7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took thechair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Government has received a further report from the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration. It proposes, at a later stage oi this day’s sitting, to Jay the report on the table of the House, together with a statement by the Cabinet.
Admission of Ministers of Religionto Quarantine Grounds
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs,whoseadministration covers quarantine matters, whether the Government can, by making arrangements which will reduce theadded risk of infection to a minimum, see its way to modify to any degree the instruction that ministers of religion shall not be admitted into a quarantine station?
– The honorable member gave me notice of his intention to ask this question. For some days past the Government has been in close consultation with the heads of churches in an endeavour to find a means which would enable what is desired to be done, and, at the same time, reduce the possibility of added risk to a minimum. To-day I have been in conference with the Director of Quarantine, who has addressed to me a minute, in which he says -
Charged as I am with the responsibility of protecting Australia from invasion by a disease, which has proved’ to be calamitous in other countries,I would be obliged to decide if the matter were one solely of my own judgment against taking the responsibility for this increased risk, even though it might be reduced to its minimum.
Having stated my conception of my own responsibility as above, thefollowing outline is submittedas necessaryprecaution which could be adopted to reduce this increased infection risk to its minimum: -
Each denomination shouldselect its clergymen foT service in thequarantine station atonce, so thattheclergymen could be inoculated in advance.
The selected clergymen should be available at Short notice.
The clergymen : would enter the quarantinestation only upon notification from the Chief QuarantineOfficer orhisrepre- sentative. accredited , for this r purpose that a. patient belonging to the church in questionwas likely to -die, and had requested theattention of a clergyman of iris church, andthat no patients motherthan those notified to him as approaching death should be attended.
The clergyman should be conducted direct to the bedside of the patient,should remain there only so long as was necessary to complete his ministrations,and should then be at once removed to an isolatad portion of the station,where he wouldnot come! in contact with anyothers of thepersons detained onthe station, and should there complete suchperiod of quarantine as was considered necessary.
That, in the event offurther need for hisservicesarisingduring ‘the period ef Iris detention, thesame procedure should he followed as above.
That the clergyman shouldfaithfully and completely carry out all precautions against the spread of infection which should be prescribed by the Chief Quarantine Officer. 7.That the clergyman should be prepared to accept such accommodation and attendance as the exigencies of the station administration would permit, and should abide by the instructions of the officer in charge of the station in all details, both as regards infection and administration .
This morning Ministers deliberated in connexion with the matter, and decided to admit clergymen to the quarantine grounds under the rigid conditions that I have read. Instructions have been issued to enable this decision to be put into effect.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister yet completed his promised inquiry as to the responsibility for the misleading advertisement which appeared in the local press of Victoria in relation to mining in the Maitland district of New South Wales? If not, will the honorable gentleman expedite action, seeing that the session is nearing its close ?
– Speaking from memory, I think the matter is still the subject of correspondence between the Governments concerned, but I shall make an inquiry, and inform the honorable member.
– I desire to inform the House, that on Friday afternoon last, I received from the Acting SolicitorGeneral a letter directing my attention to certain passages in the remarks of honorable members on the 3rd and 4th inst., reported in the Hansard record of those dates, as calculated, in the opinion of the Crown Law Officers, to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign power. After consultation with the honorable members concerned, I determined to direct the omission from the report of the passages to which my attention had been drawn, since it appeared to me most undesirable that any remarks of the nature indicated - however sincere might be the convictions of- honorable members on the subjects debated - should be published during the progress of the important negotiations now proceeding in Europe. I took this course with some reluctance, and in conscientious exercise of the discretion vested in me by the resolution of the House.
I take this opportunity to intimate to the officers of the Crown Law Department that it will not in future cases of the kind be practicable to give effect to the resolution of the House unless my attention is directed to suggested omissions before I take the. Chair on the day following the sitting, in the course of which the remarks were made. I do not propose, unless in very exceptional circumstances, to direct the omission of any remarks without first consulting the honorable member making them, and it was quite by accident that those I desired to consult were available on Friday afternoon last.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, arising out of your statement, Mr. Speaker. On Friday afternoon last, much to my surprise, you sent for me to wait upon you in your office, which I did. To my further surprise, you drew attention to certain remarks in thereport of a speechwhich I had made in this chamber on Wednesday last. These remarks were designedly moderate and temperate.
– And dealt with facts.
Mr.BLAKELEY.- Everything that I said was said calmy and coolly, and; so far as I know, was a statement of fact. Knowing the way in which the censorship regulations have been used, I intentionally adopted moderate and temperate language, lest something might occur. The matters with which I dealt were fair subjects for criticism. I question the right of this Parliament to limit a member’s power of criticism, and I question, too, its right to give you, Mr. Speaker, the very great powers which you possess. Last, but not least, I question your right to limit the criticism of any member, especially in view of the fact that the necessity for such censorship has now completely disappeared, and also because the criticism in which I indulged was quite in accord with that which is heard in other parts of the world.
– You mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that the speech of more than one honorable member had been censored. We know that one of the honorable members affected was the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). Will you, sir, mention the names of the other honorable members whose speeches have been censored?
– In reporting the matter to the House, I purposely omitted the names of the honorable members concerned, and I can only answer the honorable member’s question to the extent of saying that the other honorable members concerned concurred in the censorship of their speeches. Although I reported this matter to the House, there was no obligation upon me to doso. I received definite authority from the House to adopt a certain course at my discretion, and. it is only as a matter of courtesy that I report to the House any action I have taken.
– Does the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs know whether it is a fact that the Government have refused an offer to purchase some 3,000 tons of flour in Western Australia at a price averaging about 7s. per bushel for wheat? If such is the case, will the Government reconsider the position?
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances. The control of wheat and flour rests with my colleague (Senator Russell), from whom I will ascertain the facts for the information of the honorable member.
– Are the British reservists, who were permanent residents in Australia at the outbreak of war, and were called to the colours, leaving here about October, 1914, to be given the opportunity to return to Australia which is being given to the original Anzacs?
– I shall make inquiries, and inform the honorable member later.
– Has the Assistant Minister for the Navy come to a decision with regard to paying the men in his Department for the holiday which took place on the occasion of the celebration of the signing of the armistice?
– The matter in dispute is in regard to a second holiday. We have paid the men for the first holiday, but have decided not to pay them for the second.
– In the case of men who enlisted in country districts just prior to the signing of the armistice and were not sent into camp, has the Department decided not to recoup them for the time lost by them after having enlisted and passed the medical officers?
– I will let the honorable member knowto-morrow what the Department has done in the matter.
– Has the Minister in charge of price fixing yet laid on the table papers in connexion with the increased price of butter?
– I have not the papers yet. I shall endeavour to get them tomorrow.
-In view of the large expenditure proposed in the General Estimates, will the Treasurer state definitely on what day he proposes to ask the House to go into Committee to consider them ?
– I cannot do so at this stage.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that some men on home service, who are supposed to receive their annual holidays and fourteen days’ pay on discharge, have been discharged without receiving the fortnight’s pay?
– I will refer the matter to the Minister for Defence.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give the results of tho deliberations of the Conference of central bodies respecting the sale of wheat in London, also the amount per bushel, and the probable first payment for the incoming wheat crop.
– I understand that the Conference is sitting at the present time, and I do not know when it will be concluded. I have not been in touch with it.
– Does the Minister in charge of recruiting know that it is a fact that, after the signing of the armistice, many recruiting agents were dismissed without notice? In view of the fact that men who were in camp were given fourteen days’ pay after discharge, will he take into consideration the advisability of treating the recruiting agents in a like manner, especially seeing that some of them have served for two years ?
– It is not a fact that recruiting agents have been dismissed without notice. Each man has received a fortnight’s notice, and each man who has been engaged for over twelve months has received an additional fortnight’s pay.
– I know of one who has been engaged in the work for over two years and has not got it.
– Evidently, that man was unaware of the conditions. If he will make application to the organizing secretary of the State, he will receive the extra fortnight’s pay.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation see that military patients discharged from military hospitals are given first class rail fares, and not second class fares, when sent to their homes?
– I- understand this is a matter dealt with by the Defence Department. I shall make representations to the Department concerned.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs tell the House the names and positions of any persons who have visited the Quarantine Ground in Sydney and been permitted to leave without having to remain in quarantine for the necessary period?
– I do not think that anybody has been permitted to visit the Quarantine Ground and leave without having to remain for the necessary period. One portion of the ground is clean, and the administrative officers are situated in it. Officers, in the course of their duty, may have gone into the clean area and come OUt of it again ; but I shall make inquiries, and, if there has been any case in which any officer or other person has gone into the actual quarantine space, I shall make the information available to the honorable member.
– In view of the report that a troopship is now approaching Fremantle with a large number of influenza cases on board, will the Assistant Minister for the Navy make every inquiry in order to relieve the minds of relatives of soldiers on board as to whether those whom they are expecting are ill or not?
– I shall be pleased to do so. I gather from inquiries already made that it is a light form of influenza. Steps have already been taken by the quarantine authorities for the purpose of detaining the vessel when it arrives.
– Have the Govern ment considered the advisability of making Peace Day an annual thanksgiving day for Australia? If not, will they give the matter early consideration, so that thé public may be notified?
– The Government have a sub-Committee working on the proposals for the peace celebrations, and the question of perpetuation annually is one of the subjects receiving the consideration of that sub-Committee.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 4th instant ? : - “ They took 50 pieces of shrapnel out of me. Both my eyes are out,” a returned soldier explained at a meeting of the Returned Soldiers league, in Sydney. He demanded a better pension, declaring that the 30s. per week he received was utterly too low. “ This is paralyzed,” he shouted, touching one arm, “ and this is useless, and so is this,” pointing to other parts of hisbody, “ and yet Senator Millen says a blinded man is regarded as not entirely incapacitated.”’
Will the Minister see that blind men who have served their country are treated in a fashion that cannot be regarded as charity, and will also enable them to maintain themselves in decency and comfort?
– The honorable member will find that the Repatriation Department is treating blind men with all the consideration that these unfortunate persons deserve, but if the honorable member will supplyme with the statement he has quoted I will have a fuller reply furnished to him to-morrow.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inquire as to what Australian products are denied admission to the United States of America, and whether the denial of admission is due in each case to a surplus of the commodity in question in the United States of America, or to an arrangement between the Allies ?
– I have a certain amount of information on the question, but it is not full enough to permit me to answer the honorable member’s question offhand. I shall endeavour to furnish him with a complete reply.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories come to any definite conclusion regarding the closing date for the receipt of plans for the Parliament buildings at Canberra?
– As the honorable member is aware, the calling for competitive plans for the Parliament buildings at Canberra was postponed until after the war, but I shall take an early opportunity of again submitting the matter to Cabinet.
– Is the Assistant Minis ter for Defence in a position to make any statement about the demobilization of Australian soldiers, and the rate at which they willbe returned to Australia?
– I have no definite information yet.
– In view of the fact that our soldiers have offered the sacrifice of their lives, will the Government cable an instruction to London that the best deck on each transport shall be reserved for the soldiers and officers who have been most severely wounded, and for those who are physically the weakest?
– I cannot say from memory what instructions have been given at either the Melbourne end or the London end, but I shall convey the honorable member’s suggestion to the Minister responsible.
– Has the Postmaster-General noticed a statement published in to-day’s Argus under the heading “ Opportunities Missed,” and stating that great delays have taken place and. are taking place in forwarding mails to soldiers abroad? It is stated that in some cases soldiers’ mails have been held in Australia for a calendar month, while suitable steamers for carrying the same have been making the trip. If that statement is correct, will the Minister endeavour to have this state of affairs : remedied at once ?
– I did notice the statement. Like most statements emanating from that source, it was not in accordance with fact. I have prepared a. reply for transmission to the Argus, which will show that I am paying attention to the matter of the expeditious carriage of mails to soldiers.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence made any inquiry as to the conditions on board the troopship Port Sydney, which recently arrived in Australia with returned soldiers?
– Inquiries are being made, but the result is not available yet.
– I ask the
Acting Prime Minister whether the newspaper report that a Minister is to be sent to London is correct; if so, will Parliament be allowed an opportunity of expressing its opinion before any Minister is sent?
– A newspaper report did purport to say that another Minister is to be sent to London, but that statement was contained only in the headline. I at once contradicted the statement, and put the matter in itsright light.
– A soldier’s widow called upon me to-day, and said that the pension of herself and her child had been discontinued. For some offence which the soldier committed before he was killed, his widow’s allowance was reduced to 2s. per day, and the Department is now withholding the allowance dueto his child. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence represent to Cabinet . that incases in which men paid the supreme penalty these trifling fines - whether for diseases which they are blamed for contracting although they could not help themselves, or for other offences - are waived, and that the punishment should not be visited upon the dead soldiers’ widows and children?
– If thehonorable member will give me particulars of the case he has mentioned I will have it inquired into.
– My question applies generally to all cases of that description.
-Will the Assistant Minister for Defence confer with the Minister for Defence, with a view to making a statement in the House as to the exact position in regard to the proposed Gallipoli Decoration?
Mr.CONSIDINE.- I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government, instead of imprisoning the representative in Australia of the Russian Soviet Administration, will follow the precedent established by the Imperial Government, and facilitate the departure of Mr. Peter Simonoff from Australia if he so desires?
– I do not know anything of the representative in Australia of the Russian Soviet Administration, but I do know that a Mr. Simonoff was tried for a breach of the War Precautions Act, and I think he was ordered to pay a fine, or in default to undergoimprisonment. The circumstances in his case are not identical with those in the case of a fellow-countryman in England, Mr. Litvinoff, who did not commit an offence against the Defence of the Realm Act.
– He was prohibited from addressing a public meeting.
– Thecircumstances were not the same. We did make arrangements to facilitate the departure of Mr. Simonoff from Australia, but for some reason known to himself he did not go.
Statement by Captain Carmichael, M.L.A.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation noticed a cablegram published in the press to the effect that Captain
Carmichael, M.L.A., of New South Wales, has stated in London that there is a great deal of confusion regarding the return of Australian soldiers to their own country, and that, in consequence, the numbers returning are likely to be restricted to 10,000 per month, notwithstanding that Canadians and others are being much better handled, and that there is available a great deal of shipping, which, if utilized, would speedily provide for the return of our soldiers, and take back much of our produce to the Old Country.
– I will submit the matter to the Minister for Repatriation.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House when the long-promised medals for mothers will be ready for distribution?
– I think I announced a few days ago that it was hoped they would be ready for distribution before the end of the year.
Communications of Relatives
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, as administrator of the Quarantine Act, see that urgent telegrams sent by the patients or relatives of patients in quarantine, who are known to be dangerously ill, are attended to, since much indignation is being expressed throughout the country in regard to what seems to be the ignoring of these very important messages?
– I do not know whether the matter is attended to by the Director of Quarantine or by the Defence Department. In the case of soldiers who are patients in quarantine, information as to their condition would be transmitted to the relatives through the Base Records Office. I shall ascertain what the procedure is, and shall see that in any case the earliest information possible in such matters is supplied to relatives.
Quarantine Administration: Ministers of Religion
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The action of the officials of the Quarantine Station, North Head, Sydney, in refusing a priest permission to attend the sick and dying when they were crying out for spiritual succour.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I appreciate the fact that honorable members are anxious to push on with the business on the notice-paper so that they may return to their homes before Christmas; but the action taken by the authorities in this matter is one that I cannot understand, and the reply given on Thursday night to the question raised by my leader (Mr. Tudor), and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), appeared to me to be quite unsatisfactory. We all recognise that in certain circumstances the placing of individuals in quarantine, and the imposition of restrictions as to who shall visit them, is necessary in the public interest; but it is usual for certain persons to be allowed to enter hospitals or quarantine grounds in order to attend to patients suffering from contagious diseases, provided that proper attention is paid to certain sanitary laws. Clergymen did not hesitate, despite the dangers, to go with our troops to the Front, and, no doubt, they were a source of comfort to many of the wounded and dying to whom they ministered. We can well understand what were the feelings of those who were compulsorily placed in quarantine at North Head, Sydney, when they found that the attendance of a clergyman was denied- them. Attendance upon the sick and the dying is regarded as one of the most sacred duties of the church, and I have been requested by Archbishop Kelly, who is one of my constituents, to impress upon the Government that a serious error was made in refusing admission to a Roman Catholic clergyman to enter the quarantine station at Sydney. Representatives of the churches have always had access to leper settlements, as well as to other places for the treatment of contagious diseases, and while I know the Government have now withdrawn from the stand originally taken up by them in this matter, T wish to urge upon them the importance . of seeing that there is no recurrence of the incident. At a meeting held in St. Mary’s Cathedral, and attended by various organizations associated with the Roman Catholic Church, the following resolution was carried: -
That this meeting of Catholic societies assembled, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Sydney, most strongly protests against the action of the authorities of the Quarantine Station in refusing admittance to a Catholic priest to attend the sick and dying; and likewise protests against the pretexts used by the officials of “ military chaplain “ and “ personal temperament “ to exclude appointee of Archbishop, and appeals to the Prime Minister, in the name of Christianity and humanity, to appoint urgently, a commission of inquiry to report upon the extraordinary attitude of the authorities in this matter.
Honorable members generally will subscribe to this resolution. In practically every town and hamlet throughout Australia there has been some form of protest against the original refusal of the authorities to allow a Roman Catholic priest to visit the quarantine station to minister to the sick and the dying. I am glad that the Government have altered their course of action ; but I still think that they must have been rather loose in their arrangements, or were attempting to place in the way more obstacles than were necessary to prevent clergymen and others visiting the sick and dying at the Quarantine Station. It certainly is strange that,” while strong action was taken against members of the Church, telegrams from Sydney have told us that Dr. Elkington, Dr. Cumpston, and Dr. Mitchell visited the station, and that one of these gentlemen subsequently took up his quarters in an hotel in the city. Of this circumstance the Government must have had some information, because the facts were intimated to the House. However, I feel so strongly in the matter that, at the request of Archbishop Kelly, I deem, it my duty to bring the matter under the notice of honorable members. I do not wish to labour the subject, but as one who has worked in hospitals full of infected patients - at one time in the small-pox hospital, containing about 800 patients, and at another time in the hospital field, with other forms of what people in my particular calling know as “ dirt diseases “ - my experience has shown that persons may enter such places and keep free of infection if they only take the ordinary proper precautions. Medical men and attendants are not attacked in any great proportion if we keep in view the number of patients they have tq attend, although, of course, there are some who become careless, and render themselves liable to infection. I feel sure that the clergy, if permitted to enter the Quarantine Station, would willingly submit themselves to any necessary discipline, and, in my opinion, the Government have been just a little too hasty in their action.
There are, I know, some in the community who would raise the sectarian issue, but I am confident that there are representatives of other churches and religious persuasions who, with those of the Catholic Church, would be quite prepared to enter quarantine and attend to the sick and dying. When the war broke out the clergy of various denominations offered their services, and advanced to most dangerous places on and near the firing line in order to carry out their duties. I feel all the more anxious to bring this matter before the House today because I think that, in the future, no Government will refuse to permit clergymen to enter such places. I am glad the Government have taken the steps that have been intimated to us to-day: and I can only hope that the regulations to be issued will hot be such as to prevent representatives of the churches from ministering to the sick and the dying.
– I commend the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) for drawing public attention to this matter, which is of deep concern, not to one section of the community, but to all sections. Under the sad .circumstances that prevail in the Quarantine Station, there is always a strong desire for spiritual advisers on the part of those who are ill or passing away; and the question now under discussion has excited considerable attention throughout the Commonwealth. I have an important letter from a public meeting at which a resolution was carried condemnatory of the action .of the Government in not making provision for ministers of religion to enter the Quarantine Station when they were prepared to remain there and take the consequences. Considering that the clergy were prepared to enter into quarantine and take all the responsibility even to the extent of staying there, it is regarded as very hard on the part of the Government to refuse the request.
T quite realize that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has to-day considerably modified his attitude, and I give him the credit of being actuated by the best of motives in his desire to stamp out the disease. As I have said, this prohibition affects every section of the community, and various meetings have been held in my district, not confined to one religion, which have condemned the action of the Government. One day last week, on the adjournment of the House, I mentioned the matter, and the Minister gave me a reply, but owing, I believe, to the lateness of the hour, the remarks then made were not given publicity. This is a pity, for, otherwise, the public would have known earlier what are the facts of the situation. On that occasion, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) supported me’; but, as I say, there was no report of the incident. It appears to me as though the matter has been re-opened to-day by a pre-arranged question from the Government side of the House, although it is a fact that hitherto attention has been called to it only by members on this side. However, the Government have taken a step in the right direction. I cannot understand why any exception was taken at the beginning to the clergy entering the Quarantine Grounds, seeing that they were prepared to remain there. In to-day’s press there is a letter from the Reverend L. Rentoul-
– Who practically admits that if the clergy were prepared to stay in the Quarantine Grounds the service should be granted.
