desirable to discontinue the old agreement, the employees should receive some consideration. We have often complained that private employers do not treat their employees fairly. In this case we, as a Commonwealth, were partners in the employment of the men, and the Government would do well to consider whether they should not pay some amount to the men who have been out of employment for upwards of two months, and many of whom will not be reemployed until the industry is properly adjusted, which may take two or three weeks. I hope the Government will take that suggestion into consideration. I know nothing about the merits of the case other than I have heard explained by the Acting Prime Minister, but it appears to me that the Government have done everything possible to bring about a fair settlement, and that the terms offered to the company are very .good indeed - in fact, better than the company should expect to receive for the work to be performed. At a time when it is essential, in the interests of the Allies, that the manufacture of wool tops should continue, we should not allow the industry to remain idle for a day longer than is necessary. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will act in accordance with the statement contained in the latter part of his speech, and that if the company is not prepared to do a fair thing, the Government will take measures to secure control of the industry by the Commonwealth.
I rose principally to draw attention to a number of matters connected with the Expeditionary Forces. Notwithstanding the assurance given from time to time that everythng possible is being done to expedite the payments due to the dependants of soldiers who have been killed, a considerable time still elapses before finality is reached. In some cases widowed mothers who are in destitute circumstances, a.nd are anxious to receive the deferred pay of their late sons, are unable to get the money for many months. The Assistant Minister for Defence stated yesterday that these matters are generally finalized inside five months. I have received this week a letter which shows that a settlement has been delayed for nine, months, and I have known of several other cases in which the period has been even gi-eater, sometimes extending to twelve months. It appears to me that the business should be and could be expedited. I quite understand that we cannot expect to receive the documents from the other side of the world in a month or two; but it should be possible to finalize each account within four or five months at the outside. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) promised to do what he could to expedite these payments, but up to the present time no results have accrued from his action. I hope that the Government will give further attention to this matter.
Another cause of considerable dissatisfaction is the stoppage of military pay for breaches of discipline. Most honorable members have received letters from different people, who have complained of their allotment money having been stopped. In some cases married men with a wife and several children dependent on them have been fined for some breach of discipline. Often these breaches are of a very trivial character, as, for instance, overstaying leave, yet, as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) pointed out last week, excessive sentences are sometimes imposed. If a man has been fined for some offence, a cable is sent to- the Defence Department in Australia to the effect that that soldier has been penalized, and, in consequence, the payment to his dependants ceases. In this way many women are being placed in very grave difficulties. It is not. right to say that because a husband has been convicted of some military offence the allowance to his wife and children should cease, or be reduced. Sometimes it hap-, pens that she has been receiving the money for some time after the fine has been imposed, and the stoppage continues until the amount overpaid has been refunded. How can the wives and families of soldiers live if the Department stops the pay upon which they are depending? This is a burning’ question throughout the country, and cases such as I have mentioned are doing considerable harm. They are talked about everywhere, and in the interests of our Forces should receive immediate attention. It is not fair to compel the dependants of any soldier to suffer because his field pay has been stopped on account of some offence. We ought to realize that the wives and children of the soldiers are not responsible in such cases, and we should see that they receive the means of support, whatever happens to- the offenders themselves
On several occasions I have mentioned in this House the refusal of the authorities to pay pensions to men who have enlisted and have been abroad - in some instances for over a year - and then have been returned incapacitated. These men have been reported physically unfit by the doctors abroad, and subsequently by the military doctors in Australia. Yet because the authorities contend that their incapacity has not occurred in connexion with warlike operations they are refused pensions. If a man passes the military doctor at the time of enlistment, and again at the final examination before embarkation, and while abroad contracts rheumatism or some other complaint caused by the rigours of the climate in France or elsewhere, and in consequence is returned to Australia as unfit for further service with the Expeditionary Forces, is it fair to say that, though he has returned shattered in health, his incapacitation has not occurred in connexion with warlike operations? How otherwise did it occur? How could he have been accepted as a fit man and sent abroad unless he was sound up to the time when he left Australia? But, though he returns from military service unfit to earn a shilling, he is disqualified for a pension. There are many such cases, and, strange to say, in almost every instance in which action has been taken by a member of Parliament, a pension has been granted. But in the meantime the man may have been in Australia for four or five months earning nothing, and dependent on patriotic funds. Such occurrences should not be’ allowed. It was surely intended by this Parliament that if a man is returned from abroad, not because he had committed any crime, or because of any “fault of his own, but because his health had broken down, he should receive a war pension. I cannot understand why the quibble about the incapacitation not having occurred in connexion with warlike operations is being raised in so many cases; it is doing an immense amount of harm. I again ask the Government to see if it is not possible to remove this very genuine grievance. It is purely a matter of the administration of theWar Pensions Act, and if a man is returned in illhealth . and unable to engage in any employment the authorities can easily ascer tain the reason for his incapacitation and grant a pension.
I wish to again deal with the stoppage of payments to foster parents. I have in mind at the present time two cases in which the foster parents had reared the boys from infancy. In one case the boy was never allowed to know that the people who had reared him were not his real father and mother. Both boys were killed, and neither left a will. When the foster parents made application for the deferred pay the matter was referred to the Public Trustee. His duty is to take out letters of administration, but when he ascertained that the applicants were merely the foster parents of the deceased soldiers he would not pay the money to them, because they had no legal claim. Why need such cases - be referred to the Public Trustee at all? If a soldier has allotted his pay to the people who have adopted him, they ought to be able to claim the deferred pay in the event of his death. I know of an old-age pensioner who reared one soldier from infancy, but he was unable to draw the deferred pay when that lad was killed at the age of twenty- three. Surely the Minister could instruct the paymaster to make these payments without referring the matter to the Public Trustee at all. I understand that the reason why the Public Trustee will not recommend the payment is that there is a possibility of some other relative turning up and claiming the money.
– To whom would the honorable member pay the money?
– To the person to whom the soldier had allotted his pay of 3s, per day. A foster parent may have been receiving that amount throughout the son’s . service, but when at the soldier’s death it is found that the ‘ claimant of the deferred pay is not the natural parent of the deceased, the claim to deferred pay is refused. There is no responsibility on the Commonwealth if the money is . paid to the person who has been drawing the allotment. No one else could set up a claim for it.
– It is astounding how many claims have been put up by persons who did not receive any benefit from the son previously.
-Notin cases so clear as that to which I have just drawn attention. T have always urged that the boys who are undergoing military training should not be called upon to drill on Saturdays. In mining districts there’ is great objection to it. One Saturday in the fortnight is pay Saturday, and on that day the people in these districts like to get away’ to picnics. The boys like to go- away shooting or fishing, but they are unable to do it, because an Area Officer may have fixed on the Saturday afternoon for the compulsory drill. This matter has already been brought before the House on several occasions, and we have been given the information that arrangements were to be made whereby the boys should not be drilled on Saturdays.
– The understanding was that they were to be drilled in the employers’ time.
– That was the understanding, but as the pay Saturday in the mining districts is not a working day, and the boys are called upon to attend drill on that day, it means that they are expected to do it in their own time. This has caused a good deal of objection to be taken against compulsory training. Many parents object to their boys being called upon to give up the only day which they have for a holiday. Arrangements seem to have been made to avoid interfering with employers. No consideration seems to have been given to the employee, the boy who is compelled to attend drill on the very day on which he could enjoy a holiday. If these little pinpricks could be obviated, we would have more harmony in the community. I bring these matters forward so that the Government may give them some consideration. I hope, particularly, that attention will be devoted to the matters of military pay to which I have referred, and that something will be done to bring about finality in those matters.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member with regard to Saturday training of the Citizen Forces. There are several features connected with the training of the Citizen Forces to which attention must be paid by Parliament when the more important war matters have ceased to engross our minds. By reason of some of the conditions under which men are trained, compulsory training, instead of serving the useful purpose intended, is giving a very large section of the people an utter distaste for what they conceive to be military methods, and one thing having that effect is the fact that the time which the working youth has for his week-end enjoyment is that which is almost invariably selected by Area Officers for drills.
I also support the contention of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) with regard to the treatment of those soldiers who, having served the country, even in the trenches, and coming back in a state of ill-health, which some medical officers say is not attributable to the work done in the trenches, are deprived of the privileges that are given to many hundreds of returned men who have not seen the trenches. This is the cause of considerable dissatisfaction in every part of Australia. It is something which cannot be justified. In fact, no member of the Ministry has ever sought to justify it. Nevertheless, no one has ever sought to provide a remedy..
The same remark applies to the failure to review the War Pensions Act. Every time we have had the opportunity of discussing the matter, I have urged that the time has long since passed for this Parliament to have another say in regard to the amount of pensions to be paid aud the conditions under which they can be earned. We are bound by an Act which was pass*ed in the first year of the war when honorable members did what they thought was the right thing to do, but which I venture to say the majority of honorable members to-day would not consider was the right thing.
– We have since had two amending Bills, but they are not sufficient.
– We have had no amendment of that portion of the Act which creates our greatest difficulty. We are still limited as to the amount of pension that a private can get for total incapacity, which amount controls all the other pensions underneath. I indorse the remark . of the honorable member for Hunter that it is a disgraceful condition of affairs that a soldier who is able to get the- ears of a member of Parliament can thereby secure better treatment than is obtained by the man who has not that privilege. It is true -not only of the Pensions Department, but also of every Department of the military service. I suppose that every honorable member has had an experience of a case having been brought to him about which he has written to the Department, and the man who has been deprived of his rights for months has had them restored to him. If the public Departments were properly administered there would be no occasion for an - honorable member to write on a soldier’s behalf. An amendment of the War Pensions Act is necessary to provide some interpretation of what Parliament means by “ employment in connexion with warlike operations.” There is also need for much more liberal treatment in regard to the amount of the pensions given. It is a most humiliating fact that many men have had to use the whole of their deferred pay in order to sustain themselves here on their return from the Front. The pensions are not adequate to keep men when they return. They are expected to supplement the pensions they receive.
There are two or three purely technical ways in which relatives of soldiers are deprived of their rights. If the mother of a deceased soldier does not apply within six months of the death of her son, she receives no pension for that six months.. It is simply a case of confiscating her money, because she has had some repugnance; about applying for a pension, and, in fact, has had to be persuaded to do it. There is another section in which the same rule applies. By a purely arbitrary decision of the Department, if a right is not exercised within a certain time, it is not recognised: These provisions are harsh. They deny justice to some who most deserve it. Sentimental feelings with regard to the deaths of sons prohibit many mothers from submitting applications for pensions until they are forced to do it through their own necessities.
I desire to enter a protest against the action of the Wool Committee in regard to wool tops. Owing to the necessities of the war we have been compelled to place almost unlimited power in the hands of highly interested persons, many of whom are giving their services from the highest patriotic motives, and many of whom are giving them for nothing; but, all the same, they are given autocratic powers to interfere with the industries of Australia in a manner that would not be tolerated for a moment if it were not for the fact that the necessities of the war demand it. Because they possess these powers, every action of the officers of the Boards and Committees which have been formed should be subject to the fullest possible scrutiny, and, at least, should be based upon some recognised principle that can be readily seen to be actuating it. In the wool-tops business there have been several departures from every set of principles that should be laid down in dealing with such matters. The chairman of the Central Wool Committee has in a very luminous document laid down the principles which ought to guide the Committee, but such is the frailty of the human mind that when it was a matter of applying them, the Committee was unable to live up to the precepts which its chairman had preached. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has not told us, nor has any one who supports the recent interference with the wooltops industry told us, what it is that gives the Government the right to treat this industry differently from any other industry in Australia at the present time. If the proposal were part of a scheme to go through the whole of the profiteering industries of the country and say, “You shall be confined to 12£ per cent, or 16 per cent.”, or whatever may be thought to be a right percentage, then I should support it. The Government would be able to say that in a time of difficulty they made use of every resource of the country in order to ease the burden of taxation that must come about as the result of the war. If the Government had reached out to the pastoral industry at the beginning of the war, and said that those enormous profits that were coming to the wool-growers because of the greatly enhanced price of wool as the result of the war would be taken and put into the Treasury in order to relieve the burden of taxation! on the people, and if they had followed that principle throughout, and, whenever an industry benefited by reason of the war, taken a proportion of the new profit while leaving the industry quite as prosperous as it was when war broke out, we could have supported the principle which has been applied to the wool-tops industry, because it would also have been fairly applied all round. However, for some particular reason the wool-tops industry has been singled out and treated in an entirely different manner from what has been proposed with regard to any of the kindred industries centering round the Wool Committee’s operations. I understand that the origin of this industry was the perception of Mr. F. W. Hughes, that by eliminating some of the processes at the beginning of the preparation of wool for the making of wool tops, he could make a profit that could not be secured if he bought in the usual way. When he set out to do this work he wanted the wool on the skins. As his operations were likely to interfere with the profits of those who dealt in skins, however, the brokers who handled the skins set to work to prevent him obtaining a supply. He had then to devote his intelligence to the overcoming of that difficulty, and he proceeded to buy the sheep, so that the skins would belong to him, and would not have to pass through the hands of the brokers. This brought him up against one of the most powerful combines in this country, the combine that handles the meat in our markets; and by the irony of fate, owing to the war, the time has come when these powerful interests are able to strip him of .the advantage he had, and which led to the establishment of his industry. It is an extraordinary fact that the one point upon which the Central Wool Committee remain adamant is that he shall not be allowed to fellmonger his skins, which is the actual basis- of his industry. The one thing that enabled him to secure an advantage in the course of manufacture of wool tops was that he was able, in dealing with the skins, to avoid some of the processes which this Committee now insists he shall, quite unnecessarily, carry out. Where does the Committee get the right to interfere with industries in this way?
There is the kindred case of the small buyers of wool in country towns. The only sound principle to be observed by any of these autocratic bodies that are given control of industries owing to war conditions, is that they shall not disturb the existing condition of industries . if they can carry out their functions without doing so. They have no right so to exercise the powers which we have to give them as to interfere with existing conditions in the slightest degree if their work can be done without doing so. It is the departure from that sound policy, both in regard to the wool tops industry and the position of small wool buyers in country towns, that has brought upon the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and his colleagues most of the troubles that have arisen in connexion with this matter. Every care has been taken to safeguard existing interests in other directions, even to the extent of giving a commission on war loan subscriptions to brokers who do nothing at all. The commission is allowed because their original business was that of selling stock, and there is no desire to deprive them of their livelihoods. Likewise, in dealing with the sale of wool, the Committee still allows the brokers to draw a commission, although all the work is done for them. They have nothing to do in connexion with it except to collect their commission. Thus, on the one hand, we find the big man securing his commission, while the small man - the man in the country who is asking for the right to deal in, say, £25 worth of wool at a time - is denied the privilege. The refusal of this right means that all the wool must be sent to Sydney. We find centralization at every point. If it were necessary, if it had to be done in order that the work the Committee have in hand might be carried out, one would not object; but no necessity has been shown for the action of which I complain, and which means the destruction of industries. The . small grower and the small farmer are being deprived of the readiest way of selling their wool and obtaining their money readily, while in the greater industry of the manufacture of wool tops, operations are being seriously interfered with. The industry is being placed upon a plane different from that occupied by any other. I would rejoice to know that we were .going to place seme of our other industries on something approaching the same plane, and that all-round justice was to be done ; but I ob ject to this singling out of a new industry, recently established, and one that has had a hard fight to secure a footing in Australia.
What effect will this treatment have upon the establishment of new industries in the Commonwealth ? If - there is one duty more than another to which this Parliament should be devoting its energies at the present time, it is that of devising some method of encouraging new industries here. I am surprised that the attack on this industry should have been led by a Labour member. If it were the only industry engaged in profiteering I could understand such an action, but wholesale profiteering is going on in this country, and while this Parliament, by means of the war-time profits tax, has made some effort to appropriate some of the results of profiteer- ing, the position so far as the wool tops industry is concerned is that the profiteering, if any, that is going on is at the expense of foreign countries and for the benefit of our own. It is introducing money from abroad to be expended in Australia; yet this industry is singled out for special treatment, and there has been so much fighting in regard to it that the Acting Prime Minister says that when he dies the word “ wool tops “ will be found written on his heart, just as Queen Mary said that the word “Calais” would be found on hers. If this industry had been allowed to pursue its way as other industries have been, the life of the Acting Prime Minister would certainly have been much happier, and we would have had one example less of the difficulties of establishing new enterprises in Australia.
I hope that Mr. P. W. Hughes will be able to continue his industry, since I look forward to the time when we shall refuse to allow any wool that has not been advanced to at least the first stage of manufacture to be sent out of Australia. Here wehave an opportunity. The nations of the world must have Australian wool, and we are allowing it to go out of the country in a practically raw state, whereas we could employ hundreds of thousands of our people in advancing it to a stage of manufacture which can be readily carried out here. In this way hundreds of thousands of pounds would be spent here among our own people, instead of being spent, as at present, in other countries, in the manufacture of our wool into various finished products. As it is, we send the raw product out of the country to be returned to us in a finished state, and it is purchased by our own people after foreign labour has had the whole of its value.
-no one is stopping us from entering upon such manufactures.
– I invite the honorable member to ask Mr. F. V. Hughes whether any one has interfered with him in his efforts to establish this new industry.
– It is not a new industry; the bounty was granted as far back as 1908.
– That was only ten years ago, and’ it has been a period of struggle that has taken years off the life of the man who undertook the work of establishing the enterprise here. Every year has brought forward some new combination to crush his industry out of existence. He now finds that the Central Wool Board, after encouraging him and giving every assistance, is suddenly taking up a different attitude. We have had no explanation of this change of attitude on the part of the Board. We have not been told why the almost beatific principles laid down by ‘the chairman were suddenly found to be unsound. I know nothing whatever of the merits of the different persons concerned, and do not wish to know anything of them; but I know that this industry has been singled out for special treatment, which is not calculated to encourage the establishment of new enterprises in Australia. Next to winning the war, there is no question more deserving the attention of this Parliament at the present time than that of the establishment of new industries under the most favorable conditions that we can afford to give them.
