7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker, (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m, and read prayers.
– Some time ago I suggested that steps should be taken for the issuing of the discharges of members of the Navy on parchment instead of onpaper, and the Minister promised to give thematter consideration. In view of the probability of the early discharge of a number of men who have been engaged on naval work,I ask if the matter is likely to receive immediate attention?
– The matter is receiving attention. I shall be able to tell the honorable member more later.
– Are the works at the Naval Bases of Australia, provided for in the Loan Bill, proceeding?
Mr.POYNTON.- The question is one of which I should have had notice. Additional buildings for the accommodation of men at the Flinders Base are being erected the contracts having been let some time ago. I cannot say exactly what is being done at the Henderson Base, but I shall endeavour to get full information for the honorable member next week.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to the f act that the telephonists at the Sydney General Post Office, who are overworked, were unable to take part in the’ armistice celebrations, and will he give them consideration for the extra work which fell upon them during the period of those celebrations?
– I appreciate very highly the services which the telephonists performed for the public during that very trying time.
– Not only in Sydney.
– Throughout the States. I havecalled for reports from my officers to guide me in determining what equitable treatment can be meted out to this staff.
– If apples are being imported from America, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to see that extraordinary care is taken to prevent the introduction of the pear blight, which has devastated the orchards of America, and’ is the most deadly disease with which the fruit industry is afflicted.
-I recognise the seriousness of the matter, and shall give the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
-There was in the Ministerial statement a paragraph to the effect that the prolongation of the stay of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) in England was due to the necessity for looking after Australian produce, releasing shipping, &c. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will cable to the Minister for the Navy asking him if the statement which recently appeared in the Melbourne Age, that he had not seen the Prime Minister for three months, is correct, and if it is true, will he ask either the Minister for the Navy or the Prime Minister to return at once to Australia ?
– A cablegram dealing with the matter was despatched yesterday. I shall not disclose its contents at this stage, but its object was that the Ministry might be furnished with the exact facta, instead of having to depend on unauthorized press gossip. .
-.- A dayor two ago the Minister for Price Fixing, replying to a question, said that the profits of the Price Fixing Board had amounted to £200,000. Will he indicate the sources of that revenue?
– The information can be obtained. The revenue was got from a variety of products handled under the control of the Price Fixing Department.
Mr.RILEY. - Has the Acting Prime Minister received from the Government of New SouthWales a communication asking for the removal of quarantined contacts to Jervis Bay, because of the number of cases of influenza arriving in Sydney Harbor from overseas? If so, what reply has he made. What is going to be done in the matter?
– The honorable gentleman must have read in the newspapers the telegram sent by Mr. Fuller, on behalf of the New South Wales Government, to me, as acting head of this Government, whichI received in due course. Before it came I had, at Mr. Fuller’s request, spoken with him on the telephone, and discussed the whole situation. I then pointed out to him the difficulty, if not impossibility, of accepting the suggestion of the New South Wales Government to evacuate Jervis Bay suddenly, and to make a quarantine station of a place wholly unsuited for the purpose. By permission of the Acting Minister for Tradeand Customs, I asked the Director of Quarantine to at once communicate on the wire with Mr. Fuller. A conference which had been called for Monday has been postponed to Tuesday, and I have informed the New South Wales Government that, if there are any difficulties of a special kind which they think should be dealt with immediately, the Director of Quarantine will leave for Sydney to-night, so that he may settle them and return to Melbourne in time for the conference.
– Has the Acting Prime . Minister seen the statement of the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Graham) to the effect that 1,000,000 bushels of wheat have been sold in London at 4s. 9d. per bushel? If that statement is incorrect, will the Acting Prime Minister enlighten the public on the subject?
– I saw the statement, and at once cabled to Mr. Holman, giving him my view upon it. I told him that I proposed to make a statement to the House before it rose this afternoon, and I wished to know what justification there was for the totally false statement of the Minister for Agriculture. Whether I have or have not then received a reply front. Mr. Holman, I shall this afternoon read to the House secret cables about the whole matter, and make an announcement as to what will be the attitude of this Government if this kind of thing proceeds further. (See later, page 8265.)
– Some weeks ago I asked two questions of the Minister for Works and Railways - one relating to the work on which the Director of Federal Capital Design and Construction was engaged, and the other to the fees, if any, which had been paid to him by this Government. One question was answered, but not the other. I again ask the Minister if he is prepared to furnish a reply relative to the fees paid to Mr. Griffin ?
-I have a reply which I shall give to the honorable member during the day.
– I understand that weather forecasts are no longer supplied to the Marine Board at Hobart. The Board has sent to me a letter, in which it says that it trusts that the Government may see its way clear to reconsider the matter, and continue the supply, as the reports are of the greatest use to the shipping community, and very extensively referred to. The Board’s offices are situated on the wharf, and the reports are exhibited in a case outside, which has been specially made for the purpose. The Board is of opinion that the discontinuance of the reports will cause great inconvenience to shipping masters, shipping agents, and other persons who are in the habit of consulting them and the maps issued in connexion with them. Can the Minister see his way to re-issue these valuable reports, which are evidently greatly appreciated by the public ?
– That must depend on the amount of money made available for the purpose. Without more money, we cannot do more than we are doing. We do our best to supply this information to the Marine Boards and to similar bodies throughout Australia. The reports are sent to the press, to subscribers, and to the Post Offices, where they are published immediately they are received. That is as much as we can do now that the vote for the purpose has been cut down considerably.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral been able to arrange that the½d. tax shall not apply to letters addressed to nurses serving overseas?
– Steps will be taken without delay to extend to nurses overseas the concession of the original postagerate.
– An arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth and the States to grant financial assistance to returned soldiers who take up land from the Crown, to those who held land before they enlisted but sold their stock and implements, and to others who may become leaseholders of freehold land; but owing to the defective law in the State of Victoria, the two latter classes have been deprived of theopportunity of getting assistance. Will the Minister of Repatriation take immediate action to see that they are placed on exactly the same footing in regard to securing advances to enable them to buy stock and effect improvements as that upon which the Victorian law places returned soldiers who take up land from the Crown ?
– I shall place the honorable member’s representations forthwith before the Minister for Repatriation.
– In view of the imminence of the establishment of the fourth Wheat Pool and the disastrous experience furnished by the operations of wheat certificate trafficking under previous pools, resulting as it has done in wholesale robbery of the genuine wheat grower–
– Order! The honorable member must ask a question.
– Owing to suspicion of injustice being cast on those who instigated the pools and consequent injury to the farmers–
– The honorable member is not submitting a question. This is a dissertation.
– Will the Government consider the proposal to do away with trafficking in wheat certificates considering the robbery which is being perpetrated and the suspicion of injustice which is cast upon the instigators of the pool?
- Mr. Speaker has ruled, with great propriety, although honorable members frequently seem to ignore the ruling, that substantive statements involved in questions are improper, and I wish to say, as a Minister, that parenthetical questions, such as those which the honorable member so frequently and so eloquently asks, tend to embarrass the Government. I propose, if I am permitted, to make a statement on the subject of the Wheat Pool before the House rises to-day. In the meantime I may say that I am not sure there will be a Wheat Pool next year unless certain matters are cleared up. I do not propose to allow the Commonwealth Government to be embarrassed by these frequent attacks. Whilst seeking to help the wheat farmers, Ministers seem to be treated as a band of bandits desirous of robbing them. As to whether there will be any wheat scrip in a Pool which is managed in some other way, I cannot say at this stage, but I am heartily sick and tired of the attacks made upon a Government which is endeavouring to discharge an important national function.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No!
-Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of fixing a minimum allowance for non-official offices in country districts, some of which are open from 9 o’clock in the morning till 6 o’clock at night for a reward of £6 per annum? Will the Minister take steps to provide a minimum so that this scandal of sweating people in country districts may cease?
– The observation in the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is unwarranted. No one is being’ sweated. Persons who conduct allowance post’ offices are paid on the value of the work done. They enter into the agreement with the Department with their eye3 open, and contract to carry out the conditions attaching to it. They are parties to the contract. The Department simply asks them to carry out the agreement into which they have voluntarily entered, subject to the work available or required to be carried out, and the payment allotted for such work.
– Is the register introduced and continued by Mr. O’Malley, when he was Minister of Home Affairs,’ which kept the Minister and honorable members in close touch with works undertaken by the , Works and Railways Department, still being kept; and, if sp, is it up to date?
– I understand that it is still being kept up. No instructions have been issued to the contrary.
– During the debate on the War Precautions Bill, will the Acting Attorney-General give honorable members the opportunity and pleasure of perusing the various regulations which have been issued under the War Precautions Act?
– The regulations issued during 1915, 1916, and 1917 are available in a book which can be found in the Library, and, on application, copies of those which have been issued since then can be obtained.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to develop the oil industry in New Guinea, or is it considering the question of handing the field over to the Imperial Government for development?
– The suggestion that the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments should co-operate in the development of these fields is now under consideration in the United Kingdom. As soon as a decision is reached, I shall make a public announcement.
Mr.WISE.- On the 14th day of November the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked the following question: -
Has the Assistant Minister for Defence received any intimation that one of the principal causes for dissatisfaction amongst the trainees at Bendigo Camp was the insufficient or inferior food?
I am now able to inform the honorable member that an officer was specially detailed to investigate this matter, and his report will be laid on the table of the Library for the honorable member’s perusal.
– On the 19th November the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. . McGrath) asked the following question : -
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that, in consequence of the demobilization of the troops now in camp in Australia, the men are being required to give up their uniforms, and to assume civilian clothes? Will he take action to see that these lads, like the soldiers who have been abroad, are permitted to retain their uniforms?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The regulations do not permit of the retention of uniforms by men discharged from the Australian Imperial Force prior to service abroad, but permission is granted to retain their underclothing, boots, &c, and certain small articles of kit. Commandants are being instructed to issue plain clothes suits to such men on dischargeshould they not already be in possession of plain clothes. In the case of men returned fromactive service, permission is granted for the retention of their uniforms.
The Minister cannot see his way to vary this instruction.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until. 3 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday next.
We have made substantial progress this week, but there are three or four important matters in addition to those already on the business paper which the Government will feel obliged to introduce for the consideration of honorable members before we rise. Therefore, it is felt that the extra sitting day per week is essential in order to terminate the present sittings of the House in sufficient time to enable honorable members representing constituencies in distant States to be at their homes by Christmas. I hope that the motion will be agreed to without debate.
.- The Acting Prime Minister might reasonably be asked to inform the House as to what measures he proposes to passthrough before we adjourn; and, in view of the altered circumstances , at the Western Front, and the cessation of hostilities, which will probably lead to the declaration of peace within a few months, he might also reasonably be asked to revise his Estimates, and let us know what expenditure need not, in his opinion, be provided for .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Section 2 of the War Precautions Act 1914-16 reads-
That means that, at the conclusion of the war, a proclamation would issue, and thereupon the War Precautions Act and the regulations under it would, generally speaking, cease to operate. It is to meet the difficulties ‘ arising put of that situation that this Bill is introduced. As the end of the war has, to all appearances, now almost been reached, it has opened up to the various Governments problems no less complex than those which arose when the great conflict began. The farreaching nature of the operations of the war necessitated the exercise of extraordinary -emergency powers, .the administrative intrusion on the part of the Government into areas of finance, industry, production, and distribution never before contemplated, and au interference with the rights of individuals and their freedom of action of a character quite alien to the customs of our race. By the exercise of these” extraordinary powers, there have been built up various governmental and semi-governmental activities in the national interest.
The problems now before the Government involve the gradual restoration of the community to its normal peace conditions. The aims and intentions of the Government are to govern, as far as possible, without undue recourse to these extraordinary powers during the period of transition from war to peace, and to establish as speedily as possible normal conditions. But the sudden cessation of the activities which have arisen in consequence of the war could not be accomplished with- out danger to the community, financial ;and commercial loss of a serious character, and a grave disturbance of social and economic conditions. It is quite impossible, therefore, to allow a sadden termination of various Acts and regulations introduced to meet the conditions arising out of the war. To do so would involve the community in chaos and disaster. Many of the war activities have become so interwoven in- the commercial and indus trial life of Australia that their sudden termination would lead to endless confusion.
To secure the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, it became necessary here, as elsewhere, to enact the War Precautions Act, and to delegate to the Executive a very wide discretion in the making of regulations and orders. Under the authority of that Act, a large number of regulations and orders were issued. The main body were framed for defence purposes only, and were supplementary to the powers exercised under the Defence Act. Others were closely allied, but were meant to safeguard national safety and well-being. These dealt with such matters as the control of aliens and enemy subjects, and the prevention of internal trouble and disaffection. Other regulations were passed in the exercise of that wider power of defence as interpreted by the High Court i:i the case of Farey v. Burvett (21 C.L.R.), and were meant to safeguard the nation’s economic and financial resources, both for local and Imperial purposes. Referring to the nature of the defence power under the Constitution, the Chief Justice (Sir Samuel Griffith) said -
I agree generally with Mr. Mann’s argument that the power to legislate with respect to defence extends to any law which may tend to the conservation or development of the resources of the Commonwealth so far as they oan be directed to success in war, or may tend to distress the enemy or diminish his resources, as, for instance, by the prohibition of trading with him or with persons associated with him. But this definition is not exhaustive. The control of finance or trade may be the most potent weapon of all. One test, however, must always be applied, namely : Can the measure in question conduce to the efficiency of the forces of the Empire, or is the connexion of cause and effect between the measure and the desired efficiency so remote that the one cannot reasonably be regarded as affecting the other…..
Applying this well established doctrine, the question is whether the Act and regulation - the validity of which is now called in question - oan be regarded as substantial laws relating to defence; in other words, whether the provisions of the regulation can conduce to the more effectual prosecution of the war. ft is not necessary for the Court to point out theparticular way in which they can have that effect. But the Court may, I think, take judicial notice of the fact that the past season’s harvest was most abundant, and that vast quantities of wheat, far exceeding the possible consumption of the Commonwealth, are awaiting export; while, owing to the operations of war, the supply of freight is deficient. It is obvious that for economical, as well as other reasons, the export of the surplus to the United Kingdom or the Allied nations may be highly desirable for the more efficient prosecution of the war. It seems to follow that any law which may tend, with or without the aid of other measures, to encourage such export, may be conducive to the more efficient conduct of the war.
