7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson.) took . the chair, at 3 p.m., and. read prayers.
-Have there been, brought underthe- notice- of the Acting Prime Minister ‘ two offers of flour,: the first . made by an.- Eastern buyer to a . miller, atPerth for 1,000- tons, at a price equivalent to 6s. 4½d.. f.o.b.. for wheat and the. second by a. J apanese buyer for’ 3,000 tons at ; a price equal to -7s: f.o.b.: for wheat, and is it’ a- fact that the. Commonwealth. Government refused to? give permission for. the- acceptance; of the first offer, but, subsequently, allowed it to be accepted, and declined- altogether to give permission, for the acceptance of the second offer for thereason- that such permission could only be obtained from London.?
– I have no recollection of an offer from . a Japanese source; butI think that an honorable member brought under my notice an offer to. a Perth miller, and asked whether freight space could be provided. I do not remember the . circumstances, but- I shall- ascertain them,, and furnish as full, a reply to. the question as I can make.
rail way Passes for Next of Kin;
– In connexion- with the. return of Anzacs to Australia, . the next of. kin have received passes’.- to enable’ them to come to Melbourne to . welcome their relatives. But a constituent of mine writes, complaining that, because his two sons, who are Anzacs, were wounded in the recent offensive, and are ‘ being brought out as. invalids, passes have not been issued in connexion with their return. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if the same concessions cannot be extended to the next of kin of Anzacs who are returning as invalids as are given to the next of kin. of the Anzacs who were brought back on furlough?
– I know so little, of the actual arrangements that,-I should not like to answer the- question off-hand. If the honorable member will give me particulars of ‘the’ case, Ishall refer it for the- consideration of the Minister, for Defence, and, get his reply.’
– Is the Acting Prime Minister, aware that in Sydney a. tax of 1d. is; being.. levied on the1d..’ admission ticket’ issued? to children entering swimming baths? Does the Treasurer consider’ that children who are goingto swimming baths are, indulging in a taxable amusement,?
– When I. was-‘ young I used . to consider swimming an. ‘ amusement.. As. to the taxation of the. admission tickets,- the. honorable, member has added another to the series of questions arising out of ‘the levying of the entertainments tax, which have come from all parts of the House during the past few weeks. I have given the general reply that the tax has not been altered, except as to. rates, by any measure passed this session. I have asked the Secretary to the Treasury to ascertain whether the Commissioner for Taxation is guided in his administration of the Act by the opinion of the Crown Law officers. YesterdayI said that that opinion had not been received, but I have just been informed by the Secretary to the Treasury that the Crown Solicitor advises that merry-go-rounds, ocean waves, helterskelters, slippery dips, captive aeroplanes, scenic railways, billiard saloons, swimming baths, and shooting galleries are not forms of amusement subject to the entertainments tax.
– What about ping-pong?
– I do not know how my Hon or ab le friend’s favorite sport stands in: this connexion.
– Is the ActingPrime Minister yet in a position to make a statement regarding the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the ‘ States concerning the conservation of fodder? Mr. WATT. - Judging by the correspondence, I think that the. matter has been settled, but I have not the particulars here. If my honorable friend will give notice of the question, I shall procure them for him by to-moTrow.
Sydney Quarantine : Food ; Admission Refused to Priest - Rumoured “ Black Plague “ - Deaths in Melbourne Hospital.
– According to to-day’s newspaper, it was stated in the New South Wales Parliament, yesterday, that the men on board the Medic complain of the scarcity and poor quality of their food, and say that they are relieved only by theRed Cross people, sending parcels to them. Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether that is so?
– I shall ascertain whether the statement is correct. The complaint probably conies from persona removed from the Medic who are in. quarantine . is. patients. Part of the treatment is to put the patient on Very low die”, and this they seem to object to.
– Is it a fact that a priest, answering a call from patients in the qua ran tine grounds, at- Sydney, was refused admission ? If so, will the Minister tell the House the reason for this?
– A priest was refused admission to that part of the quarantine station in which dangerously and seriouslyill patients are kept. It has been the invariable practice of the Department, when quarantine is being enforced to refuse admission to - this part of . the quarantine station to all ministers of religion, because of the . tremendous demand that would be . put on the Department in dealing with serious cases if . admission were granted. Of course, if one minister of religion were admitted, ministers of . all denominations would have to be given the . same privilege. A person going into that part of the . quarantine station where dangerously and seriouslyill patients are kept, is not permitted to go out again into the other part of the station.’ This is the reason why the Department considers it necessary to prohibit the entrance of. ministers of religion into that part of the grounds.
– Is the Minister aware that there are sinister rumours in Sydney, circulating with increasing frequency, that the pneumonic epidemic now rampant in that city, or, at least, at the Quarantine Station, is alleged to be “Black Plague”? Will the Minister take adequate steps to disabuse the minds of those who have that idea, and also to prevent the dissemination of such rumours ?
– I think that a full description of the . disease, including its medical history, has already been published by the State Health authorities of New South Wales; but I shall look into the matter, and if anything further seems necessary to be done in the circumstances, I shall see that it is done.
Mr.FENTON. - Has the Minister received any report from his officers in respect to the three deaths in the Melbourne Hospital; and, if so, were these deaths caused by what is known, as Spanish influenza?
– I have had no report as yet, but I believe that inquiries are being made.
– Will the Minister also ascertain from what quarter these patients who have died came, and whether it is known how they became infected.
-I shall ask the Director of Quarantine to obtain all the information obtainable in regard to the three cases referred to.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) aware, that many Australian women who are married to Germans are practically on the verge of starvation as the result of their husbands being interned; and, if that be so, will he* consider the advisability of giving protection to the dependants of all internees?
– I was not aware of the circumstances referred to, but I shall lay the subject before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) aware that rumours are frequent to the effect that rifles produced at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, are not of the best quality? If so, will the honorable gentleman take the necessary steps to furnish the House with a statement as to the quality and quantity of the rifles produced ?
– With regard to the award recently made by the Arbitration Court in favour of the Professional Officers Association of the Public Service, will the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) take early steps to bring under the award those officers who at present do not come within the definitions made in that award?
– There is a reclassification going on. It has been completed in New South Wales, and I think it will be completed in Victoria within a day or two. In any case, whatever may be the final determination, it will be made retrospective to the date of the award.
Export of Scrap Tin
– Has the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) read the report of the serious allegations made by Senator Pratten in the Senate a week ago?
– Order ! Debates in the Senate cannot be alluded to.
– Secondly, are the officers against whom the allegations were made still acting as confidential advisers of the Government; and, thirdly, have the Government decided on a public inquiry into the allegations.
– I read the statement made in the Senate last week.
– The gentlemen referred to are still officials on behalf of the- Government, and the Minister in charge in another place will to-day read a series of statements and indicate the Government attitude. I do not think it proper to anticipate his utterances.
Discussion in Parliament - Conditions of Assistance.
– In view of the demobilization of our Forces, and the early termination of the session, does the “Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) think it possible to have a discussion on the question of repatriation, and give honorable members an opportunity to make suggestions which might assist the Minister and the Government in the solution of , this huge problem ?
– As I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) last week, I expect to be able this week to make a statement showing exactly what business the Government hope to pass before we rise for ‘Christmas. That statement will be made to-morrow, and will indicate to honorable members clearly that at least two opportunities for discussing this important questionwill be open to honorable members.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Groom) aware that a number of men who have made applications to the Repatriation Department for assistance were asked what property they had previous to enlisting, and that their requests for assistance were refused, on the ground that, previous to enlisting, they did not possess the same amount of property that they asked for by way of assistance. In explanation, I would like to say that a man who applied for a horse and dray was informed that as he- did not possess a horse and dray previous to enlisting, the Department could not assist him.
– I shall refer the statement of the honorable member to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and let him know the result of the inquiries made. If the honorable member’s statement is founded on any letter, or any specific case, I should be glad to have it, in order that it may be the subject of specific inquiry.
– I have two specific
Transports and Demobilization.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The conditions obtaining on transports, and demobilization.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Last week, or. the week before, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the conditions on one of the transports, and during that debate several honorable members quoted instances of other transports on which the conditions were not all what they should have been. I realize, as well as any one, that the men who went from here to the war, and those who have got married overseas and are bringing their wives to Australia, do not expect the conditions on the transports or the other vessels utilized to be equal to those of the saloon on an ocean-going steamer, or an American millionaire’s yacht. But they are entitled to better conditions than those under which they have travelled in some cases. The description of the conditions on the s.s. Barambah given last week by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has been confirmed by a statement made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann), who was on the vessel. According to a cablegram appearing in the Melbourne Herald on the 2nd instant, the honorable member said in London at an inquiry into the conditions on the Barambah -
The conditions were wretched. The water supply during portion of the voyage was not sufficient to enable the_troops to wash, and the food was bad and inadequate.
As far as I am concerned this is not a party matter. We are all desirous that our men should receive just treatment, but, apparently, there is room for a great deal of improvement. Since the Barambah case has been made public there is a suspicion amongst the people that owing to relaxation of the censorship they are only now beginning to learn the truth about the conditions that prevail on transports. I am anxious to learn that the Barambah case, and others which I shall mention, are exceptional. If they are not, I hope that immediate steps will be taken to bring about an improvement, so that our troops, and the wives of those who married in England, may come to Australia under better conditions.
I have a letter concerning another vessel, the s.s. Runic. It says -
You will be surprised to know I am again in Australian waters. I left Liverpool on 23rd September, and after calling at Capetown, Durban, and Fremantle, came on here. The trip has. been a most ‘inglorious and unfitting end to four years’ service for King and Empire. The information I am now giving you can be used at any time you like.
This letter was written by an officer. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) told us the other day that if there were 900 men and 100 officers on a transport, the officers would have about half the ship to themselves. I can understand the officers and the men being kept apart as far as possible on ‘ a transport conveying troops to the Front. It may te necessary to do so in order to maintain discipline, and so that the officers may have a greater hold on the men. But on a returning transport, it .should not be so necessary. Although discipline must be observed among men coming .home -to be discharged, it ought not to be as rigid as it must be among men who are on the way to fight. The letter proceeds -
The ship was dirty, and the troops had not at all a decent run, owing, in my opinion, to ‘an inefficient officer who was’ .put in charge ‘by the Defence Department, .Melbourne. This .officer (Major Roberts) has seen no service except New Guinea. To begin with, he did not have the various life-boats allotted for the 1,100 invalids we had aboard until .we were four.ida.ys, out at sea. Fancy .four days on .the Atlantic, right in the danger zone, and we .did not know our’ boat stations! Of course, .we were in a convoy, but a mine would have accounted for the majority. When the boats were allotted, armless men and cripples on ^crutches were put on -rafts, while able, men had boats- .Then the food of .the men was often short, and often not cooked, and at times bad. Complaints were ‘continually made, but without avail. ‘The canteen we had aboard did not carry nearly enough for the ‘men. Cigarettes, &c, ran out before we’ were a few weeks out. For . maladministration and mismanagement, this trip stands alone. The good temper of -the men saved the ‘situation. Gambling is forbidden by the Army Act, and yet the C..O. .announced land .explained a Calcutta sweep on the day’s run, and it became such a swindle that . a syndicate bought the winning number about two days of every three, and the sweeps had to be stopped. Gambling in every form was -practised on every foot of the . ship.
– Quite right; it is not a Sunday school.
– The letter continues-
A number of officers went broke,, losing .heavy gums. Then, to clear matters, a corporal was court martialed for playing “ Crown and Anchor,” and got a reprimand from the court. Wholly unjust, when officers in the saloon in front of the nurses playing Poker, Slippery
Kate, “ Solo,” Bridge, &c, for large stakes. I saw £26 won on one hand myself. The ship was supposed to be a dry ship ; men under treatment I know were ordered stout for lunch. They only got it a few days, and were then told it was all gone; but officers could get ad lib stout, ale, whisky, and champagne, provided the Senior Medical Officer signed the diet. If you were in his clique, well and good. We men were not allowed off the ship in South Africa; nobody went ashore. On arrival at Fremantle after having been fifty-six days aboard, and having had no sickness, we were quarantined. The reception we received at Fremantle was cold and miserable, especially as we arrived on the day the Armistice was signed. The men decided to rush the boats and pull ashore. This they did, and repeated th’e performance the next day. The CO. and Adjutant never called officers nor sergeants to attempt to entice the men to play the game. The result was a display not at all creditable to me A.I.F. Not an officer of any description came’ near us for two days .at Fremantle except the ..doctor who quarantined us. I do not altogether blame the men for their actions, hut we expected a few papers, and any mail to be sent off to us, and our telegram’s, letters, &c, -taken ashore. In South Africa, our people were extremely good to us, although they could not come aboard. An inquiry into the various matters I have enumerated- would do no harm.
Another small matter. ‘ We had eleven nurses, all worn out -‘after years of service abroad, and a Tartar of a matron* made those girls stop down in stuffy .cabins in -the Tropics rather than come on deck with their Australian officers who had been fighting with them. The life of those girls -was made “extremely disagreeable by the; matron. “The Sydney Sunday Times has published an account of . the . conditions on one vessel’ which brought certain wives of Anzacs to Australia. ‘After stating that the women- were in open berths, the article says -
Mercifully, few women know just what an open berth “means. 1 know what .it . means to,travel in -open berths. On one . occasion, I crossed cbe Atlantic to New York, and travelled in an open .berth. I. did .it partly for the sake of .gaining experience, . and .1 readily say .that 3io one who .had my experience of .these .berths would condemn .any woman to such treatment. In the. vessel in which I travelled, there were two double tiers of berths right across the vessel, separated by a passage about 2 feet wide. In each tier there were thirty -berths on one side of the passage, faced by thirty on the other side. We may or may not have been f avorable -to
Australian soldiers marrying in England, but, in any case, the- wives of those who did marry there are entitled to fair and humane treatment,, and should not be brought out here on ships under such conditions.
– The honorable mem. ber does not suggest that the treatment was due to the fact. that these women had married Australian soldiers in. England ?
– I do not say that. I am not sure whether the- fault lies with the. Defence Department^ the- Navy Derpartment, or the Prime Minister’s- Department. A gentleman in Sydney wrote to <me in regard to the ship I have mentinned, and, on the- 7 th November, I sent a letter’ on the subject to the Assistant Minister for Defence. On the 18th November;. the1 Defence Department replied that the matter was one to be. dealt with by the Prime Minister’s Department. Apparently, the arrangements for “ the transport to Australia of soldiers’ wives are under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, or of a representative of that Department in London. My Sydney correspondent complained of the conditions of travelling, and of the food supplied on board the vessel. He continued -
Another complaint has been made regarding the food supplied on board thu vessel. They were- told that when they reached the Panania Canal they would be given the same class of food as on vessels travelling between America and Australia, but such was not the case. They used to have fourteen stews a week until their arrival- in Australia. On- the voyage out seven children died, it is alleged, on account of bad food and milk. I am told that the sweetened condensed milk was supplied to the officers whilst the babies received the unsweet- ened milk. . 1, am not sure which of the two milks is the- better. I know that a child brought up on artificial food, even under the best of conditions, has not as good a chance of Hying- as: has the child reared naturally at the. mother’s breast. We know, however, that some women, who are apparently, quite healthy, have no milk for their children. If, as a Sydney newspaper states, it was apparent before the vessel sailed that there was a likelihood of births taking place on the voyage out, provision should have been made for the boat to carry a trained midwife. A news- paper paragraph says -
Although it was obviously certain that some births must take place on the voyage, the ship was not supplied with one single midwifery nurse. The matron in charge of the women and the Army nurses did what they could, but they were certainly hampered by want of knowledge. The nurses, too, were to be pitied, as they were journeying home on leave, and it was hard to expect them to turn to and nurse medical cases.
The little wife who tells the story lost her baby soon, after the voyage began. The ship’s food was utterly unfitted for women who were feeding their infants, and it required a hardy child to thrive.
It must be remembered, too, the passages had been paid for by most of these people. Some of them, indeed, had laid out as much as £30 for this accommodation.
Briefly, a few of the troubles suffered by these women: were dysentery (caused by bad water), awful overcrowding, general noise and. squalor, absence of proper bathing facilities (there were two bathrooms for the 300 people), bad food, total lack of privacy, and a plentiful supply -of vermin. Add to these sea sickness and dirt, and some idea of an open berth -will be gained.
Another statement regarding the conditions on board was made by a nurse, and during the following week the same newspaper published the story of a noncommissioned officer who was doing duty on the vessel -
Lavatories, of which there were two on the women’s deck, were vile, and things were made worse by some people putting things down them which they had no right to do. There were some under the poop deck blocked up, near which some of the women slept, or tried to.
The water on the boat was as good as could be expected, but at times it was very dirty.
There were two hospitals. In one were both men and women, and the goings on at times were disgraceful.
One hospital was badly fitted up. There was no water of any kind, and the lavatory and bathroom pipes were connected together, so that when the lavatory was blocked up, which was often, the overflow would come out on the floor and run down the deck, and backwards and forwards into the bath, which could not be used, as there was no water, although there were two taps. You would have to climb the steps to get into it to turn the water on, as the tap was at the end.. The connecting pipe was eventually, cut, but the bath was never fixed up so that it could be used.
At one port, some people came aboard, and when- they saw the women’s quarters, they said they would not keep: pigs there. They treated us wonderfully well, and from thc-m we received 204 tins of milk, boxes of chocolates, 100 sandwiches and cakes for the hospital, which they never received.
The ship was not supplied with any nurses, so, therefore, the work fell upon the Army Sisters, one of whom had some knowledge of midwifery, and did all she possibly could, with the aid of the others, for the benefit of the newborn and the mothers.
In one storm in the Atlantic, a lifeboat and the women’s cook-house were smashed, and the water just went down the hatchway in tons, where there was nothing but noise and confusion caused by the floating backwards and forwards of boxes, trunks, bags, &c, and a lot of women in hysterics.
I believe that the vessel referred to was the City of Kurachi. I have already stated that I wrote to the Defence Department, and received a reply that the matter appertained to the Department of the Prime Minister. Thereupon I asked the Defence Department to forward the letter to the Prime Minister’s Department, so that inquiry could be made, but whether or not that was done I cannot say. Complaints were made also in regard to the conditions on the Arawa, and 1 shall quote from a letter which I sent to the Defence Department, giving a resume of verbal statements made to me -
He says that the meat was badly cooked and there was not sufficient sugar or butter. The bread was alao badly cooked, and made from “war flour.” Two days after leaving Capetown, the men sent delegates to Major Higgins, O.C., and from that time, I understand, there was little cause for complaint.
– The two vessels to which, the honorable member refers were outward bound.
– Yes, and as many of our soldiers will shortly be ‘ outward bound, I ask that the conditions of travelling for them shall be reasonably good. I do not a£k that the conditions shall be equal to the first class accommodation on an ocean liner. The .men have been accustomed to “ roughing it “ during the last two or three years, and they will ask for only reasonable comfort, but they should not be subjected to the hardships that are complained of in the statements I am placing before the House. For some people ocean travelling is not comfortable at any time, whether they be passengers in steerage or saloon, but in regard to the homeward transport of men who have spent two or three years in fighting, and whose health has been impaired, we should take precautionary measures to insure that there is no repetition of the conditions resulting in the numerous deaths that occurred on the Barambah, of which particulars have been given by the honorable member for’ Dampier (Mr. Gregory). Even according to the official report supplied by the Minister, there were seventeen deaths on board the Barambah, and if one of those deaths was preventable, the responsibility attaches to those who had charge of the ship. If we do not insure that proper accommodation is available for our returning soldiers, we shall not be doing our duty as legislators and representatives of the people. My letter in reference to the Arawa continued -
It “was stated that the chief steward could issue just what he liked. There was not an officer present to supervise the distribution of the food, consequently the men’s rations were very small. There was also no inspection of the food by an officer before it was distributed.
As stated above, the delegates waited upon Major Higgins, and I understand he told them that this transport took away 60,000 lbs. of Australian flour for use on the voyage back, but it was left at Liverpool, England, and they had to use “ war flour “ on their way back.
Australians residing in South Africa have made it a practice to raise funds to provide comforts for Australian troops returning home.
– They have been very kind to our men.
– I am sure that many others will bear out. the honorable member’s statement. I am told that at Cape- - town a friend was supposed to have sent to Private P. Porter, who was on board this transport, a” case containing fruit, cigarettes, and sweets, of the value of £30, but that it was not received by him. A letter came to hand telling him that it would be put on board, but he heard no more of it. It was suspected that the officers had received it, and had failed to hand it over to its rightful owner. I brought this matter under the notice of the Defence Department on 20th ultimo, and so far .have received only a formal acknowledgment.. It is quite possible, however, that further inquiries will have to be made ‘before the Department is in a position to reply to the complaint.
– As to the use of war flour, the troops in England and in France have been living on it for some time.
– The men do not object to the use of war flour in such circumstances, but when the opportunity offers for better conditions, they ask that those better conditions should prevail.
– A transport generally takes from Australia sufficient flour to cover the ‘ requirements of the voyage to and also from England. If the supply proves to be insufficient, they fall back upon war flour. That has sometimes happened.
– Quite so. In the complaint made to me, it is stated that Major Higgins told the men that the transport took away 60,000 lbs. of Australian flour for use on the return voyage, but that it was left at Liverpool, with the result that war flour had to be used.
The question of demobilization is allimportant. It involves the demobilization of the Forces oversea, and also of those engaged in home service. There are, in some of our camps in Australia, men who have been on home service for over 1,000 day3. Some of them desired to enlist for service abroad, but were turned down because of age or for other reasons. They then engaged in home service, and have served their country well, doing work in which ordinary members of the Australian Imperial Force would otherwise havebeen employed. Among these are what are known as the Naval Guard. Representations have been made to me that180 men in the Victorian District Naval Guard are entitled to nineteen days’ leave after twelve months’ service, and also to a fortnight’s leave upon their discharge; but that they have not been given the full leave of five weeks when discharged, although others who obtained three weeks’ leave before being discharged subsequently received the remaining fortnight’s leave. They consider that all should be placed on an equality in respect of leave. We know what is reported in the press to have happened in regard to the Anzacs. The 7,000 men whom it was arranged’, before the armistice was arrived at, should be sent to Australia on furlough, were promised six weeks’ leave in Australia on full pay, with an additional allowance of 3s. per day. While on the voyage out, a number of these men were informed that the actual leave in Australia was to be reduced to fourteen days. They naturally complained, with the result that they were advised that the original decision that they should have six weeks’ furlough on full pay would be adhered to. It is quite possible that this will be quoted as a precedent as to the extent of the leave on full pay which all the returning troops should be granted. If it is said that this treatment shall be ex- bended only to those who have served for four years abroad, those who have a record of three years and eleven months on active service will want to know why they should be subjected to different treatment. The men of the District Naval Guard who have been employed for twelve months or more consider that they are entitled to receive five weeks’ leave. Many of them are returned soldiers who were not fit to go back to the Front. Upon their discharge they will be thrown on the Labour market, and naturally they seek the best conditions that can be secured. I shall forward this complaint to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise), and if it should go to the Navy Department, I hope that he will send it on.
