7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11.0 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Minister for the Navy any information to give the House with reference to the missing barquentine,Handa Isle, seven weeks out on a voyage from Sydney to Melbourne?
– The honorable member will recollect that it was arranged that the Dart should make a search for the missing members of the crew of the John Murray. When it was discovered that they were safe we immediately directed that the Dart should proceed to search for the missing barquentine. She has been engaged on that work for some time, but I regret to say that so far we have no tidings of the missing vessel.
– Can the Treasurer now tell us when he will be able to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the Budget, and whether we shall be able to deal with the question of effective economy before the usual “ too-late “ period arrives ?
– I am afraid I cannot do that, but before we rise to-day I propose to move to add another day per week to the sittings of the House. That may give an additional opportunity.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House what has been done with regard to the charging of extra postage on letters addressed to Australian nurses now on active service or abroad ?
– I was informed yesterday for the first time that the Act as framed does not give, in respect of letters addressed to nurses, the advantage of lower postage, which it gives to letters addressed to ordinary members of the Australian Imperial Force. I propose to confer with the postal authorities to ascertain what relief can be given in regard to the nuTses.
Expediting Construction Work
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways, as chairman of the Murray. River Waters Commission, state whether, in view of the fact that the number of soldiers shortly returning from the Front will be much larger than was expected a week or two since, he will push on with all possible expedition, not only with the construction of water storages at the head of the Murray, as now contemplated, but with smaller storages along the course of the river, so that water may be made available as early as possible for the establishment of new irrigation settlements?
– A week or two ago the Minister for Repatriation, in a letter to the Commission, drew attention to the fact that soldiers would shortly be returning, and asked that steps might be taken to secure their employment on any works in connexion with the Murray waters scheme. The agreement provides that construction work shall be carried out by the States concerned, who are referred to as the “ constructing authorities.” Immediately upon receipt of this letter I communicated with each of the three States involved, bringing nnder their notice the request of the Minister for Repatriation that soldiers should be considered in connexion with any of the construction schemes contemplated. The Commission has already on two occasions, brought before the constructing authorities. the desirableness of pushing on all works. Under the agreement the State authorities have to submit plans, specifications, details, and estimates to the Commission for consideration, and the Commission “ having approved of them the works are then carried out by the State constructing authorities. We are asking the constructing authorities to expedite the submission of the contemplated schemes. South Australia has already almost completed the submission of the big scheme known as the Lake Victoria storage. The Governments of Victoria andNew South Wales have had their surveyors at work inspecting various sites, and I understand that they are now determining the site for a storage on the Tipper Murray. I am also informed that they have under consideration the question of the consruction of some weirs. I shall draw the attention of the constructing authorities to the honorable member’s request, with a view to all expeditionbeing shown in the construction of the works mentioned in the agreement.
Statement by Mr. Hughes.
– Having regard to a statement made on Monday last by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at a meeting of the Empire Producers’ Association in the Connaught rooms, London, that he spoke as a Socialist and a Democrat, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the members of the Government are Socialists and Democrats, and whether Social Democracy may now be considered the policy of the Government? If so, when do theypropose to put that policy into operation?
– Order ! Attention has already been drawn by me to the fact that questions affecting the policy of the Government are not permissible.
– May I say, sir, with great respect that there are three questions in the conundrum addressed to me by the honorable member.
– My ruling referred only to the last clause in the honorable member’s question.
– ThenI shall withdraw that part of it.
– With your permission, sir, I shall answer the other two questions embodied in the honorable member’s inquiry. Dealing, first of all, with his question as to whether members of the Government are Socialists and Democrats, I may say that they are all Democrats.
– The honorable gentleman does not understand the meaning of the word.
– Thereare various brands of Democrats. I do not pretend that the members of the Government come within the honorable member’s category. God forbid that we should. As to the meaning of “Social Democracy,” the interpretations of that much-abused phrase are legion. In one sense we are Social Democrats,sincewe hope to hold out, as we have been doing, to human nature nearest the ground a chance to rise. We hope to ameliorate the conditions of mankind, although not in the same way as the honorable member who has interjected. Tha honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) may rest assured that the democratic policy of the Government will be prosecuted as vigorously in the future as it has been in the past.
– I shall submit the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Defence.
– Will the Minister for Price Fixing kindly let the House know what amount per cwt. is due by the British Government on butter supplied from Australia last year, and when we may expect to receive payment of that amount ?
– The amount due is 19s. per owt. We have cabled to the British Government, asking for an early settlement, so that the money may be distributed amongst the factories. I hope to be able shortly to give a further answer to the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Price Fixing if it has been decided to fix. the price of chaff for the coming season. If so, will he consult a Board of practical men before proceeding to regulate the price?
– I have already announced on two or three occasions that the Government do not propose to fix tha price of chaff. They have taken steps, however, to prevent the cornering of that commodity. We are asking holders of 50 tons of chaff or over to render monthly returns-
– Will that apply to the primary producer?
– Not to the man who has produced the chaff, but every merchant or buyer who holds over 50 tons from month to month is to render a return. If the Government finds that any man is buying up very large quantities of chaff with a view to holding it and forcing up the market, suitable’ action will be taken..
Removal of Prohibition
– In connexion with sports -meetings held in many country towns, it was the custom to have one or two events for horses. Such events, however, were prohibited under the War Precautions Act. Will the Acting Prime Minister now take into consideration the position of affairs at the Front, and, if possible, withdraw the prohibition, so that these meetings may again be held ?
– The regulation under which such meetings were prohibited was designed in the interests of recruiting. That phase of the war movement has passed away, and I have asked the Minister if he cannot grant an immediate relaxation of the regulation in so far as country race meetings are concerned.
– Is the promised inquiry into the administration of the Liverpool Trainees Camp proceeding, and, if so, will an opportunity be afforded for those who have complaints to place their views before the officer conducting the inquiry?
– I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know.
– I should like to take this opportunity to read to the House an exchange of messages between the head of the Government in France and the Government of Australia in connexion with the recent French mission. It will be remembered that General Pau presented two messages on his arrival in Australia - one to the Governor-General from the President of the French Republic, and the other to myself, as the acting head of the Government, from the Prime Minister of France, M. Clemenceau. On behalf of the Government I sent in reply the following cablegram to the Prime Minister of France: -
I have the honour to acknowledge your cordial message delivered by thehead of the French Mission, General Pau. Australia feels proud to receive the congratulations of your brave and noble nation. The admiration and gratitude which you are generous enough to express to Australia for the valour of her troops now fighting in the cause of liberty and justice on French soil will find pleasurable acceptance by all classes of the community. Our returning soldiers are full of praise of the French people for their great sacrifices, and of admiration of their French comrades- in-arms for their heroic deeds and steadfast courage.Australians feel that centuries cannot repay the debt the world owes patient, undaunted France. We read with peculiar pleasure your assurance that the- peoples of France and Australia are animated by the same ideals and aspirations and the same fraternal sympathy. May I be permitted to express the hope that this sentiment will develop into an indissoluble bond, of free nations, tending to the maintenance of peace and civilization?
A reply has been received quite recently, since the declaration of the armistice, as follows : -
Your eloquent message will touch the hearts of all the French people, and I am happy in replying to it on the day of victory. I wish to thank you for all you have done for our great cause. Both the soldiers and civilians of Australia have well merited the gratitude of humanity. Our friendship, strengthened by sacrifice, supported by the same courage, will continue to grow stronger in peace for the good of the world.
Queensland Imperial Contract
– Is the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) aware that at the present moment the Brisbane meat freezing companies are refusing to buy or treat fat sheep for freezing for the Imperial Government because they are apprehensive that the Queensland State Government will commandeer the whole of such mutton at 4£d. per lb., although the price paid by the Imperial Government is 5£d. per lb. ? Will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to prevent such an arbitrary act on the part of the Queensland Government, in order to give a fair deal to the Imperial Government, to the graziers of Queensland, to the Brisbane meat exporting companies, and to the meat consumers of that State and Australia generally ?
– I was not aware until the honorable gentleman drew my attention to the fact that an extension of the arrangement which has existed for some time is being proposed by the Queensland authorities. I assume that the honorable member is taking steps to test the accuracy of the statement. Recently it came to the notice of the Government that the authorities in New Zealand were endeavouring to secure an extension of the meat contract with Britain for that Dominion. I at once cabled to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and told him that similar steps should be .taken for Australia for two reasons: First, in order that the outlet for Australian meat might not be prejudiced by any pre-contracts made with another Dominion; and second, because, if there were an extension of the contract with New Zealand and not with Australia, a vast amount of tonnage which we needed for other purposes would be diverted from Australia to New Zealand. I asked the Prime Minister to make due representations with a view to ascertaining that, in future, any contracts made are through the Commonwealth Government, and not through a State Government.
– Has any- action been taken with regard to the suggestion I made last week, which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) promised to favourably consider, that the Department of Repatriation should seek representation on behalf of the returned soldiers on the inquiry that is being conducted in Brisbane into various matters connected with the public institution where returned soldiers are being treated?
– I have not heard anything of the matter, but I received a letter this morning from the Repatriation Department which I may read in reply, not only to the honorable member, but also to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), who previously asked a question on the subject. The letter I received states that -
The Repatriation Department has no authority to send returned soldiers to the institution in question against their will. As regards the misrepresentations said to have been made by members of the staff of the Department, whilst there is no reason to believe that this is so, the Minister is having inquiries made into the matter. .
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) raises the further question of representation. I have not a reply to that at present, but will ascertain from the Minister for Defence whether anything has been done in the matter.
– I understand that a complete statement is being compiled by the Repatriation Department of its administration to date for presentation to this House. Will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), as early as possible, afford the House an opportunity to completely review the whole repatriation scheme and its administration, particularly in connexion with land settlement? In the changed circumstances,- the arrangements are not meeting, and are not likely to meet, demands in connexion with the returned troops.
– The request of the honorable member, if granted, would probably occupy more time than we have at our disposal before Christmas. However, one opportunity of a special kind will be afforded to both branches of the Legislature in connexion with a Bill it will be necessary to pass dealing with the housing of returned soldiers. This, I think, will afford honorable members the opportunity they desire in connexion with repatriation administration generally.
– Will the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene) prevent a recurrence of the exploitation in the distribution of chaff bags for the coming season? Will he also compel holders of large stocks of bags to distribute them to the farmers wherever necessity arises?
– The honorable member has evidently not been following the subject so closely as he might, for had he done so he would have noticed that the honorable member for New England (Lt:Colonel Abbott) has addressed a number of questions to me on. the subject. I have already informed that honorable member that all steps are being taken to secure the desired end, first by fixing the price of all new bran bags arriving in Australia ; and, secondly, by licensing dealers in second-hand bags. If a second-hand dealer indulges in the practice that has obtained in the past in regard to the handling of second-hand bags, and refuses to do the fair thing by carrying out the instructions of the Government in regard to price, his licence w;ll be inrmediately cancelled. If it is necessary the Government will take possession of the bags and distribute them on hiss behalf.
– Is the Minister aware that a number of merchants who> hold large stocks of new bags are selling; them at 100 per cent, above the price fixed by the Government; and, if so, will he take the necessary steps to have these persons prosecuted?
– I am not aware that such is the case. If the honorable member will furnish me with one instance, or more, I shall take immediate action.