Mr. Justice Isaacs said ;
As I read the Constitution, the Commonwealth, when charged with the duty of defending the Commonwealth and States, is armed as a self-governing portion of the British Dominion with the legislative power to do in relation to national defence all that Parliament, as the legislative organ of the nation, may deem advisable to enact, in relation to the defence of Australia as a component part of the Empire. A power which is commensurate with the peril it is designed to encounter, or as that peril may appear to the Parliament itself ; and, if need be, it is a power to command, control, organize and regulate, for the purposes of guarding against the peril, the whole resources of the continent, living and inert, and the activities of every inhabitant of the territory. The problem of national defence i’s not confined to operations on the battle-field or the deck of a man-of-war; the factors enter into every phase of life, and embrace the co-operation of every individual with all that he possesses - his property, his energy, his life itself; and, in this supreme crisis we can no more sever the requirements and efforts of the civil population whose liberties and possessions are at stake from the movements of our soldiers and sailors, who are defending them, than we can cut away the root of a living tree and bid it still live and bear fruit deprived of the sustenance it needs.
Each of the three classes of regulations presents problems to be considered by the Government with respect to the termination of the lawful authority upon which they rest, and with respect to the policy aspect as regards the date upon which they should cease. At this stage, owing to the unsettled conditions existing, and the impossibility of predicting the date at which normal conditions will be restored in the community, it is impossible to fix the date at which the particular control exercised in each case can terminate. The decision in each instance will involve the consideration of many factors. The intention of the Bill before the House is to extend the operation of the Act for a period of six months after the proclamation has been issued under the War Precautions Act that war has ceased. The question arises as to when the war can be legally said to end. In the United Kingdom, a special legal committee, consisting of Mr. Justice Atkins, Mr. Justice Roche, Mr. J. H. Balfour Browne, K.C, Mr. C O. Lawrence, K.C, Mr. C. A. Russell, K.C, Mr. R. F. Norton, K.C, Mr. G. A. H. Branson, and Mr. Roland Burrowes as secretary, was appointed to inquire, inter alia, ‘ ‘ into the legal questions that may arise as to the determination of the date of termination of the war for the purpose of the various Acts, Orders and regulations, the duration of which depends directly or indirectly upon that date.” In the Commonwealth we have passed a large number of Acts in which that or similar terms are used. This, commiteee in Great Britain reported as to the’ date of the end of the war -
We assume that the war will be ended by a treaty or treaties of peace. In order to arrive at a final conclusion of the treaty, various stages will probably be required, such as’ agreements for armistices, cessation of hostilities thereunder, articles of peace, agreement of terms signature of terms, ratification, exchangeor deposit of ratification. In our opinion, speaking of legislation generally, the war cannot be said to have ceased until peace is finally and irrevocably obtained, and that point of time cannot be earlier than the date when the treaty of peace is finally binding on the respective belligerents, and that is the date when ratifications are exchanged.
– This Bill really means the extension of the Act for twelvemonths.
– It is impossible for us. to say at this stage exactly on what date the war- will end. It may be that the Peace Conference will meet early and come quickly to a decision. On the contrary, the discussions may be very prolonged. No one can predict exactly what will happen, and because of that we must have certainty in law and administration, and particularly in regard to the great financial operations that have been undertaken during the war. It is considered highlyadvisable that this extended period for the operation of the Act should be given. We have eminent authority for exercising our power of legislation under the Constitution for the purposes of the extension when the war will have’ ceased.
– What is the eminent authority ?
– I refer to counsels’ opinion.
– That is not worth much.
– This is a most important matter. Does the Minister assure ns that he has unqualified opinion in support of the view that we have the power to do what he is now proposing?
– Yes, it has been the view of the Department all through that we had the power, and that view is confirmed by outside legal opinion. The reason for the extension is partly to continue essential operations and activities which have been carried out during the period of the war, and partly to enable the Government and the various departments to take a most careful review of each of the regulations and activities with a view of deciding which of them can be brought to a speedy conclusion and the exact date to which others should be extended. To enable the necessary careful consideration to be given to this question as to what portions of the War Precautions Regulations should be given statutory authority after the war, the Department of Defence desired immediate action to be taken to extend the operation of the A’ct for six months after the war.
The Director of Munitions, who is charged with the control of some most important commodities, has advised that the prolongation of the control of certain essential industries in peace time will have to be considered on national grounds. The Controller of Shipping advises that the sudden termination of control of shipping would be disastrous to Australian interests, and that the control should te continued for at least six months, or longer if the return to normal conditions cannot be effected within that time. Then, again, the Chairman of the Wool Committee advises -
– All controllers will tender the same advice.
– I would remind honorable members that a great many of these men have patriotically given their services to the Government as members of various advisory Committees. We may take it for granted that in regard to this particular question they will give us the same disinterested advice that they have extended to us in respect of all other matters under their control.
– Give a man power and you will never find him willing to part with it.
– Were these several Committees and officers asked for advice in regard to this question?
– They were asked Ito report. Surely that was a reasonable course for the Government to follow?.
– I do not say that it was not a right course to follow.
– I appeal to honorable members to be patient. This is a matter involving the economic, commercial, and financial operations of Australia.
Several honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! The Minister is making a very important speech, in which he is endeavouring to supply the House with information, but with so many . interruptions it is most difficult for him to make himself heard. I have several times called upon honorable members not to interject, and on one occasion, almost immediately after I had called the House to order, 1 counted no fewer than six interjections uttered simultaneously. If these interruptions continue I must ask the House to take serious notice of them. Unless the Chair is to be supported in its efforts to maintain order, I shall have to seriously consider the position.
Mr. Page. - On a point of order, I desire to apologize for interjecting, but it is little wonder that honorable members are “jumpy,” since this is one of the most important proposals ever put before the House. 0
– -The honorable member is not raising a point of order. I hope that honorable members will obey the direction of the , Chair. and so render unnecessary further action on my part.
– I would ask the House to consider for a moment what .would be the position if immediately peace were declared the whole of these activities and operations were to cease. I am endeavouring to bring before honorable members the opinions of those who have been directing these operations, and have a thorough grip and knowledge of them.
We have relied upon them to administer these activities in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and we have asked the Departments now to express their opinion as to what should be done in the existing circumstances. When interrupted, I was referring to the work of the Wool Committee, the magnitude of whose financial transactions is well known to honorable members. We are asking, among other reasons, for an extension of the Act in order not to prejudice the continuance of these and other activities, involving vast financial considerations, until we ascertain the legal position in regard to them. The chairman of the Wool Committee advises that the Imperial Government has arranged to purchase the Australian wool clip for the period up till the termination of one complete wool season . after the close of the war. Hence the activities of the Central Wool .Committee must continue in operation for a considerable period after the close of the war. The Chief Prices Commissioner advises that the Commonwealth Government is committed in the matter of the export of butter and cheese for one season after the declaration of peace, namely, at least until the end of the year 1920. ‘The Dairy Produce Pool Committee has been elected to office, under the War Precautions Regulations, until 30th June, 1920.
I come now to another phase of this question, to which I would draw special attention, and which I hope will not be lo3t sight of by honorable members when exercising their judgment with respect to this proposal. With regard to the moratorium, the Farmers Union has asked for an extension of the time for the War Precautions moratorium as applied to pastoral and agricultural interests. The active service moratorium regulations, . dealing with certain mortgages, and sales, and purchases of land, postpone payments, by soldiers and their dependants in certain cases until six months after the duration of the war. What would be the effect on the community if, on the declaration of peace, the War Precautions Act and the regulations under it ceased to operate, with the result that many of these mortgages could be forthwith called Up
– ‘Has not the community known for four years that that would bethe position at the end of the war?
– The community did: not know when the war was likely to end. The change from the war period, with; its immense attendant expenditures, topeaceconditions, under which such expenditure must be decreased, must involve a. great disturbance of commercial and industrial conditions.
– The regulations extend the moratorium until six months beyond .the declaration of peace.
– The Act, however, remains in force only until the date of thedeclaration of peace’.
– Then these regulations are ultra vires?
– I do not say that. Thehonorable member is quite right in raising the point, ‘but I remind him that this Bill is intended to allay any doubt generally as to the extension of the regulations.
Each of the instances to which I havereferred indicates the necessity for someprolongation of the Act. The Government do not desire to extend its provisionsin order to initiate new matters of policy,, and the .power to make new regulations^ will be exercised only in case of national necessity. Though the operation of theAct be extended, it is the intention of theGovernment that immediate action shall be taken to consider and repeal regulations or orders no longer necessary, and to remove governmental control as soon aspossible in all cases where it is practicable or advisable to do so.
– Why not do that now ?
– That is impossible. Questions of policy affecting the industries concerned, as well as questions of law, are involved, and have to be considered. It may be necessary, in some cases in the future, to ask Parliament to extend existing activities and regulations beyond the period contemplated by this measure. In those cases> however, Parliament will be specially appealed to by the Government. There are also other Statutes of an emergency character deal- ing with patents and other matters, the operation of which will have to be considered. Meanwhile, to advise the Government upon the purely legal aspect of problems arising out of the war, an honorary legal Committee has been constituted, consisting of men of distinction in the profession, who generously have consented to give their services in this connexion, and to advise as to purely legal problems arising out of the cessation of the war. The members of this Committee are - Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., Mr. Adrian Knox, K.C., Professor Harrison Moore, Professor J. B. Peden, Mr. H. E. Starke, Mr. E. P. Simpson, and Mr. J. M. Campbell. The AttorneyGeneral for the time being will be the chairman of the Committee. In the United Kingdom advantage has also been taken of the assistance offered by members of the legal profession. As regards the regulations under the War Precautions Act dealing with defence matters, many will not need to be continued, or the powers under them exercised. As regards those relating to internment, no definite announcement can be made at present, as it is understood the question of the internment of civilians is one of those matters which will have to be settled at the Peace Conference. The action of the Government with respect to this matter, and upon the question of enemy subjects generally, must be to a great extent guided by Imperial policy. As regards the censorship, the Government has no desire to control this beyond what is absolutely necessary. Until at least peace is signed, some control in the national interest is essential. In the United Kingdom the discussion of peace terms is the subject of censorship. However, the censorship has already been relaxed with respect to shipping and other matters, and the general policy will be to restore as speedily as possible the right of expression of public opinion and freedom of discussion.
The regulations dealing with commercial and financial matters involve consideration as regards their operation, and their future extension, even beyond the term contemplated by this Act, has to be seriously considered. One or two instances might be mentioned. The control and management of the wool scheme has been created under the authority of the War Precautions Regulations for the purpose of carrying into effect the purchase by the Imperial Government of the Australian wool clip. The duties involved include -
The activities of the Wool Committee include also the handling of sheepskins.
The mere reference to this activity shows how impossible it is to contemplate its sudden termination. The purchase operates for a full wool year after the close of the war, so that definite steps of necessity must be taken for the continuance of a scheme which is operating so beneficially in the interests of Australia.
As to dairy produce, under the War Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) Regulations 1918, important duties are imposed upon the Committee constituted under the regulations. Its duty is, among other things -
– They have not started.
– They have; contracts have already been made that will operate, probably, to 1920. The Committee also, with the approval of the Treasurer, make certain financial arrangements. I have already mentioned that the duration of these regulations is required for some time after the close of the present war.
In addition, mention might be made of the regulations concerning cornsacks, regulations concerning patents, and also regulations controlling prices.
At the commencement of the present sittings of Parliament, the Government promised to put price fixing on a more satisfactory basis by introducing a Bill in substitution for the numerous regulations under theWar Precautions Act, by which price fixing is controlled at the present time. The termination of hostilities, and the prospects of an early peace, in the opinion of the Government, render this course unnecessary. It is not intended to dispense with the existing regulations immediately. Some time must elapse before trade and commerce can be restored to pre-war conditions. The position will, however, be carefully watched, and as opportunity offers the individual articles will be released from control.
– The British Government are not losing control.
– They are not, nor are we. We say that as the conditions gradually come back to normal there will be a relaxation of the powers. It is not intended to extend the operations of the Price-fixing Department unless there appears to be grave cause to do so. At the same time, the Government wants the trading public to understand that, pending the return of normal conditions, they will not permit undue advantage to be taken of abnormal conditions existing, or that may arise, in the interim during the transition period beforeshipping and trade resume their usual channels.
I have referred to a few of the commercial activities that need consideration, and obviously their sudden termination cannot be contemplated even by the immediate cessation of the war, so closely associated as they are with the commercial, industrial, and economic conditions of Australia.
It is for reasons such as I have stated that it is essential to extend the operation of the Act beyond the period prescribed by the present law.
The Bill states in its preamble its purposes. It recites the fact that -
Whereas the Act and regulations and orders thereunder continue in operation during the present state of war, and no longer, and whereas it may not be possible before the war has ceased to make complete provision for a return to the normal conditions of peace,and whereas the extension of the said Act and all regulations and orders made thereunder, in the absence of such provision, would cause great public danger and inconvenience.
The preamble points to the necessity for the extension which is to make complete provision for a return to the normal conditions of peace, and recites the results likely to arrive in the absence of such extension - “ great public danger and inconvenience.” . Clause 2 provides that the period of extension is, as I have stated, for six months after the war and no longer.
The Bill also declares that all regulations and proclamations lawfully made pursuant to the principal Act shall, except in so far as they are amended or repealed, continue in operation for a similar period. There is also a proviso that any regulation or order or proclamation heretofore made or any provision therein contained operating by force of its terms for a longer period than six months after the termination of the war, shall remain in force, unless amended or repealed, during the period provided therein. The effect of this clause will be to continue the existing regulations and to provide for the continued operation for a period longer than six months after the termination of the present war, of any existing regulation which contains provision for such operation.
