7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if financial provision has been made for the first advance on the new season’swheat? If so, will the first payment be made on delivery, and how much will be paid?
– The matter has not yet been decided. I understand that the Wheat Board is to meet next Monday, and I expect to receive a recommendation from itfor the /consideration of the Cabinet.
Refusal to Admit Ministers of Religion to Quarantine Ground
– Notwithstanding the strong feeling outside regarding the action of the Quarantine Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs in refusing to allow clergymen to enter the Quarantine Grounds in Sydney to administer spiritual consolation to the sick, the informative statement on the subject which the Minister . made last night does not appear in either of the Melbourne morning newspapers to-day. Will the honorable gentleman say whether the statement has been censored ?
– It should.be hardly necessary for me to say that the statement has not been censored. I presume that the reason why it does not appear in the Melbourne dailies this morning is that it was made at too late an hour - I spoke somewhere about 11.30 p.m. - for the newspapers to report it. By leave of the House, I shall make another statement on the subject. The Government recognise the heroism and devotion of the ministers of religion who desire, at great personal risk, to enter the quarantine area and toremain there in the centre of infection to the very end. It is with the greatest reluctance that in carrying out our duty to the people of the Commonwealth, we find it necessary to prohibit the entrance of all persons, whether ministers of religion or not, to this part of the grounds. The medical authorities who are advising the Government are agreed that no means has yet been discovered for obtaining immunity from the disease which they are combating, inoculation, though to some extent a safeguard, being by no means a preventive. Ministers of religion, if allowed to enter the hospital to attend on the dying, would be with them at the period of their greatest infectiousness, and the probabilities would be largelyin favour of them contracting the disease themselves. If we let the ministers of one religion enter the hospital, we should have to let those of all religions to do so, and the effect would be that we should be feeding the disease with new patients,and thus keeping it alive. The whole object of quarantine is to stamp out a disease at the first possible moment. Every day that this disease persists in this country is fraught with menace to the health of our people. In quarantine itself the disease has broken out in the most virulent form, and the danger to the people is so great that the Government does not feel justified in allowing any one to enter the station and thereby keep the disease alive longer than it might otherwise live. If ministers of religion were allowed to enter the hospital, and they became infected, as in all probability they would, we should have to let another lot in, who would probably become infected in their turn, and so the disease would be kept supplied with fresh victims. The Government feels that in the performance of its duties to the living it must, though very reluctantly, refuse permission to ministers of religion to enter the quarantine area.
– Yesterday I drew the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories to the deficiency of the official meteorological reports published in the newspapers, and to the fact that the reports were often out of date. He asked me to give a concrete case, and this morning’s Argus furnishes one. Under the heading “Australian Rain Records” appears the entry “Queensland: none.” But lower down it is stated that -
The following private advices have been received : -
By Gibbs, Bright, and Co.- From Port Constantine Station, Cloncurry, Queensland, December 9 : - “ About 1 inch rain Bloodwood paddock; good storms Top Lane paddock; also 12 miles down CloncurryRiver. Narry’s Creek running from storms high up 2nd inst. Tommy’s Creek running through.” From Grunbardo Station, Charlesville, Queensland, December 3 : - “ 198 points rain here on Sunday;average inch over most of run.”
The first of the stations named is in Northern Queensland,and the second in Southern Queensland; they are 1,500 or 1,600 miles apart. Yet, although rain has fallen in those places, we have no official information of it, nor of any rainfall over any of the intervening territory.
– This morning I asked for a report on the subject, and I hope to have an official reply later. I understand that the private advices published in the newspapers are often records covering a period of a week, and, consequently, the information they contain is often anticipated by the official reports, which are published daily. I am informed that the private advices are not as reliable as the official reports.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories allow honorable members to see a list of the stations at which meteorological observations are taken, particularly in Queensland ?
– I shall be glad to do so, and I hope that during the day the report I asked for last night in reference to the questions asked by the honorable member will be available.
Non-Payment of Soldiers
– Last night, on the ad journment, I brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General a telegram which had appeared in the press, and which contained gross allegations against him to the effect that he had been supplementing his revenue by stopping the pay of soldiers. The honorable gentleman’s reply appeared to be given rather hastily; and I ask him, now that he has had a night’s sleep and there is a possibility of his approaching the matter with a sane mind, whether he will make a statement on the subject for the information of the House and the country?
– It is not in order to ask questions couched in offensive terms. There is a distinctly offensive suggestion in the honorable member’s question.
– I have no desire to be offensivetothe Minister. I ask him whether, after having an opportunity to consider the matter, he will reply to the allegations contained in the newspaper statement ?
– I read the statement referred to only a minute or two before the honorable member drew attention to it. As I told him last night, I do not approve of the tone adopted by the correspondent, and I said that while the proper avenues for approaching me on public matters were open to the newspapers before publication, I would not take notice of anonymous press reports. Having looked into the matter, I find that, as usual, honorable members opposite must fail in their attempts to disparage me. The decision referred to in the newspaper paragraph was that of the Acting Public Service Commissioner. I have asked that officer for his reasons. Personally, I do not approve of the decision, but I cannot interfere with it. I shall, however, consult with the Commissioner, with a view to arriving at an equitable arrangement; in fact, I am doing so now.
