7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at eleven a.m., and read prayers.
– I know that the Government have not had time yet to- consider the statement made last night by the ex -Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), but I ask the Acting Prime Minister if there will be a further inquiry into the matters about -which he spoke, made by ‘ a Judge of the Supreme Court, or, preferably, a Justice of the High Court. In my opinion, the affair cannot rest as it stands at present?
– It has been impossible for the Government to consider the matter since the statement was made, and there is now such a pressure of work that I cannot say when it will be considered. I shall obtain the Hansard report of Mr. Jensen’s speech, and shall -give it my earnest consideration. That is all I can promise at this stage.
– Last night the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen) suggested that some person - his remarks pointed to me-had placed his name on Mr. Jensen’s locker, and that that was done during the time that the Government was considering his case, and before the morning of the day when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) made his statement to . this House. I was at Beaufort- on the previous evening, and on my return next morning did not enter the room in which this thing was said to have been done. The Minister for Recruiting met me, and was with me until Mr. Jensen came in, when I spoke to himabout some matter having nothing to do with the locker. Subsequently he went into the adjoining room, where the locker was. . I had not gone into that room in the meantime, and therefore could not have done what was alleged. I did not know then of the finalization of the matter.
– I think you have proved an alibi.
– I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding. Any man who suggests that I would bury a person before his demise suggests what is quite wrong, and I resent such a suggestion. The allegation against me has no foundation whatever.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if the. Department asks returned soldiers to give back their overcoats, and whether it is a fact that returning Anzacs were soaked with rain for want of overcoats ? Does not the Department consider that it would he a small - matter to allow the- men to retain their overcoats?
– The practice of the Department was announced many months ago. There’ was some trouble in July, and it was then stated that members of the A.I.F. who joined the reserve would be allowed to keep, their overcoats. Other soldiers give them up on receiving their discharge. No complaint has been made to the Department on this subject since July.
Quarantining of “Boonah” - “ Medic’s “ communication withnew Zealand.
– Having received a telegram concerning the men on the Boonah, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the paragraphs in to-day’s metropolitan press, which show that the condition of things on that vessel are most unsatisfactory, and if he has issued, or is he issuing, instructions for- a close investigation to be made concerning the serious allegations that have been published ? Has the Minister a statement to make in regard -to the matter ?
– I do notknow what are the allegations to which’ the honorable member refers. The Boonah on her arrival in Australia had nearly 400 cases of influenza on board. The quarantine authorities at once took the matter in hand, and the infected patients were landed at the quarantine station at Fremantle, and effective measures were taken to clean the ship. Next day there were eight cases; the following day five cases; then two ; and then one ; and we anticipate that there will not be any patients today, that having been our experience with every other ship with which we have dealt. The returning Western Australian soldiers- will be landed at the quarantine station to-morrow morning, to complete their period of detention there. The
Boonah will probably leave Fremantle on Saturday, which is the earliest day on which we can return to her the members of the crew who have been sick, and who by that tune will be well - all but one or two who must be left behind at Fremantle. She will then proceed to the Eastern States, and the troops on board will complete their period of detention during this voyage. Presumably ‘the vessel will be a clean ship when she arrives here, and the men will then be released. I do not know what more the quarantine . authorities could do for the benefit of those on board.
– The other day Iasked -the Acting Prime Minister a question about -certain rumours concerning the transport Medic, and he replied that he was unaware of them. I ask “him if he will have the fullest investigation made - if necessary, “by a civilian Commission, apart from the Defence Department - into the following ‘statements” -
– Some of the statements to which the honorable member refers are within the knowledge of the Government ; that is to say, the statements of what happened to the ship when she came to Australia. As to whether the exact facts regarding her arrival in New Zealand are known, I cannot say, hut I shall see that proper inquiry is made.
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you havebeen able to give amyconsideration to the matter I raised on Wednesday last, namely, the giving of a bonus to the attendants and messengers of the House ?
– I have previously informed the honorable member that I have had this matter under consideration for some time past. ‘I remind honorable members that there is no vote under control of the Speaker from which any bonus could be paid, and any such expenditure must necessarily he specially provided for through the Treasurer. I propose, in conjunction with the President o? the Senate, when opportunity offers, to make certain suggestions to the Treasurer in this regard. Honorable members know , that the business of the House of late has been almost continuous, and all of us have been very busy; but the matter in still under consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Price-Fixing (Mr. Greene) what is the reason for the refusal to comply with the request of the South Coast farmers of New ‘South Wales for the abolition. of the fixation of the price of bran?
– The reason is that if -we allow the price of bran to rise it will affect the price of flour, and, consequently, the price of bread; the prices of all these commodities are contingent on one another. “We must either altogether abandon the policy of price-fixing or adhere to it. The Government do not feel that it can remove the price-fixing of bread at the present time; and, consequently, the price of bran will remain fixed. If the Government were to allow the policy of price-fixing to be lifted so far as bran is concerned, bran, of course, would become very dear, and it is doubtful whether the farmers would be able to get any more than at present. They are obtaining all that is produced, and no more would be forthcoming as a result of the removal of price-fixing. The only result would be a probable doubling of the price.
Reports of Inter-State Commission
– Has the InterState ‘Commission’s report on the cost of vegetables, and also theirreport on the cost of clothing, been finalized; and, if so, will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) make them available?
– A report was handed to me a day or two ago, but owing to the pressure of business, I myself have not had time to read it. As soon as there has been time for myself and the Department to peruse the report, it will be laid on the table of the House in the usual way.
Assault on Administrator.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) any information to give this House concerning the serious trouble that has occurred at Port Darwin in connexion with administration there? Is- it correct that the censorship has been applied to newspapers in this connexion; and, if so,, what becomes of the pledge of the Government?
– There was a somewhat serious disturbance at Port Darwin on Wednesday last. A crowd of 400 ot 500 assembled opposite Government House, chiefly men from Vestey Brothers’ works, and passed a resolution requesting the Administrator to address them, and give an account of his administration for the last five years. The resolution also asked the Administrator whether he would be able to go south by a boat leaving that day, pending an inquiry by a Commission into his acts of administration? The resolution was presented to the Administrator, who declined to do what he was asked. The crowd continued outside, and after about an hour, the Administrator, from within the fence, explained his position under the Government, and said that he was acting in accordance with the ordinances passed for the Territory, and pointed out, perfectly correctly, that every request or representation made, and intended to reach the Minister, had been sent south. The Administrator declined to accede to the suggestion made to him - made under impulse, of course. He had been assured by the leaders of the crowd that, if he addressed the meeting, no violence would be used. They gave him an absolute guarantee of safety; but, after about twenty minutes, as he was proceeding to his house, there was a cry of “ over the fence.” There was an alien element right in front of the crowd, and it was at the instance of some of the leaders that the cry was raised1. Some of the crowd jumped, over, knocked the Administrator down, and proceeded to attack him, and some of his staff.