– Like others who have spoken this afternoon, I am wondering whether the time will ever come when common sense will be displayed in the administration of the Defence Department. When the Bill providing for compulsory’ training was introduced I refused to support it. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said he would bring me to heel, but there was no division on the question, and he could not make me support it. At that time I placed before the House certain facts by which I endeavoured to show that unless common sense was brought to bear in the administration of the system some men would be placed at a great disadvantage under it. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has referred to-day to the disabilities which it imposes upon young men in the coal mines. In my constituency there are trades in which young men every other week have to work all night, and the compulsory training system as applied to them is unfair. If the system were administered with common s-~se, there would be no trouble so far as they are concerned. Again, many young men in the Public Service, as well as outside of it, have evaded compulsory training. I know of eleven who used to meet in one street corner push, and who avoided compulsory training, but they enlisted before others who had undergone “ it. Then again, many young men have been found to be medically unfit to undergo compulsory training, and they have an advantage over those “who are being trained.
– It does our young men no harm to be trained to fight for their country.
– I do not say that it does. My only contention is that those who undergo compulsory training should not be placed at a disadvantage compared with those who are not compelled to do so. Here is a letter I have received on the subject -
Members of the 27th Company, Signal Engineers, have been ordered to go into camp from the 21st October, for a period of twentyfour days. Most of us have been studying’ for several months in an endeavour to pass the clerical examination for promotion in the Commonwealth Public Service. The examination takes place on the 7th and 8th of November next, and, as our future career depends to a great extent on the result, we would esteem it a very great favour if you. could have the annual camp postponed until after the examination. Hie camp was originally to take place in September, but was postponed owing to the accountancy examinations. As these are held every six months, and the clerical examination is the first for two years, at which officers now employed in the General Division are allowed to. compete, it will be seen that our request is reasonable. To avoid the camp clashing with the examination, a number of lis applied for a transfer to the Infantry, but this was refused.
These young men who go into camp will not be able to submit themselves for the examination for which they have been working, whereas others who are not undergoing compulsory training will be able to sit. There are innumerable cases of the kind.
– Young men can get leave from camp to sit for an examination.
– These young men have been refused that right.
– No; the statement is that the application to be transferred to the Infantry was refused.
– Young men have been refused this right on other occasions. We know that the Defence Department will not make the necessary arrangements. There are other cases. There are men outside the Public Service who at certain times of the year are fully employed, and at other times have less employment,- yet the Defence Department insists on drilling them during those times when they are fully employed. As such cases are continually being brought before honorable members, one cannot but think that there is a lack of common sense in the administration of the Department. Whenever you go to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Wise), he endeavours to deal with your representations in a generous fashion that we all appreciate, but I ask him should these young men be denied the right of passing an examination simply because they are compulsory trainees, when others who are not trainees are given the opportunity 1
– My experience is that the Department invariably tries to meet these cases. If the honorable member will give me details, I shall look into the matter.
– Cases of this kind are continually being brought before me. When there are a lot of cases, you can get them dealt with by the Minister, but there is a difficulty with individual cases, because when an individual fails to get justice from officers of the Department, and he goes beyond them to the Minister, it is good-bye to his future.
– As a private member I never found any difficulty in getting individual cases dealt with.
– Not so far as the Minister is concerned, but when heads of Departments have refused certain concessions, and in the ordinary way their decisions would be accepted’ by the Minister, any individual who makes representations by reason of which these decisions are set aside pays for it if they find out who it was who moved in the matter. The Assistant Minister, when he was a private member, must have known of instances of that sort. The young men that I speak of are devoting their time to training for the defence of the country, and yet are placed in a less favorable position than the men who are not doing so.
I wish now to deal with the subject of shipbuilding. In Victoria we are placed in a very peculiar position; I shall leave the representatives of other States to deal with the conditions prevailing in those States. There are certain troubles, however, affecting unionists, which are common to all the States. The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) meets members in a way that must be commended.
– He has done more in six months than his predecessors did in four years.
– Yes. I am not attacking him personally. He has met me very generously whenever I have had to approach him. But, by reason of its action in regard to a certain union, the Government has got itself into a peculiar position. According to the Argus of the 26th September, the Minister said on the previous evening, “ We will contract ourselves out of the Arbitration Act.” The’ newspaper report of the honorable gentleman’s remarks is headed, “ Building ships to be declared war work : Avoiding the Arbitration Court.” The newspaper report reads -
Speaking at a National Federation gathering last night, the Minister for Shipbuilding said that a Bill is shortly to be introduced to declare shipbuilding a war work, and to remove it from the scope of the Arbitration Court.
One might understand that a Government - finding it necessary to expedite shipbuilding, and driven to extremes by terrible unionists, who would not let it do anything - might consider itself compelled to legislate itself out of the Arbitration Court, but the decision announced bv the Minister was due merely to some trouble between the Department and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. There is some difference between that society and other trade unions at the present time, but the House should know that it was not the fault of the society that there was an appeal to the Arbitration Court. The Government compelled the society to go into that Court.
-. - Nothing of the kind. The society brought up the case in the first instance.
– It made the trouble, but it did not wish to go into the Arbitration Court.
– It is true that at the last the society tried to back out. Its endeavour to assist me was confined to the placing of pickets round the shop, and to attempts to make the men drunk.
– That was stopped weeks ago.
– Yes; under the War Precautions Regulations.
– The Minister has admitted that the society tried to avoid going into the Arbitration Court. The Government forced it into the Court, which gave a decision favorable to the society, and therefore the Government now proposes to legislate itself out of the Court. This proposal shows weakness, at any rate.
– Why dbes not the Government abide by the decision of the Court, as in the case of other awards that have been made affecting the Public Service?
– It should do so. To beat this society, the Government proposes to legislate itself out of the Arbitration Court. It may be thought that this decision will affect only the conditions in Government shipbuilding yards. But throughout the length and breadth of Australia there are many private firms engaged in manufacturing commodities for use in ships in course of construction, and if the Government -can legislate its own ship yards out of the Arbitration Court, it can deal similarly with private businesses, whether manufacturing material for engineers, carpenters, or for other artisans to work on. The whole of the work in connexion with shipbuilding is to be War work. The handling of wool is also war work. Under these circumstances, the Arbitration- Court might as well not exist. I wish it did not exist. I should like all the unions to de-register themselves. They would do better by fighting the Government and private employers in a methodical way than by resorting to many of the foolish practices of the past. We have the Court in existence, but what will it have to do when the Government has passed its Bill into law?
– Why not wait to know what is in the Bill?
– Evidently the Government is endeavouring to beat a union which obtained a verdict against it in the Arbitration Court. The present Minister has had his difficulties handed down to him by his predecessors,
– I am only keeping faith with the thirty-one organizations, representing 60,000 unionists, which have signed the agreement.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), instead of expediting shipbuilding by getting this agreement signed, has kept it back.
– He has blocked it for eighteen months.
– Undoubtedly. In the newspapers on Monday we were informed that in 1917 the United States produced 1,966,455 gross tonnage of shipping, or more than the 1,923,000 gross tonnage produced by Britain in 1914. Every country in the world except Australia is building ships to-day, simply because the Governments of those countries are actuated by common-sense ideas.
– Is not the object of the Government to prevent a recurrence of what took place at the dockyards?
– Does the honorable member believe that industrial troubles are singular to Australia? Does he not know that, not only in Europe and America, but in Japan and elsewhere, the workers’ are fighting to improve their position ?
– Have you read the report of the Public Accounts Committee in connexionwith the Cockatoo Dockyard?
– The honorable member ought to know that in America, where they are building ships so rapidly, workmen are paid twice the wages earned in Australia. With his silly object of beating the unions, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) imposed conditions which were accepted by men because’ they wanted work, and not because they did not know that such conditions would really have the effect of retarding shipbuilding. In America there are statesmen at the head of affairs who do not take the opportunity to get the worker under their thumb, ‘but subordinate everything to the . building of ships; such conditions as have been imposed in Australia have never been attempted elsewhere. As to the troubles with the unions at the dockyards-
– I did not refer to union trouble’s, but to the cost.
– There are industrial troubles in Great Britain, and all over the civilized world, and it will be a sad day when there are not, for whether a war be on or not, we know that the profiteers will always be out for profit.
– I suppose you know that there is piece work in America?
– Yes, and I also know, as I pointed out during our last sittings, that, while a shipwright gets 16s. per day in Australia, he is paid 27s. 6d. in America.
– More work is turned out in America.
– What knowledge has the honorable member that if the same wages were paid in Australia the same amount of work would not be turned out ? I only wish there were more industrial troubles here, because, then, the worker might get American wages. The Age last week, when dealing with the question of fabricated ships in America, said that the immensity of the plant there employed, and the rapidity of construction, seemed, by comparison with Australia’s methods, to” resemble a fairy tale.” That is the most graphic description of the situation that I can imagine.
– Do you think that we can build fabricated ships in Australia?
– I know that we could build composite ships. In America every means for the provision of shipping is availed of in spite of industrial troubles.
– The Australian ships are not being very rapidly built in America !
– It is said that there is lack of material for shipbuilding in Australia, and it is curious tolearn that material which is not needed until a vessel is nearly completed has been imported, while that necessary for the earlier processes is not here. This shows bad organization somewhere.
– Seeing that I gave the press that information three or four times it is rather stale news.
-I am not blaming the Minister ; but surely somebody is to blame for this state of affairs? If the Government were up-to-date there -would be an organizer in America buying material, and sending it here as required. The deficiency is not accounted for by the sinking of ships; and the cause must be found in lack of organization. The Government and their officers ought to exhaust the material already in Australia before looking elsewhere. I understand that all such material in Australia has been tabulated by the Government, who have power to commandeer what is required from any private owners. I am assured that there are firms here possessed of material for shipbuilding, and that it is now lying in their yards. For instance, Messrs. George Russell and Company, of Flinders-street, have materia] of the kind which should be commandeered for shipbuilding; and if there is one firm of the kind there must be others.
– The material is not in suitable sizes.
– We are told that our timber is not suitable, and I know that ships are being built of Oregon. It would appear as though the Government were looking for difficulties in connexion with the supply of material ; and the present position is either due to following the course laid down by the Prime Minister or due to incompetency on the part of the men in charge. Mr. Curchin, of whose capabilities I know nothing, has been imported from Britain at £2,000 a year as the head of the Shipbuilding Department; and, to my mind, his management is not worth the money. He has a large staff - all imported men.
– There are only a few imported.
– Four or five of the highest paid men are imported.
– And good men, too!
– A curious fact is that two’ of the principal men are close blood-relations of “the manager; and I do not believe in that sort of thing. I am willing to admit that forcing undesired men on a manager does not tend to good work; but, nevertheless, it would be better if there were not this close connexion. The disappointing results at the shipyards are the fault of either the Government or of the immediate management. If the Government are responsible they ought to be prodded up by their own supporters, as well as by the Opposition, and if _it is the fault of the management, the Government should see to it. A short while ago a question was asked in the House about Mr. Pickering, who is in charge of the yard at Williamstown, and it was elicited that he had been for thirty years foreman in a shipyard somewhere in England. We were not told, however, in what branch he had been foreman
– He is one of the finest men connected with the shipbuilding in Australia; and he was offered a much higher salary than he is getting now, if ‘ he would go to a position in Queensland.
– In a shipyard there are a dozen different departments, and it would be quite possible for a man to be thirty years foreman in one of these, and yet not competent to take charge of a yard. In any case, if he is as competent as is claimed, £600 a year does not seem a sufficient salary; and I think he ought to have accepted the Queensland offer. The job is worth a higher salary if the man is efficient.
– The late Mr. McKay, who was then manager of Walkers Limited, in Queensland, said to me - “ If you do not want that man I will pay him £750 a year to enter my service.’’
– It is remarkable that he was content with £600 if he could have got an appointment at £750. He was not brought out from England; he was in Australia, and there was something peculiar in the circumstances connected with his engagement.
– The honorable member complained that the other man was receiving too much.
– I did not. I am not so foolish .as to say that £2,000 per annum is excessive for a man who is capable of supervising ship construction in Australia; but I do say that £600 is not enough for any man who is qualified to control a ship yard.
– This is the way the honorable member is trying to help him.
– Nothing I could do or say would delay shipbuilding as much as have the actions of the present Government. The whole scheme is -a disgrace. I have always contended that what can be done in other parts of the world can be done in Australia, because our workmen aru just as efficient as those elsewhere when they get the chance. The Government pretend that they are building ships, but in reality they are doing nothing. If the Government have exhausted all their brain power, and are satisfied with the present progress of shipbuilding in Australia, I am not.
– The honorable member would not be in any case.
– The Minister is satisfied that everything is going on all right, but with the trouble which the Prime Minister initiated with the unions, and inefficiency on the part of either the Government or the manager of the yards, shipbuilding is making no progress whatever. The progress the Government are making is much like that of the boys in Germany, who used to stick a carrot in their caps and walk backwards, saying “ We are going to Berlin.”
The poor, unfortunate Northern Territory has been handled in a most peculiar way. The present Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is one of those gentlemen whom we all admire and trust; therefore, anything I have to say in criticism of the administration does not arise out of any ill-feeling towards him. So far as the officials are concerned, I do not know them personally, and have no antipathy towards them either. But I do know that the “ Northern Territory has been mismanaged to’ an alarming degree, and if the newspapers which are always hammering away at other alleged extravagances would tell the people what is happening in the Northern Territory, it would be of advantage to themselves and to the .people of Australia. The Administration made arrangements a couple of years ago for the purchase of a ship to facilitate official work about the coast of the Territory. That vessel has not reached Darwin yet. I believe that it put out from port some time ago, and came back on account of engine trouble. That was rectified. The vessel put. out again; then it was found that the borer was in the planks and that the timber generally was rotten. The vessel was again returned to port and repaired. For two years the vessel has been departing and returning. The Minister told me about ten days ago that the vessel was at last on its way to its destination. But I have not heard that it has arrived yet. Such things almost savor of corruption.
– What is the name of the vessel ?
– The Sir John Forrest. I remember hearing another story about the Administrator’s motor car. It developed trouble, and was brought to Melbourne or. Sydney for repairs. Then the officers of some Government Department started joy riding in it. It was repaired again, and shipped for Darwin. At Brisbane it was taken ashore for more joy riding; then it was repaired again. That is the sort of thing that happens in connexion with the Northern Territory. I read an article in the Age recently about a great flock of sheep that had been discovered in some portion of the Northern Territory. Somebody suggested to me that I should inquire where the land is situated, to what extent it has been depastured, to what extent it is available for selection, also whether the discovery is the result of recent exploration; if not, why has Dr. Gilruth not disclosed the value of the country before? The stories which de Rougemont told about riding over portions of Australia on the backs of turtles are no more exaggerated than this statement about an alleged discovery of’ new pastures and flocks in the Northern Territory. I should like to know to whom those sheep belongs how they got there, and the extent of the area on which they are depastured. That story is a sample of what one hears” about the Territory. The residents of Darwin are a most peaceful crowd. Here is the report of a meeting of the Darwin Town Council -
At a meeting of the Darwin Town Council to-night the following resolution was adopted: - “ That Darwin Town Council, being, the only representative of the public, and having read the answer made in Parliament to a certain question put in April, last about the Northern Territory Judiciary, and feeling the hopelessness of any appeals to the Minister for redress as to Government officials here, so long as he believes and repeats the false answers supplied to him by or on behalf of the officials complained of, feel it our duty to lay before the Minister and communicate to the press, the following: (1) That the answers given as to the nature and extent of the legal advising done by the Judge are untrue, and were obviously prepared to deceive the southern public and Parliament; (2) that the public here know well that the Judge is completely in the confidence of the Administrator,’ and that he is consulted generally, formally or informally, by the Administrator and Government officials. Public are not deceived by the phrase about the impartiality of the Australian Judiciary Bench, when it refers to this country; (3) that when the Judge came here he went to stay with the Administrator, and -has ever since been his most intimate friend and daily companion, and the Judge, by his conduct off and on the Bench, has shown that he is partisan. For instance, when criminal trials are going on c it is evident that the prosecuting is done from the Bench, and the .Government lawyer, has little to do. Such is the case also with the Stipendiary Magistrate. The Judge is generally considered here as the all-round legal hand of the Government, and fast friend and invariable supporter of the Administrator. People cannot, and do not, regard him as a Judge; (4) that the Stipendiary Magistrate, who we believe receives a labourer’s wage or less, was appointed after he had been by law superannuated from the Customs Department. He is considered to be supporter of and to be supported by the Administrator, and the Judge, and cannot be looked upon as a worthy or impartial or independent Magistrate. He has been referred to in the local paper as the caterpillar and sycophant of the Administrator; (5) that it is’ felt that there are no Courts of Justice for citizens in the Territory, and we urge the Minister no longer to be hoodwinked by reports from the Administrator, but sec that Courts presided over by able and impartial men, who will keep aloof from and independent of the personal wishes of the Administrator, are forthwith provided.”
In other words, the judiciary and magistracy of Port Darwin are under the thumb of the Administrator, who, in effect, is Judge, jury, prosecuting counsel, gaoler, and everything else.
– Why not- move for the appointment of a Royal Commission?
– I might make the same inquiry of the honorable member, who is quite as familiar with the disadvantages under which these people live as I am. While he was Minister for Home and Territories he endeavoured, as the present Minister is endeavouring, to do justice. But we are so far removed from the Territory -that it is only natural that the Minister should give credence to the statements of the .Administrator and his associated officials.
– The Administrator desires that a Royal Commission be appointed.
– Then, why do the Government not appoint one? I have received this letter from a resident of Darwin -
The last wire I sent you re jurors was on the best information. You know the Judge tried to do away with the jury and failed, so now they are trying to command it by limiting a to householders. If successful, this would bc the position: As 70 per cent, of the houses in Darwin are Government houses, occupied by Government servants, they could make . a certainty of a Government jury, because out of the other 30 per cent, fully 20 per cent, would be Chinese, Greeks, Russians, &c, who would not be called, and the other 10 per cent, would be business people, who are semi-dependent on the administration; or, to be correct, 5 per cent, of the latter would be so, and they could easily sand-bag the other 5 per cent.