Employment of Returned Soldiers
– Will tha Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) inform the House definitely as to work that will be ready, or is in courseof being made ready, for the employment of men returned from the Front?
– The Department of Works and Railways only carry out worts requisitioned by the various Departments. It would take some time to get the information desired by the honorable member as to the nature of the work to be> carried out in the different parts of Australia, but whatever tenders are required! have for the most part been obtained. If the honorable member has any idea of h particular locality-
– I wish to know whether anything at all is being done beyond “ considering the matter ? “
– The Department is now carrying out the various works requested by the Defence, Repatriation, and” other Departments. As the honorablemember knows, strong pressure was brought to bear on the Government not to engage unnecessarily in public works, and on, those representations the Government have acted. At the same time, all requests that have been made are being expedited.
– In view of the cessation of hostilities, and the probable early declaration of peace, will the Acting Prime Minister relieve the members of the Inter-State Commission of their present duties as soon as possible, and invite them to take into consideration the question of protection as affecting trade and industry in Australia?
– I am not able to say whether with propriety or effect the members of the Inter-State Commission can be relieved of the work upon which they are at present engaged. It may be necessary for them to fulfil their present duties; but the Board of Trade has recently ‘been considering at length some of the questions to which the honorable member refers, including the influence of the stoppage of the war on new and existing industries. In a short time the Government hope to be able to give an assurance to the House as to the policy which will be followed.
– In view of the favorable war outlook, will the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) give further and favorable consideration in the matter of the non-curtailment of postal conveniences, especially in isolated country districts.
– I am not aware of any undue restriction in the postal services.
– Then you are the only man in the House who is not aware of it.
– I am in possession of the records of the electorates of several honorable members who have been speaking loudly on the problem, but I have not taken the trouble to give this matter to the House or the country, out of sympathy for both.
– Then you can give it on a motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I desire to say, however, that if there is any possibility of relief further than has already been granted, I shall, as ever, be glad to grant it.
” BACK FROM THE WAR.”
Distribution to Returned Soldiers
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) been directed to a pamphlet, entitled Back from the War, which is being sent out by the Recruiting Department to returned soldiers ? The Acting Prime Minister will see that it is clearly designed, both in its illustrations and letterpress, to create feeling on the part of returning soldiers against men inthis country who have not enlisted. Now that an armistice has been arranged, I ask whether this action on the part of the Recruiting Department has the approval of the Cabinet as a whole, and whether they propose to persist in the distribution of this publication.
– Beyond the fact that the Recruiting Department was issuing some literature-
– A copy was supplied to each member of the House, at the request of an honorable member.
– I know that the Recruiting Department was sending out literature to returning soldiers chiefly in relation to repatriation work, but I have not seen that now referred to.
– It is a disgraceful publication !
– The Government, of course, has the responsibility, and will not shirk it. Beyond what I have said, I do not know anything about the literature; but I shall be glad if the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will send me a copy of the publication towhich he refers, in order that I may ascertain whether it is conducive to good or to bad government.
– It is a deliberate incitement to returned soldiers to attack those who have not been at the war.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the close of the war, the Minister for Defence will reduce the number of days in camp of the members of the Citizen Forces to the number of days provided for in the Defence Act?
– The training prescribed by the Regulations under the Defence Act for various arms is: -
Artillery, Engineers of Militia Forces, and A.S.C. units allotted to those arms, 25 days in each year; other arms, 16 days in each year. In1917-18 camps of training for 8 days only were ordered. “ In 1918-19, all units are required to serve in camp for 24 days. This makes a total of 32 days in the two years. In the case of Artillery and Engineer units and Army Service Corps units allotted to those arms, the training is 18 days short of the requirements for two years. Under the circumstances, and in view of the backward condition of training, it is considered inadvisable to reduce the training this year.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will the Government table commercial balance-sheets of the various Government trading concerns, and particularly that of the Small Arms Factory?
– The balance-sheets of the various Government factories for the year ended 30th June, 1917, were laid on the table of the House on 23rd October last, and printed in Parliamentary Paper No. 109. The balance-sheets for the year ended 30th June, 1918, are now being audited, and it is hoped that they will shortly be available for Parliament.
– On the 7th Novem ber, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the following question : -
As a number of ships are coming to Australia to take away our produce, will the Acting Minister for the Navy try to provide space on them for pelts? In my district there are hundreds of casks of pelts in salt awaiting shipment.
I have now ascertained that “ salted pelts “ do not appear in the priority lists, and shipments of this class of cargo could only be made under direct instructions from the Ministry of Shipping through the usual channels.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - Tickets are now being issued for a memorial service to be held on the steps of Parliament House on Sunday afternoon next, at 3.30 o’clock. The greater portion of the lower steps will be handed over to the control of the Military and Naval Departments for the use of returned soldiers - invalided and otherwise - and military and naval units. The upper portion of the steps will be reserved for members of both Houses and their friends, Consuls, the Lord Mayor, the Mayors of various municipalities, and public officials. I shall be glad if as many honorable members as can conveniently attend will be present.
The following paper was presented : -
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
As honorable members will see, this is a request to them to extend the days of sitting by one day per week until the session closes, shorty before Christmas. The Government can give no indication at present as to whether it will be possible for us then to prorogue or not. Should disorder continue in Germany, and the assembling of the Peace Conference be delayed, in all probability it may be necessary” for us merely to rise for the Christmas vacation, and remain summonable in accordance with the practice which has obtained during the progress of the war. On- that point none of us can do more than express conjectures at this stage. But if Parliament is asked to assemble after Christmas to deal with problems arising out of the peace settlement, it will be a most cheerful assembling, aud I am sure honorable members will most willingly attend. In the. meantime, in order that we may dispose of a number of matters already on the noticepaper, which are essential for the proper legislative- government of Australia, as well as one or two other matters it will- be - necessary for the Government to introduce, honorable members are asked to give this° extra day of service. I am not in a position to indicate very definitely what those other matters may be, but it is becoming increasingly plain from the situation arising out of the recent judgments of the Arbitration Court that at least some action will be necessary on our part if we desire to safeguard the arbitration system and awards already in existence.
– The honorable member is referring to an amendment of the Arbitration Act?
– Yes ; but whether it will be structural or vital I am not able to say at present. A Bill dealing with the matter will, in all probability, be recommended by the Acting Attorney-General. In addition, a problem which the Minister for Repatriation has been developing foi some considerable time in relation to the building of houses on liberal terms for returned soldiers who are married, or who, after return, will marry, will be brought before the House. These matters, together with the business already on the notice-paper, should take up all the time we can devote to them if honorable members are to get away in sufficient time to enable them to reach their homes in the more remote States before Christmas. I hope that this motion will be agreed to without discussion and unanimously, as an indication to the country that we are prepared to do our job as well as the circumstances of the present time demand that we should.
– I have . no objection to the House meeting on four days a week, but I claim that it will be absolutely impossible to deal with all the matters that are down on the notice-paper for our consideration in the four weeks available to us if honorable members are to leave in time to reach their homes before Christmas. Not one speech, except the Treasurer’s, has been delivered on the Budget, one of the mo3t important matters that can be dealt with by this House, and there has been no discussion on the departmental Estimates. These are two matters to each of which a week could very well be devoted. Then there are three financial proposals on the noticepaper, two of them being interwoven with the Budget, the Land Tax Bill, and the Income Tax Bill. These must be got out of the way. The War Loan Subscriptions Bill may not be a controversial measure, but the proposed amendment to the Repatriation Act will be a mo3t important measure. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked a question this morning about the placing of repatriation on a more business-like basis. We have been informed that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will introduce his Bill in another place, but “we Tia.ve on the notice-paper of this House the following item: -
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Appropriation Bill - Consideration in Committee of the Governor-General’s Message No. 48.
– That is not to be proceeded with. It deals with the appropriation of the bachelor tax, which Ave are not dealing with.
– We may have a word to say on that matter.
– At the right time.
– Yes, at a proper time, and in the country as well as in the House. We may tell the people in the country what the Government have done, and what they have not done.
– I hope that honorable members will say it better in the country than they have in the House. They have not impressed me on that matter.
– That is very likely, but we have said it in one or two places with effect. The Repatriation Bill which is to be introduced in another place must be dealt with. Then there are. two Bills dealing with industrial matters. The Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has given notice of one which will deal with shipbuilding, and go to the very foundation of our industrial conditions. Of course, we do not know the contents of the measure, but from various speeches which have been delivered we have gathered that the Government intend to contract themselves out of the Arbitration Act. It seems as if the Government intend to say to private employers, “You must obey the Arbitration Act, but the Government intend to contract themselves out of it.” There is to be also an amendment of the Arbitration Act, arid we were told in the Ministerial statement that the Government propose to introduce a Bill to put price fixing upon a more permanent basis. The eight or nine Bills I have mentioned, together with the Estimates, will more than keep Parliament occupied if they are to have fair discussion. I offer no objection to Parliament sitting on an extra day each week, but if we do that I think that we should adjourn before 11 or 11.30 at night. Working for such long hours is too strenuous for honorable members, and particularly for Ministers, as they, no doubt, will discover.
.’- I offer no objection to the motion, but I think that the Acting Prime Minister anight have given honorable members a little more notice of it. Many of us will return to other States tonight, and we have made business appointments for Tuesday. To be told to-day, for the first time, that the House is to meet on. Tuesday is altogether too brief a notice. I realize that there is a lot of work to be done, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether this motion is a prelude to giving private members an opportunity of dealing with some of the motions which they have placed upon the notice-paper. I have on the businesspaper a notice of motion dealing with the Constitution, and the Acting Prime Minister, during my absence, promised the honorable member for Illawarra that he would consider the ‘desirability of setting aside one day for its discussion.
– I am still considering it.
– Consideration is the policy of the Government. I say quite candidly that the Government seem to do very little else but consider things. ‘If an honorable member asks a question he is told that some Board has been applied to, that the Board ha3 reported to somebody else, and that the matter is receiving consideration. I am tired of so much consideration, and the only thing that has prevented me from saying so more frankly is the knowledge of the great responsibilities carried on the shoulders of Ministers.
– The honorable member need not abstain on that account. If the honorable member desires to criticise the Government, he ought to do so.
– I know that the war has placed upon the Government responsibilities that we cannot easily measure, and for that reason they are entitled to more consideration than they would receive in ordinary times.
– We have received that consideration, and we acknowledge it.
– That cannot be said by honorable members in regard to the questions they ask concern- ing public business and the interests of their electors. To-day I asked a question about the curtailment of postal facilities, and I received a saucy, impudent reply from the Postmaster-General. Does the Acting Prime Minister indorse that reply? Does he think that postal facilities have not been curtailed?
– Order ! The honorable member is exceeding the scope of the motion.
– The Acting Prime Minister interjected that he does not ask for consideration. The honorable gentleman will have a long reign if he can say to those who, by their voices and votes, support him that he does not require their consideration.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. I said that we had received from honorable members consideration, and acknowledged it, but I hoped that the honorable member would not abstain from criticism if he felt that he ought to make it.
– I shall accept the invitation of the Acting Prime Minister, and next week will give him some of the criticism which I think the Government deserve, but which I have retrained from expressing. The honorable gentleman is now free of the awful burden he has been carrying, and carrying very well, during the time he has been in office, and now that the war is practically ended, a change must come over the spirit of the dream. We must have legislation by Parliament instead of by means of the War Precautions Act, and honorable members must be made responsible instead of power being given to irresponsible Boards. I read in the Age yesterday a truly appalling list of the Boards which are doing the work of this country.