We are told that Major-General Howse, V.C., K.C.B., left Melbourne on 22nd November for England to take charge of the demobilization arrangements. This is one of the most important questions demanding consideration at the present time, and I have brought it forward in this way to-day because I fear it would be impossible otherwise to discuss it as well as the question of the conditions obtaining on transports until the adjournment was immediately at hand. We have probably 200,000 men oversea.
– Rather less than 200,000.
– Having regard to. the time that was occupied in transporting them to the Old Country, it is reasonable to assume that, unless special shipping facilities offer, at least eighteen months will be occupied in returning them to Australia. There are many difficulties in the way, and various representations on the subject have been made to the De,partment. I have in mind the case of a man who returned on furlough, before the Anzacs did, and who, on the death of his wife, applied for his discharge so that he might look after his two little children. Every honorable member who is a father will sympathize with such an application. This man naturally desired to remain here to see that his. children were well looked after, but the reply of the Department to the request that I made on his behalf was the stereotyped one that the need of more men was such that no man could be spared from the Front. I hope that those, in charge of the demobilization arrangements will give special consideration to men so situated- Those who were the first to leave for the Front are, I understand, to receive special consideration, and with that determination no fault can be found. Rumour also has it that those who have work to return to will also receive preferential treatment. It is hard luck for the man who has been away for four years if his return is to be delayed merely because he has not a permanent job awaiting him here.
I do not know on what ground the Ministry will attempt to justify the proposal to send a Minister to England to attend to the work of demobilization. A military officer has already been despatched, and I fail to see in what respect a Minister in England could do better than the High Commissioner and his staff. I trust that the Government will give these matters their careful consideration, and see that the men who have given of their very best in the defence of their country are treated fairly and reasonably upon their return.
– I have no exception to take to the remarks made bv the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who has rightly said that the problem of demobilization now rapidly approaching is one of the most difficult with which we have to deal. During the last four or five weeks the Government, in consultation with the Ministers at Home, have been giving very special attention to it. Months before that, we had realized that if it should happen in our time that the war should end, it would be a problem very difficult of complete accomplishment. When the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy left for London, they undertook to consult very care.fully with the leaders of the Army at Home, and the civil administration of the High Commissioner’s office, for the preparation of such machinery as would make the smooth running of this matter easy. It involves questions of administration such as the honorable member referred to at the close of his remarks.
As to whether a Minister should be sent to London, the Government are not worrying at present, because there are two Ministers there now ; but the view of the Prime Minister is that if he is not able to complete this scheme, it will be wrong to leave it to purely official administration coupled with military administration. The problems are so big, and the effects of success or failure will be so great, that Ministerial responsibility should be centred on its control at the right end. If Ministers now at Home are not able to stay until it is completed, it may be necessary to send another Minister to London.
– Which Minister?
– That is entirely an open matter; nothing has been cut and dried. We are not desirous of exporting a Minister, or of providing a pleasant jaunt for one. My cable correspondence with the Prime Minister leads me to believe that whoever goes must keep his nose to the grindstone for many long months, because Australia will hold him, as it will hold us, responsible for any evils that may attend the reshipment of our boys.
Among the problems to which attention must be given is, first, the order of return; a very vital matter to the parents and other relatives and friends of the men who are now on guard, so to> speak,- in Great Britain, or at the various Fronts. What principles are to guide the Administration here and in London in effecting the embarkation ? We have laid down certain rules tentatively, with, which I think the House will concur. I need not mention them now, because there will be opportunity for discussing them when we are in receipt of fuller information. At one time, the opinion seemed to be that the return of our troops would occupy from eighteen months to two years, because of the shortage of suitable tonnage; but now the best-informed minds in Great Britain with whom the Prime Minister has been in conference lead us to hope that the whole thing can be accomplished within twelve months after it commences. If we can shorten the period, we shall do so, but we must be guided largely by the possibility of suitable tonnage at the other end of the world. Among other matters, the training of the men coming back stands out prominently. At the present time, and probably until the completion of the peace preparations, our men will be in a state of armed idleness. The Forces of the Allies cannot be demobilized until the Allied and associated control declares it to be safe to demobilize and remove their troops.
– It is rumoured that the American troops are already going back.
– About 160,000 of the more recently arrived Americans are supposed to be going back, but, speaking generally of the armies of occupation, it will be impossible to withdraw them, with their arms and impedimenta of war, until the Allied Powers know that such a course would be quite safe, and that there would be no possibility of a recrudescence of warfare. The period of idleness to which. I refer will last for two or three months, and the shorter it is the more satisfactory will it be to the people of the belligerent countries. Following the conclusion of peace, there will be many months more of idleness for most of our men, even should demobilization and embarkation proceed at the swiftest rate possible. Our men will be unable to find anything to do, unless the administration in Great Britain is able to provide them with employment, or with special facilities for training, to reteach those whom other occupations have necessarily robbed of some of their craft proficiency, and, if possible, to extend their teaching in mechanics and the arts. As the honorable member for Brisbane has indicated in two or three questions, there is to be scholastic training for a certain section of the troops. We are endeavouring to arrange for rural training for suitable selectees in Denmark, America, and parts of Great Britain, to familiarize men who have come from our rural areas with the small industries of other parts of the world, so that they may impart to this country some of the beneficial methods employed there. All these problems are giving the Government a good deal of concern. We do not hope to solve them to the complete satisfaction of every individual concerned, but we believe that sustained attention to them by the administration here and in Lon’don will give a great deal of satisfaction, and produce beneficial results for all affected.
As to transports, hitherto, so far as I have been able to judge, we have had no control. My inquiries lead me to believe that the British authorities have necessarily controlled the return of our men.
– They do not control the putting of men on board the transports, or their care on board.
– No, but they have been responsible for the selection of the ships. That, I have been given to understand, has been done by the Admiralty authorities. For example, had the Llanstephan Castle been quite an unsuitable vessel, we should not have known it, and should not have been responsible. We desire, in connexion with the return of our Army as a whole, to take charge of this work. We wish to arrange with the British authorities to have control of it, and to become responsible for the vessels selected, the number of men put on board each, and the food, medical comforts, and attention given to the men during the voyage. Last Monday, after having gone over this matter in consultation with my colleagues, who are in possession of a good deal of information relating to the condition of the ships which have recently arrived, I sent a warning telegram to the
Prime Minister, to advise him what the feeling would be in Australia if these matters were not properly attended to. Among other things,- I said to him -
Re shipping arrangements for the return of Australian troops. In my judgment it is of utmost importance to see that in connexion with embarkation from Britain seaworthy ships should be selected, overcrowding should be prevented, and medical comforts sufficient, in addition to food arrangements being on a rather generous scale. The Barambah incident indicates a strong public feeling here against carelessness or niggardliness on shipboard. Please stress this with officers controlling demobilization and transport arrangements from London.
I had forwarded to him particulars in connexion with the promised inquiry. I have not had a reply to that message, but the sending of it is an indication that the Government is endeavouring to safeguard the men who came back against any lack of care or maladministration at the other end. When we are able to take over the transport arrangements, we shall become,- through our agents in London and here, entirely responsible and answerable for whatever may occur. We are not so at- the present time. Representations will be made to the British Government with a view to insuring that the same conditions are provided in connexion with the casual embarkation which is now going on, as we intend to insure with regard to the general embarkation. But, of course, we cannot control the present arrangements as we hope to control the later arrangements.
– This Government is responsible for the food on the transports.
– Many rival stories are told about the food supplied on the transports. My honorable friend has spoken of the conditions on the vessel by which he returned, and, having known him for many years, I have no doubt that he was quite sincere in his statements.
– I did not say that much was wrong with the quality of the food.
– The honorable member spoke of the state of things generally on board the ship; the control of hospital cases, the attendance given to the men; and the overcrowding. Two days later, in South Australia, Colonel Butler, a gentleman with whom a number of us are acquainted, gave a statement about the same voyage which was almost the reverse of that made by the honorable member.
– Colonel Butler, as an officer, was worshipped by his men.
– I do not .know as to that; but I have had the privilege of meeting Colonel Butler and., his family, and I know that he has done great service.
– One of the blind soldiers who came back on the same vessel supports the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
– The pint I wish to make is that two public men returning by the same vessel strongly differ on vital points respecting the conditions on board. I suggest that it will be well for members to suspend judgment until after investigation regarding complaints that have come to them in letters. Much depends on the temperament of the man who complains.
– And, in the matter of treatment, much depends on his rank.
– Something, but not everything. We ought to hear both sides, including the official case, before giving credence to extravagant or alarming statements. This is not only our public duty, but it is advisable also out of consideration for the feelings of the relatives of the men, which might be harrowed by the statement that their boys, after fighting for over four years, had been subjected to treatment described as outrageous or improper. It is the most natural thing in the world that -public indignation should flame up on statements like that being made. There is coming a time when we must restrain ourselves, so that the community may form an ordered and balanced judgment on all these matters, and not give way to hysteria after the long pent up anxiety of the past few years.
The Government is fully alive to its duties and responsibilities regarding demobilization and the embarkation of our troops. We hope to get control of the arrangements as early as possible, and we intend then not to be niggardly, but to give fair consideration and treatment to all ranks, so far as it may be possible.
– I am heartily in accord with the Acting Prime Minister, and I am pleased to know that he is taking action so quickly, as is evidenced by his cablegram to the Prime Minister in Great Britain. It is gratifying to know that notice is being taken by Ministers, not only of what is said in this House, but also of what is said by the representatives of the associations of returned soldiers. I do not wish to add in any way to the worries of Ministers at the present time. Australia has suffered enough through the war. Two great problems confront it - demobilization and repatriation; and I realize the great difficulties which they contain. It will be for the purpose of assisting Ministers that any criticism of mine will be made. The Australian troops are the most easily satisfied on earth. They do not want much. All they ask for is a fair deal. Give them that, and they will come back the most contented lads possible. The other day I made a remark or two about the Llanstephan Castle, and Colonel Butler, in Adelaide, has replied to my statement to some extent. I do not know that officer, except that he was a lieutenant-colonel on the vessel. I have heard him spoken of very highly, and never a wrong word said about him. But we must remember, and no one knows this better than the honorable member for New England (Lt. -Colonel Abbott), that the officers live a different life from that of the non-commissioned officers and privates. The privates dare not breathe the same atmosphere that the colonel breathes1 - scarcely dare speak in the colonel’s presence - and to say this is no exaggeration. It is all very well for Colonel Butler to give his version of the conditions on the boat; but I repeat that half the space was taken up by the officers. I went down to an amusement committee meeting in the officers’ quarters, and I guarantee that there is not a palace in Victoria - not even the finest hotel in Victoria - better fitted. Nothing that one could wish for is omitted - every luxury man could think of is provided.
On the last occasion I spoke about the officers’ menu - about their ten and twelve-course meals - but I only told half the tale. They have a fine breakfast, tea again at 10 o’clock, luncheon, afternoon tea, with hot scones and so forth, then dinner, and, in the evening, coffee. I did not make any complaint as to the quality of the food supplied to the privates or the noncommissioned officers; my complaint was regarding the accommodation provided, and the difference in the quality supplied to officers and privates. Colonel Butler may deny my statements on this head, but I guarantee that I could bring 900 men to support me.
– Who is responsible for providing- the food on the return trip ?
– Australia is responsible. Colonel Butler made one definite charge against me, and challenged me to lay on the table of this Parliament a record of the Llanstephan Castle, showing that Private James Hagan had been “ crimed “ and fined two days’ pay. I accept that challenge. I wrote to the Secretary for Defence, Mr. Trumble, and I have received the following reply: -
I have received your letter of the 2nd inst regarding Private James Hagan, and have to inform you that No. 2288, Private James Hagan, 52nd Battalion, was ordered to forfeit two days’ pay on 28th March, 1918, for the offence of “ Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.”
It is a great “ crime,” that - it is about as elastic as the familiar charge, “insulting behaviour.” I have known men punished in this way if they looked savagely at an officer, or even if they looked insolently at him. This letter is my answer to Colonel Butler’s challenge. It shows, from the records of the boat, that a man, who bad a double amputation, was “crimed.” and fined two days’ pay, for daring to say to a medical officer, “ We are not getting a fair deal here, Major.”
Furthermore, if it is desired to prevent friction, there ought not to be differential treatment of officers in regard to leave ashore during the voyage. At Sierra Leone the officers were permitted to go ashore as freely as they liked. We were eight days at the place, and nobody under the. rank of an officer was permitted to go ashore. If Sierra Leone is not good enough for the private to visit, it is not good enough for an officer. Further, an order was- issued that no fruit should be brought from shore, although, as is well known, the moment a vessel is anchored, canoes come up with niggers, who have bananas, oranges, and other fruit on sale. It can be imagined how welcome fruit is to those on board ship right on the Equator. An order was issued, which the non-commissioned officers had to see carried out, that no private or non-commissioned officer was to be permitted to purchase any fruit from the niggers, because we were in a malaria-infected district. The very next day, officers went ashore and brought off as much fruit as they chose. We paraded over it, and the result was that the order was abolished, and. we were permitted to buy fruit ; indeed, fruit was purchased by the canteen and sold to the troops. Why that order was- issued, I do not know.
– Was the influenza bad at the time?
– No. I made no complaint about the treatment of the men who were blind or had suffered double amputation; I merely received the states ment from the men themselves, signed by every one concerned. I did not look for the complaint, and was merely asked to give publicity to it.
Yesterday I asked a question as to what was paid for the passages of officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates. I. was informed that on the vessel on which I travelled £40 was paid for the officers, £22 for the non-commissioned officers, and £17 for the privates. These figures alone condemn the system, showing, as they do, that the officers get nearly three times better treatment than do the men.
– Officers travel first-class, non-commissioned officers travel second class, and soldiers in the steerage;, that has prevailed all through.
– I should like to point out that the rates have been increased, and that now £55 is paid for officers, £27 for non-commissioned officers, and £23 for privates. It must be noted that while the rate for the officers has been increased by £15, the rates for the non-commissioned officers and privates has been increased only £5. This differentiation is absurd, and ought not to be permitted. The whole system is based on the King’s Regulations, which are a relic of the days of savagery, drawn up, as they were,, centuries ago.
Here is a document that I got on board the ship, and it clearly shows the distinctions that are drawn. If an officer brings a woman on board the description is “ officer and lady”; if a noncommissioned officer brings a woman on board the description is “ non-commissioned officer and wife “ ; but if a private brings a woman on board the description is “ private and woman.” These distinctions represent the system thatruns throughout the Army to-day.
We ought to keep in mind that the conditions in the Australian Army are totally dissimilar from those in any other army. There are in the Australian ranks to-day men who, education ally and socially, and in every other respect, are the equal of those who may be their commanding officers. Many men left behind them all the luxuries of life - men came from miners’ and other workers’ homes, from farming and pastoral districts, where they were living under most comfortable conditions - to fight as privates abroad. On the battlefield officers receive the same quantity of food as. do the men; if an officer desires better food he must pay for it. On board ship, however, they are rigidly separated into classes; and immediate action should be taken to bring them to one level regarding food. If there was one cook for both officers and privates, we would not have half the food thrown overboard - we would not see large quantities of good food spoilt, nobody caring how it is cooked.
– That is generally the trouble.
– It is; but I remind the honorable member that good food is not spoilt for the officers, for there is supervision. Every day that I was on that boat I gave out of the food supplied to five warrant officers sufficient to supply five privates at every meal, and one of these privates is Mr. Slater, the member for Dundas in the State Parliament of Victoria. There is certainly not too much food for the privates who have gone abroad and borne the brunt of the battle. I suggest that there should be an immediate inquiry into this matter of the preferential treatment of officers.
England is in a bad condition to-day regarding food, for the termination of the war has not ended that trouble. “We ought to send from here flour in abundance, with currants, raisins, and fruits. We have tinned and other fruit going to waste, fruit that would’ be most acceptable to thousands who are crossing the Equator.
– We cannot handle that matter; we are under the priority arrangement.
– Surely the honorable gentleman could make representations to the authorities in England on behalf of our boys who have given their all to the country?
– I have done so numbers of times.
– I do not think there ought to be much trouble on the part of the honorable gentleman in showing that in this matter Australia is united - that we think nothing is too good for the boys who are now coming home.
I am with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) on the question of sending a Minister to England. I do not wish the military to be all-powerful in the Old Country, but that the civil power of Australia should be represented. I do not think that the honorable gentleman Would be wrong in sending home a man like the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who knows something about boats and about human beings, who is of a kindly nature, and who would, I am sure, admirably supervise the embarkation of our men, and especially see that proper medical comforts were provided. Somebody should be sent Home in whom the” people of Australia have every confidence. I do not care what certain newspapers say about the expense; a Minister is essentially required in England to deal with thousands of matters that arise. Boys are arriving in England from France, and, have scores of points on which they desire to consult somebody. They cannot consult the High Commissioner (Mr. Fisher), who is in Australia House surrounded by the military. Perhaps it is news to most honorable members, but Australia House to-day is practically a military institution, all uniform and pips.
– Then the vote for the High Commissioner had better be struck out.
– It is time something was done. If a man desires an interview with either Mr. Fisher or Mr. Box, his name must first be given to a sergeant. When I was told this at Australia House I refused to ask the permission of a sergeant, and declared that I wished to see Mr. Fisher without military interference. In my opinion, Mr. Fisher is totally unfit for a position which has much to do with the embarkation of our troops. He has been in London a good while, and although he is a most earnest man-
– If we have to send a special Minister for this and that work, the High Commissioner would not seem to be fit for any.
- Mr. Fisher is not even a member of Parliament, and the Government are not responsible for his actions, whereas a Minister would be responsible to the Government, and the Government responsible to the people. However well Mr. Fisher may fill the position of High Commissioner in the way of going to various functions, he is not the man to watch over the demobilization and embarkation of our troops.
– He has done a good deal for the boys.
– He has, and so did Sir George Reid. In 1916, I was at the Christmas banquet that was given at the Hotel Cecil to 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers, and I can say that when Sir George Reid came forward he got quite an ovation. As High Commissioner, he had devoted his time and talent to looking after, the boys, for whom nothing was thought by him to be too good.
I hope the Government will remember that every Returned Soldiers Association is watching this question, and is de’termined that the boys’ coming home shall be given a fair deal.
Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [4.20]. - At the first blush, the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition would, perhaps, lead one to think that transport work and demobilization generally are being very badly hashed; but it is quite natural to suppose that in undertaking the return of all these troops to Australia, as well as in shipping thousands of men to England, unsuitable vessels might have been used in certain cases, and that, possibly, some of the officers in control of them were not altogether au fait with their work, or did not concern themselves as much as they might have done with the welfare of the men under their charge. It is only right for the House to know what actually prevails in most cases. I am perfectly sure that it is the exception which has been put before honorable members by the Leader of the Opposition. The usual practice has been for the Commonwealth Government to enter into contracts with the White Star Company, and other steam-ship lines, for the provisioning of troop-ships, the Commonwealth paying first-class rates for officers, second-class rates for noncommissioned officers, and steerage rates for men in the ranks. There were men in the ranks on the vessels on which I travelled who in ordinary civil life moved in the same circles as myself, and even occupied higher positions. They had enlisted, but through inexperience, perhaps, were not able to secure commissions. Some of them knew me well, and had visited my home, while I had visited theirs. I have seen these men on the transports, playing the game, just as they did afterwards in France. When a man puts on a uniform, and takes on the biggest job of all, he enters into the contract with all these considerations in his mind. In my experience on the troopship going to the Front, and on the trip back through the Panama Canal - I was not Officer Commanding troops on the vessel on which I returned - men who had been used to affluence and luxury and everything they could wish in civil life were generally the last to raise any complaints in reference to the treatment received on board.
The welfare of troops on transports almost wholly depends upon the way in which the Officer Commanding troops and the ship’s staff look after the interests of the men under their charge. Everything is laid down by King’s Regulations, as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has pointed out; there is a scale of rations provided, and it is the duty of the Officer Commanding troops before leaving port to get a certificate from the ship’s quartermaster stating that so many thousand pounds’ worth of so-and-so are on the vessel in good order and condition. Once a vessel gets a clearance from the port, it is too late to kick if the officer has neglected his duty in this regard.
– He can be tried here for his neglect.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - There is a place, and there is a time, for dealing with these matters when they are brought before the authorities.
In regard to flour and. meat, the practice has been to place on board a sufficient quantity of either to last for the round voyage from Australia to England and back again. An honorable member has spoken of “war bread.” It is quite probable that, in the instance referred to, sufficient flour was not taken on board to last for the return voyage, and that it became necessary to make use of flour out of which the bread consumed in England six or eight months ago was made. It was often called “india-rubber bread.”
Before an Officer Commanding troops will allow a ship’s captain to get his clearance to leave port, he will inspect everv hole and . corner of. the vessel in company with his medical officer and the ship’s quartermaster. The lastmentioned is an Australian officer. There is a permanent staff on all transports. If this duty is done properly, attention is drawn to any shortage before leaving.
– Is it always done? That is the point.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. -It should always be done, but the point is that in some cases it is not done. In most cases the lads I have encountered in the last -two or three years were satisfied. Their officers took an interest in their work, but if an officer is merely looking after himself and his own comfort, and does not visit the ship’s kitchens every day in order to watch how the meals are cooked, he is neglecting his duty. The Officer Commanding troops, and the orderly officer of the day, should attend the ship’s kitchens every day, and see how the meals are cooked. They should taste and sample the food before it goes to the men. That is done very often, but if the matter is simply left to the cooks in the galley - it is a special department, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Ballarat - all sorts of messes are thrown at the men, and possibly half the food is wasted. The meals for the noncommissioned officers and officers have always been cooked in the ship’s galleys, controlled by the ship’s staff, and they are generally well prepared. There is no complaint on that score. The complaint is in regard to the kitchens where the men’s food is prepared, and if there is neglect in that quarter, possibly half the food may have to be thrown away.
– Why is there any differential treatment in regard to meals?
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.– If “the honorable member were controlling transport work and demobilization, he might possibly be able to bring about an alteration in the system, and have the cooking for the officers and the men, as well as the nurses and the ship’s company, done in the one galley, as is the case on active service. I quite admit that the present system gives the officers on board ship much better treatment than they get in the field. On active service the officer gets exactly the same allowance for his meals as does a man in the ranks, except that, according to his rank, he is given a field allowance of from 3s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per day for messing and entertaining. In the line the officer’s meals are practically the same as a private’s, except for such purchases as may be made by the officer out of his field allowance. I do not think that the system followed on the transports can be altered, but it is quite right that all cases of bad treatment or neglect of duty on the part of officers should come before, the House. We may then be sure that the men who have done their three or four years’ service, and perhaps have been wounded, will be brought back to Australia in the greatest comfort that it is possible for our Government to place at their disposal.