– That means that the extension is beyond the period named here.
– It refers only to regulations heretofore made - before the passing of the Bill. I desire to call particular attention to the last clause of the Bill, which deals with the application of certain terms used in the principal Act.
– Shall we not come to the clauses when we are in Committee?
– I refer to this clause because it involves a principle. The clause is as follows: -
The terms “ enemy “, “ alien enemies “ and “ persons having enemy associations or connexions “ used m the principal Act in relation to any person, shall apply, during the operation of that Act, to any person to whom they would have applied during the continuance of the present war.
I simply wish to say that the operation of this portion of the Bill will depend on the terms of peace that are ultimately made, and– in its administration regard will be had to Imperial policy. It is presumed that the peace terms themselves will deal with the question of the treatment of enemy subjects; and “this clause is inserted as a precautionary step to enable us to deal with conditions which may arise out of the peace terms themselves or the conditions then existing.
This Bill is submitted because of the vital necessity of continuing the powers under the Act, and the continuance of those powers is only asked for because, unless it be granted, there is a certainty of grave confusion and serious disturbance economically, financially, and industrially in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) ad*journed
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the adjourned debate bc an Order of the Day for Wednesday next.
– Make it Thursday.
– I only desire to fix a day. The debate will be resumed on a day to meet as far as practicable the convenience of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 8203), on motion by Mr. Wise -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It seems to me strange that it should have been necessary for this Parliament to pass so many amendments of the original Defence Act. I believe that up to the present there have been ten amendments of that measure, and the Bill now under consideration is the twelfth of such amending Bills that have been introduced. The Government have gone so far as to have proposed two amendments of the Defence Act this year. It is more strange still that a further amendment of the Act should be considered necessary when apparently the final flutter of the war is at an end, and the services of the Australian Imperial Force are no longer required in the field.
If there is one thing which, more than another, honorable members on both sides desire, it is that every honour should be accorded to the men who took their lives and their courage in both hands, arid went abroad to preserve the benefits of the freedom and liberty we enjoy in Australia and throughout the British Empire. I feel sure that honorable members are determined that the men who have gone overseas to fight for this country shall have justice done them. One would naturally suppose that the men who have won their spurs and gained distinction and honour on the battle-field, should take precedence of the “ stay-at-homes,’1 the men who are termed in the Imperial Forces “feather-bed soldiers.” I do not care what position may have been held by “ stay-at-homes “ in Australia; they may have been wonderful organizers, but if they had been imbued with the true military spirit no chains would have prevented them from doing a soldier’s’ duty when such a duty required to be done. Perhaps honorable members do not realize that it is intended by the amending Bill now under consideration to take their seniority away from the men who have won their spurs on the field of battle, and have done something, not only for Australia, but for the Empire. Are honorable members going to permit such a Bill to pass at the dictate of the Government, merely in order that a lot of “ stay-at-homes “ may occupy senior positions? Every position in our Defence Force worth having should be preserved for the men who have seen active service.
– Will all the returned men be in the Reserve Military Forces 1
– I want them all to be in the Reserve Forces. No men can be more filled with the military spirit and discipline than are those who - have been to :the Front, and have won their spurs on the field of battle.
– Are not they all being asked to join the- Reserve Forces?
– Clause 2 of the Bill under consideration proposes the amendment of section 20 of the principal Act, and that section gives the right of seniority in the Reserve Military Forces to men who have won their spurs on the field. This amending Bill will take that right away.
– The honorable member contends that clause 2 of the Bill proposes the omission of words from section 20 of the Act which give precedence to men who have seen active service.
– That is so. Section 20 of the existing Act provides that -
The seniority of officers in the Reserve Military Forces shall bc as prescribed, but officers of the Active Military Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.
That is the provision of the existing law which I desire to see retained., In my “view, clause 2 of the amending Bill will deprive officers of the Active Military Forces of the right conferred under section 20 of the existing Act. Will honorable members suffer such a thing as that? 1 am confident that they will not. Why is this proposed? The Minister has not told us. Surely if men are good enough to fight for us they are good enough to be given positions above the “ stayathomes,” the men who strut about, as do a lot of women, op the block in. Collins-street on Saturday - the Saturday afternoon feather-bed soldiers. The only way to secure an effective Defence Force is to give positions of command, whether as commissioned or non-commissioned officers, to the men who have seen active service at the Front. Do not let us be hypocrites in dealing with these men. Let us act up to what we have said all along. Every member of this Parliament who has appeared on a public platform in connexion with any war activities has expressed admiration for the young Australians who -have gone abroad and won their spurs, and I feel that when the proposal of the Government is exposed, there is not a member of this House who will permit this Bill to pass in its present form.
– Perhaps the Minister will explain ?
– The effect of the Bill willbe the very opposite to what the honorable member for Maranoa has stated. The intention is to do just what the honorable member desires, but he has not taken the trouble to read the definition of “Active Forces “ in the existing Act.
– I- have quoted section 20 of the existing Act, which clause 2 of the Bill proposes to amend. I will quote the section again -
The seniority of officers in the Reserve Military Forces shall be as prescribed, but officers of the Active Military Forces . shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.
That is emphatic enough.
– What are the “ Active Forces “ ?
– Those who have gone to the Front.
– If the men who have gone to the Front and have taken up the rifle, bayonet, and sword, and served the canons are not the Active Military Forces, who the devil are ?
– Perhaps the honorable member will read the definition of “ Active Forces.”
– I find that, under the existing Act, this definition is given - “Active Forces” includes all parts of the Defence Force other than the Reserve Forces.
– Exactly; and when we put these men into the Reserve Forces they then become junior to those in the other parts of the Active Forces.
– That is not my reading of the matter. Clause 2 provides that -
Section 20 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the words, “ but officers of the Active Military Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.”
– And if all these men are going into the reserve, does the honorable member not see where they will be placed ?
– Under the existing law, every man who goes into the Reserve Military Forces, no matter how long he may have served, is junior to a man in . the Active Forces.
– I desire that the men who have seen active service shall occupy the positions of command. That is what I want; and if that is provided for by the Bill, I ask why it is not stated in plain language ?
– I think that the Minister should explain the definition of these terms.
– He will have an opportunity to do so later. I consider that clause 6 of the Bill, dealing with resisting the draft, is necessary; but I take strong exception to clause 10, which reads -
Section 98 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after the words “ except for “ the word “murder.”
Section 98 of the principal Act reads -
No member of the Defence Force shall be sentenced to death by any court martial except for mutiny, desertion to the enemy, or traitorously delivering up to the enemy any garrison, fortress, post, guard, or ship, vessel, or’ boat, or traitorous correspondence with the enemy; and no sentence of death passed by any court martial shall be carried into effect until confirmed by. the Governor-General.
I say that no man should be tried for wilful murder except by a civil Court. I remember that, when I was in the Imperial service, one soldier murdered another. After roll-call at night on a Christmas Eve, we were sitting round the fire, when a gunner who had been discharged from prison the day before, after seven days’ imprisonment for some minor offence, was approached by a bombardier who had been the cause of his imprisonment. The bombardier tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “ It is time you were in bed. Get np quick and lively, and get to bed.” The gunner said, “ I will shift you, my gentleman,” and he pulled the poker out of the fire, charged the bombardier with it, and put it through-, him. . The bombardier died, but the gunner was not arrested by the military authorities for murder. He was arrested forassaulting a non-commissioned officer.. Directly the bombardier died, and a civil, verdict of wilful murder was brought in against the gunner, the military .authorities had to hand him over to the civil power to be tried. That is the course which I say should be followed in such cases. Every one of the offences mentioned in section 98 is a military offence. The war is practically over, so far as the Australian Imperial Force are concerned, and they are being embarked for Australia as rapidly as possible. Owing to the armistice, they are not now engaged, on the field of battle, and in the circumstances. I should like to know why such an amendment of section 98 of the principal Act is proposed at this time? We need, to be very careful in Australia that weshall not have even a semblance of a military caste in our fine, free nation.
– The honorablemember does not object to our keeping; our powder dry?
– No, I do not. I say that we should always be prepared. I believe that every citizen of Australia should be trained to use the rifle, and to defend hiscountry when the necessity arises. I am. not opposed to militarism to that extent,.’ but I strongly object to the maintenanceof a standing army.
– Do not forget what a standing, army did for us during this last big tussle.
– I know that the “contemptible little army “ of Great Britain, saved the liberties of the world.
– The honorable’ member merely objects to a standing army like that of Germany.
– I do not want to see a standing army here which will be a menace to the people of Australia. But I think that we should have a standing, army in the sense that all our citizens- - should be trained to the use of the rifle.
– Great Britain cannot do without a standing army, which, as an- expeditionary force, will be ready to meet any emergency at a few hours’ notice.
– That is so. I do not know what we should have done during the first twelve months of the war had it not been for our compulsory training system. It was unquestionably the adoption of that system which enabled us to marshal such an efficient force within a comparatively brief period. I am satisfied that even those who are opposed to war must be proud of the part that Australia has played in this great struggle. Our troops have undoubtedly proved that they are not vagabonds or mongrels. Reading the remarks of the Bishop of Amiens in regard to our Australian Forces, I cannot resist the conclusion that there is something more than fighting qualities at the back of it.
– We have some oi the Viking spirit in us.
– Yes, even when we get a bit fat as we grow old.
I particularly desire to know why we should insert the word “ murder “ in this Bill, and thus associate it with military crimes. Section 98 of the principal Act specifies every military crime except that of murder, and I agree that a man should be court martialled for all the strictly military crimes which are enumerated therein. But a. man who is accused of murder should be handed over to the civil authorities in conformity with the practice that is recognised by British law.
– Why, there is a man serving a term of imprisonment in the Geelong gaol to-day for having committed murder in France.
– If that be so, why should we insert the word “murder” in this Bill ?
– I think that the honorable member for Corio will find that the man to whom he refers was charged with manslaughter.
– That may be so.’ I know that in the Imeprial service charges of manslaughter were tried by court martial, and the convicted persons were sentenced to imprisonment in a military prison. But murderers were handed over to the civil authorities for trial, and rightly so. I am just as jealous of our privileges as citizens as I am of the privileges which properly belong to the members of our Military Forces. Our men are not soldiers in the military sense. As soon as the war is over they will return to their civil employment. We ought not to treat them as soldiers when once they are back in Australia, except when our Military Forces are called up in defence of their hearths and homes.
– Suppose that the 6 provision to which the honorable member objects operated only until all our Australian Forces have returned to’ this country.
– We should not need it then.
– The honorable member knows that our Forces may remain on the Continent for another eighteen months or two years.
– The army of occupation may do so.
– We cannot trust Germany to pay indemnities unless we have a receiver in her territory.
– I admit that we require to keep powder behind our charge.
– Why not limit the operation of the provision until the whole of our Forces have returned to Australia ?
– I would rather not have it in the Bill at all. These are the only objections I have to the measure. But as the Acting Minister for Defence says that I am “ barking up the wrong tree.” in regard to my first objection, I have no more to say on that point. Before we include murder amongst military crimes I ask honorable members to pause.
– If the provision Operates only until the return of our Forces to Australia, it will then disappear.
– Why put it in the Bill at all? We have got on without it during the four years that our men have been on active service, and why should we put it in the Bill now? If we have done without it for four years, why cannot we do without it for the remainder of the period of war? The fighting is practically over, and there is no real necessity for it now. I shall do my best at every stage of the Bill to defeat the proposal. To my mind, it is the only blemish in the measure.
. - I wish, first, to say how glad I am, as one of the soldier members of this House, that the Government have at last seen fit to rectify one of the many grievances of the returned officers of the Australian Imperial Force. I am now referring to the proposed amendment of section 20 of the principal Act. Up to the present time returning officers of the Australian Imperial Force, upon joining the Reserve
Forces, have been ranked junior to officers in our Citizen Forces - officers who have never left Australia. The proposed amendment will do away with that anomaly, and give seniority to those who have actually fought in the defence of this country. Incidentally, it will abolish much of the discontent .that is felt towards the officers of our Citizen Forces who have remained at home. I have in my mind one specific case - that of a sergeantmajor who enlisted for service abroad, and who came back to Australia as a captain, with the military cross on his breast. Upon his return he was obliged to drop his rank and salute officers who had never left Australia. That was certainly not a proper thing. But under the amendment which is now proposed he will become senior to those officers - a procedure that is obviously just.
The only other suggested amendment with which I wish to deal is that which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) - the proposal to insert the word “ murder “ in section 98 of the principal Act. In the first place, I believe that the soldiers of Australia, as a whole, wish to remain, even during the time that they are wearing khaki, essentially citizens of the Commonwealth. Personally^ I am convinced that some of the sentences which have been imposed for military offences under the Army Act have been savage, and for< all the bigger crimes committed in the Army I desire to see civil trial substituted for military court martial. In the battalion in which I had the honour to serve I know that men received really savage sentences - in some cases amounting to many years of imprisonment - for crimes that a civil magistrate would have laughed at, and possibly dismissed. In this connexion, I recall one case especially - that of a corporal, who was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment for striking his superior officer, although he did him no damage whatever, and did not even bruise him. Punishments of that character are altogether disproportionate to the magnitude of the- offence committed. As the members of our Forces serve as citizens, and not as soldiers, it is high time that we had the right of a civil trial for any crime meriting a big punishment in the Army. In regard to murder, one has, in many cases, to consider the circumstances under which it is committed. Upon two occasions which came under my personal, observation during my term of service abroad, men committed the crime of murder under great provocation. In both instances, while keyed up to a very high pitch of excitement, they were ridden down by military police with naked sabres. As a result, some of the military police subsequently paid the penalty with their lives. If the ringleaders in th’is crime had been caught they would undoubtedly have had to stand their trial for murder, and at a military court martial they would not have received the same consideration that would have been extended to them if they had been tried by a civil Court. It has also to be remembered that accused persons in the Army are not able to secure proper representation at their trial. Ninety-nine men out of 100 are not conversant with one-fifth of the provisions of the Army Act, and do not know how to defend them, selves. That is not just to the accused whose life is trembling in the balance. He should have the right to be represented by a man who is trained in legal matters, and who is able to put up a decent fight for the accused’s life. There are many other military crimes which are punishable by death. In many instances the man who is sentenced and shot is really not a case for the executioner so much as he is a case for the doctor. In one instance of which I have knowledge - I was in Ypres, in Flanders, at the time it happened - a .young man, .nineteen years of age, who had been conscripted into an English regiment, had been taken into the trenches for the first time.