– What is appalling about them ?
– One thing that is appalling to my mind is the enormous expense that they involve. We must try to do something to reduce that expenditure, and allow Parliament to do its duty instead of handing it over to irresponsible men.
– If the honorable member had been in office during the recent critical times he would have appreciated the able assistance of a large number of capable business men, as we have done.
– The only question before the Chair is whether the House shall meet on Tuesday instead of on Wednesday, and the honorable member will not be in order in introducing extraneous subjects.
– ‘Shall I be in order in replying to the Acting Prime Minister?
– No ; interjections are disorderly, and ought not to be replied to.
– The Acting Prime Minister has said that the Government have sought the advice of a lot of business men. We hope that more time will be given to honorable members, so that we may show that the Government were rather dilatory in calling in that assistance, and that, in consequence, some awful messes have been made. I shall not vote against the motion, because I think that we ought to stay here and do our work. But men living in Melbourne ought to give some consideration to honorable members who reside 500 miles away. We ought to meet earlier on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, in order to cope with the work. I am prepared to sit even on Mondays, because it is desirable that we should have more opportunity for bringing about necessary changes in the administration. I am opposed to government being carried on for one day longer under the War Precautions Act, because the legislation and work of the country should be done by the men who are responsible to the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14th November (vide page 7889), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the House ofRepresentatives of the Commonwealth of Australia declares that it is essential to the future safety and welfare of Australia that the captured German possessions in the Pacific, which are now occupied by the Australian and New Zealand troops, should not, in any circumstances, be restored to Germany; and that in the consideration and determination of proposals affecting the destination of these islands Australia should be consulted.
– This motion is of tremendous import to the future of Australia, and I am unable to understand the suggestion of some honorable members that it ought to have been put and carried without debate. I am doubtful whether the time is opportune for such a motion to be submitted. At this period of national excitement and intoxication, we have not the point of view sufficiently clear to enable us to approach these matters with the calm and cold reasoning they deserve, and I am somewhat in doubt as to the reason why the Government have introduced this very important proposal at this juncture. The proposal is one that demands most serious consideration, because it is committing Australia to a policy and an attitude which will mean very much to the economic and political future of the Commonwealth. As far as I could understand from the able speech delivered by the Acting Prime Minister, to which I listened with considerable pleasure, there are only two reasons actuating him in submitting the proposal. He said much about the evils of Germany, its bad conduct and unreliability, all of which seemed to be beside the question, because those things are incontrovertible. Honorable members are in no doubt as to Germany’s misconduct, cruelty, and barbarism, but those things do not constitute a sufficient reason for the introduction of such a motion at this time. Therefore, I was forced to the conclusion that the Government had one of two objects in mind, and I think the first I shall mention is the more reasonable and particular, namely, that the Government think it necessary that the Prime Minister should be fortified in the attitude he is adopting at the present time in Great Britain by a resolution of Parliament bearing on this matter. There was another suggestion in the Acting Prime Minister’s speech, which I regretted to hear, and on reading it in print this morning it seemed even worse than it sounded yesterday.
According to the Age report, the honorable gentleman said -
In no island country where the German flag had flown was there anything in the black heart but hatred for the German ministers. It was the same in Africa. He did not know whether the Opposition would vote for the motion, but any man would find it difficult to stand up and oppose it. The Australian people would want to know what such a man was thinking about in the future.
It was quite gratuitous and unworthy for the Acting Prime Minister to associate in such a direct fashion opposition to German rule, cruelty, and ill-treatment of the native populations with the attitude of the Opposition towards this motion. Honorable members will recollect that I interjected at the time that the motion was a loaded gun aimed at the Opposition in order to try to place us in difficulties. Unfortunately, we have had too much reason to suspect motions such as this when submitted by the Government. Occasionally, at any rate, the Government seem anxious to put us in a wrong light with the public.
– Will the honorable member explain how a motion of this kind could possibly put any loyal subject in a difficulty?
– The suggestion by the Acting Prime Minister was entirely improper.
– There is a psychological time for doing things, and we think this is the time for passing such a motion.
– If this is the psychological time, there was no need for the Prime Minister to make such a reflection upon members of the Opposition, whose attitude would be discovered in good time. The suggestion that we might not votefor the motion, and by voting against it might appear to support the illtreatment of native populations by the Germans, was an unworthy and gratuitous insult to us. I am tired of answering reproaches and questions about my loyalty, and I do not bother about the loyalty or disloyalty of my honorable friends opposite. The Government may rest assured that whatever their virtues may be,’they do not advertise them by proclaiming our vices. If their claim to loyalty depends on their exposure of what they call our disloyalty, they are not on very sound ground. 1 regret that the Acting Prime Minister saw fit to make the reference to which I have taken exception. The acceptance by Australia of additional territory, and the responsibility of controlling native populations, is a matter of so much importance that we should approach its consideration without party feeling. I think that every honorable member, without exception, is actuated by the sincere idea to do the best possible for this country. Whatever may be our personal predilections for other countries, we are all sound Australians, and the future of the Commonwealth is our most intimate and serious concern.
If the motion is designed to support the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the attitude which he is taking in Great Britain, it is understandable. Whether we should agree with that attitude or not is another matter. In May last, when passing through America, Mr. Hughes mads a stirring speech, to which I called attention here on the 11th June. That speech has now come to be known as the “ Hands Off the Pacific “ speech. I do not so much object to the policy therein expressed regarding foreign interference in the Pacific, as to the attitude assumed by the Prime Minister in stating it. I do not object to the doctrine itself, but I object to a member of this Government adopting an attitude obviously embarrassing to the Imperial Government, and I said so in June last. I am so conscious of the tremendous burden of responsibility that the Imperial Government have been carrying during the war, that I think we should give it all the help we can to enable it to bring the struggle to a successful end. Anything that would embarrass or hinder negotiations with our Allies, or retard a successful conclusion of the war, is to be deprecated. Judging by the statements of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, of the Prime Ministers of our Allies, and of the President of the United States, the future control of the Pacific, and the disposal of the captured German Possessions in various parts of the world, is to be considered when the terms of peace come up for discussion. But our Prime Minister, before he could enter the inner Imperial Council to which he was invited, took upon himself to state on behalf of Australia, a definite policy, and adopted an uncompromising attitude in regard to the questions that he was invited to discuss. I submit, as I did in June last, that that ‘attitude was not a fair one for him to take in regard to the Imperial Government, or in regard to the Prime Minister’s confreres in the Imperial Conference.
I have two reasons for supporting the motion, which seem to me all-sufficient. The first is that it should induce the Imperial Government to join with us in repairing the huge and grievous blunder made in 1883, when the Colonial Office refused to ratify the action of Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, then Premier of Queensland, in annexing Papua. Sir Thomas Mcllwraith had information which led him to believe that Germany had designs on that territory, and he determined to forestall a German annexation. But his wise and statesmanlike foresight was not acceptable to the Foreign Office.
– Unless we show a united front, the Imperial Government may not view this matter so seriously as we do.
– I am convinced that the Imperial Government is even better seized of its seriousness than we are, because it takes much wider views concerning not only the future of Australia, but also the future of the chain of communications between the various British Possessions encircling the globe. If, by passing the motion, we assure the Imperial Government that we wish to be intimately associated with them in repairing the blunder that was made some years ago, I am thoroughly in favour of it. Germany will not be a welcome neighbour in any part of the world for many years to come ; she will certainly not be a welcome neighbour in any of the islands near Australia. She has, no doubt, by expelling the Hohenzollern .dynasty, gone a long way towards rehabilitating herself in the good opinion of the nations of the world, but it will take many long years before the German people can convince the other peoples of the world that there is in them a change of heart and policy, as well as a change in the form of government. We shall require practical and incontrovertible evidence of their change of heart. But the change of government that has occurred is the best guarantee for the regeneration of Germany, and we may sincerely hope that she will eventually rehabilitate herself in the esteem of the nations.
– I shouldlike to know what Hindenburg has in his mind.
– I should like to know what a lot of people have in their minds, and, among other things, why the Imperial Government acclaims the fact that a certain section in Germany has overthrown the dynasty and established a government of its own, while it denounces those in Russia, who have done exactly the same thing.
– The Germans are not murdering the middle classes.
– I do not justify the atrocities of the Russian revolution, just as I could not justify the terrors of the French revolution. Nothing can justify such excesses. But they are merely incidental to the achievement of high principles. In Russia, Germany, and Austria we have to-day government by the people.
– Does the honorable member say that the end justifies the means?
– No. I regret the means, but I am entirely in sympathy with the end. I think that Germany has now started along the road to a position where she may associate with the free, liberty-loving nations of the world. While the Hohenzollerns were in power she had no hope of occupying that position. I wonder whether we shall be ready to receive the evidence of her change of mind when the German people are ready to exhibit it - the evidence of a genuine love of liberty and of a desire to live in economic industrial and political association with the nations of the world?
– The change is very sudden.
– Yes ; but it took time for our nation to reach the point that it has reached, and we have not yet worked out our full salvation. For that reason we should give sympathetic consideration to those who are on their way towards the position we have attained. When Mr. Speaker this morning prayed for the forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others, I could not help thinking that if we are to be forgiven only as we are prepared to forgive Germany, the forgiveness that we shall receive will not be of much account. I declare myself ready, so soon as Germany gives evidence of a change of heart, to concede her whatever consideration may bepossible equally with other nations,butuntil we have that evidence she must understand clearly and distinctly that her company is not seriously wanted.
– Are not those sentiments the sentiments of the British nation generally ?
– I think so; but they are not the sentiments of the British Government. I indulge the fervent hope that the people of the United Kingdom may have a “ say “ in these matters before long. Perhaps the general election which is foreshadowed may bring about such a change in the attitude of the Government that Great Britain will become much more nearly a Democracy than she has been hitherto.
Another reason why I support the motion is that it declares that in the consideration and determination of proposals affecting the destination of these islands Australia should be consulted. I hold that Australia should be consulted in every matter in which its interests are so directly concerned as they are in the determination and final disposal of the Pacific Possessions lately held by Germany, and now under the control of Australian, New Zealand, and Allied Forces. We have made great progress of recent years in this direction. At one time the wishes and desires of Australia were not thought worthy of consideration, but since 1907 various Imperial Conferences have brought us much nearer to a close and intimate partnership with the rest of the Empire in regard to matters of mutual concern and interest. We are now practically taken into the consultations of the
Imperial Government in all these matters of general concern. When our representatives returned from the last Imperial Conference, we had given to us the statement that the British Government had been absolutely frank and open in discussing with them matters of Imperial concern. That is of great importance to us, since, if Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the other Dominions are expected to stand in with the Imperial authorities, in war and peace, it must be recognised that responsibilities must include privileges. “If we are to have burdens imposed upon us because of the Empire’s responsibilities, then it follows - and it is well that this has been recognised - that we should be taken into consultation in the determination of how those burdens may be best arranged and borne.
– The honorable member must admit that, on the whole, the British Government have treated us well.
– That is a remark that I have to make later on. In the early days of the war, the clear statement was made by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), “The Empire is at war; we therefore are at war.” That is the attitude which has been adopted right through the conflict. We recognised that the Empire was in danger, and we, as a part of the Empire, loyally and enthusiastically accepted our full share of the responsibility. If that is to be the accepted doctrine - and I am prepared to accept it-
– It is the doctrine of self-preservation.