.- I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has brought this matter forward, and I am also pleased at the statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), that the Government are doing all they can to facilitate the demobilization of our troops. Nothing is engaging the attention of the people more than is the question of the return of our men. I asked the Acting Prime Minister over a week ago to make a statement in regard to the -date upon which our troops are .likely to come back, and as to the rate at which they would be likely to return. So far, there has been no finality in regard to the matter. Many of our troops were on Salisbury Plains at the cessation of hostilities, having recently arrived in Great Britain, and it seems to me there is no need to keep them there any longer, and that they could be shipped back.
– The men who went away four years (previously ought to be shipped back first.
– But the honorable member does not propose to keep these men on Salisbury Plains in idleness while other men are in France. They could be shipped back. The Americans are shipping back, at the rate of at least 10,000 per week, men who recently arrived in England.
– The Americans, have hardly been in the war yet.
– And some of our men have hardly been in the war. I hope that the Minister will give this matter serious consideration.
Statements have appeared in the press that our men are to do garrison duty in Egypt. I object to this. As an honorable member representing a large constituency, I object to our men having to do garrison work, particularly in Egypt, of all places. We ought to bring them straight back. It is an insult to the people of Australia to ask our men to do this work. I object also to our troops doing garrison work in any part of Prance or Germany.
– They have volunteered to do it.
– It is not a question of whether they have volunteered for it or not. Our troops have been away from their homes longer than have any other men in the field. The British soldier can get furlough every year, and reach his home within a week.
– Would the honorable member compel a man to return to Australia who did not wish to do so ?
– It is the honorable member who would use compulsion. We entered the war in order to assist the Empire to defeat our ‘ enemies. That task has been completed, and there is no contract on our part to do garrison work. I hope that the Government will not agree to the proposal. There are millions of troops in Europe close to their homes who are available for the work. Yet here we are proposing to employ upon it men who have been away from their homes for two, three, and four years.
– What were the terms of contract with each man?
– Our contract was to assist the Empire.
– The men’s contract was to serve during the term of the war, and for a certain period afterwards.
– The war is over.
– No, it is not.
– Technically it may not be over, but when the enemy has surrendered its battleships, its submarines, and its flying squadrons, and when its fortresses are garrisoned by our troops, how can it be said that the war is not over? If Great Britain had surrendered all these things, would we not have said that we were beaten ? We are entitled to express our opinion. My opinion is that every possible haste should be displayed in getting our men back to their own country. As long as they are away a heavy expenditure is entailed, the burden of which falls upon the people. We have a right to insist on the Government carrying out their duties. I believe that Ministers will be only too pleased to assist in bringing the men backr but we want to know what steps they are taking to secure ships. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has said that the Government have no control over shipping. Are we to allow America to get as many ships as she requires to take back her men? I understand from press reports that America has collared the vessels she requires. What is to happen to our men ? The Government should take every opportunity of having them returned, and should secure all the shipping possible. I raise my protest against retaining our men in Egypt for garrison duty, and against using them for similar work in Germany or France. They have done their bit for a long time past, and it is now our urgent duty to get them back to their own country.
– I am not at all in agreement with the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) that the men who were the last to undertake their obligations to their country should be the first to return to it. I can easily understand that the problem which the Government have to face in the return of men from the Front is a very difficult one, and, no matter what plan of priority they may adopt, there is bound to be some criticism and some injustice. But it appears to me that the decision already announced that, as a general rule, the married men will be given preference over single men, and that long service shall be taken into account in determining priority, is sound. If those two principles are applied to the cases as they arise, the other matters then to be considered ought not to present much difficulty. There are many exceedingly bad cases of single men whose absence from their homes deprives the family of the assistance that is necessary in the conduct of a business, and they ought to receive special consideration.
As to the accommodation on the transports, I should like to hear in the House now and again a Minister rise and say that the officer who has been responsible for such-and-such a blunder has been discharged from the service. We hear all sorts of promises that investigation of complaints will be made, but so far as I can ascertain the Officer Commanding troops on a transport may neglect his duty to such an extent that the men suffer, but he is never degraded when he returns to Australia, or, if he is, it is done in such a secret way ‘as not to have a deterrent effect upon other men who undertake similar duties later. That seems to be a vicious principle in connexion with the Public Service generally. We know that fully 99 per cent, of the complaints made against responsible officers cannot be substantiated, and often most serious charges are made on very flimsy foundations, but when it is shown that officers have neglected their work, there should be a much more effective punishment than we hear of in connexion with authenticated complaints.
– When I was Acting Minister for Defence I removed an officer from a ship when it arrived in Melbourne from Sydney.
– So far as my little experience goes, it is a pity that more officers are not removed from their ships. I urge the most careful investigation of complaints, and that in every case in which it is found that the men have suffered because of the neglect of officers at either this end or the other, the officer responsible for the dereliction of duty should be adequately punished. One has to remember that on the Administrative Staff of the- Defence Department aTe many officers who have never personally experienced the difficulties of the men who have been fighting at the Front. It would be much better for the Service if we had in those official positions men who had been in the fighting line, and suffered some of the disadvantages of war. If the conduct of officers who failed to do their duty in the transport service came under review by such men, the soldiers would get more considerate treatment.
.- The Government and the House are particularly indebted to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) for their observations regarding their personal experiences in connexion with transports. Although I have had no experience of that kind, I have travelled considerably on British, French, and German mail boats, and many times I have been shocked to notice the large amount of space that is available for a handful of first-class passengers, whilst leaving for the crowd in the third class very little room indeed. Boats are usually built in order to provide the maximum accommodation for the firstclass passengers and the minimum for the third class. And, naturally, unless specific instructions to the contrary are issued, that arrangement will continue in regard to the transport of our men to Australia. There is no earthly reason why so much of the usual first-class accommodation should still be allotted to a handful of officers, and that the privates should be cooped up in what is ordinarily the third-class portion of the vessel.
The same observation applies to the cooking of the food, and here let me say that on British ships, as a rule, the cooking of food for third-class passengers is much worse than on either French or German vessels. I found at times that the food conditions on the boats could hardly he described, but in nearly every instance that condition of affairs was due, not to the bad quality of the food, but to the faulty cooking or preparation of good material, and the inefficient management of the galley generally. A little more attention and decency, without incurring any extra cost, would have given the men wholesome, nourishing, and appetizing food, instead of mere pigs’ meat, which no human being could tackle. I regret to say that the cooks in the third class galley of many of the boats did not seem to have very much knowledge of their work. On both French and German boats cooking is regarded as a fine art, to which the men are carefully trained. But on British vessels any sort of man who has been unsuccessful in other walks of life can get a job as a cook. It was disgusting at times to notice how some of those fellows messed up wholesome food. The way in which the food was thrown at the men was bad enough, but if they could only have seen how it was mishandled in the galley, they would have turned sick on approaching it. I can readily understand such complaints as those made in regard to the Barambah. I do not admit that the conditions are at all times as black as they are painted, but there is a probability of some justification for the complaints. The honorable member for New England has shown that the weakness of the system lies partly in the absence of supervision. But, another cause of dissatisfaction is the absence of a definite instruction from the Government to the officers in charge of the vessels. If the officers were told emphatically that their reputation and their jobs depended upon their doing their work in the way they ought to do it, there would not be so much danger of a neglect of any portion of the ship’s work.
I object very strongly to the proposal to send a Minister to England to attend to demobilization. The Acting Prime Minister spoke about the necessity for Ministerial responsibility. We all know that Ministerial responsibility in connexion with the present Government has been an absolute farce. One Minister has been censured several times in regard to the work carried out by his Department, but he is still in office, and will continue there. I suggest that the Ministers can issue their instructions regarding demobilization just as well in Australia as they can in London, and if they pick the right sort of man, and tell him that if he does not do his work properly, he must leave the service, he will carry out instructions just as satisfactorily as if the Minister were pottering about in London, and making a pretence of supervising things.
– Does the honorable member really think that a man in Australia could see what a ship was like in an English port?
– No member of the present Ministry is capable of looking after these things personally. Any Minister sent to London would require to delegate the duty to somebody else. If a Minister is sent to England, it will mean only a certain amount of confusion, a little more red tape, a little more hesitation, and muddling generally. I protest emphatically against the proposal.
The Government ought to be able to manage demobilization from Australia as well as, or better than, they can by sending a Minister to London, and if they select the right man, give him authority, and make him understand that he must do his work well, or suffer the consequences, I shall not have the slightest fear but that the duty will be attended to efficiently.
– The Minister for Defence would be of no use anyhow.
– I am not suggesting’ any Minister, but I do think it is farcical for the Acting Prime Minister to talk about Ministerial responsibility in the light of all that we knew of as to the happenings during the past few years. We can carry out the work from Australia if a definite instruction is given, and if the Government appreciate what the honorable member for. New England pointed out as to how the constitution of our Army differs from that of some other armies. The bulk of our men have been accustomed to decent treatment, decent food, and decent accommodation; at all events, they have earned those conditions when they are coming back to Australia. There can be no pretence that economy is necessary in that regard. If the Government issue definite instructions that the men are to be treated as they ought to be, and appoint the right man to supervise the arrangements, then I have not the least fear but that the work will be done efficiently, and without unnecessary cost.
.- I hope Lhat we shall not have associated with the demobilization of our troops another incident such as that which occurred in the early days of this Parliament in connexion with the return of our troops from South Africa. Those who were then members of this Parliament, and particularly the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) will remember the murderous treatment to which the poor fellows on the Drayton Grange were subjected on the voyage between Colombo and Adelaide. An inquiry was held, and the responsibility was sheeted home to two or three individuals, but they were not punished.
– They were all made generals.
– At all events, some of them were promoted, and no one was punished. As the result of their actions, a number of men lost their lives. Messages of sympathy were sent to their relatives, and there the whole matter ended. I want to make a personal appeal to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), who is an Australian. This Democracy of ours is one of the greatest in the world. Here every one has equality of opportunity.
– Not always. The War Precautions Act prevents it.
– That will soon be out of the way. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister to see that our returning men are treated well. They enlisted to fight our battles, and military authorities all the world over have said that- Australian soldiers and1 sailors are second to none. Is it not reasonable, therefore, that we should make their return home as pleasant as possible? Can we not follow the example of Rome, which lavished every possible gift upon its conquering heroes? That is the way that we should treat our returning heroes. I do not want any flag-flapping, or band-playing, bun fights or tea scrambles, for these men ; but I do ask that they shall be given an appropriate home-coming. God knows they have suffered, and I am thankful that they will not have to undergo another winter in the trenches. We should make their home-coming a truly happy one.
Let us consider for a moment the differential treatment of officers and privates. The Government pay £55 for an officer’s passage, whereas for a private soldier’s passage they pay only £23. There is something rotten in the state of the Democracy of Australia when that sort of thing is tolerated.
– They ought to let the officers do the fighting.
– They do their bit. If the “ tucker “ that the private gets when on active service is good enough for an officer, in the same circumstances, it should be good enough for officers on their way back to Australia. Many officers do not desire differential treatment. They wish only to be treated as fighting men, and are quite willing to share their lot, whatever it may be, with the men who have served in the ranks. Many men who have throughout served as privates have bank balances such as numerous officers have never had, and are not likely to have. They left their homes and relatives - they left everything near and dear to them - to take their place in the Empire’s front rank, and it must be as gall and wormwood to them to see officers petted and fawned upon by the Government while they and the men in the ranks, as a whole, are treated in the way described by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
I have been on an Imperial Government troop-ship. There was no coffeeroom “ tucker “ for the officers on board that vessel. The food of the officers and men was cooked in the one galley. There was no difference in the “ tucker “ served out to the two classes. We men had to look after ourselves when the food was sent out from the galley, but the officers had it taken to them, “and dished up, perhaps, in a better way. If that sort of thing is good enough for an Imperial officer on an Imperial troop-ship, it should be good enough for an Australian officer on an Australian transport. With the exception, perhaps, of a few snobs, I do not think that our officers desire special treatment. If it was good enough for the officers to fight side by side with their men, it ought surely to be good enough to feed with them in the last few weeks of their comradeship.
As to the proposal of the Government to send a Minister to England to attend to the demobilization work, I ask, what, in Heaven’s name, a Minister will be able to do there. We already have too many Ministers in London. If we had not . so many in authority there, we should secure a better service. If the Government made the officers at tho port of embarkation responsible for the proper provisioning of transports, we should have less trouble. They should treat such officers as Wellington and Napoleon did - they should tell them that if they fail in their duty they will be shot. At all events, the Acting Prime Minister should tell them that if they are guilty of any neglect they will be dismissed from the service.
For muddledom, commend me to the Defence Department. If ever there was a batch of muddlers in any Department, they are to be found there. They have the happy knack of knowing how not to do a thing. If there is a way’ of doing anything, they will find a way not to do it. No Department can put up barriers to the same extent. If it is appealed to to take certain action, the reply of the authorities is at once to point out that there are insuperable difficulties in the way. If a Minister is sent to London to attend to this work, it will mean the creation of another Department. In the early days of Federation a Minister would come before us, and say, “ I propose to create another Department. It will be a very small one. AH that I need is the appointment of a secretary and a couple of clerks.” . We were child-like and bland in those early days, and we gave Ministers what they asked in this regard. Some of the Departments, which consisted originally of two or three officers, have now a staff of 2,000 or 3,000. If the Government send a Minister to London, he will be attended by a retinue which will mean another addition to the many Commonwealth Departments. The growth of Departments reminds me of what is said of a blackfellows youngster - “ Peed him on bananas, and watch how he grows.”
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Before any appointment is made to the vacancy advertised for as “ Officer in charge of the Defence Department’s motor garage, Melbourne,” will the Minister have careful inquiries made into the military service and history of all applicants, and insure preference being given, in case of equality of qualification, to officers of continuous service and practical experience in the field with Australian motor units?
– All the applications were carefully considered by the District Commandant, 3rd Military District, and, before a selection was made, those who were considered to have qualifications likely to fit them for the position, were interviewed personally. The successful applicant has served both in Gallipoli and France with Field Engineers and Flying Corps, and held the rank of lieutenant in the latter corps.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the reiterated statements of the Minister that returned soldiers were to have preference in the Public Service, and also that a return from the Melbourne Taxation Branch showed that there were approximately 168 employees between the ages of eighteen and fortyfive who had not offered their services at the Front, will the Government bring forward an amending Public Service Bill which will give more effective preference to the returned soldiers?
– The form of this question is, in my judgment, studiously offensive, and I decline to answer it.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Attorney-General to Hia Excellency the GovernorGeneral that all persons whom the Government had promised to release should be released, and they were accordingly released.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
Mr.WATT. - I have no information on these matters.
Mr.WALLACE asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the cessation of hostilities and the number of ships of all nationalities that will probably be competing for trade on the Australian coast, is it the intention of the Government, in the interests of Australian shipping, to proclaim the Navigation Act as passed by Parliament and assented to by the King?
– Early consideration will be given to the matter, but there is much to be done before the Act can be brought into operation. The Government are fully seized of the necessity for bringing the Act into force, and there will be no avoidable delay in dealing with the matter.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister submit to Parliament a return showing the number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who have been appointed by the Department since the war started, and who have-not seen active service at the Front, the return to show - Name of officer, when appointed and to what grade, present grade and salary, if still employed and in what capacity, reason why position could not be filled by returned soldier?
– It is considered that uo useful purpose would be served commensurate with the enormous labour involved in compiling this return, as no information readily exists upon this subject. Instructions would have to be sent to all District Commandants and establishments directly under the control of the Board to compile this return, which would involve very considerable clerical labour and expenditure to the Commonwealth.
Right of Appeal
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Having reference to a question by the honorable member for Capricornia, “ Why is an Australian officer not allowed to appeal for redress of a grievance to the Governor-General, as the King’s representative,” will the Minister please state why an Australian officer is not allowed the same appeal as a British officer?
– It is considered that the right of appeal now provided for in existing regulations is sufficient.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have referred the matter to the Postmaster-General, to whom the question should have been addressed.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the recently published returns showing outstanding inequalities in the electoral lists of New South Wales, will the Minister arrange for a redistribution of the New South Wales electoral divisions before the next general elections, so as to secure a more equitable allotment of numbers for the various divisions?
– The matter is under consideration.
Position of Commonwealth Public Servants
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It has been decided that where the civil pay of such officers exceeds their military’ pay, they shall not be granted full civil pay in addition to military pay for the fortnight referred to. The object underlying the terms of demobilization is to afford the men recently discharged from the Australian Imperial Force >a means of subsistence during the period in which they may be seeking civil employmeat; but this does not apply in the case of those who are officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is, therefore, considered that the circumstances will be met by allowing such officers as elect to resume duty to obtain their military pay, and by granting them the difference between such pay and their salaries as officers of the Public Service up to the date of the expiration of their military leave on pay. In the case of any Commonwealth public servant whose military pay exceeds his civil pay, and who may resume duty, civil pay will cease during the time he is in receipt of military pay.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Munro Hull, of “ Cudgeree,” Eumundi, Queensland, to have established a herd of tickresistant cattle?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Teachers of Dancing and Singing
– On the 14th November the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked -the following question : -
Is it the intention of the Treasurer to impose the entertainments tax on teachers of dancing or singing who receive their remuneration in weekly instead of quarterly payments?
I am now able to supply the following information : -
The Commissioner of Taxation advises that where a course of instruction is given by a teacher of dancing or singing, entertainments tax is not charged on the fees paid by students attending the course of instruction, but where a teacher of dancing holds classes, and any person may, without paying the fees for the course of instruction, obtain admission to the class for the purpose of taking part in the dancing, any sum so paid as payment for admission to an entertainment is taxable.
– On the 29th ultimo the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) asked the following question: -
In regard to the export of scrap rubber, for which there is no use in Australia, I am informed that there is only one firm in Sydney which is allowed to conduct this trade, and that the embargo is having a very serious affect on others engaged in the business. Will the Acting Prime Minister make inquiries, and ascertain whether this is the case, or not?
I am now able to supply the following information : -
The exportation of scrap rubber . to Japan . neither has been, nor is it now, restricted to shipment by any one firm. During the present year shipments have been made from Sydney by three different exporters.
Owing to the shortage of wires and valves for pneumatic tyres, a condition precedent to permission for exportation is that such parts are removed prior to shipment.
– On the 20th November the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) asked the following question : -
If, in view of the fact that cornsacks are being sold in the country districts at 9s. 6d. per dozen, it is possible to reduce the price of those sold by the Government from 10s. 6d., the present price, to 9s. 6d. per dozen?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The Government is not selling cornsacks at 10s. 6d. per dozen. The amount quoted is the maximum price fixed, and it has always been realized that competition would in many cases bring the price to the farmer below that sum. At the same time, it cannot be expected, because some traders are selling without a margin of profit or possibly at a loss, owing to the short season, that their fellow-traders should be compelled by law to do the same.
Use as Hospital Ship.
– On the 26th November, 1918, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked the following question: -
Will the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), in the absence to-day of the Minister for Trade and Customs, be good enough to get into touch with the latter gentleman, after consultation with his officers, with a view to seeing the Tingira, a vessel fitted up in 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?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
This ship is indispensable to the Naval Service, and could not be lent for this purpose.
Revenue and Expenditure
– Yesterday the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to supply the following information : -
Message recommending appropriation reported.
The following paper was presented: -
Debate resumed from 3rd December (vide page 8651), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When the debate was adjourned yesterday, I was endeavouring to give reasons why the extension of powers asked for in this Bill should not be granted. It will be generally agreed that in time of war a Government, even in a Democracy like this, must have large powers, and realizing the need for conserving the best interests of Australia, the Empire, and our Allies, we passed an Act which gave practically unlimited power to the Administration. Personally, I did not anticipate that that power would be used as it has been used. I anticipated its use for the prevention of anything that might assist the enemy, but it has been used also in many cases in a way that has done injustice to our own people, and this has caused discord in the community. Now we are asked to extend for a period of six months the Act under which this special power is given. We are asked to do thisbefore the Peace Conference has been held. As the Act operates until the termination of the war, and six months afterwards, the Government might well have waited until some special circumstance requiring extension had arisen before proposing to extend it. But for some reason best known to them- selves they ask us to extend it now. No explanation of this request was given by the Minister in charge of the Bill. It seems to me that, as conditions gradually become normal, it will become generally recognised that the need for the War Precautions Act no longer exists, and under those circumstances it would be impossible to obtain the extension of the operation of the Act. In all Democracies the liberties of the people should be as unrestricted as possible. We in Australia have hitherto enjoyed great liberty. During the war this liberty has been curtailed considerably. The public acquiesced in this, knowing that in the history of every nation the time has come when it has teen found wise to allow public affairs to be controlled by a dictator, or by a limited body of men. During the war we have given over the control of this country to the Government of the day, and although Parliament has met from time to time, the representatives of the people have been but little consulted on matters of policy. This should not be continued now the war has ceased.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) is in favour of extending the operation of the War Precautions Act, because he says a state of feeling is being engendered in the community which is bringing about things bordering on revolution. He is of opinion that a section of the public, whose members he considers to be extremists, should be kept under control by means of the Act. I entirely differ from him in this matter. If you want to bring about disruption, and to sow the seed of revolution, you have only to do what the honorable member says ought to be done. In every community there are always some persons who are discontented; but if you take away the right of public utterance you are creating a danger, because you provoke a state of feeling which is antagonistic, to the general welfare. No one desires that the dissatisfaction of any section of the community shall increase, but we shall cause trouble if we longer withhold the right of free speech which has been enjoyed for so long. If you sour the people, they will combine to do what you do not wish to have done. In a country like this, possessing adult suffrage, there should be no public discontent. We should be able to frame laws in keeping with the wishes of the great majority of the people. If, however, we persist in governing the country by regulation after the war has practically ceased, we shall breed mischief.
I have heard the toiling masses of this community criticised, but it stands to their everlasting credit that they have teen loyal to the Empire. They have largely provided the men who have done the fighting, and, in addition, have often been hard hit by the administration of the War Precautions Act. Certain men, whose grievances I have voiced in this Chamber from time to time, are still out of work. They are married men with families, who cannot get work, and their fellow-unionists have been contributing to their support for over twelve months.
– That has nothing to do with the War Precautions Act.
– Why did not the Government compel the employers to give work to these men? Under the War Precautions Act, the Government can do anything they like, but they have refused to act in this case.
