7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– According to theRoyal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, instances were furnished to it in which a Minister had incurred expenditure, either without reference to, or in opposition to, the Naval Board, with unsatisfactory and costly results to the Common-wealth. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if the Minister referred to is a member of the present Australian National War Government ; and, if so, what is his name, and does the Government propose to dismiss him from office?
-For an ex-Minister to pop a question like this without notice is mostunfair.
Mr.Higgs.-Does not the Acting Prime Minister know the name of the Minister referred to? Has he not read the Commission’s report?
– I have glanced through the report in the time available to me, but I cannot say to which of the many Ministers who have had charge of the Defence
Departments the statement applies. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall confer with the Attorney-General on the subject.
-Is the Acting Prime Ministeraware thatduring the past few months a very large quantity of hides, but a comparatively small quantity of leather, if any at all, has been shipped to England) Is the honorable gentleman able to inform the House whether the Shipping Controller in England has cabled to theShipping Board here to the effect that, so far as possible, hides and leather shall be provided with an equal amount of shipboard space?
– I think that I have shown myself familiar with the situation to which the honorable member refers, in regard towhich I have answered more questions than on any other subject that I can recollect. I endeavoured to ascertain yesterday whether actual official effect had been given to the arrangement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes)was able to make in London, and I was informed then that, so far, no official instruction in the direction stated had been issued by the British Shipping Controller.
– Last week I called attention to the probable effect of a new regulation issuod under the War Precautions Act, which requires the written consent of tho Treasurer to the construction or erection of buildings. I then expressed the view that the regulation might be held to apply to the erection of buildings intended for homes, which are urgently needed at the present time; but the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) expressed the view that it did not so apply. I have since received a communication from the solicitor to a building society, who points out that building societies and land companies erect houses for sale, and fears that . this regulation is meant to apply to such buildings. If the Acting Prime Minister could make a statement on the subject, it would dispel certain doubts.
– The honorable member did me the courtesy to inform me of his intention to ask this question, and I have in my hand a copy of the regulation to which he refers.It does not apply to the erection of houses for homes, as a cursory examination of itwould make plain. The classes of buildings for the erection and construction of which the written consent of the Treasurer is needed are these -
The only homeaffected is possibly the home of the man who sells intoxicating liquor. The regulation does not apply to the construction and erection of homes for ordinary citizens.
– Is it the policy of the Government, or of the Department of the Postmaster-General, to give preference of employment to returned soldiers, all things being equal? If so, does the Commonwealth Public Service Act prevent effect being given to that policy?
– It is the policy of the Government to give preference to returned soldiers, all things being equal, and my Department is giving effect to tho policy. Nothing in the Public Service Act, so far as I am aware, interferes with this policy.
– I have received the following letter from the Treasury : -
Referring to the statement laid on the table of the House, containing information in connexion with the Sixth War Loan newspaper advertisements,I beg to inform you that as the result of a careful check in this office errors in addition have been discovered in the statement which was prepared by the Commonwealth Bank.
Will you please advise me whether there is any objection to the statement already presented to Parliament being altered in conformity with the attached copy in which the corrections have been made in red ink.
The discrepancy referred to is only a small matter, the alteration being needed to make the summary agree with the detail, and I saw no objection to its being made; but as the paper referred to has been laid on the table, I considered it right to mention the matter to the House.
– In reply to a question asked by me some time ago, a statement was presented showing the distribution of War Loan advertisements. It was generally agreed by honorable members that it would be too expensive to print the information in Hansard, and the Acting Prime Minister promised to make available to each member a copy of it. Can I have my copy to-day? I would remind the honorable gentleman that this is Grievance Day.
– The fact that this is Grievance Day has not escaped my notice, but I am sure that the honorable member can find sufficient other grounds for the ventilation of grievances without this paper. Speaking from memory, in fulfilment of my promise, I gave the instruction that copies of the paper should be prepared for honorable members, and T shall renew that instruction to-day, so that honorable members may have their copies as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Price Fixing aware that the New South Wales Government intend to take control of meat supplies, and to regulate the prices of meat? Will the honorable gentleman, therefore, gracefully retire from the business, and allow the State Government to carry it on in the interests of the public?
– I have not had any intimation of the facts, though I have seen some reference to the subject in the press.
Reciprocity with New Zealand.
-There is some arrangement, I think, in operation between the Governments of the two Dominions in relation to soldiers’ pensions, but I am uot aware that any other representations have been made. However, I shall inquire, and inform the honorable member, perhaps later on to-day.
– Some time agoI asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) a question in reference to the provision of homes for the widows of soldiers killed at the Front. I then pointed outthat the New South Wales Government had, early this year, provided homes at peppercorn Tents for such widows, and suggested that, in order to stimulate the State Governments generally to assist in this work, information as to what had been done in the various States should be set out in the shape of a return. Will the Minister be able to give us that information at an early date?
– The information is not yet available, but I shall make further representations to the Department, and see if it cannot be expedited.
Removal of Postal Embargo
– Taking into con sideration the fact that at this period of the year a large percentage of the people of the Commonwealth contribute to a well-known institution in Tasmania in the hope of securing a prize, and, further, considering that the Government are participating in the gamble by taxing the prizes won, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of lifting the embargo upon letters addressed to “Tattersall” or any of the known agents of that concern? .
– I think that .this Parliament is rapidly becoming a conundrum factory, to which the University is a mere circumstance. I have never considered the question raised, but I presume the honorable member refers to Tattersalls sweeps ?
– With these sweeps I have no personal acquaintance whatever.
– Have you never had a try?
– Many long years ago, before the sweeps were taboo. I cannot answer the question without conferring with my honorable colleague in charge of the Post Office, and that I shall do.
– I desire to know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) has received a letter from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia in reference to the inequitable tax on medicine? If so, will he reply to the communication at an early date, seeing that the matter is urgent?
– Yes, I have received a circular, and I shall reply to it.
Inquiry into Complaints.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) seen the statement in this morning’s press that trainees at Broadmeadows Camp were kept twenty-four hours without food? If bo, will the honorable gentleman have the matter considered in connexion with the complaints I have already made on behalf of the trainees in camp at Liverpool?
– Yes, I shall do so.
– Bitter complaints are made in a certain quarter about the soaring price of chaff; and I should like to know from the Minister in charge of price fixing whether ‘anything is being done to regulate the supply and- the price? It is generally considered by those who deal in the commodity that it is being cornered by speculators. Will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to dealing fairly with those concerned?
– Some time ago I brought under the notice of the House an important return, prepared at the instance of Sir Alexander Peacock, when Premier of Victoria, showing from the income-tax returns profits made by firms, numbers being given instead of names. In view of the compulsory loan policy, can the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) see his way to have a similar return prepared for Federal purposes?
– When the matter was raised by the honorable member I promised to refer it to the Commissioner of Taxes to see whether the request ‘Could be complied with. I did so, and the Commissioner replied that he would regard the preparation of data of that kind as a violation of the secrecy of his office ; and there I was obliged to leave the matter.
– Sir Alexander Peacock had a return made.
– I am not responsible for the conduct of State authorities. I can only repeat the Commissioner’s view.
– When we have the recall, we will sack him.
– Not yet.
– No; but when we have the recall.
Mutton fob SOLDIERS
– I desire to ask a question about the overseas shipment of meat under Imperial contracts. For some time past shipments have been confined mainly to Queensland, where the supplies were plentiful. Now, however, conditions have altered, and there is an exportable surplus in other States. Will the Acting Prime Minister make representations with a view to assuring those concerned that the available space will be equitably apportioned amongst the States, particularly to Victoria, where there have been no shipments for some time, and stocks are fast accumulating?
– After a .conversation I was privileged to have with the honorable member yesterday on the matter, I have been able, in consultation with the shipping authorities of the Commonwealth and the agricultural authorities of the States this morning, to ascertain the exact position so far as they are able to tell it to me. It appears that the market is suffering from a great deal of fear - I speak of the Victorian market for mutton and lambs chiefly - that drought conditions will force sales, and that there will be no possibility of either shipments or cold storage. That, as it appears tq me, is almost an obsession on the part of many producers. So far as I have been able to ascertain, there is in the cold stores of Victoria a total theoretic available capacity for 1,600,000 carcasses, as we at present store them in cut condition. There is roughly a fourth of that space, representing 400,000 carcasses, occupied, leaving three-fourths, or space for about 1,200,000 carcasses, unoccupied. So far as the authorities of the State of Victoria are able to ascertain, that is being filled, or will be filled in the next month or so, if conditions continue as they are, at the rate of 160,000 carcasses per week. It is estimated, therefore, that, if no relief in shipment takes place, thestores will be filled by about the middle of December. The shipping arrangements are such, according to promises already made of insulated space for this part of Australia, that that time may be extended by shipping relief to about the middle of J anuary. That is as far as we can see ahead now; but, after considering all the facts elicited by my inquiries this morning, I have cabled to the Prime Minister asking him to do two things - first, to ascertain if it will not be possible in Britain to get more insulated space for Australia, in view of the seasonable and possible drought pressure; and, secondly, to see whether it is not possible to get mutton sent to Egypt. I do not know whether honorable members quite appreciate the difficulty in this connexion. So far, we have been able to ship only beef, which is the ration for the British Army. It seems extraordinary that men reared on sheep should be compelled to eat beef ; and I see no reason why mutton should not form a part of the rations in Egypt and Mesopotamia. If Mr. Hughes is able to do what I have suggested, it will relieve the situation a great deal, without prejudicing the beef districts of Australia. I expect to get the Prime Minister’s reply inside a week.
Mr.WATT. - I caused further inquiries to be made shortly before lunch, and I now have information to the effect that the calculation of 160,000 carcasses per week, upon which the date to the middle of December is based, is in excess of the actual capacity; that is to say, the killing capacity of the trade, in Tespect of both labour and space, will be much below that figure.
– The Acting Prime Minister is speaking of Victoria alone.
– I explained that probably an attempt would be made to put into cool store 160,000 carcasses per week. It is plain that that number cannot be slaughtered and dealt with, and that will mean an extension of the calculated date by possibly a month or more. That should give further assurance to the holders of stock.
– According to the newspapers, meat is coming down in price, and I should like to know whether arrangements can be made by which the consumer, and not the salesmen, may get the benefit?
– The Government has fixed the maximum price for meat. It was not intended to follow the market in every fluctuation, but to fix twice a year a maximum price between given dates in the export and non-export season. Pending the co-ordination of frozen and canned prices I do not anticipate any adjustment of existing maximum rates.
– In view of the urgency of the question, will the Acting Prime Minister agree to a vote being taken on the subject of war-time prohibition of the liquor traffic ?
– For many months past the honorable member has had upon the business-paper a notice of motion relating to that matter, but he has never given notice of any question on the subject. He heard my answer the other day as to the attitude of the Government, and I ask him to give notice of any further inquiry.
– Some time ago I promised the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) to obtain particulars as to the number of officers between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years employed in the Federal Taxation Department. I now lay upon the table the information in the form of a return.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I understood that the honorable member for Ballarat intended to submit his motion to-day, but he now informs me orally that he does not propose to proceed with it to-day. When the motion is brought forward I shall indicate the attitude of the Government.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– the answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Otto Willgerodt - H. R. Holken
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Otto Willgerodt, German internee, formerly employed as Assistant Federal Analyst, is only suspended and not dismissed from the- Federal Public Service, and does ho receive his former Federal Service salary while interned?
If he is not in receipt of his former salary, has he a promise from the Government that he will be paid the difference between his interned allowance and his former salary on being released from internment, which difference, it is alleged, would amount to about £1,200?
Is it the intention of the Federal Government, on recommendation, to reinstate Willgerodt in his former position of Assistant Federal Analyst, when released from internment?
– I am advised by the Department of Trade and Customs as follows : -
Public. Service wes suspended during the period of his detention in military custody, in pursuance of the warrant above referred to, and it wal directed that no salary ‘should be payable to him while his employment was so suspended.
asked tlie Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’ s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to’ the honorable member’ s questions are as follow : -
Denomination Ai. Enlistments - Separation Allowance.
Mr. PALMER aske’d the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What number of men have enlisted’ to date for service in the Australian Imperial Force from each of the following religious denominations: - Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and others?
What number of chaplains classified as above were appointed to accompany them (a) for continuous service, (6) for transport duty only ?
What number of mcn classified as above have been returned to Australia?
What number of chaplains classified as above have been returned, or have accompanied the returned men, to the Commonwealth?
-Tlie information will be obtained, and the honorable member will be informed as early as possible.
asked the Assistant . Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the practice of the Department to pay separation allowances only’ from the date of application for tlie same when the applicant may have delayed applying for the separation allowance through want of knowledge?
– In the case of wives of soldiers, separation allowance is paid from date of enlistment. In other cases of dependency or partial dependency, payment is as a rule made from date of application; but if circumstances of the applicant are considered to warrant such action, the payment may be ante-dated.
” Stead’s War Facts.”
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
Mr.WATT. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.WATT.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Returned Soldiers and Annual Leave
asked the Postmaster.General, upon notice -
– It has not been the practice to grant returned soldiers recreation leave in respect of the period of military duty with the Forces, nor leave for the year in which they resume their official duties. However, by a recent decision of Cabinet it has been decided that a day and a half for each month of service with the Department in the year of return will be allowed, and I have ascertained that the Public Service Commissioner will shortly issue instructions accordingly.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the assistance given to naturalized aliens and their dependants when destitute from economic boycott, loss of work, &c., will the Government extend the same assistance to the destitute of our own and allied races?1
– The Commonwealth Go- . vernment do not give assistance to naturalized aliens and their dependants, except when the husband or support of the family hasbeen interned. Should any person of British or Allied nationality be interned, consideration would, as a matter of course, be given to the question of support for his dependants where such was necessary.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have made inquiries regarding this matter, and the Director of Munitions reports that the position is as follows: -
The question of whether a new applicant can be connected depends, in many cases, on the daily load curve of the supply undertaking, and is a technical one on which the chief engineer is best able to judge, but no objection will be taken to the chief engineer consulting fully with his council before making decisions, and it is, in fact, presumed that in cases of doubt as to whether an applicant should be connected or not, this is done. Moreover, the council has control over its own, officers.
Most supply undertakings constituted under a State law are not allowed by such law to discriminate, but no breach of the law is involved in this case, as the War Precautions regulations legalize the actions taken under them.
The authority given under the War Precautions regulations to the chief engineer enables him to conserve existing unused capacity (if any), and any capacity resulting from the installation of new plant during the continuation of the regulations for purposes of national or economical importance.
In the case of refusal to connect, an appeal to a Director of Munitions is provided for in the regulations, and in this way it is felt that no industry really essential is likely to be refused a supply of current.
The regulations, as far as is known, have not in any way increased the difficulties of the Sydney Council, as is implied by this question, but it is known that for a lengthy period before the War Precautions regulations were passed on the 18th September, the Sydney Municipal Council, of its own accord, had refused to connect a large number of consumers owing to shortage of power, plant, and essential apparatus.
In fact, the shortage in Sydney was one of the determining factors which led the Government to give powers of discrimination under the War Precautions regulations, so that industries which should get power would not suffer at the expense of consumers who could, without serious inconvenience, dispense with additional connexions.
The Sydney Council, not having had for a considerable time sufficient generating plant, and having, long before the incidence of the regulations, imposed of its own accord restrictions on new connexions, it is not understood how the War Precautions regulations can either inconvenience or hamper the industries of Sydney, as their sole object is to enable a supply to be given to essential industries.
Generally, in connexion with the whole matter raised by these questions, it is desired to point out that a conference of the supply engineers of the six capital cities was recently called, and, as a result of that conference, a schedule of requirements for new plant for a period of about two years was drawn up, “and the Commonwealth Government is now in communication with the Ministry of Munitions in England, through the High Commissioner, with a view to -
Expediting the delivery of such plant in this schedule as is now on order, and
Getting leave to manufacture such of the plant as is not yet ordered.
Similar action has been taken regarding plant on order in America.
It is, therefore, apparent that the Commonwealth Government is doing everything possible to facilitate the provision of electrical generating plant for the supply undertakings, and in the meantime istaking the necessary Steps to see that such plant as is available at the present time in Australia in the main industrial centres is used to the best advantage.
I would invite the attention of the honorable member to War’Precautions (Electricity) Regulations, Statutory Rules 1918, Nio. 250.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.WISE. - Yesterday the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked : -
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that twelve duplicate copies are required to be handed in with any request for permission to import goods from Great Britain containing steel, and does he not consider it a gross extravagance, in view of the fact that paper is so scarce, entailing on Government Departments in Great Britain the necessity for using small memoranda, which often have writing on the backs of them, and also entailing, in many cases, the use of the same envelope twice?
I have received the following report from the Director of Munitions in connexion with this matter: -
Twelve copies of each application for priority certificate are required to meet the requirements of the British Ministry of Munitions. The Ministry of Munitions, through the High Commissioner, asked that four copies of each application should be forwarded, together with a duplicate set by second mail, in case the first set was lost. This makes eight copies. One copy is filed in the office of the Director of Munitions, and three copies are sent to the applicants. The High Commissioner hands three of his copies to the Ministry of Munitions. The Ministry of Munitions indorses the decisions on the application and disposes of the three copies as follows: -
One duly indorsed copy is filed in the office of the Ministry of Munitions.
One duly indorsed copy is returned to the High Commissioner.
One duly indorsed copy is sent to the agent, manufacturer, or buyer in Great Britain.
The four duplicate copies are forwarded to the High Commissioner by second mail, in case the original mail has been lost in transit. Of the three copies returned to the applicants, one is for their file and two for forwarding by successive mails to the manufacturers or to their principals or buyers in Great Britain. The application forms take the place of letters between the Directorate of Munitions and the High Commissioner, between the High Commissioner and the Ministry of Munitions, and between the Ministry of Munitions and the buyers or agents in Great Britain. There is, therefore, really a considerable economy in paper. The fact that duplicates have to be sent by the second mail accounts, of course, for five of the copies.
– On the 11th instant the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) asked the following questions : -
I desire now to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Australian Imperial Force : Embarkation and Disembarkation : Military Offences : Deductions from Allowances of Dependants : Mothers of ex-Nuptial’ Sons : Evictions of Dependants: A.W.L/s: Orphans of Soldiers - Cost of Living: Meat Trade : Price Fixation - Sydney Meat Supply - The War: Peace Proposals: Paris Conference Resolutions - Speeches in England of the Prime Minister.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I am diffident about approaching a matter that I wish to bring before the House, but I feel that ‘ it is my duty to do so. We are expecting a number of Anzacs to arrive in Australia, very shortly, and the community are considering what shall be done to afford them a fitting welcome’; but if the arrangements are anything like those for the reception which has hitherto been accorded to men who have returned from the Front, the Anzacs will not have very strong feelings of regard for those who receive them. An individual named Commander Brewis is in control of the embarkation and disembarkation of soldiers. He has carried out this task for some time, yet he is the most unsuitable man who could be in charge of it. Unfortunately. the position is complicated by reason of the fact that the Commander is controlled by the Naval Department, whereas the soldiers with .whom he is dealing are controlled by the Military Department. When one endeavours to secure better facilities for welcoming soldiers on their arrival he is met by the dual control of the two Departments. I admit that the Departments have endeavoured to meet my representations, but I have never been able to get any redress from the autocratic and imbecile actions of this individual who is in control of embarkation and disembarkation work. Finally, I have had to appeal to the Acting Prime Minister. and the reply I received from him was that nothing could be done. Naturally my request was forwarded to Commander Brewis, and equally naturally his reply was that no better arrangement could be made. I advise honorable members to go- to Port Melbourne on a day on which soldiers are embarking or disembarking. There is always an enormous crowd of wives, children, and other dependants, as well as friends and relatives, of the men, and it is not an easy matter to make proper arrangements for dealing with them, although a great improvement could be effected by using a little common sense. The people all gather in one long row, and they remain seated there for hours.
– Would it not be better to land the soldiers at St. Kilda ?