Talk of corruption when an Administration will endeavour to so arrange things that a jury will give a decision on its behalf !
– That is a very serious charge to make in this House.
– It is. Much as I abhor the present Government and its ways - and “I- can imagine no offence which could be too heinous for it to commit - I would not charge it with committing the crime which I have endeavoured to show has taken place in the Northern Territory.
– The Minister in charge of the Department administering the Northern Territory is one of the keenest politicians in Australia.
– I have nothing to say against the Minister. He is one whom we regard with great admiration ; but, nevertheless, this has taken place in the Northern Territory. I have continually been placing the condition of affairs there before the Minister. If Dr. Gilruth wants a Royal Commission appointed, let him have one, but let the Commissioner be one who, when he goes to Darwin, will not hob-nob with, or make a personal friend of, the Administrator. Let it be seen that the Administrator is not in a position to blacken the boots of the Commissioner, or curry favour with him. Let a man go there who will undertake the work properly. I have visited certain dependencies of Australia as a member of this House, for the purpose of seeking information, and I have been the guest of people in those dependencies, but I would not say a word to the detriment of my hosts. The Royal Commissioner appointed should be one who will go to the Northern Territory, and will not associate with the Administrator, but will take evidence from any one. His report must not- be coloured by association or friendship with Dr. Gilruth, or with any of the officials of the
Territory. Until that is done, we shall not get true information in regard to what is happening there. The Government will be failing in their duty if they do not appoint a Royal Commission such as I have suggested.
.- The other day I submitted a question in regard to the attitude of the Defence Department towards a few of the men who were the first to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, and who have sought to be discharged. So far as I can learn no effort is being made to meet the cases such as I shall outline to honorable members. It appears to me that very little care is taken of a man who offers his services to his country once the Department gets hold of him. It is an absolute disgrace to see in all parts of Australia fine strapping men with the impertinence to go strutting about the streets in uniform while the Minister dares to tell me that men at the Front cannot get relief. Some effort should be made to get over the difficulty. This is one of the cases I have submitted to the Minister in correspondence. It is an application made by a father, who asks for his son’s discharge on the following grounds : -
Briefly, the facts of his case are as follow : -
At the outbreak of the war my son was farming at Nangeenan, and had been working his holding for five years. Feeling it his duty to enlist, he came to Perth, and with his brother unlisted earlyin September, 1914.
He left Australia in- December, 1914, and has served continuously until March, 1918, when he left France and returned to Australia as one of the original Anzacs, on -two months’ furlough, arriving here in May last.
Whenhe enlisted in 1914, arrangements were made with a neighbouring farmer to work his selection, on the share system. The cost of the first cropping being borne by my son, and the cost of cropping in . the succeeding years being paid out of the profits of the previous years.
Now, on his return; he visited the farm, and finds that a crop was put in and taken off during the first year of his absence; since then nothing Has been done, and of the money due to him from the crop, he has not received one penny - the whole of the amount being taken by the Agricultural Department to pay land rents falling due during his absence.
Further, he finds his fences down, his horses running wild, and the land being overrun with scrub; also his machinery, which was partly paid for, taken possession of by the firms from whom he purchased.
Naturally he is much upset at the state of his place, feeling that his previous five years’ hard work, together with all his savings, in addition to financial assistance from myself to the extent of £300, have gone for nothing. He desired to at once go on the farm and try to get things into order again.
Feeling that, apart from his long service with the Forces, his domestic affairs warranted Him obtaininghis discharge, he wrote the Defence Department, explaining his position, and asking to be discharged. His request was, however, refused.
Not wishing to leave His affairs in the present unsatisfactory state, he made a further application to the Defence Department, again explaining his position, and asking that his furlough bo extended for six months, so as to enable him to do the necessary repairs, &c, to his farm, and at the same time endeavour to obtain some one to attend the place during his further absence.
He has now been informed that His request for six months’ extended leave is not approved, but that he Has been granted one month’s leave, without pay.
Now, a, month’s leave to fix his affairs is absolutely useless. Further, to stop his pay for the month seems to me to be out of all reason, especially when it is . taken into consideration that he has served with the Forces since September, 1914, and has not been away from His unit.
Two brothers enlisted, one of them being a married man, who had spent five years on a farm in the back country of Western Australia, and on going away had made arrangements for its care, only to find now that it has been wholly neglected. When he asked for his release after serving four years, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said that he would be granted an extra month’s leave without pay. This is the letter I received from the Minister -
Idesire to assure you that I have personally looked through the file dealing with the ease, and recognise that it is a hard one. At the same time, owing to the large number of applications for discharge now being received, we -have been forced to draw the line very rigidly, and many cases quite as hard have had to be refused.
– That was not “ wise.”
– No; but it was a man, who, through the whole of his administration has been very unwise, and has always been keenly desirous of looking after the slacker- Another case which I submitted to the Minister was that of a man named Burton, who had a farm at Wickepin, in Western Australia, upon which he estimated he had spent some £2,000 during the course of six years. I have not the particulars of his history with me, but I can give some of them from memory. He was wounded at Gallipoli and sent to hospital. He sneaked out of hospital and returned to Gallipoli. He was wounded again. He went to France and was gassed there. He was promoted, and subsequently returned to Australia on furlough. When he came back, he found that his partner had abandoned the farm, and sold up everything. Thinking that he might have a chance of getting a little back from his land, on which he had spent so much time and money, he endeavoured to get his release from the Australian Imperial Force, but his application was refused. This man was No. 3, he being the third man to be accepted in Western Australia. I strongly protest against the treatment meted out to these men, because one finds in the Defence Department a number of men classed as indispensables ; fine, strong, eligible men. I look upon it as hypocrisy on the part of the Ministers to dare to go round the country telling the people what’ their duty is when we see them in their motor cars driven by chauffeurs who do not bear the badges of returned soldiers. The other day I submitted a question, asking how many chauffeurs were employed by Ministers, how many were eligible for service at the Front, and how many were returned soldiers.
-I think that the majority of them are.
– Then there must be some instruction to them not to wear their badges. Every one of them ought to be a returned soldier.
– There are some returned men who are not wearing their badges.
– I believe that a good many of them are frightened to do so.
– Some of them cannot get work if they wear them.
– I heard of an ‘ instance the other night where a young returned soldier, sitting in a tram and reading a newspaper, was bashed on the nose by one of three great hulking brutes as they got off the car.
– Where did that happen ?
– In Melbourne. As a rule it is men- who are eligible, and are enjoying the advantage of being in a Government Department who jeer and gibe at the boys who are going to the. Front. When I was in Sydney recently there were fifteen lads on the railway platform going to the Liverpool Camp. There was not one among them of the stature of a man, but I saw a great hulking brute gibing at them as they were going away to do their duty for their country. What can we expect from a Department that issues a regulation that boys of eighteen years of age can enlist without their parents’ consent?
– The regulation deals with boys of nineteen vears of age.
– The regulation did apply to boys of eighteen, but we had italtered, and it is a scandal even to-day that boys nineteen’ years of age should be permitted to take the places which ought to be filled by some of these big crawling cowards, who will not do their share for the country. The regulation may apply to ‘ a boy who is the last of his family. I have no desire to be too severe in my remarks. I realize that there are some good, sound patriotic men in the Defence Department who are only too glad to do their duty, but there is not the slightest doubt it is the home of the slacker. In a great many cases those who have dodged their duty and returned as quickly as possible have the best billets in the Department. When we find the Minister acting upon recommendations made by that class of men,- what else can we expect but the treatment I have described in regard to these applications. I cannot understand the spirit that imbues those who are in charge of the Department. I recently copied from the certificate of discharge granted to a returned soldier the. following indorsement : -
The practice of including a statement of character or special qualification on the discharge certificate has been discontinued.
Instead of a discharge certificate showing what service the man to whom it relates has done - whether he has been to Gallipoli, Palestine, or France, to what Division he was attached, and in what campaigns he took part- - the Department now decline, as they say, to give on such certificates any statement of character.
In future we shall never know, so far as the discharge certificates are concerned, who has been the waster and who has not, and this, certainly, should be amended.
The Department, in the first place, declared that boys of eighteen should be entitled to enlist without their parents’ consent, yet we find in that Department to-day great hulking, strapping fellows who have the impertinence to come to this building from day to day. Some of them may be seen here day after day wearing the colour patch. I recently asked in this House a question relating to Lieutenant-Colonel Logan, who is on the staff at Perth. He went to England with our troops, but did not go to the Front. He never went beyond England, and the Department asserts that he is quite within his rights, now that he has returned, in wearing the colour patch. In answer to my question, the Minister stated that -
The colour patch won; by ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force denotes the unit with which they served, and not the fact of hiving been in action. Lieutenant-Colonel Logan wears the colour patch of his unit in the same manner as other returned soldiers.
– What does the honorable member propose?
– I contend that men’ who have never gone beyond England should not be allowed to wear the colour patch, which is generally regarded as- an indication of their having served abroad.
– Men who have only served on a transport wear the colour patch.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), himself a returned soldier, tells me that is so. If a man wears on his uniform the letter “ T,” showing that he has been merely on transport duty, well and good; but no man who has not been to the Front should be allowed to wear the colour patch of his unit, which the public regard as showing that the wearer has been to the Front.
I have before me a dozen cases of extreme hardship - cases where old people who have lost two sons out of three at the Front have urged that the third son should be allowed to return, since without him they are unable to cany on their farms. These are cases which must appeal to Parliament, but the Minister will not listen to such requests. When I addressed a question on the subject to the Assistant Minister for Defence a few days ago, the reply I received was -
The Minister would have been most happy to have been in a position to grant discharges to all the soldiers who had served continuously since .1914, but owing ‘to the lack of sufficient reinforcements, and the urgent need for as many men as could be obtained, this has not been possible.
He then proceeded to give me a list of the eligibles in his own Department. About March last I published an official paper issued by the Secretary for Defence, in which it was stated that there were 2,500 eligibles in the Defence Department on 31st December last, but according to this reply to my question -
The number of eligibles has been reduced by 1,014 since 31st December, 1917. Officers anil men stationed at ports have been excluded from the later return* for the reason that these men are not employees in the proper sense of the term, but are soldiers with special training necessary for the defence of Australia.
In the forts at Fremantle about ninety men are employed. Many military men tell me that in eight or ten weeks they could train men to carry out their work just as efficiently as it is being carried out by the men who are employed there to-day.
– Many gunners who have returned could replace them.
– Quite so. Many returned soldiers have had far more practical experience than the men at present employed in these forts.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - But do those men wish to go to the Front? Have they volunteered ?
– I cannot say; I have not put any questions to them. I do know,’ however, that men who went away in 1914, and who have made every sacrifice for us, now. find that the labours of six or seven years before the war are likely to be lost to them entirely unless they can obtain their discharge. They are not allowed to return, although in the Defence Department alone there are over 2,000 eligibles. This state of affairs should not continue, and unless we can obtain from the Department a promise that greater consideration will be given to the requests of those who have made these sacrifices for us, I hope the House, when the Estimates are before it, will deal with the Minister.
.- I propose to discuss the failure of the Government to bring in an effective Tariff.
I well know that there are difficulties in the way, but I protest against any slur in this connexion being cast upon one of our noble Allies. Had it not been for the fleet of a great and friendly Ally, the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and also the chief coastal towns of bonny Tasmania might have been blown , to pieces some time since. Good ship as our Australia is, it could not protect our long coast-line, stretching from Brisbane in the north to Perth in the west. There is an old adage that imitation is the sincerest flattery, and no word will conjure the intellectual brain of the East so much as will that one great word of Confucius,- “ reciprocity.” If there is any objection - and we cannot deny that there might be some objection - to the re-modelling of the Tariff, I feel sure that it can be overcome by means of reciprocity. If we were to imitate what Japan has done in this respect she would appreciate our action, and we would immediately have a Tariff that would help to build up all the secondary industries of Australia, and so provide a greater means of employment for our returned soldiers. We know that with a proper system of water conservation the Murray River basin would settle a population equal to that of Germany andFrance combined before the war, but the proper conservation of the Murray waters so as to provide for such a population would involve the expenditure of much time and money. Another point is that one of the results of our educational system has been to discourage on the part of a very large section of our people the desire to go on the land. The history of Victoria, which is the most thickly populated State of Australia, shows that there are not so many persons employed on the land to-day as there were some years ago, and that there is a tendency to a still further decrease. The population of our larger centres, such as Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong, comprises more than one-half of the whole State. While the advance of science may make it possible for a country to progress with a large proportion of its population in its towns and only a small proportion of its population in the country districts, yet the highest type of machinery that science has . evolved has not enabled us by its use to realize from the land what the average Chinese labourer will win by the use of his spade. That is an incontrovertible fact.
To return to the question of reciprocity, I wish to know why the Government does not say, “We will adopt the Japanese Tariff.” A short enabling Bill would apply it to our own purposes, and would give Australia one of the most up-to-date Tariffs that has ever been promulgated. I believe that the standard of the Japanese Tariff is even higher than that of the United States of America. The Japanese have proved themselves our loyal Allies. They are a great people, and they can teach us much. Even now, while we are, so to speak, asleep, they are availing themselves of the opportunities for industrial development that the war presents. The Government are not doing what they ought to do to develop our secondary industries. We have placed a certain duty on tobacco coming into Australia, but Japan is the only country that was able to beat the American Combine. We read prior to the war that the English Tobacco Combine had beaten the American Trust. It certainly put up a great fight, and lost over £2,000,000 in doing so, but it is really the American Combine to-day.
Mr.Fenton. - Does Japan grow her own tobacco leaf?
– I cannot say. Japan fought them with a 50 per cent, duty. As that was not enough, she increased the duty to 100, then to 150, and finally to 250 per ‘cent. Previously she had offered to take over the works and machinery of the combine at their full price; but, flushed with its sense of power and money, that big organization had refused the offer. A second time, when the duty was raised from 50 to 100 per cent., was the offer made and refused. When the duty had been made 250 per cent., the combine found that it must give way. The effect of the duty can be seen by an example: On cigars shipped at Hamburg at, say, £10 per 1,000, the combine would have to pay £25 in addition to freight and all landing charges. Similar cigars would cost the Japanese Government only £10, plus freight and landing charges. The combine therefore approached the Government and asked it to repeat its offer; but the reply of the Government was that the combine bad refused two offers, and that it would have nothing to do with it. Consequently, Japan obtained the buildings and machinery of the combine, or so much as it would not pay to remove, practically for nothing. I have here a copy of the Tariffs of the world, and I think that any honorable member who examines them will, agree with me that the Japanese Tariff is the most up to date. It has a duty of 355 per cent, on tobacco, making an exception of chewing tobacco, which in Melbourne is sold at a very low cost - I think, 4d. per oz. - and of snuff. On the “kin,” a Japanese measure equalling about 1.3 lbs. avoirdupois, the duty is 2 yen 23 sen, or about 4s. 5£d. English money. On snuff, the duty is 10s. 4d. 1-25th per kin. In all friendliness, I suggest to the Government that it should frame a Tariff which will help our secondary industries by inducing men to put money into factories, and by inducing the banks ‘ to advance the necessary capital. If that is done, much good will result.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) used some of my ammunition- when speaking about the Northern Territory, though I shall add a few remarks to what he said. Personally. I have nothing against the Administrator, but I have objected to the keeping of him in Melbourne for seven and a half months at a bigger expense to the Commonwealth than if he had been actually in the Territory. What station, or what mine, could be managed by a man who was absent from it for seven and a half months in the year? Dr. Gilruth holds the highest diploma obtainable in veterinary science, but his post is in the Northern Territory. If the Territory could be governed from Melbourne, it would be needless to pay him £1,750 a year to govern it on the spot. I object now, as I have time and again before, to the arrangement of the Estimates. Why is not the full amount which an officer receives set against his name as a lump sum? I do not know whether Dr. Gilruth receives £200 or £500 in addition to his salary; there is no note indicating what his allowances, are; but the salary of the Government Secretary is set down at £600 a year, and there is a note stat ing that he receives £100 a year as Deputy Commissioner of Commonwealth Taxation; and, on page 81, another note showing that, as Public Trustee and Inspector of Income Tax, he receives another £100 a year. Why not make it plain that this officer is paid £700 a year by putting that amount against his name, and then setting .out the extent of his duties? I want the Estimates to be as clear as an ordinary balance-sheet. As a believer in the White Australia policy, I say that the Administrator of the Northern Territory should set a good example. He was at ohe time styled “ His Excellency,” but I understand that the. present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) abolished that form of address in regard to him. The Administrator does not employ white persons in his service. I do not know why he should not do so. If white persons are not fit to be employed in the Territory, let us put a Chinaman in the place of the Administrator, if one of the necessary capacity* can be obtained, or let us substitute for him a member of that great and brainy race - the Japanese - some of whom hold very high diplomas. Personally, the Administrator is a charming man, and I have nothing against him on that score.
There is a great deal in what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said: If a Commissioner is sent to the Northern Territory, he must not break bread at table with the Administrator.
– The fairest thing would be to appoint a Commissioner from this House.
– I am inclined to agree with that. The Arab maxim - that it is hard to criticise the man at whose table you have broken bread - applies in this matter. In the Northern Territory there is no jury system such as we know here, nor have the residents the suffrage, although on two occasions they were allowed to vote on the conscription issue. Surely they should also be permitted to vote for a representative in this Parliament!. Why is not the small population of the Territory added to that of a Queensland or Western Australian division to give the ‘people of the Territory parliamentary representation? ‘ I resent strongly, too,, the fact that the residents of Papua and .of -the Federal Territory have not the parliamentary- franchise.