– Were there coloured aliens?
– No; there is a turbulent element in Darwin, intensified by the presence of a great number of aliens, but all I can tell honorable members about the aliens is that they are men from out side the British Empire. Every step should be taken by the Government for the purpose of preventing a repetition of such a disturbance, and maintaining order, by applying the ordinary rules of the administration. As regards the censorship, I cannot speak with any specific knowledge, but it is possible some telegrams may have been censored.
– The Government have already purchased a very large number of corn and potato sacks. The major part of the shipments have already arrived in Australia, and every possible step is being taken to insure a full supply of jute goods for the current season.
– At a price controlled by the Government?
Special Sittings to Consider - War Service Homes: Staff Appointments and Control
– In view of the extreme urgency of dealing more fully with the great problem of repatriation, demobilization, and the judicious expenditure of public money, will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) give consideration to the desire of members to meet again shortly after the holidays for a specific time, say, a month, to discuss these questions exclusively?
– I should like some better evidence than I have received of the earnest desire of honorable members to meet soon after the holidays. I notice that a similar suggestion was characteristically made by the Age to-day, but- 1 do not think I could ask honorable members to vote for such a motion now in the presence of the representatives of that journal.
– Does the Government propose to abolish the office of Public Service Commissioner; and if not, why is it intended to appoint an officer at a salary of £1,500 per annum, who will control the expenditure rOI some £50,000,000, and whose staff will not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Commissioner?
– The Government do not propose to abolish the office of Public Service Commissioner. The honorable gentleman probably refers to a Bill which is shortly to be considered in this House, and which was the subject of a message from another place. That will be duly explained at the proper time. I am not permitted to explain the measure now, but the honorable gentleman will see that he is mistaken as to the provisions of that Bill, in relation to the matter he has re- ferred to.
Financing New Crop
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is in a position to announce the arrangements, if any, which have been made in regard to the financing of the new wheat crop?
– I have been anxious to make a statement for the information of wheat-growers and of honorable members who are representatives of wheat-growers, on two phases of the wheat question - the payment of guarantee for the new crop, and the problem of sale, with which I dealt before. I am not yet- in a position to deal further with the latter phase, but I hope to be able to do so before we rise. 1 am able to make this statement concerning the payment of wheat guarantees for the 1918-19 crop. Recently I discussed this question with the representatives’ of the Australian Wheat Board who waited upon me. It was suggested, on behalf of the Board, that it would be desirable, in view of the short wheat crop in many parts of Australia, if the Government could arrange. the finances to pay the whole of the guarantee in one payment as early as practicable in the new year. On behalf of the Government I promised to consider the suggestion and confer with the banks, who assist in the conduct of such operations. There has been- difficulty, involving some delay, in the arrangement of this matter, and I have not yet received final answers from the principal banks. After carefully reviewing the present circumstances and the outlook for the new year, I have decided to pay the whole of the guarantee and will take all necessary steps in that direction in the new year.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister when it is proposed to give effect to the decision of the Government, announced yesterday, in regard to the release of Irish internees. Is that decision applicable only .to those gentlemen, or is it proposed t’o extend it to other -internees?
– The Crown Law Department co-operates with the Defence Department in matters of this kind. I do not know how far this matter has proceeded, but the wish of the Government with respect to the interned men whose case was the subject of a recent inquiry, is that, with one exception which I have referred to, their early or immediate release should be given. The Minister for Defence has also, with the concurrence of the Cabinet, arranged for the release of several other internees, mostly men who are Australian born. That procedure is going on, and I expect that to-day, or some time this week, a list of another dozen or so of cases that have been carefully reviewed will be published by the Minister ifor, immediate release. It is the desire of the Government, as soon as it is safe and wise, after careful examination of these special cases, that the release of these men should take place.
correction of PressReport.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When the honorable member for Echuca was speaking on the Estimates with reference to the Government motor cars, I am reported in the press to have interjected, “Why not supply Ministers with tram tickets?” I , did not make that interjection.
– As one who knows the splendid situation of the quarantine station at Albany, I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in view of. the terrible experiences Our returned soldiers have to undergo on the transports, as clearly explained in this House, he will give instruction at once to take all the unfortunate men off the transports atFremantle, and have them landed at Rottnest Island or sent to the Quarantine Ground at Albany?
– The Quarantine Station at Albany is now being utilized’. There is a full ship’s company there. Another boat, the Marathon, is to arrive in Fremantle to-morrow morning, and she will proceed to Albany and clear up her troops there. The Albany Quarantine Station is being used to its full extent.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is in a position to confirm the’rumour that Mr.. Leitch, the Director of Munitions, is about to resign.?
- Mr. Leitch is now Director of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, but he is also carrying on the duties of Director of Munitions. He has been relieved of those duties to a very large extent to enable him to go on with his work in the Bureau of Commerce and In dustry. Mr. Leitch’s appointment was for a period until three months after the war. The Government regret very much that, as the war is over, it will be necessary for Mr. Leitch to give - up his position as Director of Commerce and Industry. The position is being considered by the Government in relation to the appointment of his successor.
– As this is probably the last opportunity we shall have before the adjournment to ask questions, without notice, ‘ I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is in a position to make any statement in reference to the persistent rumour that it is the intention of the Government to send Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, to England, in connexion °with the demobilization of our troops ?
– My honorable friend appears to be much more sanguine than he was yesterday as to the early rising of this House. He has, apparently, made up his mind to assist the Government to finish tonight. That is what his remarks would indicate. As an experienced parliamentarian, I am sure the honorable gentleman cannot be holding out any delusive baits to an unwary neophyte like myself.
– I know what will happen. The sitting of this House will be suspended from time to time, and there will be no new sitting.
– I do not desire that Ministers shall escape questions either here or elsewhere while the House is meeting.
-I was thinking of the difficulty of keeping a quorum.
– When we adjourn it will be by resolution., and, I trust, with the usual expressions of Christmas wishes. This course will give honorable members ample opportunity of asking, any questions they may desire to put to- the Government without notice, by leave of the Chair.
– I was waiting for an opportunity to say something nice about the Government.
