7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement that has appeared in the pressconcerning the troopship Barambah, will the Acting Minister for the Navy inform the House what steps, if any, have been taken to investigate the very serious complaints about the condition of the vessel that have been cabled to Australia; and will he say what was the total number of persons on board the Barambah on her last trip to England, including soldiers, munition workers, officers, and members of the crew?
– I understand that a motion for the adjournment of the House is to be moved this afternoon to discuss the condition of the Barambah, and I shall reply to the question when dealing with that motion.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation aware that returned soldiers, after passing the Medical Board, are being employed in the Tramway Department of New South Wales; but that if they are found unableto do the work that is given to them, they are. put off without lighter occupation being found for them? I have information that this treatment has been meted out to an Anzac.
– I have no knowledge of the facts, hut I shall inform the Minister for Repatriation of the honorable member’s question, with a view to the making of an inquiry.
– The Seventh War Loan having been successfully floated, is the regulation preventing the giving of more than 4^ per cent, interest on money deposited with companies still in force? If so, cannot it be relaxed so that trust estates and others may have the benefit of a higher rate?
– The regulation is still in force. It was issued to prevent companies’ rates of interest from competing with the war loan; and I think it essential that it should be continued in force, because there will be other loans floated to meet war and repatriation expenditure, and it is fair to the Treasury and to the community generally that there should not be competition with these loans. I have operated the regulation with great care, so that the deposits of those affected may not be immediately withdrawn. It has been applied to prevent the increase of such deposits, and is in the interests of the banks and of the Treasury.
– The Government might temporarily suspend the regulation now that the loan is through.
– When a company has applied for the right to pay a higher rate of interest because it has hitherto been doing so, we have kept the amount on which the higher rate could be paid at the limit reached before the regulation was passed ; we have been preventing the payment of a higher rate on any additional amount. The banks were told by me, and by former Treasurers, that they must not increase their rates above per cent., and we felt it right to put other companies in the same position.
– As a paragraph in the Ministerial statement of September last said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) were staying in London with a view to removing “ the great and increasing difficulties surrounding the sale and shipment of our products, upon which so much depends for the preservation of our prosperity,” I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he has seen this statement, which appeared in Saturday’s’ Argus -
Even Sir Joseph Cook, who must remain here as long as his chief, litis no knowledge of the chief’s movements. But that is not surprising, for Mr. Hughes is a very reticent gentlemen, and it would almost seem that Sir Joseph is not very much in his confidence.
In view of the seriousness of the position, as it affects the sale of our wheat and metals, will the honorable gentleman cable to the Minister for the Navy to ask if there is any truth in the statement?
– I have not lately read the Ministerial statement of September last, and am not sure that my honorable friend was quoting from it correctly, though there was a literary finish about the words he used that induces me to think that he must have been quoting it. I have not seen the statement in the Argus, but, as I informed the honorable member last week, I am taking steps to ascertain the exact position in regard to this and a number of matters at Home, so that I may be fully informed concerning them.
– Now that . hostilities have ceased, will the Acting Prime Minister make a statement soon as to. the arrangements for bringing back our men, so that the natural anxiety of relatives may be set at rest?
– The question is a reasonable one. Such a statement would have been made before this but for the fact that there are important details which are not yet finalized. So soon as the Government, after consultation with the Prime Minister, with whom we are exchanging cablegrams, is able to make a statement on the subject, it will be made iu both Houses.
– In view of the gravity of the financial position, can the Acting Prime Minister say whether he has yet made, or will make, arrangements for giving the House a reasonable amount of time for the discussion of the Estimates before we adjourn ?
– I am anxious that the House shall have an opportunity to express its views upon certain important phases of the Government’s expenditure, but until further progress has been made with several important Bills, I cannot say whether that opportunity will be given on a full-dress debate on item 1 of the Estimates or on Supply. One or other opportunity will be given before we rise for Christmas.
– As the Christmas season is approaching, and a number of little country places wish to hold race meetings, I ask if it is the intention of the Government to withdraw the restrictions in force regarding country racing ?
– Cabinet dealt with the matter to-day, and decided to withdraw from the 25th December the regulation limiting racing - that is, allowing for the Boxing Day and New Year arrangements for the coming season.
– I wish to know from the Acting Prime Minister why the Loan Bill to authorize the borrowing of £1,242,194, which was introduced into this Chamber some weeks ago, as a somewhat urgent measure, is not being proceeded with more rapidly ?
– It is due entirely to the tactics of the Opposition. My honorable friend, as an ex-Treasurer, knows that since this Bill was introduced we have passed Supply, the effect of which is to relieve the Treasurer’s advance, and to render not quite so urgent other financial Bills.
The “ Tingira “ as a Hospital Ship. Mr. KELLY.- Will the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) in theabsence to-day of the Minister for Tradeand Customs, be good enough to get into touch with the latter gentleman, after consultation with his officers, with a view to seeing if the Tingira, a vessel fitted upin Sydney for the training of boys for the Navy, can be utilized as a hospital ship in connexion with the outbreak of Spanish influenza, in the event of such ship being required for the purpose. Mr. POYNTON.- I shall do so.
– Will the Acting; Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) inquire as to whether Dr. .Fetherston, the Principal Medical Officer of the Australian Forces, who returned to Australia recently on a. vessel that was quarantined, went into quarantine ?
– I shall inquire from theMinister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
– On Friday last a statement was made to the House regarding representations made by certain organizations on behalf of the wheat-, growers, that the Government is not getting sufficient price for the wheat, or that the offers are too low. Will the Government take into consideration the reorganization of the various Wheat Pools throughout Australia, in view of the delay in the appointment of representatives to the Wheat Board, so that the responsibility and control attaching to these important transactions shall be undertaken by the wheat-growers themselves?
– Last week, in reply, .1 think, to the honorable member himself, I stated that if the States unduly delayed an answer to the invitation we extended to them as to the appointment of representatives, I would take another course. I repeat that statement, not by way of a threat to the States, but by way of an intimation to the wheat-growing and farming representatives. . As to the sale of wheat, just before the House met I received a lengthy cable, but I have not yet had time to read it. I hope to make a statement on the subject to-day or tomorrow, but that cable leads me to conclude that it will not be possible to sell any more wheat to Britain at present.
– With reference to the scheme which was proposed to enable Australian soldiers in Europe to complete their University studies at approved institutions in England, will consideration be given to the case of those who desire to remain there for some time in order to complete those studies, without any prejudice to their right to be returned to Australia after their studies are completed?
– I should not like to give an impromptu answer to the question, in case I conveyed a wrong impression. If the honorable member will give notice of the question I shall give a considered answer to it.
– I should like to know what stage the plans competition for the Federal Capital City has reached, and when the Committee will commence the work of judging ?
– The competition for the plans was opened about two years ago, but eventually postponed until after the war. Several plans have been sent in, and the position now is that the competition is suspended. As I said last week in answer to a question, the matter of inviting mors plans will be considered shortly. In the meantime the Director of Designs, Mr. Griffin, is subdividing the original plan; that is, he is dealing with the original plans for the Capital City. I presume the honorable member is referring to the plans for the parliamentary buildings only?
– Is it a fact that Mr. Walter Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Architect, was drawing the plans for the workmen’s cottages at the Arsenal gratis before the Government engaged Mr. Morell at a salary?
– I am not aware, but I shall make inquiries.
Troopship “ Barambah
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The condition of the troopship Barambah, the necessity of an inquiry, and the necessity of insuring better audi more adequate provision for the transport of returning soldiers.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
.- In submitting this motion, I am acting at the request of quite a number of honorable members, who requested me to take the initiative, because of some statements I made in the press a couple of days ago. There is the greater necessity for the discussion of the matter in view of the official statements that have been published during the last couple of days. We are all aware that a very startling cable message from the Old Country appeared in the press to the following effect : -
Men who were on board the Barambah state that the vessel was in a filthy condition before it left Australia. The planking covering the iron decks was so badly laid that the interstices were filled with dirt, which could not possibly be cleaned up. Meat was cut up on the deck. When some of the planking was lifted, a seething mass of maggots was found. The vessel was quite unsuitable for the sleeping of 800 men on its single ‘tween deck.
There is . a general impression, whether founded on truth or not, that had it not been for the easing of the censorship that statement would not have appeared in the press. On that point I am unable to speak; but there is left in the minds of the public an ugly feeling that, possibly, the same sort of thing may have happened on previous occasions. The Defence Department has been advised for some time of the large number of deaths that took place on this vessel, yet, so far as the public are concerned, no intimation has been given in any shape or form. It is admitted that twenty-five deaths took place; but that is a matter I shall leave until later, because it is quite possible we may learn that there have been further deaths. According to the official report, theBarambah on this Voyage carried 997 men. I wish it to be clearly understood that the Barambah, according to the report, had previously carried 1,258 men, presumably soldiers, without any. complaint, and was regarded as one of the best troopships in the service. She left Melbourne on the 29th August, and did not reach Fremantle until the 8th September, although she had been expected two days previously. So far as I can learn, eighty days, approximately, were occupied on the voyage from Melbourne to London. The official report goes on to deal with some complaints I made -
At that time, it is stated, Mr. Gregory had made no complaint other than that the vessel had broken down, and was too slow for a transport.
Perhaps it would be as well for me to explain how I came into this business. I was exceedingly anxious to deliver a message to a nephew of mine, a , private, who was on board this vessel. I expected the boat on Thursday or Friday, but she did not reach Fremantle until Sunday, having been eight or nine days on the voyage from Melbourne to Fremantle. I made a special appeal that the troops should be allowed on shore at Fremantle, but only about thirty or forty were permitted to land. The others were kept on board, and I do not know what leave they were given on the voyage between here and the Old Country. Among those permitted to land at Fremantle were my nephew and a friend of his, both being lads in whom one could place the highest confidence, and they told me of the filthy condition of the boat, adding that they had overheard a medical officer saying that the boat was in a damnable state. They also informed me that there were three break-downs on the voyage between Melbourne and Fremantle, one occurring during the day, and the others occurring at night; and it is a fact that, owing to repairs having to be effected at Fremantle, the vessel did not leave that port until
Tuesday. As a result of my inquiries from officials and others who corroborated these complaints, I sent the following telegram to the Acting Prime Minister : -
Believe, from trustworthy information, steamer now here with troops not in fit condition to proceed to sea. I demand an inspection before the voyage is continued. Please treat this as urgent.
I was afraid of what might happen to that boat when she reached the danger zone. That she was a slow boat I knew from the time occupied on the voyage from Melbourne to Fremantle, and it has been further proved by the time taken in reaching the Old Country. When I interested myself in regard to the Barambah the filthy condition of the vessel was to me a subsidiary matter. My grave fear was the danger of allowing such a slow boat - she did not make more than 8 knots an hour - whose machinery was liable to get out of repair at any moment, to reach the torpedo zone with 1,100 of our boys on board. I give the Acting Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister for the Navy full credit for the action they took. Of course, all they could do was to obtain reports from officials. The Acting Prime Minister telegraphed to me immediately. He was aroused at 6 o’clock in the morning to receive my telegram. His answer was as follows : -
Re your telegram last night, am advised vessel left daybreak to-day. Naval authorities report that she was inspected Sydney and Melbourne by Naval and Military embarkation officers prior to departure, and accommodation for troops considered very satisfactory. No adverse report received in respect of any of the eight previous voyages with troops. Telegram dated 8th, advising arrival Fremantle, stated would require twenty-four hours for engineroom repairs, but no indication these other than of minor nature that might occur on any vessel. In view above, unable understand your advices. If you can furnish more specific information which will justify further action I will give matter further attention.
I then wrote to the Acting Prime Minister. Unfortunately, I did not keep a copy of my letter, but it will be in the Department. In it I drew special attention to the slow speed of the vessel, to the possibility of a breakdown, and to the danger of such a boat going into the torpedo zone. I did not dwell upon other matters, which appeared to me to be subsidiary, but from what happened on the voyage to the Old Country I am quite satisfied as to the absolute truthfulness of the statements made to me by my nephew and his friend.
– In the honorable member’s letter he asked that the boat should be inspected from the stand-point of sea- . worthiness at the first port of call.
– That is so; but in my telegram my statement was that the vessel was not fit to proceed to sea. I assume that if investigations had been made, even although the inspection of the machinery might prove satisfactory, and although the authorities might have been satisfied as to the speed of the vessel, complaints must have been brought forward by the soldiers in regard to the filthy and overcrowded condition of the Barambah.
– We heard no complaint on that score.
– That is quite possible; but I made a note in my pocketbook of what I was told - that a medical officer on the vessel had been overheard to say that the boat was in a damnable state. I also learned from officials who had been on the boat, that it was in a very bad state. Nevertheless, I looked upon this matter as subsidiary at the time. I shall not trouble to read the further official correspondence. The Acting Prime Minister, through the Assistant Minister for the Navy, wired to Durban, and received the assurance that there was no danger likely to arise from the engines. I am not at liberty to disclose other correspondence which I have, because it did not come to me directly, and I have heard of it unofficially only, but I know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann), who was on board the Barambah as a private, is now in London, and that his opinion as to the condition of the vessel could easily be obtained at once, in order to verify the complaints which I am now making. At any rate, if there has been grave negligence of duty - and, apparently, there has been - on the part of the naval officer or defence officer whose responsibility it was to inspect that transport, it must be punished. The House should demand it. There are detectives in the service of the Defence Department. They are somewhat like the Military Police. We hear a good deal of them occasionally, but we cannot see much use for them.
– Hear, hear! I am glad to agree with the honorable member for once.
– The Department had Detective Jones chasing round Melbourne in regard to an uncensored letter. I do not propose to give the name of the writer, but the Department will find it on file C.1590. A boy wrote to his brother. That letter was censored, and Detective Jones was racing round Melbourne, not in order to find out whether there was any truth in the allegations which the boy had made, but in order ‘ to ascertain whether any of his family were disloyal.In one of his letters he said -
If we get to England on this boat (tub is too good to call her) we will be damned lucky.
And in another letter, from Capetown, on 11th October, he said -
This boat is a seething mass of filth from stem to stern, and it will be remarkable if disease does not break out. I would like to tell you what happened at our last port of call (presumably Durban), but I would get C.B., cashiered.
That boy became ill on beard, and was put ashore at Sierra Leone, where he died. What reparation his family are to receive it is hard to say ; but those responsible should get the family curse. I do not know how many others died there. It is reported that twentyfive died, six in one day. Surely this House will see that something is done so that there shall be no possibility of a recurrence of this sort of thing when our boys are returning from the Front. Action should be taken by either the Government or the House. I hope the Defence Department will at once make public the names of those lads who have died and those who are ill, because letter after letter is coming from relatives with inquiries as to whether their boys are all right. Some parents are cabling to the Old Country to ascertain if their soldier sons have died on the journey, and I think the Department should immediately publish all available information in the press so that those relatives who have not been bereaved may be released from their wretched uncertainty. I have received a large number of letters on the subject, but I propose to quote only a couple of them. One writer says -
I was staggered on reading of the state of tilings with ship Barambah, but there should have been no necessity for this. We do not offer our hoys to the country to be treated worse than cattle, and somebody is responsible for this terrible bungle. I heartily sympathize with the parents of the boys who have met their death through this shameful neglect, and it is the one great blot that comes with the cessation of hostilities. Our sons go to do their part on active service, and only expect trouble from the enemy ‘by torpedoes, or mines, not to be cooped up in a den of disease, principally brought about by overcrowding and bad arrangements. Such organization is incredible, and members will not be doing their, duty if those responsible axe not brought to book.
– Does the honorable member know whether there was any sickness on board the Barambah bef ore she touched at Durban ?
– I do not know.
– That is a vital point, be- . cause if there was no sickness before Durban was reached, the probability is that the infection was picked up in South Africa.
– I inquired to-day as to when the outbreak of Spanish influenza commenced in Cape Colony, but nothaving complete dates as to the Barambah’ s movements I am not able to say whether the vessel departed from Capetown before the disease broke out. Another letter I have received is from a lady who had two sons on the Barambah, and it is very evident that she is in a most distressed state of mind because of the shocking disclosures that have been made. Other letters are couched in similar tones. I hope the Acting Prime Minister will give the House an assurance that an exhaustive inquiry will be made. I do not hold Ministers blameable for happenings of this sort, but I shall blame them if they try to shield those who are responsible. I do not believe Ministers will do that. I should not have moved the adjournment of the House if I had thought there would have been a chance of dealing with a notice of motion for the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee to make inquiries. The House should receive from the Acting Prime Minister an assurance that an investigation will be tr.ade at this end, but we shall not be satisfied with a departmental inquiry. Hundreds of thousands of Australian lads have been sent overseas, and the majority of them have yet to be reburned, and, according to the reports that have been made public, there has been gross carelessness on the part of somebody. If so, those who were responsible should be brought to book. In order to safeguard against anything of this kind happening in connexion with the return of our soldiers, a Committee, or Business Board, should be appointed in England to take charge, to some extent, at any rate, of the shipping arrangements at that end. We . cannot tolerate a recurrence of this scandal. Whether anything of the sort has happened in the past we do not know, because if such things had occurred the censor could, and probably would, have prevented the facts being made public. But any Government that knew of such an occurrence,’ and did not take steps to prevent its repetition, would be culpable. Everybody must regret what has happened. We can imagine .1,000 men cooped up on a boat at Sierra Leone, the hottest part of Africa, in a crowded, dirty, and disease-stricken vessel. Although they had been confined on board ever since they left Melbourne, only about thirty or forty of them were allowed to go ashore at Fremantle. What time was spent at Durban) or Capetown I do not know, but probably the soldiers had not more than two or three days ashore during the whole tri.p from Australia to England. The evidence discloses, that there was no room for proper recreation or exercise on board. Therefore, I ask from the Government an assurance that in connexion with the return of soldiers to Australia the arrangements will be placed in the hands of a representative committee. A . couple of soldiers should be appointed to make inquiries in London as to the condition of the Barambah on her arrival. I shall not rest content until the fullest independent inquiry has been made, and if there has been carelessness, whoever was responsible will deserve the severest punishment.
.- It is regrettable that a matter of this sort has to be brought before the House, and
I suppose that if hostilities had not ended we should have heard nothing about this trouble. Probably the censorship is not so strict now as it was a few months ago, and we, are beginning to learn a little of the truth about the treatment of our lads on the transports. I propose to tell the House a little of the truth about the treatment of soldiers on transports returning from England. Hitherto I have maintained silence for many reasons, but those reasons no longer exist now that the war is practically over. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is to be congratulated on having brought this* matter up, and also on the interest he took in it prior to the departure of the ship. He wired to the Acting Prime Minister drawing attention to the condition of the boat. The Acting Prime Minister replied immediately, but I think that in one respect he was somewhat remiss. The charges made by the honorable member were most serious, and although the vessel had at that time left Fremantle, the wireless might have been brought into operation to recall her. Why she should have been recalled it is unnecessary for me to explain.
– It is unfair to say that. Without a moment’s delay, I took every step that could be taken.
– But the wireless could have been brought into use.
– I discussed that point with the Navy authorities.
– No one could say that the vessel could not be recalled by wireless.
– The Navy authorities did not say that, but they did say that reports did not justify such action being taken. They were quite sure of the seaworthiness of the vessel.
– The Acting Prime Minister had to be guided by the Navy authorities, but from what I know of tho Military authorities, I would not be guided by them for one moment. This vessel left Australia with nearly 1,000 soldiers on board, and she took seventyfive days to reach England.
– That may not have been a matter- of speed; it was, perhaps, a matter of the course taken.
– The vessel by which I returned from England was slow; but although she stopped eight days at Sierra Leone and four days at Cape Town, she completed the voyage in eight weeks and three days. If the Barambah took ten weeks and five days to reach England, there must have been something very seriously wrong with her.
Then, again, the failure to provide medical comforts for the lads on board was due to negligence on this side, for which some one should be held responsible. The blame in this respect cannot be attached to the Navy authorities. Some one in. control of the military operations here was responsible for the departure of the vessel for England without the necessary supply ‘of medical comforts. There should be a most searching inquiry. It should not be an inquiry by military authorities into the actions of military men, but a searching investigation by mem’bers of this House, or a body of outside men. It should be an inquiry quite distinct from the Military authorities. Like the honorable member for ‘ Dampier, I have been inundated with letters from the parents of lads on board the Barambah and the other vessel. They are anxious to obtain full particulars as to what has happened. It is remarkable that the names of the lads who died on board have not yet been published. The failure to disclose their names has caused much anxiety, and it is up to the Minister for Defence to see that the names are published at once, so that the feelings of the parents of the remaining lads may’ be relieved .