Instructional Visits to Scientific and Industrial Centres
– The Acting Prime Minister has told us that it is intended to allow some of our soldiers to visit agricultural centres in various parts of the world, in order to gain information which may be of benefit to them and to the country on their return. No doubt this opportunity will be greatly appreciated. I should like to ask the honorable gentleman if he would be good enough to arrange also for the visit of our men to the great centres of science and mechanical industry in Great Britain and America?
– I think that the suggestion is a good one, and I shall confer with my colleagues who are working with me in connexion with the demobilization and repatriation of our troops, to see if it can be put into operation.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will endeavour to secure for the members of this Chamber and of the Senate an invitation to a lecture that is to be given in this city on Monday night next, by Mr. Richardson, the great scientific mind on agriculture, who will make comparisons between agriculture in Australia and America, and the aim and ambition of a great Democracy to make, agricultural life the blue riband of the nation?
– I think there will be no trouble whatever in securing invitations if honorable members desire them. Knowing something of the attainments, qualifications, and work of Professor Richardson, I think it would be of immense value, particularly to members interested in agricultural matters, ifthey were able to afford the time to hear his remarks.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - Information has reached me that thefood supply, sleeping accommodation, and general conditions on board the Port Sydney, which arrived with returned troops last Monday, were very bad indeed, and I wish to know whether any report to that effect has reached the Prime Minister. If not, will he institute inquiries, and, if the allegations are found to be correct, make urgent and emphatic representations to the authorities on the other side that this kind of thing must cease?
– I have no information about the ship in question. As honorable members have been previously informed, I have already made the most emphatic representations to the Prime Minister in connexion with this matter. I shall ask the Acting Minister for the Navy to ascertain the facts in regard to the conditions on the Port Sydney.
– As far back as my recollection goes, postal vans have been always branded with the name of the reigning monarch. First, they were branded “V.R.,” later “E.R.,” and then, until recently, “ G.R.” Now they all bear the letters “P.M.G.,” as if the PostmasterGeneral owned the lot. What is the reason for this change?
– If that question had been asked by one of several other honorable members in the House I could have believed that it sprang from improper motives, hut I know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has no desire to derogate from the high reputation of the PostmasterGeneral and merely desires information that will be of service to the public. I am totally ignorant of the cause of the change he has referred to, if change there has been. In the old days, when I was Postmaster-General in the Victorian Parliament for a brief period, everything was branded “P.M.G.,” as if I also owned them all. If the monarch’s initials were allowed to appear, that was an unusual departure. I shall inquire from the Postmaster-General the reason for the change which the honorable member has indicated.
Control of Industries - Politicaluse of Powers
– As we are now nearing peace conditions, will the Government see that in respect of any general power exercised under the War Precautions Act, either for the establishment of an entirely new industry or for the alteration or modification of an existing industry - I give as an illustration the establishment of a tin-plate manufactory at Newcastle - the House is taken into the Government’s confidence as soon as the idea matures in the mind of their official adviser, so that honorable members may have an opportunity of saying what they think about these proposals before the country is irretrievably committed to them?
-I do not know that that would be possible in every case. If the House were not in session it would be obviously impossible to give the information the honorable member desires; if it were in session, it would be possible to do it, but only in the form of a statement. I personally have not the slightest objection to stating at the proper stage of any negotiations all the facts relating to them. The honorable member, having some knowledge of business practice, will know that very often it is not advisable, until agreements are reached, to make preliminary announcement about business affairs. I do not desire to pursue a policy of secrecy towards the House or the public in regard to these important matters.
– In regard to the Acting Prime Minister’s pledge that the re-incarnatedWar Precautions Act will not be used for political purposes, has the honorable gentleman consulted the Prime Minister on the matter, and does the pledge cover the attitude of the Prime Minister in regard to the future administration of this measure?
– I think the honorable gentleman is well acquainted with the principleof solidarityof government. My statement represented the view of the Government, and not merely of any particular member of it.
– Do the Government propose to deal this session with the question of naturalization, with a view to equalising the status of men and women under Australian law, as was clearly intended when the Act was introduced in 1903, especially having regard to the partial amelioration given by recent Imperial legislation on the same subject?
– I think the honorable member refers to the question as to whether a woman, married to an alien, should be entitled to retain her nationality.
– She should be able to choose her nationality.
– Views on that subject have been placed before me by deputations comprising many good representatives of the sex, but there have been also writings from societies of ladies which expressed disagreement with the attitude adopted by the deputations. Some authoritative women believe that a woman married to an alien should be allowed to retain her nationality; others take the oppositeview. The matter is under consideration, but I do not think it can possibly be dealt with bylegislation during this session.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister communicate with the Prime Minister suggesting that, when peace terms are being discussed, the Prime Minister should endeavour to ensure that effective protection will be given to sugar grown within the Empire, as against sugar grown elsewhere ?