– The letter only shows the misconception in the public mind. In justification of the action of the Government, Dr. Rentoul urges that it would be wrong to permit the clergy to enter the Quarantine Grounds and then resume their ordinary life outside.
– I have all along acknowledged that the clergy were prepared to stay in the Quarantine Grounds.
– That is why publicity should have been given sooner to the statement of the Minister last week. The letter I have referred to shows what is in the public mind, namely, that the clergy desire to attend the Quarantine Station, and at the same time to continue to mix with the general community. As a matter of fact, as I stated last week, the clergy have made it very clear that they are prepared to remain in quarantine and take all risks. It was a matter of religion with them. They referred particularly to Nurse Egan, -a woman who has done immense service during the war. She was passing away, and although Archbishop Kelly was in telephone communication with the hospital’, it was impossible to gain admission for a priest to administer spiritual consolation. The Archbishop stated that there were plenty of priests who were prepared to remain at the Quarantine Station until all danger . of spreading infection had passed, and he himself volunteered to go there. I should not be prepared to allow any person to come and go among the community at large after being in contact with infectious patients, but permission to do this was not asked for. It might be well if gentlemen in positions such as that of the Reverend Dr. Rentoul would make themselves acquainted with the facts be~fore writing to the press. Doubtless his intention was to assist the Minister, but actually he did an injustice to him. I am glad that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has brought up this matter,, and I am glad, too, that the Minister has given way to some extent. It is to be regretted that, in the first instance, ministers of religion were not permitted to enter the Quarantine Grounds to give spiritual consolation to patients who were passing away.
.- I am glad that the Minister has relaxed the rule in regard to the admission of ministers of religion to the Quarantine Grounds. x Last week when speaking upon the question, after it had been raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), I said that quarantine regulations were difficult to interfere with, but that if ministers of religion were prepared to remain in quarantine as long as the authorities considered necessary to prevent the spread of infection, they should be allowed to go there. One of the most famous examples of religious heroism is the case of Father Damien, who ministered to the lepers on the island of Molokai, knowing ‘full well that it was only a question of time when he himself must become a victim to the most dreadful disease that afflicts humanity. Even those of us who do not belong to the Roman Catholic faith know how much importance the adherents of that church attach to the ministrations of the priest in the final moments of life, and the Government should be very careful not to give offence to any section of the community in matters affecting religion.
I hope that there will be no more deaths in quarantine during the present epidemic. I admire the way in which the Department has prevented the disease from getting into Australia. The doctors knew comparatively nothing about it. They had no previous experience of it, and it was not known whether it could be kept within the limits of the quarantine. Thank goodness, it has been checked. Had there been no quarantine, Australia would have suffered the loss, not of 2,000 or 3,000 citizens, as New Zealand has done, but of front 15,000 to 20.000.
– At least.
– I would not allow any tran who was in contact with a quarantined patient to leave the grounds while there was danger of the infection being spread. There has been, however, misapprehension as to what was desired. Nine out of ten members of the public seem, to think that permission was sought to enter the Quarantine Ground and leave again after the sick had been ministered to. The Reverend Dr. Rentoul evidently fell into that error, because in his letter he says that if priests were prepared to stay in the Quarantine Ground until the risk of spreading infection had disappeared, they had the right to be admitted. I am glad that the regulations have been relaxed in this matter, and I hope that, before long, the quarantine will be unnecessary.
– I join with those who, under cover of the motion, have expressed pleasure that the Government has faced about on this very important matter. It is more than a merely political matter.
– Does the honorable, member suggest that there -is politics in it?
– I say that it is more than a political matter. The Minister will hardly take exception to that statement. I wish that I could congratulate the Government upon the manner in which it has backed down. Other speakers have taken advantage of the ‘occasion to point out that it was only from this side of the House that protests were made against the attitude of the Department. ‘ No doubt, many men on the Ministerial side held strong views on the subject, but their voices were not heard until to-day, when the Minister, knowing that a motion was likely to be moved, put into the mouth of a supporter a question to which he had prepared a carefully worded reply.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– It was obvious, from the difficulty that the member experienced in reciting his question, and from the reply of the Minister. The Minister might well have adopted the more generous attitude adopted in another place, where the leader of the party of which I have the honour to be a member .was informed that if he asked a question on the subject, a reply would be forthcoming, and the moving of the adjournment would be unnecessary. However, different Ministers different methods.
I cannot allow the occasion to pass without commenting adversely on the conduct of the Government. While Ministers have been reflecting at leisure upon the obvious means of escape from the impasse into which their ill judgment had brought them, we have witnessed the tragedy of a woman dying in quarantine without the ministrations of her church, to which, in a civilized country, and particularly in a free country like this, she was clearly entitled. There is neither precedent nor parallel for the refusal to allow spiritual consolation and support to be given to a person desiring it. It has been suggested in the press that the test of the good faith of the clergy in this matter was their willingness to remain in quarantine after they had been in contact with patients until all risk of the spreading of infection had passed. One might have supposed that a distinguished cleric like the Rev. Dr. Rentoul would have kept himself sufficiently well informed to be aware that no minister of religion had asked for permission to enter the Quarantine Ground except on the condition that he would remain there subject to such restrictions as the Government might think fit to impose in the interests of public safety. I appreciate the good feeling and generous expression of the Minister the other day in acknowledging the heroism of those who are prepared to take the risk of coming into contact with sufferers from this dread disease; but I remind him, with great respect, that the patronizing applause of a Minister of the Crown is very poor consolation to a person charged with the serious duties of a minister of religion, who finds himself prevented from giving spiritual relief and comfort to those who have the strongest reasons for asking for it.
I hope that the House will be informed whether it is a fact that doctors and nurses have been, and are still, permitted to leave the quarantine area, and to mingle with the general public, staying at places of public resort like hotels. If that has been done, it is - remembering the statement of the Minister that no certain preventive against the disease has been discovered - a scandal of the gravest character.
– I say, at once, that it has not been done.
– I am glad to hear it. I accept the Minister’s statement, which will have the effect of allaying public suspicion and anxiety.
It is no longer necessary to urge reasons for the concession which is now to be given. All I would say, in conclusion, is that, although in this country there have been many bitter political crises, and much bitter political exchange’ in this and other legislatures, at no time has any Australian Government, nor, I venture to hope, has any Government in any part of the Empire, hitherto deliberately stood between a penitent and a patient and his spiritual consoler and adviser. The reason is that the people of this country are not prepared to abandon spiritual ideals merely on the ground of expediency or of public or private safety. When the time comes, as it sometimes does, to say whether the right thing should be done, in scorn of consequence, or whether it is to be shirked in craven fear of personal or public danger, this country, I hope, will always be prepared to take its stand for the free exercise of essential conscientious conviction.
.- While I yield to no man in my desire to assist the authorities to stamp out a scourge by the use of the strictest means possible, it seems to me that no good purpose was achieved by the action of the quarantine officer in preventing the sister, who had gone into the Quarantine Station to help to suppress the scourge of pneumonic influenza, from, receiving the comfort of a clergyman’s ministrations in her dying moments. The Minister has told us that the position will be rectified ; but I think it should be made plain that where clergymen of any denomination are asked to attend the dying in quarantine, no barrier should be put in their way so long as they comply with the regulations that are deemed necessary to safeguard the population generally from the spread, of disease. Nothing more need be said than to stress, in the strongest terms possible, one’s regret that, notwithstanding the difficulties facing the quarantine officials in the discharge of their most important duties, no arrangement was made whereby patients in the Quarantine Station could receive the ministrations of clergymen in their dying hours. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has pointed out, this sister expressed a wish to have the services of a priest, and her request was not acceded to. I trust that this will never be permitted to happen again in this fair land of ours.
.- I was the first to bring this matter under the notice of the Minister, and I found him very sympathetic. Subsequently I made inquiries from a reverend gentleman as to who could furnish me with information on the matter referred to by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and I handed his name to the Minister, but I think the Minister followed the right course in accepting the advice of his medical men. At that time it was not clear that proper provision could be made for clergymen in the Quarantine Ground, owing to the limited accommodation available there. On one occasion I was quarantined at North Head, and while I was there men came into the Quarantine Ground, saw cases, and walked about again.
– Of course that has not been done on this occasion.
– I do not say that it has been done.
– It was a case of small-pox that caused the honorable member to be quarantined.
– Yes. The Honorable member will remember that I said Sydney was standing on the brink of hell by the breaking out of an epidemic.
– It was certainly very lucky.
Dr.MALONEY.- On that occasion children left the Quarantine Ground, attended school, and came back again. One lady who had a relative in a high position in Sydney was able to get out of quarantine before any other passengers, probably on the principle that kissing goes by favour. Tradesmen came into the place and went away again, and I ascertained that some of the officials had not been vaccinated for years. I sent some strongly worded telegrams to the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Tudor). Women who were unfortunate enough not to be saloon passengers had to bathe in receptacles 2 ft. 10 in. long, 1 ft. 10 in. wide, and 10 in. deep. The saloonpassengers were willing to share their accommodation with the steerage and second-class passengers, but it was not permitted. As showing the ignorance of the man who was supposed to be in the position to supply the Minister with information concerning the matter, I may say that he told the Minister that there were plenty of hot shower-baths for the people whose part I was taking, whereas, as a matter of fact, there was not a single hot shower-bath provided outside those for the saloon passengers. It is a psychological moment for mentioning the matter to which I now wish to draw attention. People who are quarantined are practically imprisoned for the benefit of the rest of the community. If a millionaire is sent into prison, his treatment is identical with that of the pauper who commits a similar crime. Similarly, I maintain that there should be no distinction between saloon and steerage passengers who, although they have com- . mitted no crime, are imprisoned for the benefit of the whole community.
I am informed by credible witnesses that certain individuals did go into the Quarantine Ground to examine patients, and came out again. As a medical man, I know that a perfunctory walk through a disinfecting chamber may perhaps destroy germs, ‘but it is far safer to treat any person who goes into the Quarantine Ground as a contact, and detain him as such.
– The Director of Quarantine tells me that what the honorable member refers to has not been done.
– The Director of Quarantine is one of those who are accused of having done this. However, the Minister has promised to look into the matter, and I am satisfied with his assurance. The statement by Mr. Reed in the Sunday Times has been severely contradicted by Dr. Lambert, a passenger on board the Manuka. It may have been etiquette on his part not to take charge of the ship, because he was not officially asked to do so by the captain. I understand that he did attend certain patients when he was asked to do so, but hewas not officially asked by the captain to take charge of the ship. I am informed that the bad cases were not isolated at Wellington. The isolation room was very small, and was not restricted to the Manuka passengers, as the passengers of the Monogwai, whose captain had died, and who were thus impregnated with the germs, were also sent into this room, where they mixed with persons who were presumably healthy.
– Of course, that occurred outside Australia, if it occurred at all.
– According to my information the room was very close; patients were spitting all about it; and one of these was a very bad case of tuberculosis. For three days the healthy passengers were subjected to this treatment. They were all mixed up with passengers from the infected ships in the harbor, and none of them was medically examined before they went on board. I am sure that if the Government request the quarantine authorities in Wellington to see that all intending passengers are medically examined, they will do so. My information further states that when Dr. Mitchell came off to the vessel in Sydney harbor wearing a respirator, he simply casually asked, “How are you?” There was no examination. There was no separating of those who were dangerously ill, although there were thirty on board at the time. No orders or printed instructions were handed to the captain for the passengers to follow. The medical man simply told’ the passengers to go ashore lightly clad. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), who was quarantined in Sydney with me, will know that stormy weather occurs there sometimes. We were told to have a bath, and to come ashore with light clothes. Subsequently, we were told that we would not be required to leave the ship that day ; but in the afternoon we were again ordered to have a bath, and go ashore. I said I would not have a bath on board, and change my clothes again. It appears to me that the same idiotic rules are being observed to-day. These people were told to go ashore lightly clad. As a consequence, many of them caught cold owing to the temperature suddenly dropping 22 degrees. It appears that they were for five days without any medical examination, and that there was no separation of the sick from the sound. Another complaint was that on board the vessel there was only one rat-trap. The rats were so numerous that altogether, sixty were caught -by means of this one trap, and seventeen were caught at one time. I am informed that when the vessel was brought to the wharf, no proper arrangements were made to prevent the rats leaving the ship. I do not contend that rats will carry this special disease, but we know that rats and vermin have carried disease from the trench to the ship, and from the ship to the shore. It is only right that we should treat this disease as if it were an infectious and contagious disease capable of being carried by vermin, if not by rats themselves, at any Tate, by fleas on the rats. We know by the discovery made in Sydney during the bubonic plague epidemic that fleas carried the disease to the human being. The information which I have received supports Mr. Reed’s contentions in almost every point, with the exception of that part where he was accused of threatening Dr. Graham that he would be sent away. It was well known on board the ship that Dr. Graham was going. He simply intimated that it might be the result, not that he personally would have him removed. It is only fair to Mr. Reed to make that point clear.
My informant with whom I talked yesterday is aneducated man. He suggests that it would be good for the Government to instruct the officers to carry out the following rules: -
I do not need to quote, further than the reference made by the Minister when he spoke of the case of Father Damien, amongst the lepers in the Sandwich
Islands. ‘ Bad son though I may he at the present time of the old church in which I was reared, I do say -with full reverence for the faith of my childhood, that the Roman Catholic priests do not stand alone on the pinnacle of glory, but that other ministers of religion have offered their lives in the terrible turmoil and blood of battle, and at the bed of sickness. I do think, however, that the Roman Catholic priest carries his religion to the bedside in a more determined way than perhaps do the ministers of other religions. Of course, now that the Government have made what is, in my opinion, a fair settlement of the question, I have no desire to say anything further, but I am perfectly certain that any minister’ of religion who is willing to go into quarantine, and put up with the accommodation, which I know from personal experience is most unfair, ought to be allowed that opportunity.
In conclusion, I urge the Minister to impress upon the heads of his Department that the Quarantine Station is not a prison in which persons are confined as punishment for a- crime. The inmates are held in control for the benefit of the whole community, and it is the duty of the Government to treat them all equally and well. I can_ see no common-sense reason for. building splendid quarters’ for the first-class passengers, inferior quarters for the second-class passengers, . and very bad quarters for the steerage passengers. That is. merely a continuance of that vicious principle which makes our transports a curse to the soldiers who are returning from the Front. We have heard honorable members relate cases of men seriously wounded being placed on the third deck, whence they could not have possibly escaped had any disaster befallen the ship. Will any honorable member deny that those who are most severely wounded and physically the weakest should be given the best deck on every transport? As the street of a city is open to every one of its citizens, so should the upper decks of a transport be free to every man who is poor in health.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to express my regret that at least one honorable member, in addressing the House, tried to place this matter on a political footing. In dealing with this problem the Government, charged as we were with a very grave responsibility to the people, had no thought of politics. Nothing was further from the Government’s mind than a desire to wound the religious susceptibilities of any section of the community.
– I hope the Minister did not interpret my remarks as conveying any such imputation. They did not bear that meaning.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. When this difficulty arose, I, as the Minister, unfortunately, in control of the Customs Department at the time, was faced with the fact that the precedent had been laid down in the Department, and had been administered for five years, that in no circumstances were ministers of religion to enter the quarantine area.
– There had been no deaths for over five years..
– That may be; but the rule had been laid down and agreed to by the various Ministers who have controlled quarantine. The Director of Quarantine is still of opinion, even in face of the very restricted permission which the Government propose, that we should not depart from that rule, and that we are incurring an additional risk in doing, so. But, whilst safeguarding the community as fully as we° possibly can, we are prepared to take the additional risk, rather than wound the religious susceptibilities of our people. There is no need for me to follow all the arguments that have been adduced this afternoon; but I do wish to assure honorable members, on the authority of the Director of Quarantine, that* there is no truth in the statement that doctors and nurses are allowed to go into quarantine, come in contact with patients, and then mix with the general community. The Director informs me that, of course, the administrative officers’, who do not come in contact with the patients, or even with the contacts, visit the quarantine area; but naturally there is a part of that area which is clean. But for that fact, people would never get out of quarantine at all. It is quite competent for ‘officers of the Department to visit the clean area and come away; but it is not correct to say that those who do that have been in quarantine. The Government, in dealing with this question, have tried to find a way out of the difficulty in which they found themselves. We have not, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) suggested, reversed our decision. Our resolve in the first place was that ministers of religion could not visit patients in the ordinary way, even though they were dying. To have allowed them to do so would have added tremendously to the danger; but when the question arose, the Government, of their own volition, set to work deliberately to endeavour to find a basis of agreement which would concede the minimum required from the church point of view, and yet involve the minimuni of risk to the community. It took us a few days to arrive at a decision ; but, now that it has been reached, I hope that it will prove workable, and that those ministers who may be called upon for religious service in quarantine will agree to abide by the regulations which have been laid down. I have no reason to believe that they will not do so, and, under those conditions, all that is necessary can be done to meet the religious requirements of our people, and, at the same time, reduce to a minimum the grave risk to the community. .Of course, the Quarantine Department, in the operation, of its duty, is required to do many unpleasant things. It has to place upon the people who come under its control restrictions which they do not like, and which naturally give rise to a great deal of criticism. But I do ask honorable members to believe that, in the face of the unprecedented call which this epidemic has made upon the Department, we are doing all that is possible to mitigate the severity of the conditions under which people are quarantined. I hope, also, that honorable members will recognise the nature of the great service which the quarantine authorities will have ren
Mr. Greene. dered to this country if they succeed, as I now believe they will, in preventing this dread epidemic from entering the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate, without amendment: -
Loan Bill (No. 2). Distillation Bill. Spirit Bill.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning.
When announcing to the House the programme of business for the remainder of the session, I intimated that I thought it would he not only necessary, but agreeable to honorable members, to commence morning sittings this week. I did not ask honorable gentlemen to break their Inter-State arrangements in order to meet this morning, but I think we might, with advantage, do so from this day forth. If honorable members will consent to this motion, I propose to give notice of a motion that the House shall meet in the mornings for the remainder of the sitting days preceding the Christmas adjournment.
.- The Acting Prime Minister informed the House last week of the measures which he proposes to ask the House to agree to before adjourning about the 19th December. The business of pre-eminent importance is the War Precautions Bill and the Estimates. I have no objection to the House meeting at 11 o’clock in the morning; but as the Acting Prime Minister has given notice of his intention to move that standing order 70 be suspended, that will enable new business to be taken after 11 p.m. If we are to sit here from 11 a.m. until after 11 p.m. day after day, it will be impossible for us to do justice to those who send us here.
– We did that practically all through the 1910 Parliament.
– But not five days a week.
– We sat four days a week.
– We did not meet every morning throughout the 1910 session. As I have said, the War Precautions Act and the Estimates are the two outstanding matters with which we are asked to deal before Christmas.
– What about the Wartime Profits Bill t
– The discussion of that measure, particularly by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and those sitting on his right, is likely to occupy some time. The Peace Conference is to meet in January, and, according to a press statement, is not likely to conclude before May, so that there is no reason why the Government should not postpone the further consideration of the War Precautions Bill until after the new year, and allow us to proceed at once with the discussion of the Estimates. We have only six or seven sitting days at our disposal before the 19th instant, when it is proposed we shall adjourn for the Christmas holidays, and in that time we cannot hope to give adequate consideration even to the Estimates, let alone other measures with which we are expected to deal. We are told that all the Departments are engaged in war work, and their expenditure is largely inflated. The Estimates, therefore, demand special attention, and we could proceed to deal with them at once if the Government would postpone the further consideration of the War Precautions Bill. In any event, I hope we shall not establish in Australia a precedent for sitting twelve hours a day. The Government propose not only that we shall meet at 11 a.m. each day, but ‘that they shall be permitted to bring forward new “business after 11 p.m. If we are to meet at 11 o’clock every morning we should not be expected to -sit much later than 11 p.m. When the guillotine standing order waB passed, we were told that it would do away with the necessity for all-night sittings, and I hope that we are not to be asked now to return to those sittings. There is no reason why we should go the whole round of the clock. .
– 1 trust that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will adopt the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). Ever since I have been in Parliament it has been the practice to hastily deal with a mass of business in the two or three weeks immediately preceding the Christmas adjournment. In that way we have impaired our health, and at the same time have rushed measures through with so little consideration that subsequently they have had to be amended. If the Acting Prime Minister will say that he desires us to deal only with taxation measures and the Estimates before Christmas, I am sure the Opposition will assist him in transacting that business. Surely there is no hurry in regard to the War Precautions Bill. If we are to meet again in February or March next, there will be time enough then to deal with it. I hope the Acting Prime Minister will consider the effect of all-night sittings on the health of honorable members. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is always demanding all-night sittings; but if he wants an opportunity to sit up all night, I recommend that he seek it elsewhere. It takes me three or four days to recover from the effects of an all-night sitting, and the effects upon some of the older members of the House must be still more injurious.