War has practically ceased now, and it is only a question of working out the details prior to the signing of the peace articles. Are we to perpetuate the sort of government we have had during the war, or are we to restore to the people their full pre-war liberties? Are the people to be governed by the War Precautions Act, or are they to be permitted to express their views through their representatives in this House, and to pass laws to control activities within the Commonwealth 1 At present, this country is governed by a bureaucracy, and the Bill before us means that the sole power will be left with the members of the Government and the various Departments. As I said last night, I could understand certain specific interests being set forth, and it being shown very clearly that it was necessary, on behalf of the community that, in regard to those interests, there should be control. That, however, is not the proposal before us. The
Government ask for wholesale power, and that, in my opinion, is going too far - beyond anything that will be found in accord with the opinion of the people of the country. I can assure the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that the people have been waiting for long for war conditions to cease. They are not satisfied with the present form of government, and we cannot expect them to be, considering the rise in the cost of living. Of course, I know that the cost of living is higher in other countries, but in Australia we produce more than we require of the main commodities of life, and yet the cost has gone up for the workers, who have borne the position patiently, believing it to be their portion of the burden of war. But it is proposed to perpetuate the present state of things for six months after the signing of peace, although we have no idea when that may be. The Allies evidently think that it will be a long time before peace is signed, because they talk of meeting next month, and again later on in the hope of arriving at a general understanding, and this general understanding will have to be worked out in detail, a proceeding which may last for any period up to three or four years. Is there any honorable member in the chamber who can say what is likely to happen in Australia in the next twelve months in regard to freights ? The position at the end of that time may be altogether different from what it is now. We are not in a state of war now, and surely it cannot be urged that, in our internal affairs, we should still be controlled by the War Precautions Act, instead of by freer methods of parliamentary government?
I cannot see why the Government have introduced the Bill. In my view, it would have been better for them to wait in order to gain more experience. In all probability, Parliament will re-assemble in February or March next, and the Government might by then have some idea whether there was any understanding in regard to peace. If necessary, they could then specify certain interests over which they desire to have control, and if they made out a good case, their proposal might be granted. As it is, they propose to take away the right of the people to control themselves, and also the rights of the people’s representatives. If we are not careful, we shall find ourselves’ in the position that Germany was with her military caste prior to the war. We are travelling very fast along the lines to that end; and if we continue we shall have to meet the keen opposition of the toiling masses of the country, and there may be trouble. There is no need for trouble ; and the Government ought to see that harmony is maintained. The people, of course, have the ballot-box, but it is no use having an election if the whole of the legislation enacted in this House is of no avail - if the War Precautions Act and the Departments are to govern.
And what are the reasons given for the introduction of this measure? The Minister told us -
At this stage, owing to the unsettled conditions existing, and the impossibility of predicting the date at which normal conditions will be restored in the community, it is impossible to fix the date at which the particular control exercised in each case can terminate. The decision in each instance will involve the consideration of many factors. The intention of the Bill before the House is to extend the operation of the Act for a period of six months after the proclamation has been issued under the War Precautions Act that war has ceased.
It is impossible to say what is likely to happen in the future, and that, I submit, is the strongest possible reason why the Act should not be amended, except by way of repeal. There might be justification for the repeal of the Act, or a good portion of itf but I can see no reason, under the circumstances, for asking that its operation shall be extended for six months after peace has been signed. The statement by the Minister justifies opposition to the measure, showing, as it does, that the Government are practically working in the dark. The proposal, however, is on all-fours with what has been done byl the Government, particularly by means of the Defence Department. For long I have. seen the bungling going on in that Department, but I have not said much about it. It appears to me that this measure is a result of a request from the Department, in the belief that, in these early stages of peace, .there is a better chance of its acceptance than there might be in six or twelve months’ time, by which time the people will be getting back to normal conditions. The Minister went on to say -
The reason for the extension is partly to continue essential operations and. activities which have been carried out during the period of the war, and partly to enable the Government and the various Departments to take a most careful review of each of the regulations and activities with a view of deciding which of them can be brought to a speedy conclusion, and the exact date to which others should be extended.
I contend that this supports my view that the Government ought to wait for developments during next year or so. The Government say that they are not in a position to decide what regulations can be repealed,- and therefore, I submit, they should wait until they are in a position. It seems to me that the Government are seeking to whittle away the rights of this Parliament altogether. If we agree to this Bill, and we have to face the people in eighteen months’ time, some honorable members will have a heavy account to meet. What is to prevent the Government introducing a Bill of the kind at a later period, in the light of knowledge that may justify their request ?
There are many Boards in existence; indeed, it would seem that the business of the country is- carried on by Boards, and not by Parliament or the Government. And it has to be noted that the Boards are constituted of men directly interested in the commodities with which they have to deal. We are told -
The Controller of Shipping advises that the sudden termination of control of shipping would be disastrous to Australian interests, and that the control should bc continued for at least six months, or longer if the return to normal conditions cannot be effected within that time.
– The Shipping Board is composed of shipping managers.
– It is composed of ship-owners and other interested persons; and it has suddenly discovered now that the war is over, that it is necessary to have an extension of the powers for six months.
– The Board does not wish for this Bill.
– All I have to say is that the Controller of Shipping so advises, and he is the head of the Board.
– That is our own man - Admiral Clarkson.
– I take it that Admiral Clarkson consulted the Board, and that the conclusion arrived at was that the power should be extended until after the articles of peace had been signed. But who can say what will happen in regard to shipping in the next year or two? Already freights had fallen, and if the Board does not make any provision for falling freights, what will happen here supposing they continue to fall? The’ Board fixes the freights on the ships they control.
– The Board has nothing to do with it; freights are fixed on British Blue-Booh rates.
– I have not the quotation with me, but I remember reading that the Board has the right to regulate freights, and so forth, and now it is asking for this extension of power.
– It is not.
– These ship-owners are not now running their own ships, but have rented them to the Government, and they are now running at the expense of the people of the Commonwealth. If freights drop all over the world and are kept up here, that will increase the cost of commodities to the consumer, who has ultimately to pay.
– The freight is not a sixth or seventh of what it is in other waters of the world.
– I am not arguing that point now, but speaking of the future, and urging that we should wait until we ascertain our position exactly in the light of the peace negotiations. The coastal shipping, as I say, we rent from the owners, and those owners are on the Board. Further, the owners of many of the ships are interested in certain mining industries in the country, and certainly, it may be unconsciously, do the best they can for those industries so far as shipping is concerned. There is no escape from that conclusion, for it is only in keeping with human nature. In the case of coal, for instance, dp the members of the Board take coal from collieries in which they are not interested? They give carriage every time to the coal from certain collieries, in which they are interested. This is what we may expect, because they make profits out of those collieries, and, at the same time, are ‘receiving rents for their shipping. I know I may be asked whether I contend there should be no practical men on the Board. I do not contend that, but I do say there should be other business men with the present members to steady them up. In the place of having all interested men, we ought to have others to see that even-handed justice is dealt out to every section of the community - to permit of no advantage being given to any particular industry. The following are the terms of the shipping agreement: -
The owners are getting rent based on the freights which prevailed when the agreement was entered into in 1918.
– No. The present rates have fallen to 14s. as against those quoted by the honorable member.
– This regulation was given effect to on the 26th March, 1918, after nearly four years of war, and at that particular time, I venture to say; the companies were making enormous profits. When entering upon a business contract of this kind, their position would have to be taken into consideration. The proper test would be the profits the companies were making. They were making profits prior to that time.
– Have not the rates been raised since then?
– I do not know. The list which- I have would be based upon the rates operating at the time when the arrangement was made with the companies. If we continue the Act and this regulation, whatpower will we have to bring about a reduction in the exorbitant amounts we are paying for these boats if freights should drop all over the world ?
– It could easily be done by regulation.
– Does the honorable member expect interested men to look into these matters, and take profits out of their own pockets’!
– If men would act as the honorable member says, they have no business to be on the Board.
– It is one thing to expect men to look after their own interests, and another thing to expect them to look after the interests of other people.
– Admiral Clarkson is an honest man.
– I do not say that he is a dishonest man. I do not say that the Board is dishonest. I do not wish honorable members to put words in my mouth that I have hot uttered. What I say is that this particular arrangement was entered into in accordance with the rates and freights operating at the time it was drawn up, and that the men on the Shipping Board, being interested parties, will naturally be a little bit prejudiced towards their own interests in the consideration of any reduction of freights. I cannot put the position in a fairer way.
– If a vote of the shipowners were taken, they would want to get out of the arrangement at once.
– Yes, unanimously.
– I do not doubt the Acting Prime Minister or the Assistant Minister for the Navy. The shipowners may wish to get out of the agreement, but it seems to me remarkable that we should seek to extend thesepowers without ascertaining whether they are necessary. Why should we extend the Act almost within a week or two of the cessation of hostilities when we’ already know that its life extends until such time as peace is signed? If statements which have been made are correct, there was no necessity for bringing forward this Bill.
Taking the ship-owners’ returns since the war as a guide - and that is a proper basis for considering the matter - we find that they have made greater profits out of the war than they made prior to the war. How, then, can it be a bad arrangement for them? Why should they be anxious to get out of the exercise of the power given to the Government under the Was Precautions Act ? In any case, why should there not be a provision in this particular regulation by which the rates may be altered ? There is no clause in it which bears out the contention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) that the rates may be altered.
– Yes, there is.
– Has the honorable member any doubt as to the power of the Government to alter the rates?
– The Government have the power to do many things. My complaint is that they have not been doing them, but have allowed other people to do them, and have accepted the advice of other people. In times of stress, when Ministers are hard-worked, they are compelled to accept advice from certain individuals without responsibility; but our Government has been guided by the advice of interested parties on various Boards, and the result has been dissatisfaction in all directions. I have not mentioned this phase of the question previously, because I felt that everything possible should be done to maintain harmony while the country was at war; but now that fighting has ceased, we ought to get back to a normal state of affairs.
– Are the mercantile people, who are the most interested, asking that these regulations should be repealed ?
– I cannot say who has asked for their repeal. All I have had to guide me is the speech made by the Minister (Mr. Groom), who moved the second reading of . the Bill, . and advanced reasons why the Act should be extended. I know nothing about the details of the work of the various Boards. If the honorable member does, he is a very fortunate man. There are very few representative men who know anything at the present time. That is our trouble.
– In Queensland, we know what is to our own interests.
– The honorable member may think that he is right; but if he grants an extension of the powers given by the War Precautions Act, I hope that, in the near future, he may not find it coming back like a boomerang, and striking him on the forehead.
We have had the fullest liberty in the past. Once an attempt is made to curb that liberty unnecessarily, bad feeling is created, and it will grow. It is not in the interests of members on either side of the House that there should be any discordant note in the community. We can have our political differences, and we can fight politically, and as long as we are prepared to follow the lines of the past and adhere to the path of Demo-‘ cracy, giving to every person the right to vote according to his convictions, and governing the country by those who are returned by the will of the electors, everything will be safe; but if the affairs of the Commonwealth are to be administered under legislation of the character of the War Precautions Act,- the safety valve of the will of the community is at once removed. We do not want a repetition here of what has happened in other parts of the world, where the working people, or the proletariat, have become dissatisfied. They have not enjoyed the conditions which we have enjoyed in Australia? They have had despotic rule.
– Are- we to have a repetition of exhibitions such as we had last night?
– I do not know what took place last night. I am not concerned about anything which has occurred outside the chamber. I have a perfect right to voice my opinions upon the Bill before the House, and upon what I think is the best for the country. I can see disaster for the community if this sort of legislation is continued. All through the Commonwealth people are complaining; not only those who support the Labour party, but persons of all shades of political thought. Every newspaper of standing throughout the Commonwealth is complaining about the administration of the War Precautions Act, and probably has had good cause, because people not responsible to this Parliament have censored its articles, and what has been published in some newspapers has not been permitted to appear in others. One could hardly believe it possible that we should have remained silent, and allowed these things to happen, but because of our great loyalty to the British cause in the war in which we have been engaged, we swallowed a great deal. However, I hope that we are not going to perpetuate such evils. It is quite unnecessary to do many of the things that were done. Very few men would have voted for the War Precautions Act if they had known the use to which it was to be put, and had realized how it was to be administered. Its powers have been applied in directions where it was never anticipated they would be required. The administration of the Act has created a good deal of trouble in the community which should never have arisen, and has engendered bad feeling where there should have been harmony. No one can contend that the present regulations dealing with the domestic life of Australia should be continued. It cannot be held that recruiting may otherwise be prejudiced. Recruiting cannot be prejudiced when it no longer exists. I hope that it is a thing of the past for all time. We are now taking away rights that have been conferred by the Constitution.
– The trouble is not yet over.
– I hope that my friend is wrong. I hope, and many others hope with me, that the Peace Conference will not only .be able to draw up articles of peace, but will also be able to obviate the possibility of future wars. If we have made such great sacrifices in the shape of valuable lives - between 50,000 and 60,000 of our best have lost their lives during the war - and if the people of this community have suffered so much individually and collectively merely to gain a settlement of national boundaries, the war will not have achieved the purpose that we hoped it would achieve.
– There are two classes of political thought in this House and country that are against any extension of the power involved in the War Precautions Act. Firstly, there is the school represented by the Opposition, which apparently feels that the citizens for whom honorable members opposite speak have been badly affected by the Act and ‘ the regulations made under it. I do not pretend that every regulation and every administrative act has been faultless. Probably there have been many errors of judgment and temper, during the period of anxiety and passion through which we have passed, but my experience is that whenever the human factor comes into such things as the administration of an Act, mistakes are inevitable. This I do believe, that the men who felt the punitive effects of the Act in most cases - in fact, in the vast majority of cases - were those who were forgetful or regardless of the danger through which this community was passing during the war. Every community that is rational in a period of crisis subjects itself to a form of discipline such as this, which, in time of peace, it would naturally resent. This community did it deliberately, with its eyes open, and with an almost unanimous Parliament. And it is but natural that the individuals and sections of the community that rebelled against the operations of the lav/ felt its weight and smarted under it. I remind honorable members opposite, such of them as are thinking seriously at this moment, that this Act was passed by a Labour Government, when Labour was an undivided force in this country. At that time I was a new member of the then Liberal Opposition. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes)1 was Attorney-General in the Labour Government. Some of my then colleagues in opposition objected most strenuously to the terms of this Act, and one of the most eminent legal members of the community, the present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine), expressed in scathing, condemnatory, and prophetic terms his views ou some phases of the legislation then proposed. I, however, felt it my duty to say that I would refuse to no Government during war time any power they desired for the defence of the country, or the control of the war interests of the Commonwealth. All I desired was to put upon the Government the responsibility for the discreet exercise of those powers, and that is the position in which I and other men have stood ever since the Act was passed.
A second view is represented by honorable members who support the present Administration, and who object to the prolongation of the Act beyond the proclamation of peace. If I know anything of the minds of the gentlemen who sit behind the Government, I believe that sort of objection arises from two main causes. The first cause is their desire to return to regular and constitutional methods of government as soon as possible. I earnestly share that view, and I believe honorable members opposite do likewise. I do not consider it a sound principle in normal or safe times to allow the Executive to usurp the functions of Parliament, or to subordinate or supersede the powers of the Legislature.
– Fine language, if the honorable, member had the courage to give effect to it.
– The honorable member ought not to talk about courage. However, I have no desire to indulge in personal exchanges of this sort. I wish to eliminate the personal element, and to pursue a rational and ordered discussion of the reasons for which the Government feel impelled to urge the passage of this Bill. The second reason which influences honorable members supporting the Government is a deep-seated feeling that the restrictions on the commercial and producing sections of the community should be removed without delay. With certain reservations I share that feeling also, but I wish the House to be in no doubt as to what those reservations are. They are of the most vital importance in my mind, and profoundly influence me in arriving at a judgment as to when will be the proper time to remove this legislation. Speaking as one who was not responsible for the creation of the Act under which we have lived for four and half years, I wish to say even more emphatically than I did in the remarks I have just made, that I have no prejudice whatever in favour of the War Precautions Act or the regulations made under it. I go further and say that the lives of Ministers who are endowed with these powers have been extra irksome and difficult because of the possession of them, and I speak from a somewhat extensive administrative experience. My experience in both State and Commonwealth politics has led me to believe that the life of a Minister under ordinary conditions, when Parliament makes the law and he is merely called upon to administer it, is sufficiently unpleasant. But when under the War Precautions Act and in the abnormal times through which we have passed and are passing, a Minister himself is called upon to make the law the unpleasantness of his position is intensified manifold.
– That is the reason why Kaiserism is disappearing all over the world.
– If the honorable member could even imitate the parrot at the Zoo, and make an intelligent observation, his interjections would not be so bad, but his voice sounds more like the screech of a brake on a vehicle going down hill than anything else. Hundreds of problems have been thrust on Ministers because of the creation and continuance of these war-time powers, which, speaking for myself, and, I believe, for other Ministers also, we have felt ourselves ill-equipped to discharge. But we have had to tackle them, and there is no man of the present Administration who has carried the weight of those responsibilities during recent months but would most cheerfully lay them aside. The point I wish to make in all the observations I have made and am about to make is that we disagree, not as to the disappearance of this Act, but as to when will be the proper and safe time when it can be removed. In doing that, I join issue at once with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), and I say to him quite plainly that even so dispassionate a mind as his generally is has obviously been disturbed, as was proved by his remarks to-day, by focussing too intently upon one phase of the Act. That phase I propose to deal with at the proper time, but there is a much larger phase which Ministers and this Parliament must study, and which demands immediate consideration.
I wish to show some of the functions, powers, and responsibilities which have grown up under this Act, and which cannot be abandoned suddenly and without notice except at the risk . of creating tremendous damage.. Starting with the Treasury Department, with which I am most familiar, there are certain regulations relating to finance.* The first is the moratorium. I have had representations from thinking members on the opposite side, who urge the Government to consider the continuance of % the moratorium. The moratorium deals with two classes of securities and debts. The first are those that formed the subject of mortgages, registered and equitable, existing at the time the regulation was passed. The others are those similar securities that have been created since the regulation was promulgated. I have been endeavouring to find out, with the aid of the financial and legal authorities of the Commonwealth, what sum is involved behind that protective barrier, how much money is banked up behind the regulation of moratorium. I have had certain estimates supplied to me by the Treasury officials, which are so appalling in size that I almost hesitate to use them, but I am satisfied that if both of these classes of debts mature at the same time it will be almost impossible for this country to withstand the strain of payment. May I, without endeavouring to promote in the minds of honorable members any sense of panic, give an illustration of what may happen if these debts, the interest on which is from 4J to 5£ per cent. - the current rate - when the mortgages were drawn, become suddenly due?
– The interest was more like 6 per cent.
– .Some with smaller margins and of older date might carry interest at 6 per cent. If the mortgagors under these deeds received 3, 7., 14, or even 30 days’ notice on the termination of these regulations, that payment must be made, I do not think that .the banks could stand the strain of payment. The interest rates would rise swiftly, abnormally, and alarmingly, and men sent out to search in financial circles for the untold millions of money for the payment of their due and secured liabilities would be called upon to pay highly for money available and liquid for their purpose. We have kept the interest on fixed deposits in this country at 4£ per cent., but if men, rather than’ sacrifice their real estate, which is pledged under this system, are forced to pay for money 6 and 7 per cent., do honorable members think that the holders of those fixed deposits will allow them to remain indefinitely in the banks, earning a low rate of interest, especially when gilt-edged securities, with an ample margin, are offering a return of 2 per cent, more? In the natural order of things, the effect would be to draw the deposits from the banks in order to meet a condition which had been allowed to suddenly arise. If, apart altogether from how a Government’s words are trusted in this country by their supporters or opponents, a problem were stated to the best-informed minds in the Commonwealth as to how we should tackle this situation, there would be an almost unanimous view that a longer time should be allowed to grade off this huge settlement. That can be done only by the provision of some such power as is embodied in this Bill.
We have in connexion with our war loans imposed upon the community a great number of ordinances of a restrictive kind. To municipalities and to trusts broadcast throughout the country, who had not, under their Acts or deeds of trusteeship, any power to invest in out war loans, ot, if they had power to invest, had no power to incur a debt such as a special advance for investments in war loans, we have given immunity and indemnity, regardless of the State Acts or the articles of association or deeds of trust under which they worked. If this War Precautions Act dies, those men will become liable for these huge sums of money which, at the call of the. country, they have invested. I venture to say that such a development would shake security in this country in quite an unparalleled way, and we cannot contemplate it with equanimity. When we succeeded in creating a wide-spread organization to comb the country for war loans, and the banks were mobilized to the assistance of the Government, we gave them power to indulge in a special advance system, which brought in £40,000,000 under the last two flotations. Under that system they made advances to their own employees all over the country, which was in defiance of their principles of banking and the Act under which they work. Those men are working still to pay off that debt in instalments extending over eighteen months, and if the protection conferred by the War Precautions Act be removed, these illegal transactions will mature on the banks, and render them liable. ‘
– Does the transaction remain legal only while the Act is in operation ?
– Even as a layman the honorable member will know that it is doubtful whether an authority that dies persists after its death. That is a legal problem which I do not feel competent to argue with the honorable member, but qualified counsel have advised the Government to the effect I have stated.
Again, with the object of preventing undue competition with the war loan flotations, a former Administration placed harness upon the backs of the trading community in the form of regulations as to flotations and investments of capital. In the earlier stages of the operation of these regulations the trading community felt them to be most unpleasant. There was intense irritation that, for the first time in the history of this country, a proposition to float a company, or add debentures to a business, or alter the finance of any public corporation, must be submitted to investigation by a Treasury official, and run the gauntlet of what the commercial community regard as uninformed criticism. However, after two or .three years the commercial community settled down to the regulation, and during my experience in the Treasury I have deemed it advisable to loosen some of the restrictions in order to encourage new businesses and industries that were likely to be beneficial. But, as the financial Minister of the Government, I am not prepared to say that these regulations should be abandoned at this stage, which the cancellation of the War Precautions Act would necessarily involve, because I see as plainly as most men, and perhaps I am able to take a more intimate view of the situation, that our loan flotation is by no means at- an end. As far as we are able to calculate now, upon the basis of conjectural data as to the time that will be occupied and the expense that will be involved in the work of demobilization and repatriation, it may be that we shall have to float two more big loans. In such circumstances, it becomes a very unpleasant responsibility to have to hold on, at this hour, until we know our condition better, to some or all of these regulations, so as to make quite sure that the community will give to its Treasury the money required to keep the national credit .sound. There are other things in connexion with the loans in respect of which we have passed” regulations - regulations which, if we are going on, must still be preserved. There is, probably, a small section in this community - it may be larger than some people think - who believe in, and who, in some cases, have publicly uttered, sentiments of repudiation in relation to our national debt.
– Leave that alone.
– I shall not leave it alone. My honorable friend may, in his own facetious way, ask, “What does it matter?” But it does matter a great deal when we have to find the money, in revenue or loan finance, to keep the credit and business of this country solid. And any man who, at this time, or until our debt is stabilized, .and the people know what is the indebtedness of the community, would in this way jeopardize public credit by such utterances, ought to come under the control of the law.
These are some of the matters relating to only one Department, and I would impress them most definitely and emphatically upon the minds of honorable members. No man who is in a position of responsibility to-day, and who knows these things, would be true to his trust if he did not warn the House exactly of what might happen if the uninformed newspaper critic had his way and the War Precautions Act was incontinently abandoned for any of the reasons to which I referred in the earlier portion of my remarks.