While we are having this inquiry “ we should go a little further. I have here a declaration signed by five blind soldiers who returned to Australia by the Llanstephan Castle, by which I also returned. These men had risked everything for their country, and one of them stated that he obtained better food as a prisoner of war in Germany than was served out to lim on this vessel. The statement is as follows: -
We were given to understand by General Griffiths and other members of his staff that we should receive first-class accommodation and food. During our voyage home these promises have not been fulfilled whatsoever. On arrival on board this ship we were put down below decks whilst passing through the worst part of the danger zone. We stayed there for two nights. 1 know this to be absolutely true. While coming down the Channel, for two days and two nights we were liable to be torpedoed at any moment, but these five blind soldiers, as well as four soldiers with double amputations, were tossed down on the lowest deck, and not a soul on board cared whether they lived or died. Had the vessel been struck by a torpedo while they were there they could not possibly have escaped. The mental anxiety of ordinary passengers under such circumstances is severe, enough, but what must have been the feelings of these unfortunate men. They had done their best for their country, but the military authorities on board did not care what happened to them. The statement by these blind nien continues -
We stayed there for two nights, .the blind men lying about the decks sea-sick. We made a complaint about this treatment. We were ordered up to hospital, and given cots. I might state that the ‘hospital orderlies have, noticed on three occasions maggots in the food. Bice has been found on different occasions to have been sour; the soup a hot, greasy mixture ; the tea very poor quality. Complaints have been made to the matron and sisters. No medical officers have been round at the meal time, and no notice has been taken. We’ think it is hard lines that blind men have to spend their money to satisfy their needs of hunger.
We should like this statement to be put before the proper authority so that our blind comrades may get better treatment in future.
Signed by blinded soldiers,
A. Blackett. 6th Battalion A.I.P.
J. Kellogg, 27th Battalion A.I.F.
Billinton, 37th Battery, 10th ]3ri gade, 4th Division.
T Corboy. 46th Battalion A.I.F.
L.-Cpl. George Horsey, 59th Battalion.
I have also the following statement by limbless men, who likewise returned to Australia on the Llanstephan Castle -
Prior to leaving England, we were given to understand that, during the trip Home, we would receive the best accommodation and food that it was possible to obtain on board.
They should have received it. No one should have secured better food than these men. I am sure that the people of Australia, irrespective of party political differences, are unanimous on the point.
– We are all agreed as to that-
– I have said so. The statement continues -
We were put down the lowest troop deck - that is E .d.eck7 We were down there for two nights, during which time we were crossing through the worst part of the danger zone; and when life-boat drill came on, we had to crawl up four flights of stairs to get to our life-boats.
These were lads who had lost both legs. Boat drill in such circumstances was a heart-rending sight -
After making numerous complaints, we were moved up to the hospital on the promenade deck, where we were given’ cots, and slept there for three nights, but as they wanted the’ cots for munition workers, they moved us up from the hospital to a mattrass on the floor in the companion way, where we slept until Easter Saturday. -
These unfortunate men had to sleep in the companionway, giving up their cots to munition workers, who had. certainly responded to the call of their country, but were, for the most part, in good health.
– Who ordered them out of the cots ?
– I do not know. If the honorable member ever puts on khaki he will quickly learn that when an order is given, there must be no question as to the authority for it. An order, even if given by only a lance-corporal, must at once be obeyed. Whatever one’s feelings may be, there is no redress. There is no one to whom one may appeal as a- friend. It is the duty of a soldier to obey, and if he disobeys an order, he knows what the consequences will be. The statement continues -
We were in full public gaze of anybody passing by, and had no privacy for dressing or undressing, nowithstanding there were numerous lady passengers on board, and we did not have any place to keep our kits.
While these . unfortunate men were leading this life, more than one-half of the space on board ship was occupied by about 200 officers. They had more space than was allotted to 1,000 soldiers -
On Good Friday, we were ordered down to. the lowest deck again - that is E deck - by the S.M.O., Major Mcintosh. We asked to be paraded to the Colonel when Major Mcintosh came up. When Private Hagan happened to remark that we were not getting a fair hearing on board this ship, he was tried for using this remark, and was fined two days’ pay on Easter Saturday.
This man, who had lost both, legs, was brought before the Commanding Officer for making such a remark. I shall never forget the sight when he was paraded. Some one called out, “Here comes Stumpy,’ - -they used to speak of these men in that way - “ he is going to parade before the colonel.” The poor fellow had to crawl along to see the colonel, and he was followed by those of his fellow soldiers who had also suffered double amputations, and who were to attend as witnesses. The statement proceeds -
Later on, the Colonel came up, and he sent ns down to H deck, one deck higher up than E deck. The conveniences there are very bad. The floor of the lavatory is always covered with water, so that when- we go for a wash, or to the urinal, we have to go through the water on our knees.
That also is true. These men had no artificial limbs, and with nothing more than bandages around their knees, where the amputations had been made, they had to crawl through the water on the lavatory floor -
There are no chairs on this deck, and the only convenience for us men when we want some fresh air is to sit down on the damp deck. The food we receive is of very poor class. Numerous complaints have been made, but very little notice has been taken of the same.
This statement is signed by Private James Hagan, Co. J. Hagan, C. Joseph, and W. McElwee. While these” men had to submit to such conditions, I do not think the officers on board ever sat down, to a dinner without having the band to play for them. There was not a meal for which a menu was not printed. For breakfast they had oatmeal porridge, fried sole, frizzled bacon, buttered eggs, lambs’ fry, hot rolls, toast to order, preserves, tea, coffee, cocoa, fruit. I was a warrant officer and had the same, so I had nothing to complain of. While the officers were enjoying that meal, the men had stew, not a third of which was eaten. Little satisfaction was obtainable from the orderly officers to whom complaints were made. And they had porridge in big thick lumps, half of which was eaten, no sugar, and no milk. For luncheon the officers had potage minestrone, brill mariniere, jugged hare, chasseur, mashed potatoes, sardines, sirloin of beef, horseradish, collared head, galavance salad, compote of French plums, cheese, fruit, and coffee. The men’s luncheon consisted of soup, roast mutton, boiled potatoes with haricot beans, a,nd prunes in a dish of rice. For the dinner or evening meal the officers had consomne cagliari brill meuniere, noisettes of mutton, calmart. corned silverside of beef, carrots, boiled potatoes, turkey macedoine, pale York ham, bachelor pudding, cheese, dessert, coffee. The men for their evening meal got tea and bread and jam, and they could listen to the band far away. My time is nearly up, but I wish to say that there should be a committee appointed in London at once to deal with the transport of returned soldiers. BrigadierGeneral Griffiths is here, and prior to his coming I said that he is one of the best, officers we ever hai He could be trusted to do all that is necessary for the’ protection of the men. But it has to be said that he is only one man, and could not attend to everything. He could not attend to every boat,’ and see that it was supplied with everything necessary for the men. He had to trust to officers, but he trusted men whom I would not trust a yard. One man trusted was StaffCaptain Perrin, who has never heard a shot fired. He went abroad, and was P’laced in a comfortable job; but I say that all these positions of responsibility should be filled by men who have been with cur boys in the danger zone. Such men would be sympathetic, and would take good care that our lads should have fair treatments -There ‘will be thousands of men coming home shortly,” and they should not be trusted to the military authorities. Their lives are very precious to us, and they should be cared for. Lithe case of those who have died on the battlefield, their parents and relatives have the consolation of knowing that they died in the fight serving their country. No other lives must be lost if possible. The condition of affairs on the Barambah was criminal, and it is hard to think that forty lads, the flower of the land, should have lost their lives as the result of the negligence of officials. I hope that there will be a searching inquiry into this case, and that prompt action will be taken in London to see that there can be no repetition of such a state of affairs in the case of transports returning with our soldiers.
.- This is a very painful debate, but as much good may come of it, I am satisfied that honorable members will not regret it for one noment. So far as the statements made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in respect to the vessel by which he returned are concerned, I sincerely trust that even now, so long after the event, the Govern.ment will take the most stringent steps to see that the men who were responsible for what the honorable member has related shall be found, and shall be brought to book. So far as the Barambah is concerned, I have seen the statements which have appeared in the press, and the reply of the Government to them. Even when one is suspicious of Government reports, as honorable’ members on both sides know I am, it. is always fair to take the Government reply into account, as well as the charge. If the statements appearing in the. press as to the filthy condition of the Barambah ‘when leaving Australia are true, they justify the hanging of some one responsible for it. The press reports -have led me to believe that the ship did not become plague-ridden until she had been a week or two in the South Atlantic Ocean; and so far as my recollection of the press reports will guide. me, the shortage of medical equipment was not experienced until after the vessel had become plague-ridden in the South Atlantic. Now, a ship might possibly leave Australia as clean as health conditions would require, and with sufficient medical comforts j but if she became a hell on the waters, as a ship under an epidemic would become, the morale of the ship’s company would disappear, and she might well fall into the dirty condition described, and medical stores provided to meet normal requirements would completely disappear.
– As compared with an ordinary ship, extra medical stores are provided for transports.
– I am not saying that they are not. They certainly ought to be. I am only pointing out that it is quite possible that it was the unforeseen plague that brought about that hell on the waters which the Barambah became. I am very glad that the, matter has been brought up in this House in order that such a condition of affairs may never be repeated in connexion with the transport of Australian troops.
Honorable members have an instance of what may occur before their eyes today. I blame for the carelessness evident in this case not so much the menwho were in charge of the ship, and who were responsible only for carrying out the regulations in connexion with ports of call, but Head-quarters here in Melbourne for not having been more closely in touch with our health authorities to discover what ports might be safely touched at. We recently sent away a large number of Australian reinforcements in the Medic. That ship went to New Zealand. By some gross criminal negligence on the part of the Department here no warning was given to that ship that the men should not be allowed to land in New Zealand. They did land,, with the result that the Medic is now lying at the Quarantine Station in Sydney, and good Australian lives have been lost as the result of that official negligence.
The Barambah should not have been permitted to land men at Durban or Capetown, or wherever they were landed in South Africa. Whatever the truth may be as to the condition of the vessel when she left Fremantle, and I am inclined to place as much reliance on the opinion of two such boys as the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has described as upon that of the officials, the facts appear to be that the epidemic developed on the ship after her men had been allowed to land in South Africa. I trust that the Government will take this circumstance into account, and will ask why men were refused the privilege of landing in Perth, in healthy Australia, and were afterwards permitted to land in pest-ridden. South Africa ?
– Does the honorable member know that the men were allowed to land at Durban ?
– I presume that they were.
– I do not think they were, but I am not sure.
– Why was not the ship detained at Fremantle when her condition was known ?
– I am not dealing with that now. I must say that I was agreeably surprised with the energy and promptitude with, which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) dealt with the wire sent him by the honorable member for Dampier. Honorable members on both sides know departmental and Ministerial methods, and apart from politics I am satisfied that they will give the Acting Prime Minister every credit for the prompt way in which he had inquiries instituted. I am not now dealing with that phase of the matter. It seems obvious to me that the Barambah became infected with Spanish influenza in South Africa. These germs are not floating about in the heavens. Influenza is an epidemic disease, and the germs had to be picked up somewhere. Whether they were picked up in South Africa owing to the carelessness which permitted the men, and if not the whole of the men, perhaps a few favoured individuals, to land, or the carelessness which permitted persons from the shore to come on board the ship is not clear. That is a matter which needs inquiry, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister to see that, so far as the movements of these transports are concerned, the Quarantine Department shall in future take steps to ascertain what ports can be safely called at by transports returning from Europe, so that they may be protected from infection. I think that an inquiry should promptly be made into the criminal negligence in connexion with the Medic, and a searching inquiry made into the case of the Barambah, and also into the allegations made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). I sincerely hope that the matter will be thoroughly probed, and that, if carelessness or guilt be discovered, it will be visited with all the severity of which the Government are capable.
– In regard to the remarks made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), I am not quite sure, but I think the route of such vessels is controlled by the Imperial authorities, and as to allegations about allowing men to land at infected ports, I may say that for some time past instructions have been issued that no men were to be allowed1 ashore. I do not know the circumstances regarding the outbreak on the Barambah, but I do know of other cases in which men have gone ashore in spite of instructions, and that may have occurred at South Africa. The information which has been placed before me with regard to this matter is as follows : -
On the 10th September the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) telegraphed from Perth that he believed, from trustworthy information, that a steamer, then in the West, with troops, was not in a fit condition to proceed to sea, and he demanded an inspection before the vessel proceeded on her voyage. The matter was at once referred to the Navy and Defence Departments. The ‘former replied that Mr. Gregory’s statement was not understood, as the Naval Transport Officer, Melbourne, reported that the vessel was inspected both at Sydney and at Melbourne prior to departure, by Naval and Military embarkation officers, and that the accommodation- for troops waa considered to be very satisfactory. The vessel had made five previous voyages, carrying troops as well as invalids, and no adverse reports had been received. It was stated that a telegram was received on the 8th September, intimating that the vessel would require twenty-four hours for engine-room repairs, but there was no indication that these were of other than ordinary nature which might occur on board any vessel.
The vessel sailed on 9th September, before receipt of Mr. Gregory’s telegram-, and Mr. Gregory was advised accordingly.
On the 11th September the Navy Department intimated that the District Naval Officer, Fremantle, reported that there was nothing known there of the vessel not being in a fit condition when she was granted clearance and sailing orders. The transport officer, master, and officer commanding troops had made no complaint against the vessel or otherwise.
The Defence Department also acted promptly in the matter by instructing the Military Commandant at Perth to take, in conjunction with the Naval authorities, such steps as might be necessary, but the Commandant replied that the vessel had left before the receipt of these instructions, and that no complaints were received by the Military embarkation officers.
Mr. Gregory followed up his telegram by a letter (18th September, 1018) stating that he had learned from most reliable sources that when the vessel, with 1,100 troops on board, was proceeding from Melbourne to Western Australia, the machinery broke down on three or four occasions - once in the day-time and twice or three times during the night - and that the boat was drifting while repairs were being effected ; that the general conditions of the boat were vile; that the rate of speed was S knots or less per hour; and that the repairs effected in Western Australia were of a temporary nature. Mr. Gregory strongly urged that when the vessel reached Durban, before there was any possibility of getting into the danger zone, a ‘ thorough examination of its machinery should be made, and an assurance given that it was in first class order before it was allowed to proceed.
On the 18th September, Admiral Clarkson reported that he had ascertained that after the Barambah left Melbourne the pumps supplying the latrines with water broke down, thus necessitating a temporary flushing of the latrines with hand buckets. Necessary repairs were, however, effected before the steamer sailed from Fremantle. Admiral Clarkson, a few days later, reported that the average speed of Si knots an hour was made by the vessel, which was not unusual in the winter against a head wind and sca for a vessel which usually averaged 10 to 10i knots. The distance run for the first twenty-four hours after leaving Melbourne would probably have been below the average, due to the condition of the firemen on leaving. The Admiral said that a cable was being despatched to the next port of call, requesting that a report be obtained of working of the steamer’s engines on the voyage, and that if necessary, a survey of the engines would be carried out, but that so far as could be ascertained, ‘ the trouble referred to on the voyage from Melbourne to Fremantle was confined to the breaking down of the sanitary pump, which could not be regarded as a serious or unusual occurrence.
On the 30th ‘ September the District Naval Officer, Durban, cabled that the master had reported that the condition of the engines on the voyage had been satisfactory; that a defective eccentric strap had been made good on the voyage, and that no further trouble had been experienced. In submitting a copy of .this cable, Admiral Clarkson remarked that the vessel had made an excellent voyage from Melbourne to Durban in point of time, and in view of the District Naval Officer’s report, there seemed to be no grounds for the original report made that the vessel was unseaworthy. These additional facts were also brought under the notice of Mr. Gregory, who replied, that the class of pump with which the vessel was fitted must have been something novel, “ new and out of the ordinary,” when the fact of its getting out of order necessitated the stoppage of the ship in raid-ocean . on mote than one occasion, and also necessitated delay at Fremantle for repairs. He added that, should anything occur to the vessel when in -the danger zone he would hold himself free to take such action as he should consider essential to protect the lives of those on board.
The records show that the Barambah has made five trips from Australia with troops. For her fourth trip, in June, 1916, she was fitted for troops, and embarked from Sydney on the 23rd June, and Melbourne on 27th June, 27 officers, 52 sergeants and 1,180 other ranks. The voyage report by the officer commanding troops stated that the ship was overcrowded. The vessel returned to Australia iri June,- 1917, with invalids, carrying a total of 17 officers and 956 other ranks. The voyage report stated-
Troops’ decks are excellent in their special accommodation, ventilation, and natural lighting. Ample supply of fresh water. Voyage throughout has been satisfactory. Conduct of the men on the voyage excellent, and health all that could be desired.
On her fifth trip from Australia, which is the voyage under comment, she embarked at Melbourne, on 31st August, 1918, 26 officers, 62 sergeants, and 857 other ranks, and I draw attention to the comparative numbers of men carried on the two preceding voyages. The particulars of accommodation provided on tha fifth voyage are as follows : - Troop deck space for 1,126; number allotted, 919; hospital accommodation, 32 cots; regulation allowance, 32; wash places, 49 basins ; regulation allowance,’ 38 ; showers, 21; regulation allowance, 4; latrines, 38 seats; regulation allowance, 26. I have, in connexion with the matter -
At that time the only complaint which had been made was in regard to the engines.
The report of D. M. Ross, Commander for Captain, Naval Transport Officer, addressed to the Director of Transports, Navy Office, Melbourne, and dated 23rd November, reads -
With reference to the complaints as to alleged uncleanliness of the above-mentioned ship’s troop-decks, the sheathing was lifted in- various places at Sydney, as is the usual custom, the deck was examined, and found satisfactory, and the sheathing was replaced.
The scuppers wereexamined and cleared, and there should have been no troublein keeping this ship’s troop-decks clean. The upper deck was sheathed with open plankingto facilitate washing out. It was well cleared of obstructions, and there was ample exercising space, seeing that the ship carried a reduced number to her ordinary complement of 1,250. Washing places andlatrines were fitted for the carriage of l,200men; these were thoroughly overhauled and tested, and were found satisfactory. The main hospital and isolation hospital were fitted with all necessary requirements, and, in addition, an inhaling room was fitted in this ship; also extra sterilizers and percolaters. There was sleeping accommodation for 893, and messing accommodation for 1,000. At the preliminary inspection here, before sailing for Queensland, the ship was thoroughly cleaned and everything found working satisfactorily. The chief officer, chief engineer, and chief steward, expressed their satisfaction. This vessel arrived in Sydney on 6th August, and sailed for Queensland on the 10th August, 1918.
I have here the usual report of the final inspection before sailing of this steamer, and while it seems unnecessary to detail all the. questions and answers which are embodied in it, I may say that they relate to arms, sea kits, and accoutrements, helmets, hammock and bedding, messes, precaution against fire, baggage, regimental stores, camp equipment, latrines, &c.
– By whom is that report signed?
– I am coming to that. In the margin of the report which is set apart for remarks by the Board, I find the following: -
Very satisfactory. Melbourne, 31st August, 1918.
The report is signed by C. R. Brewis, Naval Inspecting Officer; A. E. Greig, Military Inspecting Officer, and M. Sturdee, Military Medical Officer. From that report it would appear that everything which could be done to insure proper conditions being observed on the Barambah was done. In this connexion I regret the eagerness of some honorable members to cast reflections upon officers who are not here to defend themselves.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted.
– I have no reason to believe that these officers would deliberately fake statements, or do any of the many tilings which have been hinted at by one honorable member to-day. Upon the whole, I can say that the officers with whom I come into contact, exhibit quite as much interest in the preservation of the lives of our troops as do those honorable members who are so fond of reflecting upon them. It is quite possible that the statements published in the London newspapers regarding this ship relate to what occurred on board after she left Durban. Whether the troops were allowed to land at that port I cannot say. But an. outbreak of sickness occurred subsequently, and in view of the large number of men who were affected by it, there may have been a considerable amount of neglect of the cleanly conditions which are ordinarily observed on board such vessels. Nothing is farther from my mind than to countenance treatment such as it is alleged was meted out to the men on these transports, and I am sure that nothing is farther from the mind of Admiral Clarkson.
– Nobody has suggested that. Admiral Clarkson has to depend upon the statements of others.
– The men responsible are those whose names are attached to the final report on the vessel before sailing.
– Everything was done that is usually done to insure the maintenance of the health of the troops.
– The Minister will admit that when I sent my telegram I felt very strongly on this question. Yet I kept the matter secret till after a statement had been published in the press the other day.
– I am not blaming the honorable member. A statement has been published in the newspapers as to the conditions which obtained on this vessel, and thousands of persons are interested in the matter. I was very disappointed with the results following the outbreak, but whether they were the product of the conditions to which reference has been made I cannot say. I am merely endeavouring to show that before the vessel left these shores everything was done which could reasonably be expected to be done.
– Does the Minister propose to have an inquiry into the matter ?
– Most certainly.I only returned from Adelaide to-day, so that I have not yet had an opportunity of finalizing how the inquiry should be conducted, or who shall undertake it. But I shall certainly have an inquiry made into the matter. . .