– Not at all. It is the doctrine of partnership, mutual interest, mutual concern, and association. I support it, and I hope that it is something more than the doctrine of selfpreservation. I hope that we are in the British Empire, and willing to accept our responsibilities as a part of that Empire from a much higher motive than the desire” to save our own skins and to secure an advantage to ourselves. Surely there is something higher and better than that in our association with the Empire.
If we accept the doctrine that “ The Empire at war, we are at war “ ; that the
Empire’s concerns are our concerns; that an injury to one is an injury to all, then the perfectly logical and reasonable concomitant is that the Imperial Government should take the Dominions into their innermost consultations and considerations. Obviously, these things can be done only when we have the fullest confidence in each other, and are prepared to associate to the fullest extent. I do not think we have anything to complain of now in regard to the Imperial authorities taking Australia into consultation. The Imperial Government, of recent years particularly, have evinced a desire to give full consideration to the point of view of the Dominions. This shows that we are approaching, in a far more real fashion than ever before, the absolute unity of the British Empire. If we can establish such a unity of ideas and association of interests in the British Empire, we may be able some day to extend it, and to make the League of Nations now suggested a real, practical, satisfactory entity. The Imperial Government today stand in a different relationship towards the Dominions than ever they did before. I am so anxious to preserve that good feeling which has been engendered, and has drawn us so closely together during this war, that I regret that there should be anything said, either on behalf, or apparently on behalf, of Australia to cause any danger of disruption. The two reasons I have suggested - that this will give us an opportunity to repair the blunder of 3883, and that it means that Australia only expresses the wish that she shall be consulted in regard to all these matters - will induce me to vote for this motion in the most whole-hearted manner. I wish to point out, however, how these matters develop our association. The Imperial attitude in regard to this war has been one that from the very beginning I have most heartily approved. I expressed myself at the beginning of the war as being in entire accord with the attitude adopted by the British Government, and- 1 believe in that attitude today as strongly as I did then. I believe that Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey stated the British reasons for entering the war in terms that could not but commend them to every right-thinking member of the community. The Imperial attitude throughout has left little ground for equivocation, unless it be in respect of a few unfortunate instances. The one thing that has been stated clearly from the beginning to the end is that, whatever our war aims were, territorial acquisition was not one of them ; that we were not in this war to secure territory, or for anything that we could get out of it. It has been also stated, with equal emphasis, that we were not in the war beeause of any hatred or opposition to the German people. I have here one or two extracts from statements on the subject made by leading British statesmen - by such men as Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith, and Lord Bryce. Each and all of them have said that our reasons for entering the war did not include any specific objections or opposition to the people of Germany. Our objections were only to the system that the Germans, unfortunately for themselves, supported. Mr. Asquith said -
We intend to establish the principle that international problems must be handled by free negotiations, on equal terms, between free peoples, unhampered and unswayed by the overmastering dictation of a Government controlled by a military caste. That is what I mean by the destruction of Prussian militarism - nothing more and nothing less. We are in this struggle as the champions, not only of treaty rights, but of independent States, and the free development of the weaker countries.
Lord Bryce said -
We do not hate the German people, and do not wish to break up Germany or destroy her national unity or inflict permanent injury upon her. We desire to exorcise an evil spirit and discredit a military caste which delights in war and threatens not only Europe but all countries, America included. Nothing but defeat can destroy its prestige and deliver the German people from that yoke.
Mr. Lloyd George was reported to have said in 1916 -
The Allies entered this war to defend Europe against the aggression of Prussian military domination, and, having begun it, must insist that the only end is the most complete and effective guarantee against the possibility of that caste ever again disturbing the peace of Europe.
In January of this year he used these words -
We are not fighting a war of aggression against the German people. . . The de struction or disruption of Germany or the German people has never been a war aim with us from the first day of this war to thiB day. . . We have never aimed at the break-up of the German peoples or the disintegration of their state or country.
I need make no further quotations. Honorable members are as well aware as I am of these clear and explicit statements by British statesmen - statements that we were not out to break up the German people or to take from them their territory, but only to enable them to rid themselves of that Prussian militarism’ that was equally destructive of them as it was of the peace of the world generally. Mr. Lloyd George, who has recently made a number of speeches in regard to the war, has been most explicit in his references to the German possessions in the Pacific. In a speech made by him on 5th January of this yearhe said -
With regard to the German colonies, I have repeatedly declared that they are held at the disposal of a conference whose decision must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants of such colonies. None of those territories are inhabited by Europeans. The governing consideration, therefore, in all these cases must be that the inhabitants should be placed under tbe control of an administration, acceptable to themselves, one of whose main principles will be to prevent their exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or Governments.
Honorable members are familiar with the terms of that speech. The Imperial Government having declared on 5th January last, and President Wilson having two days later supported and amplified the statement that the captured German territory must be a matter for consideration at the Peace table, I think it is most unfortunate that we should now be doing anything that might either embarrass the British Government or cause any dislocation of the peace negotiations. We know that the Germans have stated over and over again - and we can understand their reasons - that the retention of their colonies was an absolute essential to their continued existence.
– It was the Kaiser and his crew who made that statement.
– The old regime.
– I am aware of that, but let us be fair. We know how absolutely essential it is, and must be, to every big nation to have oversea colonies. In the case of Germany it was absolutely necessary to her economic development not only that she might secure supplies of raw materials necessary for her industries, but that she might find new markets for her manufactures. We are therefore faced with the proposition that at the Peace table the question of the future of the captured German Possessions must come up for consideration. Are we to approach the Peace table with demands or are we prepared to consider the future of our own nation only to ‘the absolute exclusion of the interests of other people? I do not know that we can cavil because it is probable that no direct Australian representative may be at the Peace table. I have the fullest confidence that the Imperial authorities are so desirous of meeting the wishes of the Dominions, and so anxious to show their appreciation of our services during the war, that our interests will be sufficiently well protected by them. I cannot conceive why the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes^ should be complaining, as he is doing, that he was not consulted in regard to the armistice, and that he may not be consulted in regard to the peace terms. The Imperial Government War Cabinet has held a number of sittings at which he and the representatives of the other Dominions have been present. The Imperial authorities are quite cognisant of our wishes in regard to quite a number of matters, so far as Germany and other enemy Powers are concerned, and there is ho doubt as to our wishes in regard to the German Possessions in the Pacific. Therefore, I think that, if we, by this motion, were to convey the impression that we insisted on a certain thing, eitherby direct representatives at the Peace table, or by indirect instructions, so far as we might be able to give them, at an Imperial Conference, we would only court trouble, and delay negotiations in a way that might perhaps result in an unsatisfactory settlement. If Australia claims direct representation at the Peace table - or if it had claimed direct representation in regard to the armistice, in regard to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) complains - we must admit that all the other Dominions, not only of the British Em pire, but of all the Allied Powers, have an equal right.
– This motion has nothing to do with our asking for representation at the Peace table.
– No; but if the honorable member had heard the whole of my argument, which I am trying to put in sequence, he would have heard me urge that the reason for the introduction of this motion, particularly at this juncture, can only be because the Government think it necessary to fortify the Prime Minister in England by an expression of opinion from this House. I do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is really representing the attitude of Australia in his statements at the present time. Why, he is ‘even threatening the Imperial Government, in telling them that they will have to use force against Australia if they wish to adopt certain proposals.
– Will not this motion show the real will of the people of Australia?
-lIt will show the opinion of the people in Australia in regard to German Possessions in the Pacific, so long as it is not interpreted to mean that we. approve of all that our Prime Minister is saying and doing in the Mother Country.
– How could it? The motion speaks for itself.
– The motion says, in specific terms, that the captured Possessions held by the New Zealand and Australian troops shall not be returned to Germany, and that Australia shall be consulted in regard to certain matters. Australia is being consulted, and has been consulted; and we do not wish the Prime Minister or the Imperial Government to interpret this motion as ah indication of a “stand and deliver” attitude.
– It says no more than what Mr. Balfour said must certainly be done.
- Mr. Balfour said that these Possessions would not, under any circumstances, be returned to Germany, and I am not quarrelling about that; I am not even suggesting that they should be returned. My whole argument is that, as Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson have said, these are matters for determination by the Conference.
– If we consider we have rights, we should make our wishes known.
– It is not a matter of rights ; we have no rights in the matter, though wehave privileges and responsibilities.
– Mr. Balfour’s statement unmistakably implies rights.
– No; it implies that there will be some consideration given to the Dominions for the services they have rendered. I hope that honorable members are not indulging in the hope, or suggestion, that the German Possessions, say, for instance, New Guinea, shall be given over to Australia as a quid pro quo. for our services in the war.
– That has never been suggested.
– It seems to be suggested, though I hope that is not the idea. I would not, support the motion for a moment if it meant that we were to accept these Possessions as a share of the proceeds of the war.
– The motion does not say anything about that.
– It does not; but some things have been said during the debate implying an idea of the kind.
– Why should Mr. Lloyd George, or Mr. Balfour, or any others, construe this motion differently from the way in which you construe it?
– I am not putting that construction on the motion.
– Then, why should they? The motion is plain enough.
– I am sorry that I find myself unable to make myself understood by the honorable member.
– Itis a question of our own safety.
– But the danger is that there are not only the German Possessions in the Pacific, but also Possessions in other parts of the world that are of immense importance to the future safety and security of the British Empire. And it is not only the British Empire we have to consider; we have to think of French interests - of the security and safety of the French nation in the future. We have to think of all those nations who stood by us so splendidly, and with whom we have been in such close association during the last four years. All those interests have to be considered, and the discussion approached from no preconceived rigid point of- view, but with an open mind and a desire to achieve a satisfactory and mutually helpful result. But if we support the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his demand, and in his emphatic attitude, it will not help the British representatives or the representatives of other nations to approach the problem from the point of view that I think is necessary.
– The motion is specific.
– That is so.
– It does not say anything about the Prime Minister.
– Of course not; I do not think the Government would be so utterly foolish as to submit a motion of this sort for the support of the Prime Minister, and say so. But there is noother reason for the introduction of this motion just now.
– Why import your personal hatred into this debate?
– I have no personal hatred of the Prime Minister.
– As a matter of fact a similar motion was carried in the Senate a long time ago.
– I have no personal hatred of any member ; I may have political animosity, but that does not blind me to personal respect and esteem. No honorable member opposite has ever had reason to say for asingle moment that I have associated my personal feelings with my political feelings.
Our interests in the Pacific are bound to increase as the years go by. It is essential, and certainly most useful in our interests, that we should have direct association with those other nations that have equally important interests in the Pacific. For instance, I think that New Zealand is even more closely associated with us than hitherto in Pacific matters. New Zealand was invited to join with us in an Australasian, rather than an Aus- tralian, naval policy, but at that time she was not prepared to sacrifice what she regarded as her individual interests, and merge them in the interests of Australia. It i3 to be hoped that New Zealand has had a vision of what the future may mean, not to us and to themselves alone, but to them and us in association with other parts of the Empire, and also with the United States, with whom I hope we all desire to perpetuate the most kindly and fraternal relations. If this war has brought British peoples together - has brought the English-speaking peoples together - it may prove a very useful and satisfactory event.