– Would not the Compulsory Loan Bill secure our position as to future loans?
– I do not think so. I am not anxious, at this, stage, to deal with the merits of another measure already before the House; but I do not think that compulsion, entirely on the basis of the Bill introduced by me,, would prove sufficient without voluntary effort. The question involved is not merely as to how we are to raise our next loans, but how we are to protect those who have gone into debt in order to lend us money, and who are still saving, struggling, and sometimes realizing other assets, or withdrawing from other interests, in order to pay instalments as they become due under the special advance system. We must protect these men, who have voluntarily, and, in some cases, eagerly and patriotically, come forward to help the country’s finances.
Let me come now to questions of commerce, and here I again join issue with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The honorable member suggests that the shipping interests, which have been gathered under the control of Boards in this country, .are anxious for a perpetuation of the War Precautions Act. In this case, as in the last, there are no politics, so far as I am concerned. I wish to discuss it as a plain business matter. If the honorable member were to consult any ship-owner in Australia, he would find that he was prepared to give practically one-half of his fleet to secure release from the provisions of the War Precautions Act. Let me tell the House why. At the present time the average quote per month per ton - what is known as a time charter for the average ship - is somewhere between 12s. and 15s. In the neighbouring waters of Australia the lowest quote for the cheapest ships there available is not from 12s. to 15s. per month per ton, but 80s.
– Is that a recent quotation ?
– It is the’ position this week in respect of shipping in neighbouring waters. I can state with perfect freedom the real position in regard to our shipping, because I claim no credit for it.
– Was the honorable gentleman referring to a quote for the whole charter?
– To a time charter, under present conditions. The Government that designed the control of shipping in Australia builded wiser than they knew. I do not know who was responsible for it in point of time or personnel, but I do know that we have been getting shipping, both before the creation of the latest Board and in the earlier stages of the war, at one-fourth, one-fifth, one-sixth, and up to one-tenth of the price obtaining in Great Britain and in the northern waters of the world. We have been in this fortunate position because the Government of Australia did what the British Government apparently had not sufficient prescience to do. The Commonwealth Government seized our shipping. If the British Government had seized the registered tonnage of Great Britain-
– As the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) asked them to do.
– I am speaking of a period anterior to the date on which that suggestion was made. We are all wise after the event, and we can see now that the British Government at the outbreak of the war should have recognised that the only proper course open to it to take was to seize the tonnage of Great Britain. Had it done that, rates would not have gone up, either competitively or sympathetically, as they have done. The British Government, however, failed to take that action at the outset. It came in late. We got in early, and kept the earning power of these ships as near the. pre-war rates as it was possible to keep it. I shall tell the House what would happen if we repealed these regulations - if we took the lid off this control. I have been in consultation with shipping men with respect to this very question.
– If we took the lid off our control, they would take their ships” away.
– And I would not blame them for doing so. If they took into other waters, where earnings are so high, all the available tonnage that could travel overseas, they would earn, because of the swiftness of loading and higher prices, many times as much as they would earn if they allowed those vessels to remain on this coast. But what would happen to this country; what would happen to the wide western State and the far-noTthern State, to which this shipping is as the very life’s blood of trade? The only control that we can have over these shipping men, to keep them conditioned as they are to-day, is that to be secured byreimposing these regulations upon them’ until we can devise by legislation, if we desire it, a more permanent authority. So far as ship-owners are concerned, there might be the difficulty to which my honorable friend (Mr. Charlton) points. Some of these mon might have a tendency to study the interests other than shipping with which they are associated. My judgment, however, does not lead me to believe that they have done that. Any man who knows how Admiral Clarkson has administered the Shipping Board will give to his honour and judgment perfect confidence and respect. He has done a wonderfully great work in connexion with the organization of shipping. The regulations to which the honorable member has referred puts these men in harness. They cannot charge any rates they like. They were put upon BlueBook rates. My honorable friend (Mr. Mcwilliams) suggested that we altered those rates. We did; but they are still Blue-Book rates. One condition of the rate building is that the Board cannot lift the rates without the consent of the Government nominee, and his power of consent, speaking from memory, is confined to a 10 per cent, rise. There is no hope of shipping rates in Australia falling below what they are to-day for the next two or three years, even if “we keep up the control of shipping.
I ask my honorable friend to believe - and I shall be glad to furnish him with fuller information on the subject - that the one thing that has kept the tonnage rate low in this country is this system of control, and that the one thing which would put it up to a high level and deprive us of sufficient shipping to meet our requirements would be the lifting of this control. [f this House should refuse, notwithstanding all our petitions, togive the Government sufficient power to control these great activities, I do not think that either the State Parliaments or the State and Commonwealth Parliaments combined, will be able to exercise adequate control over shipping rates. They will be able to take their larger vessels to Europe, to Japan, or anywhere else; and I should not blame them for doing so. If they were allowed full freedom in the matter, they could take their shipping where it could earn the most money; but it would be a perilous position for Australia to occupy since we would have no tonnage with which to replace the tonnage that they would take away.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe that they would take away their shipping?
– I do not know; but if they were free, they could do so.
– I understand that they have made an offer to work under the same conditions, without the application of the War Precautions Act.
– In the discussions I have had with them, I have dealt with the resolution to which the honorable member for Hunter has referred. They made that offer to the Government, not because they liked it, but because of their anxiety to keep conditions right in this country until normality is restored. They say that if the Government will not reimpose- the War Precautions regulations they are prepared, as far as they can, to make a working agreement with us; but if the Act ceased to operate, I should not have any power over them, in the event of their breaking such an agreement. That, I think, would be a very unsafe position to occupy. We have held to this control resolutely all through the war, and it would be very unsafe to relax our grip, to the disadvantage of the producers and the consuming community in the outlying parts.
We have indulged in the control of commerce in two ways. We have in: dulged in price fixing, and in controls other than price fixing in relation to sales. Let us take, first of all, the latter. Let .us consider the position with regard to sugar. I am not speaking now by the book ; but my colleague, the Acting AttorneyGeneral, will probably confirm my statement when I say that I do not believe that we had power to buy the two crops of sugar other than through the war power we secured from this Parliament. By the most economical system of acquisition and “-of operation - by keeping down the profits of the wholesale and the retail men - we have been able to eliminate all outlying charges that could possibly be eliminated, and to give a very high price for unrefined sugar to the northern grower, while at the same time giving the consumer the pre-war price for his sugar at the grocer’s counter. It is a remarkable achievement, which has been mutually beneficial to producer and consumer. When we compare the price of sugar in Australia with the price in America or Britain, into whose ports all the roadways of the world lead, we see that, generally speaking, throughout the war, and certainly now in those countries, it is double, or more than double, the rate prevailing in Australia.
Mr. McGrath. Sevenpence a pound.
Mr. WATT. Sevenpence, 7½d., and 8d. per lb. With sugar rising alarmingly in the outside markets as it has done since the armistice was signed, what would be our position if we took off our control ? Although we own the sugar up to a certain point, we should be faced with two alternatives. We should have either to hand it over to the wholesale man to sell with no power to impose conditions as to the rate at which he should sell to the retailer, or the price which the retailer should charge the consumer, or, not caring to trust men over whom we should have no control, to vend it, we would have to d’evise machinery to protect the community, and I do not know that we could. I say unhesitatingly that, as a pure business proposition, I see the gravest danger in connexion with sugar and other things, such as cornsacks, over which we have control, if, after investing millions of this country’s money in them, in the hope of buying well and selling fairly, we allow some members of this community to come in and reap an enormous harvest as the result of our prevision and wisdom in buying and operating.
As to price fixing, I can understand the antipathy of certain sections of the community to it. I do not believe in it in normal times, and there I differ fundamentally from the view of my honorable friends of the Opposition. I have always doubted the power to operate by machinery invented by Parliament a continual and beneficial price fixing policy. We on this side, however, have subordinated our natural antipathy to such a system in the hope that by judicious action on the part of the Government in a crucial time, when everything was rising, we should be able to protect the consumer. The honorable member for Hunter has said that we have not done half what we ought to have done - that where we touched the system we did not go far enough. What was done, however, was beneficial. That is all I claim. If, because the armistice has been signed and peace is in sight, we are to take off this control in respect of the stocks of imported goods in this country - clothing stuffs, foodstuffs, and all the articles and commodities that make life worth living, we shall give to the holders of short stocks absolute power to lift the prices a3 high as they please.
– There is no regulation applying to clothing. None of those things have been regulated.
– The honorable member is speaking of price fixing, whereas I am speaking of controlling as well as pricefixing. In some cases, in respect of boots and clothing, we have not gone as far as fixing, but in respect of other articles to which price-fixing has been applied, we have to rely on these regulations to prevent short stocks being lifted to any price the holders choose to place upon them.
– That has been done all the same.
– The tables furnished by Mr. Knibbs, and the compari- son which he makes with rates ruling in other countries, contradict the honorable member’s statement.
– Knibbs does not deal with clothing or boots.
– I am replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). It is an unwise policy, whatever our views on price- fixing may be, with no normal commercial conditions in sight, because of the shortage of producing power at the other end of the world and the shortage of transport, to at once, for the sake of abandoning a principle in which we have never believed, but of which we have made use in an emergency, place certain members of the community at the mercy of other members of the community who wish to make profit out of them. I say that as one who does not believe in price- fixing by the Legislature as a political or economical doctrine.
I pass now from commerce to production. My honorable friends know the conditions under which we have sold the wool of this country for a full wool season after the termination of the war. If peace should be ratified before the 30th June next, our wool contract would terminate on the 30th June, 1920. Vast interests are at stake in connexion with this contract. We entered into it by virtue of our powers under the War Precautions Act. In no other way were we entitled to deal with the property of others, even to their advantage. We have contracted with the British Government to convey to them all the wool produced in Australia this year, and up to the winter of 1920, or, roughly, for eighteen months to come: that is, for the current season and the season following. It would be risky beyond description to throw away the power to enforce delivery of that wool. 1 do not know if there is to be a free wool market at Bradford, or elsewhere next spring; but should there be, and should we have no power to enforce the performance of our contract with Great Britain, we could prevent it from breaking down only by prohibiting the export of wool.
– The extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act for six months would not meet the case.
– An extension of the operation of the Act for six months will suffice for what I have in mind. I am mentioning now the businesses in regard to which we have made contracts which we must endeavour to honorably discharge. We have no power to enforce the wool contract except under the War Precautions Act.
We also have vast and increasing obligations in regard to our wheat. The overdraft in connexion with the Wheat Pools is now, roughly, £12,000,000 or £13,000,000, and we shall have anything from £12,000,000 to £16,000,000 to pay on the new season’s crop. As we are’ investing the money of the public in this way, we must have some control, not only as security, but as trustees for the buyer, to see that the conditions are observed. It would be midsummer madness to pelt about these subjects as if they were so many pieces of tissue paper, pretending that they do not matter. The British Government places the highest importance on some of these transactions, which we have solemnly entered into, and, in some cases, particularly the wool contract, with a fullthroated chorus of approval from honorable members and the representatives of the industry concerned.
Dairy produce - butter and cheese - has been the subject of similar bargains, and so have metals, some of the contracts in regard , to which extend over ten years. Until we can get an opportunity of providing for these businesses by special legislation, we ought not to relax our trusteeship under the War Precautions Act.’ Some honorable members think that the control of metals has been wrongly devised, or else clumsily administered. With that I have nothing to do at this moment. I mention metals as one of the things in regard to which the Government have assumed grave responsibilities. I do not think we can relax our control of these businesses. The deliberations of the recent Imperial Conference, which will be made public in time, indicate that the statesmen of the ‘ Empire, those of the Dominions, as well as those of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, place the highest importance upon the direction of raw material into the hands of the British authorities. The Empire generally, and Australia in particular, lias given effect to this during the war, and, just as we are ready to pay the debts that we have incurred, we must be prepared to carry out the business transactions into which we have entered, even though that may involve the Executive asking for a few mouths, at least, a modicum of trust from the Legislature, and particularly from its own supporters.
Sitting suspended from 6-29 to 7J/.5 p.m.
– Before we rose for dinner T had been endeavouring to show honorable members the variety and magnitude of the business interests which have grown up under the shelter of this Act. I had almost reached the end of that description, but I think I have said sufficient to indicate to honorable members on both sides that for most, if not all, those important functions and responsibilities the Government possess no power of control during the critical period that must immediately supervene on the declaration of peace.
I now come to a different description of functions, and I refer, first of all, to the censorship, which some honorable members on this side, . and probably all honorable members on the other side, are keenly alive to. It does not appear to me as if the censorship could entirely disappear with the proclamation of peace. But the Government have already shown their desire, as soon as they can, to relax the burdensome part of the censorship against which certain sections of the community have complained; and we have already taken steps in that direction.’ But there are two conditions which, I think, must be kept well in view from now on, one of which must be safeguarded until the peace terms are settled, and the other probably beyond that. What must be most jealously watched by the community are utterances and publications that might injure the alliance of Great Britain and the other associated Powers.
The British authorities, since the declaration of the armistice, as I have already indicated, have imposed certain restrictions on the discussion in public in
Britain of the terms of peace. This is not, I imagine, with the object of preventing a fair expression of the British views of the peace conditions and terms, but rather with the object of seeing that no word is spoken that would irritate the relationship between Great Britain and the Allies with whom she has been associated during the war.
– We must, first of all, close the mouth of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– Will my honorable friend allow “King Charles’ head” tobe, if not buried and embalmed, at least laid aside? I am not so sure that the utterances of certain gentlemen in England have not been subject to the same censorship. But it does appear to me to be quite unsafe - and I say this with no thought of politics in my mind - to allow the interests of the community to be jeopardized by indiscreet, incautious utterances that might irritate members of the Alliance.
-r- Has anybody made so serious a statement as that of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), that the Allies seem to be in a great hurry to ally themselves with their greatest enemy ?
– The honorable member will realize that I am now making quite a responsible statement, and do not desire to bandy words with him across the table.
– If I may say so, you are not able to reply to that interjection.
– I thought my honorable friend pinned his faith to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) as the pattern of decorum, dignity, and wisdom, seeing that the honorable member has been using that Minister as a whip to flog the Prime Minister with - the honorable member cannot have it both ways.’
I was about to say that I do not desire to distinguish any particular Ally, or to say one word that could be construed into an offence to any of the nations that have fought with Great Britain and the Dominions right through this perilous time; but I believe it is a fundamental principle of safety that, until the peace terms have been settled and sealed, and have become binding for the contracting nations, we should jealously safeguard the interests of .this isolated Dominion by not allowing offensive words against any of the -Allies of Great Britain. I can well conceive of some honorable members being resentful of this, but I hold it to be a cardinal principle that until the cleaning up is registered- .
– Does that apply equally to America?
– To any Ally or Associated Power. The American Republic is not described as one of the Allies, but as ah Associated Power of the Allies. The references I have made already to the conditions of public credit being affected by improper utterances relating to our puiblic debt, until our last loans are floated for the purposes of this war and repatriation, seem to be equally essential. These are two main conditions, of which whether we pass a special Act or not, any Government worthy of its salt must, prove itself the jealous and cautious custodian. .1 desire to refer later to the terms of certain undertakings and arrangements which, I hope, the House will accept at their face value.
There are other important matters in the control of the Defence Department, as, for instance, the control of internees. We have no power, so we are advised, for the control of aliens of various kinds, and any aliens who are interned, that is sufficiently effective. Until we know, not only what the conditions of peace involve with regard to these people, but how the provisions of the peace settlement are to be operated after the peace becomes binding, this Government must be endued with powers to deal with the problem.
We have taken a very strong stand in the country, with the full approval of the people, with the object of excising, as far as they can be discovered, enemy interests’ in companies aud undertakings here. We have, done this under the War Precautions Act, and we may have to persist in th’s in the interests of Australian safety after the peace settlement for a time. This, also, is a matter that has grown up under the canopy of the War Precautions Act.
– That also depends on the peace terms.
– It may; and yet we are not sure it must. We have also, as far as we can, not only eliminated enemy interests, but prevented the acquisition of other enemy interests in the big mineral deposits of this country. Whatever honorable members may think of the conditions relating to these matters before the war broke out, it is plain, again irrespective of politics, that a united Parliament might with prudence join in insuring that we know exactly what interests are rushing in to our big metal and mining propositions, in order to prevent or rolling back, if we can, any sinister influence that is at work.
Summing up what it has taken me forty, or fifty minutes to describe, I may say that if we allow the War Precautions regulations to lapse, or to become abrogated, either swiftly, as some seek, or at the termination of the peace deliberations, there is every possibility of an interregnum of chaos and disorder in our business and producing interests which would be unsafe for this country. I say again that no Government worthy of its position would hesitate to draw the attention of the House and the country to the dangers of the situation, even at the risk of a refusal of the power we are now asking.
Honorable members will probably ask what steps the Government have taken when viewing all these facts to ascertain exactly how the country can, on some better system than the War Precautions Act, guard its interests after peace. Questions of international law, as well as questions of Commonwealth and State law, are involved in considerations of the kind; and at the express wish of the Government the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has recently summoned to his aid the voluntary assistance of some of the most eminent legal men of the Commonwealth. Honorable members who have heard the names will agree that in Melbourne and Sydney at least, the two most accessible capitals, we have called upon men who are amongst the best of those able to be of assistance, to consider those tangled and related problems, and advise us how the Commonwealth may, on a better basis, as I say, than an Act giving the Executive all the authority, safeguard, in some’ abiding way, these important interests. Honorable- members of the legal profession, I think, will agree that amongst these gentlemen are the principal legal authorities of the Commonwealth on the questions they have been: selected to advise on. It will be some’ considerable time before the evidence on which the deliberations of these eminent . counsel will depend, can becolected, and- some weeks, if. not months, longer before they, will- be able in concert to advise the Government as to how the legislation should, be attempted.
– As. to the limits of our power to take away State rights.
– That point I shall deal with in a moment. I was going to say. there must be time for legislation - Commonwealth legislation, and, perhaps, State legislation - for example, on the preservation of the rights of Britishers against the rights of alien foreigners in the company law of this country. In all probability we could not cope successfully with every phase of the question because of the limitation of our constitutional authority. We may have to summon the States, and to- get them into unanimity, if not uniformity, in order to secure legislation that must be concurrent.
– Or else ask the people to change the Constitution.
– And to change the Constitution takes time.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I do not know what I am saying that should arouse the antagonism of the less-thinking members, of the Opposition. I am anxious to pursue the subject as a purely impersonal one, with no politics in. it that I can see, for the information- of honorable- memters on both sides of the House;
– You cannot help being insulting even-
– Order !
– My impression- is that sometimes the honorable member interjecting is irresponsible. I was. saying that there must be time for advice to be tendered to the. Commonwealth, and for the Commonwealth to be able to prepare legislation that it feels itself constitutionally competent to effect, and, in addition to that, if it be- necessary, to co-operate with the States- in plugging the holes, which have been discovered as the result of the war, through which enemy influence may steal into this community, or in successfully eliminating the finally discoverable pasts of it. Some honorable member may ask, “ Why cannot you d’o it under this Bill ? “ but we arc not in a position to-day to schedule as a part of this Bill the functions which we desire to cover. If we attempted to do so, it would be a very crude endeavour, although the legal authorities of the Commonwealth Departments have been trying their best to do it. It is far better, in the’ meantime, for this House to be prepared to intrust its Executive to exercise these functions and allow it ample time to do this work thoroughly. No one can condition these matters by dates from the calendar. No man alive can say how long it will take to effect the stabilization of Germany so as to enable her to be effectively represented, either as a united Empire or as separate republican States, at the Peace Conference- because that is the dating time for the real beginning of peace deliberations; and, even if we could feel sure that early’ in the New Year . the statesmen of the Allies would sit with the statesmen of the enemy in order to finish this task, none of us could predict with any degree of certainty how long it would take them to determine the position that has arisen out of the -war.
– It will take three to five years.
– I said that none of us could predict. I beg the honorable member’s pardon. It may be three to five weeks, months,, or years.
– And we are toremain under the War Precautions Act all that time?
– No. I shall speak about that matter in a minute. It is impossible bo say that in the month of April, or in the month of May next, Parliament will be called together to do certain things. It is impossible for us to say with regard to certain matters, to which I have al* ready alluded, including control of commerce, ‘when -these particular functions shall ‘he shed by the Commonwealth. It depends,- not upon -calendar time, but upon a set of conditions which none of us can date. For example) if there is restoration of shipping tonnage from abroad earlier- than- we anticipate, commerce may’ resume its normal flow earlier than’ we anticipate, and the Government will, hasten to release production and exchange from the harness and impedimenta put upon it. But it really depends upon what conditions arise, develop, or evolve as to when we can take certain action.
If . we are granted this increase of . time which the -six months provision seeks,, the Government have no intention of . using theWar Precautions Act, or any of -its regulations, for political purposes.
-I say solemnly and advisedly that the Government - do not intend to and will . not use the powers conferred upon them by the Act for political purposes. If. there , are honorable members-
– That is an echo of a promise we . heard once before.
– Order! The honorable member should be. allowed to -finish a sentence without interjections.
– There . may . be some in this. House. who . may not hesitate to take my . assurance. .
– Can . the honorable member . guarantee,. that he will be Prime Minister?
– No; he -cannot.
– Ora Judge.
– He will not be a Judge, nor will he receive any billet from the Government. ‘ In defiance of these interruptions, I want to make this quite plain : We will not use this Act for political purposes. ‘.If there are honorable members who will not accept my assurance in that regard I cannot help . it.
– I am one of those.
– The honorable member pays me a great compliment. I would not like to think that I had fallen so low as to ‘be . worthy of his respect.
– I make the assertion that the Act has been used in the past, for party ‘purposes.
– Did’ I not say at the opening of these desultory remarks that I did not assert ‘that every act or regulation had been free from blunder or passion ? No matter who has been in power, from the time Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister and first enjoyed this ‘authority, right up to the present time, any person has been likely to make mistakes during the period of stress through which we have passed.
– It was malice, not mistakes.
– The honorable member is the manufacturer and’ purveyor of it. I do not deal in it. I have given it up, and I hope that the honorable member will learn to give it up in the interests of his reputation and future. I have lived long enough in Parliament to know that what makes public life most hateful is ill-feeling . among individual members. I hope that we are big enough to study the issues we are sent here to decide without’ a feeling of that kind..
I must pass on, simply . asking . honorable members to accept the assurance whichI have given. It as not- my ‘fault if some of them will not do so. If any member df the1 Government endeavours to import into these powers the ‘bias of political opinions or political designs, I shall not be a party to it, arid shall register my protest in. the ‘only possible way.
– Hear, hear ! I am afraid that you will’ have to follow my example.
Mr.WATT. - If it is necessary’ for me to follow ‘the honorable member’s example I shallgo from the home of freedom to the -city of refuge, and not to the house of ‘bondage. [Extension of time granted.]