The following statement shows the seriousness of the position in the Northern Territory: - i
To say that the people of the Northern Territory are in a state of seething discontent is to put it mildly. They are, in fact, in much the same state of mind as the settlers of New South Wales were under the tyrannical conduct of Governor Bligh in the early days of that State. That a continuance of the overbearing and unprincipled dictatorship of the Administrator of the Northern Territory may provoke consequences similar to what happened in Bligh’s time would be not at all surprising. People in Australia will stand a lot in a time of trouble like this; but the strain upon the people, who have to put up with the foibles and injustices of administrative incapacity in the Northern Territory is very near to breaking point. The Minister for Home Affairs knows this; the Cabinet knows it; yet Ministers send this man back, after giving him a farewell dinner, to continue in his career of annoyance to the people, and disregard of honest principle. The fact of the matter is that the Administrator of the Northern Territory is hated, and no progress will be possible in the Northern Territory as long as he is permitted to stay there. Here is the full text of a resolution carried at a meeting of the Darwin Council on the night of 9th September, 1918. When it is recollected that the constitution of the council was arranged by Dr. Gilruth himself to suit the purposes of his own administration; that he took from the people the .power of controlling the affairs of their own town, and that this body has actually condemned him utterly, must make it plain to everybody that a state of affairs exists in Darwin highly discreditable to’ the Commonwealth Government, and positively dangerous to the community of that place. That Darwin has, upon the recommendation of the Administrator, been made a garrison town only serves to make matters worse.
I quite agree with the encomiums passed on the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Glynn). No man could have a higher regard for his personal qualities than I have. I regret that he was trained as a lawyer, because, as a rule, legal men are too keenly appreciative of little technical points, instead of taking the wider outlook that men in the high positions of Ministers should have. Very few legal men have greatly distinguished themselves as statesmen throughout the world. Their trade and Bailing tends to make them sophists, and sophists, unless gifted with exceptional mental powers, are not generally the best rulers, nor do they make the best statesmen. The same correspondent also informs me -
The people of the Northern Territory have long and vainly begged and implored the Government to. appoint an impartial Royal Commission of members of Parliament to inquire
Dr. Maloney. into the conduct of the administration of that place. Enough has been said both by word of mouth and in print to place the utterers ( (who are known ) in gaol for criminal libel if it were untrue, but the Government and those attacked have taken it lying down.
Another correspondent, who holds a very good position, writes -
McGrath, a constable, has been on the drunk on and off, and drew a revolver in the Terminus Hotel, Darwin, the other night, first in the billiard room, next in the passage, and finally at the back. The man was on the verge of D.T. ; he had six men bailed up in a comer. Parer’s little boy ran under the bed, someone rang up for the police, and they -came round and took him to the police station.
Next morning McGrath came round and apologised, and was on duty. Nothing ‘ was done by the inspector. He is still on duty. The constables McGrath and Nicholls are frequently in the hotels having a booze. The chaps here won’t take any steps in the Court because you have no chance of getting any satisfaction - where the police are concerned. Moreover, their lives would be made miserable, and excuse would be made to put them in at the first chance, viz., Nelson prosecution last year.
Moreover, two men at least are believed to receive pay from a certain gambling saloon - at any rate, it is run with impunity - by two men who are known as police pimps, and figure as witnesses at times in police cases - both men are rather notorious characters from the West. Both these men carry revolvers, and I was present the other night when they were drawn in a street row.
Waters, Inspector of Police, had no control at all. Richardson allows his men to do anything. Besides, things are working up for big trouble, and some one will be killed. It isnot far off. The police system here is rotten.
I have been asked to write this on behalf of several people. I don’t want to figure in anything, but I want the matter aired - questions can be asked. With Sergeant Burt nothing like this ever happened.
This is from a third correspondent on the same subject -
Head of police and stipendiary magistrate are both senile and inefficient. Long past retiring age, they appear to be retained because of their complaisancy and lack of resolution. It is notorious that they are swayed .by Chinese influence, as well as by administrative instruction. The anomaly of a young, vigorous, and somewhat turbulent country being subject to the whims, wheezes, and querulous caprices of slippered pantaloons is obvious. The head of the police force has improved the shining (constabulary) hour to such purpose that he is now the owner of the best freehold property in the town. The magistrate, as pointed out in the town council’s resolution, is allowed- by the Commonwealth Government a wage about equivalent to that drawn by the Administrator’s half-caste valet.
– Mr. Stretton is coming down shortly, but he is not the man these men report him to be.
– He is like the Minister and myself, who are both approaching senility.
– Stretton was competent when he had to retire from the Customs Department. He had had experience as a magistrate, and so he was kept on. It is a temporary appointment at £150 a year.
– We can at least agree that he is long past the retiring age. The letter continues -
It is a matter of common knowledge that mcn who are Protectors of Aboriginals keep harems, and beget half-caste children. Men in outback stations are never inspected, and have become dictators of their territories.
– That is not correct.
– The writer has the advantage, inasmuch as he has been in the Territory.
– Who is he?
– The Minister is too old at the “game” to expect me to answer that question. I should like now to draw attention to an example of how answers to questions are dished up to members in this House. To-day I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) the following: -
How long is it since a complete public audit of the Northern Territory accounts was made by a Commonwealth Government auditor, independently of the local auditors?
The answer to that question is a farce, seeing that it does not give the date, which was the very thing I wanted. However, I have put a further question on the paper for to-morrow, to which I hope-to have a direct answer. What the Acting Prime Minister replied to the question 1 have already quoted was -
In the years 1911-12 and 1912-13 an audit examiner was stationed in the Northern Territory to make the direct audit of accounts “in addition to the foregoing. The local auditor was then transferred to Melbourne, and” his detention in the Territory was not justified. Since then, as the Auditor-General’s reports to Parliament show, it was arranged for Wie Government Accountant at Darwin to make local audits on the Auditor-General’s behalf.
There is always a joke for those with a sense of -humor to look for it, and the reply goes on - - An audit inspector is now nearing Darwin, having received instructions to conduct an ex haustive examination of the Territory’s accounts, and to make other certain special inquiries.
As I have said, what I asked for was the date of the last audit. Is this gentleman being sent up to the Territory in the Sir John Forrest, which was built at the request of the Administrator some two years ago, but has not yet reached the Territory ? I do not know whether the vessel is water-logged, or what is the matter with it, but this voyage is longer than the voyages of the old days, when some six months was occupied between England Australia.
– I went over to examine the vessel, and ascertained all the facts regarding it.
– Where did the Minister see the vessel ?
– In dock at Brisbane.
– That is a safe enough place for it, anyhow. I remember that I warned the Minister for Trade and Customs against permitting two Tasmanian vessels to leave port , and when they did go to sea both were wrecked, fortunately without loss of life. I also uttered a warning against the sailing of the John Murray; and I know that no previous captain of that boat would willingly have crossed the Pacific in her. I very much regret that, as a prophet, 1 was only too accurate in regard to these ships. If it be true that men are missing from the John Murray, I only hope the Government will compensate their dependants, because she ought never to have been permitted to go outside Hobson’s Bay, where she was in her proper place as a training ship for young Australians. I may say that during my voyages on the coast’ I have met many young men who graduated to the sea on the John Murray, and most of them are able to give a good account of themselves. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), who was associated with the John Murray, agreed with me that there was some danger attached to her sailing, but was of opinion that the repairs that had been effected in her would be sufficient protection.
– There was undoubtedly a lack of supervision in the building of some of those vessels, and we aTe not done with the matter yet.
– There is no doubt that the Northern Territory is the “ Cinderella “ of Australia, and that large interests, especially pertaining to the meat industry, are getting a good grip. While I do not think that the Administrator has been partial - and I am using a mild word - to the locking up of the land, it cannot be denied that his name has been freely mentioned in connexion with Vestey Brothers. I do not think there is justification for the suggestion made, and, with the Minister, I sincerely hope that it has no foundation; but when such statements are repeated, it is time definite action was taken by the Government, for where there is continued “ smoke “ there is generally supposed to be “fire.” In my heart, I free Dr. Gilruth from any suspicion.
– Dr. Gilruth has nothing at all to do with the Vesteys. I carried on all the negotiations personally with Vestey Brothers. for over nine months, and I obliged their solicitor to bring the principals out from England before I finalized the business. They never got a penny in return for the money they spent on construction.
– We must do something with this Territory, and if we cannot succeed with a scientific man of expert knowledge of the diseases, hot only of horses, but all animals, we had better try some one with more practical experience in the raising of cattle. . TheTe are many men on the great areas of the north of Western Australia whose services could be utilized.
– In the last month we have made the pastoral land laws more liberal in order to induce settlement, and settlement is expanding.
– Whoever is appointed as Administrator should remain in the Territory, on the scene of . action, and should not be kept down in the south for long periods. We are nearly as far from Darwin as Darwin is from Japan. There is a difference of only a very few hundred miles. It is time the Administrator should be told that it is his duty, as an employee of a Government that believes in the White Australia principle, to set a good example by employing white people. He can get ‘them if he gives them a chance; and, if he would do so, his example would be followed by one or two other prominent employing parties in the Territory. This Cinderella of Australia must be dealt with trenchantly. We must try to make the Territory cease from continuing the great burden that it has increasingly . become as the years have passed on.
– The condition of the Northern Territory is not quite as bad as some persons assume. If we take away the annual obligations for redemptions - and this year they amount to £320,000 - and remove also the interest upon loans - that is, if they are knocked out of the exchequer altogether - and . if we do not . take into account the loss on other Departments, such as the Post Office, which are not administered in the Territory, the deficit for the year will amount to only about £35,000. When the Territory was taken over the actual indebtedness totalled about £6,000,000, and the annual deficit for administration, railways (including the Port Augusta line), redemption, &c, amounted to about £241,000. We were under contract with the South Australian Government to spend about £4,000,000 in the construction of railways. So the total obligations taken over when the Territory was placed directly and for the first time in our history under Federal control, consisted of the sum of £6,000,000, and the contracted obligations just indicated, amounting in all to some £10,000,000.
Since that period the Federal Government have behaved honestly over the financial aspect by facing the responsibility of interest upon debts, which had been paid out of the revenue until about two years ago. This was a factor which, in these serious times of world warfare, lightened our great burden of. what would have been heavy obligations. And this year, as I have just indicated, the redemptions amount to about £320,000. I had always stood up for that procedure, and, so soon as circumstances permitted, that was the course adopted. The annual deficit on Territory accounts is not now very great. It is being greatly reduced in relation to ordinary and works expenditure ; and, as I have just pointed out, the loss may be regarded as having been brought down to something like £40,000. Altogether, therefore, the circumstances are not quite as ‘bad as some people imagine.
Mining is fairly hopeful, but requires a lot of capital to develop it. I have recently received reports regarding copper, tin, and wolfram ; but the great drawback is the lack of capital. The wolfram field at Hatches Creek is about 600 miles from Darwin, and about 300 miles from the Macdonnell Ranges. The tin field at Marranboy is not quite as good as it was thought to be until comparatively recently. With respect to that field, I interested myself closely in the matter, and took the opportunity, while in South Australia some years ago, to see Mr. Brown, who has had great experience as a geologist in the Territory. He told me that he was doubtful about the success of tin discoveries, and added that, as one goes down, they do not improve as a ride. The conditions at Marranboy are not quite as hopeful as some of the earlier reports of geologists represented them to be. There is a want of capital to test it and all such enterprises at the present time. The great difficulty is transport, and we are endeavouring to find an outlet into Queensland. Some of the miners at Hatches Creek have come from Queensland. One of the reasons for Dr. Gilruth’ s journey overland across the Queensland border, and on to Brisbane, was in order to learn the conditions at Hatches Creek, and to personally investigate the problem of pastoral development in the interior between that field and the Queensland border.
The pastoral industry is the factor to which we have to look in the Territory. Pastoralists so far have not had as fair a chance as, perhaps, they have been entitled to with respect to taking up land. The conditions of resumption have hitherto deterred some men. For example, under the pastoral laws there was a . power of resumption within two years. “ I cannot imagine pastoralists going to the Territory unless they are more fully secured, say, up to a period of ten years, in respect to the return of their capital. Some little time ago I went into thi3 subject with Dr. Gilruth, and decided to frame an Ordinance which would give pastoralists at least ten or fifteen years in which to secure some definite return upon their capital.
– Fifteen years is no good.
– I know that some of the pastoralists have asked for about twenty years.
– They give the grazing farmer in Queensland twenty-eight years.
– I have some knowledge of the conditions in Queensland, as I received the assistance of an official from that State a while ago when I was engaged in drafting the heads of a proposed pastoral measure. Upon his overland journey Dr. Gilruth saw several pastoralists; and I am convinced that the best way to deal with such problems as that of the pastoral industry in the Territory is to come into direct contact with the men concerned. Pastoral settlement in the Territory, J feel sure, will be better now than hitherto has been the case, and certain parties who have hesitated to enter upon the industry there are likely to take up land in the not distant future.
– You must induce Queenslanders to go across the border.
– That is so. Some months ago leases were taken up to th© extent of 38,000 square miles, with obligations in regard to improvements, covering a period of seven to ten years, and representing in all a sum of about £180,000. The whole of that expenditure is to be upon water development’.
While one recognises the very great difficulties that exist in a country such as the Territory, both in regard to distance and to the task of getting stock upon those interior lands, still the improvement has been such as to warrant hope. Pastoral land seems to be attracting attention outside; and, no doubt, after .the war, when a number of men return who, prior to their departure, had given some thought to pastoral activity in the Territory, they will be induced to settle, and assisted in settling there. I am convinced that the conditions will appeal to them as being somewhat better than before they went away. Honorable members must realize, of course, that we cannot expect to make a Paradise of a place such as that.
– You must treat the pastoralists more liberally.
– The leases must be long enough to enable men to put in improvements, and then to be given a chance to recoup their outlay.
– Yes. Under the South Australian Act the power of resumption was held in too short a period, and it deterred some from taking up land. There is this factor existing at present, that in the Territory on large areas adjoining Queensland the rental is from about 2s. to 3s. 6d., while the rent in Queensland is from 5s. up to 12s. 9d. ; in the latter instance the matter of railway communication rates is taken into account.
Altogether, conditions generally are gradually becoming known, to pastoralists, and settlement will continue slowly to improve. Revenue has been increasing in greater proportion than ordinary and works expenditure during the past two or three years.
Sitting suspended front 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I propose to deal with several statements which havebeen made during this debate regarding the Central Wool Committee. Itwas stated that the wool-tops industry is a new one. On reference to the Commonwealth Tear-Book I find that in 1908-9 the wool-top manufacturers received in bounties £326; in 1909-10, £4,933; in 1910-11, £8,522; in 1911-12, £.16,898; in 1912-13, £13,000; in 1913-14, £12,000; in 1914-15, £7,700; and in 1915-16, £5,800. This unfortunate struggling industry has received assistance in its establishment to the amount of about £70,000. The statement made by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that the industry was being interfered with by the Wool Committee was quite incorrect. When the British Government acquired the Australian wool clip, War Precautions Regulations were issued which provided, amongst other things, that the local manufacturer should get sufficient wool out of the Pool to carry on his trade. There was no agreement that the Wool Pool was to be exploited for the benefit of any local manufacturer. The initial acquisition of the wool clip by the Home Government was only for the remaining portion of that year, and affected about two-thirds of the clip. The wool-tops industry requires a certain amount of technical knowledge, and the members of the Wool Committee knew little about the cost of manufacture. But in order that the industry might be carried on, we made an arrangement with Mr. F. W. Hughes. After a great deal of trouble, we induced that gentleman to supply us with a statement of the costs of manufacture. These I checked as well as I could by figures which I obtained from a woolbuyer of great experience, and I found that in almost every instance Mr. Hughes’ costs exceeded the figures which had been supplied to me. However, the Wool Committee gave him the benefit of the difference. As the scheme at that time related to only the_remaining portion of the year, and . the Wool Committee was only a temporary one, without any great experience to guide us, We decided to give the manufacturers half of the profits between the cost of manufacture and the price at which the tops were sold to the Japanese Government. That amounted to about , 9d. per lb., and when it became known that the profit which the manufacturers would make would be something like £90,000, members of the Opposition raised an outcry that the Committee had allowed Mr. Hughes too big a price, and that he would make a profit quite out of proportion to the amount of capital he had invested.
At the end of the year, we were unable to get from Mr. Hughes a completed balance-sheet, although we had arranged for a continuous audit in our behalf. But as we did not desire that any- men should be out of employment, we allowed him to continue his operations, with a proviso that the profits over and above 9d. per lb. - in the meantime the price of tops had been increased by the British Government - should be retained by the Central Wool Committee. That arrangement was continued for some time. In the meantime Mr. Hughes thought he had discovered that the agreement could be read to be continuous, while the Pool “lasted, instead of being for only a period of twelve months, and for the manufacture of 2,400,000 lbs. of tops. That is what he has been fighting for. The honorable member for Illawarra referred to the 121/2 per cent, of profit which the Wool Committee suggested that Mr. Hughes should be allowed to make, and he reiterated Mr. Hughes’ complaint that we were limiting the rate of interest on capital. We were not doing that; 121/2 per cent, is equal to £62,000 on Mr. Hughes’ capital, and that would be the approximate amount he would make in twelve months. But in order to express it in clear terms, we suggested that the profit should be on a basis of 121/2 per cent. As soon as that was arranged, Mr. Hughes, thinking that he could successfully claim that the agreement was a continuous one, and recognising the vast amount of profit it would yield him, not only refused to . continue his operations, and sacked his men, but he tried to bring political influence to bear in this House. He also went about Sydney, and endeavoured to bring influence to bear on the Wool . Committee by approaching the firms with which the members of the Committee were connected in order to prevent them getting any business unless the Committee proved amen-‘ able to reason. The honorable member for Illawarra spoke with the valour of ignorance, as most of us do at times; but if he had a little more knowledge of pastoralism, he would not have stated that Mr. Hughes was content to continue operations on the basis of a 121/2 per cent, profit if the same standard were adopted for the pastoral industry. I assure the honorable member that the ordinary pastoralist on freehold land would be well content to continue his industry on a guaranteed profit of 121/2 per cent, on his capital.
– That was not my suggestion.
– The statement that Mr. Hughes has benefited the workers by reducing the price of meat is not true, because on the day he began to operate in Melbourne through a firm called Brown and Company, sheeprose 2s. 6d. per head on account of his competition. Moreover, he is one of the meat exporters of whom honorable members complain.