– All I can say is that my honorable friend has disguised his thoughts most skilfully, and if, before we rise, he does say something nice about the Government, then, in the language of a great actor-poet, I think members of the Ministry will get what he described as “ artitation of the pulpit.”
– Are you referring to thepoet in the Government?
– The honorable member for Henty had better not gibe the PostmasterGeneral too much, for I can assure him that the Minister has so far submitted with a marvellous patience . far beyond the endurance of other Ministers.
– Order! I ask the Acting Prime Minister not to digress.
– You see, sir, into what a position disorderly interjections lead an inexperienced man like myself. However, I was about to say that before the House risen I hope to be able ‘to make a statement about the matters referred to by the honorable member for Yarra. It will be perfectly definite. I donot think it will be made to-day, because I believe we shall not rise to-day, notwithstanding the excellent new intentions inferentially expressed by the Leader -of the Opposition.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information to give the House on the question of appointing farmers’ representatives on the Central Wheat Board ?
– I think that if -the honorable member for Calare posed as a statue of “Persistence” he would exactly typify all that is best in the Anzac breed. I have not been able to advance the matter any further, but I hope to be able to give him more information at . a - later stage.
Quarantine of Transport “ Boonah “ - Chowder Bay, Sydney - Rottnest Island Accommodation
– As the result of representations made by a deputation of soldiers that waited upon me, I ask the
Acting Minister for Trade and Customs if soldiers on the transport Boonah, quarantined at Fremantle, will be allowed the use of the deck space, andbe given accommodation as good as is provided for the officers ?
– That is a question I cannot answer without making inquiries. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know.
– Will the Minister give a direction that the soldiers are to have a chance -of using the best deck?
-I have already informed thehonorable member thatI shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Is there any truth’ in the statement that it is proposed to utilize Chowder Bay, Sydney, as an additional quarantine station? If so, will honorable members have an opportunity . of expressing an qpinion on this subject before anything is done?
– I have heard nothing of the suggestion, but I shall make inquiries.
– The statement appeared in the -press this morning..
– Is the Minister satisfied that, as regards water supply . ‘and accommodation, Rottnest Island, in Western Australia, can beutilized to advantage for contacts rather than the vessels quarantined in harbor?
– We are having full inquiries made into -the matter, with a view to possible re-arrangement of quarantine matters in Western Australia, if circumstances warrant.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if it is a fact, as stated, that’ the Government is sending over thirty clerks from the Defence Department to London for the (purpose of investigating soldiers’ records, and the work of the Australian Imperial Force in England ; and, if so, is it true that out of the thirty men to be sent, only one is a returned soldier?
– I have no knowledge of the subject.
– I ask the Acting Minister for the Navy if, when the Naval Reserve officers are demobilized, he will see that the men who- left merchant vessels at the outbreak of the war to serve in the Navy are given preference in employment.
– I shall be pleased to do so.
Visit by Princeof Wales.
– Has the Acting
Prime Minister any information to convey to the House concerning the statement in the press that the Prince of Wales will visit Australia in, the near future?
– The Government has no information that anything of the kind is contemplated.
– I ask the Acting
Prime Minister if, before the House rises, he will be able to make an announcement with reference to the financial arrangements and management of the Fodder Pool?
– During the last two or three days I have not had an opportunity of getting in touch with Senator Russell, who is developing that scheme. If ‘ it is completed I shall have much pleasure in informing honorable members before the House rises.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if, after peace is declared, effect will be given to a promise, made to a deputation some time ago, that the Government would consider the question of giving permission to Scottish people to form a kilted regiment in Australia?
– I have no further information to give the honorable member.
– Can the Acting
Prime Minister inform the House as to the probable date of the return to Australia of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) ?
– It is almost impossible to answer the question very definitely. I have endeavoured to ascertain from the Prime Minister when he considers - it is only a matter for conjecture - that “ his work will finish in connexion with the peace deliberations, but so far I have not been able to get any definite reply. I. cabled again this week. The last calculation the right honorable gentleman gave me, about the middle of November, was that he expected the work would be finished in from two to two and a half months. I can assure the honorable member that his colleagues are anxious for him to come back, for we have had a pretty hard time of late.
– Do you want pandemonium? During his absence, we have had almost a perpetual peace and calm.
– No; I do not want any pandemonium. I have got over all my ambitions in that direction in the twentyone years of my political life, and, like my honorable friend, am looking down the vale in the hope of enjoying comparative peace for the future. Naturally, we desire the Prime Minister and his colleague to return to’ help us bear the load that we have been carrying during the past few months ; and if, when the Prime Minister returns, my honorable friend attempts to make pandemonium, then we shall have to take steps to stop him.
Royal Commission Report
– I ask the Acting Minister for the : Navy if anything has yet been done, as stated to a deputation that waited upon him, to give effect to the recommendation of the Navy Department Royal Commission with reference to the re-organization of that office.
– I presume the honorable member has read the recommendations of the Cabinet. These recommendations have either been given effect to or are being put in hand. . It will be remembered that it was decided that action in regard to the other recommendations should be postponed until the return of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph
Cook). The Government recently determined, however, that since he was not likely to return as soon as we had anticipated they should be dealt with in his absence. The House has been sitting so continuously that I have not had an opportunity to finalize the matter, but will deal with it immediately after the Christmas holidays.
– Has the honorable member found a new member for the Naval Board?
– Not . yet. I was anxious that such an appointment should be made before everything had been finalized, but it would appear that we shall have to take action before such an appointment is made. The appointment of a new naval member is one of the matters that must be dealt with directly after theholidays.
Question of Direct Control
– I do not know whether I entirely apprehend the purport of the honorable member’s question. Does he refer particularly to the mode of operation which the Government have necessarily had to employ since the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to London?
– And before that.
– The honorable member suggests that the Shipping Board should be under the control of the Assistant Minister for the Navy and not attached to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– My honorable colleague (Mr. Poynton) who has been good enough to assist in the office of the Prime Minister, and also to take charge of the Department of the Navy has absolute freedom in his control of the Department of the Navy within the terms of the Act. As to the Shipping Board, his operations are not limited by any relationship which he has to the Prime Minister’s Department. As locum tenens for the Minister for the Navy he exercises the full functions of that Minister. There is a wider suggestion opened up by the honorable member’s question - as to how far the Naval Board should have control as compared with the paramount Minister. Those who have been studying politics for some little time recognise that public feeling and parliamentary feeling are oscillating at the present time with regard’ to the question of direct parliamentary responsibility. There is just now a very shrewd and subtle endeavour to remove repatriation from parliamentary and Ministerial control. I do not say that it is widespread in Parliament, or among the general community outside, but an endeavour is being made to erect a . belief which the ‘promotors hope to make fashionable that the work of repatriation would be better carried out if entirely free from parliamentary control. I am old enough to disagree with that view. No matter how Parliament criticises its Ministers, its activities, or its organisms, I believe that it is with the Parliament itself that responsibility should rest.