– This matter has already received a certain amount of attention from the Government, who are acquainted with the difficulties surrounding the matter, and, although it has not been specifically brought under the notice of the Prime Minister, the general principles have been discussed with him. I shall see that the suggestion made by the honorable member is brought under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– If the Government intend to make representations to the Prime Minister in reference to the protective policy of Australia, with a view to obtaining a certain amount of preference within the Empire, will it not follow that if the Peace Conference has power to determine the matter it will have power to determine other fiscal questions. Shall we not be surrendering some of our rights of self-government if we suggest thatthis matter should be dealt with by the Peace Conference ?
– The Prime Minister is thoroughly acquainted with the views of his colleagues on the fiscal question, and with Australia’s hopes in regard to reciprocity within the Empire.
– When do the Government propose to deal with that question?
– When they consider the time proper. From the Government point of view there is no danger of Australian fiscal rights being limited at this stage.
– Are the cablegrams which are sent by the Government for publication in the British press sent by the Acting Prime Minister, or anybody in his behalf; if not, what representative of the Government prepares and despatches such messages?
– I understand that these messages are prepared by the publicity officer in the Prime Minister’s Department, and are submitted daily for cable transmission. Sometimes I get a chance of looking through the messages ; at other times I do not.
– How many publicity officers are employed in the Prime Minister’s Department now? Is Mr. Dumas, who accompanied the Prime Minister to England, and has since returned, still employed by the Department?
– Mr. Dumas informed me on his return to Australia that he had resumed service with the Argus, and that his engagement with the Government terminated automatically. The only publicity officer of whom I have any knowledge is Mr. Cook, formerly of the Melbourne Herald staff, who was appointed before the Prime Minister’s departure.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that some soldiers who returned eighteen months ago, have not been able to get their deferred pay ? Can a special effort be made torelieve the position, because there are widowed mothers waiting for that money which, in some cases, amounts to £10?
– I shall endeavour to get the payments finalized. If the honorable member has any special cases in mind, and will furnish me with the details, I shall have them inquired into. I do not know of any soldiers who have been back eighteen months, and have not drawn their deferred pay.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House of the approximate date in the New Year when the House will resume its sittings?
– It is not possible at this stage to do that. Much will depend upon the progress made in the preparation of the legislation to which I referred in the statement I made concerning the War Precautions Act, and that, in turn, will be conditioned by the termination of the peace deliberations. The House must adjourn in a spirit of hope for an early settlement at the peace table. The earlier that settlement is reached the earlier Parliament will re-assemble.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister when we shall have an opportunity to discuss a comprehensive land policy and closer settlement system in connexion with the Crown lands within the control of the Commonwealth Government ?
– Before Christmas.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has on this occasion accidentally stumbled upon the truth. The opportunity will offer before Christmas.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister recollect having made the following statement in regard to conscription as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, of 13th December last -
We have asked you to take heed, and counsel with us. If you do not, you must get some other men to govern you; we cannot.
Further, does he remember making the additional statement on the subject that -
The people knew that the Government felt so seriously on the matter that it would leave the sent of Government if its proposals were negatived.
The pledge given by the honorable gentleman that the War Precautions Act, if continued, will not be used for political purposes, applies, I presume, to the whole Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - although we have not been told whether he has been consulted on the subject - and I desire to ask whether in that pledge there is some quality different from that given by himself and other members of the Government prior to conscription?
– If the honorable member and some of his colleagues intend to turn the House this morning into a puzzle factory, I must ask that notice be given of their further questions.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has received any replies to his requests that if the British Government will not purchase the Australian output of copper, the Australian producers should be permitted to sell their copper in Allied Markets?
– Active negotiations for the sale of the Australian output of copper to the Imperial Government are still in progress, under the direction of the Prime Minister and the representatives of the Copper Producers’ Association in London, for the renewal of the present contract till 30th June, or three months after peace, whichever is longer. This is the situation as it stands to-day.
Employment and Land for Returned Soldiers - Vocational Training - Local Committees - Employees . in Victorian Branch.
asked the Assistant Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Department has no knowledge of any such cases. If the honorable member will furnish particulars inquiries will be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. It is not intended to specially find money for the work in question, but it is proposed to make funds available to Local Government authorities generally for the purpose of carrying on works upon which returned soldiers will be employed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the Government will take into immediate consideration the urgent necessity for providing, within the next twelve months:
Is it a fact there is a large number of applications in excess of the land provided for returned soldiers, viz., 5,858 applications, in which only 1,754 applicants were successful in obtaining blocks? 3.. If so, what steps do the Government propose to take to find land for returned soldiers who are applicants?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following rep!y:
Spanish Influenza - Attendance of Ministers of Religion on Patients.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
– I hope I shall be in order in availing myself of this motion to make a casual reference to a matter of the very first importance. In determining the order of business I should like the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to give the House an opportunity to further consider the very grave matter raised this morning by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), when he stated that the reasons for preventing ministers of religion from ministering to the needs of Spanish influenza patients in quarantine areas in Sydney were, in the minds of the Government, sufficiently strong.
– I am afraid the honorable member cannot deal with that matter on this motion. The only question before the Chair is whether the House should meet on Wednesday next, as usual, or on the day mentioned in the motion.
– Move for an extra sitting day to enable the matter to be discussed.