– The same difficulty would .arise there. The .people take their meals with them, and sit down and wait for hours until the soldiers disembark. I have been at Port Melbourne on two occasions when boats leaving for the Front got away before the friends and relatives of the men could get down the pier, but this, we are told, cannot be avoided. On one occasion I saw two vessels leaving the wharf at the same time. The friends of the departing soldiers had no informa- ti on as to the particular boat on which they would find their dear ones, and when the gates were thrown open women and children rushed pell-mell down the” wharf in a frantic effort to locate them. Many could not do so and became hysterical. Sometimes the friends of the soldiers are not on the wharf for more than five or ten minutes before the steamer casts off.
If the man who controls the arrangements will have no regard for their feelings the Department should make a change. This officer says that without discipline it would be impossible to control the crowd. We all recognise that, but my contention is that more common sense might well be displayed in carrying out the arrangements. Is it fair that the friends andrelatives of soldiers leaving for theFront should be kept behind a barricade nearly a quarter of a mile from the point at which the outgoing vessel is berthed ?
– I have seen the rush when the gates are thrown open, and can say that it is positively awful.
– These people are treated very badly, but we can get no satisfaction because Commander Brewis, the officer in charge, says that no other system of dealing with the crowd could be adopted. Iri that assertion he displays his own lack of ability. It may be said that I am taking an unfair advantage of this man, since he cannot reply to me; but I am not dealing as unfairly with him as he deals with the friends and relatives of soldiers leaving for the Front. Even the Kaiser could not outdo Commander Brewis in his treatment of these people.
– What is he a commander of?
– He is a retired officer of the British Navy - a British “ Johnny,” who was sent out here, and has no conception of Australian ideals.
To illustrate the attitude he takes up, I would mention that quite recently a deputation of ladies, representing the Port Melbourne Reception Committee, waited on me to complain that, although they were temperance workers, he had charged them with taking intoxicating liquors to the men. These ladies, who are doing a magnificent work, were naturally indignant. They do their best to deliver as quickly as possible to the soldiers as they come ashore the little comforts they have for them ; but no proper provision is made for their convenience. These ladies are not all supporters of mine ; many of them for years have voted against me, and no doubt will continue to do so. I recognise, however, that they are doing good work, and it is up to me and to Commander Brewis, as well as others, to assist rather than to retard their efforts. They have spent thousands of pounds in providing comforts for the soldiers. They are placed in a sort of enclosure distinct from that in which the friends and relatives of returning soldiers have to wait, but when the rush takes place their catering arrangements are completely upset. They asked to be given a place where they could avoid the rush, but this request was refused by Commander Brewis. They provide comforts for the returned soldiers of every State, and it would be an easy matter for this “ Kaiser “ to provide them with better facilities to carry out their work in connexion with the disembarkation of our troops.
– Our soldiers are treated well by them, and owe them a lot.
– There can be no doubt of that. These ladies leave their home duties, and wait hour after hour on the wharf to welcome returning soldiers. Very often a vessel does not arrive at the advertised time, but the ladies remain onduty ready to provide the men with small comforts, and to give them a welcome home. My attack is not directed particularly against the present Government; the same trouble existed when the Labour party were in power, and even then I could secure no redress. Senator Pearce, the present Minister, was also Minister for Defence in the Labour Administration.. I do not know why he has not taken this matter in hand, but I shall avail myself of every opportunity to bring it bef ore the House.
If this trouble occurs every time a fewmen return, is it not likely to be accentuated when large bodies of troops are returning week after week, and, perhaps, day after day? We shall have to obtain the services of another disembarkation officer when the troops are returning in numbers, because I am satisfied that Commander Brewis will not be able to cope with the work. He has, indeed, shown no aptitude for it. I admit that without control of the crowd there would be absolute chaos, and it is possible that up to a certain point the authority rests, not with Commander Brewis but with others. If that is so, he should tell us; but knowing him by repute as well as by experience I throw upon him the responsibility. The Minister for Defence should long ago have removed him from his present office if the Navy
Department was not prepared to do so. It has been stated that the returning Anzacs are not to be disembarked at Port Melbourne; but, no matter where they are landed, if there is 4he same lack of facilities for their reception as has been evident at Port Melbourne, the result will be chaos, because it has to be borne in mind that not merely friends and relations of the returned Anzacs, but a great body of the community will be present at that disembarkation to show the feeling of the people towards the Anzacs. I warn the Government not to leave the arrangements for the disembarkation of the Anzacs in the hands of the gentleman who now controls the disembarkation of returning soldiers. If they do, they will have trouble, and they will deserve the condemnation which will follow. 1 wish to say a few words with respect to the treatment of persons looking after the orphan children of soldiers at the Front. A man may enlist, and leave behind him a wife in good health, and three or four children, and after he has left Australia his wife may die. I can instance one case where a soldier left behind him a wife and three boys of 11, 12, and 13 years of age. . The. mother died, and her relations took charge of the- boys. When the mother was alive, she received 28s. a week from her husband, ,14s. separation allowance, and 10s. 6d. per week, or 3s. 6d. for each -of the children. All that her relations, who are now looking after the children, are allowed to keep them is 30s. per week, or 10s. per week for each child. There is no one in Australia who can keep a growing boy of thirteen years of age, feed him’, clothe him, and house him for 10s. per week. In this case, the woman W.10 has taken charge of these boys has naturally some feeling for them as a relation, but she. has other obligations of her own to meet. Is it a fair thing that the Government of this country should ask a woman to assist in keeping the children of a soldier who is fighting for us at the Front? In these circumstances, if all the wives of men at the Front were to die, the Government would snake money out of their deaths. T de not say that’ the Government approached the consideration of this matter from that stand-point, but that is the actual position all the same. The woman who has to look after these children should re ceive the same amount as the mother received to look after them.
– My experience is that every application of the kind has been granted.
– I may inform the honorable gentleman that I have made such applications in thirty different cases, and not one of them has been granted. If the local patriotic committee think fit, they may allow a certain amount to the woman taking charge of a soldier’s children in such . circumstances. Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that the women composing local patriotic committees, though they mean well, have a somewhat extraordinary idea as to the amount of money upon which another woman can keep a house. They would not apply the same conditions to themselves. I- might be allowed to say, in passing, that if we hand over the wellbeing of women to other women, we shall not get the results we desire. I know that in very few cases of this kind assistance is given by Local Committees.
– It is not the duty of a Local Committee to give such assistance.
– It should not be necessary.
– That is so. It is_ the duty of the Government to look after this matter. To have to look after three boys of 11, 12, and 13 years of age is alone enough work for any one woman. There are some people who believe that a woman can look after a family and go out and work as well, but I am sure there is no member of this House who will say that 30b. a week is sufficient in these times fca keep three growing; boys, and clothe and educate them. You could purchase a suit for a lad of thirteen years of age for 25s. some time ago, but you could not do it for twice that amount to-day. It is the duty of the Government to see that no cause for complaint on this score shall continue to exist. The Government have no right to make money out of the deaths of the wives of soldiers. The sooner they look into this- matter, the better for their credit and for the relatives of men fighting at the Front.
– The Government do not make any money out of the deaths of these women, because in those cases the money goes to the credit of the soldiers.
– The Government save at least the separation allowance, and they should pay that allowance in addition to the amount allowed for each child. In the case I have referred to, £2 4s. a week wouldbe considerably better than 30s., the amount now paid.
I wish now to refer once more to the position of ex-nuptial mothers of soldiers who have died at the Front. The Government cannot make people believe that there is any difference in the feeling of mothers. It is probable that as the mothers of ex-nuptial sons have had such a fight in life for them, they, are more endeared to them on that account. Under the Ponsions Act, these mothers are not allowed the same pensions as are the widowed mothers of sons born in wedlock. It is a disgrace to us that this should be so. I have made complaints on the subject to the Treasurer and the Treasury officials, and certain promises have been made.
– Who is responsible ?
– Not only this, but the past Government, and we cannot get the practice altered. It has come under my notice only within the last two years. I do not blame the present Government for it any more than I do the members of the House, but it exists, and ought to be obviated. There are not three members in the House but would say that these mothers deserve to be placed in the same category as a widowed mother. If anything is to be done it should be done quickly. If an alteration of the Pensions Act is necessary, let it be made. I think there is sufficient scope in the powers of the Commissioner to enable him to do what is necessary, if the Treasurer says that the Government are willing.
– The worst feature of the Pensions Act is the fixing of the allowance according to the earnings of a boy when he enlists. A boy who enlists at the age of eighteen, earning only a small wage, may be away for four years.
– That is a serious trouble. A lad of nineteen may be earning 30s. a week when he enlists, and be killed three years afterwards, yet the mother’spension is based on what he was earning when he went away. Another difficulty is the position of foster-mothers. A case that occurred in the electorate of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.
Maxwell) was brought to me before he was elected. A sergeant of police and his wife reared a son of the wife’s late sister from six weeks old. When he grew up, he was in a bank at Donald, Victoria, earning enough to keep himself decently. He went to the Front when the call came, and was there three years. Two years after he left, the foster-father died. The lad then began to assist his foster-mother. There had been no need for this before, although he had always left certain money to be drawn by her, which she had been banking for him. When her husband died, she found that her financial position was not as good as she had expected, and she had to use the money allowed by her foster-son to live on, instead of banking it for him. He was killed, but because she was not dependent on him when he went away, she can get no pension. If he had been here to-day, he would have been keeping her, yet the Department will not recognise her claim. It seems incredible to people outside that these cases should exist, but it is so. Mr. Collins, the Pensions Commissioner, always meets one as far as he thinks he ought to go. He has certain powers and can exercise his own judgment to a great degree. I have induced himto see eye to eye with me on many occasions, and he has established precedents which were not thought to come technically within the Act when it was passed, so that I am making no complaint against him. After all, he is only an official, and has a certain responsibility regarding expenditure. He may feel that he ought not to depart from well-defined lines; but we in this House make the laws, and must consider these questions. Will anybody claim that that foster-mother is not entitled to relief ? The young fellow did not know thatshe was not his mother until he was going to the Front.
– Did you bring that case before the Commissioner?
– Yes. There ought to be a section in the Act which will meet these technical cases as they arise. I am sure an amendment of the Act could be put through in five minutes. If we do not feel inclined to pass provisions to meet every individual case, let us invest the Commissioner with further powers.
– The law says that “ member of a family” includes foster-mother.
– But the honorable member also knows that the dependence is counted at the time the soldier leaves.
– That is another question.
– In this case the foster-mother was not dependent on the man when he left. If the war had not taken place, however, she would have been now living in the same house as her fosterson, because he would have carried out his obligations. Now she cannot get a pension, because she was not dependent on him before he left, and because she is not in penury. If she could have proved that she had not a cent she might have received some assistance, although even then not as a right. To all intents and purposes, she is really a widowed mother, and should be treated as such. These matters will have to be considered by some Government at some time, and, to my mind, action ought to be taken at once, as the numbers of such cases will continually grow.
We have heard a good deal of the question of the stoppage of pay to dependants because of the desertion of the breadwinners at the Front. I understand that the State ‘Governments have decided not to contribute half the amount. They are quite justified. I have always said that the States try to grab from the Federation all they possibly oan, and that the State Departments which perform work for the Commonwealth Government have always got their full .pound of flesh and something more, regarding the Federal Government as a good milch cow. But there is no doubt that on this question it was the Federal Government that tried to throw on the State Governments the onus of something that it should have paid for itself, because it has the whole control of the war. The Commonwealth has reduced the borrowing capacity and the sphere of taxation of the States, yet it is now trying to throw on the State ‘ Governments the responsibility of financing something with which they have nothing to do. . But for the war, there would have been no restrictions upon the borrowing powers of the States, or on their sphere of taxation. It is, therefore, the duty of the Federal Government to finance this matter instead of asking the States to do so. From what I have seen in the press of yesterday and to-day, it is apparent that finality has been reached so far as the States are concerned in the matter.
There ought. to be finality so far as the Commonwealth Government are concerned.’ I do not intend, on this occasion, to discuss the causes of desertion at the Front. Suffice it to say that the men are not to blame for it. To me it seems peculiar that any doctor attached to the British Army should allow a man to be imprisoned for desertion under certain circumstances. It is quite possible that many of these men have shirked fighting, but that is not the fault of their dependants. In most cases, however, their action has been the result of the trials to which they have been subjected at the Front. Consequently, they ought not to be punished, and much less ought their dependants to be punished. Who is the author of the treatment which is now being meted out tq these dependants? Is it the Treasurer, or the Minister for Defence? Honorable members should insist on getting information upon this point. The Government most certainly ought to be called upon to advance better reasons than have been assigned for their non-observance of their manifest obligations in this connexion. What sort of things are we that we should punish children - who are incapable of looking after themselves - for some offence alleged to have been committed by their fathers at the Front? These are matters which, I hope, the Government will deal with at the earliest opportunity. If they attempt to solve this problem satisfactorily they will receive the hearty co-operation of honorable members upon both sides of the House. This is not a party question by any means.
– I cannot understand the case of the foster-mother which the honorable member has quoted.
– I can assure the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams1) that the facts are as I. have stated them. I hope that the Government will take note of the four matters which I have stressed this ‘afternoon. I am satisfied that all these difficulties can be easily overcome, either by the issue of a regulation or by the passing of a short Bill through Parliament.
I wish now to say a few words in regard to the price of meat. I am well aware that the man on the land grows meat primarily for profit. I quite recognise that he desires to make as much profit as lie can out of his enterprise, just as the worker, who consumes that meat, endeavours to obtain as high a wage ‘ as he can. But when the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene) fixed the price of meat a few weeks ago, a very substantial reduction immediately took place in the number of stock brought to the market. That was not because fat stock were not available, but because the stockowners wished to defeat the system of price fixing at its very inception. They at once raised the cry that the fat cattle required were not in the country. As a result, for about a week some of the butchers in Melbourne could obtain no meat at’ all. At that time we were assured that the shortage of supplies in the market was due to the fact, that there were not the fat cattle and sheep that were required in the country.
– The butchers said that they would not bid for the stock.
Mr-. MATHEWS. - The poor grazier affirmed that he had no fat cattle and sheep with which to supply the market. When those who think with me declared that this was not a fact, and that the stockowners were withholding stock from the market in order to defeat price fixing, our statements met with a point-blank denial. But what is the position to-day? Only yesterday the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), a representative of the stork-raisers in the same sense that I am a representative of the workers, inquired what arrangements the Government proposed to make- to enable the freezing chambers in Australia to receive more carcasses than they had been receiving, owing to the glut of fat sheep in the market. I thereupon asked, “ Where were the fat sheep three weeks ago?”
– Three weeks makes a lot of difference in the condition of sheep at this time of the year.
– The Acting Minister for the Navy knows perfectly well that stock are now being rushed on the market because of a threatened drought, and that there was more feed in the country three months ago than there was six weeks ago. Yet the stock have been fattened during the past six weeks. . X quite understand that the producers of meat do not fatten all their stock simultaneously. They so arrange matters that when the market is ready to receive it, the stock is available.
– That is not so.
– Does the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) mean to tell me that cattle are fattened promiscuously ? As a matter of fact, there were plenty of fat sheep fit for the market when the stock-raisers said that no fat sheep were available. The Minister for Price Fixing . (Mr. Greene)may believe the pirates when they tell him that there were no fat sheep three weeks ago, but the general public will not believe them.
– I think that I know more about this question than does the honorable member.
– I am concerned1 about the consumer, and I know that he. will not believe that there were no fat sheep in the country three or four weeks ago, seeing that there is a glut of fat sheep in the market to-day.
– Nobody said’ that there were no fat sheep in the country three or four weeks ago.
– We were told, only three or four weeks ago, that the supply of fat sheep was insufficient for our. requirements, and we were assured that the stock-raisers had no desire to defeat the principle of price-fixing. But that story had better he told to the marines, be- . cause the sailors will not believe it.
– When sheep are shorn, and warm weather comes on, they fattenvery rapidly. Everybody knows that.
– I know that there are periods of the year when sheep will not fatten as rapidly as the-v will fatten> during other periods. Human beings are much the same in that respect.
– The “honorable member is a good representative of the consumer. ‘
– I am fat all the year round. This is a very innocent Government. It believed the graziers and salesmen when they stated, six weeks ago, that there was no fat stock. It hasthus had an example that those men do not tell the truth. The next time the Government proposes to fix prices it should insist that the stork be brought into the market, ‘ and otherwise prohibit export for thenext twelve months. That would soonbrine the stock-owners to heel. I amf,111 v aware that we cannot pass a law to force stock-holders to sell. One might: just as well try to make men work by Act of Parliament. But there should be a law that, if the parties concerned -will not permit their cattle and sheep to be sent into market and sold at fair market sates, that same stock should not be permitted to be exported.
– We said that when the warm weather came and the sheep were shorn, there would be plenty of fat sheep in Australia; but your people jeered and said we were false prophets.
– I am aware that the honorable member knows more about the sheep industry than I do; but he does riot know more about the needs of the people. While ‘all his fellows were saying there were no fat sheep available for the market, they could have found them readily -enough for export. What is more, they would have exported the best - as they always do. It is the duty of the Government, when growers of meat are trying to corner the market for their own interests, to stop the export either of live stock or of frozen or tinned meat. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), when Minister for Trade and Customs, soon found a method of meeting a similar situation. He stopped the export of butter and of meat. Then there was that huge gathering in the Queen’sHall, a few months ago. And when Mr. Tudor’s name was mentioned they howled at it.
– I was there, and I did not hear it.
– The best testimonial I ever received !
– There is no question about it. One. speaker said he was a large grazier, but that he was not a wealthy man, and that the Government could have all the stock he controlled at pre-war prices. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) may recall that it was the individual who followed that speaker who made the statement bringing in Mr. Tudor’s name.
– I did not hear anything of that kind, and I do not think the “honorable member’s name was hooted.
– They were pirates. When the Government next attempts to fix prices, and is beaten by the pirates, it should immediately stop export in all forms; that would be quite sufficient.
.- I have complained so often in this Chamber with respect to the administration of the De fence Department that I am loath again to bring forward the subject. There is not’ the least doubt but that the Department, through ineffective administration, has cost the country many hundreds of thousands of pounds more than need have been expended. But now some effort is being made to make good the. waste of those hundreds of thousands; and, unfortunately, it is by exploiting relatives of soldiers at the Front, merely to the tune of - a few pounds here and there. Those few pounds are insignificant so far as the gross expenditure of the Defence Department is concerned, but they loom very large in the eyes of those unfortunate persons who are met with certain demands which they are totally unable to pay - poor women who are cut down in their living expenses to a sum which brings the blush of shame to any one upon making acquaintance with the circumstances. I shall give one or two specific instances. The first refers to the case of the wife of a soldier who enlisted in Australia, who was a British reservist, and who, therefore, was entitled to the Imperial allowance in’ addition .to his Australian pay. When the woman went to- the Department to have her allotment and separation allowances settled, she stated all the circumstances. She was granted an allotment of £3 13s. a week. She thought that was too’ much, and said so at the time, but was told by the official concerned that it was all right. She therefore accepted the money. That situation remained for some time until the woman received an intimation that her allotment of 6s. lOd. per day had been reduced to 2s. 9d. because of overpayments. She could not understand that, and was ‘ certainly unaware that any overpayment had occurred. Upon inquiry, she was informed that £153 had been overpaid, and she was actually asked if she could refund the full sum forthwith ; and, if not, what arrangements she proposed. The woman protested that, the money had naturally been expended upon domestic accounts, and that she could not refund anything. Straightway her allowance was reduced to 19s. 3d. per week. She pointed out that she could not live on that sum. After a while she received an intimation to the effect that no further action, was being taken to recover any amounts which had been overpaid to dependants of Imperial reservists, pending the receipt of instructions from head-quarters in Melbourne.
Naturally she hoped for a better state of affairs as the result of having the matter remitted to Melbourne for reconsideration, but subsequently she received notification that her allotment would be fur,ther reduced from 2s. 9d. to ls. 9d. per day.
– Who had made the mistake 1
– Some of the officials of the Department.
– Most of those mistakes arose owing to the fact that both the British and Commonwealth Departments were paying allotments.