When we think of the interests that New Zealand has in the Pacific - the rights that have to be protected and the work of development that has to be undertakenand of our own and American interests there, is it not clear that negotiations either direct, or through the Imperial authorities, ought to be opened with a view to a combination, not only for defence, but for developmental purposes ?
But there is another nation interested in the Pacific. The captured German Possessions north of the Equator are at present held by an Allied power, but only temporarily. The ultimate destination of these Possessions has also to be determined at the Peace Conference; and we have to consider how our associations with New Zealand, the United States, Japan, and to a certain extent also with Prance, are to be so arranged that the future will hold for all of us that security and safety which we are told forms the reason for the submission of the motion. The safety and security of the Commonwealth is the primary consideration of every honorable member, and we desire to develop this country on the best and highest lines. If we insure this, not by ourselves alone, but in association with other equally interested nations, we shall secure freedom from war and international trouble for the southern seas.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be wise to make our cry heard now instead of waiting until we are hurt?
– I am not crying out.
– Unfortunately, you are not.
– The whole of my argument is that we shall try to establish such a combination of equally interested peoples as will guarantee the security and safety not only of the places specified in the motion, but also of the whole range of the Pacific.
– How can. it be done in the Pacific while the rest of the world is left untouched 1
– Our primary interests ‘are in the Pacific. It is our business to look after our own affairs first and give them our principal concern, leaving our friends in other parts of the world to concern themselves with matters in which they are as interested as we are in regard to these Pacific territories.
An>ther country with which we some time ago thought to have very intimate associations is Canada. It is also directly interested in Pacific affairs. I hope that the policy of the Commonwealth Government will be to secure a combination of mutual interests that will guarantee the security and peace which we all desire. There are some places in the Pacific that are liable to cause trouble. It is time Fiji was taken under the control of either Australia or New Zealand The condition of affairs there is a scandal to the British Government, and if we are not very careful it may at any time bring about trouble between Australia and India. Honorable members are to some extent well aware of what is happening in Fiji.
– Have not the conditions of the coolies been improved ?
– They are satisfactory now.
– They are not at all satisfactory. The Indian Government has expressed itself in very clear and unmistakable language’ in regard to the situation there. Yesterday I had hoped to read some quotations concerning matters that Li.ve come under my notice, which are very startling. My object is to avoid trouble, and if necessary I would be prepared to see Australia and ‘India associated in regard to the Pacific, although
India may not be directly interested in it.
If the taking over of New Guinea is to be Australia’s share of the responsibility, I am prepared to accept it. not as a reward for the share we have taken in the war, not even as our share of the distribution of the results of the war, but as our share of the burden of Empire, and in order to guarantee in association with other countries the peace and security of the Pacific Ocean. We ought to assure the Mother Country that we would endeavour to do our duty in these places in accordance with the highest ideals of British justice and liberty. That is how I would approach the matter. Australia already has more land than we know what to do with, and if we appear anxious to grab these Pacific possessions from the territory point of view, seeing that with our population of 5,000,000 people, we already hold a continent, we may lay ourselves open to objections from other countries.
– The suggestion has never been put forward.
– For years we have been threatened with an invasion of our “ empty North,” If a country with such empty spaces, which its people cannot effectively occupy, is willing to undertake responsibilities in regard to added territory, objections will certainly be. raised by other countries, but they will vanish if we consider that certain islands and territory in the Pacific previously occupied by Germany should be controlled by Pacific countries directly associated with them, whose trading relations and interests in these possessions are paramount to the mere commercial interests of a foreign country. For these reasons, if the Imperial Government .at the Peace table should determine to ask Australia to take control of New Guinea or any other part of the Pacific, we should give the proposal our most sympathetic consideration with a view to taking our share of the burden of Empire - the white man’s burden of looking after the natives of these islands, so that they may be used to their own advantage and not to our regret.
– The other day the honorable member was> complaining about occurrences - in Fiji, where some of the burden has been shouldered.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. My complaint about Fiji is that there has been no shouldering of the burden. I am urging that some one should accept the burden and control Fiji in order to get rid of the troubles that unfortunately exist there at the present time, due to the fact that Fiji is a Crown Colony, and is not under the direct administration of people who are intimately associated with it, such as are the people of Australia and New Zealand.. If Australia or New Zealand had- control of Fiji the scandals that have occurred there would not continue. It is because I am anxious that all these outposts of the Empire should be under the direct administration of the people who are most intimately concerned in them that I am prepared to say that if the Peace Conference should ask Australia to take charge of New Guinea, Fiji, or any other place in association with the United States of America, Canada, or- New Zealand, in order to guarantee the safety and security of the Pacific, I would be prepared to accept the trust imposed upon us.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has given us a speech which is at once moderate, practical, and instructive, and I am glad to be able to congratulate him on the fact that he has also been able to put such an immense distance between himself and some honorable members upon his side of the House, who appear to be desirous of achieving the distinction of being friends of every country but their own. The honorable member has been quite orthodox in his attitude towards Germany, and in only one small respect can any objection be taken to the position he has assumed in that regard. He has quoted to us - probably his national training led him in that direction - the very highest Authority we have in regard to forgiveness of those who trespass against us. I remind the honorable member that the same Authority has indicated very plainly that He cannot forgive unless forgiveness is first asked. When the German people show signs of regret for the course they have taken, when they give us an indication of their desire to make amends as far as practicable, and when they ask for forgiveness, I feel sure the British nation as a whole will not withstand such an appeal.
– I can imagine Dr. Liebknecht coming to the honorable member for forgiveness.
– I harbour no illfeeling against any person, not even against the honorable member, in a political sense, although in many respects he does outrage some of my most cherished convictions. When he tells us that we may take the Germans straightway to our bosoms he is ‘ evincing a generosity for which he surely does not wish us to give him credit. If I understand his attitude aright in regard to some other peoples of the world, it is one of absolute unforgiveness under any conditions. He has shown that to be his attitude ever since he has entered the House. The .honorable member may be reminded of a saying of a man whom, I feel sure, he holds in very high regard. O’Connell, the Irish Liberator, said -
Shame be to the man who deceives me once; but shame be to me if I let that man deceive me twice.
That is not only a prudent ‘ attitude to take up towards a person who has done one an injury, it is also necessary towards a nation which has done another an injury. While we are prepared to forgive the people of Germany if they come to us in a proper spirit and ask for forgiveness, we must make ourselves secure against the possibility of their relapsing at some future time into their evil ways. That is only a. commonsense precaution, and it is for these reasons that we have the motion put forward by the Government, and honorable members as a whole deem it to be their duty to support it.
When one comes to the attitude of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) towards the motion, one is forced to the conclusion - it is the only charitable conclusion to adopt - that he is suffering from an intellectual disease. It is one which can be accurately diagnosed and traced. It is the result of browsing on the poisonous products of . certain addle-pated theorists, mostly of German origin, who, when war was declared, took the earliest opportunity of showing that they themselves disbelieved in their own theories. There is only one remedy that I can suggest for the honorable member, but it is too drastic to be applied to any one. Australia and the honorable member’s kith and kin have been saved its infliction by that very Imperialism, with its policy of conscription, which the honorable member has denounced. The remedy is a taste of the German fiendishness that has been perpetrated on other countries by that very German working class which, in German uniforms, has devastated Belgium.
– If I have not had the opportunity of tasting it, some of my countrymen have.
– In . other countries, up to the commencement of the war, many men such as the honorable member believed in the German Socialist movement and the German working classes.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m..
– I was about to remark that there were in other Parliaments when the war broke out, especially in that of Belgium, many members holding ideas quite similar to those expressed by the honorable member for Barrier - men who. had been fed for many years on a diet of German internationalism and class war until they were unable to see the ordinary affairs of life other than in relation to those two doctrines. For some years before the war those members of the Belgian Parliament had had dinned into their ears by military authorities and others the imminent danger to Belgium from Germany. They had been told of the steps Germany was taking to desolate their country with overwhelming armies. Their attention was directed to elaborate and extensive railway systems, with equipment for the transport of large bodies of troops to the Belgian frontier at places where there, was no justification other than a military one for such works. They were reminded of the necessity for keeping their armies and their defences in the highest state of efficiency, but, obsessed with ideas imbibed from German sources, they believed that the .proletariat of Germany, their “comrades” of the working, class in that country, would prevent any such dangers coming upon their nation. The result was that when Germany precipitated her armies on Belgium the country was quite unprepared to resist. The soldiers were few in number, poorly armed, and the fortifications were defective. Did the German working-class soldiers show any compunction about invading that defenceless and innocent country; did they refuse to wear .the garlands of flowers thrown on them as they left Berlin on their way to Belgium; did they refrain from singing ”. Deutschland fiber alles “ ; or did they make any attempt to be loyal to their own economic and political doctrines?
– Does not the honorable member know that there was a stringent censorship in Germany, as in other countries?
– I am quite aware of that, but I have yet to learn that the masses of the German people took any steps in the direction of thwarting their military masters in regard to this unjustifiable war. Moreover, I am quite sure that if the war had ended in their favour, we should have heard nothing whatever from the German working classes, or any other section of the German people, of regret for the course they had taken. I have read of only one solitary instance of a German soldier showing any unwillingness to carry out some of the duties that were performed by that army in Belgium, and, singularly enough, he was a Prussian officer, who, rather than execute some innocent Belgian citizens, shot himself.
Consider now the position of those Belgian Internationalists, betrayed by their own comrades in Germany, who gave them no hint of the danger that so imminently threatened their country. When the horrors of war desolated Belgium, when innocent civilians were being murdered ‘ wholesale, and other abominable and unnameable horrors were being perpetrated, to their everlasting credit the Internationalist- Socialists of Belgium took the only honorable course that was open to them. Those of them who were able to bear arms seized rifles, and ‘ in the thick of the fight, many of them paid the supreme penalty for the mistake they made in trusting the German working classes, and unwittingly playing into the hands of their treacherous enemies.
I am very pleased to support this motion for many reasons. I believe. that it is a timely and necessary one. But I am not influenced by .one of the reasons which was mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), namely, that it will strengthen the hands of Mr. Hughes in London. It appears to me much more necessary to close his mouth, if we can manage to do that for any length of time. When the honorable gentleman went away, I was very apprehensive as to the course he would pursue, and I think every honorable member who has watched his doings 9ince he left these shores will realize that he has done a vast amount of harm to the interests of Australia. His first exploit was to address a meeting in the United States, at which, as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) indicated, he talked very loudly about a “ Monroe doctrine for the Pacific.” He did not explain what he meant by that doctrine, and nobody who understands what the Monroe doctrine is has the slightest idea yet what the honorable gentleman meant. In America the Monroe doctrine is practically an intimation that America will-not tolerate any country whatever, other than those in possession, attempting to acquire a single rood of soil in North or South America. It means practically “hands off” to all the .nations of the world as regards the acquisition of American territory. But the doctrine is totally inapplicable to the Pacific. In or bordering on the Pacific are not only British interests, but French, American, Dutch, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. Therefore, to talk about a Monroe doctrine for the Pacific is absolute nonsense. But it sounded imposing, and as the honorable gentleman is more concerned with sound than with common sense, he let the statement go for what it was worth, assuming, probably, that it would attract some attention in America. Then, after he arrived in Britain, he plunged into the internal politics of that country, and he has created a considerable amount of resentment oh that account. I know it is said that the resentment is only felt and expressed in Free Trade quarters, but that is not so. I have in my possession a letter from a gentleman prominent in England in matters of Tariff reform, and he expresses regret that Mr. Hughes has made such an untimely fuss about these matters, and indicates his opinion that our Prime Minister has, by his interference, done that cause more harm than good. According to the press, the Prime Minister has insinuated that “ the White Australia “ is in danger, a totally unjustifiable suggestion, so far- as I am able to see; and in the later cables we are given to understand that he has practically accused the Prime Minister of Great Britain of lying. Then we find him demanding, in the most hysterical fashion, that an economic war should be waged against Germany. Yet this is the same gentleman who declared a few months ago in this chamber that he would be no party to a ruthless policy towards Germany as a nation. I regret very much that Mr. Hughes has not shown more discretion in regard to this and other matters, and 1 would very much have preferred that the affairs of Australia, at the present time, should have been in the’ hands of a gentleman of. moderation and urbanity, like the present High Commissioner.