His regiment was subjected to three hours of the heaviest drum fire imaginable. It would have broken the nerves, I am sure, of quite three-fourths of the honorable members of this House. The effect .of that drum fire upon the nerves of the lad was so severe that he turned tail and ran. He was certainly not a coward in the ordinary sense, but he had been subjected to such a fearful ordeal that he lost all control of himself, and his- legs carried him where his head did not direct him. He was caught. Immediately after he had left the trenches, the Germains launched a charge, and it was held against the lad, therefore, that he had deserted in the face ‘ of the enemy. Shortly afterwards he was taken out and shot in the public square of Ypres, in front of the civil population. That is the type of crime which involves a man’s execution in the Army, and I am very much opposed to any extension of our military laws which would grant power to execute a man following upon a court-martial. The war is practically over. Goodness knows why the authorities require now to extend the powers they already possess, seeing that the men are on the eve of returning home. We should do away with those hidebound regulations which to-day hold our men down, and will not allow them to speak. God knows that the discipline in. the Army already is strict enough. English soldiers have told us that they could not understand the freedom which we enjoyed; and it is a f actthat they are very much worse off. than the men of the Australian Imperial Force. But the Australian soldier, citizen soldier that he is, has not the liberty so long as he is ‘in the Army that we enjoy. Despite the fact that the Australian has been charged with lack of discipline, he has fought second” fo none in the war; and I fail to see the purpose of binding him down with further discipline. My personal observations have led me to the conclusion - just as with a great many others - that the soldier under the strictest discipline has proved the poorest fighting man. It is for an obvious reason. When his officers and non-commissioned officers have been wiped out, the man who has been accustomed to the severest discipline finds himself practically useless without a leader. The situation in the Australian Army has always been diametrically opposite. Our . soldiershave been accustomed to doing little odd jobs on their own, and when they have got into a tight corner, where the alternatives have been taking another man’s.’ life or of his taking theirs, our Australian lads have known just how to go to work. They have required no officers. They require no extreme discipline to show them what to do. T am opposed to any further extension of the grip of militarism upon our soldier citizens.
– While I value the assurance given by the Government respecting the amendingclauses in this Bill, I still have many doubts. I recall that once I was assured by Mr. George Turner - afterwards Sir
George - that a certain paragraph inserted in a particular. Bill was intended, to convey that the salary of the GovernorGeneral would never be increased. The amount indicated at that time was £10,000 per annum. I said, “ That is all very well, and I am naturally prepared to take your word for it; but,” I added, “ let us have it in black and white. Let us put into the enabling Bill one little word which will assure that the salary shall not be more than that sum.” I thereupon moved to omit the word “ less,” and to insert in its stead the little word “more.” An effort was made later to break that promise of Mr. Turner, when Lord Hopetoun, our first Governor-General, sought to secure £20,000 a year. It was that section in theVictorian State Statute which prevented the addition being granted. I am inclined to insist here also that we should’ have everything in plain English, so that there shall be no mistake, or change of purpose. Indeed., I feel inclined- to givenotice of my intention to move a new clause, based upon the Code Napoleon.. It would be to the following effect: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in thisor any Act, it shall be mandatory that all men- - and officers who have seen active service overseas shall rank as senior in their respectiveranks to men and officers of the Reserve Military Forces who have not seen active service: overseas.
– .That is intended to be the effect of the clause in the amending Bill, but I doubt whether it will produce that result.
– I am merely going upon the arguments which carried weight in regard to the Governor-General’s salary. Let the matter be simply set out, so that the man in the street - the returned soldier himself - shall clearly understand.
Probably during the war I have had more conversations with returned soldiers than any other honorable member. I have cultivated the habit of asking many questions. The majority of those who have attended my office, and have told me their stories, have spoken well of General Birdwood. But from some of them I have been acquainted with another point of view. T am given to understand that he actually desired that there should be power to inflict the death penalty on our Australian soldiers, just as in the case of the Continental Forces. We have just heard of an instance bearing upon that fi-om the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), who has just won his spurs in this Chamber, and whom I heartily compliment upon his maiden effort.
Honorable Members. - ‘Hear, hear!
– ‘I shall vote against the clause which seeks to include the death penalty in our Defence Act. It will be an infamy if it is embraced in the Statutes of a country like Australia, with its voluntary citizen soldiers. It would be bringing in one of the vilest things which has discredited the accursed German military system. Here we are, at a stage-when fighting has ceased, and peace has been virtually declared; and it is sought to provide for the infliction of the death penalty at this dying stage of the ivar.
I have had some experience of courts martial in this State. I could tell a good deal about the case of one unfortunate man, four of whose brothers had enlisted.. One of those lost his life on Gallipoli,’ and another in France. ‘Still another has not yet recovered from his wounds, and one is missing. A court martial was held in the case of this individual; and honorable members with legal training will agree, I think, that there is generally no appeal from a court martial, unless it be upon the presentation of new evidence. In this particular case, however, the Assistant Minister for Defence at the time caused an inquiry to be held, which overrode the decision of the court martial. At this second inquiry there was a certain Australian general - one of those individuals who has never smelt gunpowder at the Front. I refer to General Cuscaden who ranks as superior to all our returned heroes, and whom even the heroic wearers of the Victoria Cross must salute. I am referring to Dr. Cuscaden, who remained in Australia, and, because he belonged to the Government House “ push “ got his advances until he held the rank of surgeongeneral - although he had never smelt gunpowder, unless it might have been when he let off a cracker in his own back yard. This man had the infernal audacity to say that the poor wretched person who was then being tried a second time, was fit to be put to work. He was sent for six months to. a lunatic asylum, under observation all the time.’ Where is he now? God knows. He had developed the most phenomenal voice I have ever heard. He spoke from my own platform with me on more than one occasion, but I could never permit him to address the crowd for more than a few minutes, since he worked himself up to such a frenzy that he trembled from head to foot. Dr. Sewell, who has been concerned in the inquiry, told me later that he thought he might have misjudged this man’s case. This individual afterwards went to Queensland. There is no doubt that he was mentally unhinged. In that State he spoke from the recruiting platform under another name, and, with the aid of his truly phenomenal voice, he attracted great crowds. One other incident in his story is that he, a married man, found another girl to marry him. His illness was such that he could not carry out the functions of a married man with his wife. One day this girl-wife found a letter from his first wife in Melbourne. There was trouble. He thrashed her. They both disappeared. Did she commit suicide? Did he?
General Cuscaden said that that man was fit to go out and earn his own living. That was the expressed opinion of an individual whom every V.C. winner must flip his hand to. This is the official who, if he went to the Front, would be laughed at by every doctor in the Imperial armies. There is not one of our returned Army Medical Corps Officers but who is, in fact, the superior of this man. who is their military superior. He would not be allowed to go into the Melbourne Hospital, or the Alfred Hospital, as an out-patient or in-patient surgeon.
Let us prevent any legislation such as is here sought, until our fighting men can return and are free to tell us all they know. As for the effort of General Birdwood to secure power to enforce the death penalty in the Australian Imperial Force, I greatly honour the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in that he sent a message replying that General Birdwood would not be permitted to secure his ends. Are we going to bring in the death penalty now, when the armistice has been signed, when the fighting is over, and when our heroes are on the eve of return? On Monday I shall attend a meeting to welcome home our Anzacs iri. North Melbourne. I shall tell that meeting what the Government are proposing now to do - that the death penalty is to be imposed upon Australian soldiers in the same brutal manner as. with the German armies, and with the armies of other nations.
– This provision is only to apply in countries where there is no civil tribunal.
– I will have none of it. I do not want to see the military system in Australia at all. If I can read past and coming events, I do not think
Ave shall have militarism in Australia. Some time ago I was promised a return which would show particulars of those officers of the Australian Imperial Force who were receiving salaries of £500 and over - majors, colonels, and the rest of them. I have not yet secured that return. This brilliant General Cuscaden is one of them - this senior officer who has never smelt gunpowder. With all his military salary, he is carrying on a private practice. Why, if we place him against Dr. Kent Hughes, he is a child at surgery. Put him up against Dr. Syme, and he is a mere bagatelle, a laughing stock. There is not one surgeon of all who are his military inferiors who is not actually hia superior.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before any drastic change is made in Defence legislation, let us wait till all the boys, or a large proportion of them, come back from the Front. They will be able to give us the benefit of their experiences. They may be able to show us that such absurdities exist as too much discipline, too much recognition of officialdom, and too much red-tape. When we know what they have to tell us, we may be able to pass a really good up-to-date Defence Bill. If I am any reader of political events - and I suppose my parliamentary experience is second only to that of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter) - that whirlwind of change which has absolutely eliminated monarchy from Europe will in other ways eliminate the powers of the privileged classes, and extend even to Australia, so that anything we do now will probably have to be altered again later on. There is no immediate necessity for this legislation, seeing that the armistice has been signed, a number of the deathdealing destructive brutes of submarines that previously belonged to Germany have already been handed over,- and the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine are actually in the hands of our Allies. Surely in those circumstances this is not a meet time to amend the Defence Act. I quite agree with the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) that men who have actually seen service overseas should rank senior to those who have not done so ; but a provision to that effect could be put in a few simple words. I remember that many men who rose to high rank did not think it worth while to volunteer for service in the Boer war, and when the late Lord Kitchener was here I wrote to him and asked him if he did not consider that, all things being equal, the man who had seen service should have absolute priority over the man who stayed at home. His answer was that, all things being equal, the man who saw service and proved his patriotism to his country should always have preference. I do not think any honorable member in this Chamber- will gainsay the wisdom of the opinion expressed by that great leader of men. If the Government cannot see their way clear to accept my suggestion, I shall move the amendment I have indicated, embodying the principle of the Code Napoleon, as- a new clause. I hope I shall not have to do that, because 1 take it that this is a measure on which there should be no party division, and that we are all united in our desire to give full credit to. the man who has gone to the Front at the risk of making the supreme sacrifice.
I hope the Government will eliminate the provision regarding the death penalty.
– Would it not do if it waa limited to cases outside the British Dominions where there is no civil tribunal available while the troops are abroad?
– There is plenty of opportunity now to obtain a civil tribunal.
– There is no chalice to deal with those oases in a civil tribunal when they are outside the British Dominions.
– I would impress on the Assistant Minister that no medical man or surgeon in active practice can give a full and accurate idea of the nervous diseases which, have been caused by the horrors of this war, or of their effects. Honorable members must have been impressed by the words of the latest accession to the ‘House, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy). I was sorry there was not a full House here to listen to the splendid speech of that young man. If the Government have received definite instructions from the Homeland to put this provision in the Bill, let us be told so. I honour the Government, through the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) for refusing to agree to the death penalty being enforced previously, even though it was recommended by General Birdwood. Honorable members who were in the chamber and heard the cheers with which the Acting Prime Minister’s statement was received on that occasion will agree with me that, unless special instructions or orders have come from the Front to the Government -to do this thing, this is certainly a most inappropriate time to do it. If the majority in their wisdom decide to carry that provision, I shall suggest later on, as a way out of the difficulty, the insertion of a proviso at the end of the clause to the effect that, where punishment of that kind is awarded, any man or officer shall have the right ‘of appeal to a civil Court. If that is done, I shall not be afraid of the result. If however, the Government have determined to carry the clause as it stands, it will be my duty to divide the Committee on the question whether the right of appeal to a civil Court shall be allowed. That, if agreed to, will mean that every, man found guilty by a court martial under this heading will have the right of appeal, and the opportunity to proveto a civil Court that he is suffering from some nervous affection, such as shell shock, or one of the hundred-.ind-one other troubles that in medical and1 surgical centres are now being traced, although only dimly, to the war. The people outside will certainly be pleased to know that every officer or soldier has the right of appeal, which every citizen outside has, to a Court higher than the first Court that has tried him.
– This Bill affords another example of the very injurious practice of setting” before members a mere series of amendments to existing legislation without putting before them the existing law to which it refers, so that they may clearly ascertain, ‘ without rumaging among past volumes of Statutes, what the law has been and the effect of the amendments upon it. I have referred to that injurious practice many times in the House, and have had promises from Ministers, going as far back as the beginning of Federation, to the effect that, whenever a Bill was introduced into this House involving amendments of existing Acts, members should have the convenience of seeing at a glance in what respect the existing; law was being altered. For a long time, I believe, the expenditure on paper has been a factor in our economy, but the time baa arrived now when the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. “Wise) might promise that, ‘ at all events in his Department, any further amendments of this kind will be so framed that members can -see at a glance what the law is that they are called upon to amend. The honorable member who has just spoken had to look back at the existing law to see in what respect the Act will be affected by one of the amendments put before us in this bald way.
So far as the debate h’as gone, there are only two points on which the House differs from’ the Minister. One is the inclusion of murder in the jurisdiction of courts martial, and the other is the principle of giving those who have had active service seniority over those who have never been to. the war. The Minister evidently thought at first that the provision in the Bill would effect his purpose, and that appeared to be the impression of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), whom. I desire to congratulate upon his maiden utterance. I had misgivings when I saw a young man of twenty-one taking the place of a man of seventy-one, with all the accumulated wisdom of his years. I may say now, as probably the oldest parliamentarian in the House, that I was delighted with the honorable member’s utterance.