Another statement made by the honorable member for Illawarra was that the brokers are doing practically nothing for their commission. The brokers are charging no more commission on the sale of wool than they charged before the Wool Pool was formed.
– Why should they?
Mr.FALKINER. - There is every reason why they should, because they are doing a tremendous lot more work. Certainly, the price of a bale of wool is a little higher, but the brokers have now to do a great deal of work which they had not to do before. The scoured wool is all put back into their stores and appraised a second time. In addition to that, the clerical work -now involved is enormous. In pre-war days, the wool brokers sent out final and complete account sales immediately after the wool was sold. Now they have to send out an account for 90 per cent, of the money, another account for the 10 per cent, retention money, and a further account for the declared dividend. As some little time may elapse before the final dividend is paid, the Central Wool Committee has now asked the brokers to send in a statement of- the name and address of every person for whom they have sold wool, so that we may be sure that every grower in the Pool will participate in the final disbursement. Thus honorable members will see that, whereas formerly the broker sent out one account, he has now to send out four or five; and it will be understood that when a broker’s clientele number thousands, a great deal of clerical work is involved. Further than that, the brokers must countermark the bales, a practice that was unknown in the old days.
In regard to the suggestion that some of us are making money out of the Wool Pool, I can safely say, for my colleagues and myself, that during the two years the scheme has been in operation we have neglected our own business interests in order that the scheme may succeed. So far from the Wool Committee being “ a one-horse show,” the Chairman is intelligent enough not to decide any question of a practical nature unless all the members of the Committee are present. The appraisers are doing work for £209,000 less than they might have charged under the War Precautions Regulation, which stipulated that they were to receive 1 per cent., which would have represented £400,000. Instead of operating on a commission basis, they are receiving salaries.
The honorable member for Illawarra also expressed some anxiety regarding the position of the small grower. Whether or not it was wise to limit wool dealing to £10 lots, I do not know; but I do know that the small grower gets the full value of his wool, and will also participate in any dividend which the British Government may pay.
– The small grower is better off now than ever he was.
– That is so. Under the old conditions, the small grower, had his wool put in star lots, and it was appraised by a junior valuer, generally at a junior price. To-day, no matter how small the lot, it is sold at the full 15W. parity. Ultimately, the small grower gets the full value of his wool, and 50 per cent, of any profit which the British Government may make on its re-sale.
Much has been said about the break in manufacturing operations involved by the suggested new agreement. We are told that the wool top industry will be ruined because the manufacturer will be required to dry his scoured wool and have it appraised. There is a reason and a necessity for that procedure. I assure honorable members that the members of the Wool Committee are applying their best intelligence and knowledge to the work of that body, in order that the British Government, who bought the wool, may be satisfied that they have had an honest deal from the Commonwealth. We are not, as some honorable members think, merely the representatives of the growers, and resolved to get all we can out of the scheme. We cannot make the price of wool either more or less; and we were appointed for the sole purpose of seeing that the agreement with the British Government was carried out in a proper and business-like manner. Sometimes the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and I differed from the brokers’ representatives on the Committee, but I have not heard any of them make any statement which could be regarded as a narrow or selfish one. They have unquestionably devoted their best knowledge to the Commonwealth in connexion with this wool deal.
In regard to the break which has occurred in the operations of the Colonial Weaving, Combing and Spinning Company, I wish to explain that Mr. F. W. Hughes, who. practically constitutes that company, has been making tops out of shorn wool, which he gets out of the local wool stores, and also out of skins from sheep which he has purchased for meat. Now, unless that wool be appraised, it is impossible for the members of the Central Wool Committee to know how he is manufacturing his tops. Honorable members will’ understand that no matter how carefully wool may be classed, there is always, in manufacturing, a big percentage of it which has to be put on one side, and which is known as contraries. We desired to have this skin wool appraised, otherwise when Mr. Hughes sent wool back into the Pool we Bould not say whether it was shorn wool, appraised wool, or some wool of his own. The condition that all wool must be appraised was not imposed as a whim on the part of the Central Committee, but as a necessity, so that there could be no question in regard to the honesty of this scheme.
– There is no other way of dealing with the matter, is there?
– There is no otherway> of ascertaining the quantity and value of the wool. I would also remind honorable members that the price Mr. Hughes was being paid for this extra labour was quite a sufficient recompense to him.
– He has been running for more than a year without having his wool appraised.
– For the simple reason that we could not get his balancesheet out of him to enable us to make a fresh agreement with him. Finally, when we declared that the position which had obtained could not continue any longer, he intimated that he could not accept our terms, and proceeded to throw several hundreds of men out of employment. The members of the Central Wool Committee, I am sure, are just as much concerned about the unemployment of these men as is any honorable member of this House. When the present scheme was initiated, it was estimated that wool tops, in their manufactured state, were worth 53d. per lb. That gave Mr. Hughes a profit of 9d. per lb. But as shipping became scarcer the British Government increased the price of wool tops to the J apanese Government. It fixed their price at a considerably higher figure, but I am not justified in saying what that figure is. When Mr. Hughes thought he. could make his agreement read as a continuous one, he was not fighting the Central Wool Committee, because we were limiting his profit to 12£ per cent. He was battling for the big increase between 53d. and the price at .which the British Government would now allow wool tops to be sold to Japan. ‘ Then Mr. Watson, who has always expressed his sympathy with the workmen, merely because the firm of which he is now director was not permitted to have its way by the Central Wool Committee, displaced 600 or 700 men for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear on that Committee.
– That is the honorable member’s conclusion.
– It is the only conclusion which it is possible to draw from the facts.
– That is not a very generous statement to make.
– I. have stated the broad facts. With a 121/2 per cent, profit upon the entire capital of this company - which had to obtain a bounty of £70,000 from the Commonwealth to enable it to start - it would have been netting £1,000 a week. In these circumstances the discharge of those men was one of the. most atrocious and inhuman acts of which I have heard. If Mr. Hughes’ agreement could have been made to read as a continuous one, . instead of being limited to a period of twelve months, it would have enabled him to claim half the difference between 53d. per lb. for manufactured wool tops and the price at which the British Government will now allow those tops to be sold to Japan. This would have returned the company, of which he is the head, a profit of 53 per cent, -upon its capital.
– Its members were gluttons.
– What I have stated is a fact, and it is only right that it should be known.
– The beef barons, too, are making a bit.
– The beef barons would be very glad to carry on operations at a profit of 121/2 per cent.
There is only one other matter that I wish to mention. In the light of experience, the Central Wool Committee decided to take skin wool also out of the Pool. Our reason for doing so is that the British Government require from 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 skins every year for naval and military purposes, and it was found that we could not get these skins. They were being fellmongered because it was thought that this wool would be sold at a huge profit by the British Government-. The Central Wool Committee experience no difficulty what ever in having the growers’ wool appraised, and the growers’ money accounted for. Day by day we are called upon to deal with troubles, all of which are brought about by the minor industries. In conclusion, I would remind honorable members that, after all, the wool belongs to the wool-growers of Australia.
.- It is to be hoped that the Government will take notice of some of the complaints made this afternoon in regard to the many injustices from which soldiers and their dependants suffer. I suppose that every honorable member, if he chose, could tell the same tale. But it should not be necessary for us to advocate the claims of soldiers and their dependants, in view of what our troops have done for us on the other side of the world. I trust that the Government will make this session a financial session, and will afford honorable members another opportunity of analyzing the conditions under which we send our soldiers abroad, and also the provisions which obtain in regard to pensions, allowances to dependants, &c.
One matter in which 1 have been taking a particular interest is the way in which the agents of rapacious landlords are constantly endeavouring to raise the rents of the dependants of our soldiers who are fighting abroad. I suggested to the Acting Attorney-General the other day that the police should be instructed to keep a careful look-out, with a view to ascertaining where the dependants of soldiers are being victimized in this way. The Government should make it clear to the public - and particularly to landlordsthat where any complaint in this connexion is made to the police, the latter should be authorized to immediately make an investigation. Otherwise it will frequently happen that by the time the soldier’s dependant can communicate with the Federal member for her particular division, and the latter can consult the Minister in regard to it, an eviction has taken place. If the police were instructed to keep a careful look-out for these rapacious landlords and their agents, I believe that there would be fewer evictions of the dependants of our soldiers. I trust that the day is not far distant when we shall have an opportunity of exhaustively dealing with the treatment that is being accorded to our men at the Front. If we were to make things light for them, there would be no necessity for persons to mount platforms in this country and appeal for recruits. I have met many young men who are well qualified to take their places in the Australian Imperial Force, not merely as privates, but as officers, and they have told me that they could not think of enlisting and of leaving their wives and children in view of the amount of money which they would receive as privates. They have spoken of the high cost of living, and have pointed out what it costs to keep a household going. If the pay of privates were increased, I believe that a large number of recruits would be forthcoming without any special effort being made to secure them.
But I rose chiefly to make a few observations regarding our Naval College. “When our Naval and Military Colleges were established we were assured that patronage and social influence would not be allowed to operate in regard to the candidates for admission to those institutions. All were to be given a fair chance at the examinations. All were to be afforded an equal opportunity of securing places as cadets in our Military College or as midshipmen in our Navy; but I am afraid that there are influences at work that serve to keep some of the brightest lads we have from entering the Naval College. Parents whose boys have acquitted themselves remarkably well in the State schools, and have, in fact, qualified to go to the higher schools, but have expressed a desire to enter the Naval College, have come to me seeking to know whether it was absolutely essential to have a strong social backing before a lad could obtain a place in the College. If there is one thing we ought to remove in this country, which is professedly democratic, however ultra-conservative the views of some honorable members may be, it is the idea that is running. in theminds of some of the parents in Australia that the children of those who are in the humbler walks of life have very little opportunity, no matter what their physical capacity or mental attainments may be, to enter the Naval College. A Committee of four, comprising the. captain of the Naval College, a captain or commander in the Navy, a naval instructor, and a medical officer, is intrusted with the duty of examining candidates for entrance to this College. Last night the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) gave a very striking illustration of the great confusion that exists among medical men as to the physical defects of candidates seeking admission to the institution. According to information which I have in my possession, lads have been admitted to the College who are suffering, from physical defects, notwithstanding the fact that, according to the regulations, the slightest physical defect ‘debars any candidate from admission. A lad may have some temporary defect removed before submitting himself to a medical examination, and he may be successful in obtaining admission, but if during the medical examination any physical defect is discovered in him, it is a bar to his entering the institution. “We should jealously guard against anything that will tend to interfere with the rights of the sons of the humblest citizens in Australia to enter the Naval College or theMilitary College, and climbing step by step into the highest positions available in the Naval or Military Defence Forces of Australia. The Royal Australian Naval College is established at Jervis Bay. Each year thirty cadet midshipmen are selected for admission to it.
– They are selected from the whole of’ Australia, so that there are bound to be a lot of disappointed parents.
– The father of one lad, whose case I have had before me, has been using his very best endeavours in order to have justice meted out to his son. The lad was attending the Scotch College, Melbourne, and, according to Mr. Littlejohn, the principal of that school, he was one of the brightest of the boys in attendance, and was a type of lad very suitable for entering a naval college. Later on, if time permits, I shall quote some of the exploits of this boy, and, withoutmentioning names, I shall show how, while he was debarred, other candidates who were permitted to enter the College were proved to have physical defects which, according to the regulations, are supposed’ to be an absolute bar to the admission of any lad.
– The Naval Board ought to be “chucked out.”
– It has nothing to do with the matter.
– I have already given the names of the Examining Board.
– Is Admiral Creswell on it?
– No. I thank the honorable member for the interjection. The world at present is suffering from junkerism and militarism, and it should be our aim to exclude that spirit from our Naval and Military Colleges, because we do not wish our lads to leave these institutions imbued with the ideas that were impressed upon the minds of German students in days gone by, making them the junkers and militarists of to-day. Our Naval and Military Colleges should not be under the exclusive control of naval or military men.
– Why not have a union secretary controlling the instructors?
– The honorable member has probably had children attending school, and he knows that there is in connexion with the best schools in Australia, particularly the private schools, a system of visiting committees or boards of control which carry on their functions without any unjustifiable interference with the teaching staffs or general discipline of the schools.
– ‘Are they walking delegates?
– I do not care what they may be called; they serve the purpose of introducing the civilian element into the control of the schools, and on the same lines I would like to see civilian Committees appointed to visit our Naval and Military Colleges, examine the conduct of them by the teaching staffs, and report from time to time to- the Minister for Defence or the Minister for the Navy. They need not interfere unjustifiably with the management of the schools. At least they would serve the purpose of keeping alive in the minds of the students at the Colleges the spirit of ordinary citizenship, as opposed to the teachings of the staff, who might seek to imitate the German junkers and educate the lads as lovers of war and nothing else. If we leave the control of the lads absolutely to naval and military men, we will surround them with an atmosphere quite distinct from that in which the ordinary citizen moves.
– If we seek to make a man a carpenter we do not get a stonemason to teach him.
– The interjection of the honorable member has no relevancy to my remarks.
– What does a civilian know about naval matters?
– Although the honorable member has served in the British Army, I have seen him flinging his arms around as if he were wielding a flail and earnestly proclaiming the need for the maintenance of. the civilian element in our Military Forces. We have recognised the necessity for that by using the term Citizen Forces in our Defence Act.
– We employ experts to drill the Citizen Forces.
– That is true, but, nevertheless, our Military Forces are termed Citizen Forces, and we want the same element, to prevail in the Military College, so that the students there will maintain the civilian spirit. There are no men who need watching more closely in the matter of expenditure, as in other matters, than do naval and military men, and, in this connexion, the one idea of the military man is to make lads as much like military machines as it is possible to make them.
The regulations governing the entry of students to the Naval College further provide that -
Before the candidate is entitled to sit for examination, he must first attend before a specified naval or military medical officer for examination.
– That is not correct, because an examination in the first instance by a naval medical officer is not necessary.
– I know it is true that a lad living at a plage like Rainbow, in Victoria, desiring to enter the College is allowed to.be examined in the first place by the local doctor to prove whether it is worth his while to come down to Melbourne and submit himself to the Board of Examiners here.
– That condition applies to lads in every part of Australia.
-The regulations further provide -
If passed by such officer, he must then sit for the qualifying educational examination.
Every candidate who has passed the medical and qualifying examination will then be required to present himself before a committee, when each boy will be interviewed separately, with the object of determining the suitability for naval service.
And then he goes before the Interviewing Committee I have mentioned.
– He has to go through an educational test before that.
– The candidate, as a rule,comes straight from a school, and is required to bring a certificate of recommendation from the master of the school.
– But he has to go through a definite educational test.
Mr.FENTON.- I intended to refer to that later, but I may mention it now, and may inform honorable members that the following are the subjects in which the candidate is examined -
Arithmetic (elementary), geometry, English (reproduction), English (composition), English (dictation), history, and geography.
These are compulsory subjects, and there are also the following alternative subjects, one of which must be taken, but not more than one: - Arithmetic, algebra, Latin, and French.
That is the educational test to which the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) refers. At page 4 of the book which the Naval authorities have issued, entitled Conditions of Entry for Cadet Midshipman, it definitely states that -
If any physical defect has not been remedied when he attends before the prescribed medical officer, no allowance will be made for any prospective remedial operation, but the candidate will be finally rejected by the medical officer.
There is a note near the top of page 10 of this book which says -
It is impressed upon . parents and guardians that remedial defects which exist at the time of examination by the naval medical officer will disqualify candidates as though they were permanent defects.
And to emphasize this further, the following note will be found at the bottom of the page -
If there be any slight remediable defects, such defects must be remedied before the examination. No allowance will be. made at the examination for any prospective remedial operation.
The object clearly is to impress upon parents who desire to submit a lad as a candidate for entry to the College, that they should be quite sure that he has no physical defects, before taking anyaction, in the matter.
The point I wish to make is that a certain lad has been rejected by the Committee though he has better edu cational qualifications, a better report from his schoolmaster, is better from a physical point of view, and obtained a better pass in the educational examination than some of those who had been accepted, and that, despite the regulation, one of the lads accepted possessed a physical defect when he came before the medical officer. This lad was informed that he must undergo an operation for a large varicocele. He did undergo the examination, was then passed by the medical officer, was allowed to sit for the educational examination, and was subsequently admitted to the College, whilst the other lad to whom I have referred, possessing higher qualifications, was rejected.
– What was he rejected for?
– I believe that he had a slight physical defect, but it was very sight compared with that of one lad who was accepted. I find that, according to a statement made by the Naval Secretary, what is accepted as constituting a pass is 40 per cent, in each subject, and 50 per cent, in the aggregate, and in special cases, where 60 per cent, in the aggregate was obtained, a failure in an unimportant subject (not mathematics) is permitted. We are given to understand that no discrimination is made between candidates who appear before the Committee, and thus a lad who secured only sufficient marks to enable him to scrape through the educational examination is placed on the same footing before the Committee as another who obtained much higher marks in the examination. One candidate may, therefore, be - far more efficient from an educational point of view than another, but that is evidently not taken into account.
– Does the honorable member not think that all who pass the examination should have the right to go before the Committee?
– In 1917, no less than 129 presented themselves for acceptance, and there was room in the College only for thirty-six. That number had to be selected from the 129 candidates, and I say that some of the thirty-six who were selected possessed physical defects, and were not as highly qualified educationally as one who was rejected.
– The honorable member seems to think that the lads should be culled “before” they’ go before the Committee; but I contend that all who have passed the examination should have a right to go to the final test.
– I have already quoted from the regulations that if a lad shows a physical defect, which is not remedied at the time he presents himself for examination to the medical officer, that permanently debars him from entry to the College, and yet a lad suffering from a large varicocele when he submitted himself to the medical officer, was told to have it removed by an operation, did so, was subsequently passed, and is to-day a student at the Naval College.