– I, too, am very glad that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has seen fit to bring this matter before the House, because I am convinced that the question of the control of our transports is one which urgently calls for investigation. There have been many incidents on board our transports proceeding overseas or returning to Australia which reflect great discredit upon whoever is responsible for them. Some persons ought certainly to be punished for what has occurred. If an investigation into these cases results in the punishment of those who are responsible for then:, it may improve the conditions which will govern the return to Australia of the 180,000 of our men who are still abroad. In this connexion I would like to direct attention . to a couple of instances of which I have personal knowledge - one relating to the time when I was returning to Australia, and the other to the period during which I was on active service as a soldier. Upon the vessel by which I returned home as an invalid there were over 800 noncommissioned officers and privates, in addition to six officers and one Young Men’s Christian Association secretary. The vessel was an old cargo tramp, which had only one deck. That was the boat-deck. There were two well-decks, all lumbered up with various odds and ends, and not having a total of 30 square yards of space in either of them”. The 800 non-commissioned officers and men had the run of the two welldecks, with a total of less than 20 square yards, in which to exercise themselves; while the six officers, and the Young Men’s Christian Association secretary, who had never done a bit in the war, had the whole of the boat-deck to themselves on which to play their deck quoits. I cannot remember which particular transport that was, but the date of its arrival at Fremantle was 9 th July last year, and its name, therefore, should be traceable. That boat, apart from the condition I have just described, was fairly good. The food was reasonably good, except that the staff on board was totally inadequate, and the invalids who were being sent back to Australia because they wore physically unfit for further service, were forced to haul the food up for themselves from the holds. Sides of beef - huge pieces of meat - had to be drawn up by means of cranes. I might add that the men were bribed with a little issue of rum to do this.
The other boat to which I have referred, and with which I was concerned while classed as an active soldier, possessed the most disgraceful set of conditions I have ever come across. We were on board this vessel while travelling from Egypt to Lemnos, on our way to Gallipoli. We were three days and nights on board. The ship was filthy and verminous. There had apparently been no inspection. There were a number of live cattle for the use of natives, who insist upon killing their own meat. . These animals were on a deck above the men, and the filth filtered through, to a certain extent, to the deck below, where the troops were. As a result, many of the men slept in empty cattle-pens, amongst the cattle themselves, since those places were cleaner than our own deck. The pipes of the latrines were all blocked, so that all the refuse was flowing about the scuppers of the boat. Food was practically non-existent during the three days and nights. Between each section of men in the different companies there was issued one 7-lb. tin of bully beef - corned beef. That was the only issue of food to each section. There was not even the old, hard Army biscuits. Matters became so bad that the troops were practically in a state of mutiny. Fortunately, the vessel ran into Lemnos Harbor, where we were able to secure more provisions.
– Who was provisioning those transports across the Mediterranean?
– I was not the General Officer Commanding the Army at the time, so I cannot say.
– I know that; but was it the British Navy?
– I cannot give that information. We went straight on board at Alexandria, and the provisions were already on the ship. We did not see them put on, nor did we know who put them on board. I am not aware of the name of the transport, but she left Alexandria about the 1st October, 1915 ; and it should - be possible, therefore, to trace it also.
Those are two incidents which came under my personal observation, and they show that some one neglected his duty with regard to the transport both of troops invalided home and of troops on active service. I feel confident that it is not because the Government here wish the men to be treated in that manner; it is simply because their servants - officers overseas - are neglecting their duties. It is up to the Government, therefore, to see that the responsible parties shall be punished, so that, at any rate, the boys who are still to return shall not be treated in the same way,
.- I am glad that an inquiry has been promised, and I only hope that it will lead to something. I am sorry to say that after many years of parliamentary experience I am inclined to be diffident in the matter of holding any hope. There is an argument which has again been used, and which is so hoary with age that I shall be glad to hear something different ; that is, that men should not be attacked who are not present to defend themselves. I know, of course, that it is not possible for them to be here; but, if there is a searching inquiry, men accused in Parliament may then give their evidence. On the other hand, however, is an honorable member to be prevented from exposing an infamy because he cannot get the party concerned in front of him in this Chamber? Now, if there is to be a little relaxation of the red tape “ powwow “ in regard to our soldiers and their affairs, we shall be hearing one hundred.fold additions to the stories such as the returned soldier, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), has just mentioned.
When I exposed and proved to the hilt the fact that that man Angliss forwarded diseased meat to the soldiers who were going to the Front, what was done? Did the Government punish him ? Did they cancel his contract ? Not a bit of it. When another man was exposed for selling diseased i-ice, with weevils in- it, and a member of that same firm had the condensed cheek to come down to the Court and give evidence to the effect that it was not bad as food for the people, and that the weevils could be removed from the rice, what did the Government do ? What have they done ? I understand they have appointed a member of that same firm to one of their various Commissions. Possibly, he will get £30 a week for his services upon that Commission.
– Who is that?
– Harper. He was fined three times before the Courts, and finally the magistrates spoke very strongly against him. Yet, one member of that same firm told the Court that he did not think weevils made rice unfit for human food. That is the same individual whom the Government “have regarded as a fit and proper person to hold office upon some one of the Government Commissions.
– I do not think that man is getting any salary.
– I should hope not, at any rate. We do not want any of those lip patriots to be making another pile of money out of the war, in addition to their fortunes from the ordinary conduct of their business. How different are they from that American multimillionaire, Ford, who, for one dollar a year, is not only giving to the United States Government the advantage of his intellect^ but has handed over his factories also to the making of things for his country, free of cost.
I proved that matter of diseased meat in the case of Angliss. I proved that that man was sending down that vile stuff to our transports. And there is no doubt that diseased meat had been sent on board repeatedly before, for returned soldiers have told me that the cooks have put food in their dishes, and that they (the soldiers) have seen the bubbles burst. Those were the bubbles of hydatids.
I hope that somebody will be punished in this present business. I thank the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) for bringing this infamous case before Parliament. These officials who may be concerned are possibly very safe in their high places in their various Departments. Departments are running the country far more than they should be permitted to do. I hope to see the day when not only members of Governments and of Parliaments, but the heads of Departments, shall be held under real and proper control by the power of recall on thepart of the people who pay their salaries.
As for Board of Trade regulations, if ever there was a farce in its relation to the welfare of immigrants travelling in the steerage of vessels, it is those regulations. I have brought immigrants out to Australia on three separate occasions. I was told to examine their arms to see if there were vaccination marks upon them. They might be rotten with phthisis; they might be dying of consumption; they might have tubercular joints everywhere, but I had to pass them if their arms showed the vaccination marks. Of the passengers on the first of those ships, when it arrived in Western Australia, five died within some weeks of being landed. I knew that the sentence of death was placed on them,but I could not refuse them. All I had to ask was what the Board of Trade stipulated. I was not permitted to go outside of their instructions. ‘ “I was required by the Board to provide certain instruments, and I actually had to go to the museum of our hospital and borrow them. These instruments had not been used in St. Mary’s Hospital for over twenty years, but the Board of Trade insisted that they should be on the ship. What I did was to borrow them from the museum, show them to the officer, and then put them back in the museum. So much for the Board of Trade regulations.
I honour the man who insisted upon the provision of more latrines and more baths. I had trouble once with my friend and leader (Mr. Tudor) over the bath accommodation at the quarantine station in Sydney Harbor -the biggest station in Australia. When I was quarantined there with the rest of the Pearling Commission through a case of small-pox occurring on the Japanese boat we were travelling by, a number of women were also landed from the steamer. The baths that the women from the second class and steerage had to use were little troughs or sinks, about 2 ft. 10 in. long, by 1 ft. 10 in. wide, and 11 in. deep. Not one man at the station carried out really antiseptic measures on this occasion, except the Japanese doctor from the steamer. All that prevents disease spreading from the station to the town of Manly is a galvanized iron fence eight or nine feet high. No medical man can say with certainty how far’ germs will carry in the air in a genial climate like that of New South Wales. I would emphasize the fact that wehave a respite of a few days through the quarantine arrangements in dealing with the dread disease now hovering over Australia. The suggestion made in today’s paper with regard to the charge for doses of vaccine is an infamy. It appears that theauthorities are manufacturing 500,000 doses a week and propose that a charge of 5s. per dose shall be made at the Melbourne Hospital. The amount of money that has been spent on vaccination against small-pox runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has fought more than one personal fight on that matter.
– I have had to pay five fines.
-I admire the honorable member’s pluck. He will agree with me that more money has been spent in that direction than can possibly be spent in combating this dread disease. I can. now ask him if the Government will supply the serum to treat the disease known as Spanish influenza free to private medical men in the same way as vaccine for small-pox is now supplied, on condition that the medical men charge only a nominal fee to the public for administering it - say 2s. 6d. or 5s. at the most.
– An Inter-State Conference is sitting on that and other matters now.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister believe in inoculation for this disease ?
Mr.Watt. - I do.
– I am glad the Conference is being held, but it will.be an infamy if the press is not allowed to be present at its meetings. The press is the great means of publishing throughout Australia the remedial measures that can be taken. Placards have not yet been put in various places in the city showing the simple precautions that should be taken, and describing the symptoms. The first step for the patient to take is to rest in bed; then he should send for the doctor. If he cannot afford to pay for a doctor, he should be allowed to send for the Government doctor. I am assured by the Premier of Victoria - and this was confirmed only to-day by Sir Alexander Peacock - that the State would co-operate with the Federal Government in everything in this matter. Now is the time for us to organize. Let the request be made courteously over the Acting Prime Minister’s signature to medical men throughout Australia to offer their services free, and volunteer to combine and organize to meet this disease. I am sure the request would meet with so successful a response that the Acting Prime Minister would never regret making it.
Two parties are to blame for the men on board the transport mentioned being allowed to land in New Zealand, where the disease was prevalent. One is the Quarantine Department of New Zealand, which was to blame for letting the ship allow the men to land ; and the other was the medical officer in charge of the transport, who let the men land, knowing that the disease was present in New Zealand in a most virulent form.
– The men get off, in spite of the doctors.
– I am told that General Fetherston, the head of the Medical Department, insisted on going ashore, and went ashore.
– I promised to-day to inquire into that allegation.
– If it is true, and Dr. Fetherston was the cause of bringing the contagion on board the ship, the blame should rest on his shoulders; and blame should also rest on the Prime Minister of New Zealand, if it is true that he ordered the ship to go right up to the wharf. If I were in New Zealand, and lost friends or blood relations through his action, I would publicly hold him up to the opprobrium of the people. I am loath to think that General Fetherston would do what is alleged against him; but, if he did it, let punishment fall on him.
Mr.Finlayson. - What would you do to him?
– Take his diploma away.
– Fine him for defying the quarantine law, and send him back to New Zealand.
– Absolutely. If he carried the disease to a beloved member of the family of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), the honorable member would feel inclined to punish him even more severely. If hehas been responsible for the deaths on board that transport of men who should be at the healthiest time of their life, punishment should certainly fall on him. The district of Auckland has lost over 1,000 lives through this disease. I know the Acting Prime Minister is sympathetic with me in this matter, but he has to carry on his shoulders such a large amount of work connected with various Departments, that I sometimes feel I am doing wrong in pressing him so much. But I do not want any pause to occur in our preparations. Now is the time for us to put on a full head of steam.
– The quarantine authorities have done very well. They have saved Australia up to now.
– Thatis so; but the respite only gives us a little more time in which to act. I have detailed a few simple precautions that can be taken by the general public. Every one should avoid a person who is sneezing and coughing, or running at the nose. The germ seems to control the human being for the time, and practically make him its slave, in order to spread the infection. Dr. Cumpston is a most capable physician, and could draw up a list of simple directions in a hour or so. Then these could be published far and wide. I have made these remarks, not to worry the Acting Prime Minister, but to try to stimulate him, if possible, to further exertions.
.- I am pleased that the Government have promised an inquiry into the complaints regarding the Barambah. Like the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), I have had experience of ‘transport life, and I know that the complaints made by those honorable members are general. The same conditions regarding the space allotted to the men obtained on the boat in which I left Australia, and also on the one on -which I returned, although not, perhaps, to the same extent as in the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat. On the vessel by which I travelled, eight or nine officers had possession of half of the boat deck, and the rest of the soldiers on board had to be content with the remaining half, on which we were somewhat overcrowded. I have often wondered how this sort of thing has come to be tolerated in a democratic country like Australia. Traditions which have clung to the British Army for so long seem to have fastened ‘themselves on out Army. I hope that the time may come when they will be disregarded, and all our soldiers placed on a more equal footing. I have known men of intellect, education, and standing in the community, having at great sacrifice responded to their country’s call, to be herded together in a manner which did not speak well for those who mismanaged our transportation. I do not propose to make any direct charges, but if has been most difficult for me, and, no doubt, for the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), to refrain from giving voice to my feeling on the subject. Many others are now returning to Australia, and the silence that has prevailed concerning it will not continue. These things need rectifying. The war is practically over, and there is no, likelihood of more men being sent from Australia, but it remains our duty and our privilege to see that mistakes do not occur in the bringing back of our soldiers from overseas. On the vessel by which I travelled the catering was bad, and there was a great lack of fruit. On one occasion there was so little fruit that the rank and file had actually to divide the apples supplied to them. This fruit had been sent from Australia for the use of sick men coming back. But one had only to glance into the officers’ quarters to see their tables laden with fruit, among it apples taken from the crates which had been put on board the transports for the use of sick men. That fruit was eaten not only by returning officers who were sick, but also by the officers of the ship, and others who had the privilege of dining at their table. These things should not have .happened, but as they did happen they may happen again. I hope in the interests of the men who have* still to return, that the authorities will see that they do not recur. In themselves they may not be of great moment, but they have a great effect on our free-born citizens. The men should be made to feel that they are returning to a country which appreciates, and wishes to show its appreciation, of the services that they have rendered. ‘ I am glad that there is to be an inquiry, and should it be possible to sheet home blame to any one, those who have been responsible for mismanagement should not gO’ unpunished.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Last week the Acting Prime Minister informed the House that he was cabling to London to ascertain whether there was any truth in the statement that the relations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) are strained. Has he received a reply to his cablegram, and, if so, will he acquaint the House with its nature? Does he not think that the House and the country should know whether there is any truth in the newspaper statement?
– I think that the House and the country are entitled to know the truth, but at the present time I am not in a position to make any further statement on the matter.
– A week has passed. There must have been neglect.
– I am aware of the delay, and I am also aware of the desire of my honorable friend to sow’ dissension between my chief and myself.
– I do not admit that for a moment.
– Then the honorable member’s real intention has been sadly disguised.
– That may be the effect of my questions; it was not my wish.
– It is the effect of the questions, and I have not the slightest doubt that it is the natural desire of the honorable member as a member of the Opposition. He will excuse me if I do not allow him to force my hand at this stage.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to statements and comments in paragraph 75 of the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration concerning certain navy contract claims, and the denial by the Assistant Minister for the Navy or his officers of the accuracy of statements and comments contained in the said paragraph, will the Government appoint a Judge of the Supreme Court to inquire into the matter to decide as to the accuracy or otherwise of the challenged statement?
– If the honorable member will refer to comprehensive statements made in the House by the Assistant Minister for the Navy on the 17th October (Hansard, page 7061) and 6th November (Hansard, page 7472), he will find a full explanation of this matter.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The initial difficulties in rolling wire -rods have not yet been overcome, and until the rods are of - perfect and uniform quality, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is not prepared to place them on the market. Imperfect or unsuitable rods would give the company a bad name, and until the rods are perfect none will be sold. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has not sold any rods, but as soon as the initial difficulties have been overcome, and a surplus over its own requirements is produced, rods will be sold to all customers; and without any preference. In order to bring this about, additions are being made to the rod-producing plant, and the machinery for these additions will be made locally.
It is true that the Austral Nail Company sold 750 tons of rods. These rods were not made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, but rods that the Austral Nail Company imported for its own use, and were resold to Messrs. Lysaght Brothers as a favour, in order to keep them going.
The Austral Nail Company does not sell, nor has any authority to sell, any rods for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. The sales are entirely in the hands pf the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the existing contracts between the Queensland and Im- perial Governments are for the duration of the war and six months afterwards, the Commonwealth Government will take over the control of meat export so as to protect the private meat traders of Queensland, who, it is stated, have suffered very heavy financial loss as the result of the acquisition by the Queensland Government of meat for the State butcher shops at a price lower than that at which private traders could secure it?
– The sale of Australia’s exportable surplus of meat after the expiration of the existing contracts with the States is receiving the attention of the Government.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the application of Mr. Middleton, a returned soldier, to work at Torlesse Islands: -
Is it a fact that this application was refused on the grounds that these islands were required for the natives, and that earlier claims had been registered?
Are any of these earlier claimants returned soldiers?
What are their names?
Is it a fact that the Papuan Administration has planted some of these islands for revenue purposes?
If so. how does this fact accord with the Government’s statement that these islands were required for the natives?
Is the Minister aware that these islands have never been used by the natives, and that they are willing to sell them?
Has the Lieutenant-Governor been informed that the policy of the Government is preference for returned soldiers?
Will the Government reconsider Mr. Middleton’s application?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Government has considered the subject of the renewal of the bounty on evaporated apples for another year?
– No; but the matter will receive consideration at an early date.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the sum of £250 allotted to each fruit-growing State last year to advertise the industry was not paid to New South Wales, wall the Government place a sum on next year’s Estimates to repair the omission?
Mr.WATT. - An intimation was received from the Department of Agriculture, Sydney, that it was not considered, likely that New South Wales would require any portion of the amount made available, as the Fruit-growers Association of New South Wales had not made any specific request for such a campaign, and no independent movement had been made in the -direction indicated. Provision was made last year for the amount in question, and lapsed on the 30th June. It is not proposed to make any such provision on next year’s Estimates.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether it will be possible to ship to England a portion of the very large apple crop during March and April next, and thus relieve the local market?
– All the space in vesselsproceeding to the United Kingdom will probably be urgently required for the carriage of perishable products, the property of the Imperial Government. Present indications point to the fact ‘that no space will be available for the shipment of apples.
asked the Assistant Min ister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The amount paid for hire for the vessels named is as follows : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– -A report has been called for, and replies will be furnished at a later date.
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) asked whether consideration would be given to the request made by Mr. Featherston, the inventor of certain medicine, to permit that gentleman to give a demonstration of the value of his medicine. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The prescription of Mr. Featherston does not contain anything new or unknown to the medical profession. The remedy has been referred to the Advisory Medical and Surgical Committee, which reported that there is no reason to think that this particular combination would be of any special value in dysentery. It is, therefore, not proposed to take any further action in this matter.
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked the following question : -
When news of the Armistice came through, Lt.-Colonel Scott, Officer Commanding a Camp of Citizen Forces in training at Bendigo, is reported to have refused a request on the part of the men for a holiday. It is further reported that serious trouble ensued, and that numbers of returned officers tendered their resignations. Will the Minister have an inquiry, and see that we do not lose the services of these officers?
I am now advised by the Military Commandant that the men were informed by 10 a.m. that they could have the afternoon off, and ‘ arrangements were made for a special train to Bendigo. . Over 1,300 men went into Bendigo by the special. It was considered inadvisable to have over 2,300 men in Bendigo in the morning, when every one was excited, and the results are reported to have proved this procedure satisfactory. There was no serious trouble, but a good deal of excitement, naturally due to the occasion. Two officers (returned Australian Imperial Force) tendered their resignation from Camp duty, and asked to be demobilized on medical grounds.
Demobilization : Lack of Clothing
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the following question : -
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence read a statement in the press to the effect that, upon the demobilization of the men in Liverpool Camp, some of the troops had to leave in their pyjamas, no clothing having been provided for them?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Before the date fixed for the demobilization of Australian Imperial Force recruits from Camps in Australia, adequate steps were taken to ascertain if sufficient plain-clothes suits were available to meet all requirements. A special inquiry was made regarding the statement alleged to have been made in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, to which the District Commandant forwarded an emphatic denial of the allegation, and an assurance that there was no shortage of plainclothes suits.
– On the 19th November, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) asked the following question : -
In view of the considerable disorganization that hasprevailed in both State and secondary schools through the absence of a large number of the leading teachers at the Front, will the Assistant Minister for Defence’ (Mr. Wise) take steps to allow all teachers, both primary and secondary, to be returned from the Front at the earliest possible moment?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It is considered it would he unwise to give school teachers preference over any other class of people at the Front, and it is thought that the decision already given by the Cabinet regarding priority of returning men should be adhered to; but any special cases will be considered on their merits.
– Onthe 19th instant, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question : -
Some mistake having been made in the instructions issued in the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Trade and
Customs with regard to a public holiday in connexion with the peace celebrations in New South Wales, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is intended to punish those officers of his Department in the parent State who, through want of knowledge as to the exact date on which the holiday was to be observed in the Federal Service, absented themselves from the Department on the State public holiday? This question will also apply to the Postmaster-General’s Department in New South Wales.
I am now able, on behalf of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Seventy- three (73) officers of the Customs Department were absent without permission on the occasion of the State holiday on the 13th instant, in connexion with the- Armistice celebrations in New South Wales. The officers concerned were called upon for explanations, and they replied they had interpreted the notice in the press as having general application. Officers in question were warned that paragraphs in the press regarding holidays must not be regarded as official in future.