– Unfortunately, this House has no control of repatriation.
– The honorable member may desire a different form of statute, but I am discussing the principle involved rather than the particular ordinance under which the Department should be controlled. I hold hard to the doctrine of responsible Government with respect to all our great activities, since, under it, the people’s representatives may exercise a direct influence, and award punishment, if necessary, upon Ministers or Ministries who do not carry out the work of the community as it should be dealt with. Such a system is far better than that of indirect control.
– In view of the limited time that we have had during the consideration of the Estimates to place our grievances before Ministers, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will take upon himself the unpalatable task of reading the Hansard report of the debate, and see that consideration is given to the criticisms in which tha Opposition indulged during the recent allnight sitting ? During that sitting, many grievances were ventilated which Ministers, who were not always able to be present, ought to consider, and, as far as possible, remove.
– I think that one of the penalties of being a Minister is that this further punishment which the honorable member suggests should be borne by us. I shall ask my colleagues to carry out his request, and,’ during the Christmas holidays. I shall also undertake the task of reading the Hansard report of the debate.
– Will the Assistant Minister for the Navy say whether or not the vessels By which our soldiers are being returned from abroad could be used for the ordinary passenger trade on the voyage back to England?
– I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject at the present time, but I shall cause inquiries to be made. The vessels in question, I understand, will be largely used for taking our produce to England.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Deck. - Deck-ladder hand-rails. Steering chains to be overhauled, annealed, and tested; spare set to be supplied. Rudder quadrant to be supported by a roller track. Medicine chest to be shifted to chart room. Wireless room to be fitted in present spare cabin; wireless gear to be supplied and fitted to Amalgamated Wireless requirements. Hull to be re-caulked below and above water-line. Decks to be re-caulked.
Engine-room. - Opening up engines, valves, generally for inspection. Opening up for examination air compressor and renewal of exhaust valves. Repairs to No. 5 piston starboard engine. Re-metalling of bearings where necessary. Overhauling feed pump. Main engines circulating pump’ opened up for examination. Removal of defective parts of boiler and replacement by repaired parts of Cethana’ s late boiler.
Owing to collision with Goat Island, a new fore-foot was fitted, and keel repaired.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House what is the cost of collecting the - following taxes: -
What is the total cost of administering the Taxation Commissioner’s Department?
– I shall furnish the information as soon as practicable. It will take some time to compile.
asked the. Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Unauthorized Possession of Plans
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Director of NavalWorks advises -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply a return showing’ the names and rank, and terms of sentence, together with reasons for such sentences, of all members of the Australian Imperial Force who have been dealt with for military offences?
-The honorable member’s question covers every offence committed by a member of the Australian Imperial Force at any period of his service, and whether punished by court martial or by his Commanding Officer. The work involved in compiling this return would, therefore, be enormous, and it is not considered that the cost of compiling it, and the employment of the necessary clerical labour are warranted in order to make the information available. Furthermore, the Minister is of the opinion that it would be manifestly unjust to place on record the name of every man who has committed an offence, together with the statement of the offence and the punishment awarded, and to make this information public. The men who have committed offences have been punished, and have, therefore, expiated them, and it is thought no further publicity should be given to their cases.
asked the Acting Prime Minister upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as” follow: -
– The Dongarra.
– That was over twelve months ago; it was a non-priority ship, not subject to this arrangement. The further answers are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
Returned Soldiers as Temporary Clerks.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government request the British Government to place yarn and the machinery for making yarn from the raw materials on the priority list of imports?
– Yes. It is thought that there should now, with the. large number, of vessels coming to Australia, be no difficulty in obtaining space.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
In view of the fact . that banana growing is an industry that couldabsorb a large number of returned soldiers, and seeing that at the present time those engaged in the industry in Australia are at a great disadvantage as a result of the importation of black-grown Fiji bananas, whether he willuse his influence to have the Fiji product debarred from entering Australia, or at least have a heavy duty placed upon all such imported bananas, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Lilley?
– The matter “ is one which will necessarily be considered in any Tariff revision.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Whether any ‘communication has taken place between the Government and the Imperial authorities on the subject of claiming from Germany an indemnity for the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in con-‘ nexion with the war?
– This matter is receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, but the time is’ not opportune to make any announcement on the subject.
asked the Acting
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished later.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Referring to the deputation which waited upon the Minister recently requesting that arrangements be made to enable members of the Australian Light Horse who have served continuously at Gallipoli, Egypt, and Palestine during the war to visit England and France before their return to Australia, will the Minister state what action, if any, has been taken to comply with the request?
– The wishes of the deputation introduced by the honorable member were referred to the Adjutant-General for report. This has now been received, and will be considered in conjunction with the reply received from Mr. Hughes, with whom the Government are in communication on the subject. An announcement will be made as soon as possible.
Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the amount of tin required by England, America, and other consuming countries is still equal to or ahead of production?
If so, why is buying restricted?
-Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House tomorrow all papers in connexion with the purchase of patent rights and machinery for the making of papier mache go-carts, &c, in the Repatriation Department, for returned soldiers ?
– The Minister for Repatriation has already arranged to lay the papers on the table of the Senate today.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked a question with regard to widows’ homes. The following is the. reply:- 1. (a) Up to 31st October, 1918, the Commonwealth Government, through the Repatriation authorities, made advances - each not exceeding £75 (as authorized by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Act 1916)- totalling £43,856, to assist 517 grantees in the. purchase of homes through the instrumentality of the various State Banks.
It is impossible to say precisely what proportion , of the number assisted were widows, ‘ as the scope of assistance of this nature ex-, tended to discharged soldiers as well as their dependants, and widows are not recorded separately.
– On 13th December the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) asked the following questions : -
Iam now . able . to furnish the -honorable member with the following information : -
Presumably . the question refers to section 44 of the Public Service Act; this is ‘a matter for reference to the Public Service Commissioner and will be so referred. 11, Instructions (have ‘ been issued from the Central Administration to the (effect that the next suitable senior officer 5s to be placed temporarily in any vacancy pending permanent appointment. The latter . portion of the question is not understood.