– I have another case. A soldier, also an Imperial reservist, enlisted, and in a few months was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and soon after to that of quartermaster-sergeant. His wife explained that she naturally expected her allowance would go up, but instead of that, about eight months afterwards, she was informed that she bad been overpaid £14 10s. She had to refund at the rate of 10s. per pay, and it took her about twelve months to do so. When she asked why these deductions were made from her pay, she was informed that, after deducting Imperial pay from the Australian pay, she was only entitled to about 2d. a day from the Commonwealth Government. She goes on to say that the Department had stopped her allowance of £3 lis. 2d. per fortnight, and she had nothing to come but 33s. Gd. per week from the Treasury. It was impossible for her to carry on, so she had to apply to the Patriotic Fund for assistance. These people put themselves in the hands of the Defence officers, and in perfectly good faith take what is allotted to them. If, afterwards, some mistake is discovered, they naturally feel aggrieved at being called upon to make good the amount of overpayment. I do not think the Department is entitled to act in this way._
– Hear, hear!
– As the result of .certain representations which I made in regard to a similar case, I received a communication from the Defence Department in the following terms : -
With reference to your recent representations on behalf of Mrs.- , relative to the military pay of her husband and son, I have to inform you that although Mrs. - ; - ; - made the application in good faith, omission on her part to state in the statutory declara tion the rank of her husband in the Australian Imperial Force contributed in some measure to her claim being recognised.
Her husband was a corporal, and in all good faith she omitted to state that he held this rank. It was, however, a very simple matter for the Department to check her papers, and thus discover whether her statement regarding her. .husband was correct or otherwise. All these papers should be scrutinized. At all events this woman made a’ mistake, and was called upon to refund a very considerable sum. As she was unable to’ pay cash, her allowance was cut down to such an extent that it was impossible for her and her family to live. The letter goes on to say -
The officials employed at the time incorrectly assumed that he was a private, whereas he was a -corporal, the holding of such rank being a bar to the granting of separation allowance on behalf of Mrs.- ‘s son.
– They took her statement for the truth, whereas it was not.
-It .is their duty, I presume, to check these statements.
– If we had a few more returned soldiers in the Department, and not so many shirkers, probably the work “would be> done better.
– Then this explanation was sent to me for my benefit -
I may add, for your information, that the bona fides of all applicants for separation allowance are closely examined.
Evidently if ‘this woman’s . application was examined at all, the officials failed to discover her mistake about her husband. The letter continues -
Where cases pf over-payments of separation allowance are brought to notice, it is the policy of the Department to recover same, when possible, from subsequent payments due to allottees. It is, therefore, regretted that no departure from this rule can be made in the case of Mrs.- -. «
– And sometimes the Department postpones settlement until the final adjustment is made out of deferred pay.
– The whole attitude of the Department towards the unfortunate wives and dependants of soldiers requires revision. These matters should be dealt with in a more sympathetic manner. I think that even if a mistake is made inadvertently by the person drawing a soldier’s pay, the Department ought not to penalize the dependants subsequently; but, it is intolerable that they should be made to suffer for departmental mistakes. I trust the Assistant Minister will make representations to the Minister for Defence, and see if an end can be put to this scandalous state of things at the earliest possible moment.
.- I am in much the same position as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). I have failed, in representations to the Department, to obtain redress for many grievances brought under my notice by soldiers’ dependants, and of necessity I have to bring concrete cases before the House, in the hope that they will so impress the Assistant Minister that he will bring them under the notice of the Government. We should have these things altered, either by regulation or , by legislation, and justice should be done.
– They will never be altered until we have got rid of the shirkers in the Defence Department.
– That is a poor excuse, and gives no satisfaction to the suffering dependants of soldiers.
– Then help to get rid of the shirkers in the Department - the men who would not enlist.
– Members must mention these matters in the performance of their public duty. We hear of opposition to recruiting, and of certain persons not taking part in recruiting efforts, but I say that nothing hinders recruiting more than does the treatment of our soldiers’ dependants by the Defence Department.
– And the Industrial Workers of the World element.
– Let the honorable member get on his feet if he wishes to make a speech.
– I ask the honorable member not to interject.
– I propose to read some correspondence, without mentioning names, to show how the wife of one soldier has been treated by the Department. The. soldier himself admits that he was absent for nine hours without leave, and, reading between the lines, it seems evident that he returned a little bit merry, and, possibly, when handled by the military police or other authority, used force. For his offence he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and deprived of pay to the amount of £37 odd. Writing to his wife, he says -
Dear Wife, - I have got a bit of a hard future to look forward to, but so long as you receive your usual money I will be more at ease. You see, for the six months I was in prison I have had entered in my pay-book £37 in debt. That means I would have to go two years without drawing a penny before I would be clear. But I signed a paper to certify that you and our children are dependent on my money. … I was only nine hours absent from my quarters and resisting the police. I have been informed that none of my allotment will be stopped from you.
Even had the soldier’s offence been a more serious one than he admits, why should his innocent wife and children in Australia suffer for it? We have sworn to help and protect the dependants of our soldiers.
– Was the wife’s allotment money stopped?
– Not wholly.
– To what extent was she affected by the husband’s delinquency?
– The wife writes to me -
You can see by these papers I have been reduced in my pay14s. a fortnight. It leaves me now to keep three big school girls and myself on £4 l1s. a fortnight. In fact, I cannot do it. As you know, the cost of living is so high. Not only that, but I and also one of the children are under medical treatment; in fact, it was Dr. Hughes, of Victoria-street, North Melbourne, who sent me down to see you. £3711s . is a terrible fine to put on a man for nine hours’ absence without leave. That happened in 1917. My husband has not received a penny since, although he has been in the firing line ever since, and not been given an hour’s leave. I think we are under German rule. A man leaves his dependants thinking they will be well provided for. If he makes a mistake in three years and three months’ service abroad, it is not only he that suffers, but his dependants also.
– There must have been something else.
– Not necessarily. The soldier may have committed no worse offence than that which he himself admits.
– The official intimation to the wife was as follows: -
I have to inform you that allotment and separation allowance of 4s. and 3s. 6d. per diem, payable to you under above certificate, have been reduced to 3s. and 3s. 6d. per diem respectively as on and from 20th September, 1918, and payments will, therefore, be made to you as under: -
Existing rate per fortnight, £5 5s.
Amount due on 30th October, 1918, £411s.
Rate per fortnight thereafter, £411s.
The reason for the reduction - Soldier’s account overdrawn, £37 13s.11d., vide C.P.M.’s 2F33134.
A woman with three daughters to support, and she and one daughter under medical treatment, is fined 14s. a fortnight !
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has repeatedly stated that payments in full are to be continued to the soldier’s dependants, notwithstanding his punishment.
– The official reply read byhim was in direct contradiction of a letter that I had received from the Defence Department the previous day, in which it was stated that -
Consideration has been given to your request that the allotment should he reinstated at the original figure, hut in view of the fact that at the present rate of recovery the debt will not be liquidated for eighteen months, it is regretted that the present arrangement must stand.
It is time that we altered this state of affairs. Could anything militate more against recruiting than that a woman with three children to support should be fined 14s. a fortnight for a period of eighteen months in order to liquidate a debt incurred by the fining of her husband ? This woman, no doubt, has complained about the matter to her friends, and they, in turn, have spoken of it to their friends. When knowledge of facts of this kind spreads, people naturally say, “ If this is the way in which the wonderful Commonwealth Government treats its soldiers and their dependants, we are not going to enlist.”
– It is not the fault of the Acting Prime Minister or of the Government.
– Who is responsible, if the Government is not?
– The Government have a two to one majority, and if it were to bring down a proposal for preventing deductions from payments to the wives and children of soldiers, it would be solidly supported by the Opposition. When we try quietly to secure justice from the Department, we are met with a rebuff. The ease I have mentioned is only one of many that are militating against recruiting throughout Australia. This treatment should be stopped, as it could have been stopped long ago,by firm administration. Parliament would have supported a
Minister who would step outside of an Act of Parliament to do justice to deserving persons. There are several other cases besides this that I have mentioned, in which I cannot obtain redress. We claim to be a National Parliament, and the Government calls itself the Winthewar Government, and yet these things are happening.
– The party opposite promised not to desert the dependants of soldiers.
– Yes. That promise was published in the Anzac Bulletin and in the party’s manifesto. I have no faith in the military. If an officer takes a seton one of the rank and file, he can do almost anything to him. Had this soldier’s offence been a hundred times worse than that which he admits, it would have been wrong to punish his dependants in Australia. His wife says that he has been in the firing line ever since he came out of prison.
– I have a letter from a woman who has been similarly treated.
– Who is responsible?
– We shall be responsible if we quietly allow the Government to carry on as it is doing. I ask for the assistance of honorable members on both sides to obtain redress of this grievance. We should not have to make appeals in this House to secure justice for the suffering.
Here is another matter. Certain rapacious landlords are endeavouring to exact from the dependants of soldiers more rent than they have been charging in the past. I give credit to the Crown Law officers for certain action that they have taken, but there is too much circumlocution. A communication sent to the Attorney-General’s Department is referred to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who administers the War Precautions regulations, and he, after perusing the correspondence, sends it back for action to be taken. A case has been brought before me in which a widow, who has been living in the same house for twenty years, during which time she has paid about £800 in rent, has had her rent raised. Her two boys were reared, if not born, in this house, but both left Australia to fight the battles of their country, and both fell at the Front. The landlord who owns the terrace in which this house is, put a few touches of paint on the premises, and then notified the tenants that in consequence of this slight improvement their rent would be raised from 14s. to 19s. 6d. per week. I advised this woman neither to pay the increased rent nor to move, but to refer the landlord to me. I gave a similar case to the Government at the beginning of the month, but so far I have received no satisfaction. It was laid before the Crown Law authorities, who referred it to the Defence Department, and it was then referred back again to the Crown Law authorities; and I am now told that when it is satisfactorily adjusted I shall be told. One suggestion I have made is that policemen should be instructed, if they hear of any such cases, to make inquiries and report to the Federal authorities, so that immediate action may be taken ; but under the present red-tape methods, with all the circumlocution, weeks elapse before any proper steps can be taken to prevent ejectment. We may rest assured that if a woman has occupied a house for twenty years, she is one of the best of tenants, just that class whom all landlords are anxious to obtain.
There is another complaint I have to make in the hope that the Minister will take some action. I am informed, on very good authority, that certain legal gentlemen are requested by the Department to investigate cases of the kind, and that some of these even take the side of the landlord, and urge the’ tenant, for the sake of peace, to quit the premises quietly. It ought not to need this strong “ Win-the-war “ Government, with a majority of two to one, to remedy this state of affairs. It should not be difficult to ascertain the names of house agents in the metropolitan areas, or to announce to the press that landlords who attempt to evict the dependants of soldiers will be brought to book. It. may be that some of the officials arewinking at these transactions, and thus causing avaricious landlords to be a little more bold in their methods of extortion.
A matter that affects the public generallyis the increased cost of living. I am pleased to read that the New South Wales Government, which is called a National Government, is making arrangements whereby cheaper meat may be dispensed in, at all events, the metropolitan area. The following newspaper paragraph will explain what has been done: -
New South Wales Scheme.
Sydney, Wednesday. - For a long time the
State Government has been closely considering whether it should take action to control and cheapen the supply of meat in the metropolitan area. It was learned to-night that a large and comprehensive scheme had practically received the indorsement of the Cabinet, representatives of the pastoral industry, and most of the large retail meat distributing firms. It is believed that if the scheme is put into operation it will have the immediate effect of lowering the price of meat to consumers, by eliminating practically the whole of the heavy middlemen’s charges, which have now to be paid. In a nut-shell, the scheme, which is practically complete, and almost ready to be announced, is that the Government shall purchase the whole of the stock now killed at the State Abattoirs, and take a monopoly of supplies to distributing retail butchers. This will mean that there will be no private slaughtering at Homebush, and no commissions or over-riding charges to be paid. If the scheme is adopted, the Government will sell to retail butchers at proclaimed prices. It is not proposed to interfere in any way with the export trade, which is the natural influence governing the ordinary prices of meat. The probable development of the new scheme will be the provision of greater State facilities for freezing and other ordinary meat works activities.
It is pleasing to see that the New South Wales Government, headed by Mr. Holman, an ex-Labour man, who has associated with him an ex-member of this House in the person of Mr. Fuller, have made up their minds to evolve a scheme of the kind.
I do not say that the pricepaid by the consumer is solely dependent on the prices charged by those who raise the stock, for between the stock-raiser and the consumer there is a considerable amount of handling, which has to be paid for; and this, as in the case of other commodities, enhances the value. There is a lack of organization, which ought to be attended to if the cost of living is to be reduced.
– That is the way to get cheaper meat.
– It is one way. What I object to is the operations of certain middlemen. The New South Wales Government propose to deal with the proprietors of private slaughter-houses, and with those who have the distribution of meat to the butchers’ shops. The stockraiser consigns his stock to market auctioneers, who take their whack of commission; and there are other expenses involved before the slaughtering takes place. Then, as I have said, between the slaughtering and the delivering to the butchers’ shops there are other charges.
– In many cases butchers buy on the station, and have the stock delivered to them.
– That is done in some parts of Western Australia. One gentleman whom I met there a few months ago informed me that if he could get £16 for a 700-lb. or800-lb. beast he would regard it as a very good price, and meat was then selling in Perth at pence per pound cheaper than in Melbourne.
– The difference in the price of the meat is the result of the big production in Western Australia.
– I am merely telling honorable members what was said to me by a grazier; and that price would have paid him even if the meat had been scarce. In Victoria we are paying close on £10 per head more for a similar class of animal, and that, of course, means a higher price to the consumer. How is it that in Western Australia a man can raise a bullock and sell it at a profit at £16?
– The argument that applies to Western Australia is the same as that which applies to Queensland, where there is any amount of cheap land.
– To a limited extent that is so. I do not say that we can buy beef in Victoria at the same price as in Queensland or Western Australia, but no one can contend that there is a difference of £10 per head in the cost of raising.
– I am merely contending that the price of meat can be brought down only by encouraging production - not by fixing prices.
– I do not know an honorable member on this side who is unfavorable to increased production, for that is what we need, not only on the land, but in our factories, or there will be a very poor lookout when’ hundreds of thousands of soldiers return to Australia. Unless we have better organization - and it is now far in arrear - we shall be the worst off amongst the belligerents. There must be increased production to provide work and necessaries of life, not only for the 5,000,000 people now here, but for the additional millions who will be born in Australia or come overseas. Without such preparation and organization we shall not be able to offer such inducements as are offered by Canada, where, in the face of the most awful war the world ever saw, the immigration figures are magnificent. During the war thousands of people have gone to Canada to settle, although, in my opinion, climatically and otherwise, the Dominion cannot compare with Australia.
– There is not half the Government interference in Canada that there is here.
– I do not know that; but there is one interference in Canada that does not altogether make for success, and that is the interference of the Great Pacific Railway Company. This company may, in some directions, be beneficial to the country, but in others it does the country no good.
– There is a good deal of Government interference in Quebec.
– In my opinion, there is more Government interference in other countries than there is here. However, the New South Wales Government, which is of similar composition to that of the Federal Government, has seen fit to join in a combination to supply meat for the metropolitan area. It would have been much better if the Federal Government had taken this matter in hand throughout the country. In this, no doubt, it would have been necessary to enlist the sympathy and support of the State Governments, but something could have been done by co-operation. The New South Wales Government are doing, in the case of the meat business, what they have done in other directions; they are trying in their own way, to “ dish “ the Federal Government, and prove to the people of that State that the local Government, and not the Commonwealth Government, is their saviour. There is no doubt that the scheme in view will, if carried out, prove of benefit to the people ; and I point out to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that it is not only the consumers and the Government who are doing this, but that the pastoralists are joined with them.
– If you propose a similar scheme you will not find the graziers object.
– The honorable member belongs to the “ Win-the-war “ party, which has a majority in this House; and it is for him to urge the Government to take action.
– You are always sneering at win-the-war people!
– That is not so; we on this side are as desirous as are honorable members opposite to win the war.
– Then, why are you always sneering at the Government?
– The Government gave themselves the title of a Win-the-war Government ; let them act up to it. They are failing miserably to do so. Nearly all the complaints I have received from the dependants of soldiers are of the character of the letter I have read. Fancy the Government cutting down the pay of soldiers’ dependants in these times of high cost of living !
– It is not the fault of the Government.
– It is the fault of the Government. The Government are sitting quietly by while soldiers’ dependants are being ejected from their houses by rapacious landlords. What are ‘they doing to make the burden of living lighter for soldiers’ dependants and others? This is a matter that should be considered by the Government before anything else; they should do everything possible to give help to these very deserving people. I leave these three points to the consideration of Ministers and honorable members, and I hope that, before long, there will be some sign of. reform. We are always promised that a matter will be considered;but, while it is being considered for months, the people are suffering. Let the Government be a Winthewar Government, not only in name, but also in deed.
. - I support the honorable member for Maribyrnong in his scathing indictment of a Government who profess to look after the interests of the soldiers, and who promised not to desert their dependants. We have repeatedly asked the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Watt) whether he proposed to put a stop to the Government practice of depriving soldiers’ relatives of their allotment money in cases in which the soldiers have deserted. The Acting Prime Minister, by his manner and speech, indicated that he knew very little about the matter, and on many occasions when I and others have asked him whether the Government proposed to stop the unholy practice of punishing relatives for the offences or mistakes of their soldier husbands and sons, he has asked for notice. But I find that the Acting Prime Minister knows all about the subject. The other dayI asked for a precis of the correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government in reference to an application by the Premier of Victoria in connexion with three families, who are relatives of soldiers at the Front, and are in destitute circumstances. I have the precis now, and I find that Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, in a letter addressed to the Acting Prime Minister, dated the 8th August, 1918, said - Dear Sir,
I beg to draw your attention to the attached extracts from the Victoria Parliamentary Debates, dated 30th July and 7th August, regarding the treatment of the” dependants of soldiers who are “absent without leave.” In the opinion of this Government, the matter is one entirely for Federal action. In any case, however, it is desirable that some clear understanding should be arrived at on the subject. I shall be glad, therefore, if you can see your way to make a definite pronouncement as to the dependants in question as a Federal responsibility.
The Acting Prime Minister forwarded to the Premier of Victoria a copy of a circular letter which he had addressed to the Premiers of the other States on the subject, and it is such an interesting and self-condemnatory document that I crave the indulgence of honorable members while I read it in its entirety -
I desire to inform you that, consequent upon representations in the Victorian Parliament, the Premier of Victoria recently communicated with me, and asked that a definite pronouncement be made as to whether the Commonwealth Government accepts responsibility for providing for the dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force who are absent without leave. The present practice of the Defence Department as regards soldiers absent without leave from the Australian Imperial Force Camps in Australia is to stop payment of allotment and separation allowance on and from the day on which the soldier is reported as absent without leave.
That is from a Government which, through its Prime Minister, issued a personal letter to the relatives of the soldiers, pointing out that they were concerned in the result of the last general election because there were Win-the-war party candidates presenting themselves for election who would not desert the soldiers or their dependants. When the soldiers left these shores, they went to fight, and possibly the relatives consented to their going. Their wive3 and relatives were dependent for their subsistence upon the allotment money which ‘they were to receive, and the present Government, who made that promise, which was mainly responsible for their winning the election, now turn round and state deliberately that it is the practice of the Department to stop the payment of allotment and separation allowances on and from the day on’ which a soldier is reported as absent without leave. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in what I consider a theatrical manner, interrupts speakers on this side with asseverations that the present Government are not responsible for the stoppage of allowances. The honorable member, if he is in his senses, if he is not acting a part, must know that the present Government are responsible for this action. The circular letter continues -
In the case of soldiers absent without leave from, the Australian Imperial Force oversea the practice is as follows: - After a soldier has been absent without leave for twenty-one days, a Court of Inquiry is held, and declares the man an “ illegal absentee.” Twenty-eight days after the man is declared an illegal absentee, which is forty-nine days after he was first absent without leave, the Chief Paymaster, London, advises the District Paymaster concerned by cablegram to cancel the allotment.