To give honorable members some idea of the kind of examination which is conducted by the Interviewing Committee, I may quote the following questions which were put to one candidate: -
How old are you? When was your birthday? How do you travel to school? What school do you attend? How did you reach the city to-day? What was the fare? What games do you play? Do you play tennis? Have you a court of your own? Where do you play? Are you in any football team? What position do you play in? Can you kick with both feet when in difficulties?What other schools have you played? Are you in any cricket team? Will you be captain of it also? What is your speciality in cricket? What kind of a ball do you bowl? About what is your bowling average? Do you hold a straight bat? Which do you like better, cricket or football? How would you stop a bolting horse ? Which woman in English history do you think has done the most for England? Who was the woman who did so much work during the Crimean war? Are you weak in any subject? Was there any subject that needed more attention than the others for the naval examination? Who is the Italian commander? What are the Italians doing at present? Do you think the Kaiser is to blame for the war? Do you think Germany is? Which class of Germans? Do you think the Kaiser did anything to stop or prevent the war? Did King George? How did the war commence? How did all the other nations join? How many men has Australia sent to the war? How many menhas Canada sent to the war? Which country has, considering population, sent more? Why did the Germans go through Belgium? But couldn’t they have reached Paris sooner by crossing Verdun? What was the importance of occupying Ostend and the other sea towns? Did you ever tell a lie? When did you tell the last? Can you swim? What strokes do you swim? How far can you swim - a mile, half-a-mile? Do you ever enter for the swimming races at school? Can you dive? From what height can you dive? Have you any brothers or sisters? How old is your sister? Have you any relations in the Navy?
The lads are asked to read a paragraph, to deliver a message, to pick out the “ a’s “ in a paragraph, and a test was made of their observation from a balcony verandah. I am informed that with regard to the last test lads were taken on to the verandah, given one minute for observation, and five minutes for writing out what they observed. Many of the candidates state that they were not allowed the full five minutes, whilst others who were selected state that they were practically allowed as long as they liked.
– The usual parent’s complaint.
– The people believe that the Board are bound by the regulations, and the parents of intending candidates expect that the regulations will be complied with. I am complaining that they are departed from.
I feel sure that if there is the slightest ground for suspicion that anything like favoritism is being shown in the selection of students for the Naval College, honorable members will be prepared to insist that the Government shall give instructions which will prevent anything of the kind. The Acting Minister for the Navy has said that parents are bound to make complaints, and, while I agree that that is so, I am dealing with the case of a lad who has now given up all hope of entering the Navy, though he previously strongly desired to do su. He was a Scotch College lad, as I have said, and presented a letter of recommendation from Mr. Littlejohn, the headmaster of that college, saying that he was just the type of lad who absolutely filled the bill. He secured a 70 per cent, pass in the educational examination, and so far as athletic qualifications are concerned, he was captain of a Scotch College football team. He played a prominent part in all the college sports, but, despite his physical and educational qualifications, he has been turned down. There has been consider-, able correspondence regarding this case. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), before leaving for England, had it under consideration, and I hope the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) will go thoroughly into it. As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) said last night, a Minister is sometimes deceived. It is said that in this case very important words were omitted from the letter as read to the Minister, and that if the Minister had known of them he might have come to a different conclusion. I shall have served my purpose admirably if, as the result of my representations, parents will be assured that their boys, no matter how humble their origin, will have free entry into the Naval College provided they possess the necessary qualifications.
– The honorable member has made assertions, but has not adduced any proof of them.
– The Minister has the whole of the correspondence, in which very definite statements are made.
– By the parents in each case.
– And also bv the headmaster of the College which this lad attended.
– What could he know of the qualifications of the other boy ?
– He said that this boy, whose name is Carter, was physically and educationally of the type required by the College.
– You are complaining of bias. I suppose the College master did not have any bias.
– I think not. He simply gave this lad a testimonial to the effect that physically and educationally he was the type of lad that the Naval College required. If the Minister will look into’ the correspondence - if he will read ‘all the facts - before coming to a conclusion, I shall be satisfied.
– Was this boy of thirteen captain of his college?
– No, I did not say that he was; he was captain of his own section. I want the Minister to find out whether any favoritism or social influence has been at work.
– This did not occur in my time.
– No, but having occurred once it may occur again. There is considerable unrest in the minds of parents who are thinking of sending their boys up for examination for admission to the Naval College. Hitherto I have always said that no social backing is necessary to secure admission, but at present I am not so certain of that.
– I know of some lads from South Australia who were admitted to the College, although they had no social backing whatever.
– I also know of suchcases, and I feel sure that if the Minister will personally investigate this case he will view it from a stand-point different from that which he has adopted to -night.
.- In justice to myself, I feel that it is. necessary to -make some further reference to a matter which I raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night. I am now able to amplify the position as stated by me then, since I can produce a copy of a crucial letter to the Naval Secretary which, by oversight or accident, is missing from the departmental file. Those who heard my statement last night will remember that a controversy arose in the Navy Department as to whether a certain cadet midshipman should be retained in the College or not. The College doctor thought that he ought not to be retained there, and he was referred to a board of surgeons in Sydney. That board unanimously decided that he should be sent back to the College for observation. The Naval Board in , Melbourne - a non-medical Board - then decided that the boy should not be allowed to go back to the College. Pressure was brought to bear, in the first place, by the parents of -the boy, who knew what the verdict of the Medical Board was.
– It was the Naval doctor, who recommended that he should not be retained at the College.
– The Naval doctor in Melbourne who had never seen the boy, who knew nothing of the case beyond what he could gather from the file,’ recommended that the report of the Survey Board of three surgeons in Sydney, who had examined the boy, and knew all about his case, should be ignored.
– And the doctor of the College-
– If the Minister will allow me to make my statement without interruption, it will be much shorter. I am not going to do him any injustice.
– But give us the whole statement.
– J_ am going to do so, and my statement of the case will be much fuller than that which appears on the departmental file. The doctor at the Navy Office in Melbourne thought that the report of the departmental doctors in Sydney, sitting as a Board, should be ignored, and that the verdict of the College doctor should be upheld. Some pressure was brought to bear, and it was then recommended by him that outside expert evidence should be taken. A rather novel method of taking outside expert medical evidence was suggested. The suggestion was that Dr. Ernest Jones, an eminently qualified doctor in Victoria, who, likewise, had never seen the boy, and knew nothing of the circumstances of the case beyond those disclosed by the file - which was in itself misleading, in the first place, so far as the boy was concerned - should examine the file and decide whether the boy should go back or not. Admiral Cres well was asked what he thought of this proposition. The recommendation by Dr. Bean, which is referred to on the file as “ No. 3,” was that a copy of the case as put before the Survey Board be referred to Lieutenant-Colonel Jones as a mental expert before proceeding further, and that he should be asked if he would kindly give his opinion on the matter. To this recommendation thereis a memorandum, initialed “ W. R. C. “ - which I take to be the initials of Admiral W. R. Creswell - to the following effect : -
I consider that No. 3 should also be acted upon - and this is an eloquent testimony to the broadmindedness of the Naval Board - but, whatever the reply may be, I would be against its altering the decision in paragraph 2. which was that the boy should be sent away from the College. AdmiralCreswell had no objection to the expense, trouble, labour, and waste of time involved in procuring this expert evidence; but, whatever the result, -it was not to interfere with the fiat of Admiral Creswell in Melbourne.
That was the stage which the case had reached when I appeared on the scene. The evidence of Dr. Jones had been obtained, and he had advised that the boy be sent back to the College for further observation. The boy was not sent back, and the matter subsequently came to me as the representative of the district from which the boy came. The parents knew that it had been recommended that the boy should be sent back to the College. They did not know - nor did I - that Dr.
Jones had been consulted, or what were the terms of his reply. I only knew what the parents told me. I then asked the Naval Secretary if he would obtain additional outside evidence. My idea was that this boy should be sent to some qualified man in Sydney, who should determine whether or not the Departmental Board “in Sydney had made a mistake in urging that he should be sent back to the College. About a -week afterwards I received the ordinary form of letter usually sent to a member of Parliament, when the Department has made up its mind, to the effect that the boy had been “ fired,” that the Department was very sorry, but that in the interests of the service, and so on, this action -had been taken. I then wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Department. Since the question of my doing an injustice to the Department was raised last night by the Minister, I want the exact terms of this letter, which is missing from the departmental file, to be noted by honorable members. The letter, dated 26th June, was as follows: - -
I have to thank you for your letter of yesterday, with reference to the case of Cadet Midshipman J. Q.R. Rubie. When I saw you about this matter last week, you informed me that additional medical evidence was to be taken, and I would be glad to hear from you at your earliest convenience if that were taken, and, if so, its exact nature and result. . . .
To that letter I received no reply. After a considerable time, I wrote again to the Secretary of the Navy, and asked for a reply to it. I then received the answer which I characterized last night as being in the ‘circumstances grossly misleading. This letter, dated 5th August, reads -
I am directed to inform you that the most careful consideration was given to the medical evidence in this case, and expert evidence was taken.
I ask my honorable friends on both sides whether I did not, in my letter, ask the Secretary to the Navy whether his promise to me to take additional expert evidence . had been carried out, and, if so, with what result. I was . informed here that expert evidence was taken.
– That was correct.
– Quite so; but it was a misleading answer to my question, and in a matter of this kind half a lie is as bad as a whole one. I asked a simple, straightforward question. I do not blame
Mr. Macandie for not being able to obtain this evidence. From what is disclosed by the file, it is transparent that the Naval Board was determined at all costs not to -give in to the views of the doctors in this matter.
I have made the position plain enough from my own point of view, but to show that I do not lightly make an attack upon the veracity of this Department I propose to go a little- further. The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) is doing his best in this Department; he is working all the time conscientiously and ably, but I want to show, him that this Department of his has made the art of correspondence the most inexact science that the “world knows. I have here another instance to which I shall briefly refer to show that this experience of mine is not necessarily entirely new or revolutionary. I learned in Sydney some time ago that this Department, with its customary business acumen, had indulged very largely in the hiring of launches, and that the money so spent was excessive. I therefore thought it well to ask a question or two on the subject. As honorable members know, I deal with most of these matters- outside the House ; since the war I have not done much in the way of raising a riot here. I wrote to the Department, asking what the motor boat hire had cost. That was on the 19th February. On 27th February I received the ordinary formal acknowledgment. On the 4th July I wrote again, asking if there was any answer to my inquiry. I had begun to suspect, from this silence, that the information I had received was correct, and on the 17th July I received the first answer, as follows : -
I beg to inform you that up to March, 1918, £12,954 was expended on the Hire of launches.
That was in Sydney alone.
– An expenditure sufficient to have bought all the launches in Sydney.
– Practically all the launches in the State. I am not, however, dealing now with the question of whether this policy was right or wrong. The letter went on to state that -
One vessel was purchased and one constructed since the outbreak of war. It was not considered desirable to further increase the number of Government-owned launches, as it was anticipated, when .the rush work of fitting out vessels as transports, was passed, that service launches would be available to do patrol work, for which purpose the hired launches were mainly used. This anticipation has been realized, as three hired launches, which involved most of the expenditure, have now, by a re-arrangement of work, been released and returned to the owners.
I felt that these three launches must have been “ some “ launches, and, therefore, .1 became interested, and wrote to the Department, thanking them for their letter, which was illuminating, and said I would be glad if they would kindly let me have further particulars of the three hired launches referred to in the final paragraph. That was the first danger signal that the Department got, and the next answer is a proof of my assertion that the departmental officials have made this question of correspondence a science the very reverse of exact. The reply did not give the particulars which I asked for, but said the first launch cost £6 a week, the second £8 a week, and the third £6 a week. I remind honorable members that we are still a long way off the £12,954, and I was further informed - “ It will be noted that the hire of these three launches was only a portion of the total cost of hire since the outbreak of the war.” In the first letter, and before they realized that the thing was loaded, they told me they were going to set everything right, because they had got rid of the-‘ three launches which had been costing them so much, but when they found out that that answer would not do, they said that the three launches only represented portion of the account! I have found out that the officials iri the Department of my honorable friend, whenever faced with a difficult problem, shelve it,so I advise all my honorable friends to adopt my own practice, and keep a copy of letters forwarded to the Department. Tt is a little laborious, but it is amusing sometimes, and it is educative.
Now I would like to make a passing reference to another matter before I leave this Department, with, I hope, my reputation untarnished. Some time ago, in Sydney, I was informed by a gentleman who had something ‘ to do with nautical matters, that one of the. assets of our Navy, the gunboat Albert, had been sold at auction, and that the speculator who bought the gunboat subsequently sold the engines for more than he had paid for the whole show, lock, stock, and barrel ! But that is not all. Not only had he sold the engines at a handsome profit, but he was. imprudent enough to sell them to another Commonwealth Department I was anxious to find out which of my friends 01 the Ministerial benches had bought these engines. I did not know whether it was the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) or, perhaps, and probably more likely, my honorable friend the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), who, I understand, has been building ships for the Northern Territory and Papua in recent times. Therefore, being a prudent person, and wishing to be informed, I wrote to the Navy Office on 1st August for a description of these aged and wonderful engines which some other Department had bought.
– Were they sold privately or by auction?
– I do not know. I said that they had been sold by auction, but T am subject to correction in that respect. In my letter to the Navy Office, I asked if they would be kind enough to inform me who bought the gunboat Albert, how much was paid for her, and- also supply me with a description of the engines sold with . her. I wanted that information, because I felt sure that no Minister would admit having bought the engines, though, perhaps, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) may have done so, quite innocently, of course. As I have stated, my earnest inquiry was directed to the Department on the 1st August, and there has been a most murky silence ever since - not even an acknowledgment that the inquiry had been received, so I now take the liberty, on the floor of the House, of asking my honorable friend, the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), if he will find out who really bought the engines.
– You might have done this before.
– I am sorry ; but I have already explained what amount of correspondence took place over the matter.
– If you had communicated with me, you would have got a reply, at any rate. :
– As a matter of fact, being a sensitive man, I was so knocked off my perch last night by the Minister’s suggestion that I had done the Department an injustice, that I decided as soon as possible to let my honorable friend into my secret.
– You never said a word to me about this matter until you mentioned it to-night. That is hardly fair.
– I can assure my honorable friend that if I were to refer in this House to every matter in connexion with which my correspondence with the Department has not been satisfactory to me, he would not thank me. I ask him seriously to look into the file of my correspondence. If he does, he will see that I have treated his Department very generously. It is only when I come to a dead end that I mention a subject in this House; and I am sure I have not treated this matter to-night in any venomous spirit which should lead to recrimination between my honorable friend and myself.
– The usual practice with other members, if they do not receive replies to correspondence, is to go to the Minister, and that is what I am complaining of in this case.
– I have merely given this incident, as an illustration, showing that letters may remain unanswered. We know from experience that letters may remain off the file, and that misleading replies may be given ; and I have dealt with this matter in order to justify myself in the action I took last night. However, I have already taken up too much of the time of the House over this subject. It may be trifling to the country at large, though it is most urgent with the lad concerned; and I make a further appeal to my honorable friend in charge of the House to see that this boy be granted what the doctors said he should have, namely, a further term at the college, in order that the doctor may have additional opportunities of observing his health.
Before I resume my seat, I want to refer briefly to a serious matter. It seems to me that, owing to the extraordinarily dramatic change which has come over the war situation, we may find ourselves at any moment - the most pessimistic of us hope by the middle of next year - at the end of this struggle. Now there are on the fields of Europe vast quantities of material which, after peace is declared, may go for a song. Some of it may be of enormous importance to Australia. I may mention that thousands of miles of light railways laid down in France were constructed almost as fast as the soldiers could go, walking along with the sleepers and rails. I do not say that that material need necessarily be useful to us, but some of it may be of immense value; and if material of this character could be secured for branch railways, to act as feeders for our mam railway systems, advantage ought to be taken of the opportunity, when the time comes for clearing up the scrap-heap in France. I close, therefore, with the suggestion that the Ministry communicate with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), asking that they inquire into the question whether it might not be possible for Australia to get something out of the wreckage remaining after this ghastly war is over.
. - I do not intend to occupy much time in this debate, but I want to enter my very strong and emphatic protest against at least a portion of the administration of the Central Wool Committee. It is quite clear from the very lucid explanation made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), that, the Government have attempted to set right the difficulties that arise in connexion with this very important industry of wool-top making in Australia. We know that for years endeavours were made to encourage the establishment of wool-top making in this country, and whatever may be said regarding the wisdom of paying a bounty for that purpose, it, at least, hag had the effect of enabling a certain number of men with a good deal of brains and ‘ some capita] to struggle on until difficulties arose in consequence of the war. The Prime Minister on the floor of this- House told us that the whole of the bounty would be returned to the Commonwealth in the shape of the profits, and that we would permanently establish a great industry here. I think a misconception has arisen with regard to the attitude of the gentlemen connected with this company, when they so strenuously fought for the right to use the whole of their plant and machinery, and objected to have portion of it thrown aside simply because it did not fall in with the views of the Central Wool Committee at the present time. I believe that they were fighting, not so much for abnormal profits, as for the vindication of a principle that means a great deal to this country, and while I suppose in party politics we cannot always escape the innuendoes that have been levelled against the gentleman who at one time was a member, in fact, a leader in this House, yet I think it would be well for the reputation of honorable members on either side of the House if, when their political life is over, they can leave it with as clean and brilliant a record as that of the man upon whom aspersion has been cast in connexion with this matter. It seems to me that the profits in connexion with the industry have been made out of the foreign buyer. It has not been shown in this debate that any injury has been done to either the producer of wool or the consumer of meat by the highly scientific manner in which this company has been operating. On the contrary, the’ company’s methods have produced real economy, and consequently have benefited the community. The head and front of its offending seems to be that it has come into conflict with a set of interests that largely control the supplies of our large cities - interests governed by men of the class dealt with by Mr. W. E. Abbott of Wingen, who, in an outspoken letter to the press, pointed out that when he had bred and made five-year-old bullocks as fat as they could be made, their value after they had been sold to the slaughtering company increased 300 per cent, in four. days. It is these speculative interests that throttle legitimate production and distribution all over the world, and the producers, the class to which I belong, too often fight the battle of the speculators, whom we. cannot .afford to foster during the war.
– Nor at any other time.