– No, I shall not attempt in any way to evade your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I think you have permitted me to indicate what is in my mind, and I speak for a very large section of the community when I say that we are totally dissatisfied with the position taken up by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5th December (vide page 8886), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When we adjourned last night, having discussed the position of the Wheat Pool, the Metal Pool, and several other matters in respect of which the Government desired an extension of the War Precautions Act, I was about to deal with the functions of the Wool Board, and to reply to some of the statements made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). The honorable gentleman said that the Government were charged with the responsibility of looking after the whole of the wool clip on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia, and also the buyers, who consist of the British and Allied Governments. The cessation of the operation of the War Precautions Act two months hence would not interfere with the purchase of our wool clip, since the purchase has already been made. If the wool producers are anxious to hand over to the Commonwealth Government, for disposal, the whole of their clip, they can do so without the existence of the Act. Since the clip has been sold, and the greater part of the purchase money already paid, the Government have only to arrange for its shipment, and in this respect the War Precautions Act cannot be of any assistance. It would not add one ounce to the weight of the clip, or a penny to the price paid for it. The
Acting Prime Minister failed to give any satisfactory reason why the operation of the Act should be continued to assist the wool-growing industry. We already have in existence a Wool Board, composed, I suppose, of experts and men interested in the wool trade.
– I think that is the best amongst the Boards.
– I suppose the members of the Board have been very careful in looking after their own interests, which are secured irrespective of whether this Act is repealed or not. They have been very successful in obtaining the best price ever paid in this country, and have made good fortunes out of the war. If the members have done good work for themselves and for the country, now that the war is at an end, the Act should die and the Board be disbanded.
– Most of the members act in an honorary capacity.
– I do not mean that they have made fortunes by fees, because I know that they do not receive any; I refer to the benefit they have received from the increased price of wool.
– They would have got more in the open market.
– I do not wish to go into details, and will only say that I do not begrudge the good prices they have realized. In my electorate 500 or 600 men are out of employment owing to the conditions made by the Wool Board, and they are very anxious that the powers of the Board should last no longer, in order that they may once more find work in their old places.
Then there was a Board to control the supply of paper. That Board told newspaper proprietors and others who use paper in large quantities that there was a great shortage.
– That has been dropped.
– Yes; there was some dispute, and the chairman and members resigned, with the result that the great outcry about the scarcity of paper ceased. There has been no curtailment of supplies to newspapers, and there is sufficient paper to enable the printing and other industries to be carried on. It was a good thing for those interested when this Board went out of existence; and this is only an illustration of what should occur in other directions.
In my opinion, if the War Precautions Act were allowed to expire, and we got back to normal conditions, the cost of living would come down. It is this consideration that causes so many thousands of people to object to a continuation of the powers under the Act, for they regard the regulations as the cause of the intiation of prices. I am anxious that people should once more be allowed to carry on their businesses in their own way, and not have interested people regulating the businesses for them. My only desire ‘is that the progress of this country, as before the war, shall not be interfered with. There is no doubt that Australia will revive more quickly than, perhaps, any other country from the heavy demands that the-‘ war has made, for we have enormous resources which ought to be developed on those normal lines that are impossible under the control of about fifty different Boards.
I am sorry that the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) should have so far forgotten himself as to say the nasty things he did about the red flag. Personally, the Australian “flag is good enough for me; and in my view the colour of any flag does not particularly matter. We may have green, blue, black, or yellow flags, so long as a country has a flag under which people work to make it worth living in. The honorable member, perhaps unintentionally, asserted that the red flag stands for revolution. It does nothing of the kind; the red flag has been adopted by the more humane men in the civilized world today - that is the Socialistic party. It has been adopted by them because the blood of all men is red, and it stand’s for brotherhood, not for revolution. In every country in the world we find some of the noblest of characters who believe in the red flag, not, as I say, because it means revolution, but because they look forward to a day when all human slaughter shall cease, and all men shall be brothers. I remind honorable members that the Salvation Army has adopted the “ Ifr. Riley. red flag ; and surely that cannot be looked upon as a revolutionary army - as a band of what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would call “cutthroats”? These men and women are imbued with the highest and noblest of motives, namely, the uplifting of all who are cast down by drink, debauchery, or poverty; and they go out into the highways and byways with the red flag. If that can be done by the Salvation Army, surely social reformers, who desire a revolution of thought with a view to making the country better for people to live in, should not, because they use the red flag, be stigmatized as “ cut-throats,” eager for the destruction of the institutions of the country. ‘Fancy the Government issuing a regulation to prevent the flying of the red flag ! It is beneath the dignity of any Minister or Government. What does it matter what flag is flown if no one is injured ?
– It means a great deal.
– Surely we can take a broad view in these matters.
– You are welcome to your views !
– And I am not ashamed of them. This country has been ruled by the War Precautions Act and Boards from almost the inception of the war; and now that the war is over it is the duty of Parliament and the country to return to normal conditions. We desire that the men coming back from the war shall fall into the avenues of labour and take up the industries of the country as if the war had never been; and that cannot be done unless we get rid of the War Precautions Act and pass laws, and administer them in accordance with the will of the people.