.- This affectation of intense industry on the’ part of the Government towards the end of the year is, to say the least of it, unbecoming. In any - circumstances, it is objectionable to call the House together in the morning, and to expect it to sit all day and night since honorable members are thus denied an opportunity to discharge their duties to the ‘ electors who sent them here. The Government should try to learn that they would better con- serve the interests of the country if they required the House to sit a greater number of days in the year than endeavoured at -the close of the year to crowd into a few hours work that might easily extend over several months. I feel that this Government, without Parliament sitting, and with the War Precautions Act still in existence, are far too great a public danger to be contemplated with a serene spirit of resignation. The Government, while sitting, have armed themselves, first, with the lethal weapon of the “ gag,” and with that new invention of Satan which enables them to cut members off from the discussion of public questions of great importance.
– Is the honorable member referring to me as Satan?
– N o; the honorable gentleman, although he does his best, is at most an inefficient deputy.
I speak with seriousness, however, as to the possibility of rushing legislation through in the closing days of the year. I shall oppose this motion, even to the extent of dividing the House upon it. There is no real hurry. If the Ministry would call upon the House to do its business in the ordinary way, and devote a reasonable number of days to the consideration of public business, there would be no necessity for sitting day and night just before Christmas. This, after all, is only a mere pretence designed to convince the public outside that the Government is energetic and full of industry. A proposal of this kind cannot deceive any one. The general public know that we meet here for only a few days, and that for the greater part of the year the country is governed by regulations. It is most objectionable that either this or any other country should be so governed. These secret processes, which were better known to Russia when she was our fighting Ally, and to Prussia when she was our enemy, are not. forms of procedure suited to this country. We should legislate in open Parliament in the light of day, and not by the objectionable secret processes of regulations.
– If we meet at 11 a.m. we shall have more of the light of day for our sittings.
– Perhaps so. Our parliamentary institutions, as an honorable member reminds me, are falling into utter contempt in the public mind because of their abuse, and this proposal is apparently a mere piece of make-believe to persuade the people that the grand old British institution of Parliament is still in existence. If the Government would drop the War Precautions Bill - or if they would allow it to stand over until such time as its passing becomes in their view a necessity - there might be some reason in their proposal. The existing War Precautions Act will remain in operation for several months at least, so that there can be no urgency for the passing of the Bill providing for its continuation. The proper time to deal with it would be when the necessity arose - if, unhappily, itshould arise - some months hence. I am opposed to this affectation of haste at the last moment, and do not apologize for taking up a little time in voicing my opposition to the motion. I am not impressed with the sincerity of the Government in proposing to compel honorable members to sit here morning, afternoon, and night when they might well give them a little more extended time’ to deliberate in the ordinary way and during reasonable hours.
.- Before additional sitting hours are granted to the Government, there are one or two matters of outstanding importance on which some light should be thrown by them. The question was raised to-day about another Minister going to London, and it is stated in the city, on rather good authority, that Senator Pearce’s passage has already been booked.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing these matters; the question before the House is at what hour we are to meet to-morrow.
– I should like to know whether the additional time is required in order that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) may be able to give us the report of the Navy and Defence Administration Commission, and the Government’s own statement regarding it, because there seems to be some considerable tardiness to enlighten the House. I should also like to know from the Leader of the Government whether that report which is in his hands, and has been considered by the Cabinet, will be placed on the table of the House for the information of honorable members.
– The honorable member cannot raise that matter on a motion of this kind.
– I submit that when the Government is asking for additional time I am entitled to point out that there are matters challenging the conduct of the Government and its members, and it is pertinent, before the additional time is granted, to know whether the Government, collectively, is such a Government as ought even to have ordinary time for conducting business, much less additional time.
– There seems to be some misunderstanding as to the motion before the House. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has moved that the House, at its rising, shall adjourn until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. On that motion an honorable member cannot discuss all kinds of extraneous subjects; the only question is whether the House shall adjourn until that hour.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister, when replying, answer a number of questions as to what is to be done in the additional time? First of all, is it impossible during the hours of to-day to lay on the table of the House the report of the Navy and Defence Administration Commission?
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with matters of the kind on this motion.
– I wish to know why the extra time is required.
– For the more efficient discharge of public business.
– The Government at present have various means at their disposal for gagging measures through; and this motion appears to be another. Matters of the most urgent public importance are being rushed through Parliament without adequate time for their consideration. Notice has been given of a motion that new business may be introduced after 11 o’clock at night, foreshadowing allnight sittings, commencing at 11 o’clock in the morning. Members of the Government and their supporters may keep the House in relays, while the others sleep, whereas a small Opposition is called on to criticise measures of the most urgent consequence over a period of twelve to eighteen hours per sitting. This is an impossible demand from the stand-point of physical endurance, and is tantamount to gagging through important measures without adequate discussion. If the business before the House is urgent there is no reason why there should not be an adjournment over Christmas for a fortnight, at the end of which we could re-assemble and consider matters in the reasonable way in which it is expected the National Parliament shall deal with business of importance.
– You have been absent more than any other member.
– I have been absent
– Not without reason.
– Not without good reason ; but the absence of one man does not affect the general position. Even when I was absent, in the case of the Electoral Bill, which revolutionizes the conduct of elections in this country, the Government gave so many hours for its consideration, and as it was not possible to proceed in the time allowed beyond some of the earlier clauses, the whole of the remaining clauses were “gagged “ without any discussion at all. If there had been additional members in the House, the result would have been the same.
To extend the sittings, as now proposed, from twelve hours to eighteen or twenty hours a day, is imposing such a physical strain, particularly on the small Opposition, that it means that measures are not going to be properly considered. When the Government are asking for additional time, I should be entitled to discuss questions about which there are very interesting rumours, both in the House and in the city; but apparently, under the Standing Orders, I am not allowed to do so. I object to the extra time, because it means a physical strain that will prove beyond our powers of endurance.
.- I hope honorable members opposite will, not press their objections to the motion, but will realize that many of us on both sides represent distant constituencies, which we have not many opportunities to visit. I am intensely anxious to get to Western Australia to find out, among other things, what is being done there in regard to repatriation, so as to be able on my return to give some aid in that work. The opposition to this motion is hardly fair to Western Australian members.
We have a lot of important business, and I, for one, have no intention to aid the Government in applying the closure unless that business is well debated. Amongst the business is the Estimates, and I regret that we have hot been called upon earlier to consider them, for I desire to see them fully discussed. Honorable members opposite ought to afford an opportunity to get as much work done as possible before the end of the. year. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Watt), if we meet at 11 in the mornings, will not also ask us to sit all night, for all-night sittings are very trying to all. Now that we are here, and realize the enormous amount of work before us, I cannot see that any opposition to the motion be genuine.
– If we considered the Estimates from now until we rise for the recess, we could not discus them properly.
– Let us do the best we can in the time. Honorable members on this side have made up their minds to fully debate the business introduced, and more particularly the Estimates. In the interests of those members who represent distant constituencies, let us meet here each morning at 11; and I can assure honorable members that, so far as I am concerned, I shall strenuously object to any undue pressure on the part of the Government.
.- The honorable- member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is one of the few members opposite whose appeal would be likely to have any weight with me. He, himself, has always shown a desire to criticise fairly the business brought forward by the Government; but there are other honorable members opposite, who, in this respect, are found wanting, and who shall be nameless. At the same time, I doubt whether the Government are in earnest when it is stated that the extra time is required for doing the business of the country. I see no evidence that the Government are in earnest about doing any business.
– Every Opposition doubts the earnestness of every Government; it is the traditional attitude.
– I have seen no evidence that the Government are in a hurry.
– Suppose we were to closure this discussion, what would you say? Would you welcome it?
– I would not. I agree with the argument of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), that the Government have shown no desire to hurry matters, inasmuch as they have not yet dealt with an important statement affecting the honour of Parliament and the Government. If the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) were in earnest, and wished to hurry matters, he would have made that statement earlier to-day.
– I did not say I wished to hurry matters. As I have said, I desire the more efficient discharge of public business.
– It is said that the Acting Prime Minister wishes, to hurry matters, because he has delayed dealing with the Navy and Defence Administration Commission for weeks, as he seems to have delayed dealing with everything. On the business-paper there is a number of items which I do not propose to discuss in detail; but there is not a measure in regard to which there is any urgency. Why the War Precautions Bill? The country does not desire it, and it is not urgent. Nor is the Wartime Profits Bill urgent, and it also is not desired by the country. We do not require the Naval Defence Bill, nor the Defence Bill. There is, of course, the Income Tax Bill, and one or two other matters, but mainly the Estimates,, which must be dealt with. I venture to say, however, that the Estimates will not be brought forward in time for proper discussion, and when we can get any information about them. We are asked to meet at 11 o’clock in the mornings; and the honorable member for ‘Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) desires to know when we are going into Committee on the Estimates. The Acting Prime Minister will not tell him.
– He never will tell the House anything.
– I expect the honorable member to rise in his place, and express his opinion about the Acting Prime Minister.
– Sit down, and I shall do it.
– We ought to have from the Acting Prime Minister something more than the mere submission of this motion; he ought to support it with fact and argument, and tell us when he proposes to make his statement regarding the Navy and Defence Administration Commission’s report, which affects the honour of his Government and of Parliament. Has the honorable gentleman cabled to the Prime Minister?
– Order I
– I think you said, sir, that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) could ask a question.
– Not on extraneous subjects.
– I cannot see that any of the five measures I have mentioned, including that to deal with the Chief Justice’s pension, are urgent. If the Acting Prime Minister were to say that tomorrow it was proposed to consider the Estimates, he would not find a single objection to his motion on this side. I suppose, however, that he will not bring forward the Estimates until about the 19th of the month, when he will ask us to sit. all night, and honorable members will then be too tired to properly consider them.
– I rise to oppose the Government proposal, because I think that we should meet at 10 o’clock in the morning. I cannot sit here late at night, and, as we have six months’ work to get through in eight or nine days, we ought to start earlier than is proposed.
– Why try to get through so much work in eight or nine days ?
– When in Opposition, I made it a practice to see that the Government did not do that sort of thing.
– Does not the honorable member think that we shall be asked to sit night and day?
– There is nothing about that in the motion.
– Who voted for the “gag”?
-T am not disposed to vote for the “ gag,” nor to rush business through. If I bad my way we would come back after Christmas, and give fair consideration to the measures on the business-paper. The honorable member for Dampier points out that some members come from distant States like Western Australia. It will take them a fortnight or three weeks to get home. They cannot get home for Christmas.
– There is a train to Western Australia now.
– There are many electorates which cannot be reached in less than two weeks. I cannot see why Parliament should not ordinarily meet at 10 o’clock in the morning. The objection always urged against morning sitting is that they prevent Ministers from doing their work, and in war time Ministers are pretty busy. But I would object to meeting at 10 in the morning and continuing to sit all night. I ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) when we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Estimates ?
– About midnight on Wednesday week.
– Then they will not have a chance of getting through. I appeal to the -Acting Prime
Minister to give a proper opportunity for their discussion. If they are introduced two or three days before Christmas, we shall not have a chance to reduce them, which I hope may be done. Unless reductions are made in our expenditure, the burden of taxation must be increased. I know that the Acting Prime Minister is much harried and overwhelmed with business, but if he will promise that the Estimates shall be introduced on the first sitting day of next week, we shall know where we are. Much of the discussion on the War Precautions Bill and the War-time Profits Bill might be saved if the Estimates were dealt with first, because what would .be said on the Estimates would not be repeated when the Bills came before us. I know that members like the honorable member for Maribyrnong, whose home is in Melbourne, object to coming here at 10 in the morning, though others of us travel 1,000 miles a week to attend “to our parliamentary duties, and are physically exhausted in consequence. We have six months’ work to do before the 19th December, and must lengthen our sittings either by remaining later or by coming earlier. If members will not come at 10 o’clock, I shall support the proposal to meet at 11 o’clock.
– There are about six meeting days ahead of us, and even were we to extend our sittings much longer than is contemplated, that time might well be devoted to a parliamentary overhaul of the Postal Department alone. Members representing city and country constituencies have piles of postal complaints laid by. There is six months’ work to be done before Christmas. I have not risen to reply to the taunt of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), but to repeat the request that has been made to the Acting Prime Minister that he may inform us what Bills he actually requires before the session ends. I ask him to withdraw the War Precautions Bill for the time being, and a few others, and to proceed at once with the Estimates.
If he does that, he will meet the wishes of the bulk of honorable members and of the country. I hope that he will tell us that the business-sheet is’ to be cut down considerably.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Last week the honorable member for Maranoa on two occasions asked questions regarding the supply of official’ meteorological information to the press, and gave two instances in which he said private advices had anticipated the reports of the Bureau. I have ascertained that on both occasions the Meteorological Bureau had already furnished to the newspapers in detail and in synopsis weather reports of earlier date than the private advices which were published. Departmental reports were furnished to the newspapers on the 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th November, and on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th September, but were not published.
– I cannot tell the honorable member. He asked me the number of stations in Queensland. There are 383 stations there in which rain gauges are kept according to the regulations. The observations in these cases are more accurate than where made on less systematic lines.
– Most of the stations in Queensland are supplied by the Department with official gauges.
– Sometimes private advices furnish approximate information, but that is not done in connexion with the official reports. On days on which, rain occurs, information of it is sent to Brisbane.
– The following statement shows, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) the provisions made by the various State Governments in con nexion with advances for homes to returned soldiers: -
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy), I have received from the Controller of the Department of. Repatriation the following letter: -
With reference to the statement of Captain Goff, of Perth, telegraphed to Mr. Corboy, M.P., that having repaid a loan from this Department he was unable to obtain a release, I h ave inquired into the matter, and find that the difficulty in releasing these securities arose through the fact that the bills of sale had been taken over from the trustees of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Fund, and were in the name of the Prime Minister. The Crown Solicitor had to be consulted in order to ascertain in whom the power to release these securities is now vested. Certain additional particulars were required by the Crown olicitor necessitating further correspondence with the State branch. An opinion was received from the Crown Solicitor on the 7th instant advising that the power to release these securities is now vested in the Minister. A power of attorney from the Minister to the DeputyComptroller, Perth, delegating the power to release the securities, is being prepared by the Crown Solicitor, and should be available for despatch by to-morrow.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The chairman of the Central Wool Committee advises -
The companies are at present supplying wool tops and noils to Canada, Japan, Philippine Islands, and Norway, and it would be prejudicial to the companies’ interests and the wool tops industry of Australia to make public the terms and conditions for the sale of products overseas.
The buyers would also, doubtless, object to public disclosures of their private affairs.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Central Wool Committee consider that it would be most undesirable, in the interests of the companies and the development of the wool manufacturing industry of the Commonwealth, that their competitors at home and abroad should possess such information. In correspondence with the Central Wool Committee, the companies request that the auditor’s reports and balancesheets should be treated as private and confidential. The Central Wool Committee recognise the justice of the requests, and believe that no good purpose would be served by any public announcement of the affairs of the companies.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The brigade which carried out its training at Bendigo comprised the following regiments: - 5th Battalion, 8th Regiment (Footscray). 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment (Mount Alexander). 2nd Battalion, 38th Regiment (Bendigo). 5th Battalion, 7th Regiment (Echuca). 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment (Geelong).
It will be seen from the above that the Footscray Regiment was the only regiment of this brigade which included any metropolitan troops. As a matter of fact, the area from which this regiment is recruited stretches past Sunbury, Lancefield, Wallan, Bacchus Marsh, and Melton, and is, therefore, not a “ metropolitan “ battalion in the strict sense of the word.
Maribyrnong is unsatisfactory forinfantry at this time of the year. It is only used as an artillery training camp at present.
Broadmeadows was not suitable for the class of training which the troops had to do during this financial year.
Seymour Camp was occupied by metropolitan troops, i.e., the 14th Infantry Brigade.
Bendigo Camp was the most central camp site for the 17th Brigade.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice-
In view of the information supplied to this House, that the Rev. Father Deenihan embarked for Australia after the cable was sent to the military authorities in London for the discontinuance of the practice of sending clergymen to Australia on transports who were not chaplains of the Australian Imperial Force -
What action does the Government propose to take to punish the officer responsible for this defiance of governmental instructions?
Will the Government have the above named priest, after his arrival, transported to his original port of embarkation in the first available transport?
Has the Government ascertained if he belongs to the political or religious order of the priesthood?
– A cable has already been sent to the military authorities in London in regard to this matter, and the information desired by the honorable member will, as far as possible, be furnished as soon as the cabled reply comes to hand. It is probable that the Rev. Father Deenihan would have been engaged before the cable reached London instructing the military authorities to discontinue the practice of sending clergymen to Australia on transports.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information: -
The number of horses purchased in each State by the Department for use by the Australian Imperial Force (a) as remounts, (b) as gunners and draughts, (c) the average price paid for horses of each class?
The number of horses that have been allotted to each State?
– The number of horses purchased in each State for war purposes is as follows: -
Queensland, riding horses, 3,354; draught horses, 1,814.
New South Wales, riding horses, 8,724; draught ‘horses, 7,245.
Victoria, riding horses, 5,131; draught horses, 7,075.
South Australia, riding horses, . 2,834; draught horses, 2,342.
Western Australia, riding horses, 1,125; draught horses, 512.
Tasmania, riding horses, 164;draught horses, 22.
These were obtained at an average cost per head of £17 9s. for riding horses, and £231s. 6d. for draught horses.
Horses purchased for war purposes were not allotted to districts in the ordinary way; but they -were accounted for, pending issue and shipment at. remount depots ineach State, as under -
Queensland, 3,983 horses.
New South Wales, 16,786 horses.
Victoria, 12,716. horses.
South Australia, 5,034 horses.
Western Australia, 1,637 horses.
Tasmania, 186 horses.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Death oflord Forrest andsir George Reid.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House copies of the Government cables, prepared on the 18th or19thSeptember last by the publicity officer for publication in London concerning the resolutions of Parliament on the deaths of Lord Forrest and Sir George Reid?
– I now lay on the table of the House a copy of the cablegram referred to by the honorable member. It reads as f ollows : -
Both Houses Federal Parliament passed resolutions recording profound regret at deaths Forrest, Reid, appreciation of eminent services, and extending deepest sympathy widows.
Watt, in Representatives, said Forrest’s record of service was unparalleled in Australia, or any other Dominion. In thirty-five years’ public life he enjoyed Ministerial office almost twenty-seven years. No man more worthy of honours bestowed. He had most kindly disposition, simple, lovable character. Ministry proposed consult widow regarding remains being brought Australia from Sierra Leone. Referring Reid, Watt said he rose fromhumble position, clerk, New South Wales Treasury, to Prime Minister. His commanding ability would made him leader any sphere. If devoted talents forensic career, would have died rich; but served public instead, died poor, which was measure of his sacrifice. Both Houses adjourned for day.
Loans for Forestry
asked the ActingPrime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
With regard to answers to questions regarding sales of wheat to Japan, South Africa. New Zealand, and Australian millers, answered on Thursday, 5th December, will the Acting Prime Minister supply specific quantities and prices per bushel of the 1,260,187 bushels which go to make up the average price per bushel of 5s.8d. in answer to question No. 1, and specific quantities and prices of. the 4,449,835 bushels which go to make up the average price per bushel of 8s. 3½d. in answer to question No. 2?
– The following statement gives the information desired by the honorable member: -
Advance to Settlers
– With regard to questions submitted by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), with reference to the increase or better allocation of the grant of £500 to returned soldiers who propose to settle on the land, I am informed by the Department that, at a Conference of the State Lands Ministers with the Minister for Repatriation, held in October last, the question was raised of increasing the amount now advanced by the Commonwealth to the States as working capital for the settler, but that the Minister for Repatriation decided that the ‘matter should be left in abeyance pending the consideration of certain proposals for the development and expedition of soldier settlement to be submitted by the States at an early date. These proposals will involve the Commonwealth in much larger financial participation in the States’ schemes, and will prove more advantageous to the States, and to the soldier settlers, than an increase of the amount of the existing advance.