The truth with regard to the matter of seniority appears to lie between the rather optimistic view of the honorable member for Swan and the >pessimistic view of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). I do not think the amendment as framed in the Bill will preserve to members of the active service Forces complete seniority over men who have not .been on active service, because it is quite possible that, for reasons upon which we cannot now speculate, some of those who have been on active service may not care, or may not think it desirable, to go into the Reserve. If they do not, my impression is that they will lose the benefit of their seniority. It would be well if the. Minister, in making this amendment of the law, would include a proviso by which the principle laid down in the Code Napoleon, quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne, would be preserved, that in. all cases- where, men are of equal rank, the man who has been on active service should enjoy seniority over the man who. is in the Reserve, or in any other branch of the Forces. That would satisfy the honorable member for Melbourne, and carry out .what the honorable member for Swan ‘thought was carried out by the Bill.
The other question is much more difficult. “We know that courts martial have not, at present, jurisdiction over the crime of murder, and it is sought in the Bill to extend their jurisdiction to cases of that sort. I was shown a’ case by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), in which it seemed that a manwas charged and tried for murder before a court martial, ‘but on looking over the papers I see that the court had misgivings as to its. powers, and ultimately convicted the man of manslaughter,, awarding him a punishment which they thought fitted the case in its most serious aspects. There is a great difficulty about this question. “ I quite agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that we are not a% favorably disposed towards courts martial as we are towards civil trial. No doubt, trial by jury nowadays is very much abused, and often in the ramifications of society as we know it in a small community men tried before a jury escape justice when they ought not to do so. On the other hand, we all know that in many cases where men are tried by courts martial a military disciplinary harshness is exercised, and humane feeling seems to be altogether wanting.
We know from experience that a great many men are so seriously affected mentally by the war that at times they absolutely lose all control of their will-power. The case mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) was that of a young soldier who bore all these disturbing influences for ‘a certain time, and then became so affected by them that he literally ran away. Medical knowledge would have informed the military court martial that tried him, that his state of mind could probably be accounted for by circumstances other than moral cowardice. Notwithstanding all the youth had suffered, he was taken out and deliberately shot for having done something which medical men would now say was the natural result of a tremendous psychological disturbance. My leaning is always towards civil trial, though I recognise it cannot be applied to military conditions without a complete revolution in method and judicial arrangement. I should be very willing to see some sort of trial as the honorable member for Melbourne suggested carried out, “but one has only to reflect on the ramifications of military discipline to recognise that two distinct types of mind and two types of jurisdiction and adjudication must be observed in civil and: military affairs.
I understand from the Minister, who made the suggestion just now, that it was proposed to. limit this investment of courts martial with jurisdiction over murder to cases outside the British (Empire. That seems a feasible proposal, because when a man is outside the British Possessions he is outside the availability of a British civil tribunal. I know the honorable member for Melbourne thinks that, as we have done very .well for four years, we ought” to do very well now; but we hardly know how many cases there have been in which justice has suffered by reason of courts martial not having that power when they are outside British ‘ Possessions. I am quite with the honorable member, and I think that if our minds could be carefully examined miscoscopically, I should be found to have as much humanity in me, although perhaps with a more cynical exterior, than the honorable, member himself. I always try to approach these questions in a judicial spirit; and I think if the Minister would limit the investment of courts martial with jurisdiction for murder to cases outside British Possessions where there are no civil tribunals available, it would be quite safe. We do not know in what respect courts martial may have been forced to fail in doing justice by their inability to deal with the questions of murder.
– Then let any such persons be sent back to Australia.
– The introduction of a clause to effect that purpose would mean a great variety of amend ments.. I think the honorable member ought to be reasonable.
– But a man should have a right to appeal to a civil Court.
– That is an-, other question, and I am sufficiently informed of the law to hesitate to take any steps as suggested. When a man knows a little df the law he is like a Scotchman dancing the sword dance - very careful where he puts his feet. The labyrinth is so great, so complicated, and so vague, that one hesitates’ to embark upon amendments that may be followed by hundreds more. The honorable member anticipates that we are going to have peace soon, and so do I ; and I ask the Minister to . limit the operation of this amendment to the time that our troops are outside British Possessions. There will then be no groat danger.
With regard to the other question, I suggest to the Minister that he should take great care to see that the principle in the Code Napoleon, by which a man on active service has preference over a man not on active service, is carefully preserved ; and that in any amendment of the law made, no loophole be left in giving an advantage to those who have not been on active service over those who have really helped this country during the war.
I want now to say a word or two about the Duntroon officers. It has no “bearing upon these two particular amendments; but so far as I can learn there is no procedure by which a Duntroon officer can be promoted above the rank of major. I have been to Duntroon, and have taken some trouble to inquire into the modus operandi of that establishment. Men train there for a number of years and undergo a military education which fits them for any position in the military service for which their ability may qualify them.
– They have a splendid record in this war.
– They have a magnificent record, and an enormous proportion of these men ‘have been killed. This, of course, gives them a claim upon our sympathies and upon our law-making practices. I now draw attention to the disability under which they suffer, and I hope the Minister will give some explanation to the House as to why there is, apparently, some unwritten law against Duntroon officers rising above the rank of major.
Mr.West. - Surely you understand the reason.
– No, and I , should be glad if the honorable member can inform me.
– Because some of the cadets come from the industrial sections of the community.
– The honorable member is introducing into the debate an element which I do not think is desirable. I hope, Mr. Speaker, now that the war is over, we shall all agree in this House that party feeling ought to be less acute than it has been in the past. We should approach all questions like this with the object of instilling a spirit of brotherhood among the five and a half millions of people in Australia. I hope honorable members will do so, and I point out that a remark of the kind just made by the honorable member for East Sydney does not help us. I know of no reason why Duntroon officers should not have the same opportunity to rise in the Military Service as are afforded to other members of it.
– Is the honorable member referring to those who went to the Front from Duntroon?
– I am including them, so my remarks are more comprehensive. There seems to exist some unwritten law or tradition by which Duntroon officers are unable to rise above the rank of major.
– Two men who rose from the ranks are holding commissions as Lieutenants-Colonel.
– Not Duntroon men. I think the honorable member is wrong.
– The promotions were made in the Old Country.
– I think the honorable member is wrong as regards Duntroon officers, but I hope he isright.
– He is wrong.
– I hope the honorable member is right, because I will then be wrong, and there will be no reason to complain. I want the Minister, however, to ascertain the position and inform the House.
– It applies also to those who have been fighting at the Front.
– But they have been promoted in the field.
– In the case of promotions in the field, the commanding officers, I have no doubt, have not troubled to inquire whether a man went through Duntroon or not. I understand that there is some reason why Duntroon officers cannot rise above major, though some of them may have obtained great honours in the field, and have distinguished themselves in a very remarkable way. Personally, I have no grievance in the matter, but it has been brought under my notice more than once, and I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether there is any such rule concerning Duntroon officers, and, if so, why it has been promulgated. If there is not any such rule, it should be known that there is no reason why any young man who goes through many years of training at the Military College should not have the same opportunities of reaching the top as any other man who enters the Military Service of this country.
.- I desire in the first place to congratulate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) on his maiden effort in this House. Like the honorable member who has preceded me, I have had the privilege of hearing many honorable members make their maiden speeches, but I think I can say, wthout fear of contradiction, that I have never heard a better effort on the part of any honorable member than that made by the honorable member for Swan to-day. His constituents are also to be congratulated in the wise selection they have made; in my opinion he will be an acquisition to the House
Regarding the two questions that are under consideration, and there are only two, I was pleased, indeed, to hear the interpretation placed upon them by the honorable member for Swan, though I am not quite clear, in my own mind, that he is correct. I think there is room for doubt. We are asked in clause 2 of the Bill to amend section 20 of the Act by striking out the words - but officers of the active Military Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.
Section 20 of the Act states -
The seniority of officers in the Reserve Military Forces shall be as prescribed. . . .
The definition of active Forces shows that it includes all parts of the Defence Force other than the Reserve Forces. I am in harmony with the honorable member for Swan in desiring to make provision for the men who have been at the Front, but do the words “ active Military Forces ‘ ‘ mean those who have participated overseas in this war ?
– It includes everybody else.
– It includes everybody in the Military Service, and that being so, it does not give preference to men who have been overseas. That is the point. It gives everybody who is regarded as being in the ‘ ‘ active ‘ ‘ Forces an equal opportunity to promotion. I do not know whether the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) intends that to be so, but I can place no other interpretation upon the Bill read in conjunction with the interpretation section of the principal Act. The honorable member for Swan is quite right in his contention that we should give preference to those who have been fighting for us, but I am afraid that, with the Bill as it stands, those who have remained here in Australia will still have the right to hold choice positions in connexion with the Defence Department. I hope that when peace is signed, we may have a general disarmament of the nations, or, at least, a partial disarmament. That would, of course, largely reduce our military requirements. If we have to continue our defence establishment, we should, in every instance, give preference to those who have risked their lives for our liberties. Preference should be given to all who have seen active service abroad, including those who have servedwith the expeditions to the islands.
It has been stated that the cadets who go through Duntroon College are not permitted to rise above the rank of major. If that is so, a wrong is being done to them which should be righted as soon as possible. There are abroad many men with the rank of major, who, time and again, have led their battalion into the fight in the absence of their colonel on furlough, or because of sickness or wounds, and who cannot rise above the rank of major, because only one lieutenantcolonel is appointed to each battalion. A man may rise from the ranks, through the various steps, to his majority, bub he must then wait for an opening for promotion to a lieutenant-colonelcy, and these openings do not frequently occur, probably because there is not so much risk attaching to the holding of the higher positions.
– Has any definite instruction been issued regarding the Duntroon cadets?
– I do not know, but, if so, it is a wrong instruction. I looked into the matter of promotion some time ago, because I knew men who, for two years, have held the position of major, and have been qualified for promotion, but I learned that they were not promoted because there was no lieutenant-colonelcy vacant. If it is only on that ground that the Duntroon cadets cannot rise higher than the rank of major, there is nothing to be said.
In the past, provision has been made for the sending abroad of officers to gain experience. This has cost the country a good deal, but, in future, it will not be necessary, because so many men will return with a practical experience of modern warfare, and an ounce of experience is said to be worth a ton of theory.
– The methods of warfare might change.
– I hope that when peace is signed, there will be a disarmament, which would make that impossible.
Most of the amendments provided for in the Bill appear to be in the interests of those who are away at the Front. As to the proposal that courts martial shall have the power to inflict the death penalty for murder, I would point out that we have gone through four years of warfare without finding it necessary to give them that power, and it should not be necessary to do so now that an armistice has been signed, and we are within reasonable distance of a peace. The
House will be very loath to sanction this proposal, and the Minister should consider before going into Committee whether it is absolutely necessary. Without it, the Bill could be easily “passed this afternoon. But the statements of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), and of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) must make us very careful in this matter. Many soldiers are not responsible for- ‘their actions. In Sydney recently, I met a young fellow whom I knew, accompanied by his little daughter. In welcoming him back, I asked after his health, and he said, “ Today 1 am fairly well, but at any moment I may temporarily lose control of myself. Then 1 do not know where I am, or what I am doing; and I have to bring my little girl with me to keep me from getting into harm, t am liable because of shell shock to lose my senses.” Cases like these make the wisdom of the proposal of the Minister very doubtful. Surely we can leave this matter alone until our men return.- I trust that the proposal will not be insisted upon. Parliament has always held that the Australian soldier must be tried for a capital offence only in a judicial Court before a jury of. his peers. A” court martial takes always a military view of offences. Its members are not trained to’ sift evidence, and although good and capable men, their . judgment is warped by a bias of which they are not conscious. No court martial should have the right to deprive a man of his life. I am certain that many members opposite hold this view. A court- martial should not have the right to take the life of a voluntary soldier - because he is supposed to have committed murder. I use the wor’d “ supposed “ advisedly, because the man who is on trial for his life may not have been morally responsible for what he did. If moral responsibility for the crime could be proved, there might be some justification for the infliction of the death penalty, but it cannot be proved in the case of men suffering from shell shock. A court martial is not ‘a. fit court to try a man for his life.
Apart from this proposal, the Bill seems designed to benefit our gallant men who have been fighting for the liberties df this country, and I am sure that the Minister will be prepared to accept amendments tending to make its purposes more clear, and to insure the giving of preference to those who have been on active service.
.- I did’ not hear the remarks of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise), and I do not know whether he gave the Government’s reasons for including the death penalty provision in this Bill, but it seems rather late in the day to ask for its introduction, seeing that during the past four years of war the Australian * authorities have refused to accede to the request of the British authorities, or whoever gives the power, to inflict the death penalty on Australian soldiers. It is a serious matter in these days to take away a man’s life. It may be done unfairly, and” in circumstances which do not justify it.
– I have not intervened so far, but the discussion is . largely dealing with clauses. On the second reading of a Bill honorable members should not deal with clauses. They should be left for discussion in Committee, where they can be debated at full length, and where honorable members can take steps to bring about any alterations they desire-
-Strictly speaking, there should be practically no secondreading speeches on a skeleton measure of this description. However, the provision for permitting the punishment of death is a new one so far as we are concerned, and it is more serious now that for the first time in our history we have been brought face to face with circumstances which even medical authorities do not properly understand. I refer to the effect of shell shock on the nerves. . I saw a man get off a train six months ago to all appearances an absolute cripple. He was bandaged, and was shaking as if he had palsy, yet quite recently he drove me along a country road. When I congratulated him upon his apparently fine recovery, he said that ‘any sudden noise was likely to affect him. His statement proved true when the armoured tank visited his town, for, although he knew that it was coming, he _ collapsed, and had to be carried to his
Another portion of the measure deals with men who have won their spurs on the field, and risen to a rank which they did not hold before they left for the Front, having to drop back on their return to their previous rank, and play junior to other men who could have gone to the Front, but did not do so. The fundamental idea upon which our Australian defence system has been built was that advancement in the Australian Military Forces should be by merit, andI hope . that the military authorities will adhere to that principle as closely as they can. If this Bill does not give men on their return the status which they have earned on the field, I hope that before it leaves the Committee stage we shall see that it does, and make this a settled principle so far as Australia is concerned.