No one can deny that there has been a severe censorship on the press and public opinion in this country. If there was any need for that censorship it is gone, and therefore I hope that the question of its abolition will not be regarded as a party matter or fought on party lines. We ought to be united in wiping out the War Precautions Act and throwing on the Government the responsibility of legislating in accordance with the public will. If we are incapable of carrying on the affairs of this country and giving effect to the laws we pass, then, of course, we must leave it in the hands of the Executive, but the Parliament, if it realizes its responsibility, must insist that no laws shall now be permitted to operate without its sanction.
If we have power to extend the War Precautions Act for any period we choose, we have also the power to legislate, by Bill, in- any manner we choose. As a layman, my own view is that if the War Precautions Act be continued in force after peace is signed, and anybody contests its validity in the High Court, the whole machinery of government will be upset. I believe the Constitution must be altered to give Parliament necessary commercial powers. I hope, in the interests of the country, that all the bitterness engendered during the war will be forgotten, and that we shall return to normal conditions without any class feeling caused by class legislation.
.- I do not desire to vote in silence on this Bill. When, after the outbreak of war, the National Executive asked for this further power, and assured Parliament that it was necessary for the safety of the nation, and to enable Australia to effectively do her share in the war, I voted for the measure in the fullest confidence that the power given would be used only when required for war purposes. If the same set of conditions arose to-morrow I should take the same course, for the safety of the country in time of war stands, above personal, social, political, or other considerations. But at the termination of the war, on the signing of the armistice, and with the surrender of the German navy, the withdrawal of the German forces, and the occupation by Allied soldiers of a portion of enemy territory, I was very hopeful that the National Executive, in view of their altered position - and in the light of the fact that they had been wielding a power which no Executive, in my judgment, is entitled to wield except in the hour of danger and crisis - would specify clearly to the House and the .country the power they still required for the effective “grading off,” to use the words of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), of war operations. I was hopeful that the Attorney-General and the law authorities of the Commonwealth would make an exhaustive analysis of all the regulations passed under the Act, and, in asking for an extension of power, definitely rescind all non-essential regulations. This would have been taken as an earnest of a desire on the part of the Executive to shoulder their responsibilities, and relieve not only the political and social, but particularly the trading, commercial, and financial communities from artificial conditions. Recognising the war’s great needs we have borne the present restrictions without a murmur.
– I agree with the honorable member; but does not the Acting Prime Minister’s promise actually cover that ground?
– I was coming to that point. I was hoping that the Government would have named the specific powers it requires for specific purposes. It would not have been much trouble to do it, because the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in a most clear and able manner specified the particular powers the Government required. I would be willing to give those powers, and even to go still further; I would be prepared to give the Government the power to meet any emergency, which may arise in the future, but which we cannot foresee at the present time. In the meantime, as an earnest of good faith to a nation which has borne this irksome system of government for upwards of four years, the Government could have shed all the irrelevant regulations, many of which have been so irritating to the people, who have borne them solely because of the exigencies of the war. I am certain that the power given by the War Precautions Act will be required in certain directions to protect the country’s activities, and as I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister that it will only be exercised in the directions he has specified, I shall vote for the Bill.. My attitude throughout the war has been to stand by the Government, whether I sat behind it or not. This war time has not been a time for party criticism or embarrassing Ministers. On the other hand, it has been a time for honorable members to stand by the Government in the colossal task that the entry of such a young country upon such a huge war imposed upon it.
– The honorable member would vote for the Government whether it was right or wrong.
– Quite recently 1 have put on record a vote against the Government on a measure which, in my opinion, did not affect war activities. The honorable member, who has been away from the House fooling about in State politics, and paying no heed to his parliamentary duties here, is not aware what has happened in this chamber.
– The honorable member did not vote against the Government when there was any chance of defeating it.
– That old gag is played out, In regard to war matters, I would always vote for whatever the National Executive, with its superior knowledge of the circumstances, believed to be right. We are now approaching a stage when I consider that Ministers should have made a greater effort to shed some of the irksome and unnecessary War Precautions Regulations. Australia is one of the most liberty-loving countries in the world. The freedom given by our Constitution has been amply demonstrated on the battlefield. The Australian’s care-free method of waging war has earned for him a character which stands out by itself. However, the sooner we can get back to responsible government, and to a position in which the Parliament elected by the people can determine upon matters affecting the future welfare of the country, the better it will be for the nation.
– Why does not the honorable member give his vote to enable that to be done?