– Nor at any other time. It seems to me that this company has not been’ treated fairly. I see no reason why arrangements could not have been made to give effect to what amounted to a promise by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the wool-top industry would be firmly established as an effect of the war, and that a big profit would thereby re- sult to the Commonwealth. It is a poor arrangement which compels a company of this kind to shut down part of its works.
– The biggest part, that employing most men.
– Instead of the company’s operations being curtailed, it ‘ should have been encouraged to extend them as far as possible.
I come now to the chief matter with which I wish to deal, the effect of the administration of the Central Wool Committee on the business of country wool merchants. Clearly, when the British Government took over the Australian wool clip at a magnificent price, it became necessary for this Government, as their agents, to establish a system whereby possession could be taken of the wool, and arrangements made for its proper classification and distribution to the manufacturers, including all the details of the wool trade. The Commonwealth Government could have taken over all the wool businesses of Australia in both town and country, paying for . the services of those engaged in the industry either on a percentage basis or in some other way. Believing in fair play, I say that it is wrong to ignore the claims of those in the wool business. To do justice to one set of men and firms only was not right. What was the position before the British Government bought our wool ? Most of the wool was being handled by city merchants and brokers, but an everincreasing proportion was being handled by country wool merchants, many of them with fifty or sixty years of business experience, who had started from nothing, and had built up large connexions, buying scores of thousands of pounds of wool for both foreign and British manufacturers.
– And with thousands of pounds laid out in plant.
– Undoubtedly. Country representatives preach the doctrine of decentralization, and we say that the country wool merchants should have been wiped out only if it was impossible to take them into consideration in providing for the passing over of our wool to Great Britain. Although I have attended three deputations and a conference at the Central Wool Committee, I have not heard a tittle of evidence to show that that was necessary. The
Central Wool Committee is composed of able and capable men appointed by the Government, who are directly, or indirectly, representative of great interests. Its members are -
Edmund Jowett, Esq., M.P., pastoralist; F. B. S. Falkiner, Esq., M.P., pastoralist, wool-growers’ representatives.
Burdett Laycook, Esq., wool manufacturer, manufacturers’ representative.
These men have been at some time or another competitors of the country wool merchants. Their functions are “to administer the sale of the Australian wool clips to the British Government.” The first thing the Committee did was to issue a regulation practically forbidding the sale of one skin throughout the country. The bush settler’s wife, who usually sells sheepskins to the hawker, or to the man in charge of the country merchant’s delivery van, was forbidden to continue this practice. Not one pound of wool could besold. This regulation caused such an outcry that the Committee had to relax its draconic methods to the extent of making the purchasing of skins free, and of allowing the purchase of wool by country wool merchants up to £10. There was a time when I belonged to the class of small wool-growers whohave two or three bales which they wish to sell in September or October, being paid for it by the local dealer. The dealers’ carts and vans move in thousands throughout Australia. They convey mail matter more expeditiously than many of the Postmaster-General’s services, and assist settlers by bringing to them a dozen and one little things of great material value. The dealers purchase poultry, eggs, and other produce, and are a link with the outside world for hundreds of lonely settlers. The business of the dealers was wiped out by the regulation preventing them from buying wool and skins. We are told now that ‘ the small grower can send in his few bales of. wool for appraisement. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) assured me that every facility would be afforded to the small man to obtain an advance on. his wool. He gets his advances through the large brokers, who charge 6 per cent, or 7 per cent. The country wool merchants who bought up the small clip - ranging from four to twenty bales - took the wool into their warehouses, where there were small presses and capable classers, and by making up decent-sized lots of fleeces of various qualities were able to increase the value of the wool by from1d. to 4d. a lb. We are, told that the Wool Committee had to step in to protect the grower. But if a grower sends a small clip for appraisement he must pay21/2 per cent, for anything under the value of £200. The country wool-classer would pay only11/4 per cent. for £500. The wool sent down by the small grower cannot be appraised in the condition in which it arrives) and from1/2d. to3/4d. is paid to some firm to make appraisement possible, this payment being charged either against the pool or the grower. If the country wool merchants must suffer, their great competitors should suffer similarly. Although these big firms have now no buyers to find, their travellers still scour the country. We all know that the wool has to go to the appraisement centres, and that whether it is sent to Smith, Brown, Jones, or Robinson, it will bring the same price. It would have been simple to arrange that whatever trade a company was doing at the time the scheme was put into operation should continue to be the volume of its business. The same rates of commission are being charged, and greater profits are being made than before the war. But whereas in 1913 a bale of wool was worth £12 10s., it is now worth over £22. We have been told that under the present arrangement there is a greater use of stationery, and more bookkeeping, but this increase of expense is trivial compared with the gain that has resulted from the increase in the value of wool.
– The Government has found a buyer for the wool.
– Yes; yet we still have to pay commission for catching him, and have to pay it on a value nearly double what the wool was worth five years ago. We should be shown clearly and unmistakably why the country merchants must be knocked out, and why we can get no satisfaction as to the introduction of economies which it is still possible to practice in . connexion with this great scheme. If what is aimed at is the ideal of the Million Club in Sydney, and we are all to live in Sydney or Melbourne, the sooner we are told so the better.
– Who gets the commission ?
– The commission goes to the companies as before. Weare told that the interests of the small grower must be protected. One argument put forward by the chairman of the Central Committee is this: The British Government scheme being that we are to be paid 151/2d. per lb. on the average, and that if any wool is sold by the British Government for other than national purposes, and a profit is made on it, the grower is to get half the profit, how are those profits to be distributed if indiscriminate buying in the country is allowed ? I respect the chairman of the Committee, and his argument must be answered. We are not urging indiscriminate buying in the country. We are not proposing to allow speculators to deluge the country with lies about the Wool Pool, and catch the unwary farmer who has a few bales of wool to sell. All we ask is that the men who had legitimate businesses established before the war should be still allowed to buy up to the volume of their pre-war business. If any profits over and above the 151/2d. are made, it would be easy to make them send in lists of the people from whom they purchased wool, and thus the interests of the small growers could be protected. If necessary, it could be arranged that any additional profits accruing from the British Government’s private business transactions above the 151/2d. should go into the Repatriation or some other fund, thus doing away with the necessity for a huge system of bookkeeping. Since we have answered every objection, we consider that our just demand ought to be acceded to. The only objection that we cannot meet - because it is mythical - is- the idea which seems to be prevalent among a lot of people that a tilted cart or van in the country must be an object of suspicion, and an evidence that somebody is purloining sheep or wool, and that if all such vehicles were swept off the face of the earth it would be a great benefit to the community. Those gentlemen who can keep- such a straight face and make out such a brilliant defence of their ‘own impartiality are really not in sympathy with the development of these businesses in centres of population in the country, to which the Commonwealth must look if we are going to meet the fearful obligations that the war has cast upon us. Having gone carefully into the question, I see not the slightest reason why country members should not insist on a greater measure of justice being given in the administration of the Central Wool Committee to country wool-buying firms. There is no reason why the small growers of wool should not be allowed to please themselves if they desire to sell to the man who will hand them over the money at once. We make that claim, and we have a right to make it, in spite of the fact that a number of men profess to talk in the name of the farmers, although, as a matter of fact, they represent very little more than commission-mongers. That class of customer does not represent the genuine fanner, because the genuine farmer asks that the country storekeeper or wool merchant, who has been his friend through generations, shall be given a fair go.’ If not, it should be clearly proved that their business is absolutely opposed to the whole principle on which this scheme is based. When the first restrictive regulations were issued a Chinese, who usually bought large quantities of wool, drove a coach and four through them. He did it by buying the “ cocky ‘s “ sheep in the wool, and then selling them back to him shorn. In that way he beat the Central Wool Board for a while. The effect of the present ridiculous regulations is to injure the honest dealer, whilst the dishonest man often finds a way round. That is not a good thing. I enter my emphatic protest against the destruction of these industries in the country centres, and hope that every, country member from one end of Australia to the other will indorse that protest.
.- I wish to place on record the. serious position that is imminent in regard to the copper producing industry, one of the primary industries of Australia. For quite a while the whole of the copper has been purchased by the British Government. Quite recently the contracts expired. On urgent representations being made to the Government, and cables being sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in London, an extension of three months, and a contract expiring on 31st December, were arranged. But the position is that, unless within the next couple of weeks the copper producing companies in Australia are assured that there will be a further contract, the mines must close down. It is quite possible that peace will he declared this year. If it is, there will be no more copper contracts, and the refusal of the Government to allow the companies to make their own arrangements will practically mean shutting down the whole of the copper mines of the Commonwealth. In America copper is worth £140 per ton; here, where the conditions are different, the price, is from £106 to £110. A couple of million pounds worth of copper is lying at grass in different parts of Australia, and all of it will be urgently needed on the declaration of. peace, whenever shipping facilities, are available to take it to other countries. It will be urgently required in the replacing of our ships, and in the manufacture of electrical instruments and industrial machinery generally. Australia should he in such a position that not £1 of revenue need be lost when the opportunity occurs, and it would be calamitous if bur copper mines Were compelled to close down through neglect to provide for contracts. If it is absolutely impossible for the Prime Minister to arrange for fresh contracts, thus securing stability to the industry, the companies should be allowed to try to save themselves from ruin. They should be allowed to make their own arrangements, so as to provide work for the men and to produce tie metals which will be so urgently needed after the war. Several of the companies say they can look after themselves if they are allowed to do so. They desire to be free to arrange contracts with our Allies, and have no desire to go outside them. All they want the Government to say is : “ Yes, we can arrange fresh contracts,” or “We will allow you to make contracts for yourselves.”
– Does the Government object to that?
– Most decidedly. The copper produced in October will he’ completely treated in December, and as the existing contracts expire on the 31st December, the result will be that some time this month the mines must close down, unless the Prime Minister succeeds in arranging for a fresh term. If peace is declared, it is reasonable to assume that the British Government will make no further contracts. The Government have looked after the interests of the farmer, to a certain extent, so far as wheat is concerned, and have protected the woolgrower and the large wool interests generally to a great extent. In the same way, they should look after the metal industry of Australia, especially in the case of copper. I appeal to the Government to make urgent representations to the Prime Minister immediately. If it is impossible for him to arrange for further copper contracts, the Government should at once allow those whose interests are jeopardized to make their own arrangements.
– I should not have spoken but for the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), who, I regret, has not remained to hear my reply. I also regret the absence of one or two other honorable members who take a deep interest in the question, and have spent considerable time in attacking the Central Wool Committee. In the first place, I wish to entirely disassociate myself from any reflections or. aspersions that have been cast on my friend, Mr. F. W. Hughes, and on Mr. J. C. Watson, whose names have been frequently before us in this connexion. I have the greatest sympathy with the top-making industry, and would be the last man in Australia to do anything to hamper it in any way. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) are under, a total misapprehension regarding the fell* mongering in connexion with Mr. F. W. Hughes’ business. They have stated, and no doubt’ believe, that that Committee has in some way or other interfered with that business; but. I am in a position to say that they are under a misapprehension. ‘ There is no interference whatever by the Central Wool Committee with the fellmongering branch of Mr. Hughes’ industry, which he “is able to carry on exactly as before.
– Only he has to buy his wool from the Committee.
– He can conduct his business as before, except that his wool must first be appraised, like the wool of every other fellmonger. It has been an exceedingly delicate matter to carry on and complete these negotiations. The whole question is surrounded with great difficulties, and has caused considerable concern to the members of the Central Wool Committee for a long time. The Committee, however, has honestly tried to give a fair deal to all concerned, and, in my opinion, has succeeded. The agreement como to, which apparently will be acceptable to the Combing Company, is that they should work on commission at so much per lb. ; in other words, that they should act as the agent of the Government in combing these tops. Before they can act as such agents, it is necessary that the Wool they comb should be the property of the Government for whom they act. The company had other offers, which they rejected, but finally they agreed to the latest offer as the best way out of the difficulty.
– Under pressure.
-In all such negotiations, some one has to give way to a certain extent. I feel sure that not one of us has ever been able to get his own way all his life, especially if a married man. I take it that this is one of those purely domestic affairs, in “which all concerned have given way and arrived at an agreement. Whether or not the best method has been adopted, I am not prepared to say; but under the agreement it is absolutely essential that the Government should own the wool before the company commences to comb it. It is therefore obviously impossible that the wool should automatically go from Mr. F. W. Hughes’ fellmongery into the Combing Company’s works.
– Why impossible? It was done before.
– But previously the Government did not own the tops and the wool.
– It can be appraised on the works.
– As I have said, under this agreement the Government must own the wool before it is combed, and, if the wool is the product of Mr. Hughes’ fellmongery, it must be purchased by the Government from Mr. Hughes. This is the point which has created difficulty; but I do not think the difficulty is serious, excepting that it has apparently created a temporary block. The block will be removed; and the only point left is that this wool, after being fellmongered and scoured, must be dried and baled up in order that it may be appraised.
– Would it not be possible to appraise it without that?
– I am told it is impossible. I repeat there is nothing to prevent the fellmongering going on in Mr. Hughes own yard exactly as before, but it must, at the particular stage, be weighed, valued, and paid for, by the Government.
– The Government must pay for the extra work.
-I understand that by the agreement Mr. Hughes is compensated for the extra labour employed to dry the wool and bale it up.
– He will be compelled to have this done in other establishments.
– I did not gather that from the Acting Prime Minister’s remarks, but if he did say so, he is under a misapprehension. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) may have been informed by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) that that is the case, but I am assured by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee that it is not so.
– The honorable member for South Sydney led the Acting Prime Minister astray.
– I would not say that; I have no doubt that both that honorable member and the honorable member for Illawarra were under the impression that that was the case.
– The Prime Minister said it would be a breach of the agreement for Mr. Hughes not to arrange that his employees be transferred to those who would do the work that he had hitherto done.
– That was on the assumption that the statement by the honorable member for South Sydney was correct. I am making these statements on the written authority of the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, who assures me that there is nothing in the agreement to prevent Mr. Hughes fellmongering the skins in his own yards, though he must have the wool dried and appraised.
– Will it be appraised in Mr. Hughes’ own works?
– That I am not prepared to say, but it would be possible, and not expensive, to provide the necessary accommodation. There is no reason whatever why the 400 men should have been dismissed. The honorable memberfor Werriwa said, practically, that the top-making industry had been in some, way hampered by the Central Wool Committee in consequence of influence brought to bear by the carcass butchers of Sydney ; but that idea is absolutely unfounded.
– The impression is very deeply rooted.
– There are many mistaken impressions deeply rooted in the -absence of full information regarding the facts.
– There would be a tendency to make mutton cheaper, , and that is why your people object.
– As I have said on previous occasions, I have always been in favour of the operations of Mr. Hughes and the Combing Company. I have more than once stated in this House that in order to obtain his fellmongered wool for making tops Mr. Hughes was able to give a higher price to the graziers for full woolled sheep or skins, and, secondly, by- the profit he made he was able to sell meat cheaper to the retail butcher than were the other carcass butchers. I was the first, I think, to draw attention to that point; and I repeat and confirm it. I would not do anything to antagonize or prejudice the operations in connexion with this industry. We have to bear in mind that nothing that the Central Wool Committee has done interferes with those tendencies ofand influences on Mr. Hughes’ business. Through his great operations he can still give the highest possible price for skins, and for full woolled fat sheep, and he is still able to sell meat wholesale at the cheapest rate; the Committee has not interfered in the remotest degree with his capacity in that respect.
– The topmaker is compelled to buy his wool through the Committee.
– The only stipulation is that the wool must be appraised. The wool can be in the fellmonger’s yard, dried, and put into bales, but it must be appraised prior to combing.
– But the wool is appraised in only one centre. The growers are compelled to send the wool from the North-west, past Newcastle, to Sydney for appraisement.
– As to whether the wool could be appraised at Botany, I am mot prepared to say. In regard to the charge that the Committee has been influenced by the carcass butchers, I wish only to say that we have had great trouble with the carcass butchers, as well as with the Colonial Combing, Weaving and Spinning Company, and we are being treated with the same measure of hostility by both bodies. The carcass butchers claim to have a grievance against the Wool Committee because we have not done something which they wished us to do, and they are just as strongly antagonistic to us as are the wool top manufacturers.
I turn now to the statement by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) that the Committee has done a great injustice to the small wool-growers by limiting the operation of wool-dealers to purchases’ not exceeding £10. I particularly wish the attention of honorable members opposite on this point.
– Listen to the dictum of the squatters.
– I have the honor to represent a country district in Victoria in which there are probably more small wool-growers than in any other district in Australia. There are practically no squatters in the Grampians electorate, hut nearly every farmer is a small woolgrower. The honorable member for Werriwa has voiced a grievance on behalf of the wool dealers. For two years I have been a member of the Central Wool Committee., and for at least eighteen “months this limitation of purchases has been a live question. There have been deputations and protests from “wool dealers, and endless memoranda on the subject. But during the whole * of the two years I have met only one wool-grower who wished to sell his wool to the country dealers, and he was the honorable member for Werriwa.
– One member of a deputation presented a petition signed ‘ by hundreds of small growers.
– I merely say that I , have never met any small grower other than the honorable member who complained of the action of the Central Committee in limiting purchases by country dealers to £10 lots.
– The honorable member would take no notice of the small growers if they did complain.
– Of course I would take notice. Does the- honorable member suppose that I would not take notice of a complaint by any grower in my own electorate ? I have asked the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) if he has met one woolgrower who wished to sell his wool to a greater value than £10 to country dealers. He assured me that he had not. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) also represents an electorate in which there are very many small growers, and he answered my question in the same way.
– I could mention scores of small growers who resent that limitation.
– The honorable member may have met those people; I have not. We have been told that there is a multitude of small growers who are anxious to. sell to country dealers. I simply reply that I have “never met one of them, nor have” the honorable members for Echuca, Calare, Hume, and Wakefield. I think I have shown that there is no foundation for the statement that the small wool-growers are dissatisfied with the action of the Central Wool Committee in this respect. . Although the honorable member for Werriwa said that he did not urge indiscriminate speculation in wool, it must be quite obvious to him that unless we impose some limitation on the quantity which a country dealer or merchant can buy, there certainly will be indiscriminate speculation.