– On 12thDecember the honorable member for Indi pHr. Leckie) asked the following question: -
Is iit (the intention of the (Government to make an . equitable distribution among the dif event -‘districts of the Commonwealth of the war trophies that lane now looming to AuetaaEa, or . are they to . be collected in -the . capital cities? If “it as intended to -distribute them fhrougliout the’Commonwealth, will it ‘be -necessary for the different districts to make application -for them, . orwill ‘the -Government . see that each gets ‘its share?
I am now able to furnish . the -honorable member with the following information.: -
-On -4th December the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster;) tasked for certain . information in relation to . offers . for . flour . from Eastern buyers, fl . then . promised to ascertain “.the circumstances . and , £urnish -a full reply. Che-honorable member , for J3ampier (Mr. Gregory) . on , 10th JDeGember also.askedithe Acting Minister for Trade and Customs a question regarding this “matter, when a ‘similar ^promise was ‘made “to ‘.ascertain the facts. i>: am mow “in “the (position rto supply the following information : -
The -Australian -Wheat Board ihas been asked for . quotations for wheat for . flour for shipment . to ‘Egypt, either direct or via Singapore. In each case the ‘ rate of . freight has been very high. The Board is of opinion that its first consideration should be for the wheatgrower, and not for the ship-owner or merchant; and it has . been, and is ‘Still, endeavouring to arrange freight direct, and deal direct with Egypt, so that after payment of a reasonable freight’ the wheat-grower may get the full ‘proceeds. This policy does mot appeal to ship-owners or merchants. The jposition was laid fully before the Australian Wheat Board at its conference this week, and it was agreed, with the concurrence of the wheat-grower’s representative, . that the proper course had been followed in declining to . give . a quotation.
The first inquiry made of the -Board . indicated a rate of freight . of £25 ; per ton from Fremantle to Egypt. This is equivalent to 9s. 3d. . per bushel of . wheat. On 17th Decemher, ‘the ^bateman of the Board received . on inquiry why a . quotation was . refused i or wheat for flour for Egypt by an Australian-owned vessel. In -this . case, the tribute . proposed to ibe levied on the -wheat-grower -was £21 -per ton, equivalent to 7s. 9d. per jbushel of wheat.
The Australian Wheat . Board lhas difficulty in regulating prices ohsoad -so (that it . may obtain (the -maximum result from . each quarter. lt is only by controlling Totes -of freight that it tcan ts.uoceed in this policy,, otherwise iv.al.u- able markets will the lost , so far , as . presentprices ase . concerned. It is . daugexous . to accede readily to demands . of ship-owners, otherwise . the time is . rapidly approaching -when our keane . price iof 4s. ‘9d. will -become our maximum price . for any overseas destination. The s’h’ip-owner will . get the rest. It is notable that the -present ‘ agitation to reduce the v,aiue of our overseas markets does not emanate from wheat-growers, ibut ftiom .ship-owners . and jmi’Mer ogents, . whose interests <do tnot aoinc’ide (with - those of producers.
How exorbitant are the f reight demands . can be gauged from the rates recently fixed for parcels >on ‘Grovernment account from Australia to Eg^pt, -.viz., 95s. -per iton, . equivalent to ls. 9d. ; per . bushel. It is on this basis -that the Board hopes to do business.
Extravagant ideas have b.een created as to value of -flour in Egypt. HJndoubtedly. -there was a scarcity in that country, but -we %ave official advice . that the ‘British ‘Wheat (Commission is supplying the flour needs . of . -E,gypt. In formation ‘from a private sourpe -‘indicates that prices now tag mot so Ibigh . as . previously. This probably is due to -the action -.of the British Wheat ‘ Commission.
The Board is leaving no stone -unturned to do all Egyptian ‘business possible on terms that will insure the maximum return to ‘wheatgrowers..
lii! I received . from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
jBiil received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Wise) read a first time.
JBill returned from the . Senate -without amendment.
The following . papers were (presented -
Factories- “Commonwealth <5-overnment ITactorias ^Reports . (for -year ended 30th June, J918.
Audit Act- Tinonee 1917-18- The . Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the -year ended “30th Jun.e^ TST8, aceompanied by -the Report . of the AuditorGeneral. 0r.der.ed t.o ‘be printed.
War Precautions Act - -Regulations . amended -^Statutory Sules 1918, ‘N,o. ‘286’.
Audit Aet - Transfer -of Amounts approved iby (the Governor-G.eriei-a!l an CouncilFinancial year . 1947-18-1 ©ated I5th jBecemher,, 191.8.
Defence AcWRegulations Amended- Statutory Sules 1918. ‘Nos.323, . 324.
Papua^-Ojsdnance No. 16 of ‘ISIS - Supply 1&8-1919 (Nor2).
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 314.
Mr.WATT (Balaclava- ActingPrime Minister andTreasurer) [11.57]. - I move -
That the . time allotted for the consideration of the whole of the Estimates be until 4.30 p.m., to-day ; and that the time allotted for all resolutions and stages of ; the Appropriation Bill -be until , 5.30 . p.m.”, ‘.to-day.
This motion has been -renderied rnecessary by the withdrawal of a similar mption yesterday in order that the member for Bass (Mr.. Jensen) might baw© the larger opportunity he desired -to make “his statement. This -gives, altogether., . the same time, and, . as -the -original proposition -was discussed for -quite ah hour, I jhope ‘honorable members . will embrace -the opportunity . to adqpt the motion now -without discussion, so that we . may have . to discuss the merits of . the Estimates and . the Appropriation Bill all the itame which this arrangement allows.
– I am not sure whether we are allowed an hour’ to protest on this or on a subsequent motion.
– The declaration of urgency cannot be discussed to-day.
– I understand that we take up this matter at. the stage that was reached yesterday, when the Acting Prime Minister desired to withdraw the motion. We are to be allowed three-and-a-half hours from this moment, on the Estimates. There are two or three Departments that would certainly require more time than that for anything like a discussion on them. ‘ I consider the most important to be the Defence Department, where many matters require, discussion; the Repatriation Department; and the Postmaster-General’s Department, There is also the question of the administration of the Northern Territory in the Department of Home and Territories. The statement made by the Minister (Mr. Glynn) this morning, in . reply to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) is most alarming. I had not the remotest idea that anything of that sort was going on. It is news to us that the Administrator up there practically stands within his own fence, and the men, so to speak, go “ over the top “ and, according to the Minister’s statement, deal with him and some of hi? staff with physical force. I am opposed to the guillotine, but if it is to be applied, while I would like to have something to say in regard to old-age pensions and other matters, I shall . be obliged to let them pass on this occasion in order to devote the time at my disposal to matters which I deem of more importance. They are insignificant matters in comparison with certain aspects of our defence and postal- administration, and also in comparison with the position of affairs in the Northern Territory, and with that other matter, ‘the Commonwealth Police, referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd). Honorable members should certainly be given the opportunity to come to a decision upon the question of the necessity for the continuance of the Commonwealth Police.