– I have already explained that there are many directions in which power given by the War Precautions Act is necessary. We must retain the power to deal with matters which cannot ordinarily be legislated upon by the Federal Parliament for lack of constitutional authority. No country can have a Constitution adapted to peace times that will meet all the conditions of war times. I do not agree with the reason advanced by the Acting Prime Minister for retaining power to deal with some of the trading operations of the Commonwealth, but I need not go into those matters now.. Those people who are connected with business transactions know that there is a way in which these great financial undertakings should be carried on. In regard to the moratorium seven or eight months hence, when another £50,000,000 of public money will have been raised, and when there will be a greater exhaustion of wealth, the position in regard to the financial commitments of Australia will be very much worse for the individual who has to go out into the cold. I would much rather go out into the cold to-day if I were facing the lifting of the moratorium. However, I do not propose to go into details in regard to that matter or any other matter now. I simply wish ;to place it on record that my reasons for voting for the extension of the War Precautions Act are to give the Government the power it deems necessary, and I wish at the same time to express my disappointment at finding that the Government have not taken advantage of the opportunity to shed every unnecessary regulation. The Acting Prime Minister has specified the powers which he thinks are necessary : but I would go further, and give additional power to meet conditions arising out of the peace settlement, or circumstances which we cannot foresee at the present time. I would bury the past and give no opportunity to honorable members opposite to go .into the country armed with ammunition of a political nature, when, after all, our chief concern in this matter is the safety of the Realm.
– I protest against the extension of the War Precautions Act because of the despotic power given by it to the Government, and because, from what has happened in the past, it is only reasonable to expect that the Government will exercise that power to the fullest possible extent. I listened most attentively to the speech delivered by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and to the qualifications he expressed in regard to the regulations issued; and, although I have not the slightest doubt that he will carry out his word to the last letter, I have to point out that he is not the Government, and has not the whole say in regard to matters directly affecting the welfare of this community. On more than one occasion the hand of the Acting Prime Minister and the hand of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) have been forced. If the opportunity presented itself, there are honorable members opposite who would exercise the power given by the War Precautions Act to the fullest possible extent on honorable members on this side of the House. For this reason I want to
Bee the War Precautions regulations wiped out of existence as soon as possible. The Act was passed for the purpose of dealing specifically with matters affecting the war. Let me read the words of the Prime Minister at the time the measure passed through this House. He said -
As to the general tone of the honorable and learned member’s remarks and his depreciation of the spirit of national hatred, I quite agree with Mm that we have no quarrel with the masses of the German nation; but we have a quarrel, and a quarrel to the death, with that intolerable Prussian military autocracy which, by this war and by deliberate preparation ‘ during the last twenty years, has hoped to dominate the world, and trample under foot liberty and democratic government. In order to meet the machinations of this blood and iron policy, the power given in this paragraph is obviously necessary. We are face to face with the most terrible realities. It is for us a struggle of life and death. We must not forget this fact. Sentiment is idle; mere talk will not avail. This Bill is not- intended to harass any law-abiding person in the Commonwealth, naturalized, unnaturalized, or native born; but, as I have said, it is a measure which the circumstances have shown to be necessary for dealing with the extraordinary conditions arising out of this war. I have at my disposal information which shows that persons regard the form of naturalization as a convenient cloak which they assume in order to operate more successfully against the Commonwealth. We have evidence of that fact. In the face of facts like this it is necessary to have powers to deal with naturalized persons in a manner befitting the circumstances. I do not attach much weight to the mere form of naturalization under present circumstances. In the organization to which I belong there are a thousand foreigners - Scandinavians, Germans, Italians, and what not - better men I never hope to. meet. I never ask them whether they are naturalized or unnaturalized. I merely ask whether they are unionists. If, however, I found a naturalized German doing anything opposed to the interests of my organization, let alone my country, he would get very shaft shrift from me. Naturalization is nothing but a form if the substance does not accompany it - that is, if there is no change in the heart and mind. I ask the honorable and learned member for Batman how long a period of expatriation in Germany would be needed to destroy his love for Australia? If I were in Germany for 100 years, if I could live that long, I should still be British or Australian, and I would not think it wrong to do what I could for Great Britain or Australia. I put a German in Australia on exactly the <same footing.
Those are the reasons given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for introducing . the War Precautions Act. He stated distinctly that under no circumstances would he and the. members supporting him interfere with the liberties of the Australian people during the currency of the war.’ The measure was introduced as a war measure, and therefore, now that the war is over, there should be no further need for it. To my mind, any member of Parliament who votes for the extension of the Act should resign his seat, because, by such a vote, he declares himself incapable qf legislating for the country’s welfare. Since the Act was passed, the Commonwealth has been governed by proclamations and regulations, and the Legislature has had practically no voice in the conduct of the administration. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that it is necessary to extend the operation of the Act to enable the Government to continue to deal with price fixing, the regulation of shipping, and the control of various industries. He spoke of the price fixing in regard to meat, wool, and wheat. I ask honorable members whether the fixing of the price of wheat has been in the best interests of the primary producer. I am of opinion that it has prejudiced the primary producer. As evidence of that, I mention the fact that less wheat has been sown this year than was sown last year.
– Without the action of the Government, the farmers would not have got ls. per bushel for their wheat.
– Hear, hear! Howcould they have financed the sale of it during the war?
– If the wheatgrowers were competing in the open market to-day, they would be getting 6s. and 7s. per bushel for their wheat, instead of 4s. 3d. and 4s. 6d. There is a scarcity of foodstuffs in other parts of the world, and wheat is needed there. There is now ample shipping space.
– Where is it?
– We shall get it within a short period.
– Where has it been during the last three years?
– The farmers should be receiving to-day for their wheat considerably more than 4s. 3d. and 4s. 6d. per bushel. Those prices will not pay unless the grower has an unlimited area and gets particularly good yields.