No new policywill be imported into the administration of this Act unless it be under a new, unforeseen, and grave national emergency. There “will be a gradual removal, as quickly as possible, of censorship conditions, guarded only by tie conditions I have already discussed in relation to the alliances of the British nation and -Australia’s interests in them, and the respect that must be- paid to the integrity of our public credit as affected by our borrowing and the state of our finances. There will be a steady removal of the interference with commerce and production, and we shall be guided as to time in our tendency in that direction by the gradual restoration of normal and calm conditions. Honorable members may accept the assurance that the Government are not - speaking of the Government as an amalgamation, and all that that implies - wedded on economic or political grounds to the perpetuation of the price-fixing theory. I look forward to the time, if the House concedes or authorizes this extension, when, as early as possible in the new year, Parliament will be asked to meet to legislate, not only for the repeal of this Act, but also for the supersession of it by definite measures, which ‘ will control the interests that yet remain to be controlled. If it is not possible to do this entirely, we shall do it within the ambit of our authority, and will seek to arrange the co-operation and assistance of the States towards that end. During the recess we will take the earliest opportunity that the deliberations at the Peace table will allow us to take to achieve that end.
I hope that I have succeeded in removing some of the misapprehensions that have been encouraged in the press of this country in regard to the ambitions which the Government have in ‘seeking an extension of these powers. I assure honorable members solemnly and emphatically that we do not desire a perpetuation of them for a minute longer than is absolutely necessary in the material and national interests of this country, and that if this authority is given to us we shall observe with care the undertakings we have given, and call Parliament together as soon as it is permissible for it to act in order to discharge the functions of maintenance and guardianship to which I have referred.
– We knew that the honorable gentleman would make out a good case from his stand-point, but he has not satisfied me. I have never ‘been in favour of the War Precautions Act as it developed. We always understood that it was to be used for the defence of the country only. Bay after day for a whole week the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was then Attorney-General in the Fisher Government, went out of his way . to assure the House that the Act would never be used for any other purpose than the welfare of the community. When he sought to amend the original Act by strengthening it, I remember putting up a “ stone-wall “ with the assistance of several honorable members, and Mr. Fisher agreed to an adjournment of the debate. His Attorney-General used all his powers of persuasion to impress upon us that it was necessary to pass the amending Bill in the interests of the defence of the Empire. Notwithstanding all these assurances, from start to finish the measure has been used for political purposes. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) tells us that he will not use it for political purposes, and he may mean what he says, but there are men associated with him who have sat behind the Government which did use it for those purposes. The country has been governed by regulations since about September, 1916, and even prior to that date the Act was administered in a manner that I could not agree with. There is no doubt the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made full use of the power given to him during the two conscription referenda and during the last general election. He used it for the purpose of downing his political opponents. He is still Prime Minister, and if he returns will again control the Ministerial party. I have yet to learn that when the whip is cracked the members of that party will not fall in behind him as they did before. To all intents and purposes, the war is finished; recruiting throughput the Allied countries has ceased; other war preparations are at an end.’ Yet we are told that it is essential to continue this Act, leaving the Government still in possession of its powers, which they may exercise as they did in the past. The principal reason given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) for the continuance of the Act was that he desired the moratorium to be extended, so that commercial and financial stability may be maintained, and a crisis averted. Members on this side of the House are willing to accept a Bill that will confer that power, because we know that the workers, whom we represent, will feel the ill-effects of a financial crisis to a greater extent than the capitalistic section of the community. But more than that is proposed by the Government. The War Precautions Act is still to be available for the censorship and suppression of free speech, and for use for political purposes generally. The Acting Prime Minister has given no assurance that it will not be used in the suppression of free speech and writing. We hear a great deal about the Yarra-bank and the Sydney Domain, and we are told that it is necessary to use the Act for the purpose of suppressing some of the speeches made there. To my mind, those places are the safety valve of the nation.
– The safety valve was shifted last night.
– The people who demonstrated last night did no harm. The trouble has been magnified. Theirs was merely a peaceful demonstration by people who think the present position is intolerable; it was an emphatic protest against the continuance of the Act, and was not a revolt in any sense of the word. Are Government -supporters afraid of the argument of the Socialists? Do they admit that, with all their- oratory, backed by the power of the capitalistic press, they cannot refute the socialistic arguments? If they say it is essential to maintain the War Precautions Act in order to suppress such arguments, they admit that the continuance of the Act is desired for political purposes. The Acting Prime Minister said that the Act was used only for the preservation of the country. Surely it is possible to so amend the Act that it cannot be used for political purposes, as it has been in the past ! It was used to win the 1917 election; it was used to induce an affirmative vote in the referenda. The Prime Minister unblushingly operated the Act at all times. Under its powers he went so far as to bring into existence a Commonwealth police force, in order to overawe the State police, so strong was his desire to down Labour opponents. His administration of the Act was governed by a spirit of bitterness and a damnable intention to defeat those of his former associates who did not agree with him. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have placed us all in durance vile if he had thought it wise to do so. The Government propose to continue that extreme power. The Acting Prime Minister has said that if, notwithstanding his promise, the Act is used for political purposes, only one course of action will be open to him. But he is only one man; he may resign, but the Act will continue. We on this side are not simpletons. We know that, the great persuasive effort made by the Acting Prime Minister tonightwas not an appeal to the Opposition; it was an effort to appease the minds of those members on the Ministerial benches who are faltering in their support to the Government in this regard. Both in the House and in the press we have seen convincing evidence that certain honorable members on the Government side, for purposes that no doubt are fair from the point of view of the people they represent, desire that the War Precautions Act shall be wiped off the statute-book. One could count at least 20 Government supporters who are restless under that Act, and who feel that it has been applied in directions in which, it was never intended to apply.
– A good many of us think that several of the Boards that have been created under the Act should be dissolved immediately.
– Exactly. One of the matters principally concerning honorable members opposite is the fixation of prices. The Acting Prime Minister said that he does not believe in price fixing. Neither do I believe in the system as it was operated by the present Government; it was a muddle from start to finish. Take the case of the dairyman : He knew that whilst the price of his butter was fixed by the Government, the scoundrel who sold him a motor separator could charge £50 or £60 for an article that was not worth £25. Naturally, he resented the price of his commodity being fixed whilst the prices of the articles he had to purchase were not regulated at all. If the price of machinery, clothing, and boots had been regulated in the same way as the price of butter was, he would not have experienced any injustice from the fixation of prices. We know that, in regard to that activity honorable members opposite are seriously concerned about the continuation of the War Precautions Act, but it is quite possible that the Acting Prime Minister has relieved their minds, and satisfied them to such an extent that when the party whip is cracked they will vote with him to . place this Bill . on the statute-book. Will not every, honorable member in the House admit that the War Precautions Act has been used with passion, spite, and spleen? We know . that the Socialistic and Labour press is not able to reprint an article which the capitalistic ..press may print every day. Unfairness , of that kind hurts. Yet we are told that the Act is not desired for political purposes. Are honorable members opposite afraid of the Socialist’s written, arguments, as well as his spoken arguments ? Do . they fear that unless those arguments, are suppressed the people will leave the Government and join the Socialistic army ? The suppression of literature is alarming. Works on -economics and industrialism, the perusal of which could not possibly be. dangerous to the Empire, works which the community should have an opportunity of reading, are, prohibited from . circulation. In the course of the deputation which . interviewed the Acting Prime Minister today, Mr . Ross, the editor of the. Socialist newspaper, . submitted a list of economic and industrial works that have been suppressed. And even the Acting Prime Minister had to . admit that the prohibition of some of- . them seemed to. . him peculiar. The Leader of the Government assured the House that the Act will be used only to insure , the financial stability of the . country, and to protect . our relationship with our Allies’ Why should the Labour press be prevented from placing before the, people the peculiar position we occupy in relation . to our . Allies, whilst the capitalistic press is allowed to publish day after day alarming . statements about the commercial relationships of Britain and America, and Britain and Japan? After all, the only thing to be considered in international affairs is commerce. I am fearful that at the Peace Conference something will, be done which will be detrimental to the interests of the
Australian people. : Surely we . are a free people; surely we should be allowed to express our opinions, and . protect those whom we represent, by saying that, in our opinion, certain . action by our Allies, or the decisions of the Peace Conference, will . bear harshly on , the wage-earning section of the community. Surely we . are justified in using the press and the platform for discussion of that kind. What is the position in regard , to the vexed question of an indemnity ? If the Allies determine to . extract from. Germany a huge indemnity for . the damage that has been caused, in : what form will it be paid? No honorable member will assert that Germany, can pay an . indemnity . in gold. How, then, can it be paid, except in commerce ? If the Germans are to pay the indemnity in goods, what is to become of the industries of our own country, and the employees engaged in them, if they have to compete with the wholesale imports from German factories? I represent the largest industrial division in Australia, a district teeming with factories. If the , Peace Conference decides that, owing to the impossibility of getting an indemnity in gold from Germany, the payment must be made in kind, . our markets will be. thrown- open . to the manufactures of Germany. If that is done, the men and women who returned me to Parliament, must . suffer. If I . were to declare from a public platform that our Allies had, agreed to such, terms to suit their . own . interests,- I should be proceeded against . under the War Precautions Act.
– Is the honorable member in favour of paymentof ..an indemnity ?
– I am not in favour of the payment of an indemnity under conditions, that would practically . mean starvation for the . people , of my constituency. If the. Peace Conference determined upon the payment. of an indemnity under conditions that would mean the importation . of manufactured commodities from Germany into Australia in order that, that indemnity might be paid,. I . should not be in favour of . it, since I- do not want my constituents to be . thrown out of work. If we can require. the payment of an indemnity in . such a way that those who were responsible for the war will suffer, well and good; but I do not want, our own people to suffer. Of one of our Allies, we are scarcely allowed to speak. We dare not whisper of its activities. Yet we know that, from an industrial stand -point, it is a menace to us. I could enumerate- many ways in respect of which it is a menace to Australia.
Honorable members know the difficulty to which I am alluding, and to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on more than one occasion referred to while the war was in progress. Now that the war is over, are we not to be allowed to discuss it ?
– I would not be allowed to speak in the honorable member’s electorate.
– The Government which the honorable member supports has passed regulations ‘ which prevent my speaking in a public street. .
– A member of our party was stoned in the honorable mem-, ber’s electorate.
– If he ‘was it must have been because of the indignation of some of my constituents at the treatment to which the Labour party has been subjected by the Government:
Then, again, are the Government afraid of the distribution of Socialistic literature, or of the Oratory of the Yarrabanker and the Domainite? If they think the arguments of such ‘ men are irrefutable, they should say so straight out! We know, however, that the Government party have speakers trained to refute the arguments of their opponents, and that they also have the support of the press.
– The press are unanimously against this Bill.
– The Age is certainly opposed to it. Have not the Government sufficient power to beat down the arguments of the people they are trying to suppress without resorting to the War Precautions Act? We are told! that if a. man dares to express his feelings on the Yarra-bank concerning certain matters, it is essential for the safety of the community that he should be gaoled. The Government should, be ashamed of the stand they have taken up. Consider for a moment the regulation in regard to the flying of the red flag. I have no great admiration for a man who is always waving the red flag any more than I have for the man who is constantly waving the Union Jack.
– But the honorable member prefers the Union Jack.
– When I see a man waving the Union Jack, as the honorable member, was during the armistice celebrations, I doubt his patriotism; The honorable member could hot walk down a street, or a lane, without waving the Union Jack.
– The honorable member does not doubt my patriotism.
– The honorable member favours the Union Jack because, under it, he has been allowed to pile up wealth. That ‘is the only use he has for it. There is a vast difference between the flying of a national and a political flag. The red flag is not a national, but a political flag. -If I wish to fly a’ political flag, why should I not be permitted to do so?
– I think the ‘red flag is a religious flag.
– It was carried by the early Christians, but when certain’ sections of the wage-earning community chose to adopt it as a political flag, they were not’ allowed to fly it. No one can give a solid reason against the flying of the red flag over the’ Trades Hall or the Socialist Hall. The opposition to it comes largely from spite. It is imagined by some people that the workers may rally under it to oppose some particular form of government. I doubt the man who is always waving the red flag just as I doubt the patriotism of the man who is always flaunting the Union Jack in your face. If I desire to fly the red flag as the International flag of liberty, why should I not be allowed to do so? The star-spangled banner was at one time a rebel flag. -.
– And it was an offence to whistle “ The Marseillaise.”
– Many a man was beheaded for singing it. And yet to-day if . we attend a patriotic gathering, we hear a band playing “ God Save the King,” we see the Union Jack being
waved, and we hear the people singing “The Marseillaise,” the tune to which the Bastille was attacked. Why should there be any objection to the flying of the red flag?
– Because’ some people are trying to steal the Salvation Army’s thunder.
– That is no crime. In Australia- to-day there are many men -and women awaiting trial for holding up the red flag. Will the regulation under which the flying of the red flag over the Trades Hall is prohibited do any service to the Empire? The question is often put, as if it were a poser, “ Would you prefer to live under the red flag or the Union Jack?” A flag is only an emblem, something to rally round. Yet, to hear some persons speak, one might think that it was a sacred entity, not a mere piece of bunting. “Chummy” Fleming, no doubt, has the feeling for his red flag that many persons have for the Union Jack. I was born and reared under the Union Jack, and until I was twelve years old sang “ God Save the King “ ten times a day. What is meant by the Empire is not ‘the territory of Great Britain and her Dominions, the broad acres and palatial residences, but the people that inhabit the countries that make up the Empire. Why, then, all this slobbering about the Empire and the flag? If you slobber about the Empire and the flag, why not allow some one else to take to their bosom the red flag ? It is not a rival of the Union Jack.
– They do not go together.
– Unfortunately, no. Had the Union Jack been what it should have been, there . would be no need for the red flag.
– What is wrong with the Union Jack?
– Under the Union Jack, there are millions starving. That is what is wrong with it.
– How do they get on under the red flag ?
– Under the red flag, they would collar the honorable member’s sheep and cattle.
– And cut every one’s throat.
– I ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) not to interrupt, and I appeal to members generally to observe the rules of debate in regard to interjections.
– I apologize.
– The red flag is not used as a national flag; it is a political flag. I am ashamed of some of those whom I see carrying the Union Jack, and speaking at public meetings. It is bad enough in war time, but in peace time it is worse. The way in which His Majesty is referred to by the flag-waggera must be an abomination to him. They give him the credit for having won the war, for having lost his family there, and for paying for the war. I have heard men, when being presented with a snuff-box, or some such article, -referred to as though they were angels, though the men themselves would have liked to hide their heads. I can imagine the Kin? wanting to go behind a screen and laugh at the slobber that is made over him. Those who do not slobber are looked on as disloyal. That is not fair.
– I ask the honorable member not to import the name of the Sovereign into the debate.
– I am defending the King. I shall not be guilty of any disloyal utterance, or irreverence, so far as he is concerned.
– It is against the Standing Orders to use the name of the King or his representative for the purpose of influencing debate.
– Then I shall not say anything further on that subject.
Why is it proposed to extend the operation of the War Precautions Act? Have the Government anything up their sleeve? Do they know of something that is likely to arise during the next six months, apart from the financial difficulty ? If so, why not tell us ? The fact that the Acting Prime Minister’s speech was directed towards the appeasing of his supporters led me to believe that the Government know something. The cabled reports from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) as to the position, and the way they have been received, makes me think that they expect some peculiar situation. They know that the wageearning section of the community and its representatives will object to any encroachment on their liberties. If this is the reason for which we are asked to extend the operation of the Act, we should be told that it is. If not, why continue the censorship of literature, and why deny the people the right to fly the red . flag? Are the Government fearful that what has occurred in Russia, in middle Europe, in Luxemburg, and in Roumania may occur across the Channel, and, eventually, in Australia? Do they think that the uprising of the workers which has occurred in the countries I have mentioned will be followed by a similar uprising here?
– The people responsible for the disturbances are not workers; they are murderers.
– The honorable member, on occasion, would like to be known as a worker; but I cannot say that he is one in the sense in which I use the word. The position in Great Britain to-day is very peculiar, and if it becomes more acute, I suppose it will be necessary for the Government here to suppress any manifestation of sympathy by the workers of Australia with the workers of Great Britain and Ireland. Do the Government believe that when the rights of the small nations are being considered, the claims of a small nation associated with the British Empire will make the situation complex? Are they fearful that the Irish people may demand their independence, and that that may bring about trouble because of the people of Australia taking action in support of them, which it will be necessary to suppress under the War Precautions Act? Are those here, and in Great Britain, who for years have been talking about the liberty of the people, going to deny to a small nation which is part of the Empire the rights which they are ready to give to other small nations ? Are they fearful that there may be trouble over the matter, which they want power to suppress? Are they fearful that when the armies get back to England, Ireland, and Scotland, the 2,300,000 women who during the war have been doing work that is usually done by men, will decline to go back to domestic service and farm work, and that that will cause trouble, because the men who have been displaced will demand reinstatement in the positions which they left. to fight to keep the Empire intact ? Are they afraid ‘ of the sympathy of the workers of Australia, and is it their intention to suppress all utterances that might be made on the position ? That is what I believe.
– The honorable member speaks more in sorrow than in anger.
– I do. I want to suppress it all if possible. I see no hope in Great Britain, . and less in Australia. We talk of repatriation, but it will not meet the situation. There is bound to be industrial trouble here, and if the workers of Australia are imposed on, they should have the right to express their opinions. Under the War Precautions Act, they could not do so. If the Goernment want the Act only for the reasons given to us, why not amend it? The Acting Prime Minister took advantage of his position. No man likes to say to another who puts a case in the way that he put it this afternoon, that he does not believe him; but the only guarantee that we have is that he will not retain his position if things are not as he says. That is no guarantee to us that the Act will not be put into operation in a manner which we think is improper.
– I do not think he said he would take a risk of that kind.
– He said, emphatically, that if the Act were used for political purposes, he would not continue in his present position; but there are degrees of political use.
– This kind’ of thing is going on under his nose.
– Of ‘ course, it is. The censorship has been handed over to certain gentlemen, who use it as they like. It is well known that the Labour press is not allowed to print articles which the capitalistic press is allowed to’ print. It cannot even re-print articles which have appeared in the capitalistic press. Take the case of the Socialist. That is a paper which occasionally derides me, though I would not regard that as a reason for suppressing it. No country was ever successful which tried to suppress a race over which it was dominant, and no religion was ever kept back by suppression. No community can live in which free expression of opinion is not allowed. We all have our duties >to perform; and I would not inflict personal punishment on any honorable member opposite, though, of course, I would beat him politically if I could. I take that attitude because I am satisfied that my trying to punish any one in any other way would prove of no avail. The moment you try to suppress an opponent you present him with his strongest weapon.
– The newspapers you are defending are most unfair.
– Papers that I am defending! If any newspapers desire to attack me, they have a perfect, right to do so. There is one important point, however, and that is that the arguments of the socialistic press are unanswerable - their contentions about the rottenness of the present economic system are irre- futable.
– Would you give those newspapers licence to lie about it?
– This Bill is taking power to lie about members on this side who are to be suppressed by its operation. In one breath the Government and their supporters suppress a newspaper or speaker, and, in the next breath, they say that those they suppress are only a few. If there are only a few, what do their expressions matter? If their arguments are good and sound, they ought to be allowed to express them; and, if they are bad, I say again that they do not matter. I may say that I differ considerably from the opinions of the socialistic press, not because their arguments are unsound, but because I believe they are in advance of the people, and- it is useless to create an economic system for which the people are not ripe. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), with all his power of debate, cannot refute the arguments of the militant section of the community, though, like myself, he may doubt the ripeness of civilization for accepting their logical result. That is the only argument that can be used against the position taken up by the socialistic press. Are honorable members opposite satisfied that the conditions-of civilization are perfect - or what they ought to be?
– Certainly not ; and we are always trying to improve them.
– Is it good civilization to give a man power to horsewhip another man?
– Under the Union Jack hundreds of men have been hanged and shot. Why suppress those who desire to go more quickly along the road of reform than we do ourselves? While the war was on, some reasons, though they might be very thin, could be advanced for the War Precautions Act. The war is over now, and what does it matter if these newspapers print untruths all day long? Will written matter of the kind shake the foundations of our civilization, or “ interfere with recruiting “ ? Can it draw on us the enmity of any of our Allies? Would it impose any disability on the Government if I, in my representative capacity, were to express my opinion of all our Allies? Not at all. If a portion of the community in Australia expressed the opinion that it is desirable in some way to circumscribe the actions and desires of our Allies, why should the latter take any objection?
– But what if they do ?
– In America to-day there are differences of opinion, and a section is trying, for certain reasons, to remove President Wilson. Further, in America, France, Japan, and other countries, newspapers “write down” Britain ; but does Britain object? Has she any right to object? There is greater freedom of speech in Britain to-day than there is in Australia. If I desire to express what I believe the people of Australia desire the Peace Conference to do in regard to certain interests of Australia, I have a perfect right to do so, and it will not trammel the British representatives at that Conference.
– What influence would it have on the Peace Conference ?
– None whatever.
– Then what is the good of expressing the opinion?
-That has. ever been the argument ‘of the enemy of progress- - what is the use- of trying, for the effort can only fail? That is the argument that was used when Labour first sought to get representation in Parliament ; but the time came’ when Labour had an enormous majority ; and the same argument applies to some of the democratic ideals of the movement. I do not trust the Government under the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), any more than I would the Government under the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). In the past, passion has been the motive of certain actions by- the Government,and’ so it will be in the future when necessity, or imagined necessity, causes the Government to put the Act into operation.
I desire to deal with the constitutional phase of the question, not as a constitutional lawyer, but as a common-sense person. The High Court ruled that, under the Constitution, certain legislation we passed, or desired to pass, was ultra vires, and we all remember that there was’ an appeal to that Court on the pricefixing question. In my view, the decision of the Court was to the effect, “We are at war, and all machinery necessary for the safety of the country should be used during the war.” As I said, I am not a lawyer, but I can read between the lines as well as anybody else; and I believe that there are some constitutional lawyers in this country who disagree with that ruling of the High Court. Now, however, the war is over, and when peace is signed, where is the constitutional power in our “ thirtynine articles “ for legislating as we are tonight? If we, in peace time, had no power to place certain legislation on the statute-book, we have no power to continue the War Precautions Act now that the was is over.
– We are living under martial law.
– Which is no law; and we have no fight to be living under war regulations now that the war is over. It is a blot on the Union Jack, and a menace to the Empire, to continue what is not constitutional for political purposes.