The Government are in such a hurry that they do not wait to give the unfortunate relatives the advantage of any delay that would be caused by communicating by letter, but they must cable instructions to stop payment.
– We are generally charged with not being in a hurry at all.
– The Government are not in a hurry to do good, but they seem to be in a terrible hurry to do wrong. I ask any reasonable man whether it is not wrong for the authorities in London to cable to Australia a cancellation of the allotment payments. The letter continues -
The District Paymaster immediately notifies the allottee of the date on which tho allotment will he cancelled, allowing for a period of at least .thirty days from the despatch of the cablegram from London. This means that the allotment is cancelled seventy-nine days after the member was first absent without leave. If the soldier is apprehended, the allotment, if to a dependant, is reinstated at the minimum rate. It must be borne in mind that when a member is absent without leave he forfeits all pay, and, consequently, the amount of the allotment paid to the allottee constitutes an over-payment, which is recovered from .the soldier on apprehension.
Mark the ingenuity of Ministers! Their action reminds one of the practices of the Spanish Inquisition.
My colleague, the Minister for Defence, points out that at the time of enlistment these men and their wives and families were subject’ not only to the laws of the Commonwealth, but also to those of the State; and, further, that there are State laws in which some financial -provision is made for the sustenance of wives and families of deserting husbands. If on the desertion of the soldier his dependants were entitled to claim support from the Commonwealth Government, that would be putting a premium upon desertion, and practically placing the dependants of the soldier who deserted in a better position than the dependants of the soldier ‘ who, having completed his contract with the Government, is discharged “ Services no longer required.” In the one case all claim ceases, whereas in the other the soldier would be rewarded for deserting by the Government accepting the responsibility for the support of his dependants for the rest of their lives. Such a condition of things would.be disastrous in its effect on the discipline of the Forces.
That is a specious and contemptible argument. Honorable members have heard the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who is a returned soldier, speaking about the A.W.L.’s. I presume that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), knows the truth pf what the honorable member for Ballarat says, namely, that in this terrible war men are subjected to such fearful shocks on the battlefield that their mentality is disturbed, and many of them are not responsible for their subsequent actions. There are a hundred different ways in which a soldier may become absent without leave, and. he ought not to be held criminally responsible - until deliberate desertion is- proved. Yet the so-called Win-the-war Government, apparently after full consideration, deliberately set’ out to deprive the wives and mothers of soldiers of the allotment money they ought to get.
It will be observed that due care is taken tosee that the dependants are notified beforeaction to terminate payments is taken, and that sufficient notice is given to enable them to make other arrangements, or, if necessary, to apply to the State authorities for assistance in the same way that other persons similarly situated have to apply.
One would not hear worse language from the most wicked and contemptible solicitor, who, acting for some rack-renting landlord, was urging reasons why he should evict some poor tenants. What do they say’ These poor unfortunate dependants of soldiers are given due notice that the Department are about “to determine the allotment made to them,” and that they may appeal as paupers to the various State Departments and secure a charitable allowance. And this comes from the Acting Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of his colleague, the Minister for Defence, who has surely had sufficient experience of the war, and ought to have been able to learn his job after four years’ experience. This circular proceeds -
It is also pointed out that while these men remain soldiers the Commonwealth Government recognises its duty to provide for the wives and children by means of allotments of pay and separation allowances. When, however, they cease to be soldiers, such allotments of pay and allowances cease, subject to tlie procedure outlined above, and they and their wives and families have no further claim upon the Defence Department.
Before a soldier goes away he is medically examined in regard to his physical and mental qualities, and there is no doubt that in thousands of cases men become deranged on account of the experiences they have to undergo when fighting for their country. Possibly many absent themselves without leave from this cause. Yet this Government declares that if a man is absent without leave it has no longer any responsibility for him or his wife and family. The circular proceeds -
The Commonwealth Government, after careful consideration of the matter, having in view its connexion with the enlistment of such men in the Australian Imperial Force, is now prepared to reimburse each State Government onehalf of the amount of the allowances which may be paid by the State during the period of the war for the relief of dependants of such cases.
A similar letter was sent to the Premiers of the other States. This was the reply received from Mr. H. S. W. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria -
I desire to acknowledge your letter of the 30th ultimo, No. 3043/2, forwarding a copy of a communication addressed by yon to the Premiers of the other States on the subject of the treatment of dependents of soldiers who ure absent without leave, and to say that this question has been fully considered by this Government, with the result that it adheres to the view previously expressed, viz., that the responsibility in this matter rests entirely with the Federal authorities. I beg, therefore, to ask that the subject may receive the further consideration of the Commonwealth Government.
I am sure that every one outside the members of the Australian National War Government will agree with the view taken by Mr. Lawson, namely, that the responsibility in this matter rests entirely with the Federal authorities.
I am extremely anxious, as I am sure every one must be who knows what is going on, and how the relatives of these absent-without-leave soldiers are suffering that this war shall end as soon as possible. We were all led to believe that President. Wilson’s fourteen points were accepted by Great Britain and her Allies as a basis for peace. I think I remember Mr. Lloyd George “saying that Germany might have peace to-morrow if she would accept President Wilson’s terms..
– I think there ought to be a quorum to hear this interesting speech. [Quorum formed.’]
– Any one who is not a profiteer, or does not desire to continue profiteering during the war, must be anxious to see the end of the war. We were led to believe by the events that were happening, even a few days ago, that it was about to end. Indeed, extraordinaries were sold in the streets of the suburbs, the newsboys calling out “Peace Extraordinary!” and every bodynot only hoped, but also fully believed -that the war was about to terminate. We all felt that the Germans were beaten, that they could not possibly hold out, and that Turkey was desirous of gaining peace. We knew that Bulgaria had given in, and we heard reports that Bolshevism was feared in Germany. Indeed, everything seemed to point to the conclusion of an early peace. But two- days ago, I observed the following article in the daily press -
Position of Allies. silence deprecated.
British Statement Sought.
Significant - articles in several Ministerial newspapers in England warmly approve of President Wilson’s notes, but urge that Great Britain and the other Allies should not he silent. . The articles emphasize the need of joint action, and demand that Mr. Lloyd George should frame a complete British peace programme, corresponding to the Empire’s sacrifices, and should then ask the Allies to give the same support to our claims as we give to theirs.
The Sunday Observer says that Mr. Lloyd George must stand on an effective equality with President Wilson and M. Clemenceau, and urges him to do his utmost to achieve unity in the diplomatic counsels of America and among the Allies, as he has achieved unified command in the field.
These cablegrams are very disquieting,’ and I would like the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to say if it is true that several Ministerial newspapers in Great Britain - of course it means that these articles are approved by Ministers - are urging that Mr. Lloyd George should frame a complete British peace programme. We were led to believe that the Allies fighting with Great Britain had accepted President Wilson’s fourteen points, which, summarized, read as follows : -
It is most disconcerting - indeed, it is most alarming - to find cablegrams in the press which seem to suggest that there is a difference of opinion between the Allies, which may mean a prolongation of the war. If there is such a difference of opinion, I sincerely hope that the Allies will get together quickly. Surely if three or four nations are fighting against a common enemy, they ought to be able to arrive at an understanding as to what they are fighting about, and as to the terms upon which they will cease fighting. I deplore that the Government have announced in a recent speech delivered by the Acting Prime Minister that they have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to remain in London for a period.
– The honorable member will not object to that?
– I certainly object to the Prime Minister remaining in London, and pretending that he represents this country.
– He may send for the honorable member to help him..
– This, really, is a. serious subject, and the honorable member will forgive me for smiling at his suggestion. I have taken the view, and I hope that I take it with due calmness and without any antipathy, that the speeches of the Prime Minister in the Old Country havedone more harm than good. I have repeatedly produced documentary evidence - and I also have the evidence of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and that of a returned soldier, who is a member of the Victorian State Parliament - that the speeches in which he has urged a permanent boycott of Germany, refusal to trade with Germany, and the wiping of Germany off the map, have been translated into the German language, and circulated in the German trenches, as well as throughout Germany, in order to convert the German pacifists into jingoes. These speeches have had the effect of solidifying the German nation and of causing them to continue the fight, when they might otherwise have thrown up the sponge. These speeches were certainly most unwise. If some foolish German were stalking through this country threatening that Germany would deprive us of our raw materials, and wipe us off the face of the map, would not his utterances be most effective in stirring up our people to do more than ever in the war, and to put a stop to any talk of peace negotiations? These speeches by the Prime Minister urging the boycott of Germany and the establishment of a self-contained Empire have, as I think I can prove, done harm in the Old Country.
– The worst feature of the Prime Minister’s conduct is that he has turned Protectionist.
– He is not a Protectionist.
– He says that he is.
– He does not understand the first principles of Protection for Aus-‘ tralia:
– I have never met a Protectionist who did.
– The honorable member is a Free Trader, and his opinions are entitled to respect. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) takes exception to my view that Protection and Free Trade are very much matters of temperament; but I am prepared to prove it. A Free Trader wants to buy, say, his shirts for ls. each, if he can obtain them for that price, from India; whereas a Protectionist imposes a self-denying ordinance, and compels himself to pay 6s. or 7s. for such a* garment.
– What (proportion of the honorable member’s clothing is Australian-made ?
– I am wearing a suit of Australian-made woollens, and am .prepared to forfeit £10 if the honorable member can disprove my statement.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has always been a staunch Protectionist.
– I should like to know how many Protectionists there’ are in the Win-the-war party.
– How many Protectionists are there in the German party?
– I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) should be called upon to withdraw that statement. I do not know whether he was alluding to the Opposition, but if he was I throw the taunt in his teeth.
– I did not take the remark as applying to any party or individual in this House.
– I think the honorable member was merely seeking for Protectionist facts. As far as I know, the Germans are Protectionists, and it certainly was by means of Protection that Germany built up her trade.
I regret that the Prime Minister has been requested by the Government to’ stay for a longer period in England, where, in my opinion, he is doing a great deal of harm. Speeches made by him there have been resented by members of the House of Commons as insulting, and have been referred to as calculated to interfere with the friendly relations between Australian aud British statesmen.
– As far as I am able to judge from the press, the- men who object to his speeches are but an- insignificant minority.
– I know that several of the British financial journals are devoting space to the Prime Minister and his speeches. The Investors’ Review concludes a recent criticism of the Prime Minister in the following terms : - lt is said that Mr. Hughes is going to abandon Australia, and become a colleague of, and bottle-holder to, our British Premier, Mr. David Lloyd George. We hope, for Mr. George’s sake, that this is not the truth, for, much as we are disposed to criticise his actions as Prime Minister, we do not think he has fallen bo low as to need help from this windy nian, from the antipodes.
– The Investors’ Review, for twenty years, has done everything possible to “ crab “ Australia. _ Mr. HIGGS.- Then I invite the attention of the honorable gentleman to the views expressed by the Westminster Gazette. - He will agree that that newspaper is entitled to his respect.
– Hear, hear!’
– Discussing the Prime Minister’s policy, the Westminster Gazette wrote -
The question is whether the geographical and national conditions which led Great Britain to her Free Trade and world-trading policy in the nineteenth century will bo essentially modified by the war, or whether we are likely to become stronger and more populous by reverting to the old system, or adopting towards aliens and foreign trade Australia’s policy under Mr. Hughes. The answer depends partly on the result of the war, on which Mr. Hughes is a pessimist.- Though he is staunch and strenuous about fighting till the Germans are crushed, he does not believe in his heart that this can be accomplished militarily. We could not adopt the Australian tariff and Australian legislation against alien emigrants without checking Great Britain’s progress and diminishing her population, foreign trade, and mercantile marine, and inflicting enormous hardship on the masses of her people. Mr. Hughes’ ideas, if adopted, would not extinguish militarism, but would be fatal to the league of nations and those objects for which a vast number of the Allies’ soldiers conceive themselves to be fighting.
That is language to which no one can take exception, but I invite honorable members to consider the terms in which the Prime Minister referred to British statesmen who are Free Traders as the result, I suppose, of environment and” long study. He described Free Trade as “the sickening folly of doctrinaires, pacifists, and proGermans.”
– Does that hurt the honorable member’s feelings?
– I should not apply such an expression to Free Traders. I take now the Nation newspaper, which is printed in London, and which merits the respect of the Acting Prime Minister. Referring to Mr. Hughes, it says -
Suppose there is some use (and some fun) in seeing Mr. Hughes run by the Daily Mail as a kind of super-George, but a great number of Liberal and Labour men think it time to end Mr. Hughes’ gross and deliberate abuse of the hospitality of these shores.
We have had a great many Australian statesmen here. They have been of great ability and representative character, while Mr. Hughes is neither one nor the other. None of them has ever interfered with our politics, or attacked the principles, and even the personalities, of our public men. . Mr. Hughes has done both, finishing, up with a pleasant hint that Mr. Henderson is a pro-German, and the statement that he is sick of the “canting humbug” of internationalism.
He commits and repeats this offence without the excuse of speaking for Australia. His career there is finished, and all parties have his measure. He has been soundly and finally beaten on his policy of conscription, he has broken with his old party, and his new associates distrust him.
He can say what he pleases when he has resigned his office, and his fustian is worn for the little that it is worth. Then he can join Mr. George or tho staff of “ John Bull,”’ or any other statesman or “stunt” that wants him. But at present the career he has marked out for himself in this country is conducted on lines of offence to two parties in the State. A short way to end it would be for Mr. Henderson to put down a motion calling attention to Mr. Hushes’ speeches, and his position as the Prime Minister of Australia.
– That surely is an extravagant enunciation. It ‘cannot be a breach of British hospitality that a member of the Imperial War Cabinet shall say what he feels about Imperial trade.
– Then there is Mr. J. M. Robertson, Liberal M.P. for Tyneside, and formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who objects to Mr. Hughes, and no doubt comes within the category of those who are described by the Acting Prime Minister as an insignificant section.
– That is so. I say that the Radical Free Trade party is small in numbers.
– Mr. Robertson is one of the ablest men in the Liberal party in. England.
– He may be.
– The whole of the members of the Liberal party in England are Free Traders.
– Mr. Robertson is, at all events, important enough to have been Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade, and yet the Acting Prime Minister, out of the wealth of his ability, experience, and knowledge, feels entitled to describe him as “ insignificant.”
– I do not say that. I say that the members of that Radical Free Trade party are insignificant.
– I may have misunderstood the honorable gentleman. I have already given a number of quotations from newspapers, and I have no doubt that I could find similar quotations by the score. Mr. J. M. Robertson has characterized Mr. Hughes in very severe terms. This is what «he said -
Mr. Lloyd George described Mr. Hughes as a great orator, but his dexterity in not committing himself regarding the kind of tariff he favoured impressed him (Mr. Robertson) more than his eloquence. When Mr. Hughes spoke of millions of tramps and loafers in Great Britain he spoke like a mountebank. If Great Britain adopted Mr. Hughes’ policy, it would lead to financial and commercial destruction.
The Prime Minister is still making offensive speeches in London. I see from the Argus of this morning that in- addressing a great -meeting of the National Democratic and Labour party in the Central Hall, London, he referred to Lord Milner in these terms -
Lord Milner has told us that the German people are not in love with militarism, and that we ought not to be in a hurry to denounce the new regime as a sham. But I think that we should not have any doubt that it is a sham.
Lord Milner is a member of the British. Cabinet, and is the British War Minister.
– That is so; but is not the Prime Minister’s statement merely the expression of a legitimate difference of opinion ?
– I do not think that it can do Australia any good that our Prime Minister should refer in language of that character to a statement of the British War Minister. My quotation from the Argus continues -
Mr. Hughes proceeded to deal with the problems after peace. Solidarity of the Empire, he said, would depend, not only upon the strength of the racial and lingual ties and the affection springing from the sacrifices of the war, but on trade defence. He hoped that the nations of the earth would settle their disputes before a great international tribunal which would be established to enforce the terms of peace, and banish war for. ever. Were we ready for peace? He candidly did not think so. He strenuously urged a development policy which would provide the settlement and remunerative employment of millions of soldiers, and munition and other workers.
Honorable members will see that, in the course of that address, the Prime Minister asks the question, “ Are we ready for peace?” He has denied that this is a trade war, and what people have to guard against, and what our Government ought to guard against, is that we shall not continue this war for trade purposes. “Are we ready for peace?” is the question that Mr. Hughes asked.
– The argument there is that ties of blood are to be added to ties of commerce. That is what we all know.
– I think that the Prime Minister’s statements last quoted justify Mr. J. M. Robertson’s criticism of that gentleman. He points out that there is a certain indefiniteness about Mr. Hughes’ proposals. I, too, say that there is indefiniteness about his proposals. He allows it to be believed that he is a Protectionist, but he has already told the public that he does not pin his faith to Tariffs, hut to organization. He also says that what we want is a selfcontained Empire. He has said to the people of England that what is wanted is that the raw materials should come from the Dominions to Great Britain, and, manufactured, be taken out to the Dominions by our mercantile marine. That is a policy the adoption of which would destroy Australia. If we are to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water, and if our industries are to be confined to the pastoral and mining industries, what is to become of Australia, and how are we to attract population to this country? The Government have a right to tell us what is their policy with regard to. Empire trade. Is it the policy enunciated by Mr. Hughes, that we are to be a part of a self-contained Empire, which means that we are to trade with ourselves only? That policy cannot be defended or sustained for a moment. We have within the Commonwealth at the present time General Pau, representing the great, chivalrous French nation. But if Mr. Hughes is to be believed, we should be a self-contained Empire, and that means that we are to give facilities to the coloured-labour populations of the Empire, in India and elsewhere, to trade with us that we are not prepared to give to our Allies, including the French nation.
– The honorable gentleman will allow me to say that the economic resolutions of the Paris Conference do not make for a self-contained Empire in the sense in which he is usingthe term, and Mr. Hughes is primarily responsible for some of those resolutions.
– The Paris Conference resolutions, which thoughtful people condemn as impossible of realization, and as resolutions which, together with Mr. Hughes’ speeches, have helped to smother the pacifists of Germany and to unite the German people solidly in an effort to fight for their very existence, propose the boycotting of German and Austrian industries for all time. I point out to honorable members who are still obsessed by the Paris Conference resolutions that it will be impossible to prevent the German and Austrian nations, with their 120,000,000 of population, securing an outlet for their industries. The German people are admittedly the most scientific people.
– And the most cruel.
– Granted that they are cruel and brutal, they are, at the same time, a highly scientific and welltrained nation, foremost in chemistry and in the application of science to industry, and it will be impossible to prevent them trading after the war. They will beat us by subterfuge if they cannot do so openly. They will have the goods they manufacture branded with the brand of some neutral country, as they did when they secured the admission of their goods into Russia with the brand “ Made in Sweden,” instead of the brand “ Made in Germany,” as described by Mr. Foster Fraser in his book upon conditions in
Russia in 1915, a year after the declaration of the war. Here is a paragraph that appeared quite recently in the Argus -
It is reported that, in addition to the purchase by Germany of 75,000,000 marks’ (£3,750,000) worth of the Argentine and Uruguayan wool clips of 1917, she has purchased this year 100,000,000 marks’ worth on the sheep’s backs. She has also purchased wool largely in Spain,
If we refuse, as Mr. Hughes does, to trad© with German firms after the war for the purchase of our wool or ‘ metals, what will happen will be that the German people’ will develop the mineral propositions of Russia.
– No, I am not suggesting that at all. But I say that all this talk of a boycott of Germany is a mistake, and that the terms of the future relations with Germany will have to be decided on the lines laid down by President Wilson in his fourteen points.
– A prominent one is equality of trade amongst all people signing the peace resolutions. The honorable gentleman is not ready for that, surely? That is Free Trade.
– America is not asking for’ that. «
– That is one of the President’s fourteen points.
– What President Wilson set out in the third of his fourteen points is -
The removal as far as’ possible of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions amongst all nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
– That is equality of trade amongst the signatories to the peace. Does the honorable gentleman want that? c
– That will depend upon the Peace Conference, and the Acting^ Prime Minister knows that if there is to be any future war, that war will undoubtedly arise out of hostile trade arrangements, as the present war, without any doubt, partly arose.