I was informed yesterday, by a passenger from America, who was quarantined from Sydney recently, that the Quarantine Station there is in a very neglected and dirty condition, and that’ when he complained to the medical man in charge he was told that the medical authorities had nothing to do with the cleanliness of the place; that the station was supposed to be cleaned out each time by the ship’s crew that had used it. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs knows how prone some persons are to leave places in a dirty condition, and I ask him if he will inquire whether the practice is as stated; and, if so, whether he will alter it, and appoint some, one to keep the station in a thoroughly clean condition for the reception of quarantined persons? 1 am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information :- -
The position is that the cleaning up after occupation by a vessel in quarantine is carried out as a matter of routine by the quarantine staff. The person who interviewed the honorable member for Parkes must have misunderstood whatever statement was made to him. lt is, however, the practice that the steward’s department of any vessel in quarantine sees to the wants of the passengers on shore, just as it acts on the vessel itself during the voyage; and, while the passengers are in occupation, .these stewards are expected to keep the passengers’ quarters clean in the same way as they have to do while the ship is in motion. It is quite possible that some misunderstanding arose in this way.
– I desire to make the following statement in connexion with points raised by certain honorable mem bers relating to the disease known as Spanish influenza: -
– On the 5th December, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the following replies : -
– On the 4th December, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) asked the following question : -
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence 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 am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Such persona should apply to the District Commandant, as provision is made in the regulations for payment of 12s. 6d. per week to wives, and 2s. 6d. per week for each child, provided the District Commandant is satisfied they are destitute; and the Minister has the power, under very special conditions, of increasing this allowance. This provision applies to all families of internees, whetherthe wives are Australian born or not.
– On the 5th December, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the following question : -
When hostilities were at their height, it was stated by Senator Pearce that every soldier returning to Australia would bring back a rifle. Has that arrangement been carried out? Are the men likely to do so?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The Commonwealth Government are defraying the cost of equipment for all units of the Australian Imperial Force. In consideration of this, the Imperial authorities will, after the termination of the war, send to Australia the full war equipment (including rifles) for all units. This equipment will be cased and sent to Australia as ordinary merchandise, and rifles will, therefore, not be in the possession of individual members of the Force when they return.
The following papers were presented: -
Proportional Representation - Memorandum on the working of, at the recent Danish Elections for the Folketing. (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
The War - (Papers presented to the British Parliament) -
Coal Conservation Committee - Final Report.
Company Law Amendment Committee - Report.
Luxury Duty - Report from the Select Committee.
Medical Education in England - Some Notes on - Memorandum by Sir George Newman, K.C.B., M.D., &c.
National Expenditure - Select Committee on)-
Seventh Report - (Form of Public Accounts ) .
United Kingdom and Greece - Agreement between - Respecting the Liability to Military Service of British Subjects in Greece and Greek Subjects in Great Britain.
United Kingdom and United States of America - Convention between - Respecting the Liability to Military Service of British Subjects in the United States and of United States Citizens in Great Britain.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 302, 304, 305, 309.
Debate resumed from the 6th Decem ber (vide page 8919), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When the War Precautions Act was originally introduced, two particular items emerged during the debate. The first was a protest by honorable members on both sides of the House as to the danger of intrusting the Government with the unlimited powers covered by the measure. The other point was the assurance given by the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher) that these powers would be used with discretion, an assurance equally positive and equally as strong as that given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) last week that they would be exercised with the utmost discretion and reasonableness. The trouble is that the experience we have had during these four years of the administration of the War Precautions Act does not allow us to give much credence to all these protests and assurances. The Act as it now stands with its multitude of regulations is very different from what it was in 1914- 15 - so very different that we cannot draw an analogy between the two. Honorable members on the Ministerial side have twitted us with the fact that this measure was introduced by a Labour Government - the Acting Prime Minister also referred to the fact - but they omit one vital point, namely, that while the Act was under the administration of a Labour Government there was not a single complaint that the Government had unduly used the powers given to them by it, or were lacking in appreciation of the powers it gave in regard to the conduct of the war. I challenge any honorable member on the Government side to point to one instance in which the powers of the Act were complained about by ‘any honorable member’ while they were administered, by a Labour Government. It was: not until Mr: Hughes returned from England, in 1916, and discovered that the Labour party was not a machine- to be used by him at his discretion or pleasure, but comprised men of some independence’ of thought and independence of action that he found out what -a useful instrument the War Pre- cautions Act was. The trouble in regard to the administration of the Act dates from that time. Prior to that the measure was legitimately used for the purposes for which it was introduced - proper purposes, legitimate purposes, and purposes which we are all now agreed were reasonable in the circumstances of the war; but since August, 1916, when Mr. Hughes returned from England, it has been used for political purposes, and, worse still, as a means of exacting private revenge and satisfying personal spite.
– Order! The honorable member must not impute improper motives.
– The War Precautions Act falls under two rough divisions. The first deals with trade and commerce, matters covering a whole multitude of . commodities and business activities - tol control which about twenty-four boards have been appointed. The second division deals with general aspects . affecting the- public, such as the censorship, internment, and so forth. It seems to me. also that- the - House is peculiarly divided on similar lines. ‘ Honorable members on the Government side wish to get rid as quickly as possible of the control over trade and commerce, but a number of them are rather anxious to retain the powers that deal with the other items, such as were suggested by the honorable member for New England (Lt.- Colonel Abbott) in his speech, matters dealing with disloyalty, internment, censorship, and so on. We; of the Opposition, - on the other hand, are anxious to maintain governmental control over business, but we .desire- to get rid of those extraneous interferences, which, however much they were justified in . war time, will, not- be justified when peace is proclaimed. The real questions -before the House are, ‘” Shall Government control of’ trade and commerce be continued?” and, “Shall Government control over the publications and private affairs of the people be continued?” I am not at all surprised that honorable members on the Government side are anxious to get rid of Government control of trade and commerce. So far as their objection relates to such control being exercised under a War Precautions Act. I entirely agree with them. I do not believe that the trade and commerce of the country in peace time should be controlled under a special power applicable to war time. But I believe in the principle of governmental control, and one of the main difficulties that the Commonwealth Parliament has had to face throughout its career has been the lack of control over trade and commerce. Its limitations in that respect have been accentuated and emphasized during the last four years. When the War Precautions Act was introduced it was not believed that this Parliament had ‘any control over those matters. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr.’ Hughes); admitted that the powers under the War Precautions Act and the Defence Act did not give the Government the necessary control over trade and. commerce. I quote- from ‘a- booklet that was issued- in connexion with, the referendum that was to have been taken on’ the 11th December, 1915, in regard to the amendment of section 51 of the Constitution, in order to give the Commonwealth Parliament- complete, control of trade and commerce. In. this’ booklet, stating the arguments for and against the proposition, the then Liberal Opposition stated their case in a very few words, principally stressing the opinion that the Defence powers of the Commonwealth in war time were so unlimited that there was no possibility of their being found insufficient for the purposes of the war, and that, therefore, there was no need to submit the referendum questions at that time. But the Government, which, so far as the War Precautions Act was concerned, was really Mr. Hughes, took the view that the powers under the Defence Act and the War Precautions Act were not sufficient. On page 11 of the booklet, the Prime Minister said - i
We are at war, and the Commonwealth Parliament is charged with the great task of defending the country. To effectively perform its supremely, important functions the Commonwealth must have complete control of all the resources of the country and of every person in it. In order to grapple with the tremendous issues arising out of the war it is essential that the Government charged with the .responsibility should have absolute authority over capital and labour, but the Commonwealth has no control over either. % . .
Every other Parliament in the Empire has the powers we are asking for. These .Parliaments can protect the interests of the people if ,they choose. They can limit the profits of these unscrupulous persons who are heaping up war fortunes, regulate prices, and deal generally with trusts and monopolies. They can deal with strikes and industrial disputes generally. ,But the Federal Parliament -of Australia,- in the greatest crisis of -the modern world, when the entire fabric of civilization is cracking with the frightful strain, is powerless to deal with capital and labour, powerless to prevent the. exploitation of the people by capital, powerless to maintain industrial peace.
Later on, :he.said -
The power to grapple with these is more urgently needed now than at other times.
That was the tenor of the argument throughout ..the book, and Mr. Hughes repeated the statement in this House, and privately to his party, that even the War Precautions Act did not grant the ‘powers that should have been granted under the Constitution, and that, therefore, the Government proposed to ask the people to invest the Commonwealth with such powers. On two previous occasions the people had refused -to do that, and the reason why the third referendum was not proceeded with was that the Prime Minister reported to his supporters that he had made an arrangement with the Premiers, of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, that they should pass through the State Parliaments a uniform measure which would surrender to the Commonwealth Parliament for the period of the war all the powers proposed to be asked for by referendum. He further said that when the Parliaments of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria had made that concession to the Commonwealth, the other States would come into line, and, therefore, the referendum would be unnecessary. Accepting that assurance, and believing that the course indicated was an easier and more agreeable way out of the difficulty, the party agreed not to proceed with the referendum.
– Was there not also .some doubt as to the likelihood of the referendum being decided in the affirmative?
– I know that on the strength of those representations .the party agreed, much against the wish -of many of us, not to proceed with the referendum. For that decision we .were maligned and misunderstood by our own supporters.. Subsequently, when an ‘ appeal was made to the High Court, it was discovered that the Commonwealth .possessed under the War Precautions Act .all the powers that would have been .given to it had the referendum been carried.
– Did not the Queensland Parliament object to conceding the powers that the Commonwealth Government desired ?
– I believe there was some trouble, but the main difficulty arose in Victoria, where the Legislative Council offered serious objection to the surrender of ‘any of the powers possessed by -the States. Finally, we had a suspicion ‘that the statement by Mr. Hughes regarding the promises and assurances given by the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria was not based on good foundation, and that there had not been that clear and explicit understanding between the parties that we had been led to believe. However, the judgment of the High Court in the famous Bread , case showed that the War
Precautious Act gave the Commonwealth powers wider in every sense than an amendment of the Constitution would have conferred had the referendum been agreed to.
The Government, finding themselves possessed of these unlimited powers, exercised them in a way that was never contemplated when the War Precautions Act was passed. Indeed, if its subsequent misuse had been even imagined when the Act was before Parliament, the measure would never have been agreed to by the Opposition. Honorable members can recollect how leading Liberals, members of long parliamentary experience, protested against even the powers then supposed to be conferred by the War Precautions Act How much more would they have protested, and how much more vigorously would they have opposed the passage of that measure, if they had had even the slightest suspicion that it practically abrogated the Constitution. It did do that, and the Acting Prime Minister, in his speech last week, admitted that we had abrogated our functions as a representative Parliament, and that the desire of honorable members was “ to return to regular and constitutional methods of government as soon as possible.”
I may explain to honorable members that 1 spent a good deal of time in preparing my speech on this Bill, because I am certain that a good argument can be advanced against the extension of the War Precautions Act for even one day after the proclamation of peace; but, unfortunately, 1 have developed a sore throat, which will compel me to curtail my remarks, and to confine myself to endeavouring to establish a few main propositions.
The speech of the Acting Prime Minister last week was obviously directed to the Government Corner party. I appreciate to the full the attitude taken up by those honorable members in opposition to the extension of the War Precautions Act. They know, as the people throughout the country know, what a serious inconvenience that Act has been to the conduct of business. It was originally intended for the purpose of mobilizing the resources of the country, and to be an instrument for so concentrating the available power of the country that all the energies of the people in every department of activity might be directed towards the defence of Australia.- To that principle honorable members on both sides of the House offered no objection. Never once during the war has any protest been made against the legitimate powers of the Government being properly directed to secure that end. But under the interpretation of these powers by the more recent Governments, control of trade and commerce by Governmental Boards and Ministerial interference has been so extended as to accomplish only a series of irritating and annoying irruptions amongst business people, who have been humiliated and irritated, and, in some cases, unreasonably restricted in ‘the conduct of their affairs. The Acting Attorney-General, in moving the second reading of the Bill, quoted the opinion of a number of the Boards appointed by the Government to deal with various matters. Naturally, each of these authorities, to whom appeal was made, pointed out the difficulty and danger that would arise if their control were relaxed in the near future. The House would have been much more grateful if the Minister had quoted the opinions of the people whose businesses had been controlled. The honorable gentleman did not give us the opinions expressed by Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Manufactures, and various other representative institutions throughout the country, nor did he put before us the views of those whose hours of labour and conditions of employment have been interfered with.
– Ls not the public interest the first consideration?
– Undoubtedly ; but we cannot arrive at the public interest from a one-sided view of the question.
– Does the honorable member accept the views of these bodies!
– It is not a question of accepting the views of opponents; it is rather a question of accepting the right point of view, and the view put before us by the honorable gentleman was entirely one-sided.
– What public body supports the continuation of the War Precautions Act?
– If this question were submitted to public bodies - to those responsible for the carrying on of the business of the country it would be found that they were all opposed to it.
– Many are in favour of it.
– Not one; all have carried resolutions in opposition to it.
– Various resolutions of protest have been carried. I have here the views expressed by the Australian Mining Standard, which, I think, puts from its particular standpoint, at all events, a fairly generous and reasonable statement of the situation. In an article which it published last week in regard to the control of trade in Australia, the following paragraphs appeared : -
Much dissatisfaction was expressed from time to time at the orders issued, hearing the seal of Government approval. As the process developed, a network was woven round the commerce of the country, which completely nullified individual effort. . . .
From a small beginning, the Shipping Control Board developed into a powerful organization, allocating shipping space, and determining what class of goods and quantities should be shipped out of the Commonwealth. To a large degree, it acted for the British Shipping Board, but its methods were not always satisfactory to shippers. One of the .most painful examples of governmental interference with trade is to be found in the price-fixing scheme. . . . ‘.
Essential though many of the regulations were in war time, their revocation immediately after the declaration of peace will afford welcome relief to the commercial community. Not a moment must be lost in unfettering commercial interests, and allowing individual effort, which has built up the trade of the Empire, to return to its former channels, or embark upon new ones, as it thinks fit. Business will got back to normal far more speedily by being left alone than by’ being perpetually interfered with by Government Boards administering hidebound regulations…..
The Boards must all go, and with them, their hampering effect on commerce. Ministers must take upon their shoulders full responsibility for their executive acts, and not parcel out the functions of State to selected individuals drawn from the ranks of various interests.
The Government pay a poor compliment to the business men of this community when they try to alarm the minds of the people by declaring that if Government control were suddenly withdrawn, business would drift into a state of chaos. It must not be forgotten that those who are handling the trade and commerce of the community have been, in common with the general public, anticipating peace, and. have been preparing for it, upon the basis that the War Precautions Act and its regulations would be withdrawn as soon as peace was proclaimed. They now suddenly find that so far from being allowed to return to normal business conditions and to carry on industry along legitimate and proper lines, they are actually threatened with an extension of the War Precautions Act.
– Have any deputations of business people waited upon Ministers to object to it?
– I think that the whole business community is objecting to the proposal.
– The whole of the woolgrowers and the wool brokers of Australia .are in favour of it.
– I am dealing with the trading and commercial interests of the Commonwealth. Those’ in charge of them have not been hanging back; they have not been carrying large stocksor laying in big orders, in the belief that the war would continue indefinitely. They knew all along that there must be an end to the war at some time, and they have been laying their plans - whether rightly or wrongly remains to be seen - upon the assumption that, with the proclamation of peace, they would be allowed to adapt themselves at once to the new conditions. What they want above all tilings is to be free from the humiliating and irritating effects of the War Precautions Act and its regulations.
– Would the .honorable member advocate the immediate discontinuance of the Act?
– It has been pointed out by quite a number of honorable members that the Government will have ample time to decide what, in their opinion, it is necessary to- continue to control after the proclamation of peace. It is positively certain that peace will not be proclaimed for the next two or three months. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has admitted that it is impossible to put a date to that period, but whether the period be long or short, it will be quite sufficient to enable the Government to ..make up their minds as to what business they must continue to control after peace is proclaimed. The Government have been assured repeatedly that we are ready to pass special Bills to give them power to continue their control over such matters. We object, however, to the continuation of an unlimited control over all matters merely because it is necessary to control a few.
– From a legal point of view, I do not think the Government can have any control of this kind after the war is over.
– There may be a good deal to be said for that argument.
As a reinforcement of the contentions that we are putting up in this regard, I would point out that already other countries are hurrying back to pre-war conditions. The biggest danger threatening us after the proclamation of peace is .that of economic disturbance in connexion with international trade relations. It has been held up to us for some time that Germany will force an economic war because her lands have not been ravished ; her factories and machinery are still intact; and her opportunities for production have not been lessened. She will thus be able to recover her economic and industrial conditions more quickly than any other nation.
– All these things also are still intact in Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japan.
– Great Britain, France, Belgium, and America are hastening to re-establish their commercial affairs, and claim they can do that only by freeing themselves from the Government sytem of control under war conditions. It is interesting to note that President Wilson, in his address to Congress just before he left the United States of America, referred to this very matter. As reported in the Melbourne press on 4th inst., he said -
Our people, moreover, do not wait to be coached and led. They know their own business, and are quick and resourceful at every re-adjustment, definite in purpose, self-reliant in action. Any leading strings we might seek to put them in would speedily become hopelessly tangled, because they would pay no attention to them and go their own way. All that we can do as their legislative and executive servants is to mediate the process of change here, there, and elsewhere as we may. . . .
From no quarter “have I seen any general scheme of reconstruction emerge which I thought it likely we could force our spirited, business mcn and self-reliant labourers to. accept with due pliancy and obedience. While the war lasted we set up many agencies by which to direct the industries of the country in the services it was necessary for them to> render. But these restraints are being relaxed as much as possible. The moment we knew the armistice to have been signed we took the harness off. Raw materials upon, which the Government had kept its hands for fear there would not be enough for the industries that supplied the armies have been released and put into the general market again. It is surprising how fast the process of a return to a peace footing has moved in the three weeks since the fighting stopped. It promises to outrun any inquiry that may be instituted and any aid that may be offered.
There we have it that, in the United States of America, as soon as the armistice was signed, the harness was taken, off industry. There was no question of an extension of the war system of control either there or in Great Britain.
As to ‘ the suggestion made a fewminutes ago, that there has been no public protest against the proposed extension of the Act, may I read from this evening’s issue of the Herald a report headed : “Restrictions of Trade”; “Vigorous Protests.”
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
– Very well. Representatives of the grain trade have been holding a meeting in Melbourne, and have passed resolutions of protest, against the continuance of the War Precautions Act?
– Order f The honorable member is now proceedingto evade my ruling by quoting from the article to which he referred.
– I am not. Representatives of the grain trade have protested against any extension of the WarPrecautions Act. That, after all, is only. the beginning of such protests. The business people of this community have not yet realized what the Government proposal means; they are only beginning io waken up to it. Protests are already in circulation from the Labour organizations of the country, including a resolution .of protest from the Transport Workers Federation in Brisbane, which has been forwarded to me. It is only a matter of time when business .people, from, one end of the country to the other, will declare themselves in opposition to the Act.
I wish to make my own position quite clear. I favour Government control over trade and commerce. I take ‘that attitude just as strongly as- 1 did in 1911, when the amendments of the Constitution were submitted to the people of Australia. I believe to-day it is more necessary that the Parliament should have unlimited power over trade and. commerce, corporations, and industrial matters than ever it was before - that this control is necessary in the interests of the people. I “believe in the principle of price-fixing, but I am not surprised that it has turned out such a miserable blunder as it has during the last two years. The wonder to me is that the Government ever made an attempt-
– Was the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) in charge of price-fixing once?
– For a time. There was a Committee, of which that honorable member was chairman, and which comprised honorable members on both sides of the House, and it made a courageous effort to render price-fixing effective and useful. We ‘all know that it was simply because of the utter disgust of that Committee with Governmental interference in their proceedings, and Governmental repudiation of their proposals, that the chairman and members resigned in a body.
– A Labour Government was in power then.
– No: it was the Hughes Government, after the division of the Labour party. It could not be expected that, under the control of men who cla not believe in the principle, price- fixing could be a success. I am not charging honorable members with any deliberate attempt to bring about a failure.
– Surely you do not say that this Government was then in power? It was the previous Hughes Government.
– It was the famous “ thirteen.”
– That was when it started.
– And finished.
– It has not finished; this Government is carrying on price- fixing.
– I mean the Catts Committee.
– Of course, that is finished. Every Government since has carried on attempts at price-fixing, and in such a way that, as any one can realize who knows anything at all about’ business affairs, it could not be a success, not only because of the methods, but because it was carried on by men who do not believe in it. Honorable members opposite, including the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), who clearly stated that he did not believe in. price-fixing as a principle, are not to be blamed for its failure, and I do not blame them in the least. I believe in the principle; but it can be imagined what a different thing it would be if price-fixing were administered by people who believed in it, and were determined to make it effective, as contrasted with price-fixing carried on by people who- do not believe in it.