– When the original War Precautions Bill was before us, I was one who took the view that the powers asked for were too large, but, for the protection of Australia, I, with others, swallowed what we deemed” to- be extreme- powers in order to prevent, a . direct menace in this country. I say now that if the war. were not over I would not be found speaking and voting as I intend to speak and vote on this Bill. While the war was on, the first considera-r lion was the protection of Australia and the safety of the Empire, and: no one knew from, week to week for four long years what would be the absolute end of the war. The war, however, is now over ; and it is of no use saying that it will not be over till peace is signed. - Germany today is prostrate as, perhaps, no great nation was ever prostrate before a conqueror. Her whole fleet has gone, together with all her colonies, and she now consists of scattered remnants of people, as she was before the Hohenzollerns. created out of a mass of atoms the huge German Empire. To-day Germany is more helpless and hopeless than- any country has ever been after a great war. The war being over, the earlier we return to normal conditions in Australia the better it will be for us. I had the opportunity of conferring with, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) when, he was Treasurer, and when tie moratorium power was first introduced, and I am confident that it saved thousands of homes in Australia from passing into the hands of financial operators. I agree now with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that if we were to remove that power and give freedom of action in regard to the enormous numbers of mortgages there are in existence, in the most congested condition that the money market of this country has ever been in, it would spell ruin to half the people of Australia. Our wool has to be delivered under certain conditions, and it would make confusion worse confounded if the unfortunate Wheat Pool were to be suddenly abandoned, but outside four of the Boards referred, to by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in one of the ablest speeches he has ever delivered in this House there are thirty others, and certainly two of them, the Shipping Board and the Mineral Board, should not last a day longer than is necessary.
The whole of the trading conditions of Australia are now in the hands of a Shipping Board, which consists of the managers of the companies interested. I propose to quote a statement made by a gentleman who has been seeking to open up a new trade which has been a necessity in Australia for many years past. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has expressed the opinion that the people of Queensland are quite satisfied in regard to the continuance of the powers given by the War Precautions Act. That may be true in regard to some parts of Queensland, but there are many people in that .State who cannot feel satisfied with the action that was taken by the Shipping Board to stifle the direct trade between Tasmania and Queensland. I shall vouch for the truthfulness of the gentleman who has furnished the statement which I propose to read. Queensland is our most tropical State, and Tasmania -is the State which lias the most temperate climate. The people of Tasmania are sadly in need of a market for their potatoes and fruit, and Queensland is sadly in need of a market for some of its products. However, as far back as T. can remember, it ° has not been possible to ship a ton of pro- duce direct from Tasmania to Queensland. Delicate cargo in the shape of potatoes and apples shipped from Tasmania to Queensland has had to be dumped on to the Sydney wharf, trampled on, and exposed to all sorts of weather conditions before being transferred to another steamer on the Queensland trade. The so-called honorable understanding amongst” shipping companies did not permit of a ‘ steamer trading to the north entering into competition with steamers trading to the south, and vice versa. But knowing that a direct trade could ‘be obtained which would be of enormous advantage to both Tasmania and Queensland, a new company came into existence and started the s.s. Merimbula to run direct between Tas- mania and Queensland. It was not until four months later, on the 12th August last, that the application was granted by the Shipping Board. The statement which has been furnished to me says -
The application was to run from Hobart to Brisbane via Sydney and Melbourne, and from Brisbane to Hobart via Sydney and Melbourne! Consent was given to run from Hobart to Brisbane direct and return *via** Sydney - not Melbourne, coming south.
They absolutely dictated the route which this boat was to follow.
Reason given for not allowing Merimbula to call at Melbourne was that Larannah was running from Melbourne to Hobart practically empty. Experience has shown that to make the trade successful Sydney must be a port of call.
The direct trade between Tasmania and Queensland was not sufficient to fill the boat. The vessel had to take a portion of its cargo on top for Sydney, and then take on the balance to Queensland without transhipping it. The Merimbula will not carry more than 500 tons, but on the last trip between Brisbane and Hobart she managed to lift 700 tons by carrying cargo from Brisbane to Sydney, and then loading up again with a full cargo to Hobart. After she had been running for a very short time, the following letter, dated the 2nd October, was sent to the charterers : -
With reference to my letter of 12th August, addressed to Messrs. R. S. Couche and Co., giving permission for this vessel to trade between Brisbane and Hobart, advices I have “received show that there is an accumulation of cargo to be lifted between Sydney and Brisbane, and unless the tonnage available can clear away this cargo shortly, it may be necessary for me to direct the s.s. Merimbula to enter that .trade.
I advise you of the foregoing in order that you make arrangements accordingly.
That letter was signed by the Controller of Shipping. The reply, after acknowledging the receipt of Admiral Clarkson’s communication, proceeds to say -
I should like to point out, however, that, since the Merimbula has been running she has each trip lifted a very fair parcel of cargo from Sydney to Brisbane.
In the Sydney-Brisbane trade solely it would be a very difficult matter to make this vessel pay, owing to the absence of back freight from Brisbane to Sydney, except timber, for which the ship is entirely unsuitable.
I put these suggestions forward with all due respect, and merely with the desire to be of assistance, as I feel that my experience with this vessel in the Inter-State trade gives me the knowledge of her many peculiarities and disadvantages.
Shortly afterwards the Merimbula was taken off the trade. She was commandeered at Sydney after making a full trip. There was a strike in Western Australia, and the Rotomahana, which had been running between Tasmania and Melbourne, was taken off that trade and put on the Western Australian trade, while the Merimbula was put on the Melbourne to Tasmania run in her place, notwithstanding the fact that the Oonah, which was lying at Melbourne awaiting her annual overhaul, could have been made use of. I am informed- on good authority that as the engineers were on strike, there was nothing to prevent the Oonah from being put on the Melbourne to Tasmania trade instead of the Merimbula. In a reply given by the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) to a question submitted by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) on the 6th November last, the Minister said -
The Merimbula was subsequently chartered by a Sydney firm, and … as expected, after a few weeks’ trial, she has proved unsuitable, and has been returned to her owners.
To my own personal knowledge, that last statement was absolutely untrue.
– I had a telegram from those people saying that they lost £1,000.
– I have seen figures which showed that they made a very substantial profit on the last trip.
– Then they must be lovely liars. I can produce a copy of the telegram from those who chartered the boat.
– The statement has been made to me by a man whose word I accept absolutely. He gave me full authority to use it, and this is what he says -
We had opened up a successful trade which was rapidly increasing.
The boat was taken off because it was commandeered in Sydney Harbor. It is no good putting her back again on the trade, because if a vessel is commandeered and placed on another route for two or three trips, we cannot expect the people running her to go back and pick up their former trade, especially as it was a new trade. Further, they can give no guarantee that the boat will not again be com. mandeered. These people were fighting the biggest combine Australia has yet seen, the Australian Shipping Ring; they were prepared to begin a trade which none of the existing companies would touch.
Knowing something of the relations existing between the shipping companies and the public in the State of Tasmania, I urged the Minister, when the Shipping Board was formed, to add to it two honorable memibers from each side of the House. I was prepared to allow the managers of the companies every privilege and prerogative, and to utilize their business experience and shipping knowledge, but I was anxious to deprive them of the autocratic power vested in them by the War Precautions Act, and to protect the public by adding to the Board two honorable members from each side of the House. In fact, I held up the Estimates at 3 o’clock in the morning, urging the Treasurer to accept my suggestion. He promised that it would ‘ be taken into ‘consideration, but nothing has been done in that direction. In March an arrangement was made between the Government and the shipping companies, by which the Government chartered their boats at a certain price per ton, but the House had no opportunity of considering the arrangement. Subsequently, in November, I think, the Government altered that arrangement, and increased the price they would pay. Again the House had no opportunity to consider that. Of course, the law provides that every regulation shall be laid upon the table of the House, and that within a certain time its disallowance may be moved. But ordinary conditions have not prevailed, and it has been quite impossible for any honorable member to secure a discussion of any regulation, or anything else, unless he moved a vote of want of confidence in the Government! We have been meet-; ing ‘under war conditions, and have had one continuous session since the present Parliament was elected. There has been no prorogation of Parliament; the House has simply adjourned from time to time; In that’ respect the Government were quite right: It was essential for them to have power to call Parliament together at any time should the’ necessity arise. But, in’ order . to enable the session to be concluded, we passed a resolution depriving private members of their right to bring forward motions on one day of the week. The: session has never been concluded. Some notices have been on the business-paper’ for nearly, two years, and, although the law provides that every regulation shall be laid upon the table for discussion, if necessary, the House has been powerless’ to get a discussion on any War Precautions regulation.
Consider the position of the Mineral Board. Questions have been asked in this House, and replies given, which show a most unsatisfactory state of things.For this matter the Government are not responsible, because they had no authority over it; that fact makes the position still more unsatisfactory to this House. Under the powers possessed by the Imperial Government one firm was appointed to be the only buyer of tin in Australia. There was a gop’d reason for that. The Imperial Government needed all the tin, and we were quite prepared to submit to that restriction on its sale. But Elder, Smith, and Company refuse to buy any longer, and the tin producers are in the unfortunate position, that, the only authorized purchaser of. their commodity will not buy. That is a state of affairs that should not exist, and I am sure that the Government do not wish it to continue. I repeat that the sooner we get back to normal conditions, the better it will be for the trading community. There are some powers which the Government must retain. I have pointed out some respects in which it is necessary for the Government to continue the powers they now possess, in order to avoid chaos and ruin. That is particularly the case in regard . to’ moratorium and ‘other financial regulations:
– Why do not the Government ask for those powers?
– That, is; precisely my contention.
-If the other powers in. the Act are’ not used,, what harm can result;?
-I have ‘ already referred to what has happened in. connexion with the Merimbula , and, also the sale of tin. Will any ‘honorable member say that it is necessary for the protection of Australia,, militarily, financially; socially, or politically, that we should continue the thirty-four Boards which are operating to-day under the War Precautions Act?
– The Government ‘ are not bound to continue these: Boards, even if the duration of the Act is extended.
– My conviction is that when the Government create any Boards or other authorities, and invest them with certain powers and interests, those interests extend and become accentuated ; and I am as sure as ‘I am standing here that, difficult though it’ would be to shed some of those . boards now, it will be infinitely more difficult to shed them twelve months hence. ‘ Their ramifications will extend, and there is inherent in human nature a lust for power.
– It is not necessary to repeal the Act to do away with the Boards.
– When the Labour Government placed’ on the statute-book the War Precautions Act, the country was at ‘war, and we deemed it. necessary for the safety of Australia that wide power should be given- to the Government. The Government handed over certain powers and privileges which belonged to Parliament and the Execu^ tive to . created Boards to do the work which this Parliament was elected to do, and for which it ought to be constitutionally responsible. But Parliament does not exist to-day in the constitutional focus in which it- was created. Practically all its powers are subordinate to the War Precautions Act. If conditions were normal, there would . be a safeguard in the fact that, any regulation tabled in the House could be discussed, but that power has disappeared, and, in order . to discuss any regulation promulgated by one of these Boards, no matter how wise or . unwise . it may be, only one course is open, and that is to move a direct vote of want. of . confidence in the Government. The moving of the adjournment of the House in order to discuss these matters is a farce. As was pointed out in the House of Commons ; nearly a century ago, moving the adjournment . of the House is the action of a dog that can bark but cannot bite. An honorable member may move the adjournment as often as he chooses; the allotted time is talked out, and there is no tangible result.
I urge upon the Government that there is no necessity for this Bill at the present time. There is not the slightest chance of peace being proclaimed before Parliament is in session again. The Peace Conference will deal with by far the most complicated and extensive convention the world has ever seen. The issues it must settle are world-wide in their influence and significance, . and, havingregard to the existing conditions in Germany, it is quite safe to say, as the Acting Prime Minister admitted, that many months must elapse before absolute finality is reached at the Peace table. But till that date, however remote, the present Act will remain in force. Even if peace does come suddenly, the Act will continue for six months afterwards, and then if there should be need for a further extension, why should not Parliament be called together to deal with the subject? From one end of Australia to the other, in all shades of political thought, there is a strong . and growing opinion that the earlier Australia returns to normal conditions, commercially and politically, the better it will be.
– Everybody believes that.
– Then why renew the War Precautions Act for another twelve months ?
– Does thehonorable member think that we shall return to normal conditions at once if we suddenly dispense with the Act?
– We shall return to normal conditions if the Government introduce a Bill conferring upon them those powers which every honorable member believes ought to be given to them, and if they shed immediately the whole of the thirty-four Boards which now govern the commercial life of the Commonwealth.
– Have wethe constitutional power to control the whole of those activities after the War Precautions Act has ceased to operate ?
– My personal opinion is that we have not. In my experience, a lawyer is not the best constitutional authority. A careful reading of the Federal Convention delates shows that the Constitution is the result of a splendid combination of the minds of the lawyer and the practical politician, and I think it has been admitted to be one of the best Constitutions that ever emanated from any Conference. My opinion is that the moment peace is declared we shall return to our normal constitutional powers, and any authority sought in excess of them must be obtained from the people in the way prescribed by the Constitution. At any rate, I sincerely hope that is so. It would be intolerable that a majority in this House should persist in unconstitutional practices and methods by continuing the War Precautions Act, no matter how laudable may have been the purpose for which it was passed. I am certain that the wisest course for the Government to adopt is not to proceed with the Bill in its present form, but to bring down another measure setting forth clearly the powers they deem necessary to be continued. If they do that, I think they will have the full . support of practically every member of the House. But it is unthinkable that they should continue the thirty-four Boards now existing.
– They have done remarkably good work.
– Some of them have.
– None has done better than the Shipping Board.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– They all have been influenced by self-interest.
– The interjection reminds me that when the Merimbula started in the Inter-State trade an order was issued by the coal vendors, who are also the shipping owners, that the price of coal to Inter-State sbips should be increased 3s. per ton. To all the other vessels on the Tasmanian coast that increase was not to apply, and so far as I can ascertain, the only ship to pay the extra price was the Merimbula.
– That is the . Board which we are told has done the best work.
– Exactly. The trade opened up by the Merimbula enabled the fruit-growers of the south, and potato-growers of the North-West Coast, of Tasmania to get direct communication with Queensland without the transhipment of their produce in Sydney. That trade, however, has been absolutely killed as the result of the action of the Shipping Board.
– The man who took it up was very glad to get out of it.
– I contradict that assertion. I have made the statement
– But have not given the name of your authority.
-I can do so. My authority is Captain Rowe, of Hobart, whose word I would accept in preference to that of any member of the Shipping Board. Will the Minister give the House the name of the man who advised Admiral Clarkson to commandeer the Merimbula?
– I will; butI cannot give it here.
– The Minister challenged me, and I accepted his challenge. He should be able to give us the information for which I ask. He came here armed with a statement which I assert is untrue.
– It is not untrue.
– I say that it is.
– i prefer to accept Admiral Clarkson’s statement of the matter. He knows all about it, whereas the honorable member does not.
– What does he know about the matter? What authority has he for the statement he makes? Captain, Rowe was one of the charterers of the Merimbula, and he says that the trade was a paying one. He has shown me a statement of receipts and expenditure, disclosing a very nice profit on the last trip. The charterers of the Merimbula were quite “satisfied with their venture, and would not have taken her off the trade, although she entered upon it at the worst part of the year, since it is in the fruit season that the real trade between Tasmania and Queensland commences. Admiral Clarkson threatened to take her off this trade to run between Sydney and Brisbane. The Shipping Board ran her for two trips to Tasmania, and then threw her back again. Meantime, this trade had gone. The charterers did not have other vessels to take up the running, and when the Merimbula was commandeered in Sydney Harbor, while engaged in the direct trade between Tasmania and Queensland, that trade was at once lost.
– Where did it go?
– Back to the “ ring.” Cargo has once more to be carried from. Hobart to Sydney, where it is dumped on to the wharf and shipped by another vessel to Queensland.
– Who constitute the “ ring “ ?
– i refer to the Shipping Ring.
– It is a shame. Queensland wants potatoes and apples from Tasmania, and cannot get them.
– There is not a man in Queensland who will deny that this direct line of communication was an advantage to both that State and Tasmania. i have given some of the reasons why I think the Bill should not pass in its present for:,.’. In the interests of Australia, politically, commercially, and socially, . we should return as soon as possible to normal trading conditions. The price-fixing operations of the Government have not been satisfactory. Prices were fixed in respect of most commodities used by the primary producers, but the people of the cities were allowed to fleece the producers as much as they pleased. Price-fixing, to be successful, must be as largely universal as possible, and I venture to think that the experiment has been such that we shall not find many very anxious in future to resort to it. In conclusion, I urge the Government not to proceed with this Bill at the present time. If, during the recess, they go thoroughly into the whole question, and bring forward a Bill setting out clearly the precise powers that they desire to retain, and the Boards that they wish to continue, I will give it my support.
.- I purpose reviewing the proposed extension of the great powers which the Government have enjoyed under the War Precautions Act, and have used so effectively during the last few years. The Attorney-General, in moving the second reading of this Bill some little time since, made a speech from which it appeared that, from the Government point of view, everything would be all right. It was not long, however, before the Government discovered that they were not too sure of their numbers; that the passing of the Bill was likely to be interrupted, and tha’t the attempt to pass it might be disastrous to them. On the following day the Bill was placed fourth on the list of measures set down on the business-paper for consideration. On the next day it was placed .fifth on the list, and a Caucus of the Ministerial party took place. It was then found’ that extreme and urgent measures were necessary to bring the Corner party into line: The interesting speech made this afternoon by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) was directed probably to not more than half a dozen members of this House. It was not made to the Government supporters as we know them - it was riot for those who say, “ My Government right or wrong “ ; nor was it intended for the Opposition. It was directed to some half dozen Ministerial supporters who, for various rea sons, do not see eye to eye with the Government in respect of this proposal.
– The honor-, able member ought to name the halfdozen.
– The honorable member often threatens the Government, but when we go to a division on this question we shall find him voting with them.
– How often has the honorable member voted against his party since his return to this House?
– I have never done so, nor am I likely to rat on my party. I have not (he slightest objection to “those who say, “My party right or wrong,” since I believe in majority rule; but I object to the attitude of several honorable members who threaten the Government, yet when the fate of the Government is at stake are either missing or turn a political somersault.
The Acting Prime Minister, in his speech this afternoon, had the loud pedal pressed on the moratorium and shipping strings, and used the soft pedal in regard to the important question of the censorship and many other matters covered by the War Precautions Act. His speech a3 a non-political and impersonal effort was a very good one. In it the honorable gentleman laid great stress upon the point that it was necessary to continue the moratorium for an indefinite period. That, I think, is recognised by most honorable members. I have put to Ministers questions regarding the extension of the moratorium, and -have suggested to the Acting Prime Minister that immediate steps should be taken in that direction. I have pointed out that, owing to the unfortunate season which agriculturists and pastoralists have experienced in many parts of Australia, and the likelihood of another such season, next year, many landowners must find themselves in the hands of the banks. In the circumstances -of to-day, when our ethics and our morals are completely changed, it is not immoral to say to the man to whom one owes money, “ I do not desire to pay you now; I will pay you at some later date.” It is not immoral for the Government to protect the man who owes money in these circumstances.
If, however, the . money changers had the power to call in their money to-day chaos would be the immediate result.
– They would not be so foolish as to do anything of the kind.
– Greed knows no wisdom, and these men would not hesitate to call in money earning only 4½ per cent, when they knew that, by reinvesting it they could get 7 per cent., or more.
– The interest rate under the moratorium regulations is 6 per cent.
– With the moratorium out of the road, the rate would be regulated only by the laws relating . to usury. The money changers would soon squeeze the small nian so as to get a higher return. for their money. I do not believe in the patriotism of the wealthy people of this or any other community.
So far we have made absolutely . no provision for our returned soldiers. It is more than ever necessary at the present moment that our commercial ‘and industrial life should be stabilized. Anything having a tendency to bring about disruption must adversely affect repatriation. With our men coming back we need to see that Australia is stabilized. That can not be socured unless we have an extension of the moratorium. The question is whether the moratorium should be extended under the War Precautions Act or by means of a separate Bill.
– Could we extend it by means of a separate Bill?
– If we can pass a War Precautions Act providing for the moratorium and a hundred and one other matters, surely we have power to pass a Bill providing only for the extension of the moratorium.
– We should have to pass fifty Bills to cover all the matters in respect of which an extension of the War Precautions Act is desired.
– The Opposition contend that, except perhaps for some half-dozen matters, the whole Act could at once be ‘swept out of existence.
It was said by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that it was very necessary, in the delicate times in which we . live, that the censorship should not be raised, because the relations of the Empire to the Allies might be prejudiced. How often since I entered this Parliament have I heard the phrase, “ the delicate times . in which we live,” and that of the Prime Minister, “ the troublous times in which we are living.” Nearly every member of this House has repeated those phrases, or some variation of . them. We are living in troublous times. A complete revolution of thought has taken place, not only in Europe, but also in Australia. The men who are returning by each transport bring their quota of . new thought.
– It is about time.
– I am afraid that it will not benefit the honorable member. The thought that emanates from the battle-field of Elanders will not be in the interests of the wealthy.
– They are good men. They have fought for their country.
– And they will not be satisfied with what you have handed out to them all their lives.
The Acting Prime Minister made certain promises the other night. If he were dictator of Australia, or had full control over the Government, I should be prepared to accept his word, and to believe that, so far as he was concerned, the promises would be carried out; but the stormy petrel who has left these shores for a while will soon be back. There are many men on the Government benches who have made promises and broken them. The Prime Minister has glibly made many promises to ‘the people, which he has broken quickly; and the Acting Prime Minister is one of a Government the majority of whose members broke their promises to the people, not once, but several times. They said that, in a certain contingency, they would resign within twenty-four hours. I hope. the Acting Prime Minister will not retort that this is not the same Government. Let me give a few more . promises made by the Government to which the Acting Prime Minister belongs..
Promises . were made at . the GovernorGeneral’s Conference. Proposal No. 3 was -
Re-registration of unions de-registered, and restoration of unions to their former status. Restoration to their employment of victimized unionists. Abolition of ‘ bogus unions and bureaux set’ up in connexion therewith.
It is unnecessary to state that these promises have not been kept.
– From whose speech is the honorable member quoting?
– I’ am dealing with certain propositions made by the Labour party, and” the answers ‘thereto.
– Bead the promises made by the Government.
– I say that the representatives of the Government agreed to do these things.
– Read the passage in which they did so.
– The honorable member may have the. report when. I have finished with it. Then we come to 4 (b) -
Abolition of press censorship, and limitation of free speech, except as relating to military newsof advantage to the enemy.
The reply to that was-
The Press Conference is now sitting, as a result of which’ it is confidently anticipated a modus vivendi will, he resolved so far. as the press is concerned.
And Mr. Hughes said,, in explanation -
Exception has been taken to our replies, because it is said that the Press Conference does not look upon censorship from the same standpoint as members here.
My answer is that the Government are ready to confer with Mr. Tudor so as to bring about anything that is reasonable with regard to the -censorship.
That conference took place. The Labour party formulated its scheme, and nothing was done.
– Is that what the report says ?
– I say it. If the honorable member desires anything further he can read what has taken place, and learn that what I say is correct. In -regardto No. 3 promise, the proposal of the Labour party was -
The immediate release of all persons, not guilty of criminal offences, imprisoned in ‘connexion with’ conscription,peace propaganda, -.recruiting, and the recent industrial trouble.