– There are extraordinary cases in which officers have been turned down since their return.
– If that is the case, it is not in keeping with the ideas attempted tobe put into legislation since I have been in this House, and I am sure that the House will not tolerate it if it can be avoided. I hope that returned men will get the treatment to which they are entitled, and that they will be given preference as far as possible. Simply because he is a returned soldier a man should not be put in a billet for which he is not fitted ; but where one applies for a position alongside another man who has not been to the Front, he should get the preference if he is just as fitted as the other man is to fill it. Men who have left Australia as non-commissioned officers, and risen to higher rank through their merit, patriotism, and soldierly qualities, should be honored as they have been honored on the field, that is to say, they should retain their rank, and be senior to men who have remained at home and earned the same rank. Any preference should be given to the soldier who has gone abroad, risked his life for his country, and done his duty as nobly as. our Australian men have done.
– I should like some information in regard to the proposed amendment of section 76 of the principal Act. I have endeavoured, by searching through the Interpretation Act, to find out the exact meaning of the alteration.
– I intimated a few moments ago that honorable members generally have been dealing with the clauses of the Bill. That sort of discussion more properly belongs to the Committee stage, and not to a second-reading debate. I hope that honorable members will not discuss particular clauses, as two or three honorable members preceding the honorable member for Barrier have been doing.
– I appear to be rather unfortunate in speaking late.If we are to be prohibited from dealing with the principles contained in the alterations, I cannot understand the position.
– The purpose of a second-reading debate is to allow of a discussion of the general principles contained in a Bill, and it is not customary at this stage to deal in detail with the clauses. If honorable members were permitted on the second-reading debate to pick out individual clauses for detailed discussion, there would be unnecessary repetition of the same debate when those clauses were reached in Committee.
– I merely desired to endeavour to elicit from the Minister information in regard to these amendments which might obviate a good deal of discussion at a later stage. However, I shall wait until the Committee stage to deal with the clauses.
I notice what appears to be a new principle, viz., the imposing of penalties on persons irrespective of whether the offence committed was wilful or unintentional. From my point of view that is an altogether wrong principle, which ought to be resisted by the
House. I think, that every honorable member will agree with the principle enunciated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) that those who have gained their rank on active service should be allowed to retain it when they return, and have seniority over other officers who have seen no active service. There is also a proposed alteration in regard to the death penalty. Only the other day one of our leading officers, Brigadier-General Rosenthal, expressed regret that the death penalty does not apply in the Australian Army, and it would appear that the high officers are anxious to have that very extreme power in respect of members of our Forces. I am in accordance with those other honorable members who have expressed ‘ strong opposition to giving to military tribunals power to impose the death penalty. I believe that the civil authorities should be superior to the military authority in all matters, and, as the honorable member for Swan pointed out, the soldier should at least have the right to appeal to the civil authorities from any penalty imposed by court martial. As the proposed alterations can be dealt with in detail when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, I shall content myself now with merely expressing my opposition to the proposed extension of the death penalty and to the imposing of penalties upon soldiers without taking into consideration whether the -offence was committed intentionally or otherwise.
.- If my memory is correct, the Defence Bill, which was introduced while the Labour party was in power in 1911-13, contained the same provision in regard to the death penalty as is contained in the Bill now before the House, but the party at that time declined to entertain the proposal, and provision Was made for all sentences to be reviewed by the Executive. Now that the war is practically over, I think that the Ministry would be wise not to persist with this provision.
– We will drop it. ‘
– I am glad to have that assurance. While the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) was speaking in regard to the inability of Duntroon cadets to rise beyond a certain rank, I interjected that the reason was that many of the cadets came from the industrial classes. In order that my remark may not’ be misunderstood, I wish to. explain that the original examination papers required the candidate to state the occupation of his parents, and. when the results were issued we found that no candidate whose parents followed an industrial occupation was included in the first twenty-five. I think that later the examination paper was altered. That was my reason for saying, that some candidates have not been able to gain promotion because their parents belonged to the industrial class.
.- In common with other honorable members who have spoken, I desire to say how pleased I was to listen to the remarks of the new soldier member (Mr. Corboy). He created a most favorable impression, and I am sure that he will prove to be a decided acquisition to the Chamber. It is my privilege to have had something to do with courts martial. On a number of occasions I was in charge of prisoners who were standing their trial, and whilst, generally speaking, the men had an excellent opportunity of defending themselves against the allegations made against them, yet there were times when the soldier did not receive the consideration he should have had, because those who were trying him were suffering to a great extent, from the same complaint as afflicted the soldier when he committed the offence. Those who have had experience of modern warfare know that it is impossible for a man after enduring privation and shock, as many’ of our men have done, to view matters in a calm and judicial manner. I think the Ministry will be wise in dropping this particular clause relating to punishments.
– That is to be done.
– I am pleased to hear it, because I do not think that .any court martial so constituted should have the power to determine whether or not the death penalty should be imposed upon any man in these circumstances. I have here the evidence taken at a court martial in connexion with a charge of murder.
The charge was subsequently reduced to that of manslaughter, but the sentence imposed was, I think, extremely severe. The accused at the time he committed the offence was absolutely ignorant of what he was doing, and even two days later was unable to comprehend the nature of the charge against him.
– How could that happen?
– This man, whilst under the influence of drink, fired a shot which resulted in the death of a comrade with whom he had been associated, and against whom he had no malice. I am sure that there was absolutely no desire on his part to inflict injury upon that comrade; but, unfortunately, whilst tinder the influence of drink - and his condition was accentuated no doubt by the nerve-racking strain through which he was passing - he fired the fatal shot. He was not responsible for his action. We should be extremely foolish if we were to allow cases to be tried and dealt with by men who themselves have.. to pass through such a time of strain and stress.
I am also in accord with much that has been said with regard to the question of seniority. Every man who has had service overseas is justly entitled to seniority upon his return.
– Might not a man have been prevented from enlisting? » I know,- for’ instance, of a doctor who wished to go to the Front, but with the outbreak of meningitis here it was determined not to allow him to go, since his services were specially valuable in the treatment of the epidemic. That man lost his life here. He paid the supreme sacrifice.
– Cases of injustice must occasionally occur in any circumstances, and in the endeavour to safeguard the interests of a man who remained in Australia against his wish, we would protect many who from the first had little or no intention of going overseas.
– I would not protect such men.
– In a case like that mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the man could be regarded for the purposes of promotion as having been on active service.
– I need say no more than that I think the Government, having regard to their declared policy of granting preference to returned soldiers, must of necessity give first consideration to the men who have been overseas, and see that they suffer in no way because of their having gone to the Front.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watt) adjourned.
– (By leave.) - It is a matter of considerable anxiety to honorable members that certain contradictory statements regarding the sale of Australian wheat have recently appeared in the press. Hitherto I have not thought it advisable or permissible to give either to Parliament or the public much of the information relating to this matter; but the recriminations and statements have taken such a novel and extraordinary form that I am going to tear aside the veil of secrecy and tell the House the whole story. It is an unusual course, and will involve the reading of some secret messages that have passed between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Governor-General of Australia. It is usual in such cases to obtain permission by express message from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In view of the necessity for at once putting this matter in its right light before the public of Australia, I have not been able to follow that course. I have, however, adopted the course of communicating with the Governor-General and obtaining his permission to discreetly use the information.
It will also involve the reading of secret cable messages between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and myself. For reading these I take the responsibility. There are some matters in several of the cables which I shall not read, since they are not relevant to the issue, but honorable members may accept my assurance that I shall read every particle of these documents that is relevant to the sale of wheat. Honorable members will accept my assurance, and I shall not lay the documents on the table. 1 start with a cablegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies dated 5th March, 1918, in relation to the then new season’s wheat. It is as follows : -
Your telegram of February 23rd, proposed further purchase of Australian wheat. Question has been considered by the Cabinet.
Remember, I am now speaking of the British Cabinet -
On the basis of an ordinary commercial transaction they feel that they cannot undertake to purchase. On the other Hand, they appreciate political and financial difficulties of Commonwealth Government, and attach importance from their stand-point to unification of control of whole of exportable _surplus and of all tonnage available for overseas trade. Provided that latter objects were fully attained, they feel that they would be in position to justify participation in Commonwealth financial liabilities as regards 1917-1918 crop. As regards finance, an arrangement would have to be made to obviate further accumulation of Australian sterling balances here by setting off payments for wheat against sums due by Commonwealth Government to British Government Departments.
This characteristic arrangement would be, not commercial purchase, but general settlement of outstanding questions of control of wheat .and tonnage in joint’ interests of Home and Commonwealth Governments.
In light of above, would you ascertain if Commonwealth Government would now be prepared to receive concrete proposal from us on lines indicated?. If the matter is to be arranged at all, it should be arranged as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister, who was then in charge of this important and delicate matter, apparently deemed this cablegram not sufficiently explicit, and consequently the Governor-General, at the request of the Government, sent the following telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 10th March, 1918: -
Most urgent. ‘ Referring to your cypher telegram March 5th - Wheat - Prime Minister not quite clear what is involved. He will be glad to receive concrete proposal on terms indicated.
There followed on 26th March a long and very involved but interesting cablegram which I take leave, even although it may exhaust the patience of the House, to read. This cablegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the GovernorGeneral, for the information of the Government of Australia^ was as follows : -
Your telegram 10th March, wheat. Main conditions we have in mind are as follows : - Please impress- on Prime Minister that while we are anxious to meet convenience of Commonwealth Government in every way possible we are not at all anxious to conclude this purchase except on principles outlined in my telegram 5th March. While, therefore, details of proposals below are, of course, open to discussion, we regard agreement on main lines here set forth as essential : - 1. Wheat. - Wheat which His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to purchase is - (a) exportable surplus of 1917- 1918 crop; (6) balance of exportable surplus 1916-1917 crop not covered by existing contracts.
I pause here to say that we have sold a large lump of the 1916-17 crop -
Main conditions they propose are as follows : - (1) Price to be paid for (a), above equivalent of lowest guaranteed payment by Commonwealth Government to producing farmers on terms as to quality and weight to which farmers subject; for (b), 32s. a quarter f.o.b. on same terms as 3,000,000 tons, contract as to quality and weight.
That is 4s. per bushel -
We were to carry all the risks for eighteen months from the date of the telegram, even on the 4s. basis, and after that until exported, to share it equally with theBritish buying authorities -
That was relating to wheat - price, condition, storage, and export -
I cannot give all the details in regard to the shipping to be transferred as part of the conditions. I shall not name the ships or their destination, but the number of vessels which were doing coastal work dr trading to Australia that were to be transferred to the war zone was fiftyone -
It would doubtless be desirable for Admiral Clarkson to have opportunity of seeing how many vessels can be spared for overseas work before attempting to fix definite number of vessels to be given up without replacement by neutrals. In order to avoid evils of competition, important that any vessels obtained for Australasian work should be obtained by us, and_ it would have to he understood that Australia would not herself buy ‘or charter ocean-going neutral tonnage.
That is based on the assumption that we would . agree to these terms to sell the wheat -
That is to say, the suggested (payments were at 15 per cent, per month, amounting to three-fourths of the whole and extending over five months -
This payment to be adjusted on final estimate of 1917-1918 surplUs to be made 30th November, 1919; payment of balance of 25 per cent, of each cargo to be made on shipment. (2) Payment to be made not in cash, but to be credited to Commonwealth Government in books of War Office against sums due by former for Australian troops. (3) Commonwealth Government to undertake during period of war to find local currency at par against payment in London for all purchases in Australia on’ behalf of Imperial Government.
That offer was made to us in March. Subsequent documents that I shall read will prove that we were not prepared to accept the tonnage conditions, which we thought would seriously injure, if not isolate, Australia ; nor were we prepared to accept the price and other conditions of sale. But we were, as the documents will prove to the satisfaction of honorable members, prepared to meet, so far as Australia’s means would allow, the financial conditions which the Imperial authorities re- .garded as essential. I shall deal with the documents in chronological order, passing over all extraneous matter on the file.
When the Prime Minister went to London he took a copy of that telegram with him, and it was one of his first duties to open up negotiations regarding it on the spot, being in possession of all the’ particulars. He left here, I think, on the 25th April, 1918, and on the 25th June, when he got to work in London, I sent him the following cablegram : -
On 26th March, 1918, the Secretary of State for the Colonies cabled particulars of an offer, to purchase Australian wheat, and coupled such offer with proposals relating to shipping, and to finance. He proposed that_ money which may be due for wheat be paid War Office as set-off against arrears of cost of maintenance of Australian troops at Front. Commonwealth Treasury has no objection to setting off moneys as indicated.
I desired to’ make it clear that finances should not stand in his way if the other phases pf the question were properly adjusted. I cabled subsequently to the Prime Minister on the 6th July, as follows : -
Re finance outlined cable 26th March, paragraph 3, sub-paragraph 2, it is not clear whether payment mentioned is to be set off against arrears by Commonwealth to British Government.” Try to get half amount placed against arrears with balance- as contra against current payments. . Make best arrangements possible, but do not let finance consideration prevent sale.
– Did the Acting Prime Minister get a reply to that?
– Between the date of the cablegram I have read and that frommyself which I am about to read, the Prime Minister cabled to me. At the time, I was very ill, and I am not sure now whether that cable from the Prime Minister is locked up in the safe at the Treasury or in the Prime Minister’s office. But I remember very well the substance of it, and it was . to the effect that the Prime Minister had been negotiating with the British authorities, that he regarded the situation as serious, and desired me to confer discreetly with the members of the Australian “Wheat Board, with a view to giving him power to sell to the best possible advantage. Answering that cablegram in its spirit, I sent the cablegram I have just read dated 6th July. I may say that the arrears referred to were then, speaking from memory, £47,000,000. If we were to sell all our wheat, and for it the Treasurer were to get nothing but a credit against that amount of £47,000,000, it would seriously have dislocated the finances of this country.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– With the prospects of” loan flotation then, I- felt we could get at least enough money here to warrant us reducing the arrears by half the amount received from the wheat sale.