– On the 11th October, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) asked the following question: -
Will the Minister for Works and Railways furnish a list of fees (if any) paid to Mr. Griffin, the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, for professional services outside the Federal Territory, and particulars of same?
The information now furnished is as follows : -
In pursuance of an arrangement made in October, 1910, by Mr. King O’Malley, thenMinister for Home Affairs, Mr. Griffin rendered certain professional services, for which payments were made as follows: -
– On the 20th No vember, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me the following questions : -
I now lay on the table a copy of memoranda from the Acting Marine Superintendent and the Superintendent Engineer, Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, containing a digest of the accounts in connexion with expenditure on the deck and the engine-room of the Cethana. The memoranda are as follow: -
The following is a precis of the charges by the Commonwealth Dockyard, Sydney, for repairs to the above-mentioned vessel : -
(Sgd.) John C. Smith,
Superintendent Engineer, Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers
Mr.WATT.- On the 14th November, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) asked me the following question : -
Is it a fact that a temporary employee in the Postal Department in Western Australia, with a record of sixteen years’ service as a British soldier, having participated in three campaigns, and having been refused for the present . war on account of physical disabilities incurred in the South African war, has received notice that his services will be dispensed with on the ground that he is not a returned soldier? 2.Is this in accordance with, the policy of the Government?
I am now able to furnish the following replies : - -
From information which I have obtainedfrom the Postmaster-General’s Department, it would appear that the person referred to by the honorable member had been in temporary employment in the Postal Department, and when the question of the renewal of his engagement came up, his services were not retained for the reason that there was a returned soldier available who was eligible for the position. The Postmaster-General’s Department also advised that no temporary employee in Western Australia had been retained to the detriment of the person referredto as having served in the South African war.
The Government’s decision to give preference to returned soldiers was intended to apply only to persons who have served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1003-1017 for service outside Australia, and not to those who participated in the South African war. I would invite the honorable member’s attention to a statement which I made in the House on 6th November (Hansard, page 7471 ) setting out the preferences granted to returned soldiers in the Public Service.
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following question : -
Whether, in view of the Armistice and probable early peace, and also the serious trade losses . that will probably follow the determination of the Wool Board that appraisements are not to be continued at Geraldton, Western Australia, after this season,the Government will review this decision, and permit the town referred to to retain the trade which its geographical position, its large expenditure on stores, &c.,’ and its shipping and railway facilities warrant, more particularly taking into account the successful management of past appraisements?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following additional information: -
The Central Wool Committee have instructed the Western Australian State Wool Committee to continue the wool appraisements at Geraldton this season. The Central Wool Committee inform me that the question of appraisement of wool for the season 1010-20 cannot be considered by it for several months, and that it is impossible at this early date to even forecast the instructions of the Director of Raw Materials.
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) asked the following question: -
Whether it is a fact that those soldiers who have been in Camp for six months will receive a silver Imperial Service Badge, and that the remainder will receive only discharge certificates as a war record? If this is so, will the Minister take steps to remove this invidious distinction, and to see that all those soldiers who have entered Camp will receive a badge that will clearly indicate that they enlisted in their country’s service?
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following information : -
Soldiers who are discharged owing to the termination of hostilities, after having been in Damp for six months, will not receive a King’s Silver War Badge. This badge is issued only to soldiers who -have been discharged owing to age, wounds, or sickness such as would render them permanently unfit for further military service. It has been decided to issue a badge to all men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force who were in Camp at the date of the signing of the Armistice. The design of the badge is under consideration.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Brighton, Victoria, for Defence purposes.
Sydenham, New South Wales, for Postal purposes.
Papua, - Ordinances of 1918 -
No. 12-Supplementary Appropriation 1917-18 (No. 2).
No. 15 - Appropriation 1918-19.
Public Service Act. - Appointment of H. H.
Moore, Attorney-General’s Department.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in regard to something which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said a little while ago, when answering a question I had addressed to him. The honorable gentleman subjected me to serious misrepresentation when he said he quite appreciated my desire, in asking such questions, to stir up trouble between himself and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– I said to “ sow dissension.”
– That is a very great misrepresentation. I assure the House that, in asking these questions, I am prompted by a desire to protect my constituents, and to helpthem and a number ofpeople in Australia, who are vastly concerned’ with, the relationship between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) at the present time. These two gentlemen are supposed to be co-operating in regard to the sale of our products,, and to our shipping. The Mount Morgan Company-
– I think this is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I merely wish to say that the Mount Morgan Company has refused to pay a dividend because of the influence the relationship between the two Ministers may have in regard to the copper industry. If the relationship between the two Ministers is, as stated, strained, it is going to interfere very greatly in the sale of wheat, the sale of copper, and in” the matter of the shipping. These are the reasons why I ask such questions.
– May I say by way of order, or personal explanation, that I deeply regret if any remarks I made wounded the suceptibilities of the honorable member?
– What was said by the honorable gentleman was with a smile, but the smile does not appear in Hansard.
– Then we shall have a special cartoon with “ a smile on the face of the tiger,” next my remarks in Hansard. I have no desire to wound the honorable’ member, but, occasionally, in my elephantine way, I get a little playful, and I am sorry.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 8265), on motion by Mr. Wise -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government seem to have chosen a most inopportune moment to introduce some of the measures they are now placing before the Chamber. I refer particularly to those measures dealing with matters of defence by sea and land. Whatever objections I urged last week to the Bill dealing with the Naval control of the waters of Australia., they are much stronger in their application to the measure we are now discussing. This is the fifth Defence Bill we have had during the war, and it is a Bill born in war time, evidently meant to meet war conditions. Now that the war is over, and war conditions, therefore, no longer exist, this is not a. suitable time for us to consider the application of amendments to the Defence Act. I venture to suggest that it would be much better for the Government, and certainly much better for the Defence Department, as well as to the advantage of the country, if these amendments to our Defence system were postponed until we are sufficiently clear of war conditions to enable usto approach them from a citizen or civilian stand-point. Whatever else the war may have done, it has, at any rate, inspired in most of our minds, a much keener dread of militarism than ever before. Whatever opposition we had to the establishment of a military system in Australia prior to the war, the very fact that we have taken such an active part in the war was due to our desire to crush, once and for all, not only in Australia, but in the world, that militarysystem which is such a, perpetual threat to our civilian institutions. I quite recognise that the more strongly the system is entrenched in the community, the more seriously are the liberties of the people threatened. This Bill is another attempt, born out of war-time and war conditions, to rivet still closer the fetters of militarism on Australia. For myself, I have always been opposed to militarism; and it was because of my opposition »to militarism that I supported the attitude of Australia in regard to the war. “ But my opposition to militarism is stronger today than ever before. I am not prepared by any vote or voice of mine to give the military authorities a single ounce more of power or of opportunity than they now possess; but, on the contrary, I am disposed at all times to use my vote and influence to take from them even the opportunities for power they now possess. For these reasons I am opposed to the Bill.
The Bill may have been necessary on the 25th September, when it was introduced in the Senate, and it may even have been necessary when sent to this House on the 1st October; but I contend that the conditions under which we are now placed do not warrant these proposed amendments of the Defence. Act. Five times during the war the Defence authorities have thought it necessary to have the Defence Act of Australia amended. I do not think the amendments now proposed are at all conducive to the best interests of the community. I am not now concerned with the defence of Australia, because that is not in question; there is nothing in this amending Bill that affects the defence of Australia as such, for it is purely a measure affecting the administration of military operations. There are certain proposals in the Bill ‘ which are only meant to increase the power of the military machine, and for that reason I oppose it, and shall oppose it as effectively as possible at every step.
May I briefly refer to one or two of the principles sought to be included in the Bill. First of all, there is the matter of making officers who have ‘ been on active service senior to other officers of the Military Forces. As a general rule that may appear to be perfectly correct. We are not yet allowed to give the facts publicly, but they are well known, and some day the public will learn some of them. Many members of the Forces, particularly officers, are parading about in decorated uniforms, and under false pretences to the extent that, although they claim certain recognition because they have been on service abroad, they never, really went to the war as such, never heard a shot fired, and took mighty * good care never to place themselves in danger. There are many such officers in Australia; and it is proposed, simply because they went abroad and gained certain decorations, in most cases because of social influence, and not because of any military merit, that these men’ shall rank superior to men in this country who have obtained like rank. There are two points to which I desire to refer. I am opposed to the formation of the proposed reserve force. I am entirely opposed to the establishment of any permanent form of military system in Australia, and as I regard this proposal as an insidious attempt to perpetuate military despotism here, I am entirely and unalterably opposed to it.
I know a number of competent men who have spent their lives in preparing themselves for military efficiency. Their profession has been that of arms, and they were employed in Australia prior to the war as instructors or area officers. It was their urgent desire, to get permission to go to the war, because it was their only opportunity of getting, promotion, but their request was repeatedly refused by the Defence Department on the ground that they would be of more service in Australia than they could be abroad. Repeatedly I have brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence how unfairly these men were being treated, because the only avenue of promotion reasonably open to them, the only opportunity for the exercise of their training, and, in fact, the only advantage which they could hope to gain through following the profession of arms, was being closed to them because it was thought necessary to retain sufficient men here to train our Forces at home. I have always held that the interests of these men, who were not given reasonable recompense either in money or rank, ought to be protected, and while on the face of it it seems perfectly fair that men who have had service overseas should rank senior to those who have not been abroad, still the principle is open to objection in individual cases.
There are cases in which men simply took charge of troopships from Australia to Egypt and came back again. There is one man in Brisbane, a prominent member of the party supporting the Government, who did this. He came back a full-blown major, which rank he will hold until he dies, and he .will have all the rights and privileges attaching to the position, and rank superior to men who have done active service abroad.
– Another man who is not a supporter of the Government took charge of a troopship.
– The mention of other cases only makes the position worse. Take the case of chaplains. Is there any tiling more degrading to a military position than the manner in which military chaplains parade themselves about ? I know chaplains who left Australia in charge of troopships, went to Egypt, and in some cases England, and came back as colonels and lieutenant-‘ colonels. Although they have no right to use the titles, they parade themselves about as colonels and lieutenantcolonels,and rank senior to men who have done the work abroad, and deserve all the honour attaching to the promotions they have obtained by active service.
– Those chaplains are like General Cuscaden, who never smelt powder except in a woman’s powder puff.
– The introduction of this Bill affords me opportunity to raise very serious objections to many matters. The fact that since the measure has been tabled the Government have tome forward with a full sheet of amendments, additions, and alterations, shows that it was not carefully prepared, that its introduction was unnecessary - more particularly is this so with the altered war conditions - and that the Government did not know exactly what they did want. It seems that we are to be treated to a perpetual series of alterations and amendments to the Defence Act.
– It is much better to bring forward amendments when defects are discovered than to allow them to accumulate for a year or two.
– That may be true, but I hope that the Minister has not overlooked my main objection. This Bill was born under war conditions, and evidently was aimed at meeting those conditions; but, as a change has come about, o that necessity can no longer exist. The very things at which the Bill aims have disappeared. Therefore, the measure is . to a large extent unnecessary.
– I have agreed to omit the provision dealing with cases of murder.
– One clause to which I take strong exception is that which proposes to amend section 61 of the principal Act dealing with those who are exempted from service in time of war. I do not believe in any of the exemptions . except those covered by paragraph a - persons reported by the prescribed medical authorities as unfit for military or naval service. I know of no reason why members of Parliament should be exempted any more than any other members of the community. As a matter of fact, members of Parliament have accepted responsibilities in regard to this war, as many honorable members of military age have volunteered for service, but I can see no particular reason why members of this House should be exempted from military service if. it should become necessary to defend our country. In my opinion, the amendment to section 61 should cover the whole of the exemptions except paragraph a.
Another paragraph exempts ministers of religion. If this war has shown anything at all, it has shown that ministers of religion take first place among the most blood-thirsty and war-loving sections of the community. I have seen them pacing platforms and pulpits brandishing imaginary swords and slaying imaginary Germans by the score.
– That was only so much “ skite.” They failed when they were put to the test.
– They did not fail in putting others to the test as far as they could compel them. My whole point is that, as they are so fond of war, they should not be exempted from being called up for military service should necessity arise.
– But they get away with rank now.
– If my suggestion were carried out they would not have the opportunity of getting the stars on their shoulders, and, perhaps, a little bit of extra salary, and the plaudits, particularly those of the feminine portion of the community, would be lost to them.
– Does the honorable member say that the chaplains have not done good workon the battlefields?
– In individual cases they have done splendid work. Some of my own friends among the chaplains were among the most heroic which the Australian Army included. On the other hand, my opponent at the last election was a chaplain. When he was given a public reception at Maryborough on his return he said that when he received the order at Gallipoli to be at the boat at 9 o’clock he took good care to be there at 6 o’clock, so that he would not miss it; and that when he reached Alexandria and was told to return to Australia, he took good care to see that he did not miss the boat on that occasion also. He further said that he had had enough “ Turkish delight “ to last him for the rest, of his life, and that any one who wanted to go back after having been once at Gallipoli should have his head read, because there was something wrong with him.
It is proposed to include a new subsection in regard to persons exempted, from service under section 61 stating that, notwithstanding such exemption, they shall be required to do all things liable to be done by a person liable to enlist and serve. If people who are exempted are still to be liable to do everything that is required of those who are not exempted, where is the value of the exemption ? In Committee, I shall ask the Minister to define what protection the exemption affords, and to state whether this is not an underhanded and roundabout way of depriving the exemption of any virtue that is in it.
Another proposal to which I take exception is in clause 7, which proposes to delete the words “ commanding officer,” and insert “ an officer “ in lieu thereof. I suppose it will simply mean that any officer, from lieutenant upwards, instead of the commanding officer, when giving the opportunity to any man who has enlisted to take the oath, may impose upon him a penalty of £50 or six months’ imprisonment, or both. It is a certain - amount of protection to a man to have an opportunity to appeal to his commanding officer or to be under his orders in important matters of this sort, but it is now proposed that men shall be subject to the caprice of a junior officer - and some of the lieutenants are very junior, junior in years and in military experience to the men of whom they are in charge - who may fine a man £50 or sentence him to six months’ imprisonment.
– That power has been given to a justice of the peace.
– A justice of the peace is a civil authority. I ask the Minister why it is proposed to extend this power from the commanding officer to all officers. I can understand how difficult it would be in time of war to refer to the commanding officer all the details of administration, but we are not now at war ; we are laying down in this Bill a law that willoperate in time of peace, and we must consider how its provisions will affect men in future.
– The honorable member would not compel every man to go before the commanding officer in order to take the oath when enlisting ?
– That has been the law up to the present time, and unless there are some reasons as to’ its ineffectiveness ‘ or disadvantageousness - and I admit that under war conditions it could be disadvantageous - there is no need to alter it.
Another clause which seems to have been framed only to meet war conditions is that which recasts section 75, and makes a new provision for a ,penalty to be imposed on any person who conceals or assists to conceal any person who is liable to enlist in the Defence Force. We know that in recent months there has been agood deal of concealment of Italians and others who were called upon to leave Australia and serve in foreign armies, for even though those armies belonged to our Allies, they were still, for all practical purposes, foreign so far as Australia is concerned. I have a good deal of sympathy with those people who refused to be compulsorily deported from Australia after having become Australian citizens and made their homes here. They were doing their best to make their lives comfortable and permanent in this country, but they were compelled to leave their families and businesses and go abroad to fight. Having regard to the fact that Australia twice refused to apply compulsion to its own citizens, it was reasonable that people of other than our own race should claim the protection of our laws.
– Why did they not become naturalized ?
– Some who were naturalized were forcibly seized.
– But they were afterwards released.
– We have no proof of that. I am convinced that but for the noise which we on this side made in Parliament a lot more Italians would have been deported. Fortunately we received word soon enough to permit of us making an emphatic protest against the deportation of naturalized British subjects. But even unnaturalized “persons had a claim to some protection. It may not have been their fault that they were not naturalized.
– A lot of them refused to become naturalized. They had reasons of their own for not doing so.
– I am not here to defend them, but I think they were entitled to consideration, especially as Australia rejected compulsion so far as its own citizens were concerned. We know that a good many Italians were concealed, and some are being concealed now. Not even to-day, when the war is practically over, are they being given an opportunity to carry on their businesses and assist in the development of _the country. This is proof to me that however necessary such a provision may have been under wai’ con.ditions it is quite superfluous to incorporate it in a Bill which is fixing permanently the conditions of our defence system.
– Punishment for concealment is only provided in respect of those persons who are liable to enlist in our own Forces. Unnaturalized Italians would not be liable to serve in the Australian Forces.
– I cannot see how the honorable member can logically arrive at the conclusion that a person who is liable to be deported for service abroad would not be liable for service in Australia. At any rate, if a state of war existed in Australia and the services of those people were demanded, as they legitimately would be, it would be quite easy to amend the Defence Act to meet their case, as during the last four years we have amended it to meet other cases.
One matter to which I wish to’ refer with special pleasure is the statement of the Minister that he does not propose to proceed with the clause which aims at giving the military authorities power to impose the death penalty for murder. I am very pleased, indeed, to know that the Government so appreciate the altered circumstances that they are prepared to make that concession. But I suggest to the Minister that it would be advisable to go further, and deprive the military authorities of the power they now possess in regard to the death penalty. Section 28, which deals with the death penalty,- is altogether too wide.
– We do not propose to interfere with it now.
– I am sorry for that, because I am entirely opposed to the death penalty. In time of war, and even in time of peace to some extent,’ certain offences, such as desertion, spying, and the carrying of secret messages to the enemy, are very serious; but I am so opposed on principle to the death penalty, that I am prepared not only to accept the offer of the Government to strike out the clause dealing with the matter in this Bill, but to ask them to still further extend that element of mercy. There is glaring inconsistency in a system that will train men to kill others, that will devote all its energies to killing, and make killing a virtue, and yet will impose death upon the very men whom it has trained to. kill because they commit certain offences, particularly that of murder. A little time ago a returned soldier in Victoria committed a murder, and he was sentenced to death. When that man was hung, I felt it almost as a personal injury, because we know that very many soldiers return wounded not only in body, but also in nerves and spirit; in fact, their whole system is injured, so that at times they are absolutely not responsible for their actions. They will do things that prior to their experiences in the war they would never think of doing things that even in their calmer moments they revolt from. Yet this country has no other decision in regard to a returned soldier who committed . a murder than to hang him. His execution was nothing less than a murder committed ‘by the State. No consideration was given to his service, or his mental or nervous condition. There was no regard to the circumstances, and no recommendation to mercy. He had committed a murder, and, therefore, willy-nilly, he must be hanged. Whatever my previous objection to capital punishment may have been, it was intensified by that case, and I say there is a glaring inconsistency in the State putting to death for murder men whom it has trained to kill; particularly in the case of returned soldiers who are not responsible for their actions. I was talking to a general in the Defence Department this morning, and he said, “ I shall never be the same man as I was before I went to the war.” Many men will never have an opportunity to fully recover-their mental balance, apart altogether from their physical wellbeing. We ought to remember these circumstances, and see if it is not possible to give men the benefit of th© doubt in a more open and generous way than we do now. In my correspondence with soldiers I have records of crimes committed and admitted, the punishment of which was altogether disproportionate.
Some officers seem to have taken a particular delight in trying to be as severe as they possibly could in penalizing the men, and, incidentally t their unfortunate wives and children, for offences for which they were not primarily responsible. It is satisfactory that the Government have yielded to the evident desire of the House by withdrawing the death penalty in regard to the crime of murder. Who shall say what murder is in circumstances of war? War itself is a crime and a murderous thing from beginning to end.
I suggest to the Minister that when we are in Committee he should recognise that we are framing now an amendment of the Defence Act, not to meet war conditions, but to put the defence system of Australia on as fair a footing as possible. My whole desire is, not to perpetuate themilitary system, but to help those men who come back to return to civilian life as quickly as possible. I have no desire to see these men upon their return perpetuate their military distinctions and military service. In most cases what, these men desire,- above all else, when they come back is an opportunity to pick up the threads of civil life, where they dropped them when they enlisted. Many cannot, and it is our duty to help them as much as possible to do so. We shall not help them, however, so long as we rivet upon them the claims of the Military authorities to perpetuate the military system. For these reasons I am going to oppose every clause in the Bill which perpetuates the military ‘ system, gives it more power, or continues the influence of the military system upon the civil liberties of “the people.
– I have not much objection to most of the provisions’ of this Bill. I should have strongly opposed the measure if the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) had not announced his intention of withdrawing the clause under’ which officers would be given power to order the shooting of a man convicted of the crime of murder. In my short service I saw quite enough to make me chary of giving any increased powers to the officers of our own or any other army. Our officers have quite as much power as it is advisable to give them. I think it would be as well if every sentence recorded against our lads at the Front could be reviewed. While at Le Havre, where we had an Australian Base, I saw gallant soldiers who had been at the landing at Gallipoli, who had come to France, had been up the line, and had come back wounded, but without a crime on their books, brought before officers who had never heard a shot fired, and were not likely to hear one, and fined by them for some trivial offence. The lads might have been an hour or two late in returning to camp from Le Havre, and for such trivial offences they were ordered seven or ten days’ confinement to barracks, or forfeiture of pay. A crime mark was also entered- in their pay -books. I have heard many lads say, when such a record was made against them, that they would never again fire a shot. They complained’ that they had been forced to go to the Base to have a crime recorded in their pay-books - a book which they cherished as a souvenir of all that they had been through. With such a record - written, by the way, in red ink - they could not show their pay-books to their friends. If the Commanding Officer who tried them had seen service, he would have shown a little more leniency in dealing with them.