– Surely the honorable gentleman, will not advise this Parliament to surrender its right to make a Tariff ?
– Certainly not.
– That is what the President’s third point means.
– I do not take it to mean that.
– It is susceptible of that meaning.
– I take it that it means that each nation is to have the right to determine its own Tariff, and that there shall be no hostile Tariffs against any of the nations sitting round the Peace Table and agreeing to the terms of peace. Each nation will have to protect itself. If we deny the right of any nation to protect itself, what will become of local selfgovernment and self-determination, which find a place in the President’s proposals ? My point is that the Prime Minister is making speeches in the Old Country that are doing no good. If time permitted I could refer honorable members to a local opinion of the right honorable gentleman appearing in the Industrial Australian -find Mining Standard of a recent date. An article entitled “ Leather, Wool, and Mr. Hughes “ concludes with these words -
Mr. Hughes and his colleagues here should be warned. If our absent Prime Minister is permitted to return to Australia having neglected or failed to right the wrongs which have crippled the expansion of our woollen and leather industry,, he and his brother Ministers will stand deeply discredited, and lastingly disgraced in the estimation of every Australian citizen acquainted with the circumstances.
– That is the only phrase in tha.t article which is condemnatory of the Prime Minister. You have not read any of the rest.
– -.Honorable members would scarcely permit me to read the whole article, which occupies two columns. To take the most mild view of the Prime Minister’s speeches in the Old Country, he is wasting his time in trying to induce the people of the United Kingdom to adopt Protection, even if he believes in it himself, which I very much doubt. At a Congress of British trade unions, a previous motion in favour of Free Trade was, I learn, re-affirmed by the following vote: - For Free Trade, 2,214,000; against Free Trade, 591,000. That is out of a voting strength of about 8,000,000 on the present register. I cannot understand how a Labour man can be anything but a Protectionist, because he calls upon his employer to pay him a rate of wage which in civilized countries must be high enough to enable him to bring up his family in comfort. That cannot be done if the products of the employees are to be subjected to the competition of the serf labour of Fiji, India, China, or anywhere else.
– We have had a fairly long period of grief, and the House might now desire to take the tonic of good, hard work, such as it has been doing for the last few weeks. I theremore move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21 .
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Motion agreed to ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th October (vide page 6682), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I am wondering whether there will be a full discussion on this measure, in view of the fact that the right of honorable members to discuss grievances before Supply has just been taken away from them. I am also wondering whether the Government, having introduced and passed a new standing order to curtail debate, intend to put it into operation on this question. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), or, in fact, any member, can move at any time that I be no longer heard.
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– We have already been “ gagged “ once to-day, and I am wondering when the next dose of the same medicine will be administered. I was rather anxious to discuss other matters.
– The honorable member voted for that particular form of “ gag “ several times.
– That is not correct. I have never moved it.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - I call attention to the fact that, so far, the matter before the House has not been discussed.
– I am coming to it, but I am wondering how long I shall be allowed to speak on it.
– As long as you like.
– That is not so, because there is a limitation of sixty-five minutes on speeches.
– We will extend it for you..
– I shall not accept any favours from honorable members on the other side.-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the Bill.
– When the Minister introduced it, he said it was a Bill to amend the Electoral Act. I interjected, very wrongly, no doubt, that it was introduced by the party which, on the Minister’s own figures, held ten or eleven more seats than it was entitled to according to the votes polled at the last election”, and that it was introduced for the express purpose of trying to wipeout the Labour party. My opinion is that it has been designed by the Minister and the Cabinet for the express purpose of trying to injure the party on this side of the House.
– Prove that.
– I shall endeavour to do so.
– If that is the Minister’s object, we hope he is successful !
-Order! Will honorable members allow the honorable member to proceed without interruption ?
– I take the view held by many honorable members on the other side that there should be no radical alteration of things while our soldiers are away, yet the Government in this Bill propose to alter the very fundamental principles of our electoral law.
– We are getting things in order for the return of the soldiers.
– Order ! Will honorable members cease “interjecting ?
– There were four interjections then, three of them from the honorable members for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), Wakefield (Mr. Poster), and Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith).
– Order ! Will the honorable member discuss the Bill ?
– I was doing so when the honorable member for Parkes rudely interrupted me.
– I have called the House to order.
– According to the honorable member for Parkes, the other side are getting things ready to wipe us out. Of course, this may be the time that the honorable member looked forward to in pre-Federation day’s, when he thought the hob-nailed hoofs of. Labour would never enter the Federal Parliament, to use the honorable member’s classical phrase.
– They are all in patent leather now on that side.
– The honorable member then hoped for the time when no Labour member’ would be able to get into the Federal Parliament. Some of us did get there. Now. the honorable member says, in his cultured style, that all of us on this side wear patent leather boots. ‘ Looking round this side, I cannot see one. Personally, I have never worn a patent leather boot in my life. We do happen to be here, and a number of us will still get here.
– I see nothing about patent leather boots in the Bill.
– That was the inane interjection of the cultured member for Parkes.
– Interjections are disorderly, and replies to irrelevant interjections are also disorderly. I have several times asked the House to refrain from interjections. I ask honorable members to obey the ruling of the Chair, and to allow the Leader of -the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to make his own speech. Irrelevant interjections lead to irrelevant answers, and, consequently, to . disorder.
– In submitting the motion for the second reading of this Bill, the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) stated that a right which had been acquired by any citizen under section 41 of our Constitution could not be taken away from him. I interjected at the time that the present Government had taken away that right.
– The honorable member is misinterpreting the position.
– By means of a regulation, the Government took away the right of certain Australian citizens to vote at the last referendum. Why do not Ministers embody a similar provision in this Bill? If their action upon that occasion was a right one, it is equally right now. If any of the persons who were then disfranchised merited that treatment, they merit no better treatment to-day. The fact that the Government do not provide for their disfranchisement in this Bill proves that their action on the occasion in question was a wrong one, as we stated it was then.
– So far as the rights of those persons exist under the Constitution, they are unaffected by this Bill.
– Why did the Government, by the issue of a regulation, take away the right of certain individuals to vote at’ the last referendum? Those persons were entitled to vote linder section 41 of our Constitution. But the Government deprived them of that right by the issue of a regulation.
– It was a Labour Government which first brought forward the machinery under which that action was taken.
– I do not understand what the honorable member means. However, he will have an opportunity of proving that his statement is correct. No Labour Government ever introduced machinery for the disfranchisement of persons who were entitled to vote under our Constitution.
– I say that they did. ‘
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of making hi9 own statement when I have finished. No Federal Labour Government ever did what he suggests.
– Yes, they did.
– What Labour Government?
– ‘Order ! Will honorable members cease these interjections.
– The honorable member, for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) will have an opportunity of replying to my statement. 1 repeat that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), in’ moving the second reading of this Bill, went out of his way to explain that, under section 41 of our Constitution, certain persons have a right to vote at elections for this Parliament, and that this measure will preserve that right to them.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but he is misinterpreting what I said.’
– Then, does the honorable gentleman intend to deprive them of that right ?
– The honorable member is asking a question which cannot be answered by a “ Yes “ or “ No “.
– The Government framed a regulation ‘under which they deprived certain persons in the community of the right to vote- -a right which they possessed under our Constitution.
– We did not. The regulation was subject to- whatever right existed under the Constitution.
– These people had a right to vote under our Constitution, but by means of a regulation framed by the Government they were prevented from exercising that right.
– What has that to do with this Bill?
– I say that, under section 41 of our Constitution, certain persons in Australia had a right to vote at the last referendum, and the present Government deprived them of that right. Ministers will be able to disfranchise them in the future by the same means as they disfranchised them in the past.
– It may be necessary to do that in war time.
– I doubt if there will be another referendum, or another election during the present war.
– I hope not.
– I, too, hope that the war will soon be over. I trust that we shall then have an appeal to the people, and the sooner that appeal is made the better.
– I do not mind, I assure you.
– I must ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. ^Jowett) not to continue to interject after the Chair has called for order. If the practice continues I shall have to ask the House to take notice of it.
– When this Parliament met in January last, I protested against the disfranchisement of Australian citizens, and I protest against it now.’ If there are citizens in our midst who have done any wrong, disfranchisement is not the way in which to deal with them. A greater punishment should be imposed upon them. But if nothing can be proved against them, they ought not to be disfranchised. In my own electorate I do not think there were ten persons who were disfranchised under the regulation issued by the Government. On the occasion of the previous referendum it is true that some electors were obliged- to vote under what was known as “ section 9.” In the division of Yarra only about a dozen electors had their votes challenged under that provision, and the majority of them proved to be Britishers. I believe that practically every vote which was questioned on that occasion was ultimately allowed.
We have been told that this Bill aims at . securing uniformity in our electoral methods. The principal proposal embodied in it relates to the adoption of the preferential system of voting. A new method of voting at elections for this Chamber is’ to be adopted. The electors are not to be called upon to vote under the system that has hitherto been in operation by putting a cross in the square opposite the name of the candidate whom they wish to support. Instead, they are to be invited, in connexion with elections for the Senate, to place crosses in the squares opposite the names of the candidates for whom they desire to vote, and, on the same day, in connexion with elections for this House, they are to indicate on their ballot-papers the order of their preference for the various candidates.
– The honorable member’s party uses the preferential system at its pre-election ballot.
– We do not use two methods simultaneously. The Government profess to be desirous of securing uniformity, and yet they propose that the electors shall employ two entirely different systems on the one day. Can such a method, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as making for uniformity? For the Senate elections, electors are to adopt the existing system of voting, but for elections for this Chamber they are to employ a sort of win-and-place method. The Bill further provides that where there are only two candidates for an electorate, and the elector has clearly indicated his choice, no matter by what means that object has been achieved, his vote shall be regarded as a formal one. This will be seen by reference to one of the provisions to clause 134, which reads -
Provided that in elections for the House of Representatives at which there are not more than two candidates, the voter’s preference for one candidate shall be deemed to be sufficiently indicated in the case of a ballot-paper marked so as to indicate the voter’s first preference only.
In the great majority of electorates there will only be two candidates.
– That has notbeen our experience in connexion with State elections.
– I think that it has. In the majority of electorates there have been only two candidates.
– But in many electorates there have been more than two.
– I said that in the majority of electorates there had been only two candidates, and I think that in fifty out of the seventy-five electorates for this House there will be only two candidates.
– This Bill will never prove effective unless it prevents political parties from making a selection within their own organizations.
– I well remember being at Maryborough about this time last year, and on that occasion I had no hesitation in telling the people whom I addressed the night before the selection of the National candidate, that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would be the chosen banner bearer.
– This Bill will practically break down the system of preselection.
– I do not think so.
– It has done so in my own State.
Mr. TUDOR.But the Tasmanian system is altogether different from that which is embodied in this Bill. The Bill, in so far as it aims at achieving uniformity, lamentably fails. I believe that the Electoral Commission, of which the honorable member for Moreton was chairman, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) were members, recommended the adoption of a uniform system of voting at elections for this Par- . liament. But this Bill gets away from that ideal. It provides that, in connexion with Senate elections, the existing system of voting is to be adopted ; whilst at elections for the House of Representatives, the preferential system of voting is to be employed. Then it is proposed that where only two candidates are seeking election for a seat in this Chamber, the elector may please himself as to whether he uses the existing system of voting or not.
– The honorable member knows the reason for that. The exercise of a preference is not required where there are only two candidates.
– I am quite aware of that. I know that in the MaloneyMcEacharn disputed election case, the High Court decided that if a ballot-paper was marked in such a way as to clearly indicate the intention of the voter, the vote should be allowed. That practice has been followed by presiding officers ever since. Clause 134 lays it down that a ballot-paper shall be regarded as informal unless it has been properly initialed by the presiding officer. There are penalties which may be imposed on officials. Nevertheless, I have known cases where a great number of votes have been declared informal because officials had not initialed them.
– That has been the law in South Australia for many years.
– The sub-clause dealing with that position does not alter the existing law. If I remember rightly, in 1902 we copied a number of clauses’ into our legislation from tlie South Australian Act. But I do not see why voters should be disfranchised by the neglect of an official. There was some such occur?rence in the electorate of Wide Bay, in which tlie honorable member representing that constituency (Mr. Corser) was closely- interested. At one polling booth there were over 200 papers concerned. Possibly, it was a matter of ignorance on the part of the officials or of their becoming mixed between the requirements of the different Acts.
– It was an inadvertence, but we had to go to Court to get those votes accepted?
– That was the instance 1 have in mind, and it was only right that since there was no fault on the part of the electors’ ‘ concerned,- their votes should be treated as formal. In Victoria, the practice is to initial, ‘ and to number, but in some of the other States, including New South Wales, I believe, they do not initial at all.
Well-trained men are not easily obtainable at election time, because, as a rule, well-trained men are partisans. Thus -we may get a man who has .been trained in one system, and who fails to initial a. paper, as the result of which an elector is disfranchised through no fault of his own.- That sort of thing can become very serious. There are some electorates where votes are cast in .a proportion of five or six to one in favour of certain candidates. In some booths within my own electorate, as high as seven to one has been noted. If there are official mistakes, why should the electors be disfranchised ? I read portions of the report of the Royal Commission, but I am not sure whether that body dealt with this phase of the question. That a ballotpaper can become informal through no fault of the voter,* but through an official’s blunder, is a situation which should be remedied. I understand that there is a penalty- attaching to such errors on the part of officials.
– There are very few mistakes made in initialing. Some ballotpapers have been posted .and have gone astray, but they have not been initialed; and it is just as well that they were not.
– That is rather a serious matter, for, if they were in the post,” they should have been initialed. If they had been issued for the purpose of postal voting, they must have come from permanent officials, who certainly should have known enough to initial them.
– How could one take safeguards against copies of ballot-papers going astray and being used and going into the ballot-boxes?
– I have never yet heard of fraudulent preparation of ballotpapers.
– Read the evidence of the Commission.
– If a paper has been declared informal through the inadvertence of an official, it should be regarded as formal.
– It certainly should be.
The Bill provides for compulsory enrolment, just as did the Act ; but the measure before the House does not propose to bring about compulsory voting. The one should be a corollary of the other. It would save honorable members a vast amount of worry. Provision is made, elsewhere in the Bill, that any person who hires a carriage for the purpose of conveying a voter to the poll shall he deemed guilty of bribery. When the Act was prepared we did not dream of motor cars.
– We can easily insert some provision with regard to them.
– Does the honorable member think that will stop the use of them?
– That is another question.
– And one that no honorable member can answer satisfactorily until we have compulsory voting. The only way to end the illegal employment of motor cars on election days is to compel electors to vote. It is no good saying that motor cars are used only in districts where electors have to be conveyed long distances. It is where polling booths are close together that the greatest number of motors are at work. I admit that there are not many used in my electorate. At the last, elections I was wishing they would send out a great number of cars to my opponent.
– I do not knOw about that ; but I guarantee that they would not see a motor car standing idle.
– There have ‘been instances where hire of motor cars has been successfully entered in a candidate’s list of expenses. I have seen the item, “ Fifteen cars, at £5 apiece.”
– That individual, first’ of all, was lucky to have the ears in his constituency; second, to secure them for his use; and third, to get the item passed through his expenses account. The only way to prevent such instances is to follow up compulsory, enrolment with compulsory voting.
– The Labour party brought that proposal down. I was Minister in charge of the Bill, and it was the Labour fellows who smashed it for me.
– I must have been Tn the Ministry with the honorable member, but I do not remember it.
Another point with respect to compulsory enrolment is that in certain electorates there are great numbers of alterations made in the electoral roll during the course of one year. I have been told by responsible officials that in certain subdivisions of Melbourne’s metropolitan electorates there have been alterations amounting to 60 per cent, of the total electors within twelve months. In some subdivisions this, does not matter, very much. If people fail to observe the law, they are taken to Court and fined a nomi» nal sum, ls. or 2s. 6d., the Department, and quite rightly,- 1 think, not pressing for a heavy penalty, as compulsory enrolment is a comparatively new system. In some subdivisions, when electors move from one place to another, they do not go to the trouble of obtaining a transfer. In one part of my electorate, a street, - only about” half as wide as this chamber, divides two subdivisions, and so, if electors shift across the road, very often they neglect to transfer. I believe that, on the whole, the Commonwealth rolls are better than the State rolls, though I can only speak for my own State, as I do not know much about the rolls in the other States. I think the Victorian rolls for the districts of Richmond and Collingwood are better than the Federal roll of the division of Yarra, just after the police have, completed their collection of names; but that when three or six months have elapsed, the
Commonwealth roll is much more accurate. I approve of the linking up of the machinery of the Postal and Electoral Departments, though in this matter I disagree with some of my friends-, ‘both inside and outside the House. In my opinion, the system requiring lettercarriers to give notice of removal is the correct method, but they should go further. When a letter-carrier ascertains that a new family has moved into his round, or in the ease of a boardinghouse, that a new lodger has taken up ‘his residence there, instead of merely notifying the Returning Officer of these changes, he should be supplied ‘with cards to deliver to such persons, notifying them of their obligation to enrol, and that failure to do so will render ‘“them liable to prosecution. Prosecution of defaulters should not necessarily follow on the furnishing of names to the Returning Officer, because very often, either from forgetfulness or through want of knowledge, electors fail to realize their responsibility in this matter. I understand that each year there are at least l,000j000 alterations to our rolls.
– There were over 1,100,000 alterations in one year.
-Not long ago, in the office of the Divisional Returning Officer for Yarra, I had a look at one page for a subdivision in my electorate, and found that out of sixty names on the page, there were no less than forty-five alterations in less than twelve months. In view of this, I think it is very difficult indeed for a Returning Officer to keep a clean and up-to-date roll. The Minister, in the course of his speech, said that every postman had a case of cards in which Joe recorded changes of address, and that this enabled the Divisional Returning Officers and the Registrars to keep the rolls up to date.
– That refers to the metropolitan and larger country centres. In other districts, where there is no letter delivery, we get information from the postal authorities.
-Changes, I think, are perhaps more frequent in the metropolitan areas than in other places throughout the Commonwealth.
– No; the population of Queensland is very largely nomadic. People there move about looking for work.
– I did not think the postmen had cards.
– Yes; but not to hand to the voters. They make records on cards for the information of the Registrar and Returning Officer.
– It is very difficult to keep the rolls up to date, and but for the difficulty about the shortage of paper, I would suggest that, in addition to the ordinary roll, the authorities should compile a street roll, so that electors could be traced more readily. This would mean practically a duplication of the whole of our rolls, but it would make for better administration. The Returning Officers themselves have their card index in which the names are kept, not in alphabetical order, but in the order of streets, which I think is much the better way. On the question of redistribution,I think the Minister said that the Bill provides that if, in onefourth of the divisions of. a State, the electors are more than one-fifth under or over the required quota, there shall be a redistribution of seats. Sitting suspended from 6.28 to7.45 p.m.
– I was under the impression that the redistribution of divisions in the States was compulsory, but I understand from the Minister (Mr. Glynn) that it is not. It is possible that when our men return from the Front the relative numerical strength of the electorates will be altered, and that the metropolitan electorates will be more affected than the country electorates.
– There is not a quorum present.[Quorum formed.]
– In the early days of this Parliament, the late Sir George Reid, who was then Leader of the Opposition, resigned as a protest against the refusal of the Government to take the necessary action for a redistribution. At that time, some divisions contained less than half as many electors as other divisions. The Minister has told us that in New South Wales there are now seven divisions in which the population is more than a fifth above the quota, and two in which it is more than a fifth below the quota; that of seven South Australian divisions, two contain more than a fifth above the quota, and one more than a fifth below it; and that in Western Australia there is one division with a popula tion more than one-fifth in excess of the quota, and another with a population more than one-fifth below the quota.
– That is the position now.
– Yes. The Minister proposes to leave the redistribution of divisions alone. He will make no alteration affecting the voting power of the electors until our soldiers have returned, . and yet, in the meanwhile, he proposes to alter the electoral machinery.
– I only spoke of not altering the redistribution of divisions between States. The honorable member is speaking of the redistribution of divisions within States.