– Could not the limit be the- dealer’s previous transactions ?
– That suggestion has been made. But I remind the honorable member of the magnitude of the previous transactions of some of these dealers, who ply their trade in such delightful and romantic circumstances. My honorable friend may not be aware that before this scheme was put into operation there were wool dealers whose purchases in a single year amounted to 20,000 or 30,000 bales. If the honorable member does not believe in indiscriminate speculation in wool, I ask him where is the line to be drawn ?
– Prior to the establishment of the Central Wool Committee anybody in the world was free to buy our wool.
– But since the Imperial Government purchased the whole of the Australian wool clip nobody here has been free to sell large parcels of their wool except to the one huyer.
– Why this interference with private enterprise?
– That question should’ not be addressed to me, but to the Kaiser in Berlin, who. precipitated the war upon the world. It is he who has interfered with private enterprise. I have been asked why the Central Wool Committee limit the purchases of country wool dealers to £10 in each transaction. I merely wish to say that, acting , as trustees for the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial authorities, we considered that one advantage in selling this commodity at that price was that stability would be imparted to our woolproducing industry. The price was fixed sufficiently high to stimulate the production of wool in Australia. Consequently, we deemed “it advisable to insure that even the smallest wool-grower would obtain the full value qf his wool.
– That is the point. Has the little grower suffered?
– Bearing in mind the conditions surrounding this purchase - conditions under which the wool-growers receive 50 per cent, profit on all wool sold by the Imperial Government for civilian purposes - and remembering also that this profit might either be considerable or might amount to nothing at all by reason of the losses’ occasioned by submarines, we arrive at the conclusion that it was quite impossible for wool dealers or speculators to assess the value of this addi tional profit of 50 per cent. Consequently, we had to protect the interests of the wool-grower.
– The Central Wool Committee have taken good care that the wool-grower shall be protected.
– Yes; we have endeavoured to treat all alik© - both small and large wool-growers.
– Does the honorable member say that no added value is created by the labour of country wool merchants?
– It is quite true that in many cases there is an added value created. But I submit that that added value applies mainly to the” small parcels worth less than £10. To large parcels of wool the dealer can give no added value. And the dealers ask to be allowed to purchase large parcels.
– They are not asking for that condition.
– -I am delighted to hear that interjection. We. have had interviews with these people, and they have demanded total free trade in wool: They have refused to accept any limit. .
– Our deputation asked for.-“ a limit of ten bales.
– The persons who interviewed the Central Wool Committee) desired that no limit should be fixed. That meant that a man who purchased 20,000 hales before this scheme came into operation would still be at liberty to purchase a similar quantity.
– Country woolgrowerschiefly complain, that in respect of the> Central -Wool Committee the fox is beingput to mind the chickens. ‘ : ‘ .’
– All these metaphors are capable of two interpretations. Everything depends upon who represents the fox, and who represents the chickens-. We have set up a scheme of appraiser ment under which the smallest woolgrower will get the’ utmost value for his wool by this system of appraisement. The commission paid by wool-growers to wool-selling brokers has been referred to. There is.no wool-broking house in Australia that is receiving a greater percentage of commission now than it 06tained before this scheme came into ope-‘ ration. For a wool-grower to get the fullvalue of his wool it is necessary for it te be passed through some warehouse where it can be conveniently and accurately appraised by expert wool appraisers. Therefore the business of the wool-selling brokers, as carried on before the war, is absolutely essential for the success of the scheme. It is absolutely impossible to do without that assistance.
.- I have had submitted to me by the Returned Soldiers Association a number of cases in which landlords in Melbourne have been taking advantage of the fact that there is a scarcity of houses in this city regardless of the fact that in every case the bread-winner is away at the Front fighting for his country.
– I submitted a case to the Minister to-night.
Mr.Watkins. - I submitted a case, but the man was prosecuted and fined.
– I intend to mention these cases in order to give publicity to what is happening. The Returned Soldiers Association has been instrumental in preventing any increased rent being collected in these cases, and as additional rent has not been paid no prosecution could follow; but if the association can learn of so many cases it is reasonable to suppose that there must be hundreds of others in which people, through ignorance of the fact that there is a regulation dealing with the matter, are paying the increases demanded by the landlords. When a soldier enlists the wage offered to him is not too great. He is only able. to leave at the most 4s. a day for his wife, and overseas he draws1s. a day. out of which he cannot buy many luxuries. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) knows that right up to the front line he will find some way of spending his1s. a day, and how a married man can get sufficient money to go over to London I do- not know. The regulations state that a man must have a clear £10 in his pay-book before leave can be granted to him, and taking into account the many things that a man has to buy out of1s. a day it is very difficult for him to save up £10 in order to get a trip over to Blighty. Just before I left the Front a provision was made that if his Commanding Officer gave a letter to a soldier going on furlough, he could proceed to London without money, and draw £10 there. If, on his return to the Front, a soldier who has drawn that £10 in that way should happen to be killed, the amount is deducted from his deferred pay; otherwise he has to repay it out of his allowance of1s. a day, which means that he will probably have to live for many months on 2 s. a week.. When a soldier is struggling with that sort of thing I can quite imagine his feelings on receiving a letter from his family informing him that the landlord of the house in which they have been living for years has increased the, rent by 2s. or 3s. a week. I guarantee that it saps a good deal of his loyalty. There is one man who has been receiving £100 a week in rent, who has increased the rent of a shop occupied by a woman, who has worked up a business where practically none existed before, from 14s. to 15s. per week. His name is Mr. Coulter, of 114 Evans-street, Port Melbourne. I have a letter from him.
Mr.W atkins. - He should be prosecuted.
– He raised the rent, but the secretary of the Returned Soldiers Association got to work, and advised that the increase should.not.be paid. It is not being paid. I have a number of other cases investigated by the Returned Soldiers Association, and I propose to mention the names of the landlords. Perhaps if they see that publicity is given to their names they may be a little more careful in the future in the matter of asking soldiers’ dependants to pay increased rents. Here is one letter - 257 Amess-street, North Carlton, 26th September, 1918.
Just a line to let you know what our landlord has done this last week for us after being in the house four years. We have been paying the agent (Mr. D. Wilson) 16s. a week, and he has risen it to 18s.6d. per week - 2s. 6d. at a jump for doing nothing for us. That is how they show their British spirit for us after . giving four sons - two killed and two wounded, the last one now being in the hospital in England badly wounded, having been admitted on the 15th August last. I am getting 5s. a day and no allowance for the boys away. (Signed) Bob Warren.
There are other cases which I can mention. There is that of Mrs. Barnett, of 5 Greeves-street, Fitzroy, whose rent has been increased from- 15s. to 16s. per week. The agent is J. Newitt, 1 Greeves-street, Fitzroy. Another case is that of Mrs. Dacey, Hope-street, East Malvern, whose rent has been increased from 17s. to £1 per week. The agent is Miss Bond, care «f J. McCleary, Wattletree-road, Malvern. Another case is that of Mrs. Fides, SI Gower-street, Kensington. Her rent has been increased from 16s. to £1 ls. per week. The agent is E. Simons, 349 Collins-street, Melbourne. I have a note stating that Mr. Watt has been inquiring about another case in connexion with this agent. In the next case, Mrs. H. J. White, of 26 Lincoln-road, Essendon, has had her rent increased by ls. 6d: per week. The agent’s name is not supplied.
– It would be more important to get the name of the owner.
-It is difficult for the Returned Soldiers Association to ascertain the names of the owners, but .they can soon be obtained from the agents.
– Why not put the police on straightway? They will soon find out the names of the owners.
– I have shown how difficult it is to do that. In these cases the Returned Soldiers Association have prevented the payment of the increases. I advised the secretary that we should be prepared to supply the money to pay the increased rent where it was charged, and thus enable a prosecution to take place. Here are some further cases of the kind : There is the case of Mrs. Glover, of Seaviewcrescent, Black Rock. In her case the rent was increased from 12s. 6d. to 14s. ; and the agent is C. H. Vaneede and Company, Sandringham. Another case is that of.W. Watson, 79 Brewster - street, Essendon; increase of rent, from 18s. to £1 ls. The name of the agent in this case is not given. Another case, A. H. Merrie, 15 Hawksburn-road, Hawksburn; the increased rent being from 25s. to £1 10s. In this case, also, the name of the agent is not given. There are quite a number of other cases in which the increases have not been supplied, but the names of the agents in some of these cases are known.
I have had a communication from the secretary of the Returned Soldiers
Association, referring to another matter,. namely, the refusal of some agents to let houses to the dependants of soldiers. This practice is giving considerable trouble, and it is very difficult to secure definite evidence upon which to prosecute the offending agents. It is hard to imagine that any landlord or agent would either raise the rent upon a soldier’s dependants, or refuse to let houses to them. I am satisfied that nothing oan tend to discourage recruiting in this country more than a practice of this kind. It is of no use for people to go upon public platforms appealing for men to go upon active service if the Government tolerate practices of this kind by the landlords of Melbourne, or of any other city in Australia. I hope’ that the Government will make it plain that wherever it is possible for them- to do so, they will enforce the law against this kind of thing with the utmost severity.
– The Government have already indicated that they will do so. It has been stated, also, that instructions on the subject have been given’ to District Commandants, and that any person having a complaint of this kind to make is requested to lodge the complaint with the District Commandant.
– I am mentioning the matter now to give it further publicity, a*nd in order that there may be a wider circulation of the information that the Government intend to prosecute where it is possible to do so.
The practices to which I have referred have given the Returned Soldiers Association a’ considerable amount of trouble; but the Association has also had a great deal of trouble in- connexion with the position in which dependants of men who have been “ A.W.L. “ are placed. I do not know what action, if any, the Government intend to take in this matter, but to me it seems a very regrettable thing that the miners at Mount Lyell should have found it necessary to send to the Returned Soldiers Association here the sum of £25 to assist the women and children dependants of soldiers who are mar(ked “A.W.L.” today. This is a charge which should not fall upon the miners of Mount Lyell.
The circumstances under which soldiers have been marked “A.W.L.” are not fully known; and I venture to say that when the full history of these- matters is known, it will be found that in the case of a very great many of them the soldiers have not been greatly to blame. Those of us who have been in France and in England know how easy it is for a soldier to be branded “ A.W.L.” ; and when the news is cabled out here, his dependants are deprived of their allotment money, though in many cases it is subsequently discovered that the soldier was wrongfully branded as “A.W.L.”
– Is the honorable member referring to cases of short absence without leave, or to cases of absence without leave for months?
– I understand that under the military law, where a man is given fourteen days’ leave, he is not considered to be absent without leave until twenty-one days from the beginning of his leave. But in many cases men go to the islands around Great Britain, or they go up north to Scotland, and while they are away become ill, and are unable to get back to their units within the term of their leave. The last thing some of these men will think of is to write to their Commanding Officer, though I admit that if they did write they would very often -not be charged with desertion or branded as absent without leave. They do not write, and stay away for a month or six weeks, and the Commanding Officer is then, of course, notified that they are deserters. An inquiry is then held, and it is cabled out here that they are absent without leave, and the payments to their wives and children are suspended, although within a month the soldier branded as absent without leave may have returned to his’ unit. I could quote the case of a soldier, who was killed on the battlefield, and whose dependants here had to suffer the disgrace of having his name branded as that of a deserter.
– I know the case of a wife of a soldier whose pay was reduced by £37 10s. because her husband was charged with being absent without leave.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that the pay was reduced ?
– The allotment paid to the woman was reduced by that amount.
-I appeal to the Acting’ Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to remember that the cases of actual desertion are not very numerous.
I do not wish to hurt the feelings of any one present who may have come from the Old Country, but when I was at head-quarters in London full inquiries were made, which substantiated the statement I make that 70 per cent, of all the crimes committed by those wearing the Australian uniform were committeed by men who were not born in Australia. In some cases the men were not even members of the Australian Imperial Force, but men who by some means secured an Australian uniform and masqueraded as members of the Australian Imperial Force. In a very greatpercentage of the cases of crime it can be shown that the crimes were committed by men who had not been five years in Australia. The great percentage of deserters and men branded as absent without leave are men who were not born in Australia. The real Australian-born soldiers show a very low percentage of desertions indeed. I should like that in this matter special consideration should be given to men who left Australia in’ 1914, and in the early days of 1915. The men who went through the landing at Gallipoli returned to Egypt, and went from there to France, and were in every stunt since then, deserve some special consideration. When they get over to England they may overstay their leave. I have explained to honorable members how difficult it is for men to secure leave, and married men hesitate to cable to their wives for money to enable them to do so. I have known cases in which men have been on active service for two years before they could get any leave to England. When these men overstay their leave they are classed asabsent without leave, and their depend ants in Australia are forced to be the recipients of the charity of benevolent institutions. I maintain that the families ofmen who have given three years’ servicein the war should not be the recipients of the charity of any one. Any man who has put in three years’ service with the Australian Imperial Force has done his bit for the country.
I am very pleased to note that the Government are .bringing home the boys who embarked in 1914. I hope that they will go further, and bring home also those who enlisted in 1914, though they may not have left Australia until 1915. I was reading the speech of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) on the subject delivered in another place. He said that if we had had conscription in Australia we could have relieved the boys over there. That is not a fair statement. The honorable gentleman went on to say that Canada had conscription, and was able to give her soldiers relief. I would point out that, compared with Australia, Canada has done little in this war. Although she is 10,000 miles nearer the scene of operations, she has placed only three divisions in the field, whereas Australia has put in seven divisions.
– Canada has only 115,000 casualties to date.
-She has put in only three divisions, although her population is nearly three times more than that of the Commonwealth. Australia, on the other hand, has supplied five Infantry divisions, about a division and a half of Mounted men and nearly half a division in the shape of our Fleet. Australia has done remarkably well in” this war. She has sent to France and Mesopotamia a3 great a Force as England sent to South Africa” on the occasion of the Boer “War; and at that time it was thought a wonderful achievement for Britain to transport that number of troops so great a distance. I am not suggesting that Australia, since she has done so well, ought to stop and do no more; but I do not believe that, merely because certain men who are ruling this country fixed Australia’s quota at seven divisions, we should ‘always maintain that number of divisions. We are also doing exceedingly well in our recruiting work to-day. There is no cause to complain in that regard, and’ no one has reason to feel dissatisfied with the part Australia has played in the war.
It is essential that those who have to their’ credit three and four years’ service should be returned to Australia. No harm would .be done if to allow of this we broke up one of our Infantry divitions. I should not like us to be forced to break up a division, but better that than keep our men at the Front for more than three years. The United States of America is sending to the scene of conflict 300,000 men per month. This should afford some relief to our lads who have been fighting for three and four years, both in Gallipoli and France. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence will take this matter into consideration. I feel satisfied that they will have no trouble so far as the British War authorities are concerned. I happen to know that it was not their wish that the 3rd Division, which is really our 5th Infantry Division - the number having been altered - should ever go in as a new division. I was a member of that division. I was called to London, and there met the General, who said, “ You will have to get a transfer into another division. The British War authorities have advised that the Srd Division should go in as reinforcements.” It would have been a good thing if that advice had been followed. At that time, our lads were on the Somme; they had been in the trenches in the depth of winter, for three months, and there were 50,000 of our men at Salisbury who could have relieved them. It was at the instance of the authorities in Australia that the 3rd Division was sent in, not as reinforcements, but as a new division. Canada has realized that, notwithstanding her larger population, she is doing very well if she can maintain three divisions in the field.
– Canada has also done good work in supplying munitions.
– Yes; and there is a lot of money attaching to that work.
– >There is no need to decry the Canadians in order to applaud our own men.
– I am not decrying them.
– Canada has done wonderfully well.
– She has; but she realized that her men needed a spell, and that she could only maintain three divisions in the field.
– She had to keep about 150,000 at home to protect her borders.
– That is a small number when we compare Canada’s three divisions with our seven divisions. I have no wish to make an unfair comparison. I am simply pointing out that in our enthusiasm at the beginning of the war we tried to do just a little too much. We have no reason to be despondent because of the number of our enlistments. The way in which we are keeping up the supply of men is really remarkable. If, because of the heavy casualties, the reinforcements are not quite sufficient to main; tain our divisions at their full strength, that is no reason why those who have been three and four years on active service should be kept at the Front. I urge the Government not to ask those who have been so fortunate as to come unscathed through three and four years of service to give the last ounce of their energy to the cause, but rather to give them an opportunity to come back to their loved ones in Australia. No one on the other side of the world will think ill of Australia if her Forces be depleted by one division as the result of her desire to give a holiday to those of our lads who left this country in 1914 and 1915. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I hope the Acting Prime Minister will deal with the landlords who are raising rents upon the dependants of soldiers in Melbourne.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Beer Excise Act 1901-1912.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to consolidate a.nd amend the law relating to Parliamentary Elections and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Anzacs on Furlough.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am sorry to take up the time of the House for a little longer, but I shall not have an opportunity on the adjournment to-morrow to mention the matter I now have in mind. With regard to the Anzacs who are coming back to Australia on furlough, I should like to bring under the attention of the Government the desirableness of providing them with some pocket money for the holiday which we all hope they will enjoy. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) brought home to every honorable member of the HoUse the fact that the majority of these men who are coming back on a fairly long holiday will have only the bare pay of a private with which to finance their households and enjoy their holiday. It seems to me, therefore, that some effort should be made, and that, if the Government cannot undertake to provide for this special expenditure, we should , organize some fund, and make it possible to furnish these men with sufficient money, in order that they may have something to spend, without depriving their families of the means of subsistence.
.- I should like to have a statement from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) on this subject. I understand that something was done when th, other men arrived in Australia on furlough, and I certainly think that action of a similar nature should be taken in connexion with those who are now returning. Honorable members knew that in workingclass districts, which have furnished a good number of these, men, both at the beginning of the war and in the later months, it is particularly hard for their families to carry on as it is, so I do not know how they will manage with a husband at home as well. We have had some statements on the subject from the honorable member -for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who does not want to labour the question, so I ask the Assistant Minister to consult with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) as soon as possible, to see what can be done.
– I shall do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181003_reps_7_86/>.