– They will not pay under the wage log that the honorable member advocates.
– The wages that the farmers have hadto pay nave not affected their profits. I have no desire to take from the primary producers anything to which they are entitled. I point out that there has been a great difference between the system adopted for paying the wheat-growers and that adopted for paying the wool-growers. The wheat-growers will never forget the control of their industry under the War Precautions Act during the past three years. According to the Acting Prime Minister, if the operation of the Act were not extended, the prices of necessaries might increase by leaps and bounds. He spoke of the prices of boots and of sugar. Never have the people of Australia had to pay more for boots than they are being charged now, and never have the boot manufacturers been making a bigger profit. It is the same with sugar, and with everything that we eat, drink, and wear.
– Sugar has been as dear as 6d. per lb.
– I am dealing with times in which the employee was supposed to receive a fair proportion of what he produces. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made bigger profits since the inception of the war than it has made during any other similar period of its history. The same thing may be said of the coal industry, and of the iron industry, both of which have been regulated under the War Precautions Act. The iron and steel industry in Australia is on a better footing now than ever before. Take the position of Messrs. Hoskins Limited, for example. No industry in Australia has paid a better dividend than the iron industry is paying. Then consider the cement industry. In pre-war days, cement was sold for something like 60s. per ton, and it is now being sold for between 90s. and 95s. per ton. The labour conditions have not altered, but the processes of manufacture have been modernized.
Mention has been made of the Boards that have been constituted to control the distribution of our products. The members of these Boards have been persons interested in the industries which the Boards were appointed to control, and, consequently, the War Precautions Regulations have been used to increase instead of to reduce the prices of commodities.
– The various industries have been represented on the Board only so far as the employers have been concerned. There has been no representation of workers.
– That is so. The members of the Boards have been chosen from the moneyed classes, and those controlling our various industries. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that under no circumstances would the Act be used in the future for political purposes, and that the censorship on newspapers would be removed. During the war certain newspapers in this country have been continually harassed and fined for publishing what has been allowed to appear in other newspapers, such as the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Argus, and the Herald. The newspapers whose views have been opposed to the views of the National Government have been penalized in every way. Yet the Acting Prime Minister wants us to vote for the extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act, so that he may bring them before the Courts, and punish them to any extent. When the Seventh War Loan was being floated advertisements were published in the press asking all and sundry to contribute as speedily as possible towards it; but, although the Government have power to prevent the newspapers publishing these advertisements from charging exorbitantly for them, it permitted the country to be exploited. The Sydney Morning Herald received 18s. and 25s. per inch, or, in all, £1,708 15s. for its advertisements.
– Those are the newspapers’ regular rates.
– Some newspapers got 23s. per inch.
– I do not say that the regular rates are not charged. My point is that the newspaper proprietors have been waving the flag of patriotism, and have been running down the class to which I belong as disloyal. Yet they have been robbing the people. The Daily Telegraph received 15s., 20s. 10d., and 25s. an inch for its advertisements, or £1,195 in all. The Evening News received only 12s. per inch, and a total of £609 3s. The Sun charged 6s., 8s., and 12s. 6d. per inch ; and received a total amount of £461.
– The circulation of a newspaper determines the price of its advertisements .
– I turn now to the amount received by the great democratic newspapers. The Worker, which is recognised as one of the greatest democratic newspapers in the Commonwealth, received 6s. per inch, and a total amount of £7 4s., as compared with the £1,195 received by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Despite the fact that the large newspapers were charging exorbitant prices for advertising the Seventh War Loan, and were exploiting the people to the fullest extent, the Acting Prime Minister never thought it necessary to exercise the powers conferred upon him by the War Precautions Act to restrain their profiteering. As a result, the advertising of the Seventh War Loan cost the country many thousands of pounds. No honorable member will deny that a ,price of 25s. per inch for advertising the war loan was unwarrantably high. To the best of my belief the Government desire an extension of the powers contained in the War Precautions Act for the sole purpose of dealing with the industrial section of the community. I am not biased, but the utterances of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) lead me to believe that those powers will be exercised ,principally against the industrialists. The honorable gentleman said -
The power of the censorship must he retained to prevent the spread of the doctrines of revolution. The one big union movement must also be watched. It was not an industrial movement at all, but a revolutionary Bolshevik movement, aimed at upsetting the Government of the country. He had great faith in the good sense of the majority of the workers of Australia, but a check must be retained during this period over the red flag revolutionary.
These remarks indicate the policy of the Government. They know that there is a movement afoot to establish in the Commonwealth one gigantic organization for the purpose of preserving the rights of the workers. Those rights must be and will be preserved in that way, and the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that this is a red flag revolutionary Bolshevik movement is astounding. The honorable member does not know the meaning of revolution or Bolshevism, or what unionism stands for.
– He has forgotten more than the honorable member ever knew.
– I have been connected with the labour movement ever since I could speak.
– The honorable member belonged to the kindergarten union.
– The honorable member will find out what the kindergarten union is in the near future. I like to hear these old “has-beens” say what they have done for unionism. All they have done is to cripple the industrial movement in Australia.