I support this motion for one- reason, amongst others, and that is a very strong one.. It is the absolute necessity at the present juncture, with Mr. Hughes clamouring for admission to the conferences of the Allies, and in the face of bis other unwise actions, for this Parliament, as representative of the people of Australia, to indicate to the Imperial authorities and to the leaders of the Allies, our opinion- and conviction concerning these matters independently of Mr. Hughes. I am afraid that those who come into contact with Mr. Hughes abroad are being forced to the conclusion that he cannot be taken very “seriously, regarding the politics of the Empire. The matters dealt with in this motion are of very great moment to Australia. I am glad to know that this Parliament will carry the motion practically unanimously, and thereby give a clear indication to the Allies and the Empire of the wishes of the people of Australia, an indication that, I believe, will carry the greatest possible weight.
I was sorry to hear during the debate certain observations about the criminal folly of the Imperial authorities in the past in connexion with these islands. I do not defend the Colonial Office or those of our . Imperial statesmen who have shown regrettable lack of knowledge and of courage in dealing with the larger matters pertaining to the Empire, for which we have suffered in many ways, and particularly during the present war; but I remind honorable members that while we may feel that the Imperial authorities ought years ago to have shown more foresight by acquiring possession and control of many of the islands of the Pacific, we fail to realize that the Imperial Government was then staggering under a heavy burden of re- sponsibility which Australia, refused to help to carry. The whole blame for what happened cannot be put on the Old Country. Had Australia in ‘ those times offered to bear its. share of responsibility, the position might have been different. As a loyal son of the Empire, it is gratifying to me to know that Australia is at last in many (regards making an attempt to live up to her responsibilities, as indeed this motion indicates. Its discussion, however, has brought out certain suggestions which I strongly deprecate. There has been talk of obtaining an indemnity for this country. We have a tendency, like chanticleer, to fly to the highest point of the landscape, flap our wings, and proclaim our sublime satisfaction with ourselves. There is danger in our present elevated state of mind, that we may crow a little louder than is prudent. Remembering that- neither martyred Servia nor Belgium has yet made a specific claim for an indemnity, it is ridiculous for Australia, which has * suffered less financial loss than perhaps any other country connected with the war, to clamour for one at this time. As a chastening reminder I wish to read a piece of information sent to me by a gentleman who vouches for its. accuracy -
One of the largest ink manufacturers in Australia recently obtained permission to_ import material for “ the makins; ‘ of yellow ink for printing purposes, and then wrote to his correspondent in the United States asking him to send 12 tons of ochre. The return mail brought, not the expected advice of shipment, but the curt intimation that the order could not be filled, because the manufacturer with whom the Australian merchant had dealt for years, declined to continue to do business with a country which had turned down conscription.
May I suggest that this is a hint to us that we should be less vainglorious in our attitude in connexion with the settlement of the war ?
– America took three years to come into the war.
– I am not making any comparison between Australia and America. Our record is probably as creditable as that of the “United States. But neither our Prime Minister in Great Britain, nor we here, should fail to realize that Australia is the one country participating in the war that did not resolve to throw every available man into the struggle.
– She did better than Canada.
– I repeat that I am not making any comparisons; I am merely suggesting the position as it may appear to the outside world. When we read a proposal in the daily press that Australia should send a testimonial to Marshal Foch, or, in other words, that we should pat him on the back and say, “Here, old man, is a tip for your services,” it is time to make an earnest protest against suggestions that make us ridiculous in the eyes of the world. There is plenty of good, solid work for us to do. Our soldiers have achieved a record of which we have every reason to be proud. We owe it to them and to the country that we shall approach our responsibilities soberly and earnestly. I trust that the motion will be carried, and I shall have much pleasure in supporting it.
– I am glad that the Government has taken a different course in regard to the motion from that first suggested, when, by interjection, I said that it looked like a trap.
Had the Standing ‘ Orders been strictly enforced, only the leaders on each side would have had an opportunity to express their views. Now that honorable members generally have the opportunity to speak, I wish to state my reasons for the vote that I shall give. .1 heartily support the motion, and I shall show to my friends inside and outside the House who do not agree with me why I take this attitude. I have studied the position of the Pacific Islands for a longer time than most honorable members, and have always believed that Australia and Great Britain should assert the “ Hands off the Pacific” doctrine. It is the duty of this Parliament to look beneath the surface of things, and to make provision for the protection of the future generations which will occupy this soil. If Germany gets back her Pacific Island Possessions, she may, twenty-five or fifty years hence, again make them a menace to the commerce of the Pacific and to Australia. The advance of science, and the improvement of mechanical appliances have made ocean distances of small moment. Transit between land and land is quickly effected by steamer, and we may before long have air and submarine services as well. Therefore, we should not let slip the opportunity to get absolute control of the islands of the Pacific. I remember when Heligoland was handed over to Germany by Great Britain. Many Radicals and Radical journals of that day - some members of my own family were among them - strongly opposed the giving of that island to Germany, but the influence of Queen Victoria and of Germany was too strong for them. To appease the British public, it was stated that Heligoland was being gradually washed’ away by the treacherous North Sea, and that the island would eventually disappear under the waves. But. the German people brought their scientific knowledge to bear, and by the use of mechanical appliances, constructed breakwaters which have preserved the island from destruction. They have there ‘to-day one of the finest harbors in the North “Sea for a fleet. I have referred to this matter only to show how unwise it is not to retain even a small possession that might ultimately prove of value to the nation. Had British guns alone been mounted on Heligoland, it is quite possible that the war would have terminated sooner than it did.
Some of my friends outside may think that since I intend to vote for this motion I am becoming an Imperialist. I would point out, however, that this does not touch the question of Imperialism. Imperialism has to do with government, and some of the most pronounced Imperialists would take from Australia some -of its most cherished rights of self-government. This island question has nothing to do with the principle of self-government. In this instance we are merely expressing the view that we should be allowed to retain our hold upon these islands, and thus prevent them from becoming enemy storehouses of destruction. I would rather that they should be white elephants in our hands than storehouses of destruction in the hands of an enemy. I am giving expression to my views on this question to-day, because I recognise that if we do retain possession of these islands, they are not likely to become self-supporting for some time, and that in all probability claims in respect of them will be made upon our revenue. There is a possibility of our having increased demands made upon us in connexion with the government of Papua, and I want to place on record the fact’ that in passing this resolution we did not lose sight of economic questions affecting these islands.
This is by no means a new question. I remember attending with the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) a Trade Union Congress held in Melbourne in 1885, one of the questions before which was the desirableness of urging the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to send an ambassador to France with the object of inducing the French Government to hand over New Caledonia to the eastern States. At that time New Caledonia was- a possible menace to Australia, since the French Government, with the aid of a firm of Scottish bankers, wa9 sending there recidivists, a class, of criminals who were likely to prove most objectionable settlers among a free people. Had we secured possession of New Caledonia at that time, we should have done much better with its mineral deposits than France has done. I am proud of what the British have done as colonists. The British are undoubtedly the best colonizing people in the world. Britain’s success in colonizing has been largely due to the care which she exercises in preventing any cruelty to the natives, and in securing the observance of humanitarian considerations. With the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), 1 visited Papua some time ago, and what we saw there convinced us” that there was nothing to be ashamed of in our management of the Territory. Those who take charge of these captured German Possessions, if we are permitted to retain and hold them, will be guided by the’ same ideals of civilization that have influenced those charged with the administration of Papua.
It is not set out in this motion that, in the opinion of this House, there should be no joint control -of these islands. I think, however, that such an expression of opinion should appear in it. Some time ago I set out on a visit to the New Hebrides, but I had only reached Norfolk Island when the war broke out, and I could go no further. I was endeavouring to fulfil a promise to several Sydney friends interested in the New Hebrides that I would visit those islands to see for myself whether the joint control of them had failed, as they declared it had. I was assured by them that the New Hebrides would have been much better managed had they been under the sole control of the British. I sincerely hope that the idea of a joint control of these islands will not be entertained at the Peace Conference. The carrying out of this’ resolution will be beneficial, to the natives of the islands involved, and I believe that if they were consulted, they would desire to have the control of the islands vested in the Commonwealth.
Having regard to clause 5 of President Wilson’s peace proposals, I am convinced that he had availed himself of an opportunity to examine the principles of the Australian Labour party before he drew up that statement. I know that the programme and various manifestoes of the Labour party have reached him. I have brothers and sisters in the United States of America, and at their request since my return to this Parliament I have sent them much literature and information concerning the Labour movement in Australia. It is evident that President Wilson., when he drew up his fourteen articles, was familiar with the great principles laid down by the Australian Labour party in the peace proposals of the New South Wales Labour Conference. In any event, it is evident that great minds think alike. I feel it is the duty of honorable members, and “more particularly of the Opposition, to voice their views on this question, and so to satisfy those whom they represent of the wisdom of their reasons for supporting this motion. Ministerial supporters have not that freedom that we enjoy. We are free to discuss a subject of this kind at length, but they no doubt are being held back. I have only touched the fringe of this question, but time will not permit of my going into it in detail. There are many other good reasons why we should- retain these islands. It must be apparent to all who have taken any interest in the subject that, in this Greater Britain of the southern seas, there is going to be a large population.At present we are, as it were, only a few birds of passage; but the advertisement which the war has given this country will attract millions from both Europe and America. In. this regard, I have information more than is to be gathered from the newspapers. All my friendships in England were not broken when I came to Australia. My family was a large one, and many of us - who were discontented with conditions in the Old Country - have made homes in other parts of the world; and, from relatives and friends, I gather that there is for Australia a future that very few are able to realize. Of course, by then I shall be under the cold sod, and I do not know whether there will be anybody left to plant a daisy over me; after all, whether or not one is a public man, we pass away like flies, and are forgotten. However, there will be the records of Parliament to show that at least some members were satisfied as to the grave importance of the step we are taking to-day. The responsibility for that step we are willing to shoulder, because we believe that we are acting in the best interests of those who will come after us. I am glad, too, that there has been no attempt on the part of the Government to restrict debate, for any infringement of the rights and privileges of the people will call forth protests from me so long as I have any vigour of body and mind left. The motion has been, debated in a manner worthy of the traditions of the Australian Parliament; and however disagreeable it may be to some honorable members to be detained here this afternoon, they , will find that the time is not ill-spent, even though the speaker may be the humble member for East Sydney. The British race, with all its faults, is the race to undertake the development of such possessions; and it is not so much the flag as the sentiment that underlies it that counts. I believe that the opinions I have expressed are those of the people I represent, and that the history we are making now will be read with deep interest and satisfaction by future generations. It pleases some people to attempt to cast ridicule on Hansard, but I feel convinced that those who come after us will read the pages of that publication and approve of the sentiments therein expressed in favour of this motion. I trust that our action to-day will result in preventing any race but the British from having control of the islands in the Pacific.