.- I am anxious to get an opportunity to move that the Commonwealth Police be disbanded, but I can see that there will be little chance of doing so, because the few hours that the Treasurer proposes, to allow for the discussion of the Estimates will be occupied in debating the votes proposed for the first two or three departments which appear in the Estimates.
– I wonder whether the honorable member would pay any regard to an undertaking if I give it to him ?
– Yes, I would doso.
– Some honorable members in the Ministerial corner do not do so.
– The time has arrived when we should avoid the duplication of our police forces in Australia, and if the Treasurer wishes to cut down expenditure he can do so by disbanding the Commonwealth Police Force, which was established without justification and to whose continuance the people are opposed.
– I contradict most flatly the statement that the time taken up yesterday morning was wasted. Never before, since I have been in Parliament, has so much information . been given to honorable members as was given by Ministers at that particular time. During the whole of the session I have been submitting questions with reference to shipping and sniping arrangements, and I have failed to elicit from Ministers the information that I desired to obtain, but that which Ministers furnished yesterday morning quite freely and openly will remove many of the doubts expressed in my electorate. I resent very strongly’ the idea that yesterday morning was wasted.
– Who has said that it was wasted?
– One of the Ministers said that the guillotine was about to be applied because time had been wasted. It is only when dealing with the Estimates that we can obtain from Ministers the information we are desirous of eliciting from them. I have made some notes in regard to the sugar question which it has taken me three weeks to prepare. This question means success or failure to thousands of small fruit-growers in Victoria and Tasmania who have been encouraged by their State Governments to take up the industry of fruit growing, and have put everything they have in the world into their orchards. Owing to the arrangement made in connexion with sugar, they can see nothing ahead of them but financial loss and the wiping out’ of years of industry. It will be impossible for me to put before the House the history of this matter, which I have compiled from the very inception of the arrangement. One of my reasons for protesting against dealing with the Estimates in the’ manner proposed is the fact that honorable members are prevented from bringing before the House and the Government matters which vitally affect thousands of people in the, community who are deserving of every consideration, and have had a very bad time during the last two years. This is one reason why I shall vote against the limitation of debate upon the -Estimates. It would be better for the Government to take Supply now, and call the House together early in the new year so that the Estimates may be thoroughly considered. No honorable member surrenders more time to his parliamentary duties than do those representatives of Tasmania and Queensland, and Western Australian constituencies, who live in Victoria during the whole of a parliamentary session, yet I would rather come back early in the yea-, to deal with these matters than allow them to be passed without the consideration they deserve.
whether Ministers would peruse the grievances of honorable members, as reported in Hansard, he treated my question as a joke, but it was not a subject for joking. Honorable members have brought forward many matters affecting the Departments, and their remarks should be perused by the Ministers concerned. It should be the duty of officers in the De. partments to. read the statements of honorable members as recorded in Hansard, and submit the principal points dealt with to their respective Ministers.
– I shall see that that is done.
.- ‘ It is the duty of the Government who claim the right to control the business of the House to give honorable members a reasonable opportunity to discuss the financial commitments for the twelve months. No one with the widest stretch of imagination could say that the one and a half ,days already spent, and the two or three hours, yet remaining, is adequate time for disposing of the ordinary expenditure for the whole year.
– It is not the ordinary expenditure for the whole financial year.’ We have already passed the Works Estimates, and we have voted more than six months’ Supply in connexion with general Estimates.
– I merely rose to protest against the- hurrying through of these important ‘financial commitments after less than two days’ discussion. Nobody will pretend that a debate during an all-night sitting oan do anything like justice to the Estimates. Yet we are now told that they must be passed, practically without consideration, notwithstanding that they involve questions of the highest importance. There is, for example, the maternity bonus, which involves a very large annual expenditure, which most certainly ought to be revised. In many other directions -there are important items upon these Estimates which require to he made the subject of revision and reduction.
.- I do not like the operation of the guillotine as proposed by the Government.Nobody can accuse me of having occupied much time in the consideration of the Estimates, but I did intend to make some observations upon particular Departments. I, therefore, deliberately refrained from debating the general question, in order that I might be able to devote my attention to specific items. But apparently the whole of the time which is to be allocated to the consideration of the Estimates is now to be absorbed in a discussion of the first division of the Prime Minister’s Department. If this sort of conduct is to be pursued, I shall, in future, avail myself of my full rights in connexion with the general debate of the Budget statement. Of course, I realize the difficult position in which the Acting Prime Minister has been placed. I recognise that the interposition of extraneous matter has prevented him setting apart for the consideration of the Estimates the time that would otherwise have been devoted to them. I should like to know whether he will consent to guillotine the Estimates in sections. The adoption of that course, objectionable though it is, would at least afford us an opportunity of discussing some matters of urgent public importance.
– The suggestion is impracticable at this stage of the session. There are eleven Departments to be dealt with.
– Even if we were allowed half-an-hour to debate matters connected with each Department, it would be better than nothing. I desire an opportunity of discharging my duty to my constituents.
– If honorable members did not talk so much we would get on with the consideration of the Estimates.
– In the circumstances, I enter my protest against the action of the Government in depriving me of an opportunity to discuss certain matters in the interests of my constituents and of the country.
.- There is one question which I regard as urgent from . the stand-point of the consumers, namely, the unjustifiable increases that’ have been sanctioned by the Government in respect of butler - increases which represent practically £2,000,000 a year. I specially came over from Sydney to deal with this matter, but owing to the action of the Government, the entire discussion of the Estimates will take place upon the first one or two items. The remaining items will be “gagged” through the House. Earlier in the session the Acting Prime Minister assured us that we should be given full opportunity to exhaustively discuss these Estimates. . That pledge, however, is not to be fulfilled: The Estimates contain approximately 2,000 items, and their exhaustive consideration within a total period of two days is an utter impossibility. Of course, I recognise the great advantages which will be derived by the Government from “ bullocking “ these Estimates through the House. The adoption of that course will obviate the necessity for Ministers obtaining Supply for six months. It will mean that they will be able to go into recess, and to administer the affairs of this country under the War Precautions Act.
– I pointed that out to the honorable member earlier. I told him that the consideration of the Estimates provided our only chance of exercising a restraining influence on the Government.