From what I have seen abroad I am glad that the proposal to give officers power over life and death is to be withdrawn. I shall never forget the case that I heard mentioned in the House of Commons - the case of a soldier who had been wounded in five stunts, and who in his sixth stunt near Ypres dropped out because his nerves gave way. Because of this he was charged with cowardice, found guilty, and on the following day was shot. It was a common thing to see ten or twenty men shot at daybreak on an English order.
– Surely not ten or twenty.
– Yes; it was a common occurrence. These orders are readily obtainable. It is because of these things that I shall be more than ordinarily careful in extending the powers conferred on officers.
– Some, of the officers who tried these men were not fit to try any one - their nerves had gone.
– That is so/ Very often they desired to do the right thing, but ‘their nerves were so shattered that they were incapable of giving a man animpartial trial. It is not always the coward who falls by the wayside. My experience is that every man is at his best in his first stunt. In the second stunt he is not so good, and in the third his nerves commence to go. Many brave men have hesitated to face their second or third stunt. Because of what I heard and saw in France, I am not prepared to give military officers further power. I would rather reduce the powers they have.
I do not know that the Ministerial policy of creating the reserve force, for which this Bill provides, is a wise one. If it is going to savour of anything in the nature of a standing army, I shall oppose it. Germany has broken down the military spirit, and so have Austria and Russia. Those countries have removed the loads from their back, and will have a great advantage over the nations that adhere to the military system. They have done with conscription, and France and Great Britain will have to follow suit. We in Australia should not overburden ourselves with a military class, and we should be very careful in proposing to create reserve forces. I recognise that Australia will need a proper defence system, but it has been demonstrated at Gallipoli and in Flanders that it does not take years to train a soldier. What we need to do is to perfect our artillery, to improve our wireless system, and our flying corps, and to provide for a sufficient number of submarines and destroyers. If the Defence Department confines itself to these activities nothing more will be necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. I do not think we shall need to build many big Dreadnoughts. The torpedo destroyers and submarines have demonstrated their worth in the war through which we have just passed.
In no circumstances should we create a standing army here. The financial burden we shall have to bear will be big enough without adding to it in that way. The war is not yet over from the standpoint of what it is going to cost us. Pensions remain to be paid, and provision must be made for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, and for placing them in other civil occupations. Australia’s financial burden in the immediate future,, therefore, will not be an easy one. A number of officers, and particularly those who have held good positions abroad, will return, however, with no desire to get back to ‘ civil life. If the Defence Department in that regard is going to be influenced as easily as it was in regard to the insertion of a clause in’ the Bill giving power to officers to order the shooting of a man convicted of murder, we shall have some peculiar happenings.
– This Bill passed the Senate before the armistice was signed.
– That is one reason why, perhaps, it should not now be proceeded with.
– The position to-day is not what it was when this Bill was passed by another place. There are some clauses of the Bill with’ which I am in full accord. Most of them are in the direction of liberalizing the Defence Act ; but there are some which will require a very full explanation to secure their acceptance. I shall want to know a good ‘ deal more about the reasons for clause 2, for instance, before I vote for it. I take it to mean that an officer who has held the rank of colonel while at the Front will be permitted to retain that rank when he comes back and joins this Reserve Force. With that I am quite in agreement, but we shall have to go a good deal further, and deal with the position of members of the Permanent Forces who volunteered. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) spoke of instructors in the Permanent Forces who could not get away; but the fact is that a number of them did not wish to go to the Front. Some went away as sergeants-major, while others waited in the hope of obtaining a commission before they went to the Front. ‘ The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), in reply to a statement I made the other day, said that Major Mclnerney could not go to the Front. There was nothing to prevent any man going to the Front as a private. The trouble was that many would not volunteer for active service unless they could! secure a commission. The sergeantsmajor to whom I have referred volunteered, risked everything, and in manycases speedily obtained- promotion. Some of them were promoted to the rank of lieutenants, others secured a captaincy, and still others became majors in the Australian Imperial Force. On their return to Australia, however, as members of the Permanent Forces here, they will revert to their former rank, and will have to serve under others who did not volunteer. Why do not the Government propose to remedy that state of affairs?
Brigadier-General Griffiths, for instance, went away as a warrant officer. He is in Australia juSt now, but is, I understand, to return to England. If he remained here he would have to revert to his old position as a warrant officer in the Permanent Forces. The Bill, as ‘it stands, makes no provision for recognition of the work done by these men abroad. They will have to serve under quite a number of officers who are to be seen strutting about Melbourne wearing uniform and stars, and taking all the glory of winning the war, although they have never been to the Front. When the news of the signing of the armistice came through, I was in the company of a major, who, perhaps, might have desired to go to the war, but, at all events, did not. Every one was greatly excited, and while he and I were in the city a lady rushed up and embraced him as a man who had been to the Front and had done his duty. He accepted both the embrace and the congratulations just as if he had been on active service.
We are making a mistake in allowing those engaged in an administrative capacity to wear uniform. They should wear civilian attire, just as officers in the Lands Department do, and senior men, instead of securing military rank, should receive increased PaY, just as senior officers in other Departments are treated. It almost makes one lose one’s temper to see these administrative officers strutting about as if they were the saviours of their country. I have here a letter from “ Dinkum Soldiers,” which is rather personal, and in which I am’ given a title which I have not yet earned ; but I . shall read it -
Base Records, 25/11/18.
Hon. Charles McGrath,
Federal Parliament, Melbourne.
Dear Charlie,- Base Records returned soldiers refused to take the holiday that was granted to them on the 25/11/18, because the O/C, with the help of the eligibles, said that only 25 per cent, of the heroes employed’ at the Records can see their original cobbers return. Please make full inquiries into this matter. We rely on you to ventilate this matter before the House of Representatives.
Why do Major Lean and Warrant Officer Cobby show their animosity so strongly against returned soldiers? Now, Charlie, the boys at the above Department are waiting anxiously for your lead in this matter.
Those and they,
If the two officers mentioned have shown any animosity toward returned soldiers in the Base Records Office, they should be dealt with. I hope the Assistant Minister will make a note of the complaint, and havean inquiry into it. The Government should also consider the advisableness of so amending the Bill as to provide that all members of the Permanent Forces who have been to the Front should be allowed, in their return to Australia, to retain the rank they gained while on active service. If it is right that ordinary citizens who went to the Front as privates, and gained commissions abroad, should be allowed to retain their full rank when they return, the same privilege should be extended to men in the Permanent Forces who volunteered while others stayed at home, doing administrative work no doubt, but not risking their lives.
– Is a staff man who secures promotion abroad not entitled to retain his rank on his return ?
– I understand that he is not. I could mention the name of a soldier’ who, when he. left his country was a captain in the Citizen Forces, and who, on his return,- takes charge of an area, and has not the rank of major. I could mention the case of lieutenant Weeks, a man who was wounded in Gallipoli, returned to Australia, went back again to the war, and was wounded in France.
– What examination at home could qualify a man better for pro motion than the services which have secured his promotion in the field ?
– Nothing can qualify a man like experience gained in the field. Men who have gained commissions on the battlefield . should certainly retain their rank when they return. I took up the case of some of my constituents, who, after securing commissioned rank at the Front, when they came back had to resume their former rank of sergeant-major. I fought the question of their retention of their commissioned rank with the Department, and the concession I secured for them was that they are permitted to have the honorary rank of lieutenant with the pay of a sergeant-major. That is the return of a grateful country for what those men went through. The Asistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) will know that my statement is correct, and that men on their return to Australia, though promoted at the Front, revert to their original rank.
– I believe that the matter to which the honorable member now refers is being considered at the present time by the Minister for Defence.
– I am glad to hear that, and I hope that before this Bill is passed,’ that consideration will have reached ‘finality, and some amendment will be proposed to remedy the anomaly to which I have called attention . It is not fair that these men who have gained commissioned rank at the Front should, when they return, revert to their rank as sergeant-major, and have to stand to attention and salute a. lieutenant who did not go to the Front at all.
– It is time the salute was abolished.
– I trust that this Bill, before it is finally passed, -will also make provision for the abolition of the salute. There is no necessity for it. It is contended that it is necessary for purposes of discipline, but, as a matter of fact, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) can corroborate my statement, practically every order given on the field and on parade is given, not by an officer, but by a sergeantmajor. The sergeant-major who gives orders is entitled to wear the Sam Browne, but is not entitled to the salute.
A private will address him as sir, but will not salute him. The colonel does not give an order. except to a major, the major to the captain, the lieutenant to the sergeantmajor, the sergeant-major to the sergeant, the sergeant to the corporal, and the corporal to the lance-corporal. It is the lance-corporal who often gives the order to the men, and they are not compelled to salute a noncommissioned officer. The. noncommissioned officers are the men responsible for the discipline of the army, and need not be saluted. Saluting ought to be abolished. It is a relic of the days when men pulled their forelocks, and bent their knee3 to persons’ alleged to be superior to them.
– It must have cut the honorable member when men did not salute him ?
– Saluting was the trouble of my life in London. I wore the Sam Browne, and looked like a commissioned officer without the stars. When I returned from the Front to London, and convalescents came into Horseferry-road, it was my duty to take them to the Waterloo Station, and see that they were safely entrained for Weymouth, Lark Hill, or some other Australian camp. When Iwould be leading a hundred of our soldiers through the streets of London we would often be passed by a company of English soldiers led by a corporal. One thing struck me about the English soldier, and that was that he was always dead anxious to salute. You could not stop him from doing so. He would come up behind you and give you a salute.
– That is not fair.
– When leading troops through London, if I met English troops I was always careful to look straight ahead, because I knew what was going to happen. I knew that as soon as the corporal in charge of the English troops caught sight of the Sam Browne, he would say, “Eyes right,” and give me the “salute. As a sergeant-major it was a military crime for me to return that salute, and so I was placed in a most awkward position, as I naturally did not like to appear to ignore the salute. Very often when walking in the streets of London, if I saw a company of English soldiers coming in the other direction,I got busy looking into the nearest shop window, because ninety-nine times out of one hundred, if tha corporal in charge of the men saw my Sam Browne, he would call out, “Eyes right” or “Eyesleft,” and he and the whole of his mer* would give me the salute.
– What is wrong with thesalute if the officer -returns it?
– I do not think it isnecessary. When I am off parade I consider I am as good a man as an officer.
– The salute is only a mark of respect.
– I guarantee that a man walking down Piccadilly would have to give 250 salutes.
– And he would receive asmany.
– The real officer does not desire to be saluted off parade. These observances may bo necessary on parade, though I do not believe that saluting is essential even on parade. If a soldier, speaking to an officer, addresseshim as “ Sir,” and stands to attention, that is all the respect that is necessary. Most officers to-day wish the salute abolished. It is particularly objectionable in large cities, where there may be a great number of officers. I have known our soldiers by dozens walk a quarter or a half a mile in London if they saw an officer coming towards them to avoid having, to give him a salute.
– The officer generally has a worse time because of saluting thanhave the men.
– I can quite understand the officer taking that view. He has to be a kind of living semaphore, with his arm going up and down all the time. I hope that saluting will be abolished.
I do not think it would do any harmto include in this Bill a clause to repeal the provision under which clergymen are exempt from being called up for active service. I know that clergymen havevolunteered in numbers for the service of the country as chaplains, and many of them have done splendid and gallant service.
– Some have enlisted in the fighting ranks, too.
– A few have done’ so, but not too many. . I heard a story of a chaplain once whichI may repeat. He was attached to a certain battalion as chaplain, and his battalion was ordered up the line. When they got into the firing zone a few shells began to whistle about, and this clergyman said, “ Well, boys, we will have to have Divine service on the Sabbath, and I have forgotten the hymn books. I think I had better get a bicycle and ride back for those hymn books.” He was provided with a bicycle and rode back, and the next we heard of him he was in Australia advocating conscription.
– That may be one of the reasonswhy the conscription campaign failed.
– He had at least given war a test, and was better than some of the men who were afraid to go to the Front and still advocated conscription.
– The honorable member is quite right in that. I amnot complaining of the action of that chaplain. I am not saying that he did wrong. Safety first; self preservation was the first law with him. And it has to be remembered that the battalion to which he was attached was going to a rather dangerous place. I candidly admit that when I got to the line I felt that I had got a bit too close. The three months I spent aroundYpres seemed three centuries to me. I can quite understand that clergyman going back. But I say that, seeing that some clergymen took such a prominent part in advocating conscription and in urging other men to go to the Front, I do not see why they should be exempt under the provisions of the Defence Act from being called up if they are eligible for active service. I shallnot state my whole experience of the clergy. Perhaps it would not be wise to do so yet, at any rate.
– The honorable member is an attendant at church himself.
– I do attend church, and I have a great respect for a number of the clergy. I have attended church lately, because I do think that this nation has a very great deal to be thankful for. We have a right to be grateful, in view of what we have been saved from. Many people who have been on the other side of the world can appreciate how thankful we ought to be that the war never came to this country as it came to unfortunate Belgium and France.
Whilst hoping that we shall always escape such consequences, I do not desire that a military class should be allowed to grow up in this country. No vote of mine will ever be given to increase the power of the military. I am satisfied that a lot of our men will never desire to go back to civil life after being in a position to command others at the Front. They will exploit every opportunity to continue their employment by the Defence Department. I am afraid that the Reserve Forces referred to in this Bill may prove the nucleus of a standing army, and I say God forbid that we should ever have a standing army in this country. It is not necessary for the defence of Australia. The experience of the war has demonstrated that in the course of a month or two our men can be turned out equal to the best soldiers in the world. Thewar will, have been fought in vain, and the sacrifice of nearly 900,000 British, Australian, and Canadian troops will have been made in vain if, after the war is over, we are to continue to have a defence system based on the policy of the days gone by. If we are to gain something from the war, and as a result the world is to be a better, brighter, and happier one for every individual in it, the wings of the military power in this and in every other country must be clipped. Every vote of mine in connexion with this and other Defence Bills will be given with a view to decreasing the power of the military, limiting their activities and restricting, as much as possible, their control.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
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.”
Section proposed to be amended -
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.
.- I did not speak on the second reading, because the purpose of the Bill is to amend certain sections of the principal Act, and I thought it could best be dealt with in Committee. Section 20 of the principal Act which this clause repeals is as follows : -
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.
I understand the intention is to, as far as possible, enable those who have been on active service to obtain preference in promotion over those who have not been to the Front. But the deletion of the words referred to in the clause will not effect the purpose, because it will be possible for the Defence’ Department to prescribe anything. I think the Minister will bear me out when I say that the clause will not give to any man who has been to the Front the right to any more privileges than he enjoys to-day, and that everything will depend entirely upon administration. I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has given notice of his intention to move for the insertion of a new clause making it mandatory on the part of the Government to grant seniority to all men and officers who have seen active service over those who have not. That would make the position absolutely clear. I think the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) will admit that, with the clause as it stands, it would be possible for the Administration to prescribe anything.
– It means that anything must be done by regulation.
– It means, also, that the Minister will be advised by his officers. Last week, when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) raised this question, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) admitted that the clause would not place men who had gone overseas in a position superior to those who had only gone through their examinations in Australia. I say, however, that three months’ experience of actual fighting is better than years of theoretical training. But I am not sure that it would be wise to amend the Bill as suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne, because, as I interjected when the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) was speaking, I know of a case in which hardship would be inflicted. This is a case of a doctor, who enlisted, shortly after war broke out, but was prevented by the Department from going to the Front. He became an expert in the treatment of meningitis, and eventually he lost, his life through his ministrations; to men suffering from this disease, which he contracted. In that case, the Defence Department recognised that his services were equal to those of any man who had been on active service, and granted a pension to his mother. I happened to be interested in that, case, because I had known this lad’s parents. They were working people, and the son, having won scholarships, was enabled to go to the University and qualify as a doctor. In a case like that, I would have no objection whatever to men having opportunities equal to those who- had gone overseas. Any man anxious to go, but prevented by the Department, is just as much entitled to consideration as those who have gone overseas.
– But that young man did? not take any of the risks of war.
– He took worse risks, and he lost his life. As a matter of fact, he would have been much safer if he had been allowed to go to the Front than in remaining here treating meningitis cases.
– The honorable member must recognise the difficulty of legislating for particular cases.
– That is so, and for that reason possibly the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Melbourne would not be acceptable.
– I am in perfect agreement with the honorable member, and think that if there is one place where the privilege of preference to returned soldiers! ought to be entrenched, it is at the administrative head-quarters.
– Many of those who complain about the Defence Department administration apparently hold the belief that every Minister is practically hypnotized by Head-quarters officials, and’ to use a common figure of speech, develops into a rubber stamp. But every Minister must be -guided by the advice of his officers, particularly if he is new to administrative work.
– How would you treat a man- who threw up a commission in the permanent Forces to enlist, and was going away as a sergeant-major when demobilization was ordered 1 Should he be reinstated to his rank?
– I think that if he were in the permanent Forces, and in a bond fide manner enlisted to go overseas, he should undoubtedly be returned to his rank in the permanent Forces. I do not know of the case mentioned by the honorable member, but I have no doubt there are many such. Officers of the Defence Department should exhibit more sympathy than they do with persons who are obliged to visit the Barracks at this particular time. The complaint is common that it is quite impossible for ordinary people to get their grievances redressed there. Only a little time ago I was waited upon by a woman who had lost two sons at the Front, and who desired to secure a settlement with the Department in regard to their deferred pay. Day after day she visited the Barracks, and was referred from one officer to another, without receiving -any satisfaction whatever.- Finally she came to me. Haying heard her statement, I said, “You are not living in my electorate, but, nevertheless, T will he pleased to take a note of the facts you have stated, and hand it over to Mr. Brennan, who i3 the parliamentary representative for your electoral division.” Her replY was, “ A policeman down the street told me to see you, and assured me that you would get the matter fixed up.” It is pretty, generally admitted, I repeat, that unless the officers at the Barracks know the person who is addressing them, they stand him off, and give him no satisfaction. Upon one occasion, which I can recall, I sent my secretary down there. They tried the same tactics on him. It was about threequarters of an hour before he received satisfaction, and then only after asking for the officer in charge. I told him that if he could not do any good at the office he should go to the boss.
– Who is he?
– I do not know. They are all generals down there, I think. I know that the honorable member himself desires to see only one uniform worn, and one rate of pay adopted amongst them. Personally, I would make them all generals.
– How did the honorable member’s secretary get on ?
– He was put off ; so finally he had to ask for an interview with the head of the Branch. The officials at the Barracks did not kn’ow Senator Needham, and, as a result, he had to undergo a precisely similar experience.
– I will guarantee that they know me !
– Doubtless they know the honorable member, and also the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). We are legislating for the men who ought to fill these particular positions. Those who have been upon active service are more entitled to fill them’ than are those who have never left Australia. I trust that we shall lay down that fact as a principle. In their interpretation o the law, I understand that Judges are guided only by what appears in our Statutes. But I submit that our Departments should be administered in accordance with the wishes that are expressed by this Parliament, and, although we are not embodying it in the Bill, it is practically the unanimous wish of the House that in the future the n.en who have won their spurs on the battle-field should fill these positions.
– I am sure honorable members are largely in sympathy with the view which has been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. We should lay it down as a principle that the men who have been engaged on active service abroad, apart from our indebtedness to them on account of their self-sacrifice and patriotism, should- be given the positions to which reference has been made. The words proposed to be deleted from section 20 of th, principal Act are, “ but officers of the Active Military Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.” Now, the term “Active Military Forces” in the principal Act has a special definition. It includes ‘ ‘ All parts of the Defence Forces other than the Reserve Forces.” But the point I wish to stress is that section 20 should be amended so as to make it read, “ But officers of the Australian Imperial Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Active or Reserve Military Forces.”
– But all the officers of the Australian Imperial Force have not seen service abroad.
– I know that the Acting Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) thinks it is undesirable to rigidly lay down the principle for which I am contending, in an Act of Parliament, on account of the difficulties and anomalies which may thereby be created. In order to overcome such anomalies, I would suggest the insertion of the words, “except in those cases which are provided for by regulation, or which may be prescribed.”
– Surely if the principle is a good one, it should be applied uniformly.
– Undoubtedly. But exceptional cases will doubtless arise. If honorable members are* desirous of laying down- as a fundamental principle that officers of the Australian Imperial Force who have been engaged on active service abroad shall have seniority over other officers of the Active Military Forces or the Reserve Forces, let us clearly specify it in the Bill. Then, in order to meet the Acting Minister’s objection, it may be . possible to throw upon him the responsibility of making exceptions where he deems it desirable to do so.