– I presume that it could be fairly accurately ascertained from the Defence Department where the returned men will go. They are likely, in the first place, to come back to the States from which they embarked. The Minister has explained that the Government has not slammed the door upon a redistribution of divisions within a State.
– Not necessarily.
– In New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia, there is need for a redistribution, but the Ministry does not propose it. In my view, the population of Australia should be represented in this Parliament as equally as possible.
– If there were a redistribution of divisions between States now, there would have to be another shortly afterwards.
– As I have said, the Minister does not propose to interfere with the voting power of individuals, but he wishes to alter the electoral machinery. I said, at the outset that I am not in favour of any alteration until our soldiers have returned. The honorable gentleman says that there should not be a redistribution, because the relative population of the divisions is likely to be altered shortly, when some of the States may gain, and some may lose. It is possible that at some time the membership of this House will be reduced to seventy-two.
– Very shortly we shall be reduced to seventy-four.
– At the beginning of Federation, Western Australia and Tasmania, having each a population or less than the quota, were given five representatives apiece, though entitled numerically to only two or three. Western Australia, I understand, has now a population which entitles her to a representation of five members by right of numbers. That being the case, the number of divisions ought to be reduced to seventy-four, some State other than Tasmania losing a representative. Probably, every honorable member is hoping that his electorate may not be’ affected, and so long as the middle is not cut out of the Yarra electorate, I shall be satisfied.
The limitation of electoral expenses has been provided for in our electoral legislation from the beginning. I have always been able to keep within the limit, and on many occasions have spent less than half the amount allowed, having a compact electorate, and a splendid lot of voluntary workers. But it is farcical to limit electoral expenditure without compelling organizations to furnish returns. At the last election there were from eighty to a hundred motor cars employed in some of the electorates, and private persons were offered money for running their cars.
– It is ridiculous to give a country member the same allowance as a city member.
– The travelling expenses are excluded.
– We have to advertise meetings, and hire halls in which to speak, but city members can address their electors at the street corners. -Mr. TUDOR. - I have addressed meetings in the honorable member’s division at street corners, and I hope to have that pleasure again when supporting a candidate in opposition to him - I trust sucessfully. I offer a cordial invitation to honorable members opposite to visit my electorate at the. same time.
A provision of which I approve is that which prevents canvassing within 20 feet of the entrance to a polling booth, the entrance, I suppose, meaning the door. Hitherto it has been left to the police to say whether canvassing is taking place too close to a polling booth.
The Government has placed a number of safeguards in the postal voting section. Any elector who wishes to vote by post must declare that he or she is ill, not that he or she may be ill. We know what happened on the last occasion that postal voting took place. In Committee, I shall give some figures connected with the exercise of the postal vote in the past. In the Kooyong division, the number of postal votes recorded was ten times the number recorded in the Yarra division just across the river. These postal votes were not all cast by mothers of newly-born children, or prospective mothers, because the birth-rate of Kooyong is only about half that of Yarra. In my opinion, if voting is to be allowed outside a polling booth, it should be done before an electoral official. We make the Electoral Department responsible for the carrying out of the law, and every vote polled should be cast in a polling booth, or delivered to an electoral official.
– Or a responsible Government servant). What you suggest is notworkable.
– The honorable member has the advantage of having been a member of a. Royal Commission which inquiredinto electoral matters throughout the States, and is in a better position than most of us to judge this Bill.
– Does the honorable member not think the comparison of the handwriting of the application and the signature is sufficient?
– I do not; there is no opportunity to check the handwriting, seeing that the application cards are not kept in the division, but, as I understand, at the head office. If we are to have this system of voting, it ought to be safeguarded by providing that all the voting shall be before an electoral officer.
– The system requires the, utmost safeguards within reason.
– That is so. The Government has expressed a desire for uniformity in electoral matters, and yet we now find them introducing a new system of voting. Why should the Government . adopt preferential voting for the House of Representatives and not for the Senate ?
– Would you like that systemfor the Senate?
– I have not said so.
– Then I do not know what you want.
– I do not want any alterations until the soldiers come back, and I have already told the Minister that I am not in favour of preferential voting. Wehave the fact that, under the auspicesof this Government, there have been conferences of electoral officers with a view to uniform rolls, and so forth, and yet this new system is proposed. In Victoria, at the present time, there are three systems of voting in operation. There is marking with the cross in the case of Federal elections ; preferential voting for the State Legislative Assembly, and crossing out undesired candidates at municipal elections. I do not know whether preferential voting applies to the Legislative Council of Victoria or whether, indeed, there are any elections at all for that body.
– You got your man in last time!
– He had a “walkover.” As a matter of fact, at the present time many persons think that, because they are on the State roll, they must necessarily be on the Commonwealth roll, and vice versa, clearly showing that uniformity, and not further diversity, is what is necessary.
I am reminded by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) that, under present circumstances, names may be struck off the roll at any time; and I notice that the Bill proposes to give the Divisional Returning Officer and the Registrar greater power in cases where names may have been struck off by mistake. I suppose most honorable members have had cases of error brought under their notice. I know of one in which a young lady got married, and it turned out that her Christian name and married surname was the same as that of her mother. The young woman applied to the Department for registration of her new name, but the Department, to make sure, struck off not only her name, but also that of her mother. This was only found out by the parties concerned at election time; but even if it had occurred twelve months before, we know that very often the printed roll is two years old, while there may have been 75 per cent. of alterations. The printed roll used at the last referendum ten months ago was the one used when we were elected to this House.
– Is there no provision made in the Bill to meet such cases ?
– Yes ; but I ask that no one shall be struck off once the writ is issued. In my own electorate a letter- carrier, who, in consequence of the war, had, unfortunately, suffered mentally, was the means of striking 300 names off the roll; not one of these names ought to have been removed. On the matter being brought under the notice of the authorities, the whole of the names were reinstated ; but we can understand what might have occurred in a more sparselypopulated constituency. These names were struck off after the writ had been issued, when it is impossible for a person to have his name placed on the roll. If, after the writ is issued, it is impossible to place a name on the roll, it ought to be impossible to strike a name off.
– No one can be struck off after the issue of the writ on an objection. Mr. TUDOR. - Practical officers will inform the Minister that there are really no objections raised to-day by individuals, the whole being official objections.
– That is the same thing; even on an official objection names cannot be struck off, but there may be some manifest errors that should be corrected.
– Quite so; but I contend that no names should be removed unless there is the power to reinstate them.
– There is the right in case of error.
– Of course, it is provided that on the day of election a person whose name has been struck off may make a declaration to the effect that the striking off is a manifest error, and may vote, his vote being put on one side for verification.
I take the ground that this Bill ought not to have been introduced at the present time. The Government have said that while the soldiers are away there shall be no redistribution of seats, and they should have gone further, and declared against any alteration in the electoral machinery.
.- The amendment of the Electoral Act is, I think, recognised by all as being no party question. I am at a loss to understand why this Bill is brought before the Chamber at this particular time. It would have been better to wait until later on in the life of this Parliament, for, after all, there is no immediate prospect of an election; in all probability most of our boys will be back from the war before there is another political contest. If it is necessary to amend the Act, we ought to consider the question from the population point of view; and a re-adjustment of seats in accordance with the Constitution, and other electoral reforms, should he worked out at one time, iu the light of the knowledge that we shall have when our men return home.
The only question of importance in the Bill is that of preferential voting. The Act at present in force is, I think, giving every satisfaction so far as the conduct of elections is concerned. I am not sure that the introduction of a new method of voting will not complicate the position for the voter. My own idea is that we shall find a largo number of informal votes. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has pointed out, the Government have, talked about the necessity for uniformity in the rolls, and yet they seek to introduce a new system, which, so far as I can see, can result in nothing but confusion at the ballot-box.
-*- Why ?
– Because the voter will be asked to vote, as in the past, for three candidates for the Senate, and, at the same time, he will be asked to vote, not by making a cross opposite the name of the man of his choice for the House of Representatives, but for one, two, three, four, or more candidates, as the case may be.
– There are a good few informal votes at present.
– And we wish to avoid informal votes as far as possible. .1 cannot see any benefit in the new system, and it would be far better to allow the electors to make their choice of the candidates offering as in the past. After all, if we analyze the voting, members of this House are generally returned on a majority vote ; very few on a minority vote.
– But there is a preliminary sifting to reduce the candidates to one.
– That sifting will still go on. The honorable member does not contend that under this Bill parties will not continue to select their candidates as in the past?
– Does the Bill not do away with the necessity of party selection ?
– I do not think so. If I live long enough to see this Bill become law, I expect to find both parties selecting their candidates as previously.
– That is not the experience where this system of voting has been tried.
– I am speaking of our experience.
– Of the Opposition.
– And of the Government, too. If the honorable member were to be threatened with opposition from a member of his party, he would feel hurt, and would appeal to his organisation as to whether that person had a right ‘to oppose him.
– The honorable member knows very little about me.
– I know enough about human nature to believe that that would happen. It is quite unnecessary, at the present juncture, to interfere in any way with the existing Act, especially by the introduction of preferential voting.
There will be . a good deal of discussion on the subject of postal voting. On the occasion of the last amendment of the Electoral Act there was a very keen debate on this point. I claimed that it was essential to provide every facility for all electors to record their votes, and in Committee I proposed an amendment which I thought would meet the case, as far as was legitimately possible. I do not believe that the postalvoting system is in the best interests of the country. Beyond doubt it was abused in the past, and, that being so, I feel confident that it will be abused in the future.
– The evidence before the ‘ Electoral ‘Commission was overwhelmingly in favour of the postal vote. And some of the evidence came from the honorable member’s party.
– In 1904 a Select Committee of the Senate reported adversely upon the postal vote.
– The honorable member gave a- postal vote to the seaman, but not to the man in the bush.
– I am ready to give a vote to the man in the bush. Facilities can be- provided for everybody to exercise the franchise without reviving the postal vote, and we can enact such safeguards that the purity of the ballotbox will be insured. That is the object we should have in view.
– Nowhere did the Royal Commission get the slightest evidence in support of allegations about the abuse of the postal vote.
– I base my state- ments on the official returns. At the general election in 1906 the postal votes totalled 29,249. In New South Wales there were only 6,219 postal votes. That is the most populous State, and surely it will not be contended that there are more cases of sickness in other States than in New South Wales.
– We had not the provision for absent voting then.
– I am dealing with postal voting. In Victoria there were 14,049 postal votes, chiefly in the metropolitan constituencies. Will any one contend that there were over 14,000 sick people in Victoria, almost exclusively in the metropolitan area, as against 6,219. in the whole of New South Wales?
– Kooyong constituency was the worst offender.
– That is so, and I am sure that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) would not contend that there was moTe sickness in his electorate than in any other.
– Postal votes do not alf signify sickness. The absent voter was allowed to vote by post.
– Of the total number of postal votes recorded in Victoria 6,241 were by males and 7,704 by females. The votes by males were almost as numerous as the votes by’ females, and I am sure that all of them did not represent cases of sickness. The same abuse will happen if we renew the postal voting provisions. If we are desirous of conducting our elections on proper lines, how can we revert to a system that has proved unsatisfactory?
– The evidence before the Commission was overwhelmingly in its favour. Both sides were represented on the Commission, and we reported unanimously.
– In Queensland there were 4,020 postal votes; in South Australia, 1,751; in Western Australia, 1,977; and in Tasmania, 1,233; total, 29,249. The total for all States excepting Victoria was 15,206 ; Victoria had no less than 34,049, nearly as many as the rest of Australia.
– Unless the honorable member can show that the postal voters were breaking the law, it does not matter how they voted.
– Does the honorable member think that in Victoria there were 14,000 persons who found it absolutely necessary to have recourse to the postal vote, as against only 15,206 in the rest of the Commonwealth?
– There might have been more postal votes in New South Wales if the people had chosen to use the postal system.
– We know that postal votes were hawked about the country, and that one man manipulated 250.
– Why did not the Commission discover those cases?
– It is not too late to discover them now.
– The Commission investigated all those allegations, and no witness would abide by them.
– There are very few prosecutions under the electoral law.
– The best evidence is supplied by the actual votes recorded at the election. I prophesy that if we revert to the postal system we shall have the same trouble again. At the same time, I believe that facilities should be given for every individual in the community to record his vote. The question we have to consider is how we are to do that without leaving an opportunity for a repetition of wrongful practices. I hope that when the Bill is in committee some amendment which will provide the requisite facilities without opening the door to abuses will be moved.
– I will support the honorable member in proposing any necessary safeguards.
– I am grateful to the honorable member. The safeguarding of the provision is all that I desire. I do not speak from a party point of view. Party considerations should have no weight in the framing of an electoral law. The endeavour of all’ honorable members should be to make the law as perfect as possible. If the actual operation of the postal voting system under the previous
Act has proved that it provided opportunities for improper practices, we should try to make such safeguards as will prevent a recurrence of them.
Another amendment I wish to urge is the abolition of the candidate’s deposit. Probably I shall not get much support for that proposal, but if we are to have preferential voting we should permit every individual to contest a constituency who thinks that he has a right to do so, without requiring him to provide any deposit. After all, the deposit is a property qualification. In connexion with our municipal councils and other institutions, we have endeavoured to abolish property qualifications, and to allow everybody the freest opportunity to contest an election.
– If a man who has a legitimate chance has not £25 for his deposit, he will soon get somebody to find the money for him.
– The making of the deposit does not affect me personally, but I believe in giving the greatest opportunity to anybody, and if we are to have a preferential system of voting, there should be no obstacle in the way of anybody being nominated.
– The honorable member is right on the principle that any man may enter Parliament whether ot not he is fit for the position.
– If the honorable member contends that the possession of £25 makes a man fit for Parliament, I shall have nothing further to say. But I contend that there are plenty of men, who have every qualification to enter Parliament, provided they can get a sufficient number of electors to vote for them, but who do not possess £25, or even 25s. Under the present system many men will not run the risk of contesting an election because they must forfeit a deposit if they do not poll a certain percentage of the votes.
– Consider the expense to which the country will be put if candidates are not required* to make a deposit.
– I do not think the country would he put to much expense. That argument is a very convenient excuse for being opposed to the abolition of the deposit. In how many electorates does a candidate get a walk-over at the present time? Nearly every. member in the House had to fight for his seat at the election.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “West) had a walk-over.
– That was a happy accident.
I am opposed also to the retention of that section which provides that members of the State Parliament who are desirous of seeking Federal honours, must resign their State seat a certain time before the Federal election. That provision deprives the Commonwealth of the chance of getting, perhaps, some of the ablest men in the State Legislatures. There are many able men in State politics who, but for the risk of falling between two stools, would be prepared, at the request of their constituents, to contest a Federal electorate.
– They would not be more able than the present members of this House.
– I do not say they would, but it is a matter which the electors should be allowed to decide. They are not given the opportunity to choose =any men they may wish to represent them, if a member of a State Parliament has first to resign his seat and take the risk of losing it. ~ Mr. Richard Foster. - There would be some nice scrambles at pre-election ballots for honorable members’ seats.
– I would be prepared to risk it.
– The States will not allow Federal members to contest State seats.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. I certainly risked my seat in the State House in order to contest a seat in this House, but that does not prove that the law should prevent a member of a State House from contesting a seat in this House unless he first resigns from the State House. The electors should be permitted to choose any one they please to represent them, and if members of State Houses are not available for election the widest possible choice cannot be given.
There are some provisions in this Bill - which will prove of advantage, but I can see no necessity for proceeding with the measure at the present time. If it is necessary to pass it before the next elections we can postpone dts consideration Tor another twelve months, by which time matters will be more settled, and, possibly, a large number of gallant electors who are abroad may have returned to us. We would then be able to deal with electoral matters as a whole, and not. in this piece-meal fashion.
– What would be the position if the soldiers were all home again ?
– We would see how they were distributed among the various divisions, and could adjust the seats accordingly; because it is well known that some electorates have more than the quota of voters.
– That matter does not affect this Bill.
– In my opinion, the whole of the electoral machinery should be decided at the one time, and if it be necessary to take action before the next elections there will still be plenty of opportunity for it twelve months hence.
– Was not a promise given that no alteration would be made to the electoral laws during our soldiers’ absence 1
– I know nothing about that. I do not think any improvement will be effected by the reintroduction of the postal vote, but at the same time I think that before we reach the Committee stage we should set our minds to work with a view to drafting some provision which will permit . those who are really sick or infirm to record their votes.
– The honorable member has always been in favour of that.
– That is so. There is nothing dearer to a person who happens to be invalided, or who, through old age, is not able to go to a polling booth than the right to record a vote which he has been accustomed to doing all his life.
– What about country settlers ?
– I would make provision for them in an amendment.
– Would the honorable member allow them to vote by post ?
– No; I would provide for them in another way. In Committee, we will have a chance of “discussing the matter, and of providing a clause that will enable every person to record a vote. It is only because of the abuse of the postal vote that I am opposed to it.
– It has been abused in a few instances only.
– When we come to the Committee stage, I shall do my best to improve the measure, and I hope that every honorable member will endeavour to do the same. It really is a Bill for consideration in Committee; and if honorable members give the necessary attention to it, and conscientiously strive to make it as perfect a measure as possible, some tangible result may be forthcoming from the effort of the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to amend the present law.
.- Some of the provisions of this Bill are incomplete. It would not have been produced had it not been for the adoption of the principle of preferential voting by the party sitting on this side of the Chamber; but the principle as incorporated in the measure is very incomplete and ineffective. If it is to be at all complete and effective, there should be no bar, handicap, or impediment in any shape or form to any person going to the poll who believes that he is capable of securing the support of the most of the people in a given constituency; but there is nothing in the Bill imposing a penalty on organizations who conduct in advance a pre-selection which robs the special preferential provision of its efficacy. There is nothing to prevent either party represented in this House from setting out in advance of an election to hold a preselection, and put the hall-mark upon a candidate ; and that is . a most effective bar against other candidates going to the poll. In this way, the whole object of the Government in establishing preferential voting will be rendered nugatory.
– Pre-selection ballots do not prevent candidates from going to the poll.
– The honorable member need not put forward such a specious argument.
– Of course, other candidates will not get the support of the party.
– We all know that any person who complies with the provisions of the Act can go to the poll; but what is the use of a person going to the organization which returns the honorable member, and then nominating for election by the electors, if some other individual is chosen at the pre-selection ballot? Let us face the position earnestly. I would rather not see the provision in the Bill than have it there without proper safeguards; and at a later stage I propose to test the feeling of the House on the matter by submitting an amendment seeking to impose a penalty on any organization setting outin advance of election day to pre-select a candidate, and thusdebar other persons from entering the field. Ifwe are sincere in our effort to provide an open field for all candidates, then no person should suffer the handicap that, in advance, his claims have been tested and rejected by bis party.
– The honorable member’s proposal is merely an attempt to destroy the organizations, without which poor men would not be able to enter Parliament.
– There is no party question about this. We must either give a clear, open field for candidates to go to the poll unhandicapped, or permit the continuance of the practice that has long prevailed on both sides of this Chamber, by which the two great parties in this country set up their organizations and machinery, and utilize their funds with the object of determining in advance of an election what candidates shall run in their interests. I maintain that no man should go to the poll having his chance predetermined against him by his party.
This point was prominently before the country at the election at which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was returned. There were three candidates in the field, and at the eleventh hour a promise was given that preferential voting would be enacted. .
– It was the policy of the Government long prior to that.
– I am aware that it was the settled policy of the major section of the party on this side of the Chamber, but a definite promise to introduce the policy previously agreed upon was announced just prior to that election. I believe that the honorable member for Flinders would have won the seat against a dozen candidates, and I was one who personally objected to the announcement which was made, but at any rate the events surrounding that election gave an indication of the disabilities suffered by reason of the fact that the preferential voting system was not in force’. The Government, in accordance with their promise, have come down with a Bill which is designed to remedy that state of affairs, but they have absolutely failed to provide the one safeguard needed, and without which the Bill will not be effective. I am anxiously awaiting a statement from * the Minister.
– The Minister has already said that this Bill will do away with the necessity for pre-selection.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that his party will continue to predetermine the chances of candidates. I am not sufficientof a humbug to say that this is a preferential voting measure, which will provide a free and open field to all candidates. What is the object of the measure?