– I do not remember the honorable member’s statement, but apparently, although he realizes the evils of the situation, he is unwilling to take steps to prevent them. He is like a good many more on the opposite side of the chamber. He is prepared tb do all. sorts of things until it’ comes to a question of voting, and then he desires to back-pedal out of his difficulty. I do not believe that the Government will meet the House early next year. Certainly,. I do not expect Parliament to be . called together before May, and probably not before June, of that year.
– Why ?
– The Government are “gagging” through this Chamber, with the aid of the guillotine, Supply up till next July, notwithstanding that in all the Commonwealth Departments there are matters of great importance which ought to be thoroughly ventilated. The country was never so full of grievances against the Ministry as it is to-day.
– I have heard that statement made in respect of every Government that has been formed. The moment a Government is born it begins to die.
– That is quite true; but the actions of the Government are hastening that decay at an unprecedentedly rapid rate.
– I have heard that said of every Government.
– The Government’s candidates have . been low at the poll at the successive elections for Swan and Corangamite, and it is quite evident that the people desire an opportunity to repudiate the party at present in power. Yet at this time the Government choose to close Parliament and gag the House in order to prevent the legitimate discus sion of the various activities undeT the War Precautions Act.
– What does the honorable member wish us to do?
– As it is quite evident that there is not sufficient time available to finish the business on the notice-paper, including the Estimates, the only course open to us is to re-assemble early in the new year.
– The alternative is to continue sitting through the holidays. Will the honorable member move an amendment that we shall go right on?
– If I am entitled to move such an amendment to this motion, I’ shall do so.
– The honorable member can move an amendment on the Estimates, and that will be an instruction to the Government ‘that the House shall sit right on. I shall . be interested to . see how many honorable members vote for the amendment.
– I shall accept that suggestion, and test the feeling of the House by moving, later, to reduce the Estimates by the sum of £1 in order to indicate to the Government that it is the desire of honorable members to sit day after day for a reasonable number of hours, so that the business on the notice-paper may be legitimately dealt with.
– The fact seems to have just occurred to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) that whenthe Estimates are passed parliamentary control over the Government practically ceases. Yet honorable members opposite have professed a desire that the Estimates should be passed early in the financial year. To me, the discussion of the Estimates is the most interesting in Parliament. A month ago I thought that the whole future of the country depended on our being able to discuss the Estimates, but when we get the chance to de that, half of the honorable members of this Chamber go home, and some only attend because the price of butter has been raised. The rest of the Estimates do not trouble them very much.
– The treatrnent of returned soldiers and the question of demobilization ought to be thoroughly discussed.
– And they would be thoroughly discussed if we were permitted to proceedwith the Bills relating to those questions, instead of having a long discussion on the Bolsheviks in Russia, and upon the important question of whether £6,000 could be saved by sacking a number of policemen and throwing them upon the employment market. If there are big questions to be discussed on the Estimates, I should like to hear something of them,but, after having sat for about twenty hours listening to the discussion, I heard only one subject that seemed of importance. That was the issue raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and even that was found, on inquiry, to have no justification. All this talk to the effect that the country will get great value if we are allowed to discuss the Estimates for a fortnight is only pretence. I should be glad if the Acting Prime Minister would adopt the House of Commons’ system, by which a certain amount of time is allotted for each section of the Estimates. In my judgment, Supply Bills are a much better system of controlling the finances than the passing of the Estimates in globo. I am further of opinion that the whole machinery of Parliament needs overhauling in order to reduce the enormous weight that is being placed on parliamentary and governmental institutions at the present time.
– I used to be of the same opinion as the honorable member, but now I am convinced that the present system cannot be improved upon.
– That is a matter of opinion. When we reflect that this Parliament, which was expected to be conducted on a contribution of 2s. 6d. per head of the population, is now doing work that was never contemplated by the founders of the Constitution, and that every day sees increased duties placed upon us, we have to realize that the machinery of Parliament need’s a careful overhaul in order that the enormous amount of our business may be conducted with greater efficiency. That we should . spend two or three months in discussing Estimates, not one item of which will be altered, does not appeal to me as a commonsense proposition.
– On behalf of members representing the more distant States, I protest against the Government’s conduct of the .business. More than a fortnight ago the Acting Prime Minister said that the House would adjourn to-day, and most of us have made our Inter-State arrangements upon that understanding.
– The honorable member does not blame the Acting Prime
Minister for the House not adjourning to-day.
– No; but the alternative suggestion of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) will provide a- remedy for the present situation.
– The honorable member foi Cook suggested that we should sit right on.
– I understood the suggestion to be that we should adjourn over the Christmas holidays and reassemble early in the new year. Every honorable member desires to say something about a number of items in the Estimates, in which we are individually and collectively interested. In addition to the matters already mentioned there is the Northern Territory Administration. The condition of affairs disclosed by the Minister this morning, and by our own knowledge and experience of events in the Territory in recent times, indicates that a decidedly searching debate on that Department alone is necessary. We are inundated with complaints in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department, but the result of the guillotine motion may be that the whole of the remaining time will be devoted to the Treasurer’s Estimates, while, the other Departments will be railroaded through in a few moments. Even the Government must admit that that will not be fair to members or to the country. The Defence Department, and to some extent the Department of the Navy, are subjects, not so much for captious criticism, as for honest investigation and inquiry,
– Why not deal with those Departments first?
– I do not care which Department is taken first. Notwithstanding my own personal inconvenience and regret, I think the House should ‘ adjourn to-day and re-assemble early in the new year to ‘ tackle the Estimates. The Opposition would not object to granting the Government .sufficient Supply to enable them to carry on into the new year.
– We should then have a full discussion on the Supply Bill.
– No; the Government could have Supply for one or two months, and get it . out of the way by1 o’clock to-day.
– There, the Government have a clear statement by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I have had that kind of thing before, and the promise has not been kept.
– The Minister has never known me to go back on a promise that I have made.
– I do not think the Minister is fair in saying that a promise of the Leader of the Opposition cannot be relied on. I believe the Opposition would unanimously acquiesce in a Supply Bill for two months, if necessary. Then honorable members could return and do their work honestly and well, early in the new year. It will be an admission of incompetence, and almost a dereliction of duty, if we allow the Estimates to go through to-day in the method suggested by the Acting Prime Minister.
– Yon did that when your own party was in power.
– Not in this fashion.