While I believe in Governmental control over trade and commerce, and in price-fixing, I do not believe that it should be exercised under the powers of a war measure. It is a most lamentable thing that it is necessary in war time to take charge of the commercial affairs of the community in order to protect the public. That is not peculiar to our own country, and it is not characteristic of the British Empire only; it is, unfortunately, to be found in every other country. In war time people carrying on the business of the country take advantage of the direful opportunity to rob their fellows - that is the time for these “ patriots “ to begin their robbery. It is lamentable, as I say, that at this time in our civilization, the Government of every country during tha late war has had bo take compulsory charge of trade and commerce in order to protect the people. However great the necessity may be in war time, I believe it is just as great in peace time, but I do not believe that such powers should be exercised under a war measure in peace time. Under our Constitution we have a proper and legitimate way to secure these powers to the Government. Now is the opportunity. There is plenty of time to ask the people of Australia to so amend the Constitution as to give the necessary power to the Government. Honorable members on the Government side have had considerable experience since the last referendum on the constitutional amendments . was taken, and the public of Australia also have had considerable experience. Whatever opposition there was - and it reduced itself to a very small matter - to the Government having the powers asked for in the second referendum in 1913, the public of Australia to-day ave ready to clothe this Parliament with full and complete powers over the trade and commerce of Australia. The State Governments, in my opinion, are inclined to come to an arrangement, and I suggest that constitutional amendment is the only and .proper way in which to give the powers that the Government seek to continue to exercise under the War Precautions Act. If there is time to put through a number of measures which the Government think it necessary to have, in order to continue control in some directions that, according to their ideas, cannot easily be abandoned, there is just as much time to prepare for submission to the people the amendments to the Constitution I have suggested.
If the War Precautions Act was not sufficient in 1916, I wonder how it has become all-sufficient now. The Government have found this measure not only useful to enable them to keep control over trade and commerce, but for other things. I have a feeling, and it is very strong, that if it were not that the Government desire to continue their interference with the liberties of the people of Australia, they would not ask for an extension of the War Precautions Act to continue their control over commercial affairs. If it were not for the belief that what the Government wish in this extension of the War Precautions Act is power to use it for political purposes, I would be willing to give them the extension to continue their control over trade and commerce; but I cannot agree to give them control over trade and commerce, carrying with it power to continue their unreasonable, unfair, un-British, irritating, and disgraceful interference with the ordinary liberties of the people of Australia.
I listened with amazement to the honorable member for New England (Lt.Colonel Abbott), though probably he is to be excused. I say not one word in regard to his services to the Empire, because we all, particularly those of us who could not go to the war ourselves, have a feeling of respect for those who were able to. go and did go. I have nothing but appreciation for the services of that honorable member to the country; and I may say that from what I have heard from soldiers who served under him, and knew him on the other side, he had an exceptionally good name amongst them. But while absent fighting for Australia he was evidently unaware of what was going on here. When he talked as he did the other night, and told us that we were unreasonable in objecting to ah extension of the War Precautions Act, which gave the Government power to deal with disloyal people and protect the Empire, he altogether overlooked what we have had to pass through, and what those of us who have been in opposition to the Government had to suffer while he was on the other side of the world. Does he know that under the powers of this Act, the manifesto which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) issued in connexion with the first conscription referendum was freely circulated amongst the soldiers, but that not a word of the views of the Opposition was allowed to reach them? Does he know that even an official cablegram sent by the State Government of Queensland - accepted and paid for - was not allowed to be delivered, and that under the powers of the War Precautions Act the soldiers at the Front were only given one side of the case? Does he know that amongst the papers circulated amongst the soldiers at the Front was one paid for by the Government, and edited by a man paid by the Government, containing nothing but abuse, misrepresentation, and vile lying as to the attitude of the members of the Labour party?I have one copy of the paper here, All for Australia, which was regularly issued to the troops on the other side, and it contains the most scurrilous, unfair, villanous statements about members of the Labour party.
– The boys did not believe it.
– They did.
– I have letters showing that there was no other literature issued to them.
– There was no other literature.
– That literature was circulated, but not one word representative of our side. But in connexion with the general election an even more despicable thing took placeunder the powers of the War Precautions Act. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) took care that his speech at Bendigo was sent in full and circulated amongst the troops, but only cooked extracts from a report of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), taken from a newspaper, were sent, and the Government had not even the courtesy to submit the matter to that gentleman before sending it. Ordinary decency should have prompted the Government to say, “ Well,the honorable gentleman might at least be shown what we are cabling in his name,” but nothing like that was done; the War Precautions Act gave them the power, and they used it.
I also wish to ask the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) whether he knows that during the second conscription referendum the same tactics were pursued with the little exception - and it was a very small one - that one short message from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was allowed to be inserted in the statement issued to the troops. Honorable members can hear from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who tried to act as our agent over there-
– I was authorized by this House to appoint some one.
– Yes, and we know how the honorable member for Ballarat was refused over and over again every opportunity to put our case. Indeed, he was threatened with arrest because he did something on his own initiative in connexion with the matter. Then we must remember that statements’ published in the British press were refused publication here, and it is a peculiar thing that the refusal to permit publication applied particularly to the Labour newspapers. In many instances the Government newspapers were allowed to publish extracts from British newspapers and magazines which the Labour newspapers were prohibited from reprinting. There are nearly 200 publications which circulate freely in the Old Country and in the Allied countries which are prohibited in Australia. Labour newspapers have even been refused permission to publish official statements. Is the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) aware that under the authority of the War Precautions Act State Government offices have been raided and State Government papers have been seized by the military? Is he aware that under that Act this House was raided, and the property of a private member seized by the military? Does he know that the Trades Hall and the homes of the officials of the Trades Hall were raided by the military, and private papers seized? Is he aware that Australian citizens have been arrested without warrant? He is a lawyer, and I ask him what is his opinion of the action of the Government in arresting citizens of this so-called free country without warrant, in imprisoning them without a charge, and in sentencing them without a trial. Insomecases in which a Court has imposed a sentence the persons who have served that sentence are still interned under the WarPrecautions Act. Is the honorable member aware that men have been arrested and deported from the country, and that their relatives have been refused permission to see them, or to communicate with them, and have no information as to where they have gone? There are to-day in Australia women who do not know where their husbands are, their husbands having been deported, and having been refused permission to correspond with their wives and families.
– Is the honorable member speaking of Italians?
– I am speaking of Australian citizen’s. Is the honorable member for New England aware that, under the War Precautions Act, citizens of many years standing, against whom there has not been a mark for bad conduct, private or public, have been deprived of the rights of citizenship, and prevented from voting at a general election? Does he know that public meetings have been prohibited, and that when a deputation of women wishedto interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in front of this House, they were refused permission to do so, and that next day a regulation was issued under the War Precautions Act making it illegal for any one to hold a meeting near this building ? Yet within a few weeks of the issue of that regulation hundreds of men connected with the meat industry were permitted to hold a meeting on the steps of Parliament House, and within this building, without a word being said against it. According to some of the officials, on that occasion damage was done to the paintings in the Queen’sHall.
– I would excuse them for that.
– A Victorian Act makes it illegalto hold meetings within the precincts of Parliament House.
– In any case, the law is most reasonable and proper.
– Does the honorable member for New England know that when the Prime Minister was on an electioneering tour, and a disturbance occurred at one of his meetings, he created a new Federal Police Force at a cost of some thousands of pounds a year, because State policemen refused to accept his instructions? Is he aware that under the War Precautions Act the flying of certain flags and the wearing of certain emblems is prohibited, and yet, according to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), it is. impracticable to frame a regulation under that Act to prevent the use of the Union Jack and Australian flags as trade advertisements? The list of the wrongs that have been done under the War Precautions Act is endless, and when men talk from that side of the House of the need for preventing disloyalty and the flying of the red flag, I ask whether the flying of that flag is an offence comparable with those that have been committed under the War Precautions Act? Freedom and liberty have disappeared from this country under the administration of that Act.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
– In his speech last week the Acting Prime Minister used these words, “ There is a desire to return to regular and constitutional methods of Government as soon as possible.” It is because of that argument that I have made my protest against the extension of the War Precautions Act and the War Precautions Regulations. If it is necessary for the Federal Government to hold the powers now exercised under that Act there is a regular and constitutional method of achieving that end, one that is easily applied and one that can be applied immediately. I believe that the Federal Government should have control over trade and commerce, corporations, and industrial matters, but, because I think that there is a much better method of securing the desired end than that which is proposed by the Government, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof “ immediate action be taken to amend section 51 of the Constitution, so as to allow the Commonwealth Parliament full power to legislate with respect to -
This amendment will provide a proper method of getting back to constitutional government. There are two ways by which . the Commonwealth can obtain control over these matters, by the States surrendering these powers to the Commonwealth by agreement, or by submitting the question to a referendum of the people of Australia, and taking their decision upon it.
– How long would that take?
– About three months.
– Why not go straight for Unification ?
– If the honorable member would submit a motion in favour of Unification I would have much pleasure in seconding and supporting it, because I believe in it. I recommend the acceptance of my amendment, and I urge the Government during the recess, and before peace is proclaimed, to get the authority of the people of Australia to do those things which they say are necessary; and which can only be done now under the War Precautions Act. It is because of the unreasonable exercise of the provisions of that Act, and because of the use to which it has been put, that I think it much better to follow a constitutional method of governing Australia. If what I suggest is done we shall know where we stand in regard to national matters.
– The amendment is not in order.
– As a party move the honorable member was justified in the try-on he has attempted so unsuccessfully. The Bill seems to have very few friends. It has certainly very few on the Government side of the House; it has none on the other side of the House, and I do not think there are many very ardent supporters of it even among Ministers . Although the community generally has suffered very heavily during the war, it has submitted with extraordinary fortitude, because it was realized that when the nation was at War, discipline was necessary, and that the people of the Commonwealth should be practically governed by martial law, and more or less despotic rule quite inconsistent with a general and ordered system of government. The Executive has, during the war, practically usurped the functions of Parliament, and this is most undesirable. There are two parties in regard to this measure, on the one hand those who desire the removal of the restrictions on trade and commerce as far as it is possible to do away with them, and, on the other hand, our friends opposite, who desire the immediate repeal of the Act in order that the regulations dealing with law and order, covering such matters as disloyalty, censorship, restriction of public meetings, and so on, may cease to operate. I am one of those who desire that the Act shall be terminated at the earliest possible moment, because of the grave restrictions it has imposed upon the business community. The trading community of Australia have suffered very severely during the war. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has not overstated the serious embarrassments they have suffered by reason of the restrictions placed upon them, but we must bear in mind that serious results would follow in several directions by the immediate cessation of the Act. The commercial and trading community had a right to expect that as soon as peace was declared, which event may not take place for the next five or six months, they would be rid of the exacting and irksome restrictions of the War Precautions regulations from which they have suffered so much, and ifthey were appealed to to-morrow they would be practically unanimous in asking for the repeal of the Act. Of course I know that there are exceptions. Many woolgrowers and some farmers unions are desirous of seeing certain regulations continued, butI carry on business in the heart of Melbourne, and mix daily with members of the business community, and I know that a unanimous demonstration has taken place so far -as representative organizations are concerned, asking for the earliest possible repeal of the Act. In this regard the community of Australia are not singular. There has been throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom a universal demand for the repeal of the Defence of the Realm Act. People who have suffered from the restrictions imposed upon them by that Act are clamouring to be released from the embraces of “Dora,” as the measure is popularly named, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, as well as Mr. Bonar Law, has strongly declared the Government’s determination to repeal the Act as soon as possible. We are entitled to the same consideration in this community.
– “Will the honorable member say whether, in his opinion, the Commonwealth has the power to continue the War Precautions Act immediately peace is signed?
– The honorable member is putting a difficult question. While it is true, according to the Bread case, that . we practically became a unified Constitution when war was declared, and the Commonwealth Government was able to exercise the powers of a unitary Government, quite irrespective of the State divisions provided for by the Constitution, yet I think the true legal position is this : We have all the plenary powers of defence during the war; but, when the war has ceased, we have, I think, all the powers necessary or incidental to the completion of the work commenced under the defence powers while the war was in operation. In other words, the Commonwealth will have the power to clean up everything incidental to the powers exercised under the War Precautions Act during the course of the war.
– Would we have the power of statutory enactment in regard to those matters?
– The powers df the Commonwealth are specifically laid down in the thirty-nine articles set out in section 51 of the Constitution. All residuary powers go to the States, and are the sovereign rights of the States. The Commonwealth has exercised jurisdiction as a’ unitary Government over many matters by reason of the operation of war and its special defence power, but when once that jurisdiction is lost, the Commonwealth will have no statutory authority to deal with them at a subsequent date, except for the power given by the War Precautions Act and for cleaning up the matters therein dealt with. That is one of the difficulties facing the Government. They have to make up their minds as to which powers they desire to continue, and, in regard to any powers they exercise in respect of which jurisdiction is of a joint character as between the Commonwealth and the States, if they have not the power under the War Precautions Act to carry out .certain things, it can only be done by the joint effort of the Commonwealth and the States. That is to say, the States would have to surrender the necessary power before the Commonwealth could deal with it.
The Bill in its present form purports to authorize the Government to carry out everything it was previously authorized to do while we are in a state of war. I think the measure in its present plenary form is unfair. I have never concealed my view in regard to the duty of the Government. In dealing with this matter I hold that it was their duty to go through the existing regulations analytically, make up their minds as to what they thought it desirable to retain - for instance, the trading powers, which they regard as desirable to enforce - and then come down to the House and say, “ These are the powers we desire to exercise; these are the regulations we desire to retain in force.” Honorable members would then know where they stood, mid we would have given the Government authority, as far as we possibly could, to carry out what was necessary in regard to the limited subjects directly submitted to us. I am sorry that the Government have not done that, and are placing members like myself in a very difficult position in regard to the measure now before the House. The Government have seen fit, however, to make a specific declaration, and the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister is practically similar to the assurances given in regard to the Defence of the Realm Act by both Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Bonar Law, in the Imperial Parliament. I listened with interest to what the Acting Prime Minister said, and, although I do not agree with all he said, and, speaking generally, am opposed to this Bill, I cannot ignore the assurances which have been given. The Acting Prime Minister has given his solemn pledge that the War Precautions regulations will not be used for any political purpose.
– Did not the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) give that assurance once before?
SirROBERT BEST. - He may have done so; but we have now the solemn assurance of the Acting Prime Minister.
– On behalf of his party.
– He certainly gave it on behalf of the Government, and he declared that he will not be a party to any departure from that pledge.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he would resign on one occasion.
– The Prime Minister has said a good many things. The Acting Prime Minister told the House that no new policy will be introduced under the Act, except in the event of some unforeseen national emergency; that there will be a gradual and steady removal of the governmental interference with commerce, with the object of reducing conditions to normal at the earliest opportunity. Further than that, he said that he louts forward to the time, as early as possible in the New Year, when legislation will supersede the various regulations that have been made under the War Precautions Act. I am prepared to accept the personal assurance of the Acting Prime Minister; but I realize that grave risks are involved. I do not hesitate to say that the extension of the War Precautions Act should be for three months instead of six months. All sorts of political exigencies may be created; and whilst the Acting Prime Minister no doubt gave his solemn pledge, with the full intention of carrying it out, yet various unforeseen circumstances may arise which will prevent that being done. I would have preferred that this Bill had not been introduced at this stage, because probably a period of six. months will elapse before the War Precautions Act automatically terminates on the proclamation of peace. So far as I am concerned, the Government cannot repeal that Act quickly enough; but I make this stipulation, that if they repeal it, the repeal shall be accompanied by the enactment in legislation of the existing regulations relating to disloyalty.
-The honorable member does not believe in the extension of the Act, yet he will vote for the Bill.
– I am prepared to do two things - firstly, to accept the assurance of the Government, and, secondly, to support an extension ofthe War Precautions Act in order to maintain the existing disloyalty regulations: Those regulations are essential, having regard to the fact that there are in our midst Bolsheviks, who possibly are directly represented in this House, Sinn Feiners, and members of the Industrial Workers of the World. These bodies are enemies of the Empire, and, during the period of war did all in their power to wreck the Empire. They must be both watched and controlled.
– The honorable member refers to the profiteers.
– I will assist the honorable member in every way to suppress profiteering, and there is no member on this side of the House who would not be prepared to do the same. As I understand that the Acting Prime Minister desires to make a statement, I ask leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
Leave granted, debate adjourned until a later hour of the sitting.
– (By leave.) - I desire to present to the House the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration in regard to - (1) thepurchase of the Shaw Wireless Works at Randwick, New South Wales, in August, 1916; and (2) the purchase of the following vessels for the purposes of the Navy Department: the Emerald in June, 1916, and the Phillip (late Togo) in August, 1916. Cabinet has carefully considered this report
Yesterday and to-day it gave Mr. Jensen full opportunity to present his views upon the issues involved. After due deliberation, Ministers adopted the conclusion of the Commission that there was no evidence to connect Mr. Jensen with the receipt of money in connexion with the acquisition of the Shaw Wireless Works, but decided that the findings of the Commission and the matters disclosed in the report rendered it undesirable that he should remain a member of the Government. The Government have consulted the chairman and secretary of the Commission and the law advisers of the Commission as to whether a further investigation of any kind would elicit any additional information relating to this transaction, and in each case the answer was an emphatic negative. Mr. Jensen has intimated to me that he considers he has been exonerated from wrong-doing, and he does not intend to resign from the Government. With the unanimous approval of Ministers, I am taking without delay the necessary steps to arrange his retirement from the Government. I am in communication with His Excellency the Governor-General, and am informing the Prime Minister of the action taken.
As to the findings of the Commission with respect to Senator Long, Cabinet further determined that eminent counsel be asked to consider and advise whether tlie evidence taken discloses any fact which would justify or demand action in a Court of law, and further to advise as to the powers, precedents, and procedure of Parliament in cases of this character. The recommendations of the Commission in regard to the disposal of the Shaw Wireless Works have been referred to the Navy Department for consideration. Pending the completion of action with respect to Mr. Jensen, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene) will continue to administer the Department of Trade and Customs, and Senator Russell will officiate as President of the Board of Trade. I move - That the report and statement he printed.
– I desire to say, in the first place, that I had no idea of the results of the deliberations of Cabinet, which have just been read to the House by the Acting Prime Minister. Recently a serious statement was made concerning my honour and integrity. Without any hesitation, I asked the Acting Prime Minister to relieve me of my administrative duties in the Customs Department, pending an inquiry into the allegations. I have carefully read the report of the Commission, and I was present throughout its inquiry, and I declare without hesitation that the summary of the facts given in the Commission’s report is not in accordance with the evidence taken. I refer to the portions of the report dealing with my administration of the Navy Department.’ I have been absolutely exonerated by the Commission from any wrong-doing or suspicion of corruption. There is no doubt about that. But I have been attacked by the Commission for carrying out the policy of the Government of which I was a member. I have taken it upon myself to not at all times comply with the directions of even a Rear- Admiral. That officer put a minute upon a file in relation to a proposition for taking over a certain industrial concern, to the effect that the operations of industrial enterprises by the Government had not been a success, and he was opposed to the taking over of this concern by the Commonwealth for that reason. I was a member of a Government that was returned by the people only twelve months before upon a policy, one of the principles of which was the nationalization of industries I took it upon myself to refuse to be tied down by the terms of a minute of a member of the Naval Board. I declined, as a member of the Executive, to be controlled by him in that way. I defied him. For doing that I am blamed by this Commission. I am blamed by it because I dared to go outside a minute or a report by a naval officer.
I was under cross-examination foi several hours by one of the most eminent lawyers in Australia, and I desire that every honorable member shall carefully read my evidence-in -chief , as well as that given by me under cross-examination. I fearlessly assert that I was not shaken in any way by the cross-examination to which I was subjected with regard to my actions as Minister for the Navy. I fear nobody. The Commission- has pointed to certain little matters in my administrative work, and has magnified them to the greatest possible extent. I want every honorable member to carefully read the whole of the evidence before arriving at any conclusion in regard to myself.
T have explained all these matters to the Government. I have been with them for the last two days. They have wanted my resignation; I have refused to hand it to them. I will not give it to them, and I dare them to take my office from me. Even now the Government say they can remove me -from the Department of Trade and Customs and put another Minister in my place. I do not know whether they have power to do that until I have left the office, and I have not yet done so. In the statement just made by the Acting Prime Minister I heard, for the first time, of the action which they propose to take to bring about my retirement. I intend during the next few days, with the permission of the House, to put my case fully before honorable members. I hope that I shall have ample time afforded me to do so. That I think the Government will grant me. At the first opportunity I shall put every aspect of my case before the House, and I feel I can put before honorable members a statement of facts which will secure for me the sympathy of all parties. I fear no one, since I have done no wrong; but at this juncture I shall say no more.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
I Debate resumed (vide page 8991).