– To provide equality of opportunity.
– But the Minister fails to provide it. He has already shown that there are two great parties in this country possessed of the machinery for controlling elections, and part of the practice of both parties is to predetermine the chance of their candidates at elections.
– That is their policy.
– Of course it is, and the adherents of the two parties are morally bound to support the candidates upon whom the pre-election choice has fallen. In those circumstances, what chances have other candidates of being elected? Therefore, we do not secure free electoral opportunities. I am quite conscious of the fact than any person can go to the poll after paying a deposit, and get enough electors to sign his nomination paper.
– How can you possibly prevent pre-selection, or prevent a man being labelled Liberal or Labour?
– I would prevent pre-selections by declaring them illegal, and providing a penalty.
The next point I desire to make is that there is throughout the country a strong general demand for a uniform electoral system in respect of the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments. The Government should have embraced the present opportunity, since they are re-casting and, remoulding the whole of their electoral system, to bring about an agreement as between the States and the Commonwealth. I understand that the electoral officers in charge of the electoral machinery of the Commonwealth and the States met in Conference, and submitted recommendations for a uniform system.
– They proposed a uniform roll.
– One roll for Australia. They also made other recommendations for the conduct of elections. Before bringing down this measure, the Government should have conferred with the States, and have arrived at an understanding with them that legislation should be introduced in all the State Parliaments to secure a unified electoral system.
– The States are practically waiting for our lead.
– May I take it that the Minister has had a conference with the representatives of the States, and that uniformity in this respect has been agreed upon?
– We have not had a formal conference, but Ministers met at the last Premiers’ Conference. Some five years ago 1 drafted a Bill, and sent it to all the States for their approval. Some of the State Governments introduced it, and others did not.
– Has the Minister available for the information of the House the memorandum prepared by the conference of Commonwealth and State electoral officers?
– I think it was distributed as a. parliamentary paper some five years ago, and that a sufficient number of copies were printed for circulation.
– I hope the Minister will make the memorandum available to the House, while .the Bill is before us, since it would enable us to better understand the machinery for the conduct of elections in all the States.
This is not merely an amending Bill, but a measure providing for an overhaul of the whole of our electoral system.
– Does the honorable member want the Minister to defeat his own Bill?
– There is an old story about providing the birch to beat your own back, and I think some of us in supporting this- Bill, which provides for preferential voting, are forging a weapon that will be used against us. I approve of the restoration of the postal vote with adequate safeguards, and the tightening up of electoral machinery, so that on election day those whose names have been improperly left off the rolls will have an opportunity to vote if they can satisfy the officers that they should have been enrolled. In many respects the Minister, by means of this Bill, proposes an improvement on our present electoral machinery; but I do not think that the provision for preferential voting will be effective, or that it will achieve the object that the Government have in view.
– I agree with those who have said that the most important part of this Bill is that providing for preferential voting. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) suggests that we should put a stop to the practice of pre-selection of candidates by parties. If that system were abolished, it would do away with a lot of trouble for some people, and many associations which now send out to candidates circulars asking whether they are in favour of prohibition, and various other matters, would find themselves no longer able to take such action. It must be recognised, however, that there are only two parties in Australia to-day. Certain returned soldiers are endeavouring to create a third party, but I am convinced that when our returned men go to the poll, they will” vote Labour or Conservative, just as they did before. Some of them, perhaps, have changed their views, but the great majority will vote as they did before they went to the Front. I do not believe that there will be a returned soldiers’ party as such. Some may attempt to form such a party, but if it is formed, it is a certainty that it will attach itself to the most Conservative section. The honorable member for Wannon, in urging that there should be no pre-selection of candidates by ‘ the different parties, has lost sight of the attitude taken up by the great newspapers, who tell the electors who are “ the real Mackay.” Is he going to stop that sort of thing?
– Is lie going to stop Mr. Boote, editor of the Worker, from selecting the Labour candidates?
– I would not prevent the press from making whatever comments they pleased.
– If organizations which formulate the policies of their party candidates are not to he allowed to make a pre-selection of candidates, then the press must also he denied the right to select candidates, otherwise we shall go hack to the dark ages, when the press formulated the politics of the people. Happily that day has passed. The Labour party beat tie newspapers in that regard, and wrested from them the power they had so long held to dictate to the people whom they should return. Is there any political machine that is half as corrupt as are the newspapers in their attacks upon politicians? .They are supposed to be the guardians of the people; but they try to dictate to the electors what political policy they should favour and whom they should return. The honorable member for Wannon should be careful not to trust himself to the tender mercies of the newspapers, which select only such candidates as can he moulded to their own desires. I am sure the honorable member would not like anything of the kind.
– That is not the point I sought to make. My desire is that - any one who wishes to stand f or the representation of, say, my own constituency, shall have the same right that I have to do so.
– After all, why was the party system brought into existence? Parties were formed because it was found that individual members of Parliament did not carry ‘out the pledges made by them when on the hustings. Men were returned to Parliament independent of party ties, and were well able to look after themselves. The outside public became tired of this sort of thing, and formulated the system of pre-selection. The day of the independent candidate has gone for ever, and rightly so, because the independent man was always able to look after his own personal interests. Where the Ministerial and Opposition parties were almost evenly balanced, the independent member could claim, what he wanted. Parties were formed to enable policies to be created. There could be no sound legislation without some preconceived ideas of policy. In the old days, the Prime Minister, or some great leader whom many people believed to have a monopoly of the brains of the community, was left to formulate a policy for the people; but that system has also gone. The people know that in Australian politics to-day there are only two parties. If there is to be no preselection of candidates, men will be returned to this Parliament without any policy apart from their own individual opinions, and we shall have a most curious House, consisting of seventy-five men, each with a separate policy. What a time we should have! What juggling there would be for positions! We would have in Parliament men whose politics were as far apart as those of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine).
– When I first entered, politics, in 1882, there were no parties.
– I remember the honorable member’s political debut.
– The honorable member was then sucking a dodger.
– The honorable member first stood for the State electorate of South Melbourne, where he was given a drubbing.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I was never 86^60 tod*
– The honorable member’s politics were not acceptable .to South Melbourne, where we have democratic Christians, as opposed to the fiendish Conservatives of Parkes.
To return to the question of preferential voting, I am convinced that, under such a system, the position of electors on voting day would be worse than ever. It is only now and then that the general public have an opportunity to record their votes. They enter a polling ‘booth with_ all the solemnity imaginable, and are instructed in sepulchral tones as to-, what they are to do. They then adjourn to a little cuddy-house where, practically in the dark, they endeavour, with halfaninch of pencil, to record their votes. Even those who understand the present system have to be careful that they donot make a mistake. What, then, will. be the position of the general body of voters if we have preferential voting? In view of the fact that we have only two political parties in the Commonwealth, is it worth while to adopt a system which must lead to an increase in the number of informal votes? The Government have a majority; I suppose the numbers are up, and honorable members opposite will carry this proposal. We have been threatened with it for some time, and whilst I am against it, I admit that it is not as bad as another suggestion that has been made to cut the States into separate constituencies for the return of members of the Senate. That would be pure gerrymandering if it were carried into effect.
– It is one of the defects of this Bill that it contains no such provision.
– The Senate was created to be a States House, pure and simple. If the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) will consult the proceedings of the Federal Conventions, he will find that the present method adopted for the election of members of the Senate was decided upon in order to secure equal rights to the different States. The Senate would not represent the States if each State were cut into constituencies.
– The Constitution made the provision referred to until the Parliament otherwise provides, so that that system was not regarded as final.
– That is quite possible, but no honorable member can deny that the Senate was created to preserve State rights.
– There would have been no Federation without it.
– Exactly. I am glad that the honorable member agrees with me.
– The result is, that up to date the Senate has not preserved State rights; it has annihilated them.
– I did not hear the. honorable member’s remark. It will be remembered that the smaller States claimed equal representation in the Senate with the larger States. They did so because they felt that otherwise the larger States would dominate the Parliament, and the rights of the smaller States would be frittered away. They demanded that each State should have the same representation in the Senate, and any attempt to alter that would, in my opinion, be corrupt.
– Does the honorable member think that the constitutional provision with regard to the Senate effected its purpose in the last Parliament?
– I am one of those who believe that the majority should rule. If the people are misled they have to suffer. In my view, the adoption of preferential voting will increase the number of informal votes recorded.
– It has not done so in Victoria.
– The honorable member should know that more informal votes are recorded at State than at Federal elections.
– There are fewer informal votes recorded in the Labour movement, in which the preferential system has been used for many years.
– Honorable members will remember that when in this Chamber a preferential vote was taken for the selection of the Federal Capital site innumerable mistakes were made by members of this House, who were supposed to understand all about voting. In Labour leagues with which I am associated I have known informal votes to be recorded by men and women thoroughly familiar with the preferential system of voting. If we establish a system which will lead to an increase in the number of informal votes recorded we shall not get the true opinion of the people expressed at the polls. I again say that the preferential system is not necessary for Federal elections when there are only two parties in Federal politics.
On the subject of postal voting, I may inform honorable members’ that there are many in the Labour movement who believe in that system. It appears to offer great facilities to voters. It is suggested that the system should be specially useful in a constituency with a high birth rate, but it is a remarkable thing that, in my own constituency of Melbourne Ports, which has the highest birth rate of any constituency in Australia, the lowest postal vote was recorded. While I believe that we on this side lose many genuine votes through the absence of postal voting, we are convinced that the other side gain by corruption if postal voting is allowed. That is why I am against it. I remember an election that took place in South Melbourne for the Legislative Council about six years ago. Two well-known men, both Conservatives, were the candidates. At 7.30 on the night of the election I heard one man say, “I voted eighteen times,” and another said, “ I voted nineteen times.” Both candidates were guilty, but one man knew more about electioneering than did the other. I did not blame the candidates so much as the very energetic and tricky electioneering agents who were running the election for them. Where there is political corruption on one or both sides, honorable members will agree that it is well to prevent it if we can. So I say that, although we will lose many genuine votes by not having postal voting, that is better than the corruption which takes place under the postal voting system. If arrangements could be made to prevent corruption under the system, I should be glad to accept it. One thing that would obviate the necessity for voting by post would be to have a greater number of polling booths.
– There are double the number now that there were a few years ago. There are over 8,000 now.
– I admit that the number has been increased, and that the Electoral Officers have always been quite willing to consider the creation of new polling places when they have been applied for. I am quite satisfied with the conduct of elections by our electoral officers. Our principal electoral officers and deputy returning officers must hold some political opinions, but I believe they are animated generally by a desire to perform their duties impartially. Where it is pointed out to them that polling booths are necessary, they are prepared to consider their establishment, but they are restricted by the consideration of expense. In my own constituency there is one section where the people have to go nearly a mile and a half to record their votes.
– Some have to go 40 miles in my electorate.
– I know that in some of the country constituencies people have to take a holiday to go to the poll. I quite recognise the disadvantages which country electors labour under, but environment must be taken into account, and whilst people in the country think it noth-ing to ride, drive, or walk 2 miles to the nearest neighbour, it is not so in the city. It is remarkable to find that postal voting was availed of to a greater extent in cities than in country constituencies. It is strange that in Western Australia, with its enormous area, there was less voting by post than in Tasmania.
– In Tasmania the postal votes recorded were 1,200, and in Western Australia 900.
– No; in Western Australia there were 1,900.
– I understood that there were only 900 postal votes recorded in Western Australia, but in view of the difference in area, assuming the honorable member’s figures to be correct, there should have been many more postal votes recorded in Western Australia. I do not object to the facilities afforded by postal voting. My objection to the system is that its adoption has been proved to lead to corruption.
I want to say something about Deputy Returning Officers. It is remarkable how some men, when vested with a little authority, allow their partisan feeling to influence their actions. On one or two occasions I have had to complain of certain officers. I consider it the duty of an electoral officer to assist in every way he can to secure a poll with as few informal votes as possible. To secure this end political parties issue voting cards, showing how supporters of their respective parties should vote. Some people believe that that practice is wrong, but I can see nothing wrong in it. I know that one deputy returning officer tried to prevent people taking these voting cards into the polling booth with them, and he stopped some voters from doing so. That man was interfering with the rights of people. It is actions of that sort which bring about informal votes. When people get into a polling booth they ought to be given all the assistance possible to” enable them to vote as they wish. I am afraid that we should get a most peculiar outcome from a system of preferential voting with seven or eight candidates for a seat, and the electors being asked to number them in their order of preference. I fear that ‘the result would not express the real opinion of the people.
I regret that no mention is made in the Bill of the question of giving the franchise to the inhabitants of the various Federal Territories. It is a disgrace to Australia that they have no vote. ‘ They pay taxes, and have to conform to the laws, but they have no say whatever in making the laws or assessing the taxes.
– Why, have not the people at Canberra a vote?
– They ought to have. One could understand the delay if it involved great difficulties, but there should be no difficulty about it at all. There is nothing to stop the Government at this stage from proposing a clause that will give the inhabitants of the territories a vote. .There is .nothing to prevent them joining the Northern Territory to the electorate of Grey, to which it originally belonged. The people in the Federal Capital Territory could vote in. Eden-Monaro, from which I believe the Territory was excised, or they could be attached to some other electorate. The people of Lord Howe Island vote in the electorate of East Sydney to-day. Why cannot the people of Norfolk Island do the same, and why cannot the people of Papua be tacked on to some State to give them representation? Surely all these people have the right to vote ? They are Australians the same as we are, but by a peculiar set of circumstances they have been wiped off our electoral rolls. It must not be forgotten also that they are claiming representation. Another way out of the difficulty would be to give the whole of the Territories one representative, say, in the Senate. Some people claim that they should have a representative here, but they are not numerically strong enough to be entitled to that; still they have the right to vote somewhere. Has the Minister in charge of the Bill ever considered that question?
– The old moral law still holds - no taxation without representation. I admit that more is expended on the Territories than the in habitants pay in taxes, but they are flesh and blood and have a right to representation somewhere. To-day they have no man who really represents them. I worry the Minister a good deal about the Northern Territory, but there is no affinity between the Northern Territory and Melbourne Ports. I do not know many up there, but I have been conducting correspondence with them, and endeavouring to influence the Minister to do certain things. They ought to have a representative of their own to whom they can write, because then they could put matters more forcibly. Why should they have to go round looking for somebody to represent their views for them ? It is unfair, un-British, and immoral that any man or woman should be subjected to any law in the formulating of which they had no say. As there would be so little difficulty in making the necessary arrangements, I wonder it has not been done long ago. At one time I had a motion on the notice-paper to give these people representation, and appealed to Mr. Fisher month after month to allow me an opportunity to move it, but I could never reach it. The Minister must admit that something should be done in this direction.
– I have been looking into it, and have taken the proportions of the migratory section of the population, and so on.
– If the Minister assures me that the matter is being considered
– It is being considered; but is this an opportune time to do it? They would have to be attached to other States.
– They have waited so long, that I suppose they could wait another twelve months.
– They are very migratory at present, and one has to take that into account. There is an addition of about 500 to the population of the Northern Territory every season from Queensland, and then they go back again.
– .Then allow them to vote in that portion of Australia in which they last resided.
– A good many of them can vote in Queensland.
– I urge the Government to take the matter into consideration, so that these people may vote at the next election, and have a representative to stand up for their rights.
.- The Bill, as a consolidating measure, fills a long-felt want, and for that reason, hut for that reason alone, the Minister (Mr. Glynn) deserves to he congratulated for introducing it. But as a measure designed to bring about that blissful state of uniformity of which we hear so much, it falls very short of perfection, to say the least of it. The Minister has on several occasions reiterated his desire for uniformity. In 1902 he spoke in this House as follows : -
I look forward to the time when, through delegation of powers solicited by the Federation, and granted by the States, we shall have in the Commonwealth and States one Electoral Act and one principle of division, involving, as they will, one suffrage, one set of officers, one roll, one mode of election, and one code to secure the purity of elections.
I quote that paragraph to draw attention to the fact that the Minister, introducing this Bill, stated his whole-hearted desire for uniformity in 1902, and has reiterated it in this ChambeT no less than three times during the past two weeks. Again, in answer to interjections, he said that the States were waiting for the Commonwealth to give them a lead, and that this Bill was a lead for uniformity. If the Bill is passed in its present form, the Government will not bring about that desired effect. Rather, they will retard the prospects of uniformity in electoral matters in Australia. What right has the Government or the Minister to expect the States to adopt uniform electoral laws when the Government themselves are the greatest offenders against the principle of uniformity? At the next election, voters will be given two sets of directions, which they will have to learn. They will have to be very careful not to indicate their preferences in the election of senators.
– There is no reason why we should not allow them to do so.
– But the Bill does not provide for it.
– The Bill is not through yet.
– I intend to move an amendment.
-I hope honorable members are in earnest in their protestations, and that when the time comes, they will vote against the Government on this matter.
– Of course we shall.
– I shall look forward with pleasure to my honorable friends trooping across the Chamber and voting against the Government. I am afraid they will be pretty sure that the numbers are all right before they venture across. This is a party matter.
– My honorable friends will find that it is before it is all over. When the whip is cracked, I have no doubt about where they will be. They will be good solid party men, as they have always been. The electors will go into the booths with two methods of voting confronting them.
– No, we are going to alter that.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill says they will.
– I did not say so. I asked the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Tudor) if he would like it altered.
– Is the Minister in earnest when he introduces this Bill? Does he stand behind it? Are the Government behind it, or is the Minister just giving it to the House and asking for a declaration?
– One would think it was a Caucus Bill.
– Honorable members opposite know just as much about Caucuses as we do, and probably a little more. The fact remains that the Bill provides for a different method for election for the two Houses.
– We have not finished with the Bill yet.
– I am young and innocent enough to take things as they are put before me, and I believe the Government will bluff the Bill through. I believe they have sufficient on their side to get it through; and if they have not, my honorable friend will support them.
– The honorable member does not believe that.
– I believe the honorable member is a better party man than he is an advocate of a different electoral system. As the Bill stands, the elector will mark one ballot-paper with a cross, and mark the other on the preferential system, acording to the number of candidates before him. How. can the Government or the Minister expect the States to fall into line with a uniform electoral system if this Parliament, which is the father of the Parliaments of Australia, will not set a good example?
– Which would you like us to adopt for the Senate - the proportional system or the preferential system?
– I do not want either at present. Oneof the main promises on which the Government came into power was that not one stone of Labour’s temple would be displaced.
– That is not correct.
– It is true, and the honorable member himself has repeated that pledge. Every member on the benches opposite used those words, or the sense of them, during the last election..
– I did not, and I never heard of them until I came into this House.
– Then the honorable member had splendid publicity officers in the Grampians, for they were printed there as coming from him.
– I never saw them.
– Then, all I can say is that the honorable member’s publicity officers did their work admirably.
The Government propose to make a vital alteration in our method of voting at a time when 400,000 electors are absent from the Commonwealth. The reasons assigned for this alteration are many, and some of them possess a sinister significance. I am of opinion that the organizations of the party opposite have come to the conclusion that, in view of certain events which have transpired during the life of this Parliament, it would be a good thing for them to drag a red herring across the trail. Already members of that party have decided to bring a new machine into the field. By means of that machine - the Soldiers’ party - which is really a portion of the tail of the National machine, they intend to give a second shot to the National candidate.
– Is the honorable member aware that the soldiers’ organization is advocating preferential voting?
– I know that there is a large number of organizations which advocate the preferential system.
– I am talking of the soldiers’ organization.
– The soldiers’ organization, besides advocating the preferential system of voting, is advocating proportional representation. The Farmers and Settlers’ Association, and all the other organizations which are closely allied to the National party, advocate, not merely the preferential, but the proportional, system of voting. My honorable friends opposite will doubtless disobey their masters up to a certain point. They will go to the step marked “ preferential,” but they will not go to the logical extreme of proportional representation. Indeed, it will be found that the Labour party is much more in earnest in regard to preferential voting than are my honorable friends opposite, because the former practises that system in most of its preselection ballots, which the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) intends to do away with.