On the 15th July, nine days later, I cabled to the Prime Minister as follows : -
Wheat. - At Farmers’ Convention, Sydney, last week, publicly stated that you had sold Australian wheat. I have announced Government here has no advice. Have since received communication from Secretary, Convention, requesting me cable you that farmers, New South Wales, expect 5s. Od. at least for last season’s wheat. Please advise me as early as possible whether any announcement can be made of sale.
– They asked for 2s. per bushel more than the average received for ten years before.
– On the 15th July, I got a cable from the Prime Minister dated the 15 th July, “which crossed the cablegram I have just read, and was in answer to mine of 6th July. It was to this effect : -
Wheat. . Your telegram 6th July. Quite understand but position now become unexpectedly more difficult that I dare not venture press any suggestions. Position now entirely altered since my personal and secret telegram to you. Still hope, however, for satisfactory settlement.
The next cablegram I quote is my reply to that of the Prime Minister dated 15th July, which I have just read -
Your telegram 15th July. Wheat. Regret difficulties. Rely, on you advising me when- ever position clears and definite arrangement is possible.
Then I received a cablegram from the Prime Minister dated 21st August, which included references to many things, from which I quote the following: -
Very secret. Prospects of selling present crop of which I had strong hopes are distinctly declining. In view of all circumstances and imperative necessity of selling and shipping our products I intend continue press matter very strongly.
On the 31st August, I wired the Prime Minister as follows: -
Wheat. At meeting Wheat Board, 29th August, which I attended, I set out fully present position, mentioning you have been giving matter close attention in Great Britain, but so far without success. I ‘referred also to overdraft for -payment for which banks are pressing, and to guarantee for 1018-1919 crop and to necessity for effecting a sale. After discussion, Board unanimously agreed to give you free hand, but asked that you would not sell under 4s. 6d. without cabling me. I told them that Commonwealth Government must for future have sufficient control over preservation methods to be able to give guarantee to Imperial authorities of careful and uniform measures. Board agreed, and you may assure Government that every requirement of their Australian Commissioner will be attended to. I regard sale as absolutely imperative from stand-point finance. Hope that you will continue to do your best and report the result as
Boon as possible.
– Was any quantity mentioned ?
– No; no quantity was mentioned. I was dealing with what was in the cable of 26th March - the exportable surplus for 1916-17 ‘ and for 1917-18. That was in my mind all the time. On the 5th September, the Prime Minister cabled -
Wheat. Decision of Board noted. Am seeing Chancellor to-day. Hope to settle.
On the 6th September, the day following, I cabled to the Prime Minister -
Re Wheat. Press cable yesterday indicates you have sold wheat to British Government. Please advise immediately if this correct.
I received a reply to this on the 9th September. I may say, for the information of honorable members who are familiar with what cabling was in the earlier days, that it is almost impossible nowadays, and has been during the last twelve months, to obtain an answer on either cable in less than four or five days. Thi3 is the reply I received on the 9 th September -
Be Wheat. Press cable inaccurate. I have not sold wheat, though I hope to do so. SuK. gested terms and conditions of British authorities quite impossible. I am standing for a fair deal andhope to get it.
On the 24th of September, I received the following cable from the Prime Minister. All these cables are marked “Secret,” and could not be given to the press, nor would they be published now if their publication was not necessary : -
Most secret. Re Wheat. Position is that conditions sale suggested by British Government are quite unsatisfactory.
Here information was given about the ships, but I propose to leave the figures as to the number of ships blank at this stage, because I do not think that that information should even now be made public. The Prime Minister’s cable continued : -
They ask, inter alia, that we should release of ships now remaining coast work. I have pressed them back to- exclusive of making- in all, upon which they stand, but to which I will not agree.
Had long conversation with Chancellor yesterday, as a result of which he has promised to go into whole matter again. I am doing my best and believe ultimately I shall succeed.
On the 3rd October I received the following cable from the Prime Minister: -
Most secret. Re wheat. During discussion proposed sale surplus wheat Royal Commission this morning -
The authorities who purchase wheat for the British Government, I may mention, are known as the Royal Wheat Commission. As an administrative body they are charged with the function of purchasing and handling wheat -
I learn that their agent negotiating with you re certain details.As this is likely to lead to confusion, and will certainly embarrass me in negotiations with Commission, I trust you will telegraph me with your suggestions on such points as have been discussedbetween you and agent, refraining from any undertaking or agreement in respect these. Tell him matter is in my hands. As soon as I reach finality, which I certainly have not yet done, I will cable you.
To that I replied on the 7th October -
Re your cable, 3rd October, 1918, wheat. Russell and I have talked with agent British Commission re better stacking and preservation, with object of giving Commonwealth more control over States. Nothing has been or will be done to embarrass you, and you may rely that situation as to sale is exactly same as when you left Australia.
The object of that assurance was to show that what we had been discussing was not a fundamental of the sale of the wheat, but was designed to give the British authorities some guarantee that the Government which effected a sale with them would see to the preservation of the wheat after it had been sold. On the 7 th November, no further information having reached me, I sent the Prime Minister the following telegram : -
Following resolution passed by Australian Wheat Board begins’: - “ That a cablegram be sent to Mr. Hughes that, in the opinion of the Board, an effort should be made to sell the wheat crop at a higher price than was previously authorized.”
That was at the time when the armistice was about to be concluded, and the suggestion was - as we have seen in the press - that the price of wheat would rise. The Board, in the exercise of its trustee functions, therefore deemed it wise for me to inform the Prime Minister of their views. On the 11th November I received the following reply: -
Secret. Wheat. Re Board cable. Acting upon express approval of Wheat Board in their telegram, I placed wheat under offer to British Government at 38s. per quarter, and they accepted. The reason why sale has not been definitely made is because of certain conditions British Government wish to insert in contract, to which I take objection, and to certain conditions, including provision for half profits, that I desire inserted, to which the British Government say they cannot agree. I am seeing Chancellor to-morrow to try and get matter definitely settled. If Board is not willing take 38s., I will, of course, refrain from signing contract; but Board must take full responsibility for this, and should be notified that it is quite hopeless to attempt secure higher price from British Government, and there is no other buyer.
In my opinion, best thing we can do is sell wheat as arranged. There is no prospect of being able ship quantity available from coming harvest 1918-19 during next twelve months, to say nothing of present unsold surplus. If we can get rid of 1917-18 and balance of 1916-17 surplus, at 38s, and wheat market is favorable, we can, as far as shipping facilities permit, sell new wheat at then market rates, if British Government is prepared purchase present surplus, and give us right to sell new wheat in markets of world. Board should also be notified that, in my opinion, British Government, owing to bountiful harvest in England and large stocks already purchased in Australia, is anxious to avoid completing contract, and will welcome opportunity to break off negotiations.
To that communication I replied on 14th November as follows: -
Secret. Your telegram 11th November. Wheat. Was astonished at its contents. When we exchanged cables early July about this matter, I succeeded in getting you the free hand you then asked to dispose of the product. On several occasions since I have asked you whether the matter has been settled, and you have not given me any indication that it was settled. As late as 9th September you say, in reply to my inquiry, “ I have not sold wheat, though I hope to do so. Suggested terms and conditions of British authorities quite impossible. I am standing for a fair deal, and hope to get it.” This is also confirmed in your telegram to me of 3rd October. As to whether it is now prudent policy to sell wheat, in view of change in war situation, I am not finalizing in my mind, but will confer with the Board about it. In the meantime, I do not regard the wheat as sold, and hope you will do nothing till further advised.
In reply I received a long telegram from the Prime Minister, dated 16th November, which reads -
Secret. Wheat. Either from mutilation or other cause, my telegram did not make position clear.
I did not intend convey wheat was sold. It is not sold, although Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies contended that it is.
Point I wished to emphasize was this - that I had agreed sell at 38s. quarter, subject other conditions sale being satisfactory, and that, therefore, if British Government agreed these other conditions, there would be a contract.
Conditions which I refused agree to included cession of…….. ships at present engaged on Australian coast or in Australian trade. This was subsequently reduced to…….. ships. I said I could not agree this condition.
There were other conditions to which I took exception, and I asked for insertion of a new clause, providing for 38s. minimum price, and for half share of profits on transaction, account to be adjusted yearly.
To this last condition Royal Wheat Commission was agreeable when I last conferred with them; but they have this day informed me in writing that they cannot agree to it, and ask that contract shall not provide for it.
The present position, therefore, is that wheat is not sold.
As to surrender of further ships, I am inclined to opinion that this will not now be insisted on.
The point, therefore, for Wheat Board and Government to consider is whether it is advisable to sell wheat upon terms as set out above.
I have received this day a memorandum from Chancellor, which, inter alia, covers the proposed sale of our wheat, and I feel quite sure upon one thing; - that Royal Commission will not entertain for a moment proposal of a higher price. There is, then, only one buyer of wheat en bloc, and that buyer will not give more than 38s.
I shall refrain from any action until I hear from you.
On the 19th November, after having summoned a meeting of the Wheat Board in Melbourne, I sent the Prime Minister the following cable: -
Secret. Your telegram 16th November. Wheat. Board met yesterday, and unanimously resolved as follows: - “ In view of the fact that another wheat harvest is due, which will require at least £10,000,000 for payments to growers, the Australian Wheat Board thinks it desirable that you should endeavour to sell 1,000,000 tons of wheat to the best advantage, being balance of 1916-17 and portion of 1917-18 wheat, with minimum price of 4s. 9d. per bushel. The above to be on condition that Australia is permitted to compete in the world’s wheat markets, subject only to such war conditions as may be in operation. Board further thinks that the whole of the Eastern and South African markets should be reserved to the Australian Wheat Board for the disposal of the balance of the wheat. Wheat Board is strongly of opinion that you should do your best to preserve our interests in Norway and Sweden.”
As far as I am able to judge, there is a strong feeling among wheat farmers that future prices of wheat should show substantial improvement; but I think, in view of financial difficulties, it would be wise to act on resolution of Board.
That is where the matter stood, and where it now stands, so far as the Government are concerned.
I saw in the Melbourne papers of the 21st of this month the report of a statement by theUnderSecretary of Agriculture, New South Wales, Mr. Valder, a member of the Wheat Board. In that statement he said that Mr. Campbell had asked at the Conference, “ Has the sale been made? and Mr. Valder replied, “ I believe it has.” Yesterday I wrote to Mr. Holman as follows: -
I take leave to draw your attention to the enclosed report taken from the columns of the Melbourne Age of this date, in which a statement is alleged to have been made by Mr. Valder, Under-Secretary for Agriculture, at a conference in Sydney on the 20th instant, to the effect that he believed the sale of Australian wheat had been made. It is plain that the conference referred to had been discussing, amongst other things, the announcement which I had recently made that no sale of wheat had been effected.
I would be. glad to learn if Mr. Valder has been correctly reported, and, if so, whether you consider it, in all the circumstances of the present situation, a proper procedure for a public officer of the State of New South Wales to challenge the accuracy of a statement made by me in Parliament about this important matter. 1 ask your early attention to this communication.
That communication, went by post, and as yet I have had no reply to it.
Then there appeared in to-day’s press a statement which is reported to have been made by Mr. Grahame, who’ is also a member of the Australian Wheat Board, and who either drafted the resolution to which I have referred or assisted in the drafting of it, and passed it. That is the one which I telegraphed to the Prime Minister. I wired to the Premier of New South Wales, .Mr. Holman, to-day, as follows: -
Your Minister Agriculture, Mr. Grahame, is reported in Argus to-day to have made following statement: - “Wheat has been sold, that is, 1,000,000 tons, at 4s. 9d. a bushel. The Board gave the Prime Minister authority three months ago to sell it, and the Board had no option hut to confirm the sale he made to the British Food Commission, which had accepted the offer. This was in addition to the wheat which the British Government already held, close upon 2,000,000 bushels.”
– He means tons.
– I am quoting the press report, and I am not concerned whether that is confusing bushels and tons or not. My telegram to Mr. Holman concluded : -
Mr. Grahame added: “It was a good thing to get rid of the wheat at the price. It was full of weevil.” Subsequently, same statement reported in Age this morning. Mr. Grahame knows that no sale has been made. I am therefore astonished at statement if correctly reported. Please ascertain the facts, and advise me urgently by wire to-day, as I intend to deal with matter in Parliament before it rises at 4 o’clock.
That is all the correspondence of any vital character whatever, in any Government or departmental files, regarding this matter.
I want to say, now, two or three things about Mr. Grahame’s statement. I have not yet received a reply, by the way, from Mr. Holman. However, the wheels of government grind slowly, but this lot will grind exceeding small. First, as to the statement that we would be doing a smart thing in selling weevilly wheat to Great Britain, I had an interview this morning with the Victorian Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Oman). He indignantly repudiated that we should send one bag of weevilly wheat to Britain, and during this day, since our interview, he has confirmed that attitude in the course of remarks uttered when introducing ‘a measure before the State Legislaturea copy of which remarks has been sent to me. Mr. Oman also confirmed what he had said in the earlier conversation with myself as to the actual facts as known to the Wheat Board of Australia, and he contradicted emphatically the suggestions and the statements of Mr. Grahame. If there is anything that would poison Australia’s reputation or put off the sale of this important staple product, it would be a statement of that kind going to Britain. And I intend, if I am in time, to see that that statement is not cabled to Great Britain, whether the man who made it likes it or not. I would go so far as to exercise the censorship in this matter. We do not want to take down Great Britain ; but we want - in the language of the Prime Minister’s telegrams- a square deal. If we can get it, it will be of enormous value to Australia, whether the farmers who are now talking of 5sv 6s., and 7s. a bushel, agree with it or not.