The reply of- the Government was -
All persons, if any; who are confined as a re sult of matters arising out of the referendum campaign, or the last general strike, will -be released.
There are still men in gaol for what are.., political and industrial offences. .
– Arising out of the matters mentioned.
– I make the statement that there are men still in gaol.
– Arising out. of the matters mentioned ?
– Arising, in. our estimation, out of the matters mentioned; but, according to the . Government’s idea, for making statements likely to prejudice recruiting, or the relations of the Allies, and on other pretexts, for that is what they are. To-day a man is being tried in Sydney on a political charge under the very Act. an extension of which is sought to-night. This man is charged with having made statements likely to prejudice recruiting.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Is -it wise to refer to a. case which is sub judice?
– The honorable member, as a solicitor, knows very well that such matters may be criticised - that one’ may criticise the Act under which a prosecution is launched.
– You- might te prejudicing his trial.
– I am sure, the honorable member has- his “ tongue in his cheek “ when he says that. As to question No. 4; the proposal of the Labour party was -
That immediate and effective stepsbe taken to protect soldiers’ dependants and the public generally against profiteering.
The reply of the Government was -
The Government has given, and will continue to’ give, every attention to this matter, the vital importance of which is fully recognised. The Government will welcome any practical suggestion from Conference to this end.
The Government have not attempted to deal with profiteering, or, if they have, all I can say is they have failed dismally. Fancy the price-fixing machinery of Australia being concentrated on galvanized iron. The price was fixed, but no one could buy galvanized iron at the fixed price. A man might go into a yard and have a casual conversation with the yardman, but if the question was put whether any iron was on sale at the fixed price, the reply was in the negative. Sellers even adopted the low-down device of punching a small hole in a remote corner of the sheet so as to make . it second-hand galvanized iron, for which no price was fixed; and purchasers had to pay more for the socalled second-hand iron than for new iron. Immediately the - armistice was signed these “ patriots “ dropped the price of galvanized iron by £27 per ton, showing the failure of the Government in this attempt to prevent profiteering.
I should now like to call attention to the War Precautions Regulation No. 301, dated 13th November, 1918, as follows: -
Amendment of War Precautions Regulations as Amended to this Date.
After regulation 27c of the War Precautions Regulations, the following regulation is inserted: - “27d. (1) The Minister or a competent military authority may, by order in writing under his hand, prohibit the holding of any public meeting which is, in his opinion, prejudicial to the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth. “ (2) An order under the last preceding sub-regulation may prohibit the holding of a public meeting within any period or in any place specified in the order. “ (3) Any person attending any public meeting, the holding of which has . been prohibited under this regulation, shall be guilty of an offence. “ (4) If an order is made in pursuance of this regulation prohibiting the holding of any “public meeting in any premises, any officer of police and any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister, or by a competent military authority, may, for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the order, enter, if need be by force, and search or occupy the premises referred to in the order.”
I would like to trace the history of all the predecessors of this regulation. It would be a very interesting research to go over the whole ground almost from the days of Christ, beginning with the tablets or bricks which, no doubt, were then used for orders of the kind, and estimate on how many occasions they have been issued. However, I shall confine myself to more recent times, and point out that not so long ago we had the present Chief Justice of Victoria issuing exactly the same regulation, and for the same purpose.
– During the railway strike.
– There were no regulations because- the Act was never passed.
– It was brought into force.
– It was never passed.
– If six men met together in Bourke-street, and conversed, they were liable to imprisonment.
– That was a provision of the Bill, but the Bill was never passed.
– Meetings have been prohibited which were likely to be harmful to the safety of the Government and the Empire, and those taking part in such meetings were liable to be incarcerated. In New South Wales, Sir Charles Wade issued practically the same regulation preventing meetings, and stopping people from going on the public platform to express their opinions. The regulation I have read is a very fine power to hand to the military authorities, and for use during elections. Members of the House who have had experience of military authority have stated here, in unmistakable language, that they are not prepared to give it any power. To give the Commandant of New South Wales, or any other State, the power to stop meetings, is totally wrong. I am not prepared to believe that this regulation will not be used for political purposes. I am not prepared to believe that if the War Precautions Act is in operation when we go to the country, it will not be used. A notorious regulation was issued in Sydney, but not brought into operation, which would have led to the disfranchisement of quite a large number of young men.
– Tt was put into operation in the case of some electors.
– I believe that was so in Queensland, but for some reason, probably lack of courage, or the realization of the responsibility for such an infamous regulation, it was not generally applied. The regulation I refer to wasthat which instructed the presiding officers at elections to interrogate every apparently single eligible man.
– Was that done anywhere ?
– I am given to understand it was done in Queensland. However, I am not concerned with whether it was applied or not ; what I am concerned about is that the -regulation was passed, and- it was not passed for fun. The Governor-General and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with one or two colleagues, did not go to Sydney for nothing; they went with the purpose of passing this regulation, and by its operation preventing Labour electors from voting. There is very little difference between the Government of that day and the Government of to-day; there have been certain additions, but, generally speaking, the Government is the same, and if it. would issue such a regulation two years ago, it would do so now.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that the censorship will be lifted as quickly as possible. So far as our. reading goes of International newspapers, magazines, books, and so forth, the only conclusion one can arrive at is that Australia has suffered under greater disability in this regard than any other of the belligerent countries. Honorable members will- recollect that only two short weeks ago, some three days after the armistice was signed, the British censorship on the movements of the British Navy and Allied Fleets was absolutely removed, and all information regarding them furnished to the people. In America, the Government has lifted the censorship, and, in any case, the people there did not suffer under any disability. While the country was participating in the war, the censorship was practically carried out voluntarily by the newspapers themselves, and those newspapers did not suffer at the hands ‘of the military authorities. There is no censorship in America; there is none in England; there has been none in France for something like two years, yet here, 12,000 miles from the field of activi- - ties, we still have it. Is it necessary for the safety of the British Empire that Australia alone of all the British Dominions should continue it? Has a mistake been made? Is it a fact that the war has not yet been won, and that the Win-the-War Government in Australia are going to win it to the bitter end by maintaining the censorship? Is it necessary to have the censorship in order that recruiting shall not be prejudiced? Are the restrictions not to be lifted because international complications are probable? If it is not necessary at Home, why should it be necessary here?
– Because they have conscription at Home, and we have not conscription here.
– There is no conscription in England now that the war is over. It is useless to beg the question in that way. I shall give a couple of illustrations to show the ridiculous stage we have reached in regard to the administration of the censorship. It was decided by the editor of the Labour News that it would be a good thing to take the people back to fundamental principles, and accordingly he extracted from the Bible that very fine Sermon on the Mount, a speech that would be . worthy of any Labour member or Socialist. This is what was sent along to the censor: -
The War and the Duty of Man to His Fellows. (By an Old Communist.)
Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his ‘brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment.
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, “ An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth:” But I say unto you that ye resist not evil ; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Ye have heard that it hath been said thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that, curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
Take heed that ye do not your alms ‘before men to be seen of them. . . . But when thou doest alms, let not thy. left hand know what thy right hand doeth.
Lay not up -for yourselves treasures on earth (even, gilt-edged securities). . .. . For where your treasure is there will’ your Heart he also.
No man can serve two masters. . . . Ye cannot serve God and Mammon;
Judge hot, that ye be not ‘judged.: For “with what judgment ye, judge ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but’ considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye-?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do. ye even to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
A wise censorship, which it is the desire of the Government to ‘bolster- up, decided that, in the interests’ of ‘the safety of the nation and of the Natiohtal1 party, and- in order that recruiting or our relations with our Allies should not be prejudiced, the Word of God : should not be printed. There was only one interpolation -the word, “ Gilt-edged security “ - by the editor, and if Major Nicholson, the chief censor in’ New South Wales, had known his Bible well, he might have taken exception to them and struck them out;’ but when- the Government begin censoring the Bible, it is about time they examined themselves. Is it their- intention, through their censor, to take control of the whole of the Bibles of the community and confiscate them? Because, if it is logical to say that portion of the Bible should not he printed in the newspapers, it is also logical to say that the people should not le permitted t’o read the Bible at all.
Here is another ridiculous illustration of the wise censorship we have in this country: Most honorable members recollect Southey’s immortal poem The Battle of Blenheim. I learnt it at my mother’s knee. I enjoy it now. Very few persons have not recited it. It is in the New South Wales school books. I believe that it is in the Victorian school books also. At any rate, it is in most school books, and is very widely known. However, in order that international complications should not be brought about or recruiting prejudiced, the New South Wales censor said, “ You shall not publish The Battle of Blenheim.”
– Will the honorable member favour us by reciting the poem ?
– I have not the time to give the whole of it, but a few lines will serve to refresh the honorable member’s memory-
It was a summer evening,
Old Rasper’s work was done,
And he ‘before. his cottage door
Was’ sitting in the- sun’;
And byhim; sported on the green.
His little grandchild. . Wilhelmine.
The administration of - the ‘ censorship is more like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera than the wise exercise of Government authority. .
Recently a cartoon was drawn ‘ b’y Claude Marquet, the famous Labour cartoonist of Australia, depicting a fat man with the inevitable large gold chain across his “Mary,” who had just received the news that the armistice had been signed, and in horror and amazement exclaimed, “Peace!” That was all that was in it, yet the chief censor of New South Wales cut it out, and intimated that the word “ Peace “ should not. be used.
If any honorable member advocated Republicanism, he would immediately become a target for a special war precautions regulation and a claimant for a nice snug cell in Darlinghurst Gaol; but I wish to give an illustration of the freedom allowed in England as against that which is enjoyed in Australia by quoting the following letter, written by H. G. Wells, which appeared in the Times on the 21st April, 1917 : -
Sir, - Will you permit me to suggest to your readers that the time is now ripe, and that it would be a thing agreeable to our friends and Allies, the Republican Democracies of France, Russia, the United States, and Portugal, to give some clear expression to the great volume of Republican feeling that has . always existed in the British community? Hitherto that has neither needed nor found very definite formulation. Our Monarchy is a peculiar one; the general Republican feeling has found satisfaction in the assertion that the British system is in its essence a “Crowned Republic”; and it is very doubtful whether, even in Ireland, there is any considerable section disposed to go beyond the implications of that phrase. But it will be an excess of servility to the less acceptable pretentions of loyalty, and a grave negligence of our duty to liberal aspirations throughout the world; if . thinking men in the British community do not now take unambiguous steps to make it clear to the Republicans of Europe, Asia, and the American continent that these ancient trappings of throne and sceptre are at most a mere historical inheritance of ours, and that our spirit is warmly and entirely against the dynastic system that has so long divided, embittered, and wasted the spirit of mankind.
The need extends beyond even the reassuring establishment of a common spirit with the French, Russian, American, and Portuguese Republicans. The ending of this war involves many permanent changes in the condition of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. In particular, there is the question of the future of the re-united Polish people. The time has come to say clearly that the prospect of setting up some puppet monarch, some fresh intriguing little “ cousin of everybody “ as a king in Poland, is as disgusting to liberal thought in Great Britain as it is to liberal thought everywhere else in the world. We have had two object-lessons in Bulgaria and Greece of the endless mischief these dynastic graftings cause. Bulgaria is by nature a peasant Democracy as sturdy and potentially as. pacific as the Swiss. A king has always been an outrage upon the ancient Republican traditions of Athens. ‘ So long as Russia chose to be represented by a Tsar, and to permit an implicit support of the Greek Monarchy through him, so long were British publicists debarred from a plain expression, of their minds in this connexion. But now the case is altered. It is, I am convinced, a foolish libel upon a disinterested and devoted monarch to hint that the preposterous “Tino” has now a single friend at court among the Allies. The open fraternization of the British peoples’ and the Greek Republicans is practicable, necessary, and overdue.
For the demonstration of such sentiments and sympathies as these, for the advancement of the ends I have indicated, and for the encouragement of a Republican movement in Central Europe, some immediate organization is required in .Great Britain. To begin with, it might take the form of a series of looselyaffiliated “ Republican societies “ centring in our chief towns, which could enrol members organize meetings of sympathy with our fellow Republicans abroad, and form the basis of more definitely ‘purposeful activities. Such activities need not conflict in any way with one’s free loyalty to the occupant of the throne of this “ Crowned Republic.”
I wonder what would happen to any person who advocated such sentiments in Australia. He would probably be interned for an indefinite period.
I wish to refer to a certain statement alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in England some time ago. According to the London Evening Standard of 15th June, in reply to a question as to whether conscription would be again introduced in Australia, Mr. Hughes said - “Ah! then conscription ; but we shall see what we shall see.’’
Whether that statement was true or untrue, it was contradicted by the Prime Minister; but that did not restrain the benevolent and wise censorship of Australia from preventing the Labour press republishing that which had appeared in the London Evening Standard. It is a most extraordinary thing that papers are continually reaching Australia’ from England, but the Labour press is not allowed’ to reprint extracts from them. In the different capitals throughout Australia are tons and tons of magazines, newspapers, and books, and when I asked the Acting Prime Minister whether it was the intention of the Government to allow those books to be delivered to their rightful owners, he said, “The time is not yet.” What possible good can come from the detention of these magazines, books, and newspapers? Is the object to prevent the people from getting an idea of what is taking place in Europe? Is it with the idea of keeping back information which should be in the possession of the people of Australia ? Is it for the reason that such information might have some adverse effect upon the National Government? It must be for some such reason. If there were any reason connected with the war that has now disappeared, the Government should forthwith deliver these articles to their rightful owners.
In conclusion, I wish to say that if the Government desires power in regard to any specific functions, I have no doubt they will get it, provided that those functions are proper. If the Government desire specific powers in regard to the moratorium, I am pretty certain ‘ that the House will concede them. If they desire certain power in regard to shipping, they will get that, too. However, no matter what we on this side of the House say, it appears that this Bill for the continuation of the War Precautions Act will be passed. It is clearly recognised by members on this side that the twelve Ministerialists who made such loud protestations have been considerably reduced in numbers. Some of them will not take part in the division; others will vote for the Government. The Government will succeed in getting an extension of the
Act, but the meeting which took place last night, and was attended’ by about 5,000 citizens of Melbourne, is only one of hundreds of very large meetings to be held throughout Australia, and the time will inevitably come when the Government will be unable to carry on as they have done under the War Precautions Act. The Government can go only so far as the people governed will allow them to go, and the spontaneous meeting last night was a very good indication of the feeling, not only of Labour, but of most classes of the community. The meeting last night, and those meetings which’ are. being held in the Sydney Domain, and in all the capital cities throughout the Commonwealth, are indications that the people have had enough of the War Precautions Act. The soldiers who are now returning desire freedom of speech, and ultimately the Government, willingly or unwillingly, will be compelled to give it to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
Public Service: Preference to Re turned Soldiers - Repatriation : Commercial Classes at Ballarat.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I was not in the House at the time when questions upon notice were asked, but I understand that the Acting Prime Minister refused to answer one. of my questions on the ground that it was insulting. The question read-
In view of the reiterated statements of the Minister, that returned soldiers were to have preference in the Public Service-
Honorable members can recollect question after question having been asked and answered on that subject, and of definite statements having been made that returned soldiers should have preference in the Public Service - and also that a return from the Melbourne Taxation Branch showed that there were, approximately, 168 employees between the ages of eighteen and forty-five who had not offered their services at the Front-
Those figures were computed from a return submitted by the Acting Prime Minister at my request - will the Government bring forward an amending Public Service Bill which will give more effective preference to returned soldiers?
I had a reason for asking that question. . I can quite understand that, owing to the terms of the Public Service Act, and the control of the Service by a Commissioner, the Government would be prevented from giving that preference to the returned soldier which is his due. No insult was intended by that question.
– I think it was the previous question to which the Acting Prime Minister took exception.
– I think the rift in the lute must have been caused by my other question, in which I asked if the Government had any knowledge as to whether the Blythe River iron deposits had been placed under option to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company or anyother person or company. And, apparently, the Government are not very anxious to probe matters concerning their proposed purchase of this property for £100,000. I cannot understand how the idea got into the Acting Prime Minister’s head that there was anything offensive in my question regarding preference to returned soldiers. I am no flag waver. I have no time for those people who are always trotting about the country, and talking of what they intend to do for the returned soldier, but who never do anything. We have had too much of that in this country.
– Hear, hear ! The Secretary of the Repatriation Board, who was recently appointed, is not a returned soldier?
– I have an official statement that at the end of last year 2,500 eligibles were employed in the Defence Department. I asked whether it would be possible to obtain a return giving the names of those who had been appointed to commissioned and noncommissioned’ offices since the outbreak of the war, and who had not gone to the Front, and this has been refused. I was referring to the slackers and cold footers who are holding good billets while returned soldiers are walking the streets looking for work. I wanted - to know, further, whether the Government would bring down a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, so that those who have made sacrifices for us could be found employment in the Public Service. I would let the slackers and cold footers in the Service go out and fight their own battles.
– We could not interfere with existing rights.
– I would do so. I do not know whether 168 eligibles in the Taxation Department are all members of the permanent staff, but I think the great majority are, and are we to protect them while we offer no protection to the men who have made sacrifices for us? Is that to be the policy of the Government? If the Acting Prime Minister was offended at the form of my question, he must have thought that it reflected in Borne way upon himself.
– I draw attention to the state of the House.- [Quorum formed.]
– I am rather surprised that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) should have endeavoured to prevent me from continuing my address.
– That was not my desire. I wanted the Acting Prime Minister to be present.
– I thought perhaps that my reference to the slackers and cold footers occupying good positions in the Public Service might not have been too pleasing to the honorable member. I desire to state clearly that in putting this question I did not wish to give any offence to the Acting Prime Minister. I am going to fight this question of preference all through. Promises have been made to our soldiers, and they must be kept. I have had sent to me from Western Australia the names of dozens of men who have not been to the Front, but who have held commissions in the Defence Department for two years or more, and who, I suppose, are going to be allowed to retain those positions. Surely such offices should be held only by returned men? We have men .coming back who are fit to fill the best positions in the Service, and since they have borne the brunt of this great war, they should receive preference. My question was put solely to ascertain whether the Government are prepared to fulfil the promises that were made to our men when they enlisted. The reply which the Acting Prime Minister made came with a very ill grace from him.; If I wished to be offensive to him I could be in regard to his own attitude. I could class him as he ought to be classed - I could class him as a flag-waver. I do not forget the inglorious incident in which he and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) figured.
– Do not speak like this of the Acting Prime Minister in his absence.
– It is his own fault that he is absent.
– The honorable member himself was not here when his question was asked.
– I had other public duties to perform at the time. At all events, I strongly resent the placing of a wrong interpretation upon the question that I put, and I hope that we shall force the Government to say whether or not they intend to keep the pledge that was given to our soldiers.
.- I shall support the honorable member for Dampier (Mr.- Gregory) in regard to this matter. No one who has not seen service should be employed at Victoria Barracks or in any branch of the Defence service of Australia. I am referring not to the permanent heads or to per- *manent employees. I understand there are legal difficulties in the way of their removal.
– Does the honorable member want all the other men to be sacked?
– Any number of eligibles who did not go. to the war hold soft jobs in the Department, although there are returned soldiers who could fill them just as well. Does’ the Minister defend those who shirked their responsibility?
– A deputation from the Returned Soldiers Association said that they did not want those men to be disturbed.
– They were not dealing with the men whom I have in mind, and whose positions could be filled to-day by returned soldiers. There ought not to be a moment’s delay in appointing returned soldiers to such positions.
– If that is the wish of the Labour party, we should like to know of it.
– The honorable gentleman cannot always answer for the party with which he is now associated. He- was not too good in answering for our party when he belonged to it.
– I will give the honorable member all he wants.
– The honorable gentleman is taking up a most unfair attitude. There is a unanimous opinion in this country that a number of young men who have not gone to the- war, and who are not permanently employed in the Defence Department, ought to make way now for men who are coming back from the war. From the stand-point of economy, that is worth considering, because many of the returning men would have to be paid pensions, and if they were placed in these positions, a good deal of that pension money would be saved.
– Before you’ returned, there were complaints from your side of the House because we were discharging the very employees you refer to. .
– I stand by the position I have outlined here to-night. ‘ There are quite a number here who have had for four’ years- better positions than they ever had in their lives before. Officers and men who have been to the Front risking their lives, and giving four years of hard service, are now coming back; and it is the wish of the people that, if these positions have to be continued, they should be filled by those who have seen service. In- the Repatriation Department itself; which was formed for the purpose of dealing- with returned soldiers, only the other day the position of secretary was given to a Mr: Ovington, a young man who has not seen service. I have always heard it said that the cream of the manhood of this country went to the war. A lot of them have come back, and am I to be told that there are no men among them with sufficient brains to fill that position? Mr. Ovington has been brought up altogether in a lawyer’s office, and has no specialqualifications to make him more capable than men who have been in the Repatriation Department for twelve or eighteen months. It is of no use to talk about preference to returned soldiers when positions like that are being filled by men who have never been to the war.. Some inducement and encouragement’ should be given to every man in the Repatriation Department, but that is not the way to do it.
– We have generals over here who never heard a gun fired.
– Yes, and brigadiergenerals, too. To hold the title of general does not prove that a man has’ been anywhere near tha front line. On the other hand, here is Brigadier-General Griffiths being sent back to London. I venture to say that is because they cannot find a position for him here. A man who has given the service he has given’ has to go. back to England, while Brigadier-General Dodds, is , brought back here. Why should not BrigadierGeneral Griffiths be given the position which Brigadier- General Dodds is to fill here? Why send him back again to England after he has given four years and four months’ service? He was ‘in the landing at Gallipoli, and has done splendid work, both in the Army and on the Administrative Staff . Why must he go away when others who ‘ have seen no service- can be retained here? It is about time there was a move made by every section in this House to see that these positions are filled by men who have seen service.
I put a question the other day to’ the Minister representing . the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) concern’ ing- the commercial classes in Ballarat, and’ mentioned that the Department sent typewriting machines to Ballarat, and engaged a building there. I received no reply. .
Mr.Groom. - I replied in the House. The reply is in the official report,, and the usual copy was available for the honorable member.
– I did . not get the reply-. At any rate, I saw in -the Age of Saturday a statement which was probably inspired by the Repatriation Department.
– I did not see what was in the. Age.
– The . newspaper statement’ was that all the difficulty had been caused by the Education Department. I understand that an answer was given to-day to the effect that the Minister for Repatriation does not propose to sanction the formation of commercial classes at Ballarat. I have not seen- the reply; but I wish to correct the impression that the blunder regarding the commercial classes at Ballarat-. is . due to the Education Department. It has been caused by the Minister for Repatriation, or the Repatriation Department, not agreeing to the formation of commercial classes there, after going to’ the expense of sending up typewriters and engaging a building.
Question resolvedin the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181204_reps_7_87/>.