– I have never suggested that.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who is the author of a nice little brochure on proportional representation and the preferential system, naively tells his admiring readers that, when once the system of preferential voting and of proportional representation have been adopted, political parties will disappear.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to quote my words on the matter? I have no recollection of saying that.
– I will turn up the passage in the honorable member’s book, and hand it to him at the close of my remarks.
The most extraordinary thing about those who make the preferential system of voting and proportional representation the last word in electoral reform is that they always argue that when these systems are adopted political parties will probably disappear, and that certainly the pre-selection ballot will disappear. No matter what system of electoral reform is introduced - it may be any one of the 300 variations of proportional representation - political parties will not disappear, for the reason that they are not concerned with electoral systems. Parties were not brought into existence because of the system under which representatives are elected. “While there are poor people, while there are people who are sweated, and who cannot afford to purchase proper food and clothing for their children, while combines exist, and while profiteering flourishes, there will always be two parties in politics.
– While I.W.W.-ism is rife.
– Call it what you like. While there are rich and poor there will always be two political parties. We cannot expect the robbed and the robber to lie down together because we have uttered the last word in electoral reform. Personally, I can see our party system continuing for hundreds of years at the pres’ent rate of progress.
The National party are not in earnest with regard to the pledge which they gave only a “ few months ago in connexion with the Flinders election. On that occasion a good deal of hard labour was expended in pulling certain candidates out of the field. So far as we know, the greatest bribe that was offered in order to give the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) a square cut against the Labour candidate was proportional representation. The party machine, well oiled, ran smoothly, and, notwithstanding a good deal of tribulation, anxiety, and worry, a satisfactory arrangement was eventually arrived at. The Labour party had no wrong impression as to what was going to happen at that election. Nor has it any wrong impression as to what is going to happen in Western Australia. The same thing will happen there as happened in connexion with the Flinders election. Mr. Hedges will enter this Parliament and take his seat.
– Notwithstanding that the Labour candidate is a returned soldier.
– That circumstance will make no difference. The people of Swan will vote for the National party’s candidate irrespective of whether his opponent is a returned soldier or not. At the Flinders election, the Farmers and Settlers Association was promised that if it would pull off its candidate, tlie Government would, at the first opportunity, alter our electoral system by bringing in a Bill to give effect to preferential voting and to proportional representation.
– The honorable member has been grossly misinformed.
– It is idle for the honorable member for .Grampians to contradict my statement, because if he will only take the trouble to think, he will recognise it as the truth. If I am not speaking the truth it will be a very easy matter for him to disprove my statement by quoting from the policy announced by the honorable member for Flinders. If he will read that policy he will find that the pledge to which I have referred, was given. That pledge was broken immediately this Bill was introduced. That circumstance, however, is nothing new. Many pledges have been broken by the Government during the past few months.
There are several features in this Bill which are objectionable from my stand-point. The proposal to restore postal voting opens the way to the same corruption as existed when that system was previously in operation. In 1911, when a referendum was about to be taken in connexion with certain proposed constitutional alterations as applied to industrial conditions, I happened to be shearing on a station above Brewarrina. There were some twenty of us working in and about the shearing shed. We applied for our postal ballot-papers, and in due course received them. The station manager was also a justice of the peace, and after the mail had arrived one evening he sent us word that everything was in order, and that we could go and record our votes. I was about the third or fourth man to record my vote, but prior to entering tlie room I was informed that I would probably be asked which way I intended voting. When I did enter the room I was handed a blank ballot-paper, and was just about to mark it, when I was asked by the station manager how I intended to vote.
– Did he have any doubt on the matter?
– I do not think so, but his question was merely a prelude to an argument or request. It was not very long before he clearly gave out what he was driving at. Sitting alongside me at the table, he endeavoured to convince me that I ought to vote “ No “ upon those particular proposals.
– Was that on the day of the referendum?
– No; electors were allowed to vote by post prior to pollingday.
– You were applying for postal ballot-papers, then?
– No; we had obtained our postal ballot-papers, and were about to use them.
– What was the name of the station manager to whom the honorable members refers?
– If the honorable member for Denison desires his name I shall be happy to supply it to him privately.
– If I were in the honorable member’s place I would state it publicly.
– I supplied it publicly to the Electoral Office at the time, but that particular gentleman did not receive any rebuff from that office. I have simply related an experience of my own in this matter. Many honorable members have heard of similar happenings. What happened to me in 1911 and to many others who follow up the shearing industry, will undoubtedly happen again under this Bill. I am quite willing to recognise that there should be a system which will permit of the infirm and others who are unable to visit a polling booth on election day, exercising their franchise, but its exercise must be hedged around with proper safeguards. This Bill, however, in its present form, does not provide those safeguards. Postal voting is a very fine thing for the party which represents the wealthy classes, inasmuch as the great preponderance of postal votes will always come from the country - from stations, farms, &c. By reason of education or experience, the station manager or the station owner in the country is usually the individual from whom information is sought. If he is a good party worker - as most of these individuals are - he will see that every possible vote on his farm or station is polled for a certain cause or candidate. We know what took place under the old system. It was rotten; it was corrupt. lt stunk in the nostrils of the people, so it was altered.
– The honorable member will not give the name of that man.
– I will, if the honorable member desires it. But what if I do?
– He was a public officer.
– He was not.
– He was a Returning Officer.
– He was a justice of the peace, and his name should be removed from the list.
– I have already said that I reported the incident to the Electoral authorities, and that they had taken no notice. If the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) desires the name, however, I will furnish it.
– Why not expose the man publicly?
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has not the slightest intention of taking action, even if I gave the information to the House. His desire is merely to draw me off the track, or he hopes he will be able to entangle me by forcing me to give the name.
– I doubt the authenticity of the statement.
– The honorable member may doubt it as much as he pleases. It is true, and I have no doubt he has seen and heard of just the same cases in Tasmania.
– On the Commission I could never get proof of one of those statements.
– The honorable member is afraid now to give the name.
– J. S. Kirkup is the name. His address is, or was, Caringle Station, Brewarrina, New South Wales. I suppose now that the honorable member will make inquiries, and take suitable steps in the matter.
– The honorable member for Denison was on the Commission ; he inquired into a lot of those cases, and found them false.
– If the honorable member will read the report, he will ascertain what actually did happen. The system of postal yoting was found to be rotten and corrupt.
– No; quite the opposite 1
– Order I I have appealed several time3 to honorable members to cease interjecting, and I trust they will do so. It is impossible for the debate to proceed amidst such interjections.
– Honorable members opposite know perfectly well that postal voting is good for them..
– Good for honest voters.
– The experience of honorable members opposite has furnished proof of what I say. Take the case of the . honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in respect to his Queensland properties. He may have some forty to fifty men dependent upon him for their jobs. They are his managers. Under their control upon the stations there may be as many as ten men each - say, from 200. to 300 all told. In their capacity as station managers-
– The honorable member (Mr. Jowett) influenced them all to vote for the Labour candidate.
– Then that honorable member must have a very intelligent lot of station managers. But if those managers have Labour sympathies they are entirely different from the average of the men whom I have met. Most of them are very good party men, who do all in their power to influence votes; and they will have an excellent opportunity to do so if the postal vote is brought again into operation.
– Not in the least.
– They ‘ decidedly will. They will have the same power as did the manager who tried to turn the
– Has the honorable member never tried to do that?
– I have always endeavoured to turn other people’s votes, but I have done so openly and legally.
– lt is a matter of virtue with the honorable member, and of corruption with us.
– I do not try to intimidate men at the ballot-box. The. system as laid down in the Bill will lead to corruption. It will lead to votes being polled for candidates who are agreeable to the bosses on those stations, for example.
– Quite impossible!
– ‘Highly probable.
I regret that no provision has been made in the Bill for notice to be given to people who have omitted to place their names on the roll, before action is taken against them. Under the present system a voter, who has removed from one place to another, is allowed one month; and then, twentyone days after that period has elapsed, if his name is not on the roll, he is liable to be fined. Machinery should be provided so that such persons might have notice. It would be fair that after one month they should be given twentyone days’ notice, informing them that if their name is not on the roll by a certain date they may be fined.
– Is it not rather silly to make it compulsory?
– Not at all; and I would go further, to. its logical conclusion - that of compulsory voting. If there were provision for divisional returning officers to send out notices to the effect that if the names of liable persons were not on the roll within twenty-one days they would be fined, it would be less of a hardship than is the present system.
Promises were given by the Government that .there would be no legislative alterations of a vital character during the war, and while our men were away. Those promises were communicated to , our soldiers in various pamphlets distributed among them. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), on behalf of the Government, undertook that there would he no such alterations. Those promises will be broken if this Bill is agreed to.
– There was a Bill, prepared in 1913, to deal, among other matters, with preferential voting. This is a very considerable modification.
– A considerable modification, indeed, considering that the Government have practically cut half of it out. But it is not what was ready in 1913 that counts now.
– It included provision for preferential voting to he instituted.
– And proportional representation, if it conies to that.
– No; personally, I advocated it. But the Ministry did not, as a whole.
– It was right at the forefront of the party programme of honorable members opposite. The electoral machinery of this country should not be altered until the men now fighting have returned. There are vital alterations proposed here, and before they are carried out the promises of the Government should be kept.
– I propose to touch upon one or two points which have been raised during the debate. I have voted on both sides with regard to this question. When I was in the Labour party, at the time when the subject was before it, I supported compulsory voting. We abolished the system of postal voting. That was never satisfactory to my mind, nor is the system of compulsory voting. I do not see how it can be brought about in Australia, because there is no strong opinion outside of Parliament in favour of it. It is all very well, for honorable members who represent close and compact constituencies, such as that I represent, to advocate any proposal that would be eminently satisfactory to those constituencies. But we should not lose sight of that great section of the Australian people who are doing the best work in all the land - the pioneers in our out-back country. Consistency does not worry me vastly upon a subject such as this. We must frame an electoral system that will deal justice to settlers in our outside country. Facilities should be certainly provided for these people, and I do not see how it is possible except under some system of postal voting. My honorable friend, the member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has always consistently advocated the giving of an opportunity to vote to the sick and infirm, and this, I again point out, can only be achieved by means of the postal vote, any difficulties in connexion with which can be overcome at the Committee stage. I am not wedded to the provisions in the Bill relating to this matter, but I intend to see that some such facilities are provided. I admit that there is always an element of corruption about the postal vote, but I think that if the consideration of the matter is approached in a nonparty spirit, we shall be able to so safeguard the principle as to reduce any possibility of corruption to a minimum.
– It has been brought in with a party aim.
– I have always been in favour of the system requiring a deposit from candidates. I do not think it has ever kept a poor man out of Parliament, because if a man has any chance of election, and is respected, he is bound to have plenty of friends ready to put money up for him. If a man cannot provide a deposit, in nine cases out of ten it is because he is a fanatic - a man who thinks that the world will never be right until he gets into Parliament. So far as possible we ought to safeguard a con.stitutency from the possibility of having an election forced upon it by men who have no earthly chance of election.
I note that, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is somewhat dissatisfied with the measure because the Government do not intend to make preselection an electoral offence. As a matter of fact, I think myself that preselection will go on, and ought to go on, because I have always been a strong party man. In the English-speaking world there has always been party government, and there always will be. Gambetta, the celebrated French statesman, said that party government is government based on the formation of men’s minds. One man, by education, birth, environment, and position, may not take a very hopeful view of the future, and naturally would be of a conservative temperament, while another man, under the same conditions and circumstances, would take a hopeful view, and would always be in the front rank of the advanced political party. This principle applies all over the world, and, according to Gambetta, is the origin of the party system. I invite honorable members, if they care to study this subject, to turn up the works of
Benjamin Kidd, the greatest authority in the world to-day on the principles of projected efficiency. He lays it down as a principle that the progress which the English people have made during the last century is due to party government. . There has always been the reform or advanced party, and whenever the people have got tired of it, that party has gone out, and another has taken its place. But the secret of the success of our party government lies in the fact that a succeeding party Government never reverses the progressive legislation to which party government has given effect. In this is to be found the secret of the strength and solidarity of the British Empire, and indeed, of European civilization. Honorable members, if they are well informed on this subject, must realize that the doctrine of projected efficiency will do more for the future than anything else. For these reasons, I stand for party government and party organization.
But what will be the effect of this measure.’* A party may not be in touch with the people, and other candidates, quite distinct from any party,, may be brought out with a really good chance of beating purely party men if the public are behind them. As ah illustration of what I am saying, I may ask what would be the position of the Liberal party in England but for the Nonconformist vote?
– But it was the Irish
Nationalist party that kept the Liberal party in last time.
– I am not referring to Sinn Feiners. The Labour party had a very small beginning, but with the support given to it by what I may term the “fringe” vote, it eventually dominated the government of this country.
– It did good work, too.
– That is ‘ quite true; but there came a time when it lost its breadth of view, and, becoming narrow and contracted, was representative only of a section of the people, with the result that the people turned their backs upon it.
– Very true.
– Foster says “ Amen “ to that.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to smile, but he knows very well that what I am saying is true.
I do not think that we can make any material alteration in the provisions relating to electoral expenses, because, under our system of government, there will always be found people- who, if they believe the country is in danger, will furnish funds for the support of candidates reflecting their political views. It is no use for objectors to rail and howl about one section of - the people being able to put up money in support of candidates, while the other people are not in a position to do the same. Thu people representing the “fringe” vote will find the money for their candidates.
– The “ fringe “ voters don’t find the money. It is the actual “ stickers “ who do that.
– I am not so sure of that. The real “ stickers “ are generally close and narrow, and I doubt very much whether they do much good for the country. As I regard this as a measure for the Committee, I shall not further occupy the time of the House.
.- In addressing myself to the measure, I wish to preface my remarks by saying that, to my mind, it is only playing with the principles of Democracy to introduce a Bill of this character under the pretence of increasing the power of the Democracy, by making representation more democratic. If political Democracy Were what honorable members opposite were aiming at, they would have proposed the introduction of the initiative, the referendum, and the right of recall. There is no political Democracy while party system is in existence. No country can claim to be democratic where there is, not a true reflex in Parliament of the ideas, aspirations, and wishes of the people. If we had true political Democracy, as distinct from industrial Democracy, there would be no such thing as party government; we should have the initiative, the referendum, and the right of recall, and the Government would be elected by the representatives of the people. I look for something more than political Democracy; I look for industrial
Democracy. But it is playing with political Democracy to introduce a Bill like this. The Government is merely casting dust in the eyes of the people.
– What substitute would the honorable member recommend?
– It is not my duty to suggest to Ministers how they shall govern the country.
– Still, it is a good rule in life to help lame dogs over a stile.
– The honorable member recently objected to being termed a dumb dog. I was about to remark, when this unruly representative of the capitalistic’ class interjected, that if honorable members opposite desired to give the people true representation, and to establish political Democracy, they would not ask us to waste our time with a measure such as this. Had they proposed the initiative, the referendum, and the right of recall, they would be entitled to the credit of attempting to give the people a political Democracy. The Government would be selected by the representatives chosen by the people, and the people would have the power to recall such representatives as failed in their duty.
– The people can now exercise the right of recall every three years.
– Yes; and the honorable member does not wish to have that right exercised more often.
– The honorable member is the only minority representative in the House.
– Ostensibly I am a minority representative, but actually we on this side represent the majority of the people; it is honorable members opposite who represent the minority. But why should I mind the taunts of honorable members opposite? I represent the interests that I wish to represent. Even if I was chosen by a minority - and that is not certain - what does it matter? Other members have been first sent to Parliament by minorities, and have remained there for many years.
– I was elected by a minority vote.
– Is the honorable member a believer in the representation of minorities ?
-I believe in the representation of majorities, of those who produce the wealth of the country. It is they who form the majority. If there were not minority representation, the honorable member would not be here.
– I secured a good majority at the last election.
– Yes; and while the present Government remains in office deluding the people, and exercising political censorship, that fictitious majority will be maintained.
– I shall get a bigger majority next time.
– I was about to say that if the Government and their supporters were in earnest, we would not be discussing Bill’s of ‘this character, but Bills that would vitally affect and alter the whole basis of parliamentary institutions in this country by giving the mass of the people outside the real power of initiating legislation. What is proposed is that which has characterized parliamentary institutions since their inception. The British House of Commons is known as the Mother of Parliaments, and in the development of parliamentary institutions in the British Empire and elsewhere we have seen a gradual transference of political power from one class to another. That has gone on from the time of William III., when party government was instituted, and Ministers were first introduced into the House of Commons. By extensions of the franchise, power has been shifted, first from the aristocratic to the commercial and moneyed classes, just in proportion as they acquired that economic power which determines political power. The various Reform Bills from 1832 have, as I say, - transferred the power from the landowning classes to the commercial and moneyed classes, and then the Bill of 1867 enlarged the franchise, and gave power to the lower middle classes. So the process has gone on until, when the war broke out, there were something like 12,000,000 voters, who, as Carlyle said, had the right to a one-thousandth part of a talker in the national palaver. It is now proposed in Great Britain to add something like 10,000,000 more voters, giving a total of, I think, about 20,000,000 or 22,000,000.
– The whole population is only 45,000,000.
– I think my figures are right. I understand that, it is the desire of honorable members to adjourn, and, therefore, I ask leave to continue my speech.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) the terrible stress which tenants. are suffering at the present time by the unjust claims made upon them by certain landlords. The House will remember that on a previous occasion I spoke of one Jewish gentleman who owns many houses in the community, and who, when I represented the difficulties of the people during waT time, agreed that he would not increase the Tents of his tenants. There is another type of landlord, however; and the case I now desire to mention is that of an old lady about seventy years of age, who, by letting a few rooms, manages to obtain her own shelter for nothing. Her landlord, John Anderson, of Elizabethstreet, Coburg, raised her rent 10s. a week, and a few weeks afterwards raised it by another 10s. Honorable members, I am sure, will forgive me if I call this rack-renting man a scoundrel. I find that he has broken the law, and I intend that he shall be prosecuted, because tomorrow I shall forward the necessary information. He raised the rent by still another 10s., although this old lady had been his tenant for fourteen years. I have seen her rent-book, and I have found that the man, as I say, has broken the law. She endeavoured for a time to pay the £3 a week, and then she came to me in her trouble. I sent her to a legal gentleman, who, in his sympathy, advised her not to pay the increased rent, but to go to a magistrate and explain that, although her lodgers would accompany her, she could not get another house. Any honorable member who has experience of this large city knows that, at the present moment, it is most difficult to rent houses. One agent kindly said that he could let her have a house of five rooms, and to that house the unfortunate old lady has gone. I thought that this landlord might be a Christian, and I wrote the following letter to him: -
Your action to Mrs. Meyer has-been brought under my notice. I understand this lady has been your tenant for fourteen years, during which time you have received your rent regularly. I now learn that you have raised her rent by an increase of 10s., and then in addition to this another 10s., and a further increase of a third 10s. I do ,not know if you are a Christian or not, but you will feel mighty mean when you die and face your Maker. I know this unfortunate lady has tried to find another house, but she cannot, and it will be absolute ruin if you go on your way. Are you aware that she is over seventy years of age? Will you, before I take further action, tell me what your intention is T -
This is not an isolated case. It is unfortunate that in a community such as this the authorities, in their efforts to do good by condemning houses and pulling them down, create a scarcity by not providing other houses. However, there is no justification in war time for such conduct as I have described on the part of a landlord, and I ask that, under the War Precautions Act, there should be a regulation to carry out what was suggested by the Jewish gentleman to whom I have re’ferred namely, a law to prevent landlords raising their Tent, so that it should not be necessary for private persons to request them to do what the State should compel. We have passed about 292 laws this year, and surely we could pass another to deal with these exploiters and enemies within the gates? The action of this landlord is not that of an honorable man, but that of a rack-renting brute. I have no hesitation in saying that such exploiters who raise the cost of food and living generally are more despicable than our open enemies, who, at any rate, are man enough to stand in front with a rifle. Tomorrow I will bring the action of this John Anderson under the notice of the State Government in the hope that they will prosecute and punish him for having broken the law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181024_reps_7_86/>.