– Let us express our intentions clearly in this Bill.
– I should like to see that done. Instead of deleting the words proposed in this clause, we should substitute for the- words, “Active Military Forces,” in section 20 of the principal Act, the words, “ Officers of the Australian Imperial Force who have been engaged on active service abroad.”
Silling suspended from 6.30 to 7.£5 y.m.
– I believe that the Committee desires to affirm, as a matter of principle, that officers . of the Australian Imperial Force who have served abroad should enjoy seniority over officers of corresponding rank in the active military service and the reserve service at home. I suggest that the Minister (Mr. Wise) accept that ns a principle. If he will do so, and the Committee desires that this substantive principle should be laid down, I shall propose an amendment. I am quite prepared to believe that the’ Government desire and intend to give seniority to those officers who. have seen active service abroad. They propose to do it in an elastic way, in all probability by regulation. But the Committee de- sires to go further and set it forth in the Bill that that shall be the exact case. Practical experience should go further and should give higher qualifications than oan be possessed by men who have merely had home training. I move -
That all the words after the word “ words “ be omitted and that the following be inserted in place thereof “ ‘Active Military Forces ‘ and by substituting for the words so omitted the words ‘Australian Imperial Forces who have been engaged on Active Service abroad ‘ a>:’d by inserting before the word ‘ Reserve ; the words “ Active Military Forces and the ‘ “.
.- The amendment, so far as I have got it, will not effect the honorable member’s purpose. Section 20 of the Act states, “ The seniority of officers in the Reserve Military Forces shall be as prescribed.” Now it is proposed to omit “but officers of the Active Military Forces shall rank as senior in their respective ranks to officers of the Reserve Military Forces.” The honorable member will see that what we are asked to deal with is that “ Section 20 of the principal Act is amended by omitting,” &c.
– No. It should be, “ Section 20 of the principal Act is amended bv omitting therefrom the words < “ Active Military Forces.” First I asked the Minister (Mr. Wise) to omit all words after the word “words.” Thus, the clause could be made to read, “ Section 20 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the words
Active Military Forces,’ and by inserting in lieu thereof ‘Australian Imperial Forces who have been engaged on active service abroad.’ “
– I still maintain that what is before the. Committee is section 20. This is a clause to omit, and we are now asking that the principal section should stand, with certain amendments. We must deal with what is specifically before the Committee. The clause is not withdrawn in its present form.
– I am asking the Minister to do so.
– Many honorable members desire, as far as possible, to give preference to officers who have seen active service abroad. If the honorable member’s amendment is not accepted the section will read, “ The seniority . . . shall be as prescribed,” thus eliminating altogether the question of Active Military Forces.
– The object of this clause is to remove the embargo which exists at present against the overseas Forces.
– The position is not clear to me. Once that is struck out, I do not see anything in the principal Act to give preference to the members of the Forces who have been engaged in active service abroad. Regulations may be drawn up dealing with seniority.
– I have asked that the clause be withdrawn.
– The Minister has not consented to that. Under the clause the seniority of officers in the Reserve Military Forces is to be as prescribed, and the Government will be free to make any regulations they deem proper. Some honorable members think the Reserve Forces include all members of the Forces who remained in Australia. Such is not . the case. The definition in the Act is “ ‘ Active Forces ‘ - Includes all parts of the Defence ‘ Forces other than Reserve Forces.” The Active Forces not ‘ only include ‘men who have gone abroad, but all ‘ those who remained at home. We would therefore be giving no preference by the proposed amendment, nor would we safeguard the interests of men who have gone abroad. Honorable members who prefer to leave it an open question with the Government . whether they should give . positions to men in the active service, whether they have been abroad or not, would be quite right in supporting the amendment. Those honorable members who., desire, without question, that preference shall be given to men who have ‘been abroad will realize that that object cannot be achieved by the amendment: I believe that the Minister desires and intendsto give preference to men who have seen active service abroad. There have been statements made regarding men who have gone abroad and retained certain titles upon their return. Many of those belong to the Reserve Forces, and not to the Active Forces at all. They are included in this Bill, and can be prescribed for by regulations which may be drawn up fromtime to time. If the Minister can show that, so far as men are concerned who have taken the risks of active service abroad, preference will be given them, the Committee will not hesitate to accept what he may propose.
– I will draft an amendment which will make that absolutely clear.
– If the honorable member can do so, it will be an improvement. No one is more desirous than I am to give to the gallant men who have gone abroad preference for any future positions in the Defence Forces; but the Minister may be able to put forward a strong argument to show that some, although there may not be many, who have remained here have given equally good service to the country.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) mentioned a doctor to whom that applied.
– The trouble is that, in making an amendment, we may be doing an injustice. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) is under the impression that there are several men in Australia entitled to equal preference with the men who have gone abroad. At the same time, the honorable member is equally anxious with us to prevent men who have not attempted to go abroad from being placed above those who went to the Front. If the Minister can preserve the rights of the men who have gone abroad, and who should have first preference, he should be prepared also to give consideration to certain men who have remained here and done equally good work in the interest of the- country in the time of stress. The only men we want to eliminate from participation in future positions in. the Forces are those members of the Active Forces who remained at home and did not do what was expected, of .them.
– A lot of those who went abroad did not do what was expected * of them.
– That is so. I have in my mind a man who was an officer of our Forces, of age to go to the Front, but never volunteered, and never went; and yet to-day I believe he is drilling youths in Australia. I have no time for cases of that sort. Those who should receive the emoluments for carrying on the Defence Forces are the men who have given actual service to their country and the Allied cause during the war. If the Minister can show the Committee that that is his intention, he will have little difficulty in getting his Bill through.
[8.3’j. - Section 20 of the Act refers only to the Reserve Forces. It is in those that we are tied up. That section makes the man from overseas absolutely junior to the man in the Active Military Forces, even if the latter has remained behind. To get over that difficulty, the Minister proposes this amendment. He put the matter very clearly himself in these words -
Before the war we provided . for an Army Reserve as well as for Active Forces. . . . We have provided that soldiers who have served In the war shall, voluntarily, of course, go into the Reserve. It is clear that it would bo highly objectionable that an officer who had . . won his rank in the field should, on passing into the Reserves, find himself junior to an officer who has never seen any active service at all.
The clause does not touch the general service. We are only trying to get out of the difficulty in regard to the Reserve Forces, because section 20 of the Act gave us no discretion.
– Is the object of the Bill to permit men who have gone overseas to join the Reserve Forces instead of the Active Forces?
– They are being asked to join the Reserve Forces as they come back, if they do so, section 20 makes them junior to the members of the Active Military Forces. We cannot get over that difficulty without this amendment, which, if carried, will give the Minister power to prescribe that they shall be senior. That shows the Committee what the Minister’s policy in administering the Act will be. I do not see how the amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) is going to effect his object. Another difficulty arises from putting a hard-and-fast rule into an Act of Parliament. The honorable member does not provide for the case of the doctor mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), nor for those other men who have been admittedly eager to go, and have- been refused permission because their services were required here. If the power is left with the Minister to prescribe the seniority by regulation, he can carry out the wishes of Parliament, and meet all those cases as they arise. The honorable member for Kooyong uses the words! “ engaged ‘on active service abroad.” There is no definition of that phrase in the Act. .
– Officers may have been in England all the time.
– That is so, yet that may be considered to be active service abroad. The same may apply to men who have been going backwards and forwards in transports all the time.
– It is only the principle we are dealing with.
– If we put hard-and-fast words in an Act, we are tied to them. . In any case, section 20 refers only to the Reserve Forces.
– I realize the difficulty of making an amendment that will not do an injustice to somebody here who has done just as good work or better than if he had gone abroad. Many such men volunteered and were unable to get away. I would not be so insistent on an amendment if the Military Barracks throughout Australia were controlled by men who had been abroad, or who had seen service. The trouble iu Victoria, at least, is that the men in control have not seen service, and seem to show a distinct partiality for others who have not seen service, paying little regard to the officer who has been abroad. If Ave leave it to them to prescribe by regulation what “positions returned officers shall occupy, we shall be .very foolish. If we can find no way out except by putting in a hard, and fast rule it will be far better to have such a rule favouring the returned officer than to leave things as they are to-day. I would suggest that we should leave out section 20, and insert’ the following: -
Officers of the Australian Imperial Force who have been engaged on active service at the Front shall rank as senior in the Reserve. Mi Ii.tary Forces, and on the Permanent Staff.
– That is what my amendment says.
– No. The honorable member’s -amendment does not mention the permanent staff.
– It follows the wording of the Act.
– The section refers only to the Reserve Military Forces. I want to go a step further. BrigadierGeneral Griffiths, for instance, was a warrant officer in the permanent Military Forces when he left here. He has rendered signal service to his country in England and France. He has run many risks. .He knows more about military matters, from the point of view of both administration and actual fighting, than any man who has left Australia. Yet, if he returns and takes up his duties again, he may have to go back to the position of warrant officer.
– That sort of thing has been clone already.
– That is true. Every day staff sergeant-majors who -went abroad and won positions on the field of battle have to revert to their old positions, and must stand to attention and salute officers who have never been abroad. To overcome the Minister’s objection to the absence of a definition of “ active service abroad,” I have put in “ active’ service at the Front.”
– How can you define that?
– There is a recognised fighting or danger zone. I admit that there may be a technical difficulty in getting a proper definition. Le Havre, where our Australian Camp is, is as safe as this place. I never heard of it being bombed, and those there ran practically no risk. There were officers there who had never left Le Havre. I know of one officer who had been there since the outbreak of the war, and remember reading a letter he sent to Australia, in which he said, “ The Huns have not got me yet.” The Huns had no more chance of getting hiin there than they would have here, but he can come back and present his pay- book to show that he has been “ on active service abroad,” because it is a remarkable thing that every time a man draws his pay at Le Havre it is entered, “pay in the field,” as if he was actually in the danger zone. There is a difficulty about definition in every amendment, but mine is the better way out of the trouble. It guarantees their rank to men who come back and desire to join the Reserve Forces, and so carries out the intention of the Minister; but it goes further,- and pro’vides that when those who have left positions in the Permanent Forces come back they can take up in the Permanent Forces the positions they have gained on the battlefield.
– If the Minister accepts the principle we are fighting for, he can draft the necessary amendment to carry it out.
– With that end in view, I suggest that the clause be postponed. I know that, my amendment would not do justice to some of those who had to stay at home. Nobody wants to injure them. There are any amount of officers who have come back, and who are capable of taking any position in the Forces from the highest down to the lowest. An officer has more confidence when he knows he is obeying the orders of a man who has been at the Front with him. I am sure the Committee is unanimous that the honours our men have gained at the Front ought to be of some pecuniary value to them when they come back. The Minister’s proposal will give them no financial benefit. It means practically an empty honour. It simply enables men who join the -Reserve Forces to retain the titles they have gained. We want more than that. We want the men who were the instructors of our army at £150 a year, and who went away and gained distinctions on the battlefield, to be allowed to come back at the higher rank they have won instead of having to revert to their original positions.
– I hope that the Minister (Mr. Wise) will accept some of the advice that has been tendered to him. On both sides, honorable members object to leaving too much to regulations. When De’fence matters are left to regulations, it generally means that the Minister for Defence acts in accordance with the recommendations of senior officers in the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne. The war has taught us many things, and this above all : that we should eliminate as far as possible from both our Reserve and Citizen Forces, militarism such as has characterized some of the peoples of the world. I am afraid that the young men at the Jervis Bay Naval College and at the Duntroon Military College are not being made to sufficiently realize that they belong to Citizen Forces, and are imbibing too much the spirit of militarism. I hope that before the Bill leaves this House the Minister will have a consultation with his colleagues regarding this clause. If the suggestions of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) are in conflict with provisions of the principal Act, that Act might be altered to enable the reform which they advocate to be brought about. Dr. Siegfried told the people who gathered to hear him in the Richmond Town Hall the other night that, although some persons might think that France, because she has been engaged in war for four years, likes war, as a matter of fact, the French people every month and every year of the past four years of carnage and devastation, have hated war more and more. We want to inculcate a hatred of war. The military spirit should not be developed in
Australia. I have received a letter, signed by about a dozen men, complaining of the treatment given to a number of citizen soldiers by their officer. It is as follows: -
We, the undersigned, being members of the- 27th Signal Company, Australian Engineers, who have recently completed our course of annual training at the Broadmeadows Military Camp, wish to bring under the notice of the House of Representatives the ill-treatment caused by the inhuman commands* from the Officer Commanding the Camp.
On the second morning that we were in Camp, our company was ordered to do an extra half-hour’s drill through a few of the company’s members making a noise in the sleeping huts on a previous night.
Being city lads, and not used to doing a good, deal of marching before breakfasts-
– The, honorable member is discussing now a matter of administration. The clause before lie Committee deals merely with the seniority of officers in the Reserve Forces.
– My desire is to show how careful we should be in the appointment of officers. In this case, a number of lads were inhumanly treated by their officer, with the result that one of them had a return of an old complaint which made him unable to perform his ordinary camp duties, and from which, perhaps, he will suffer for the rest of his life. We should be very careful as to the class of men we make officers. If I had my way,, these matters would not be decided only by military officers. I would have a civil Board as well.
– I move-
That the clause be postponed.
I do this, although I see great difficulty indeed in framing a provision which would cover all the cases that have been referred to by honorable members.
-. - The amendment would not have done that.
– The .amendment would not have done at all. Besides the cases covered by the amendment, there are all the exceptions which have been mentioned..
.- I suggest to the Minister that he should use plain language, like that of the Cod&
Napoleon, so that any person reading the clause might understand it. I hand to the Minister a suggestion which he may find of value.
Clause 3 -
Section 60 of the principal Act is amended by inserting therein, after sub-section 3 thereof, the following sub-section: -
.- I move -
That the following sub-section beadded: - 3b. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no person under the age of twenty-one years shall in time of war be called upon to render active service.
The amendment, in my opinion, is a most desirable one. I cannot see why, in this country, where we claim to be so democratic, we should call on young men to render military service when they do not possess the rights of citizenship. No man can vote until he has reached the age of twenty-one, and no man under that age should have active military duties imposed upon him. Such persons are called upon to lay down their lives, if necessary, in defence of the country and its institutions, while, at the same time, we deny them the franchise. Of course, if the franchise be exercised . at the age of eighteen, the position would be different; but the principal Act provides that all men of the age ofeighteen, but under thirty-five, if unmarried or widowers . without children, shall be liable for military service. The debates; on theproposal of the Government to allow boys of eighteen to enlist without the consent of their parents show that this House is absolutely against sending boys of that age across the seas for active service; and the result of those debates was certain alterations of a beneficial character in. the order made by the Government. We should make it clear, when dealing with this Bill, that rights must go with duties, and that no one who has not a voice in the selection of those who rule the country shall be forced to render military service in time of war. It is unjust to tell young lads under the age of twenty-one that, while they are to have no say in the arranging of the Defence
Act, or in the. general law-making of the country, they shall be forced by those who are older, and entitled to vote, to sacrifice their lives if necessary. If lads are strong enough, and are mentally capable, of engaging in the terrible game of war, they are worthy of citizenship, and, in my opinion, the franchise ought to be extended to those over eighteen years of age. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), when the consolidating Electoral Act was before us, secured the inclusion of a proviso that lads under the age of twenty-one who went across the seas on active service should be entitled to a vote, and that is a recognition of the principle for which I am contending, and which will now be adopted if the Government are consistent.
– I think the Committee would be wise to accept the amendment, which is simple, and explains itself. As a member of the Recruiting Committee, I think I may say, without any breach of confidence, that great difficulty was caused when the Government, in its lack of wisdom, authorized the enlistment of young men of eighteen years of age in ‘ spite of their parents’ disapproval. These boys were not citizen s, and could not express their opinion by means of the ballot-box. I feel quite sure that soldiers from the Front would say that the work they are called upon to undergo is such that all enlisted men should be at least twenty-one years of age. The amendment is not in any way antagonistic to the Government, and there is no argument in its favour that could not be uttered on. either side of the Chamber. It will be observed that the amendment is limited to a “ time of war,” and that, in my opinion, should procure for it the support of every right-thinking man.
.- The amendment again raises the whole question of responsibilities and privileges. It is a well-accepted maxim in parliamentary affairs that there shall be no taxation without representation; and the argument that underlies the amendment, and all the demands from this side, is that the age for military service should be approximate with that for citizenship.
This is based on the recognition of the principle that citizenship responsibilities shall carry citizenship privileges. That is a principle from which there is no escape. This war has shown that, while Australians are, perhaps, better developed at eighteen years of age than youths of other nations, it is an unfair tax on their physical endurance to compel youths at this age to undergo military service. In fact, most of the troubles commanders have encountered have been due to the physical inability of men to carry through an extended campaign. Therefore, it is reasonable to relieve men under twentyone years of age until the final ‘necessity may call for their services. The amendment will not prevent men under twentyone years of age from volunteering for service, arid from being accepted. It will simply prohibit the Defence authorities from calling them up. Some of the nations during the recent war found it the safer course to call up men over the military age rather than the youths, and only fell back on their undeveloped manhood in the last extremity of the depletion of their man power.
The Government have strenuously resisted every suggestion that the age of citizenship should be identical with the military service age.
– That is not a correct statement. The Electoral Bill which passed through the other day included a provision extending the franchise to members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– I am glad that the Minister has admitted that at last the Government have accepted the principle. It was the fourth attempt I had made to have it accepted. I endeavoured to have a similar provision included in the Bill that gave votes to our “soldier’s overseas. I endeavoured to do the same in regard to both Referendum Bills, and it was only because honorable members on both sides of the House saw the reasonableness of my request during the consideration of the Electoral Bill that the principle was accepted by the Government, and included in that measure. We ought now to take the other step which is the logical deduction of the acceptance of the principle, and say that the conferring of the franchise confers also a status in regard to military service, and that the two things are parallel.
– Not only that; men will know that when they are called upon for military service they are entitled to citizen rights.
– It would be a strong reinforcement to any appeal for the services of men under twenty-one years of age, that by offering their services they would secure the privileges of citizenship otherwise denied to them.
– That is not in the amendment.
– No; but the amendment is that men under the age at which they are acknowledged to be worthy of being given the privileges of citizenship are free to volunteer for military service, but are not liable to be called up. It i3 an eminently sound and sane principle, and I have very much pleasure in sup- porting the amendment.
– I hope tha£ honorable members will not agree to this amendment. The Bill was introduced for the purpose of liberalizing some of the provisions of the Defence Act, one . of them being section 60, which provides that when a “ call up “ takes place, the Government must call up all in a certain class - say, from eighteen years to thirtyfive years of age. The proposal in the Bill is that die Government should be enabled to call up part of a class instead of the whole of it, thus enabling men from twenty-one years of age to thirty -five years of age to be called up, instead of all men from eighteen years to thirty-five years of age. In the case of the only “ call up “ we have had - I do not know whether we shall have any other - we called up men from twenty-one years to’ thirty-five years of age, getting over the provisions of the Act by a subterfuge. This. Bill will enable us to do the same again without the need for resorting to subterfuges. We may not need to call up the whole of one class.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee’ divided.
Ayes .. … ..18
Noes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Training of Cadets).
.- In the past the position in regard to naval defence has been essentially different from that governing military service in one important particular, namely, that although the Defence Act provides that there shall be no compulsory military service without Australia, that provision, which was doubtless intended to cover also naval service, does not do so, and we have had more than one example during the recent war of mere boys who, as cadets, had been subject necessarily to naval training, finding themselves at the outbreak of war conscripted for active service abroad. I need hardly say that I offer my strongest opposition to compulsory service overseas, but I think the Committee generally should at least be opposed to any principle of compulsory service by a trick, ‘or by a system which was never intended to apply inequitably to one class of people as against another. Therefore, I take this opportunity of directing the attention of a representative of. the Defence Department and the public generally, to a matter that has caused a great deal of heart-burning in connexion with Defence administration, and that is the compulsory enlistment of mere youths to become conscripts for naval service outside Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section seventy-five of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 75, Any person who-
when called upon in pursuance of this Act to enlist, fails to attend at the time and place appointed for medical examination or enlistment; or
counsels or aids any person, who is liable to enlist in the Defence Force, to fail to enlist or to evade enlistment; or
counsels or aids any person who has enlisted or who is liable to enlist in any . part of the Defence Force not to perform any duty he is required by this Act to perform; or
conceals or- assists in concealing any person who is liable to enlist in the Defence Force, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for six months, or both.”.
Section proposed to be repealed-
Any person who -
fails to enlist when required by this Act so to do; or
counsels or aids any person called upon by proclamation to enlist in the Citizen Forces, to fail to enlist or to evade enlistment; or
counsels or aids any person who has enlisted or who is liable to enlist in any part of the Defence Force not to perform any duty he is required by this Act to perform, shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any period not exceeding six months.