– I regret that this motion, couched in terms so obviously in the interests of Australia, should have been the subject of any debate. I should have been glad, indeed, to refrain from speaking had other honorable members been of the same mind, because the speech made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) covered the whole position. It is reasonable that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) should also have spoken,’ and this would have been sufficient to give complete expression of the opinion of this Chamber. There is no question that should have been more of a non-party character and accepted as such; and the introduction of such expressions as we have heard from some honorable- members opposite is the cause of much regret and disappointment to many. If the motion had been accepted in a proper spirit as indicating the will of Australia, we should not have had such criticism and suggestions as that it is launched inopportunely and as a trap - we should not have had honorable members opposite complaining that it is proposed with the object of placing them in a difficulty. Why it should place honorable members opposite in a difficulty I am at a loss. to understand. Although it is acknowledged that the friendly control of the Pacific Islands is vital to Australia, honorable members opposite were responsible for preventing Australian delegates being present at the first Imperial Conference, where this very question was discussed. That in itself should have been a reason for my honorable friends opposite giving whole-hearted support to the motion.
– It was Senators Keating and Bakhap who prevented those delegates being sent.
– The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a distinct disappointment to me and many others. The honorable gentleman had some difficulty in making up his .mind, or rather in telling the House, the exact attitude he intended taking - whether or not he intended to vote for the motion. He ultimately did tell us, but was careful to explain that if the motion had contained certain other terms ‘he would have voted against it. At several points he sought to read into the motion a meaning which it certainly does not contain, and he would have done justice to his wellrecognised. loyalist feelings if he had boldly and vigorously supported it.
I should not have risen but that I desire to add my protest to that of- a number of others in the House against the attitude which has been taken up by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the Old Country, an attitude, I think, unjust to Australia. It is unthinkable that the British Government are going to sacrifice the interests of this country, either in regard to our powers of selfgovernment, or as to our fiscal or economic powers. It is idle to suggest that they do not realize how vital the former
German Colonies are to Australia. Everything that the Prime Minister has sought to do by way of public denunciation he could have done more effectively by private representations to the British Government. I am in full sympathy with his objective, namely, the conservation of the interests of Australia so far as these islands are concerned, but I, for one, protest against his method of reaching that objective.
– Mr. Lloyd George has said that the question of these islands was discussed at the War Cabinet.
- Mr. Lloyd George has to some extent reproached Australia, and particularly this Parliament, by saying that Australia had the fullest opportunity to make her representations at the first Imperial Conference, at which, however, our delegates were not present. Therefore, it cannot be said against the British Government that we had not the fullest opportunity to make known our wishes. Mr. Walter Long has already given strong expression to the view that these Possessions must not under any circumstances be returned to Germany, and Mr. Balfour, one of the ablest leaders of the Government, has only recently emphatically expressed the same view. Consequently I say that the British Government are fully alive to Australian interests.
– Imperial interests are identical with ours.
– That is so. The Empire should be absolutely united, having regard to all the difficult problems ahead, and the many questions to be settled between our Allies and ourselves, and I protest against the British Government being wantonly harassed at such a time, and the strands of Empire being unnecessarily strained. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), makes use of the expression “ Hands off the Pacific!” I, like many of my friends, am at a loss to know exactly what he means. If he means that German hands must be kept off the Pacific, I am in accord with the view. I hope that hi3 labours in this connexion will be carried out more discreetly, and that only when the interests of Australia are really being neglected will he publicly , complain. There is no evidence of such neglect as yet to hand.
– Mr. Lloyd George has stated that the matter was discussed by the War Cabinet when the Australian representatives were present, and that a unanimous conclusion was come to.
– I am aware that Mr. Lloyd George has said that this was the subject of consultation by the War Cabinet when our Prime Minister was present. Under these circumstances it is well that there should be a distinct expression of opinion from the Australian Parliament itself in order that the British Government may realize that in our opinion the future welfare of Australia is wrapped up in these islands. Of course we have had no time to debate this matter fully. My object in rising, also, is to repudiate some of the mawkish sentiments we have heard expressed in regard to no indemnities and no annexations. A policy of no annexations and no indemnities would be a very excellent principle to apply, provided it had been honorably adopted by both sides. I think it was in 1917 that the Reichstag passed a motion in that particular direction, but shortly afterwards, when by reason of the deadly penetration of German propaganda in Russia, that country was laid prostrate, that resolution was cast aside, and Germany, in pursuance of her doctrine of might, stepped in and annexed Russian provinces, dictated her own terms at Brest Litovsk, and made the unfortunate Russians the victims of her strength and. power. The Russians were put practically in the position of vassals to Germany. Such was the German application of the policy of no indemnities and no annexations. In fact, they extracted from Russia an indemnity of something like £300,000,000. What she did in regard to Russia she ruthlessly repeated in regard to Roumania.
It is a pretence to say that Germany has put forward a policy of no annexations and no indemnities. Why, then, are we not justified in deliberately advocating the annexation of these islands in the Pacific? Germany was deliberately out for conquest, and never really concealed her intentions; and Australia itself was one of the prizes she coveted and designed to capture. I would be pleased to see the Pacific Islands brought under British rule, for we have our responsibilities in that regard, and are bound to accept them. But we do not wish to embarrass the British Government unnecessarily at this stage, hence the temperate wording of the motion which has been submitted to the House. Nevertheless, I trust that we are rigid in the attitude that in no circumstances shall these islands be returned to Germany,, even if they cannot be brought under the immediate control of Great Britain. The experience of the past has not been satisfactory in regard to international control, but some such system will need to be established if the islands are not to pass under British rule. In any case, kept from Germany they must be as part and parcel of the policy that Germany must be put in such a position that a repetition of the horrors of. the past four and a half years will not be possible. It is vital to Australia’s welfare that Germany shall have no say in them. Their occupation by Germany has at all times been a menace to us, and guided by the experience of the past we must accept the motion as submitted by the Government. I trust that no word of discord in the consideration of the motion will mar the best interests of Australia.
.- In July last Germany issued her terms of peace in the form of what were called the Twelve Commandments. They were most drastic. They insisted that Great Britain “should surrender her fleet, all her coaling stations, Cyprus, and Gibraltar, and should be stripped of any territory which might prove suitable to Germany’s interests. Yet, honorable members opposite put forward the claim that she has not advocated a policy of indemnities and annexations. We have heard a good deal about the terms of peace set out by President Wilson. Let President Wilson speak for the United States of America. We speak for ourselves. However, in order to show what consistency there is in the arguments put forward by honorable members opposite, let us look at the atti- tude of America towards defeated Spain. How many of herpossessions were left to Spain ? America stripped her of the whole of them, even those islands which were not contiguous to the shores of the United States. If itwas right for America to do this, surely it is right for us to deprive a defeated enemy of lands which are contiguous to our shores, and not removed from them by the thousands of miles which separate the Philippine Islands from the American shores. It was only yesterday that Senator Lodge, in a speech delivered at Washington, said-
The American people wanted a peace enforced by physical guarantees. The German colonies should not be returned to Germany. The German people should be held responsible for the misdeeds of the German Monarch and the ruling class, because the people adhered to the Imperial Government until its armies were beaten. He advocated the taking and holding of German towns until the indemnity was paid.
In that speech there is no talk about the restitution of German colonies, nor any suggestion that we should adopt the course recommended by honorable members opposite. It is said that we should not take possession of these islands because we have bungled in our administration of the Northern Territory. There is no comparison between the two places. The NorthernTerritory cannot be called particularly fertile. It is certainly fairly good grazing country. It . is a huge empty State occupied by about a thousand people.
– So it is true that you are looking for good country.
– Yes. If these Pacific Possessions are fertile and productive lands, that is all the more reason why we should hold them. Some time ago, when the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook) was speaking in “this chamber, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) interjected, “ They are a lot of mud islands.” If they are a lot of mud islands, why did the honorable member occupy hours yesterday in urging the House to be just to Germany? If they are of no value, how can Germany be hurt by our taking possession of them ? In any case, we are entitled to control themfor our own protection. Aerodromes could be established 1,000 miles from our shores, only one day’s flying, and two-anda-half days’ steaming from Sydney; from those bases an enemy could bomb or shell our cities. The distance from Sydney to Great Britain, via the Panama Canal, is 600 miles shorter than it is via the Suez Canal, and as the former route runs right through these islands, if we could establish defended posts about it our commerce would be very much more protected. In any case, we ought to look after the interests of future generations of Australia, and set up those outer defences in order to defend Australia’s oversea trade against any possible attack by enemies. More particularly should we guard against the establishment of enemy submarine bases among the islands. The whole world has been horrified at the dastardly deeds done by German submarines. We do not want a repetition of these things in the Pacific. People who have broken treaties, and adopted such despicable methods of warfare as we have experienced during the last four and a half years, should not be given the opportunity of re-imposing these horrors on future generations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Returned Soldiers’ Grievances - LtColonel McInerney - PostmasterGeneral’s Department: Reduction of Returned Soldiers’ Pay: Grievances of New South Wales Postal Officials - Rent of Soldiers’ Wives and Widows - Horse Breeding - Discussion of Commonwealth Finances - Spanish Influenza.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not know whether other honorable members have had my experience, but I find it almost impossible to cope with the work of dealing with grievances of returned soldiers in regard to pension claims, sustenance allowance, and repatriation generally. I have a budget of their grievances with me now, and the only means I have of preventing a recurrence of them is the ventilation of them in this Chamber.
The first is a serious complaint lodged by a lady in regard to charges made by Lieutenant-Colonel Mclnerney, a solicitor, for the preparation of a pensions claim.
– Is this procedure fair to Lieutenant-Colonel Mclnerney?
– I first of all sent a message to him, and askedhim to do the fair thing. He has done nothing. I mentioned to a mutual friend that I had this complaint, and he came to the House, and promised that he would make inquiries. Later, Lieutenant-Colonel McInerney told me over the telephone why he had made this charge to the widow of a soldier, but I am far from satisfied with his explanation.
– Have you referred the matter to the Department?
– It is a matter that has nothing to do with the Department, and a repetition of these things can be -guarded against only by publicity. This widow knew nothing about the filling in of pension claims. That is a work ‘which the Pensions Department ought to undertake free of cost. She went to LieutenantColonel McInerney for advice, and for filling in a pension form, and practically nothing else, he charged her £5 15s. He said that he did other work. I understand that he was Provost-Marshal in Melbourne.
– He gave distinguished service in the Boer war.
– That may be.
– He desired to go to the Front, but the gang at Victoria Barracks would not allow him to go.
– Still, is it not fair to call him a member of the Australian Imperial Force? This widow went to him, and told him that she had an insurance policy on her husband’s life.
– I cannot answer this.
– I do not desire the Acting Prime Minister to answer it. My desire is that the case shall have publicity.