– I am rather surprised that the .honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who was granted . leave to continue his remarks, was not prepared to resume when called upon to do so. In the course of his address he endeavoured in an exceptionally laboured way to explain what would be the legal position if this Bill became law. He took the view that if, after the official declaration of peace, the validity of the War Precautions Act was challenged it was exceedingly probable that the Court would hold that, since the Government had been granted these powers during [the war period, they were entitled to a further extension of the Act to enable them, so to speak, to clean up. I shall not attempt ito controvert tha opinions of a legal member of the House, but in legal circles it is generally considered that if an appeal were made to the High Court at the present time the decision in the Bread case would be reversed. The information I have from an exceptionally good source is that, if this Bill becomes law, its validity will not be upheld on appeal to the High Court.
– Everything will depend on the particular class of caseupon which its validity is tested.
– Perhaps so. Afterpeace has been proclaimed, I do not think any legal tribunal is likely to uphold any action taken by the Government under the War Precautions Act. The Parliament of the United Kingdom is in a category different altogether from that of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The British Parliament is supreme in all matters. Under the Constitution, certain powers have been delegated to us, but there still reside in the States many powers, and, in my humble judgment, a Court of law would decide that any action taken under the War Precautions Act or regulations framed under it, after the proclamation of peace, was unconstitutional. In these circumstances, therefore, it seems to me that we are engaged upon a useless discussion. In any event, we_might well allow the consideration of this proposal to stand over until wo resume next year. If that were done a very different Bill might be put. before us.
I desire to discuss some of the pointsraised by the Acting Prime Minister. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), in an exceptionally good speech this afternoon, urged that if the Government desired wider powers, they should seek them in a constitutional way by asking the people to agree to an amendment of our Constitution. The temper of the people at the present time is such that I believe they would grant to Parliament an enlargement of its powers.
– The Government prefer to exercise unconstitutional powers.
– Undoubtedly. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has been able to satisfy his supporters in regard to the wisdom of this proposal. I can only Fay that they are easily satisfied. At the outset there was an uproar in the Ministerial corner, and amongst Ministerial supporters generally. Even on the Ministerial bench there was considerable diversity of opinion as to whether or not an extension of the operation of this very undesirable Act should be sought. The statement made by the Acting Prime Minister was full of what might well be spoken of as fallacies, but it has been accepted by the Ministerial party as showing sufficient reason for an extension of the Act. In his closing remarks the honorable gentleman passed upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) strictures such as have not,been passed by any member of the Opposition. He said that if this extension of power were granted, then in the event of any member of the Government seeking to avail himself of the Act, or of regulations framed under it, for a political purpose, he would no longer remain a, member of the Ministry. In making that statement he practically admitted that, in the past, the Act had been used for political purposes. I am not going to say that the Acting Prime Minister had any mental reservations in making this pledge, but I would point out. that his view as to what was a political use of the Act, or of regulations under it, might be very different from that of honorable members on this side of the House. We might regard certain actions as having a distinctly political significance, whereas he might hold a contrary opinion. It will be seen, therefore, that it is dangerous to intrust the Ministry with a political sword of this kind. The arguments which the honorable gentleman advanced in support of this Bill could have been used more appropriately in support of an amendment of the Constitution. He spoke of what might happen if the moratorium were lifted. I do not think any honorable member would urge the immediate lifting of the moratorium, but the honorable gentleman said that if it were raised, financial houses would pounce upon those to whom they had made advances, and demand repayment, and that when such persons sought in other quarters the money necessary to enable those repayments to be made, the interest rate would immediately rise. That was a serious accusation to make against the financial institutions of the Commonwealth. The Acting Prime Minister also made a considerable impression upon his supporters when he said that municipalities, under the War Precautions Act, had been allowed to invest municipal funds in war loans, and trustees of friendly societies and others had been granted a like privilege, and that the only protection municipalities enjoy are the provisions and regulations of the Act. I am informed on the best of authority, however, that in Victoria - and I take it the same will obtain in other States - the Local Government Branch of the Public Works Department is engaged in making inquiries with a view to drafting a Bill which will be placed before the State Parliament and passed, to indemnify municipal councils in the event of any action being taken against them for’ spending municipal funds illegally The State Governments intend, it appears, to protect what they call their own State instrumentalities, among which are the municipal bodies; and the Bill I have mentioned will doubtless /pass before the close of the Victorian State session, which will take place, probably, before we rise for the recess.
– But that applies only to one State.
– As I have said, I presume that the other States will also see that their municipalities are amply protected. This was an argument on which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) laid exceptional stress.. I do not suppose that there is one honorable member here who would vote for the withdrawal of all the protection of the moratorium, but that protection can be afforded otherwise than by the War Precautions Act. However, it will be seen that municipalities and trustees are pot relying on the War Precautions Act, so that that argument of the Acting Prime Minister falls to the ground. The honorable gentleman made some serious charges, which, if made from this side, would have been described as so much Yarra Bank talk, when he said that if the War Precautions Act were to lapse the financial institutions of the country would take advantage of the necessities of the people and charge abnormal rates of interest. But if .the financial institutions would do this in war time they would do it in peace time, so that there is all the more reason for the proper exercise by this Parliament of powers under the Constitution, which I am sure the people are ready to confer. Another serious charge made by the honorable gentleman was that if the War Precautions Act relating to shipping were lifted the ship-owners would take their vessels to other waters, where they could earn more money, and leave the Australian people absolutely stranded in regard to the carriage of goods from port to port. The honorable gentleman also said that what kept tonnage freights lower in this country was Government control; and again I retort that if it is the honorable gentleman’s opinion that the ship-owners take advantage of the public in war time, it is evident that they will also do so in’ peace time, so that it is essential we should have the constitutional powers necessary to prevent them fleecing the people.
The Acting Prime Minister said, also, that if we were to lift the embargo on the sugar industry, and control were relinquished, prices would immediately leap up. That argument is another confession that constitutional amendment is necessary. The honorable gentleman also referred to wool; and I wish that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) were present, because I think that he must be inclined to very much resent the remarks of the honorable gentleman under this head. The Acting Prime Minister said that without the present powers, the only way to prevent the wool-growers from breaking their agreement with the Imperial authorities would be to prohibit the export of wool. This means, of course, that the woolgrowers are likely, in the absence of the War Precautions Act, to break the agree- ment with the British Government to supply wool for nearly two years, or, at any rate, the wool clip immediately after the war. If this is true, it is only another reason for an amendment of the Constitution. Another point made bv the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is that if the control of the War Precautions Act were taken away, we should find that those who had stocks of clothing stuffs, foodstuffs, and all those articles and commodities which make life worth living, would be left with absolute power to make prices as high as they pleased. That is a very specious argument, and I do not know whether it was advanced with a view to allaying suspicion on this side or to lessen criticism; but we are not to be caught with such chaff.- The honorable gentleman also told us that he does not believe in price-fixing and general interference with trade in normal times; but in the few sentences that I have quoted, and they are not torn from their context, he presents sound argument for interference in a constitutional way.
The’ honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) was perfectly correct when he stated that there is only one relief for the Commonwealth, and that is to obtain the necessary powers by means of constitutional amendment. One cannot discuss on this occasion the benefit of extensive constitutional alterations, or deal with the Unification side of the question; but while I have not much faith in ordinary amendment of the Constitution to give relief, I strongly feel that if all the Constitutions, State and Federal, were thrown into the melting pot, and this Parliament were to emerge with power to act for itself, and to delegate powers to the State authorities, the people of the country would be much benefited. The New Zealand Parliament does not mean to be content with an amendment or extension of their war powers. I admit that the New Zealand Parliament is in a different position from the Commonwealth Parliament, inasmuch as there is not another authority to challenge their right to act. Despite this absolute power, however, the New Zealand Parliament does not intend to rely on their war powers in order to give relief to the people”, but are doing what Shis Parliament ought to be placed in a position to do, namely, passing Acts of Parliament under their Constitution in order that the people may be .protected, not only during war time, or immediately afterwards, but it may be for all time. In the Herald this evening there is the following piece of news - >
Parliament has passed a Bill aimed at the prevention of profiteering. The measure makes it unlawful to sell goods at a price unreasonably high, if the opportunity of obtaining such a price arises out of war conditions.
A price is to be deemed unreasonably high if it produces more than a fair and reasonable profit, which is to be based on the profit in August, 1914, with a reasonable addition for freight and charges.
They are going back to ‘the pre-war period, riot to the exceptionally high prices that have ruled during war time.
The hoarding of goods is made unlawful. The maximum penalties are £200 for an individual and £1,000 for a company.
They are making some effort to protect themselves against profiteers. Here great cries are raised against Sinn Feiners and Industrial Workers of the World men, but very little is heard from honorable members opposite of the necessity for SUppressing the profiteer - the man who has een filching from the people of this country when they have been in very dire circumstances indeed. If we heard a little more about the profiteer we would be more inclined to place some reliance upon Ministerial promises. Some time ago I publicly stated that two highwaymen had robbed certain Government officials not far from this building, but that the men who were exploiting the widows of our soldiers were far worse than those highway robbers. That is why honorable members upon this side of the chamber are inclined to doubt the bona fides of honorable members opposite. The latter refuse to deal with the arch offenders in our midst.
Objection to the extension of the War Precautions Act is not confined to the Labour section of the community. Instead of being called the War PrecautionsAct it should be designated the Wilful: Persecutions Act, because of the way inwhich numbers of men have been persecuted under its provisions. No wonder that the Acting Prime Minister is prepared to pledge himself that if any attempt be made by the Government to use the measure for political purposes he will resign. In other words, if the Prime Minister commences any of the tricks in which he has been indulging duringwar time, the Acting Prime Minister and himself will part company. During the present week I havebeen informed by men who do not belong to the Labour party that the provisions “of the War Precautions Act and of the regulations framed under it are not only irksome, but damnably oppressive and unjust. Upon the Boards established under that Act there are men whoare engaged in the same line of businessas others upon whom they -are called to* sit in judgment. Some of the latter havebeen persecuted under the Act. Quiterecently a challenge was issued to one of these Boards to hale certain men before the Court, with a view to proving that they had violated the provisions of the Statute. Why was this done? Because those men desired an opportunity of proving that they were being persecuted. Honorable members opposite who vote for this Bill will be condemned not only by the Labour section of this community but by many other . persons. I know exactly what the latter think, not only of the War Precautions Act itself, but of the personnel of the Boards appointed under it.
Again, I would point out that inFrance to-day there are certain goods which are urgently needed by the people there, and for which the need existed not only while the war was in progress,, but before its outbreak. Some of these goods have so deteriorated that they have actually had to ‘be burned, and the members of the French Mission recently implored one of these Boards to allow these commodities to be removed in order that use migh’t be made of them.
We ought to at once suspend the operation of the War Precautions Act, with a view to allowing members of the community to drift back as quickly as possible to normal conditions. In America, prior to sailing for the Peace Conference, President Wilson is reported to have said -
As soon as the armistice was signed we took *he harness off, and we are allowing business -again to resume its normal conditions.
The people of America will thus have a big start over every other community in the economic fight which has already commenced. But they will have a still bigger advantage over Australia, because under this Bill we are” going to hobble, instead of free, our industries. Australia, which is 12,000 miles from the theatre of war, is going to be the last country to demobilize its fighting forces and to allow its industries to regain normal conditions. It will ‘be a crime against the community if we permit the provisions of the War ^Precautions Act to be used in that way. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has enumerated many of the persecutions that have taken place under that Statute. We desire that such persecutions shall immediately cease. Is not the present the time to allow the community to get back to those conditions binder which business was carried on in pre-war days ? Nobody can urge that the war is not over. Already the embargo upon racing clubs throughout Australia has been lifted. In the matter of horseracing, the people of this country will be restored to normal conditions in the course of a few weeks. The same remark is applicable to boxing contests. The Government is allowing boxing and racing to get back into their normal stride; but the great commercial undertakings and manufactures of the country, which have in the past employed a great deal of labour, and would employ still more if given freedom, are to be kept in shackles. Ministerial supporters may tolerate this, T>ut the people outside will not be so easily satisfied as they have been. Parliament should remove these shackles as soon as possible. Is it right that we should have goods rotting, or so deteriorating as to be unsaleable, and only fit to be burned; goods of a kind that were required by France before the war and during the war, and -are still required by that country? They were, indeed, asked for by the members of the French Mission which has only just left Victoria.
– What are those goods?
– I shall not name them, though privately I could give the honorable member ample evidence in support of my statement.
– Let us have it here.
– It does not always do to mention names. The facts were given to me by men who are not supporters of the Labour party, but usually vote for Ministerialists. I believe that the real opinion of honorable members opposite is against the continuation of the War Precautions Act. They would be easily satisfied if the explanation given by the Acting Prime Minister satisfied them. That explanation was full of fallacies. I have pointed out that municipalities and trustees will look for protection and indemnification for their actions in connexion with war-loan’ investments and the like, not to the War Precautions Act, but to the legislation of the various State Parliaments, because when peace has been signed, and the war is over, the Act will no longer have force. “Were the Acting Prime Minister a State member, he would laugh to scorn statements such as he has made as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. We are wasting time in seeking to prolong the operation of the War Precautions Act.
– How would the honorable member protect the small farmer ?
– The Government ask for the extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act, and all the regulations issued under it. Is a steam hammer needed to crush a nut? I would leave it to the State Parliaments to protect those who need protection. When peace has been signed, the War Precautions Act, if challenged, will be declared by the High Court to be invalid. If the Bread case were .again submitted to that; Court, it would give a different verdicts
Unfortunately, there is now no probability of the Government withdrawing the Bill, and introducing, a measure which would meet the requirements of the public. The continuance of the War Precautions Act on the statute-book will be a disturbing factor, and it may happen that instead of tie community resuming its peaceful avocations, the regulations under the Act will, become so irritating that the people may be driven to some excess.
The censorship has been exercised in a manner which even the most bitter opponent of the Government did not expect. I wonder if it is because of the censorship that we are not being told of the intention of the Minister for Defence to leave for London in connexion with the demobilization of our Army.
– There is a statement on the subect in this evening’s newspaper.
– It says that his berth has been taken.
– It says that the Defence Department has booked certain passages. Why should we not be told directly that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is about” to leave these shores to represent the Ministry in London in connexion with the demobilization of our Forces ? This may be another instance in which the censorship is being exercised for political purposes. Prosecutions are still continuing in this country. Serious offences in connexion with shipbuilding operations were sun-nosed to have been committed on the Clyde in Scotland, and one man was deported, but he has since been pardoned by the British Government, and allowed to .return to his ordinary avocation, because the war is over, and there is no further need for the war-time restrictions. But in Australia men are still being interned.
– Does not the honorable member know the reason for what is being done in Great Britain? An election is pending there.
– We are less free, and during the war were less free, than any other community. In Great Britain, the conduct of the Government, and the carrying on of the war, have been openly discussed on the platform and in the press ; but in Australia the censor has not permitted reference to such matters. These restraints are irksome to -a libertyloving community, and will bring about more trouble than many persons think. Why do honorable members opposite wish to extend the operation of the War Precautions Act?
– No one wishes to extend its operation, but we cannot do without it.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the thousands of regulations issued under that Act are essential for the administration of the affairs of this country?
– No, and they will not be used.
– Then why not repeal them ?
– There are only three volumes of them !
– Many have not yet been bound.
– Senator Pearce will see to it that we get a lot more.
– Yes, the printing press is still at work. The freedom of the people is being curtailed to a. greater extent every day, although the war is over. I advise honorable members opposite to seriously consider the statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), that if the powers given to the Government under the War Precautions Act are withdrawn, the Shipping Combine, the sugar producers, and other commercial interests will at once take advantake of the necessities of the people and increase the charge for their services or the articles they supply. That, in my opinion, is a very strong argument in favour of an amendment of the Constitution.
– If they did increase their prices, they would only get the market value of their articles.
– The honorable member is a business man, and he has seen the balance-sheets of many of these commercial companies. He knows that during the war their profits have increased: by 50, 60; and 70 per cent, beyond prewar profits.
– Some have had to sell at fixed rates.
– The Acting Prime Minister has said that they will raise prices when the operation of the War Precautions Act expires.
– Will the honorable member mention a shipping company whose profits have gone up 50 per cent. or 60 per cent.?
– I said that the profits of some commercial companies have been increased in that way. The Acting Prime Minister’s statement is but a very poor testimonial to give to his political supporters outside, because we know that it is from the commercialinterests that honorable members opposite draw most of their funds for party purposes.
– The shipping companies will naturally take their vessels where they can earn most money.
– That only shows what may be done by these patriots, who, we have been informed, have sacrificed so much for the country. The honorable member suggests that the ship-owners are prepared to strangle Australia’s trade if they can earn higher profit elsewhere. I am prepared to take the riskssuggested by the Acting Prime Minister, and let the iniquitous War Precautions Act be wiped off the statute-book altogether.
– I do not often find myself in such a quandary as to how I should recorda vote as I find myself in dealing with the second reading of this Bill. The War Precautions Act was passed with the full concurrence of this Parliament. The passing of such a measure was most necessary, but there have been many mistakes made in connexion with its administration. Many things have been done under regulations issued under the Act which render some extension of its powers necessary to secure the protection of the public. The present Act continues in operation during the continuance of the present state of war, and no longer. But what does that mean? Is a formal declaration of peace or a special proclamation necessary before the present state of war will have ceased? Before all matters connected with the present state of war are settled, twelve months may lapse, and apparently the Government are asking that the War Precautions Act shall continue in operation for six months after that period. I do not profess to thoroughly understand constitutional questions, but I doubt very much that the High Court would agree to any extension of the operation of the law until all matters pertaining to the declaration of peace are settled, should that take an unduly long time, which is quite likely in view of the present condition of affairs in Germany and Austria.
– We did not get much help from the Acting Prime Minister on that point.
– We did not get much help from the honorable member so far as the war was concerned.
– That is another matter altogether.
– The Government are asking for an extension of the operation of the Act for six months after the end of the present state of war. I have submitted a proposal to the AttorneyGeneral in connexion with the matter. I desire to move, when we reach the Committee stage, to strike out the words “ and for a period of six months thereafter,” with a view of substituting the words “until the 30th June, 1919, whichever may be the later date.” I should not mind extending the time until the 31st July. That would give the Government seven or eight months in which to come to a determination in regard to any special legislation that might be required to protect those who have operated under the regulations issued under the existing Act. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) pointed out that it is necessary that the Government should retain some extraordinary powers for a longer period. If the Government would indicate that they are prepared to accept such an amendment as I have suggested, I should resume my seat at once.
Otherwise, it will be my duty to state the reason why I must vote against the Government on the second reading of this measure. I am not going to be so foolish as to vote for the second reading of the
Bill, trusting, in Committee, to carry such an amendment as I have suggested, unless I have some assurance of Government support for it. If the proclamation of Peace should be delayed until June or July next, and the Act is to continue in operation for six months after that, the period of its operation will be inordinately Jong. Throughout Australia, amongst every section of the community, there is an almost unanimous opinion that we should get rid of the regulations framed under the Act as soon as possible. Some time must elapse, before the operation of the measure ceases, to enable people to prepare for the new conditions that will prevail when the regulations under the Act are no longer in force. Some time for preparation for the new conditions will be necessary in connexion with the moratorium, for instance, the wool trade, and the butter trade. Some special legislation will be necessary, in the circumstances, and I am prepared to give the Government a reasonable time in which to consider what this legislation should be. 1 am not, however, prepared to give them twelve, fifteen, or eighteen months in which to determine upon such legislation. Assuming that the Government do not propose to accept an amendment such as I have suggested, I must point out how essential it is in the interest of the people generally to get rid of the regulations framed under the War Precautions Act as speedily as possible. The Government certainly need to protect certain industries and agreements ; but, as far as I can judge, it is not in the best interests of the community generally for them to have control over matters relating to trade. A great many mistakes have been made. While the Government with good intentions have been anxious to rid the community of certain monopolies, they have only succeeded in creating far greater monopolies. I do not propose tq permit thom to continue injuring trade, and many districts which have suffered as a consequence of the exercise of the powers given by the War Precautions Regulations. We have always been told to look up to the wonderful work done by the Wool Board. We shall always find certain sections of brokers who are quite satisfied with the action of the Government in these matters, because it has brought grist to their mills; but I have not been at all satisfied with the administration of the Wool Board. The price of wool has been good, because the Imperial Government have bought our clips, but the administration has been bad. I object to the endeavour of the Wool Board to destroy communities. At the principal seaport in my constituency there have been appraisements of wool for the last two seasons, but by the dictum of the chairman of the Wool Board no further appraisements are to take place there, and the trade of the town will be ruined for the sake of centralization. The dominant feature of the administration of this Board has been its centralizing policy, its endeavour to drag the whole of the trade of Australia into the capital cities.