There are quite a number of men in the various associations of farmers throughout Australia who think they know much more about the actual position than the Governments who are in receipt of all the latest information possible. And while I do not claim infallibility for this or for any other Government in Australia, I emphasize that information is as important a matter on which to form judgment at this critical time as is anything else. These men have nothing to go on except newspaper cackle and gammon. I had’ always been under the impression that Mr. Grahame was a clear-headed political thinker; but, apparently, he has quite confused the facts, and does not understand the difference between an offer and a sale. The position is that we have offered this wheat. I have had no word since March last of a sale. If I could have told the House of these things at the time, I would have done so; but business of this kind cannot -. be conducted except with due regard to secrecy, up to the time, at any rate, when agreements are registered. . I point out the difficulty of doing business of this character when surrounded by an atmosphere of rumour, accusation, and attack. The Governments throughout Australia who have been concerned in the whole subject have been constantly subjected to this mode of approach, and tq the suggestion of suspicion and ineptitude, when all the time J am sure that the Governments, having no axe to grind at all, have been endeavouring solely to uphold the wheat growers’ interests. I was not associated with the promulgation of Pool arrangements. I was, like most other honorable members, just a student of the matter inside of Parliament. But from what I have since been able to learn of the different Governments who have handled .the matter - both Commonwealth and State - I make bold to assert that, irrespective of changing parties, the Governments have co-operated with wonderful zeal and effect. And, if we go back now to the best wheat; minds in Australia - glowers, or dealers, or men understanding both ends of the trade - they will admit that, but for this co-operative work, in which the Governments, and the banks, and the growers have joined, wheat, instead of being in the region of 4s. or 5s. a bushel, would have been bought for an old hat. It is just as well that the farmers should understand that. I do not blame the average farmer, because he is the victim, generally, of certain people who try to lead him - commission mongers, very largely, as an honorable member interjects. He is a hardworking man who keeps his nose very close down to the plough, the drill, and the reaper; and he should know that the Governments concerned have not been bent on robbing, but on helping him. In ^.saying that, I give no more testimony to the endeavours of this Government than I do to those of the States concerned who have been handling the matter.
Until this particular matter is cleared up by a frank admission on the part of the members of the Board who have made these statements, I shall see that the Prime Minister does nothing further in London to sell this wheat. We cannot go on being treated like pickpockets, . when we . are doing our best as public trustees.
– The majority of growers are behind you.
– Perhaps they are; but, whether they are or are not, there, is a limit to our patience in the face of attacks such as these. I am looking forward, not only to the control and disposal of the wheats that we have in Australia to-day, but to the wheat now on the stem, and in the paddock. And I say this to the grower in any of the four wheat States of the Commonwealth, that if he believes he can attend to this matter better than the Governments, then this. Government will be prepared to help him take charge of his wheat problem himself. In that problem there will be questions of stacking, of preserving, of reconditioning, of shipping, of selling, and of financing. It is a gigantic business, and if the farmer thinks he can do it with a better return to himself, then let him take it on. Any proposition having that object in view will receive very prompt and also sympathetic consideration on ‘ the part of the Commonwealth Government.
– It is absurd to try and put the farmer in that position today.
– The Governments having, forced him into the position where he now is.
– I am not forcing’ the farmer. We shall do the best we conceivably can for him in the sale of his old wheat; but if for the new season the farmer thinks he can do better than Governments, I say let him try. I do not say he cannot, but that is a plain invitation, and the Government are willing to give him all the assistance that it is possible for them to render him.
– You give him representation on the Central .Wheat Board, and it will satisfy him.
– -If my honorable friend were placed in charge of the whole of the wheat activities of Australia they would even growl at him. I cannot say anything worse than that. I am not at present attaching blame to anybody, but am trying to sketch a political situation. After many months of careful thought, I say if there is a better position than the one that the Governments of Australia have attempted to find for the wheat-grower, the wheat-grower ought to suggest it to the Government, and the Government will help him. As to the future Pool, it will depend upon some such understanding whether it is formed or not. I point out to some of the wheat-growing representatives, who are allowing their attention to stray, that, until there is a complete understanding for the new season, there will to no future Pool in which the Federal Government will join. If, however, it is made perfectly clear that the farmer still wants us to go on doing this work, we will do it as well as we are able, and do it, I hope, as I have endeavoured to show, with the addition of true farming representation on the central control body,
I do not want the wheat- grower to think there is any doubt about his guarantee for next year. We have entered into that contract; it will be observed. Whether the wheat is sold individually, whether it is pooled cooperatively, or pooled by the Government, that financial obligation will be loyally respected, and payments will be made to the farmer as promptly and fully as the circumstances and the financial resources of this country will allow. I say that, speaking as finance Minister. I think the House will be grateful for this information. If it does not set at rest this atmosphere of recrimination and suspicion, I do not think anything will. If honorable members want to see the documents I have read from, they are at perfect liberty to do so, but I venture to think that I have made as full an explanation as the documentary evidence and records of the Departments will allow me to make.
The following telegram from the Hon. G. Fuller, Chief Secretary and Acting Premier of New South Wales, has just been handed to me: -
Your telegram to-day. Minister Agriculture made statement in conversation, and not for publication. He said: “ Three months ago we. instructed the Prime Minister to sell- “ “Instruct” is rather good - “ He placed it under option to British Commission, who now were prepared to accept, and the Board, at its meeting on Monday, authorized the Prime Minister to conclude sale for 1,000,000 tons.” He added, “The British Government had already close upon 2,000,000 tons in Australia, and it was a good thing to part with wheat at the price, rather than keep it here to be eaten by weevils.” - (Signed) Fuller, for Premier.
– That is a very different thing.
– I am in the habit of accepting the word of honorable men, and I know Mr. Fuller is an honorable man, and I think Mr. Gr ah am e is, too. I will accept that explanation, merely saying this : That it only shows a loose system of journalism that bids fair to do great damage to this country. If that is what Mr. Grahame said, honorable members know what is reported. They are just as different statements as night is from day. I hope, therefore, that this kind of report will stop. There is no reason to challenge the accuracy of statements made in this House.
– As a direct representative of the growers, and one who knows them well, may I say that your statement to-day, contrasted with many misstatements that have been made, will be welcomed “by the farmers of Australia.
– I will take that as a -benediction from a man who gives us very few.
– I lay upon the table-
Wool - Central Wool Committee - Statistical Bulletin, No. 1- Wool Season 1917-18.- Analyses of Types of Wool (comprising the Australian’ Wool Clip Appraised during the Season 1917-18), prepared for the information of the Wool Trade by the Commonwealth of Australia Central Wool Committee.
In this honorable members will find in print some most interesting information about the Woo! Pool.
Central “Wheat Board: Representation oi? Farmers: Censorship of Statement by Mb. Giles: Speculation in Wheat Scrip - Sir Robert McC. Anderson : Statement about Mr. “Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook - Precautions against Spanish Influenza.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) whether, in regard to the statement he has just made-
– Order! A. statement made, by leave of the House, on a special occasion, cannot be made the subject of debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
.- I had intended to urge the Acting Prime Minister to give serious consideration to the announcement he made to the House five or six weeks ago, that the States would be asked to appoint representatives to the Central Wheat Board. The reason why there is so much dissatisfaction amongst the farmers is that they compare their position with the position of the woolgrowers, who have the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) and other representatives on the Central Wool Board, and the farmers naturally think they should have representation on the Wheat Board. Instead of this, we find men like Mr. Grahame on it, a very estimable man, who knows nothing about wheat-growing in a practical sense, and various Ministers for Agriculture. Governments come and go, and thus those men are only temporarily on the Board, so that different people constitute it at different periods, most of them being inexperienced. Right from the inception of the Wheat Pools I have urged in this House-
– Order! The honorable member is dealing with a question which has been made the subject of a special statement by the Acting Prime Minister by leave of the House. The honorable member may not do that on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– The . matter was brought up only two or three days ago.
– I am aware that the honorable member referred to that fact, but the honorable member’ knows that he is dealing with the subject with which the Acting Prime Minister dealt in a special statement by leave of the House.
– May I be permitted to ask the Government and the Acting Prime Minister if the State Governments do not. appoint these representatives to the Central Wheat Board, whether the Government will give the farmers the opportunity, through their organization, of making temporary appointments until such appointments are made by the States ? If that is done it will give satisfaction.
.- T wish to direct the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to the published report of a statement by SirRobert McC. Anderson, who, I believe, is called General Anderson. In it he makes an attack upon the two representatives of Australia now in London. No one has fought harder than I have against the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but I personally resent the action of a man like Sir Robert Anderson in descending to the language attributed to him, if he has been properly reported. The statement is quite in keeping with his action on a previous occasion, when he maligned ‘ and libelled General Sir Archibald Murray. Then, to get a little kudos here when he came back, he said that General Murray had declared he would rather lose 18,000 Tommies - Scotchmen,’ Englishmen, Irishmen, or Welshmen - than 5,000 Australians. Sir Robert Anderson has neverbeen man en’ough to produce his proofs, and what do we now find him saying? Speaking in Sydney yesterday, as reported in the Melbourne Age of this day, he said -
The Federal Government should utilize Colonel Murdoch’s services in the clearing up in Britain on behalf of Australia. If it were true that our envoys in England were “not playing speaks,” there was all the more reason to employ Colonel Murdoch. It was perturbing to think that, by the folly of two men, Australia might lose her honour and lustre. It would seem that one was a megalomaniac and! the other a fool, and it was not fair that Australia should be represented like that.
I resent that. I have proved as far as I could that Sir Robert Anderson told an untruth about an English officer, and that he has not been man enough to produce his proofs, and I resent his statement as published in the Age to-day. I suppose that men with stars on their breasts, men who have won the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, and other distinctions have to “flap-doodle” to a man like that, and I hope the Government will take action in regard to the statements of this fictitious General, because, after all, he is not a General in the true sense of the word, and bring him to book. It might be as well, also, if the Government would inform the House just “ how much money this fictitious General is obtaining in the way of salary and allowances, and let us have a clear statement as to the extent by which the country has benefited from his services.
Mr.Watt. - After recent experiences, I should feel inclined to inquire whether he has been correctly reported, because I cannot imagine any man saying what is attributed to him in this report.
– There has been ample time for Sir Robert Anderson to correct the cabled report of his utterances about Sir Archibald Murray. If General Murray made such statements as have been attributed to him, he ought to be dismissed and shot.
– He never said it.
– I do not believe he did. I think Sir Robert Anderson lied. That is my opinion about the matter.
I want now to bring another matter under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister. This is the end of the week, and I feel that the days of grace permitted to us by the quarantine regulations are slipping by. The position is exceedingly alarming when a town like Wellington, New Zealand, with a population of 70,000, and with suburbs of 130,000, has lost 600 people by deaths from influenza, and when a place like Christchurch reports 2,500 cases. We should leave no stone unturned to prevent influenza gaining a hold in Australia. The Commonwealth Government should make a courteous request to all the medical men throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth to offer their services voluntarily in order that they might be organized to fight this dread disease should it make its appearance here. As one who has been connected with the Recruiting Committee in Victoria during the whole of the war period, I can commend the services of Captain Dyett as an organizer, and I suggest that arrangements be atonce made to publish information throughout Australia, so that the people may know what are the symptoms of this disease, and what to do. I speak with personal knowledge of this matter, because I was connected with London hospitals when the Russian influenza was raging in Great Britain from 1880 to 1888, and when one who was very dear to me died from that disease. The hospitals then were overcrowded. I am not attributing neglect to the present Minister, but I impress upon him and honorable members the seriousness of the position. We have been told that the death-rate from influenza in America exceeds the total casualties from the war. Surely this is sufficient to arouse the Government to action. We have been told also that 80 per cent, of the population of Samoa has been stricken with the disease. It is urgently necessary that more energy should be shown in preparing to fight the disease in Australia. It is now about a fortnight since I asked questions in regard to this matter, and I think that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who supported me, will agree that we have not had reason to be quite satisfied with what has been done. I hope, therefore, that the Acting Prime Minister will take a hand, though I am sorry to add to the many duties that now fall to his lot, and see that something is done.
.- Statements that have been made in connexion with the administration of the Wheat Board and rumours that have been in circulation in the city for a week past must undoubtedly do great harm to one of our most important industries. We cannot allow the wheat-growing industry of Australia to be the catspaw of politicians or any other persons, because it is the foundation of Australia’s prosperity. We cannot for a single moment permit anything which might be detrimental to its interest to continue. Though the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) shows clearly that, as far as he is concerned, he has had no connexion in any shape or form with it, the action of the Government in censoring certain statements at Ouyen made by Mr. Giles, the farmers’ representative on the Wheat Board, have resulted in an unsatisfactory impression being formed. Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Giles’ statements were censored. I think that very grave injury was done to the Board itself by that action. It would have been better, I think, if an investigation had been made into the complaint, so that if his statements were not correct, he could have been exposed, and if they were correct, efforts could have been made to remedy them. The position to-day is, I fear, fraught with very great danger to the industry. It has been said for some days past that certain people had prior information, and that there has been a great deal of speculation going on.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr. Chanter). - Order! I am loth to intervene, but I understand that Mr. Speaker prevented other honorable members from entering upon a discussion of matters arising out of the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister, so I must ask the honorable member to desist.
– I am not referring to any statement made by the Acting Prime Minister; I am referring to newspaper paragraphs regarding the speculation in wheat scrip, which is supposed to have taken place because of secret information getting out. The recent rumours make it apparent that some change is needed in the administration. I should like the Acting Prime Minister to take prompt action towards the formation of a Board. I do not agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott). The State Ministers for Agriculture must be on these Boards.
– I do not object to that.
– The States making advances must have representation, but there should be representation, too, of those most intimately concerned, namely, the producers. I hope that during the next few days the Acting Prime Minister will see whether a scheme cannot be promulgated under which the grower will obtain more satisfaction than he has had in the past. By large Committees consisting of men whoare not conversantwith business affairs things may not be so well conducted; but, if the producers of each State have their representative on the Board, they will be more intimately acquainted with what is being done, and will get first-hand information, and this will make them more satisfied than they are now.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181122_reps_7_87/>.