– I know Lieutenant-Colonel Mclnerney, and I think he is one pf the last men I know who would inflict an injustice on any person.
– I have heard that from others. The case has been brought beforeme by the secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, after he had made inquiries, but not satisfied with that I wrote to the widow, and have received two letters from her. She informed me that she visited Lieutenant-Colonel McInerney, who filled in the pension papers. She told him that she had a policy on the life of her husband for £80, the surrender value of which was £10 15s. He wrote’ a letter in lead pencil, and told her to copy it out, and send it to a firm of solicitors. He also wrote a letter to the Pensions Office, and filled in herclaim. He asked to be allowed to see the insurance policy, and then said he would collect the amount, which she herself could have done; in any case, the money would have been paid automatically three months after the death of her husband. Lieutenant-Colonel Mclnerney deducted £5 15s. from the total amount of £10 15s.
– For those services only?.
– The widow informs me that the work I have mentioned was all he did. When, however, she made a complaint, he handed back £111s., leaving the amount actually received by him £4 4s. It is the duty of this Parliament to seethat every facility is given to widows and others to fill in pension claims without their being obliged to go near a solicitor. No publicity is too great for the action of a man, especially a lieutenant-colonel in the Army, who would charge a soldier’s widow £5 15s. for filling in a pension application. I have not made this statement without making investigation, and I hope that the Acting Minister for Defence will make it known publicly that the officers at the Pensions Branch will fill in the claims of soldiers’ dependants.
– Most of them are told to go to the Registrar of Pensions to have the claims filled in.
– I do not think that is so. I know that many lawyers are doing a lot of work for nothing in connexion with these cases, and I am astounded that any lawyer should charge £5 15s. for this work.
– Could not these widows go to the Returned Soldiers’ Association for assistance?
– The trouble is that they do not know to whom to go. The secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ Association has made the fullest inquiry into this case, and he vouches for the accuracy of the statement I. have made. I do not think that this is a fair deal to give to the widow of a brave man who lost his life in fighting for this country.
– The Department might very well notify these persons where they could get the . pension claims filled in.
– Thatis what I am asking for. Yesterday, I asked the PostmasterGeneral whether it was a fact that Line Inspector Samson and Line Foreman Askwith, both members of the Australian Imperial Force, had been reduced in rank. The answer given by the PostmasterGeneral was -
The positions occupied by Line Inspector Samson and Senior Lineman Askwith in Victoria were regraded owing to falling oft of work in that State, but neither of the men affected has had his pay reduced.
On 11th November, the following notification was sent from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Melbourne, to E. A. Askwith -
In connexion with the reduction in the classification of your position, you are instructed to state whether you are willing to accept reduction to the position of lineman with salary of £174 per annum.
Askwith had been receiving £198 -per annum, and on 11th November, he was offered a position at £174 per annum, yet yesterday, in reply to my question, the Postmaster-General read a reply from his officials that no reduction in pay was contemplated.
– I trust that the Minister can, because members of Parliament want to feel that when an official answer is given to them, it is correct. The Minister’s reply was that neither man had had his pay reduced.
– Neither should have been reduced.
– Of . course they should not; but they have been reduced because of considerations of seniority. Something more important than seniority ought to weigh with the authorities in. the case of returned soldiers.
– Have these men informed you of this complaint?
– Would, it be a serious charge against them if they had ?
– The Minister will sack them if they did.
– No, he will not. That matter also was brought before me by the Returned Soldiers’ Association. These men were told that their positions would be guaranteed when they enlisted. They went away on active service, and it is scarcely fair that when they return, they should be . reduced in rank, and offered salaries £24 less than they receved’ before they left Australia. I hope the Postmaster-General will deal effectively with the officials who were responsible for the untruthful reply that was furnished to me yesterday.
Another complaint I have is in regard to the everlasting increase of rents to the widows and wives of soldiers. I mentioned a case to the Acting AttorneyGeneral last week of a soldier’s widow having had her rent increased by1s. 6d., and after she had paid that increase for six months the rent was further raised by 2s. per week. I ask the Minister to listen to thecircumstances of the following case, and, if possible, take action against some of these landlords -
Mrs. Park, widow of 7288 Private C. H. Park, 21st Battalion, Barkly-street, Sunbury, has been living at her present address for the past four years. For about three and a half years she paid 8s rent. In August orSeptember rent was raised to 10s., and now has notice to the effect that 12s. 6d. will be rent as from 1st January, 1919. Has daughter at present in hospital, permanent invalid. Agent told her not to go to the Returned . Soldiers’ Association, as the landlord wouldgive notice to quit. House belongs to Mrs. Williams, of Malvern; address not known, but agent is Boardman, of Sunbury. Asks that rent be not raised, and that she be safeguarded re notice. Colonel McVee knows the lady personally.
– Every case submitted by the honorable member has been investigated, and T promise the same in regard to this one.
.- Some time ago I asked the Minister for Defence, or whoever was. responsible in the matter, to try to secure some of the Arab horse blood that might be possible of acquirement through the operations of Australian soldiers in the Orient. According to the reply I received, the experts whom the Department consulted did not think that any advantage would accrue to horses of the military type by the introduction of Arab blood. I was thinking, not so much of horses of military type, as of general utility horses. The ablest experts in Australia agree that the Arab horses make the staunchest and besthorses . that can be got forgeneral purposes, and they will endure more in Australia than any other horse.
– The Australian horse beat the Arab in its own country.
– No doubt if we could trace back its pedigree, the Australian horse was reared from Arab blood. I amnot expressing only my own-opinion ; I am speaking from the experience of men who know something about the matter, even in regard to horses of the military type. I believe that good artillery horses could be bred if the right mares were selected. With one portion of the Minister’s answer I agree, namely, the danger of introducing disease from the Orient. Glanders is a dangerous disease, and is very prevalent in the East, but that difficulty is not insurmountable. An opportunity is now presented if the Government will only seize it, to get fresh blood,and, if it is let slip, our horsebreeding industry will suffer. A gentleman who hasbought a lot of horses in Western Australia for this Government is a thorough believer in the right type of Arab. Those who say that the Arab is not suitablefor stud purposes have in mind the Arab that has come tothis countryoflate years, which is not an Araib in the true sense, ‘but a very poor sort of horse, quite different from the Arab known throughout India. Manyof the staunchest and best horses we possess have a lineage traceable to. Arab sires introduced many years ago. The Turks and other possessors of good Arabs are not easily induced to part with their best horses.;butthere is a chance now to get some of these horses, and, in the interests of our breeders, the Defence Department should try to securethem.
– Why not communicate with General Ryrie in Palestine?
– I think . that something might well !be done through General Ryrie. He might be asked to secure Arabs of a type suitable for Australia. He would know the soTt of horse required, because he has had experience with horses. A better man could not. be suggested for the task, and I hope that the Defence Department will communicate with himon the subject.I do not agree with the opinion that the Arab is not suitable for ‘breeding horses for military work. With a proper selection of mares, he is suitable, and other types can also be bred from him. Australia should not lose this opportunity of gaining an advantage by securing horses which, under other circumstances, could not be obtained.
– I rise to complain about the possibility that we may not ‘have an opportunity to deal with the Estimates before the end of the present calendar year. A reply given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and the appearance of the business-paper make it plain’ that it is intended that we shall close our business without dealing with ‘ the most important questions of finance and expenditure. Honorable members, as well as Ministers, have a responsibility in this matter, and we should insist on discussing at least the proposals for public expenditure for the current year. I sympathize with the Acting Prime Minister because of the tremendous amount of work that falls on his shoulders.I appreciate the difficulties of his position, and admire the way in which he has . discharged his duties.But I do not admit that there is any reason for postponing the discussion ofthe finances of the country, ot, at least, the discussion of its . expenditure. Hostilities have ceased, and peace is only a matter of time. That is an additional reason why we should apply ourselves to securing economy in administration, especially at a time when taxation is being increased to the extent of millions of pounds. I hope that the Ministry will reconsider the matter, and that an early announcement will be made to the effect that we shall have a reasonable opportunity before the end of the year to deal, if not with all the Budget proposals, at least with the proposals for expenditure during the present year. If we allow this discussion to go over until next year, a great deal of the money will have been spent, and we shall not be able to discharge out duties effectively.We are pledged to reduce expenditure, and I hope that an opportunity will be given for a calm and comprehensive review of the financial proposals of the Government before the present series of sittings closes.
– I agree with the last speaker that there should be an opportunity for a financial discussion. I have tried to move the Government in the matter; but my effort has been of as little avail as the application of a blister to a wooden leg. Perhaps the honorable member, as a Government supporter, may achieve more result.
I rose to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the dissatisfaction of postal employees in New South Wales’ with the treatment that he metes out to them. My attention was drawn to the matter before I left Sydney, and I had intended to speak upon it earlier. The following paragraph in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph makes the position clear : -
Tuesday was regarded as a Federal Service holiday throughout the Commonwealth. In Melbourne the Federal and the State holiday were on the same day. In New South Wales the State holiday was proclaimed for Wednesday.
Members of the Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association yesterday wired Mr. Webster, asking for half-an-houroff to hold a demonstration, on their own ; but the request was refused.
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon a party of thirty or forty returned soldiers arrived in the telegraph operating room, which is on the top floor of the GeneralPost Office, marched round the, room, and gave boots for the PostmasterGeneral.
I am sorry that the Postmaster-General is not in his place to answer for himself. It is a pity that, instead of writing poems and drinking hot water, he cannot attend to the duties of his office, and do what he ought to do for his staff. I believe that there is not that good feeling towards him on the part of his staff that has existed under previous Ministers. It is a serious thing for a staff to have differences with its Ministerial head, and the present state of affairs should be brought to an end. If the Minister will not alter his ways, he should go out of office. I could speak very strongly on this subject; but I hope that what I have said will be sufficient, to prevent him in the future from treating New South Wales officials differently from officials in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– . In justice to Colonel Mclnerney, I wish to say that he offered to go’ to the Front, but that the junta at the Defence Department would not allow him to do so.
I suggest to the Department that when notes are sent out to the dependants, and especially to the widows, of soldiers, slips of paper should be sent with them, giving the information that if the receiver goes to Mr. So-and-so, he will say exactly what ought to be done. That piece of advice would keep many women out of the hands . of the money-lender.I wish to have one man’s name registered in the mind of the AssistantMinister . for Defence. “ Paddy “ Hill is, I believe, a money lender, whowas imprisoned for conspiracy in theRonald case, and caused all the other witnesses in that case, except two, to serve time. He interferes between the dependants of soldiers, and has the audacity to go to the Defence Department. ‘I speak now in accordance with a suggestion received from an officer of that Department, where they are trying to block these men from coming, and should receive assistance in doing so. . I have been the’ means of blocking this man before, and I shall try to block him whenever I know that he is taking advantage of’ a soldier - or a soldier’s dependant.
I hope that the Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) will impress it on Dr. Cumpston - a splendid officer - that he should do all that he can to co-operate with the State authorities for the prevention ofSpanish influenza. I have the
Mr.Greene. - The States are taking special action to that end.
Dr.MALONEY. - I know the misery that will follow if the disease gets a footing in this country, and we have an opportunity to prepare against it while the quarantine is giving us a short respite. I ask the Minister to request all the medical men in Australia to offer their services to combat the disease, so that they can be organized, with a nursing staff, to meet it when it comes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181115_reps_7_86/>.