– I apprehend that this matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a better House. [Quorum formed.’]
– In Western Australia, a large co-operative association with 5,000 members, nearly all of them sheepbreeders, an organization which was brought into existence by the special pleadings of the Prime “Minister and others, applied for permission to trade in wool, but the monopolists who are controlling the business refused the application. This is, perhaps, a small matter, but there are others of greater importance. From the moment the war started the Government took control to a great extent of metals. I do not propose to say much in regard to the method of dealing with molybdenite, but if the Administration’s actions were not due to ignorance they were criminal, because while there was nothing the Imperial Government desired more at the outbreak of war than a supply of that precious metal, there were extraordinary delays in regard to shipping it from Australia, which were, to my mind, due to nothing but culpable ignorance. Then we had the Metal Exchange formed under the auspices of the Government. The peculiar feature of it was that no one could be supplied with information in regard to that Exchange unless it was given confidentially. I had great difficulty in securing a copy of the articles of association, and then I could only get them confidentially. I believe in having a Metal Exchange, but I do not believe in a Government compelling people to trade with an organization without any regulations simply for the purpose of forcing trade into certain directions. The Customs Act gave us all the necessary power in regard to the destination of metals, but no matter where their mines were situated, all metal producers in Australia were compelled to sell their output to the favoured members of the Metal Exchange. Then we had the Treasury regulations dealing with all applications for permission to float companies. It was quite right for the Government to take certain control in this regard, in order to see that money, which was essential for the purposes of government, should not be devoted to improper purposes, or in directions where it would not be of value in adding to the production of Australia ; but the system adopted in the Treasury - it is not so strictly carried out now - was for. a. clerk to deal with any proposition which was to be submitted to the public.
– Telling business people how to conduct their affairs.
– I am afraid it was worse than that. Under those regulations a Zinc Producers’ Association was formed. It is well that zinc producers, tin producers, or butter producers should have co-operation among themselves; but it is an altogether different matter when the Government lay themselves out specially to force them into co-operative concerns What was done in regard to the zinc industry? I do not know how far it was done in regard to the copper industry, but an attempt was also made recently to do the same thing in connexion with the tin industry On the 20th March, 1916, a conference of zinc producers was .called in the office of the Attorney-General. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) was away in England, hut Mr. Mahon was Acting AttorneyGeneral at the time. The zinc producers were asked to join a Zinc Producers’ Association. They found that articles of association had been prepared for them, and that the agreement into which they were expected to enter was prepared for them. Under its terms they were to place the whole of their output in the hands of the proposed association, which would be able to dictate all the contracts they should have, and the price they were to be paid, not only during the progress of the waT, or for a period of five years, but for a period of fifty years. When the zinc producers objected to joining and pointed out, as the representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary and Mount. Lyell Company did, that they could not understand how joining the association would affect the interests of the shareholders, Mr. Higgins said, according to the official reports of the Conference -
I am going to ask the Attorney-General touse the strongest powers he possesses rather than that this scheme shall fail.
Mr. Mahon stated ;
I have to say that, in carrying out this policy, this arrangement has got to be carried out in the word and in the letter in which it was proposed. You have forty-eight hours to- do it, and after that there will be somethingmore done.
I pointed out a little while ago that the Government were insisting that any person who desired to float a company must secure the approval of the Government. They were very particular in regard to anything that should appear in any such proposition as that. But these articles of association contain clauses which are not to be found in the articles of association of any other company anywhere in the world, because they actually make provisions which open the way to graft. They give power to the directors to pay gifts or commissions to persons who may not do anything directly or indirectly to the advantage of the association, if, in the opinion of the directors, it is in the interests of the association to grant such gifts or commissions. If I can help it I shall not allow that sort of thing to continue. A Copper Producers Association has been formed; and only the other day we heard a great deal in regard to the tin industry. A gentleman waited on me recently, and gave me the names of two mines in New South Wales which had tobe closed down owing to the fact that they could not dispose of their produce. The name of one was the “ Car.pathia.” One of the two employed fifty men and the other twenty. There is not the slightest doubt that tin is required all over the world at present. But we have, allowed the whole business to be controlled by one firm, which has been appointed buyer for the Inter-Allied Committee.
– “Why was that?
– The firm was appointed by the Inter-Allied Board representative of France, Great Britain, and the United States of America, and I assume that the company has the permission of the Government to be the sole buyers. Those tin mines have had to be closed down, as this firm refused to purchase. Shares have dropped considerably, and one can understand, not only how great losses or profits may be made in dealing with tin, but how manipulations on the Stock Exchange may occur. I shall quote a paragraph from the Chemical Engineering and Mining Review. It is remarkable if it is true, and it must be remembered that this is the official journal of the Australian mining world. The paper states -
Another matter which is giving some concern to the tin producers is the proposed Tin Producers Association. As far as can be ascertained nobody has been consulted regarding this matter, excepting the smelters, who are apparently opposed to it.
Are the smelters to control the Tin Producers Association? Is the association placed in exactly the same position as the copper producers 1 I made representations bo the Government not long ago regarding a copper mine at Whim Creek, in the north-west of Western Australia. The mining people pointed out how impossible it was, owing to the heavy cost of freight, and to the high smelting charges, to send copper ore to Port Kembla; and they drew attention, further, to the difficulty in making contracts. But the Government insisted that the ore must be sent to the smelters in Australia. The same position will apply to the tin producers, and it is a matter, with the Government, of caring little for the producer so long as terms are made with the smelters. The first care of the Government should be to watch the interests of producers in Australia.
Dealing with the farmer, or the producer generally, the Government have failed to protect his interests adequately. Therefore, I want to see this Act removed from the statute-book, or its provisions so restricted as may be consistent with the safety of the nation. I quite agree that there must be some little delay. The armistice has come with dramatic suddenness. The war is .virtually, but not yet. over. In all human probability there will be no further fighting between us and our enemies. I wish to give the Government ample time to ascertain what powers are necessary for the protection of those industries which have been affected by the War Precautions regulations, and by the war itself, and then to bring their proposals before Parliament, by which time matters will have returned to normal. Within a few months, the Government should be in a position to introduce Bills which they may deem necessary to carry on. Then Parliament can decide what powers to grant to the Government.
According to the Bill under discussion, it is intended that “ This Act shall continue in operation during the continuance of the present state of war.” What does that really mean ? It is indefinite. There may be a good deal of delay. After that, it is proposed to give the Government six months longer. I hold, however, that that is too long. I would like the Government to indicate whether they will accept an amendment that the Act shall continue until the proclamation of peace, or whether they will consent to fix a date in the Bill. Unless I can secure some information in regard to this matter, it will be my bounden duty to vote against the Bill.
.- I pro-‘ test against the continuance of the Act, because it has been used in the past to affect the liberty of so many persons in the Commonwealth. We have previously had just the same assurances as have now been given that the Act will not be used in that way. Such promises have been made by different members of the Government, but they have been invariably broken; and the Government are just as likely to break them in the future as they have been in the past. The Act has been used to force an exofficer of the Army to play the detective on a man who had served under him at the Front for over two years, and to try to put that man in gaol, simply because at the time of the conscription referendum the latter was telling the people the truth about certain matters in connexion with the army.. The officer told me that that was the order he hated most of any he had received. The Government were denying at the - time of the second conscription referendum that a sixth division had been formed, but this man was discharged in the middle of the conscription campaign as a member of the Sixth Division. As a matter of fact, I was discharged from the Sixth Division on 13th December, 1917; I have the Defence Department’s discharge as a member of the 70th Battalion, Sixth Division, and at the very time I received it Ministers were denying the existence of a Sixth Division.
– Was it not a division made up of reinforcements?
– No, it was made up of what were called “ the fragments from France,” namely, the wounded and sick who had recovered. Why do the Government wish to extend the War Precautions Act? We have been told that it is for the purpose of “ cleaning up “ the various activities of which the Government have assumed control since the war. As far as I am able to judge, they will have, without any extension of the Act, a great many months in which to do the cleaning up before the Act automatically expires. We have been assured that that period will be between twelve and eighteen months, and, therefore, I fail to see why it should be necessary” to extend the duration of the Act beyond that length of time. I am convinced that people of all classes in the community are opposed to an extension of “the Act for a day longer than is necessary. The commercial bodies are opposed to its continuance, and monster demonstrations by the working classes demand its repeal. The Government say that the powers of the War Precautions Act are necessary in order to keep in check the so-called disloyal element in the community. Recentlypassed regulations prohibiting the holding of meetings and giving power to prosecute those who attend them seem to corroborate the impression that the prolongation of the Act is desired really for the political purposes for which it has been used in the past. Statements have been made about Bolsheviks and other disloyal elements in the community. Disloyalty depends very much on the point of view from which it is regarded. Whom do the Government regard as disloyalists? Do they refer to men who are disloyal to the Empire or to Australia ? Do they mean people who sit ^quietly by and force others to remain silent in face of the peaceful invasion of this country by a foreign Power? I regard any person who does that as disloyal to Australia, but the Government permit that to be done, and will not allow us to raise a protest. As a matter of fact, I think the Government’s definition of a. disloyalist is any person who is not in agreement with the present system of government.
– The Government dare not admit that.
– But they put that policy into practice quietly. If one does not believe that the producers of the country should, in addition to supporting themselves, support, a parasitical section of the community, he is, in the view of the Government, disloyal. Any one who advocates socialistic doctrines of that sort is classed as a disloyalist, and prosecutions have been instituted on that ground.
My strongest objection to the present Act is in connexion with the censorship. The Government have used the censorship in the past for political purposes, and in an instance that came under my own notice it was used for the protection of one particular Minister. The reference to the censorship brings to my mind a publication called All for Australia, which was distributed broadcast amongst the soldiers in the. trenches at the time of the second conscription referendum. I often heard the fellows at the Front say that the name of it should have been All for Hughes, because that was really its policy. It was practically the only political literature that we were allowed to receive during the conscription campaign. We were not allowed to receive any writings which were in opposition to conscription. The war had to be won, and apparently we soldiers were not winning it, so we could not be permitted to know anything of the negative side of the question. On the front page of the journal was this statement, “ To the soldiers : Do not let yourselves be persuaded that this is a conscription vote. It is not.” I do not think that statement would mislead any one in this country, although it may have misled some men overseas who had no chance of testing its accuracy. The statement was untrue. The soldiers had no way of finding out what was the issue. They could only form an opinion on the basis of such literature as was supplied, and as the Government only allowed them to read All for Australia, naturally they only heard one side of the case.
-. - That second referendum was for reinforcements.
– It was a conscription referendum. Reinforcements for the men at the Front would have been supported by every honorable member of the House, but conscription was very strongly opposed. The Government told a deliberate lie to the men in the trenches when they said that the referendum did not involve conscription. There is perhaps a little excuse tor the use of the censorship to assist a party. After all, human nature comes into play ; we all have our weaknesses, and would be inclined to use any authority we possessed for our own protection. Therefore the use of the censorship for party purposes, can be understood even if it cannot be justified. But I cannot understand it being applied to soldiers who have made the name of “ Anzac “ glorious, and have brought world-wide fame to Australia. I particularly cannot understand the operation of it against a man like Colonel Harold Pope. A few months ago, Senator Pearce was in Western Australia, and the Returned Sol diers Association had occasion to send a deputation to him. “The deputation was headed by Colonel Pope, a man whose name will endure so long as there lives a member of the 16th Battalion of the 4th Brigade of the First Division; a man whose name is written in letters of blood; upon the minds of the men who followed him; the man who was captured by the Turks, and escaped, a man who always asked his men to follow him- a true leader. On his return to Australia some time ago, Colonel Pope offered to raise 500 reinforcements, and I assure the House that he would have raised at least two-thirds of them inside three days from amongst the returned soldiers, so highly did they esteem him. But he was refused permission to do that on the ground that his action would’ interfere with the ordinary course of recruiting, and he wasso disgusted that he made no effort to get one recruit, but went back to Europe as officer in charge of a transport. On the deputation to the Minister, there were, in addition to Colonel Pope, men who had lost limbs, and others who had won decorations which could not be bought by any politicians with all the money in the world - decorations won in the face of death. Those soldiers were so disgusted with the attitude adopted by the Minister that Colonel Pope, in furnishing a report, to the Soldiers Executive- said that Senator Pearce’s order of preference was evidently as follows: - (1) For German subjects resident in Australia; (2) for straight-out slackers; (3) for rejects; (4) for soldiers of very short service; and (5) for men of long service. That report -was passed on to the local press, and naturally if it had been published, it would have done the Minister a considerable amount of harm,’ especially in the State he represents. It would have affected very detrimentally his chance of being returned at the next Senate election. So the censorship was brought into play to protect this puny Minister’s head from those vile soldiers who had done nothing but go abroad and fight for their country. They had done nothing to win the war; everything had been done by the Minister who, therefore, must be protected by the censorship. For a month the censorship prevented publication of that report and, during that time, two articles were published in the local press at the instance of the State Commandant to defend the Minister, and in them, to use Colonel Pope’s words, “ the soldiers got fits.” They were not permitted to reply, but at the end of the month they rebelled, and published in their own official organ two and a half columns without submitting the matter to the censor. Naturally, that officer threatened all sorts of action, but apparently he realized that any harsh measures would only bring down upon his head a load of sorrow. Consequently, no further action was taken. This application of the censorship to an organized body of men who had proved on the battlefields of Gallipoli, France, Palestine, and elsewhere their loyalty to Australia was absolutely unjustifiable. In that instance, the censorship was used for purely political purposes, and we are not justified in supporting a continuance of an Act which permits that sort of thing to be done.
Much has been said recently about the attitude which the soldiers will adopt when they return to Australia. Senator Pearce has said that the soldiers will know how to deal with the so-called disloyalists. I can assure the House that the soldiers know how to deal with Senator Pearce. In my pocket, at this moment, is a telegram from the Returned Soldiers Association in Western Australia, protesting as an organized body against the appointment of the present Minister for Defence to be their representative in connexion with demobilization work in Europe. The Government say that they must have power to control the disloyal element, and the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott)-
– A good soldier, too.
– I am prepared to believe that any soldier is good in himself. The honorable member for New England referred to certain incidents in Broken Hill as illustrating the need for power to control disloyal elements, and to take away the liberties of the people. He held up for our special commendation a ser geant who had declared that he would like to have the people of Broken Hill at one end of the street, and himself to be at the other end with a machine gun, so that he could make them jump. Even though that soldier has won the Victoria Cross, any person who would wish to have defenceless people at one end of the street and himself to be at the other end with a machine gun, so that he could mow them down, is not a man.
– He was referring to the men who hooted him when he left Broken Hill to go to the Front.
– A further statement was made that this man was stoned when he left Broken Hill after enlisting, but that is absolutely untrue. As a matter of fact, his statement about using a machine gun on the people was made in respect of a socialistic picnic gathering of men, women, and children. I claim that any man who makes a statement of that sort is directly inciting people to riot, and I would like to know why the Act is not applied impartially. We have been told that this soldier was prompted and incited to make his statement by a certain mine manager in Broken Hill. Why do not the Commonwealth authorities take action against those people who are endeavouring to stir up strife, and to force one section of the community to try to take the lives of another section ? The Government do not apply the War Precautions Act, or, indeed, any other legislation, in an impartial manner.
In conclusion, I am convinced that people of all political shades and creeds are opposed to any extension of the War Precautions Act. It places the whole machinery of government in the hands of Ministers, and abrogates the power of Parliament. This Parliament was elected to pass laws for the government of the people, but, under the War Precautions Act, absolute control is given to the Government, who may deal with the people as they please. However necessary such a power may be in time of war, it cannot be necessary in time of peace. The plea that this Bill is necessary because the
Peace terms have not yet been signed is, after all, only a quibble. It is a mere attempt on the part of the Government to evade the issue. It is quite impossible for the enemy to put up a fight against us, since he has handed over to the Allies many of his warships and other means of making war. He has handed over vast portions of territory, and a large section of his transport system; so that, although there may be a little rioting in Germany, the nation as a whole cannot organize against us. We are, therefore, virtually in a state of peace, although the Peace treaty has not yet been signed. In such circumstances, any extension of these powers is unjustifiable. The Government will have ample time before the signing of the Peace agreement to wind up their various controls. If they require power to continue the control of the shipping, or any other industry, they can pass special legislation for that purpose. If it is good to continue the control of these activities now that we have arrived at a state of peace, it should be right to continue it long after the war is forgotten. The Government should draft the Bills necessary to provide for such control instead of allowing lt to fall into the forgotten past after peace has been declared.
.- The War Precautions Act was passed as a purely war measure to confer certain powers upon the Executive. Under that Act, various important commercial and industrial activities were built up, and now that the armistice has been signed, and hostilities are over, these require to be reviewed by the Ministry and Parliament. I recognise that the Government need time in which to relinquish their hold upon the industrial departments which they took over during the war period, and, in order that they may set their house in order, and be- able to relinquish or shed many of these activities, a certain fixed time should be allotted to them.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in his very fine speech on this Bill, stated that, during the war period, the Govern ment had exercised various powers which could not be readily relinquished. That position is sound. Especially so is it sound in regard to the moratorium governing the rate of interest, and the regulations relating to the raising of loans for repatriation purposes, as well as for cleaning up our war expenditure. The credit of depositors in our banking institutions has been used to the extent of £40,000,000 in order that special advances might be made to help our last two war loans; and there are sound reasons why the Government, in the interests of the country, should be granted further time to_ exercise their executive powers ir. this respect. The Acting Prime Minister mentioned that a continuation of these powers was necessary in connexion with certain other activities, and referred, by way of illustration, to the control of the price of sugar. It is difficult to say whether it is necessary to use the powers conferred by the War Precautions Act to govern what is a purely Australian industry, having no export trade.
The honorable gentleman also referred to the price-fixing operations carried on by the Government. Their incursions into the realms of price fixing during the war have been in many instances most inopportune. The fixing of the price of meat was an unfortunate step, but I am glad to see that it has been withdrawn. We have also had price fixing in connexion with primary exports, including wheat, butter, and other products, which have been sold here at a rate much below the London parity during the last three or four years. ‘These price-fixing regulations should not continue a moment longer than is necessary.
The statement made by the Acting Prime Minister, as to the control of shipping, was also sound. He pointed out that, if it were not continued, it would be possible for ships now engaged in the Australian coastal trade to be transferred to other seas where much higher freights could be obtained. In that respect alone the evidence is sufficient to justify a further extension of the operation of the Act. There are many important pools in which the Government are financially interested. In connexion with the Wheat Pool, for instance, there is a bank overdraft of £12,000,000, or £13,000,000, and the next advance will mean a further overdraft of £16,000,000 or £17,000,000. It is most difficult for the Government to at once relinquish control of any pool in which they are financially interested; there are difficulties in the way which it will take some time to overcome. But while the ‘Government must control these large pools it should be possible to hand over in large part, to those immediately interested, the management of these activities. We have the statement that the metal contracts which have been entered into cover a period of ten years, and that this will involve the exercise of Government control. Since they have been entered into for a period of ten years it will be necessary for the Government to make some other arrangement in connexion with them to insure their satisfactory issue. The Exchange responsible for the management of this branch of the Government control of industries and production will have to make some definite arrangement with the British Government to carry out the contracts they have entered into over that period.
It was disappointing to find the Acting Prime Minister unable to bring forward a schedule of the various activities now under Government control, setting forth that they would be released from that control from time to time as soon as it was possible so to deal with them. The honorable gentleman referred to the press censorship. Even the most charitablydisposed supporters of the Government will, not say that the press censorship has been perfect. It is well known that in many instances there was a departure altogether from war methods. We know that the press censorship has been exercised in order to prevent that searching investigation into the administration of the Government which is necessary in the interests of the people and of good government itself. The press, censorship should be exercised very sparingly indeed now that hostilities have ceased, and it should be quite possible for the
Government to indicate the directions in which it is to be exercised in the future. I do not think it advisable at present that the press should have absolute licence to deal with the peace negotiations or the possible terms of peace, because such criticisms might hamper the proceedings of the Peace Conference when it meets. Neither do I think it right that the press should have an absolutely free hand to use arguments that might seriously affect the flotation within the Commonwealth of loans to enable us to carry on the great work of repatriation, to clear up the expenditure on the war, and to’ bring our troops back from the Front. Even at this stage I would be quite prepared to give the responsible press of Australia a free hand in dealing with all these questions ; but I would not give it to the irresponsible press, which has taken every opportunity, whenever it was allowed to do so, to use its power and influence against what I consider the effective prosecution of the war during the period of the Commonwealth’s greatest emergency.