.- In this and the two succeeding clauses, the existing law is amended by the addition of a monetary penalty. “When the original Act was passed, it was clearly understood that it would be impossible for any parent to buy for his son exemption from compulsory training, and any person who failed to comply with the provisions of the Act was to be’ liable to imprisonment. It was said that we were not making one law for the rich and another for the poor, and that it was not intended that people should be able to commute their obliga tion by a cash payment. This Rill alters that basic principle, and provides “that a person who fails to do the things required by the clause shall be liable to a penalty of £50 or imprisonment. That will be all right for the people who are wealthy enough to pay a fine. I should like the Minister (Mr. Wise) to say whether the payment of a monetary penalty will give complete immunity, or will the defaulters still be liable for military training and active service? This amendment seems to be a loosening of the provisions of the Defence Act in order to enable the wealthy persons to secure immunity by a monetary payment, whilst others less fortunately circumstanced must go to gaol.
– The defaulter can be called upon for training or service several times, and can be punished for every default.
– But a wealthy person could continue buying himself out of the compulsory provisions of the Act.
– But the clause profides for a penalty of £50 or imprisonment.
– What is the necessity for inserting a monetary penalty at all? The penalty here provided is the maximum, and I do not know of one case in which the magistrate has imposed the maximum penalty.
– What reason was given by the Minister in his second-reading speech for this proposed amendment of the principal Act?
– I do not know that he gave any reason for it. To my mind, it will weaken rather than strengthen the original Act. If the section proposed to be amended is -to remain in operation, it should stand as it is. I can recall to mind the case of a number of people who, on the occasion of the last “ call up,” failed to register or enlist. Some of them were gaoled.
– And the maximum penalty was imposed.
– But it was not carried out. I was a member of a deputation that waited on the Minister for Defence (‘Senator Pearce) and urged that, since the referendum had been defeated, all who had been imprisoned for failing to respond to the “ call up “ should be released, and that proceedings pending against others should be withdrawn. The Minister agreed to that. If the original provision is to stand, it should not be weakened in this way, since it would enable the wealthy to escape service on payment of a fine.
.- When the Bill was being introduced in another place, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said that it was desired to bring this particular provision into line with all other Commonwealth penal laws which provided the alternative of fine or imprisonment for offences committed under them. The question of whether every offence should not be punishable only by imprisonment has been much discussed, but parliamentarians have not been prepared to decide that in respect of every offence there should be the punishment of imprisonment without the option of a fine. » For some reason or other, many people seem to think that the payment of a fine does not bring with it the disgrace attaching to imprisonment. They do not realize that the disgrace lies in the conviction, and not in the result of the conviction. If the argument against, this proposal is that magistrates might administer it unfairly, then I would point out that, if we provided only for imprisonment, that provision would be open to unfair use, since a man might be ordered to be imprisoned until the rising of the Court, which would mean practically no punishment whatever. I hope that honorable members will agree to the clause as it stands. I would point out, further, that conviction for this offence would not release the person so convicted from the obligation to serve.
– If the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) had not been trained as a lawyer, I do not think he would have attempted to sway us by an argument such as he has just used. He has said that no Parliament has yet agreed to punish offences solely by imprisonment. I wouldremind him that it is only within the last twenty years that Democracy has ruled in any Parliament. I have tried for over a quarter of a century to provide for only one form of punishment in our penal laws. It is an infamy that wealthy men should be able to escape the consequence of their wrongdoing merely by the payment of a fine. As to the disgrace being in the. conviction, and not in the result of the conviction, I would remind the Minister that if a man is fined for an offence he can never be called a gaol-bird; the taint of imprisonment will not be upon him.. Such an argument on the part of an educated man like the honorable gentleman is somewhat surprising. . I shall press this question to a division. Some time ago two men induced the landlord of an hotel to enter a room, and, having got him there, thrashed him severely. The magistrates before whom the offenders were tried sentenced them to seven days’ imprisonment. They offered to pay a fine of £1,000 rather than go to gaol for a week, but the police magistrate remained firm. It is not fair that a. man with means should be able to commit an offence of this kind and escape on payment of a fine, while a man without means must go to gaol. At one time wealthy men in France could avoid military service by payment of a certain amount, but in advanced countries all men in this respect are now equal. Meunier, of the great French chocolate manufacturers, had to put in his period’ of compulsory training. A magistrate recently criticised very severely a wealthy man in this community who was charged with selling rice in which there were weevils. In connexion with that case, one man had theaudacity to go into the witness-box and say that such rice was not unfit for human consumption. The offender was fined for the third time. If the magistrate had been able to send him to prison for a week, the punishment would have been more effectivethan any fine could be. If the Government insist upon passing the clause as it stands, I shall brand them as being prepared to punish the man without means by sending him to gaol, and toallow the wealthy to escape on payment of a fine.
.- I shall vote against the Government proposal, since I am not in favour of gaoling any one who, for conscientious reasons, objects to undertake military service or to undergo military training. While I was working on the Barrier, I saw mere lads arrested by the military authorities for failing to comply with the compulsory service provisions of the Defence Act. I saw young lads go to gaol rather than be false to the principles which had been inculcated in them by their parents. A few months ago one of them, a lad named Yeo, whose parents had trained him in the belief that to shed blood or to undergo training to fit him for such a purpose was wrong, was sent down to Fort Largs, in South Australia, for refusing to train. Lads reared in the religious belief of the Society of Friends are compelled to choose between adherence to their religious principles or go into the camp at Fort Largs, or, previous to the establishment of that camp, to the Broken Hill gaol. Some of the lads have been imprisoned because of their conscientious religious objection to compulsory military service. There are others in this community whose objection to compulsory service, though not based on religious grounds, is as conscientious and sincere as if it were. I will not at any time support the persecution, for it is nothing else, of lads who object to compulsory military service on the ground that it is against the training they have had from childhood, and war is, in their opinion, inimical to the interests of the human race. The proposal to provide for an. alternative of a fine will merely have the effect of permitting the children of parents possessed of wealth to escape military service. The Minister has said that this provision is introduced to bring the Bill into conformity with other legislation.
– Into conformity with the rest of the Defence Act.
– That is but a poor explanation when it will enable the child of the wealthy objector to escape by the payment of a fine, whilst the children of those who are not blessed with a superfluous amount of wealth, and have to labour for their living, must undergo the training or suffer the punishment provided for by the Act. I will support no measure to impose a penalty for adherence to a principle based on religious belief. In this country there is a considerable number of persons’ who, because of their religious convictions, are opposed, to compulsory military service, and under section 61 of the Defence Act, paragraph i, it is provided that persons who satisfy the prescribed authority that their conscientious beliefs do not allow them to bear arms shall be exempt from military service.
– That shatters the honorable member’s argument.
– No; the interjection merely shows the disadvantage of loose thinking on the honorable member’s part. If we do not call upon those who conscientiously object to bear arms to undertake active military service, why should we go to the trouble of asking’ them to train to fit themselves for active service? We compel lads to train for active service,- to undergo musketry instruction, and if they fail to do so keep them in gaol at the taxpayers’ expense, and yet, should war be declared, persons holding similar religious beliefs, and objecting to bear arms on the same grounds, are exempted from military service.
– A man’s conscientious objections may disappear when war is declared.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) comes from a country whose people did not have their beliefs altered by giving them six month’s imprisonment.
– Their beliefs in any direction have ‘not been changed.
– The honorable member’s beliefs have changed in some respects, otherwise he would not be sitting where he is.
– That is a mistake.
– Honorable members opposite seem to be entertained when I rise to protest against people being sent to gaol because of their conscientious objections to military service. There are many who object to compulsory military service upon other than religious grounds, but they have a sufficient sense of what is fair to protest against persons imbued with an objection to military service from the time they sat on their mother’s knee, being forced, merely because their numbers are insignificant from a voting point of view, to .see their children sent to-gaol for adherence to their principles, while althe same time they may be exempted from actual military service after the country has gone to the trouble and expense of training them for it, or of keeping them in gaol if they will not consent to be trained.
– I thought I heard the honorable member, on another occasion, speak of a lad who had left his father’s home in response to the call.
– On that occasion I read the father’s letter.
– That appeared tq refer to a breakaway from a particular faith.
– It was a letter dealing with the effect of the recruiting campaign, and I have no doubt that the lad’s action was the outcome of what he heard from his mates with whom he was working. No doubt they were “ throwing off “ at him because of his religious principles, and so he was induced to enlist. But does the honorable member for Wannon desire to take that as an argument why religious belief should not be respected ? . Is it his desire to break down those religious principles inculcated in children by their parents?
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member has reminded me of an incident which I might be permitted to mention again. At that time I was referring to the effect of the policy of recruiting youths under the age of twenty-one years for active service abroad. The young lad referred to had been brought up in the Christadelphian faith , members ofwhich abhor anything that has to do with war, and, of course, are opposed to military service, preferring if necessary to go to gaol in defence of their principles. The father was very much perturbed about this young fellow, who had enlisted for active service abroad, because one of the tenets of their faith is that if a person is killed, or dies before he is’ baptized, he will be eternally lost. Christadelphians, the Society of Friends, and certain other religious sects are. opposed to anything in the nature of military service, and apart from religious grounds there are other sections of the community who are just as conscientiously opposed to military service. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) mentioned that when the proclamation was issued calling up the young men of this country a large number of those who refused to obey the call were prosecuted. I was amongst -that number, and I received my little bit of blue paper, but fortunately the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) revoked the order for prosecutions, so I did not go to gaol that time. .
– Better luck next time.
– The honorable member is thinking of another occasion in the past.
– Yes, I am, and “a fellow-feeling makes one wondrous kind.” I do not wish to see conscientious objectors forced to gaol, as I was on the occasion mentioned. I did not respond to the proclamation. Hundreds and thousands of others throughout the Commonwealth also ignored it, and were prepared to go to gaol in defence of their conscientious beliefs. I see no justice in penalizing these people, and especially in the manner now contemplated, which leaves a loophole for the escape of the wealthy culprit, if culprit he can be termed, by the payment of a fine, whereas the working-class offenders will have to go to gaol.
– Suppose we cut the fine out, and make all offenders equal under the law?
– That would be fairer; but I do not intend to support any proposal to send any person to gaol for this offence. I am opposed to any penalty for conscientious objectors. In the original Act we provide for a “competent authority to decide whether the conscientious beliefs of a person are such as to prevent him from bearing arms in time of war, but do not propose now to give children the benefit of the same tribunal. There is neither justice nor common sense in the proposal.
.- I agree heartily with the argument put forward by the Leader of the -. Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in regard to the pecuniary penalty and the opportunity afforded by it, as a general principle, to rich persons to evade punishment which only too frequently falls to the lot of those not so well circumstanced. The puerile rejoinder of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) that this amendment is designed to bring the Act into conformity with other defence measures does not touch the principle at all, but merely confirms me in the view that it is a vicious principle that has been too frequently accepted by Ministries of the kind of which the Assistant Minister is now a representative. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) appears to think that honorable members on this side who, like myself and the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), propose to vote against this clause, are placed in something of a dilemma, because, by objecting to it we are assumed to have some sort of sympathy with the original provision. Because I propose to offer opposition to the clause in its present vicious form, I am not to be assumed to have sympathy with the original provision. I am opposed to it in both forms, a fact which does not in the least touch the validity of the argument brought forward by the Leader of my party. When the battle against militarism has been fought and won, when antimilitarists inthis and other Allied . countries are about to join hands with the antimilitarists and internationalists of other countries, including the Central Powers, in congratulations and expressions of hopefulness for the future, it would be strange indeed if the Labour party, which has fought the- battle against militarism in Australia, with ‘ a large measure of success, should be found silently acquiescing in the savage penalties proposed to be imposed on persons who have conscientious objections to military service, or who entertain conscientious objections to despotic military control of the char- acter suggested by this clause.
– I congratulate the honorable member who has just resumed his seat upon having been so very definite in the expression of his views, lie has made it abundantly clear to me that he does not believe in military service for the protection of Australia. T can quite understand, therefore, his efforts at every opportunity to defeat the splendid system which has been forced upon us by our desire to retain possession of this country. I would not bo in favour of compulsory military service if it were not necessary for our effective defence. But while the honorable member is careful to lock the door of his home, he does not see any necessity for Australia to follow his example. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) live3 in Toorak; but I venture to say that he, too.’ locks the door of his house when he retires at night. Why? Because he regards it as a necessary precaution for the protection of his home. Yet he will countenance no measures which make for the effective defence of this great Commonwealth. He says, in effect, “ Immediately an enemy comes to our shores, the other fellow must defend it. I will get away into the hills.” I cannot understand his contention that we should gaol a man who has the misfortune to break the law - that we should associate him with the worst criminals we have in Australia., Why should we do this? Simply because, if a. fine be imposed, the rich offender .will be able to pay it. But there may be poor men who will be quite able to pay it, too. In his eagerness to get at the rich man, the honorable member for the Barrier says that the poor man should also be gaoled. That is what his contention means. I have no desire to send any man to gaol who wishes to keep out of it, and, therefore, I shall vote for the clause as it stands.
– For a fine of £50.
– The magistrate may make the fine just what he pleases. Although it is not so stated, the clause means that he may impose a vine “ not exceeding “ £50. Or he may impose a fine and send the man to gaol. Trie honorable member might as well argue that a man who is intoxicated should bo sent to gaol without the option of -a fine. We cannot live in this country unless we are prepared to defend it, and the only way in which we can provide for its effective defence is by compelling every eligible citizen to bear arms. I would willingly have served in the defence of my country during the present war, and I am quite willing to bear arms in its defence here. The honorable member for Barrier smiles. But he does not know what this war has meant to me. He has not lost anybody in.it. I have lost dear ones, who sacrificed their lives to protect men like him, who sit here smiling. He smiles at the death of these unfortunates because he is of opinion that he can laugh Avithout being called upon to take up arms in the defence of Australia. But I wonder whether lie will laugh in the faces of those of our soldiers who will soon be returning to Broken Hill. In other countries men who believe as he does are cutting off the heads of those who do not think with them. The gutters in the streets of those countries are running with blood. The honorable member would plunge this country into similar conditions. I do not desire that such things shall be, and hence ‘I shall support the clause.
.- I intend to vote against the clause; but, in view of the speeches which have been delivered, I desire to assign reasons for my attitude. As I understand it, the proposed levy is to become operative only in time of war. When Australia is in danger, a proclamation .will be issued, and the various classes of men who are liable for service will be called up. In its Avisdom, Parliament has fixed the age of these eligibles at from eighteen to sixty years. It has said that, when the country is in danger, every man between those ages shall have the obligation laid on him to come- forward and defend it. Now, if we look at section 75 of the principal Act’,- we shall find that it deals with three classes of offences. In the first place, it deals with. any man who fails to enlist- - with any individual who is called upon to enlist when his country is in danger, and who disobeys that mandate. The second offence is counselling or aiding such disobedience, and the third is counselling or aiding an enlisted person not to do his required duty. Any man guilty of any one of those offences in time of war should be visited with heavy punishment. It is logical to impose a penalty which will operate equally. There should be no penalty that can be escaped. If a fine be imposed as an alternative to imprisonment, imprisonment can be escaped ; and, in view of the gravity of the offences, there should be severe punishment, and it should be of such a nature that there can be no escape. The period of imprisonment imposed under the section of the principal Act - namely, liability to six months - would operate fairly. If the circumstances pointed to the fact that it was not a serious offence, the Court would have discretion to impose a light sentence. It might be, for example, imprisonment until the rising of the Court..
.- There should be one law for all classes; one punishment for the one crime. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) talking about his loyalty, and insinuating that honorable members upon this side were laughing at bereaved mothers, trying to make political capital out of it all. He should be ashamed to use such expressions. Honorable members on this side have as much practical sympathy with the mothers of ‘boys .who have died as have honorable members opposite.
– And probably they have lost as many relatives.
– That is so. But, for the sake of political capital, the honorable member displays himself as thoroughly inconsistent. He speaks of every man responding to his country’s call. This clause compels him to respond. but the proposition of the Minister (Mr. Wise) is- to water that compulsion down so as to permit wealthy persons to evade it.
– They do not escape by paying a penalty.
– They do, at any rate, for a certain length of time. We believe in equality of treatment, and that when the country is in danger all should respond. Wealth should not relieve one of one’s responsibility.
– Cut out the £50 penalty.
– It would be better, - and quite effective, to reject the new clause.
– I do not believe in sending a man to gaol for such an offence.
– The honorable member voted for the original Bill.
– The honorable member for Denison is inconsistent. He does not believe in sending a man to gaol because he has failed to respond to the call of his country; yet the honorable member would send men to the war against their consent. I am prepared to send men to gaol in these circumstances. .
There are certain people whose religious beliefs preclude them from taking part in warfare. They should be exempt; but there is a difficulty in exempting them, because there are many others who, in time of war, also find religious objections. That has been a great source of trouble and difficulty in England. I have no time for those who would shirk their national responsibilities. This is the best country on earth, and all Australians should be prepared to do their duty in its defence.
– I would not have risen but for the unfair treatment of my remarks and actions by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). He knows that my statements with regard to smiling referred solely to the honorable member for Barrier (Mi1. Considine), owing to his attitude towards me. But the honorable member for Ballarat has unfairly and unjustly attacked me.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. ‘The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . -
– I shall follow the wellestablished practice by voting for the Ayes, in order that the matter may be further considered.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section 76 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the words “ the commanding officer of the corps to which he is attached orwhich ho is required to join, shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a period not exceeding six months,” and inserting in their stead the words “ an officer, shall : be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds, or Imprisonment for six months, or both.”
Section proposed to be amended -
Any man who has enlisted or who is liable to enlist for service in the Defence Force, and who refuses or neglects to take the oath . . . when tendered to him by a justice of the peace or by the commanding officer of the corps to which he is attached, or which he is required to join, shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a period not exceeding six months.
.- The same arguments apply to the penalty in this clause as to the last. For more than twenty-five years I have been fight ing for the principle that there shall be one penalty for all individuals for the same crime. I move -
That the words “ Fifty pounds or “ be left out.
That will make the penalty the same as in the original Act. No honorable member, if asked on the hustings, would say that he approved of the insertion of a big fine, in order that persons with money might escape the punishment they deserved. Every one of us would rather pay a fine of £100 or more than spend a single day in gaol. I have been in gaol many times as a visitor, and certainly would not like to spend any time there. 1 am astonished that any one who has honoured his country by volunteering as a soldier, and who knows the differencein the treatment of officers and men, should come back and vote in favour of these alteration’s. “We have been told how, on the returning transports, the officers take the whole of the deck room, and the soldiers, who do the most of the fighting, are sent down to the lower deck. We have been told how men who have had both legs amputated-
– Order !
– We know that punishment has always pressed more heavily on those who have the least cash. In the Army, the higher ranks, get all the favours. The late Judge Casey, who was, perhaps, one of the greatest travellers, expressed to me the . opinion that every person on board ship should have a certain allotted number of cubic feet of space. If that were done, our soldiers would not be treated on the transports as they have been. If sons of wealthy men evade military service, their fathers can pay. the fine for them. The Minister (Mr. Wise) points out that they may be called up again; but there, again, the - punishment depends on the father’s bank roll. It will “ be an infamy if the present law on this matter is changed. I only wish the public outside could fully grasp what is being done here now.
– The Committee has resolved that the penalty for failing to attend for medical examination or . enlistment, for counselling or aiding any person to fail to enlist or to evade enlistment, for counselling or aiding any persons who had enlisted not to perform any duty, or for concealing or assisting in concealing any person who is liable to enlist, shall be £50 or imprisonment for six months or both, and now for a lesser offence, namely, that of refusing to take the oath after enlistment, it is proposed that the offender shall be sent to gaolwithout the option of a fine. When members opposite, like the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), advocate the treating of all offenders alike by the abolition of monetary penalties, one is surprised at their action in passing into law such measures as the Land Tax Assessment Act, which was passed when the old Labour party was in power, and which provides for the imposition of fines of various amounts on wealthy landowners who may break the law. Hitherto no one has taken exception to having an alternative to imprisonment, and throughout the Defence Act, except in the three sections now under consideration, such an alternative is provided for. The provisions of the Defence Act were passed with the consent of the Labour party.
– I feel sure that the Minister would not willingly injure me, and I hope that he will accept my statement, that for the’ past twenty-five years I have endeavoured to eliminate monetary penalties.
– I certainly accept the honorable member’s statement. I was dealing, not with what happens at the meetings of the party, but with the honorable member’s actions in this Chamber.
.- When the Defence Act was passed, no monetary penalty was provided for the offences now under consideration, Parliament being of the opinion that every man in the country, rich or poor, should be treated alike. What do rich men do when there are monetary penalties for legal offences? Conscientious objectors to vaccination pay the fines provided for by law rather than obey the law. We were determined that wealthy men should not . exempt them’selves from military service by the payment of fines.