– Order! These personalities must cease.
– These men have paralyzed the industrial movement, and they now desire a continuance of despotic powers conferred by the War Precautions Act. By the aid of these powers the Government have starved the wives and children of many industrialists, and sent men to gaol for committing very trivial offences. They have interned men who have committed no breach of the law - men who were accused of having made disloyal utterances, but never made them. They have interned Irishmen for voicing an opinion which they thought to be right, and who meant no harm. The Government desire to keep those men under restraint as long as they can. It is for such reasons that they desire to continue their despotism. I hope that now the war is over-
– For which the honorable member did nothing.
– I have done as much as the Minister.
– The honorable member would not even advocate voluntarism.
– I made my position clear. I said, “ I am not suffering from senile decay. But I am not prepared to enlist, and in no circumstances willI ask any other man to do the job I myself am not ready to do.” Honorable members opposite knew that they were not fit to enlist, and that they would not have to fight in any circumstances. But they went upon the plat- from and condemned men who would not enlist, and they attempted to force men into active service. I did as much to win the war as did most honorable members on the Government side. I never styled myself a war-winner. Honorable members opposite told audiences that they were win-the-warites, knowing that they themselves were not capable of fighting. The only men who are entitled to take credit for assisting to win the war are those who fought in the trenches. It is not fair to make accusations of disloyalty against a person merely because he has not enlisted. There are circumstances in every man’s life which may prevent him from enlisting. Many men who did not offer their services were quite willing to fight if circumstances would have permitted them to do so.
I repeat that I believe the Government desire the extension of the War Precautions Act for the purpose of crippling the one big union movement or any other industrial movement which they do not favour. Any bogus union that operates in Australia to-day has the full support and sympathy of honorable members on the Government side. They have tried for the last two years to devise ways and means of dividing the workers and putting one section against another. But the industrialists of Australia now recognise their responsibilites and the hardships they have to suffer, and they have decided to join forces by the formation of one big union for their own preserva tion and protection. I am in full accord with that movement; I advocated the cause of one big union many years ago. The red-flag revolutionaries spoken of by the honorable member for Hindmarsh do not exist. I do not know that flags stand for much.
– The old Union Jack counts.
– That is because the whole of the British people believe in it.
– Some of them will not fly it.
– The reason why they do not fly the British flag is that they have seen so much flag-flapping during the past four years that they are getting sick of it. No matter where one goes be can see somebody waving a little flag. But if that person is asked to give 5s. to a patriotic movement he will refuse.
– The Minister for Works was guilty of that same trick in Brisbane a few months ago.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about?
– The reason why a number of Australian people do not fly the Australian flag as often as some honorable members would wish is that they have seen too much of that sort of thing. Flag-flying means very little to-day. There are to be found in all parts of Australia to-day people waving the Union Jack who, if appealed to, could not say for what the flag stands. They indulge in flag-flying because others do so.
– Does the honorable member think the British flag stands for much ?
– I think it stands for everything.
– Then, why does not the honorable member say so.
– I have repeatedly said so. I say, also, that the red flag stands for something. In no circumstance’s can it be said that it is antagonistic to the British flag. It is simply an emblem of brotherhood, and is flown by certain people just as many wear on their watch chains the emblem of a friendly society.
– Why is it necessary to pull down the Australian flag in order to fly the red flag?
– It is not necessary to pull down the Australian or any other flag in order to fly the red flag.
– Then why is it done?
– I do not know that it has been done.
– It has been done in Melbourne.
– To the best of my knowledge the Australian flag has never been hauled down with the object of flying the Ted flag. If in this country there is a certain section who believe in the red flag, then, under our supposedly free and democratic form of government, they should be permitted to fly it. What is more, they will fly it. The time is not far distant when an opportunity will present itself for flying it. AH the War Precautions Regulations in existence will not prevent that being done. Courts of law may say it is illegal to do certain things, but the court of public opinion - which is higher than any Court of law - will not. There is a change about to take place in this country. The people are “ fed up “ with regulations and proclamations, and they have decided to bring about a change of affairs. When the Government appeal to their masters they will learn exactly what they are face to face with. The electors will place on record their disapproval of the action of this Government in harassing and embarrassing the Australian people since - the inception of the war.
I have already made a slight reference to the internment of Australians. I have mentioned the case of a man named Scott, who, under the War Precautions Regulations, was interned for nothing at all.
– Absolutely nothing. A number of Irishmen were interned merely because they believed, as they were entitled to, in Home Rule for Ireland. There was nothing to show that they had ever made a disloyal statement or had been guilty of a disloyal act.
– Is the honorable member referring to the men who were interned in Sydney?
– Then the honorable member cannot have read the judgment in that case.
– I have. It was in the same class as the judgment given in the case of the ten or twelve men who, today, are serving sentences of from five years to fifteen years’ imprisonment, under the War Precautions Act, for doing something which they never did. There is evidence clearly proving that the majority of these men are innocent. These are matters in respect of which” the Government will have to answer in the near future.
Sitting suspended from 18.54 to 8.44 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. . Finlayson> adjourned.
House adjourned at 3.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181206_reps_7_87/>.