The provision in the Bill as it stands, for an extension of the war precautions powers for a period of six months after the publication of a proclamation by the Governor-General that we are no longer in a state of war, would mean not only that the deliberations of the Peace Conference would have to be absolutely completed, but probably that the whole of the details would have, to be settled before a proper signing of peace could take place. In fact, everything in connexion with the whole of the peace terms would have to be completed before it would be possible for the Governor-General to issue a proclamation that peace had been finally determined. The negotiations that will take place at the Peace table will he on a far more colossal scale than we have any record of in history. Those connected with the Franco-Prussian War lasted from January to May of the same year, or about five months; yet that war did not entail as great a loss of life to the German Army as Australia alone has suffered during the war which ha3 just come to an end. If it took so long on that occasion to settle peace between only two nations, how much longer are the negotiations likely to take in this case, where considerations relating to almost every country in the world will have to be dealt with at the Peace table? They may take seven or eight months, or even longer, and then, if this Bill is passed, the Government will have a. further breathing time of six months. If this House is to have restored to it its right to control the policy -of Governments, it should require the Government now to state a time at which the War Precautions Act shall cease, and if it i3 necessary at the end of that time to continue governmental control over certain trade activities, those activities should be stated, and the House should have an opportunity to review .them. Within six months, which seems a very fair term, it should be possible for the Government to shed the control of many of the trading activities that they now have in hand, and they should then be able to bring down to the House a full schedule showing exactly what controls must be continued, and give the House an opportunity of pronouncing whether the power in each case should continue or cease.
This House has, to a large extent, given up its powers and prerogatives during the war. With the exception of its right to review certain questions of policy and finance, it has .rightly given to the Execu.tive of the country, which must be responsible for the proper conduct of the war, practically the whole control of the war destinies of this nation. But the war is no longer in existence. It is true that only the armistice has been signed, but hostilities have ceased, and it is generally believed and accepted in Great Britain that the war is over. The German- Navy is now under the control of the mighty British Navy, and soldiers are being returned in thousands and tens of thousands from- France to resume their ordinary avocations in Great Britain. To all intents and purposes the war is ended, but the negotiations for peace are of transcendent importance, and it is essential that the Government should exercise a certain amount of control, through the medium of the press censorship, during the inter- regnum between this and the final signing of peace. It is also necessary that the Government should continue to exercise a certain amount of control over those big activities that they undertook, as a matter of necessity, to direct during the period of the . war. But in giving the Government an extended period of power in that direction, the House should not forfeit its right to review the whole question’. By the time the House meets next year, the Government will have had a reasonable opportunity to revise the list of powers, and should inform the House which they feel they can relinquish, and those which, for financial and other reasons, must be continued for a further period. The latter it will be the duty of the Government to ask the House to further consider.
– If secret diplomacy is to go by the board, why should not the people of this and every other country have the right of free discussion of the peace terms?
– It is not advisable to allow free criticism, responsible and irresponsible, which may hamper or embarrass the delicate negotiations which must necessarily take place at the Peace table.
At the latest, at the end of six months, the Government ought to bring this legislation down for further consideration. If we give six months’ intervalto the Government, that is a very fair breathing time. It will insure that within the next four or five months-
– I would not give them four or five minutes’ breathing time, and then they would breathe only with difficulty.
– I can quite understand the honorable member’s attitude; but I am not prepared on this Bill to vote for anything that will help to bring partial destruction on the Commonwealth, or interfere with the proper negotiations for peace. At the same time I am jealous of the rights and powers and prerogatives of this Parliament. This Parliament should continue to exercise its rights, and that can be effected only by the Government giving the House an opportunity to review the important considerations involved in this measure, in order that the powers at present exercised by the Government may be gradually relinquished, and that we may return as soon as possible to normal conditions. I hope, therefore, that the Government will accept the suggestion that has already been made, and which I had intended to make myself, that within a reasonable period - I believe six months is quite reasonable - this legislation should be brought before the House again, in order that the House may once more review the question of the duration of Governmental control over certain activities and functions which are essential to the continued safety of the industrial and commercial life of the Commonwealth.
.- I have listened to two speeches from the Ministerial side of the House to-night, both of which have proved the possession by the members who delivered them of that perfect equipoise in sitting on the rail as to qualify them for the description of accomplished acrobats. Their difficulty, apparently, is to accommodate their views with their votes. Their votes are pledged to the Government, but their views are with honorable members on this side, though we cannot expect, apparently, in matters of principle to get the benefit of their votes. I have listened also to a representative of the Opposition, a young soldier, who has delivered some home truths on the question of the censorship and the treatment, under the War Precautions Act, of soldiers abroad. The speech itself was able and interesting, but it was especially pleasing to hear it delivered in the presence of the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard), if that high office still exists, and that high official is still qualified to be known by that title, because when one remembers the War Precautions Regulations which he adopted a little while ago, designed to promote ill-will between returning soldiers and citizens of this country, and when one recalls the illuminating pictorial devices which he caused to be circulated amongst old men and women, returned soldiers, parents and relatives of deceased soldiers, to stimulate their enlistment, one can easily understand that the admirable lessongiven by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) might be of some use to the Minister for Recruiting, still so-called. Even if I could, I would not like to be so severe upon the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) in respect of this Bill, as some independent and non-political critics have been. I will not repeat their language of condemnation - unless I may be pardoned for making a passing reference to what was termed his “ stilted verbosity “ - but I think it is fair to say that if the Bill is necessary, the Ministerhas quite failed to prove it so ; and the barren speech with which he introduced it has not been rendered the more fertile by the addresses of those who have just supported him from that side of the House.
– What about the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt)?
– I shall have something to say about the Acting Prime Minister in a moment.
It has been suggested that thisBill, if passed, will be unconstitutional, and it is very curious that the Minister’s quotations from a High Court judgment go rather to show that this is so, and that not a single argument was advanced by the Minister in support of the constitutionality of the measure. Under the War Precautions Act, andarising out ofthe continuance of a state of war, very extensive powers have been conferred upon the Government. How far those powers extend was well illustrated by the Minister’s quotations from the Chief Judge of Australia and from learned counsel who addressed theCourt in connexion with the cases mentioned by the Minister. They all go to show that the very extraordinary powers enjoyed by the Government under the War Precautions Act arise exclusively out of a condition of war - the pre-eminent demand of national preservation, and the maxim that the safety of the State is’ the highest law. The Minister used his quotations as though they supported the constitutionality of his case, and as some warrant, which they are not, for the extension of what I prefer to call this miserable coercive measure.
On the 25th April, 1915, when the second. War Precautions Bill was introduced in this House, and standing just about where I am now standing, the then new, modest and timid member for Balaclava, now the bold and confident Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), delivered his first speech upon this subject. In the course of ‘his remarks he said -
The Bill, as has been said by the honorable member preceding me, strikes a blow at many important principles which have been built up as the result of centuries of endeavour, and they are principles of which we all approve.
The Acting Prime Minister, then the plain honorable member for Balaclava, made it perfectly clear that nothing but the very grave crisis which then confronted Parliament and the country could be or would be sufficient excuse for his lending support to that Bill. To-day .the war is over. All are agreed on that. Much discussion must follow; but the fighting is over. The crisis has passed, and, consequently, ‘ the circumstances which justified the Government “ striking a blow “ at many or any important principles “ which have been built as the result 61 centuries of endeavour “ no longer exist. To-day, however, in a time of peace - the crisis happily having passed, and the conditions having been entirely altered - the Acting Prime Minister stands in his place to justify an indefinite continuation of a Bill which “ strikes a blow at many important principles which have been built as the result of centuries of endeavour.”
I have just been reminded that the Acting Prime Minister made another speech on this Bill, when he came to the rescue of his colleague who was in difficulties, and threatened with fire from his own side, or rather from the rear. This colleague was threatened with grave things from certain honorable members, all of whom, we are now happily assured, will vote with him. For some hours, when called to the rescue, the Acting Prime Minister wandered about, obviously cherishing a speech of great importance - wandered about something like the proverbial hen determined to lay an egg but not quite settled as to -where this should take place. Eventually, he delivered the speech.
– It was an excellent speech.
– It was what might be called in a court of law an excellent opening address, and if he had only called evidence to support the opening there would have been a fair case.
– It might have spoilt the case.
– As the honorable member says, it is very likely that if evidence had been called, the case would have been spoilt.
To take only one instance, the Acting Prime Minister told the House that it would be a dreadful thing if the moratorium were to be discontinued, and money, which is at present invested on mortgage at 4 and 5 per cent., were suddenly liable to be called u,p under the attraction of better investment at higher rates of interest, and financial chaos and great hardship were brought upon those persons who had been compelled to borrow money at the lower rates of interest. Any one who is not merely a theorist in these matters knows perfectly well that there never has been a time when there were not hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in real estate and with banks at rates of interest far below the interest obtained on other investments of like character. For instance, when the banks were offering 4J per cent, on fixed deposits, many investors were only too glad to avail themselves of what they conceived “to be the greater certainty and regularity of an investment of this kind, in preference to what they thought were more hazardous investments at 6 and 6£ per cent, in other avenues. It is apparent to me, as having some little experience of business matters of the kind, that the dread of financial panic which the Acting Prime Minister seems to labour under is unfounded.
– Does the honorable member think the moratorium should cease ?
– I do not think it should cease immediately, nor do I think that the heavy machinery of the War Precautions Act is in the slightest degree necessary to its- continuance. I take this opportunity to say that this vast, injurious, iniquitous octopus of the War Precautions Act is not, in my opinion, a necessary adjunct to the reasonable protection of the public in certain well-defined lines and circumstances, upon which legislation may be passed from time to time as need arises, or legislation and regulation may be .retained as wise judgment requires in particular instances.
The Acting Prime Minister may be complimented on one phase of his speech. It was an excellent tribute to a policy of State Socialism. He apostrophizes various State activities, which he assures us have been the very buttress of Australia’s solvency, as if honorable members on this side had never had a word to say in favour of State effort before. It comes to the honorable gentleman as a new and refreshing discovery that the State can operate, even temporarily, with success in the departments which he mentioned. I am quite prepared to concede with him that State activity may be. very useful and necessary in many departments, but I contend, also, that when power is gathered in the name of Democracy into a single individual, or two or three individuals, acting in secret behind the scenes, there is, inevitably, implanted in the public mind a very deep and dark suspicion of wrongful and corrupt practices. I deliberately say that there is more than a suspicion in the public mind of many improprieties, approaching dangerously close to corruption, in connexion with the various Committees, Boards, and licensed individuals, who in secret are carrying on the government of this country. I will say this f,or the Acting Prime Minister and his speech, that in his debating days, when I first knew him, he would have been entitled, on a division of matter, manner, and method, to have won from any judge a high percentage of marks on both his method and his manner;- the matter was defective only in that it failed to bring up evidence to support his general statements.
Having opposed this measure from the beginning, I am naturally very pleased to know that, if not in a position to claim the sympathy and support of all members, I have the sympathy and support of a good many of those who were heartily favorable to its introduction, and, I ad-, mit, with more excuse than those who wish to continue it now. My own view is, quite frankly, that there is a difficulty in discontinuing it. It cannot easily be laid aside. As was said, I think by the great Grecian statesman and philosopher Solon of his rival Dionysius, “ We might have nipped him in the bud, but now nothing remains but to drag him out ‘ by the roots.’ “
– Mixed metaphor.
– It may be mixed, but the honorable member must blame Solon for that, and he has been dead many years. We might have nipped this Act in the bud three years ago, but nothing now remains but to drag it out by the roots. That is a painful method to adopt, but it is sometimes better to bear pain than to allow an evil to continue. The effect of the War Precautions Act upon the people of this country has been one of moral degeneration. It has bred suspicion, and it has tended to corrupt practice. The Act which we are invited to perpetuate contains, amongst other things,- a section which enables civilians to be tried by court martial. The war being over, and the very name of court martial stinking in the nostrils of the public, we are asked to pass a Bill which will perpetuate courts martial, not only in the case of the military, but in the case of civilians. These tribunals are not Courts in the strict sense of the word - they are what the Prime Minister would describe as secret juntas which dispose of men’s lives in the same way as would the greatest despot on earth. I am not likely to lend any support to a measure of that kind.
A good deal has been said during this debate about the censorship and when the Acting Prime Minister was inviting us to pass this Bill he asked us to accept his assurance that the censorship would not be used for political purposes. I said that I declined to accept any such assurance. I did not mean that I would not accept the word of the Acting Prime Minister because I judged it to be unworthy of credence. But I refused to accept it because the Acting Prime Minister, in 1918, was merely repeating the pledges which were made by the Prime Minister in 1915, 1916, and 1917, and which were so recklessly broken. Any man who would be so weak as to accept the assurance of the Prime Minister in regard to the effect of an Act of Parliament, in the face of what he has already done, would argue himself a fool rather than a politician. I would not allow my mind to be affected by any protest made by him, no matter how solemnly, or under what circumstances’ it was made. I do not think the Acting Prime Minister has ever realized how the censorship has been used by the Government of which he is a member. I have seen the Prime Minister make the most positive pledges that the censorship would no longer be used for political purposes. Subsequently I have listened to the citation of the way in which it has operated, and the reply of the Prime Minister has been that he could scarcely credit it. “What accounts for this ? The explanation is to be found in the fact that the Censor’s staff knew exactly what the Prime Minister wanted. They knew what he had said at the table of this House, but they also knew what he desired. They knew that he would never say, as did King John, that “ it was the curse of kings to be attended by slaves who took their humour for a warrant.” But the Prime Minister knew that the officers of the” Censor’s staff would not give effect to what he had promised, and that they would use the censorship in the way that he desired it to be used. I do not propose to load the official record of our Parliamentary debates with instances of the way in which it has been misused. It has been a notorious instrument of wrong, and its continuance is an argument that one may compromise with his conscience and deal with politics by the instrument alike of falsehood and half truths. I refuse to do that. It is far better that one should suffer and tell the truth than that he should equivocate and temporarily succeed. That is why I will effect no compromise with this instrument of oppression under which our politics have been dragged lower during the last two or three years than they were ever dragged before.
Under the . War Precautions Act authority is given to suppress certain classes of literature. It almost beggars belief that an index has been prepared of prohibited publications - an index which includes the publication by the Society of Friends which is known as Goodwill, and which from beginning to end preaches pure, simple, non-political Christianity. It . appears on that index because the censorship, as administered during the war, stopped short at Christianity. A. pamphlet relating to the drink traffic has been similarly dealt with. In this connexion I do not go the whole distance with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), much as I admire his singleness of purpose in regard to the crying evil of intemperance. But it would be a scandal for the community to lend itself to the suppression of literature of a character designed to safeguard the morals of the youths, and even of the adults, of this country. Yet it is only too true that we find this pamphlet among others on the index. I often wonder what the Minister now sitting at the table (Mr. Groom) thinks of these compromises with conscience. He, at all events, if he will permit me to say so, has the reputation of being a man associated with church activities. In sincerity, I wonder how he can associate himself with a policy which makes compromises of this kind on vital matters of principle. It is for him to answer. But he rather screens himself in a maze of those generalities which win for him in the press the commendation of having uttered a speech of stilted verbosity.
– What does Palmer think about it?
– That, unhappily, is a matter of no consequence whatever.
– Why unhappily?
– Because one feels a certain measure of regret that we should have in the House a gentleman whose views are of no consequence whatever.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - I ask the honorable member for Batman to withdraw anything that reflects on another honorable member.
– I will withdraw my remark, and say that the honorable member’s views are of consequence.
I admit that there is probably a great measure of sincerity in the Government, and in its supporters, when, through want of courage, they use this Act for such a purpose as the suppression of the international emblem known as the red flag. I think that their action in regard to it proceeds largely from ignorance. Perhaps it proceeds also from pressure from a certain quarter, which, to my mind,, shows unworthy weakness in the Government.
– On the railway the displaying of a red flag signifies danger.
– Yes ; but in another connexion the red flag denotes, as I think honorable members by this time well know, the principle of international brotherhood. I ventured to interject when a member was addressing the Chair on the question a little earlier, that the red flag was really more than a national emblem, and more than an international emblem. It is really a religious emblem in the sense that it stands for brotherhood the world over, a brotherhood which rises superior to any sectional belief. It typifies the fellowship and good feeling which should bind together the peoples of the world. Correctly understood the red flag, so far as one emblem can be superior to another, must necessarily transcend any other flag that can be flown or displayed by any country in the world. The stupidity and the ill-will of its prohibition must be apparent to those who give the matter even a moment’s consideration.
I would say, by way of drawing to a close the few observations I wish to record in opposition to the Bill, that the Government will not fail, I hope, to learn the real lesson of this war - the overthrow of military standards of expediency. Interjections have been made about Bolshevism, and the position of Russia. I suggest to the House that if we read the lessons of this war correctly we shall not be too hard upon Bolshevism. The other night we had from the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) a wild and rampant oration, in the course of which he condemned me for having asked the question, “What is wrong with Bolshevism?” The question still remains unanswered. When I am told that, during the past few months, murders and atrocities have been committed in the name of Bolshevism, I cannot help reminding honorable members that the few atrocities that have been committed, if any - our information on the subject is scant and unreliable - areas nothing in comparison with the atrocities committed over a long series of years by the late not-lamented military autocracy of Russia, which our soldiers were sent out to support and buttress up in the early part of the war. Happily that autocracy came to a sudden end. That was one of the blessings which we can attribute to this dreadful scourge of war. We have heard a good deal of the Prussian military machine, and it is only natural that I, an anti-militarist, and one who condemns, root and branch, the whole useless, wasteful military business, should cheerfully join with those who condemn it. But there never was a more crushing militarism, a more cruel autocracy than those which we embraced as our Allies in the early part of this war, in the name of Russia. The revolution “came, and this tyranny was overthrown, and after many changes there came what is known as Bolshevism. Immediately the friends of autocracy everywhere set themselves, through their press organs, and by other means, to applaud the old regime, and to condemn the Bolshevist doctrines. All I can say is that it will be a long time before the proletariats of Russia will inflict on their country one-tenth of the wrong and cruelty and suffering inflicted by the dynasty and military system which they have overthrown.
I opposed this measure in 1914 and in 1915, and in all its phases since. But I confess that when the Bill was introduced originally I did not believe, suspicious as I was of its operation, that the Government who introduced it would so far forget the pledges which they made to the people as to the way in which it would be administered in the years to follow. I believe that the War Precautions Act has been a nuisance to the general public. It has been an incentive and a subsidy to falsehood and chicanery. I believe that the morality of the public has been reduced in their estimation, and in the estimation of disinterested lookers-on, as a result of the operation of the Act. The more quickly the statute-book is disencumbered of its presence the better it will be for this country, and the sooner we shall return to decent legislative methods. Under this Act we cannot have decent legislative methods. We cannot with safety legislate in secrecy. We cannot with safety repose in single individuals extensive powers to be exercised in secret. That has been proved by what has taken place during the time that this Act has been in operation. It was used as an instrument of political oppression. It has been used for persecuting and prosecuting political opponents of the present Government. No doubt it will be so used in the future. At the very moment when I am speaking it is being used as ii means’ of political persecution and oppression. Its operation has been extended through secret regulations passed in its name into avenues in which it was never expected that it would be used. It has been used for the prosecution of members of this’ House in circumstances in which a prosecution could never decently have taken place. The very fact that most of those prosecutions were abortive is testimony to the method in which this pernicious measure has been employed.
For these reasons I propose to vote against the second reading and against all the clauses of the Bill now before the House. I look forward confidently to the time when the War Precautions Act will cease to be an instrument’ for the oppression of the people of this country, believing, however, that it will never cease to be used as such an instrument until the persons responsible for ‘ its enactment to-day .have passed from the opposite side of this Chamber to this side. When that time arrives, I promise a longsuffering people, so far as one individual is able to promise anything, that not only will the War Precautions Act pass away, but one of the first acts of the new Government should be to compensate every individual who has unjustly suffered from its operation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman) adjourned.
Conditions at Williamstown Dockyard.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some time ago, when addressing this House in connexion with the conditions at the shipbuilding yards at Williamstown I made several charges against the management of those yards. Amongst other things, I charged the management with nepotism in the belief that the manager had certain relations employed at the works. I made that charge upon information which I received, and which I deemed at the time to be quite reliable. Since then the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has assured me that Mr. Curchin informed him that he has no relations whatever working at the Williamstown Yards.
– I showed the honorable member a letter in which Mr. Curchin makes that statement emphatically.
- Mr. Curchin has made that statement, and as the individual upon whose complaint I made the charge says that that was his information, but cannot verify it by evidence, I accept Mr. Curchin’s denial, and apologize for having made that charge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181210_reps_7_87/>.