.- I have great sympathy with the views expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), but I cannot indorse the insult put upon the magistracy of Australia by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor)- His words, taken literally, seem to mean that rich men will bribe the magistrates to make their punishment different from that of poor men. The clause, . however, provides alternative penalties for the magistrates to apply at their discretion. The difficulty which arises under the proposal of the Ministry is that similarity of treatment by magistrates cannot be guaranteed, and I, therefore, am inclined to think that they would be wise to reconsider it. I would not embarrass them in regard to it if -they feel that it is important, because I am not in a position to know how the operation of the Act has been affected by the absence of a provision for a monetary penalty in these cases. There is the possibility, when only imprisonment is provided for, that a magistrate who wishes to impose a light penalty, may award a term of imprisonment so nominal as to amount to practically no punishment at all. Thus, honorable gentlemen opposite, while desirous of applying a heavy penalty for failure to recognise a citizen’s obligations, may in reality be opening the way for the evasion of these obligations practically without punishment. I should like to know from the Minister how the Act has hitherto operated, and what sort of penalties have been imposed by magistrates for the offences created by the sections we are amending. I do not want to have boys hanged, drawn, and quartered for declining their responsibilities, but I should like to know whether the existing Act has proved a farce, and whether, in the opinion of the Minister, the giving to the magistrates of the power to impose an alternative penalty will. Strengthen its administration.
– I do not know that I can give the honorable member the information for which he asks. The penalty of which he speaks applies only when mcn are compulsorily called up, and the proclamation calling up men compulsorily was withdrawn before any prosecutions for failure to obey it came before the Courts.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out standpart of the clause - put The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Beer Excise Act provides the necessary machinery for supervision to give effect to the provisions of the Excise Tariff in regard to beer, and to safeguard therevenue. The Act at present in force was enacted in 1901 , among the first measures dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament. A couple of small amendments were made during the last session in 1912, but in the main the provisions are as originally drafted. The test of seventeen years’ working has revealed a number of defects in the measure that call for amendment. The brewing industry also has developed considerably in the interval, and provisions that were suitable when the Act was passed now require to be brought into line with modern requirements.
Among the sections that have been found defective from a legal point of view may be mentioned sections 8 and 37, to which amendments are proposed by clauses 3 and 16 respectively. It is proposed to amend section 8 by adding a subsection, so that action may be taken against manufacturers of so-called “ soft drinks,” but which, in some cases, contain very considerable percentages of alcohol. As the result of a High Court decision, manufacturers of such drinks may now escape punishment on the ground that, though the drink may contain an illegal proportion of alcohol when obtained by the revenue officer from a seller and analyzed, there is no evidence to show that the 2 per cent, limit was exceeded at the time of manufacture. It is quite possible for a maker, by bottling a brew before fermentation has been completed , to provide a drink which, whilst within the legal limit for alcohol at the time of making, will become strongly alcoholic before the process of fermentation, has been completed. As the percentage of alcohol in a brewed beverage depends entirely upon the quantity of fermentable material, usually sugar, contained in the brew, such may be regulated with scientific exactness, and there is no excuse for manufacturers to exceed the limit allowed. The amendment proposed will fix the liability upon the person who brewed the beer, notwithstanding that some little time may have elapsed before the sample is tested for alcohol by the, analyst.
The amendment to section 37 is being proposed to fix the liability for breaches of the Act in regard to the cutting of beer Excise duty stamps upon vessels. It may be explained that the Excise duty on beer is not collected at the Customs House, as in the case of practically all other goods subject to duties of Customs and Excise, but that the brewer places upon each’’ barrel or other vessel of beer leaving the brewery certain adhesive stamps, purchased from the Department, of a face value representing the amount of duty payable upon the beer contained in the vessel. To prevent any second use of such stamps, the law requires that when the vessel is opened the beer stamp affixed shall be cut into two or more pieces without removing it.
Supervision is exercised over this by the Excise officers,- and hotelkeepers and others are constantly being fined for omission to cut the stamps. It has been found, however,, that unless the empty vessel with the uncut stamp is discovered upon the hotelkeepers premises, a conviction is practically unobtainable, notwithstanding that it is perfectly clear that the hotelkeeper has failed to comply with the law. The amendment proposed fixes the liability upon the particular person in whose custody the vessel was when opened.
An increase has been made in the annual licence-fees for brewers. The Government, by prohibiting the importation of beer with a view to the conservation of freight space for more essential articles, has created a monoply for the local brewers. This has, of course resulted in a much greater output, entailing a consequential additional expenditure in supervision. The licence-fee - £25 per annum - prescribed by the Excise Act does not by any means cover the expenses oi supervision and administration. The new scale fixes the licence-fee upon the equitable basis of ‘output,, commencing with £25 per annum for a brewery turning out not more than 50,000 gallons per annum, and increasing by amounts of £25 up to £250 per annum for a brewery producing more than 12,000,000 gallons in the year.
On the other hand, the amount of security to be given by a brewer for compliance with the requirements of the Act J) as been considerably reduced. The amount of security as determined by the present Excise Act is in a sum not exceeding twice the estimated amount of duty which the applicant will be liable to pay in any one month. . In the case of large breweries this would amount to a very considerable sum. The new scale as set out in the fifth schedule fixes the amount of security to be given according to the output of the brewery and the licence-fee paid. Thus, a brewery with an output of 50,000 gallons and paying a licence-fee of £25 per annum will require a security bond in the sum of £100, and a brewery with the maximum output and licence-fee of £250 per annum, one in the sum of £10,000.
Attention is also invited to- clause 9 of the Bill. It may be explained that licences run from the 1st of January to the 31st December of each year, when they automatically lapse unless renewed prior to the close of the 31st December. In a number of instances through some oversight, principally due to the holiday season, brewers have neglected to renew their licences before the New Year. This causes considerable inconvenience, necessitating fresh applications, new securities and expense. Owing to the revenue involved, the Department cannot afford to forego the strict provisions of the Act. Provision has been made in clause 9 for an extended period of seven days in which application for renewal may be made. This should avoid the inconvenience complained of.
Clause 12 enables the Comptroller at his discretion, and subject to desirable conditions, to permit transfer prior to payment of duty of beer from one brewery to another. Owing to certain causes a brewer finds he is unable to use his machinery, and his manufacture temporarily ceases. His only opportunity to carry on his business and supply his customers is to obtain beer from another brewery. The law does not permit this concession unless duty is first paid, and then on opening the vessels in his brewery the brewer must cancel the stamps and put more on his own vessels when he sends out the beer to his customers. Clause 12 gives the necessary power to meet an emergency of this kind.
The provisions of the present Act require that no vessel shall be removed from a brewery unless the name and address of the brewer are shown on same. This requirement operates very harshly on the business traders engaged in export trade with the Pacific Islands and the East. On receipt of the vessels giving information as to the name of the brewery and address, the oversea customer can then discard his former business connexion and trade direct with the brewery. In certain cases it is desirable that the Department should be in a position to meet the wishes of export traders and provide that the vessels shall be marked in a manner to be prescribed without disclosing the name and t full address of the brewery. Care will, of course, be taken to see that the vessel is marked so that it may be readily known the contents have been made in Australia. Clauses 18 and 19 provide the power to make the necessary regulations to meet such special cases.
Other amendments of a minor character are also proposed which will facilitate the business of the brewers without in any way endangering the revenue.’ These will be more fully explained in Committse. The object of the amendments generally is to meet the changed conditions. Some of them are of a technical character
.- I am under the impression that this is the first occasion on which the Bill has been distributed.
– It was distributed on the 3rd October.
– Until the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has his way, and prohibition is enforced, brewers are entitled to fair and equitable consideration, and to be fully informed as to any legislation that may affect them. If they have been advised of the contents of this Bill, I have no objection to the House dealing with it straightway, although we have only just heard the Minister telling us of several important alterations which the measure will effect. It is difficult for honorable members to follow such a Bill without a memorandum showing the alterations to the principal Act, which contains seventy sections and eight schedules. “When I was administering the Customs Department I know that it was found necessary to make’ several alterations in regard to the Tobacco Excise Act, but the Department waited for an opportunity to make them. The opportunity came only the other day. This is a similar Bill. Amending measures of this character can better be considered in Committee, and I shall deal with some of the proposed alterations when Ave reach that stage. However, the alteration which was made in 1912 Avas not quite as the Minister said. It simply increased the amount of exciseable liquor in hogsheads, barrels, half hogsheads, and kilderkins. I remember introducing the Bill as Minister for Trade and Customs. Owing to an improvement in the methods of brewing since the passing of the principal Act, in 19.01, the brewers were able to avoid a great deal of wastage. The Act of 1901 collected duty on fifty gallons to the hogshead, the full capacity of which is fifty-four gallons, but the amending Bill of 1912 increased the dutiable contents to fifty-two gallons. In- like proportion, the dutiable contents of smaller vessels were also increased.
In regard to the proposal’ to prohibit a brewer from placing his name on any article which he may export, we may be able to adopt the method applied to the branding of cigar and cigarette -boxes. Each cigar box has the number of the State and the number of the factory stamped on it in a circle. Nobody but the officials of the Customs Department know which factories are represented by those numbers. The Government might adopt a system similar in regard to the breweries, but it is news to me that breweries which export in bulk do . not have their names stamped on their barrels. As this Bill Avas brought on unexpectedly to-night, honorable members are not in a position to discuss it. I should like the Minister to inform the House whether persons affected know of the alterations that are being proposed; also whether it Will be possible for brewers to transfer stock from one brewery to another without having an Excise stamp on it? Will the suggested provision safeguard the revenue, or. will it not be playing into the hands of the big breweries, which, in this State, at any rate, constitute a combine? In the metropolitan area, there are only two brewing companies to-day, as against eight or ten about fifteen years ago.
– Does the honorable member think that the quality of the beer has deteriorated ?
– The honorable member has already expressed the. opinion that I am unfitted to speak on this subject, except by reason of the. knowledge I gained when in charge of the Customs Department. I am surprised to find that the innocent beverage known as hop beer contains a greater percentage of alcohol than the 2 per cent, prescribed by the Excise Act. If any . hop beer is brewed with a greater alcoholic strength than 2 per cent., it should not escape the payment of Excise duty. The persons who drink hop beer under the impression that it is nonalcoholic should be protected by the Customs Department, and brewers, of such beverages should pay duty in the same way as the brewers of ordinary beer. I am glad that the Act is being tightened up in that respect, although I believe that some persons have offended innocently, the alcoholic strength having been increased by fermentation subsequent to the brewing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Brewers to be licensed).
. -This is the clause which brings under the operation of the Act all alleged non-alcoholic beverages which contain a greater alcoholic strength than 2 per cent. Who will be held responsible, the brewer or the seller of such beverages?
– The person who brews or makes the beer.
Clause agreed to..
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Section 13 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting therefrom the words “in a sum to be fixed by the Collector not exceeding twice the estimated amount of the duty which the applicant will be liable to pay in any one month; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (2) Until otherwise prescribed, the amount of security shall be according to the scale in the Fifth Schedule to this Act.”.
Section proposed to be amended -
The applicant for a licence shall pay to the Collector the proper licence-fee, and shall give security to the Collector for compliance with this Act in a sum to be fixed by the Collector not exceeding twice the estimated amount of the duty which the applicant will be liable to pay in any one month.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That after the word “ month “ (line 6), the following words be inserted: - “and inserting in their stead the words ‘ in such amount as is prescribed ‘.”
.- This means that the Minister will have power to prescribe any amount.
– It is for fixing the security only.
– Surely that can be fixed in the Bill. In the Customs Act and in other Statutes, the security is definitely fixed. It is not right that power should be given whereby one Minister may fix the security at one rate and his successor alter it to another rate.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister for Works and Railways [10.34]. - At the present time the security is operating heavily, and the clause provides relief. The amount of security fixed by the Beer Excise Act is a sum not exceeding twice the estimated amount of the duty which the applicant will be liable to pay in any one month. In the case of large breweries, that involves a considerable sum. This Bill provides that the security shall be according to the output of the brewery on the scale provided in the fifth schedule, and ranges from £100 for a brewer- paying a licence-fee of £25 per annum to £10,000 for a brewer paying a licence-fee of £250 per annum.
.- I think the clause would read better if it provided that “the amount of security shall be in accordance, with the scale in the fifth schedule.” Parliament, and not the Minister, should fix the amount of the security. I have never been anxious to curtail the power of Ministers in this regard, because I recognise that they are in close touch with the actual working of measures of this class; but I am not in favour of giving a Minister power to take a certain course while his successor may beat liberty, merely because of his views on the . liquor question, to take quite a different action.
– There is a reason for this amendment. The schedule indicates the scale which is at present thought to be adequate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is aware that the conditions are continually changing, and that it might be necessary for departmental reasons to ask for an a mount even higher than now required. This does not deal with the imposition of a fine or penalty, but merely demands, a security for the performance of the requirements of the Act. For that reason, it is thought better to leave the matter to be dealt with by regulation.
– I hope that the Minister will not object to my saying that the reason he has given for this proposal is by no means satisfactory. It would be far better to have the amount of all the licence-fees and securities determined in the Bill itself. The security required in this case might be varied by different Ministers. All securities, fines, and penalties, should be fixed in the Bill itself, rather than be left to the discretion of the Minister. We are becoming too ready to pass skeleton measures to be filled in ‘by regulations. I am sure that no Minister would desire to have imposed upon him the duty of dealing with individual cases to determine what the security should be. This is not a safe provision, and I hope the Minister will adopt my suggestion.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses8 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
Section 37 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “’ (2) In case of failure to comply with the provisions of the preceding sub-section, the person to whom liability attaches for such failure is - where the opening of the vessel takes place ….
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That paragraph (f) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: - “(f) in cases other than those enumerated in. the preceding paragraphs - the person who was the last owner of the beer when contained in the vessel, or who has opened the vessel or caused it to be opened.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 -
The principal Act is amended by adding, at the end thereof, the following schedules: -
– I move -
That all the words. from and including “The Fourth Schedule “ to and inclusive of “ shall be reduced proportionately “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following:
It will be observed that the minimum output has been raised from 10,000 gallons to 50,000 gallons. This amendment is designed to meet the convenience of the smaller breweries, it having been found that the quantity at first proposed was too small.
.- I am glad that .the Minister (Mr. Groom) has seen fit to propose some relief for the smaller breweries, but I think that further consideration might well be given to this schedule. The schedule as a whole is so drawn as to give the large breweries an advantage “over . the small ones. Under the original schedule, the small brewer would have been called upon to pay a licence fee of ‘5s. in respect of every 100 gallons of beer that be brewed, whereas the large brewer would have had to pay only -Id. per 100 gallons. Under the amendment now proposed, the small brewer will have to pay ls. for 100 gallons brewed, whereas the large brewer will still pay only. id. per 100 gallons. If the large brewer paid at the same rate as the small brewer will be required to pay, then, instead of having to pay a licence fee of £200 or £250 a year, as fixed, he would have to pay, according to the quantities, £3,000 or £6,000 a year. The Government would get more revenue if it were provided that a fee of £25 should be collected in respect of every 50,000 gallons of beer brewed. That would be an equitable system to follow. It seems to me to be making an unfair distinction between the large brewery combines and the small breweries. It is true that, the schedule as proposed will give some relief to the small brewers, but I ask the Minister to see if it is not possible to propose a more equitable arrangement, under which the big breweries will be called upon to pay proportionately, as much as the small breweries. If £25 were charged for each 50,000 gallons of beer brewed, the brewery brewing 6,000,000 gallons would have to pay a licence-fee of £3,000. That would seem to be a very large amount, but I do not see that there could be any -argument used against it. It is manifestly inequitable that the small brewery in the country should have to pay ls. per 100 gallons, whilst the big breweries have to pay only id. per 100 gallons. It would appear to be but another instance of, discrimination against country interests.
– The scale has been revised in the way proposed to meet the position of the small brewers. The object of’ this proposal is not to impose a tax upon a proportionate basis. A certain charge is imposed for examination and administration, and -it must be remembered that the cost of examination and administration does not increase proportionately with the increase of output of the brewery. It is necessary to send a man out to examine, and inspect a small brewery, and expenses have to be incurred in connexion therewith,
– Drag them all into the city.
– An annual fee of £25 will not tend to drag country breweries into Melbourne. These fees are necessary to cover the expense of administration, and I may say that the amount raised in this way will not pay for the. expense of administering the Act.
– Then the Government have a right tq make it* pay.
– I have suggested a way in which it might be made to pay handsomely.
– This is not proposed as a . means of taxation.
– The effect is to penalize the small brewer.
– That is not so. There must be some charge for examination.
– The small brewers will be paying more than their share of expense.
– No ; the honorable member will agree that the cost of administration in connexion with a brewery does not depend upon its size. The departmental expenses will not increase in proportion to the output. The scale here proposed is more equitable than that previously in operation, and it is considered that it will meet the case satisfactorily.
.- So far as my knowledge of the matter goes, there is very little inspection of breweries. The stamps, I think, are sold by the Post and Telegraph Department. I am aware that the Customs Department will see that breweries are inspected to make sure that everything is done rightly, and, in my opinion, the fee should cover the cost of inspection, as the officials of the Customs Department should not do the work of the country for nothing.
– It is not done for nothing. I have ascertained that the breweries are regularly inspected.
– There are very few of them. I know that the Customs officials engaged in this work are experts, and carry out their work well. But I think there are not more than forty or fifty breweries in the Commonwealth.
– There were seventy-four breweries in operation during 1915.
– Nearly all the country breweries have been closed up in Victoria.
– I think there are a few country breweries in this State. I objected, when the Tobacco” Excise Bill was under consideration, to a similar provision, which gave the larger manufacturers an advantage over the smaller. We put that Bill through in an afternoon, and, in my opinion, dealt with some of those engaged in the industry very unfairly.
– They gave £30,000 conscience money to repatriation.
– I have no doubt that those engaged in the manufacture of tobacco are quite as fair as are the people concerned with this Bill. I object to the principle that is being adopted here. Under this proposal a’ man who brews 50,000 gallons ofbeer will have to pay £25, whilst the man who brews 750,000 gallons, or fifteen times as much, will have to pay only four times as much. The man who brews 12,000,000 gallons will, under this proposal, have to pay only ten times a’s much as the man who brews 50,000 gallons. In my opinion, this proposal will have the effect of penalizing the smaller breweries, and I think the proper principle to adopt would be to impose payments in proportion to the output.
– That is the basis of the taxation, but this is to provide payment for services rendered. The departmental officers have worked out the schedule as fairlyas they could, and this is suggested as an improvement upon the existing conditions.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders, suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Director-General of Medical Ser vices : Quarantine - Preference to Returned Soldiers.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to make a brief statement. In the earlier part of the sitting it was stated that the Director-General of Medical Services in the Defence Department (Dr. Fetherston) had entered Australia upon an infected vessel, and had refused to go into quarantine. It struck me as an extraordinary statement that a man so eminent in his profession should do that; but I have since made inquiries. andI find that Dr. Fetherston arrived in a ship which, was not quarantined at all. He came via Colombo, and the ship was not infected.
.- I shall only detain the House for a minute or two; but I find it necessary to bring under the notice of honorable members a condition of affairs which, I think, they will agree should be remedied. We have established preference to returned soldiers, in the Civil Service; but, unfortunately,’ it operates unjustly in certain circumstances. I have before me the case of a man employed as a temporary hand in the Postal Department, as senior messenger. He has a record of sixteen years’ service as an Imperial soldier. He served in three campaigns, and at the outbreak of the present war volunteered for service; hut was turned down on account. of disabilities due to active service in previous wars. He has since received notice that he must leave his job - he is a married man, with a wife and family - in order to make room . for another man,’ who, I am informed, has not fired a shot - a man who got to England, hut no further, and, being returned . to Australia, he is now, under the regulations to which I have referred, displacing a man with sixteen years’ service in the Imperial Military Forces to his credit. I feel certain that Parliament and the country never intended that such a state of things should arise, and I feel it is only necessary to bring the matter before the Government to insure that some action- be taken to safeguard such men.
– To prevent their displacement!
– Yes. I do not ask that they be treated as returned soldiers, and he given positions, but that, if they are already in the Service - they are not particularly numerous - their interests shouldbe safeguarded. I think the returned soldiers themselvesregard men with Imperial -service to their credit as returned soldiers, and welcome them into their association. I feel sure, also, that the Returned Soldiers Association will support therequest I am making, so there ought to. be no difficulty whatever in pre venting such cases of hardship as the one to which I am now drawing attention.
.- I was pleased to hear the statement made by the Acting . Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) with regard to Dr. Fetherston, the principal medical officer of our Military Forces. There should be no misapprehension about this matter. Every vessel, that comes to Australia must he examined by a quarantine official. When I. was Minister for Trade and Customs a Western Australian . legislator was fined because he left a vessel before she had been granted a clean hill of . health. I am glad to know that the principal medical officer did not commit’ this indiscretion. We have to thank the . quarantine officials for the fact that, up to the present, we have kept the. scourge of Spanish, in-‘ fluenza out of Australia.
– In reply to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) may Ibe permitted to say that I think the case he cited is ‘ one of the most striking that has been brought under notice;. and as his request is that the services of men with extended Imperial military service to their credit shall not he displaced, I shall confer with the Department’, and see how far it is possible to amend the regulation to give effect to the suggestion he has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m..
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181126_reps_7_87/>.