– The worst I have known in regard to the passage of the Estimates is where there have been long debates on the first item, and then, as the discussion has worn out, remaining items have been simply pushed through in a lump. There was never any limitation of the time of debate, however. The Government should consider honorable members from the different States. Let us carry out the arrangements agreed upon. Already, quite a number of members have departed for their distant homes on the distinct understanding that the sittings were to close this afternoon. It is still possible for the Government to keep faith with honorable members who have gone away, as well as with those who must leave to-day or to-morrow-
.- I desire to make my position clear. I will use every opportunity which may fairly present itself to prevent the Government from going into recess until May or June next. I would be quite prepared to assist the Government in securing two or three months’ Supply, without debate. It is idle for the Government to suggest that Parliament should work right through the holidays. Honorable members would not consent to maintain a House. But. there are many things which urgently require consideration, owing to these extraordinary times. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) reflected upon members by saying that there needs to be an overhaul in regard to our parliamentary methods; but I agree wilh him. If. the Government, in presenting important Bills, would consent to their being referred to Committees, so that evidence might be taken upon the subjects involved, those measures would pass in a manner . much more satisfactory to the people and the industries concerned than under the system which has ruled during the past three or four years. The present position is unique. We have been working under war conditions for the past four years. Now, the war is over, and out warriors are returning, we must urgently and fully consider repatriation proposals. I have great faith in Senator Millen and his work ; but is any honorable member satisfied with the present situation concerning repatriation, and with the proposals for dealing with our men upon their homecoming? I do not know the nature of the new suggestions of the Government, other than in regard to the housing proposition. But it would be far wiser, in the interests of the country and of our soldiers, if Parliament were to adjourn until about the middle of March. The Leader of the Opposition might be asked to acquiesce in granting three months’ Supply. Then, in March next, Parliament could deal with the serious problems of repatriation.
– Two months’ Supply would be sufficient for that; but the Government may have ten weeks if they desire.
– I ask if honorable members can justify to their constituents the achievements of Parliament and the (Government, <so far, in the matter of repatriation; if mot, is it not . ‘essential in the interests ; of the soldiers that- we should be able to review : the work . of the Department, . and insist that fair and impartial justice : is meted ‘out to our men on their return?
I am not satisfied with the control of trade. T am not satisfied with -the work being done in the Attorney-General’s Department in respect ‘to the metal and many other of our . industries. I . desire to see governmental control removed as ; soon ; as possible, so that our traders shall have freedom again to enter the world’s markets, and to conduct -their “business untrammelled in Australia. “What chance is there to discuss those questions now! 1 want the -Government to understand that “I will use every power ; in my command ‘to -preverrt them from -passing the Estimates, or further Bills, unless opportunity is given to . deal -with the “Estimates in the terms of the promise made ‘to Ihonorable -members. Wekinow that there are extreme difficulties in the realm of finance to-day, and it is essential that we should have ample ‘time to discuss the Budget statement, and, if possible, secure an alteration of conditions as -they exist.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [12.38]. - It must be . apparent that there is . a desire that Parliament . should re-assemble in the New Year . to discuss very . important problems. We are right up against those problems tp-day,. If we pass the Estimates we sshall be granting Supply sufficient to enable -the Government to extend -the recess from . the . Christmas . holidays until the . beginning . of July.. Within those six months some of the . most imr portant events in the world’s history will have transpired. Within the next halfyear the initial . stages . of demobilization, and of the repatriation . of our . troops, wffl have passed. Quite a number of questions . affecting . our returning soldiers are bound to . arise, or to grow more acute.
– Why take up the little time that we have to deal with them then?
– It is not & matter of a little time. It is a question now of whether -we shall meet -.early . next year. T proipose to imovie . an . ‘amendment in . osnder feiit hoHorable members may have ian opportunity to say whether they are prepared -.to assemble early in- the new year so that urgent . business may be transacted.
– The . honorable member for Cook (Mr. iCatts) has . moved an -amendment.
– That is not so. The honioirahle member : f or Cook (Mr. Catts) has been given a hint by the Acting Prime Minister as to the ibest course to . adopt if it is desired to create a certain situation.. ‘The Acting Prime Minister ; knew full well that if -such a proposition were made,, it would fee defeated by an -almost unanimous vote. The war having . ended, this “will be the first Christmas . for fLv.e years when we can fully enjoy our holiday, . and appreciate the message -,of peace and good-will that came to the world two thousand yearsago. T believe the general -opinion is that we should have a short- adjournment over the holiday season, and meet early in the new year with clear minds and renewed vigour -for the consideration of the business of the country.. T -.therefore move - .
That the word “to-day” first occurring be struck out with a view to inserting -in ‘lieu thereof the words “ 14th of January, 1919.” 1
It is open to any honorable member to move as an amendment the tfix-ing of . some later date, such as the 21st January, if that would meet the general convenience better. There are the. demobilization and repatriation of our soldiers, and the passing of Acts, essential to the welfare of the country to consider, and what could Parliament do “better at this juncture than impose . an up-to-date scientific Tariff, which will place the industries of Australia on a better footing, and provide employment for our people.
– The amendment is not inorder.
– I should have voted for the amendment had it been in order. Any other course would be inconsistent with the view that I expressed when putting a question to the Acting Prime Minister this morning. In common with honorable members generally., I deplore the stifling of discussion,, particularly on financial questions, but when we are asked, to sit, as we were the. other night, for hour after hour.,- the tax on our endurance becomes, too much. For- twenty-one hours, I- list tened. to members; repeating, the same statements over and” over again-.
– There were some verj fine speeches.
– The speeches were temperate’, and there was an absence of that carping criticism- which characterized1 deBates in the* early part of the session. But no1 matter ‘how strong at man may be, it is> unfair fo» adrfeixn to* sit m this chamber all’ night- te- keep a qnoru-m-‘ while others g&> home! to return fresh for the discussion; nest day. It is necessary that the administration of public affairs’ should be? criticised,, but fair criticisnat is not to be expected’ from men whc have been exhausted by an inordinately long sitting. I. had intended to speak during the last sitting, But, finally,, the soft cadences, of the honorable1 member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) lulled me to sleep. But, as- I think members should have the opportunity to discuss the serious problems’ that confront us-, I intend, . on my own initiative, to move, or to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to consider favorably, that we should meet again early next year.
Mr.J. H. Catts. - We shall have to vote aigainst the motion; bef-ore the House..
– I must oppose the Government in this matter, though I support the application of the “ gag “ when time is being wasted on useless, discussion. Members would find more acceptance foi their opinion if their speeches were mate* rially curtailed, and Parliament would: do better work. Under existing circumatameesi I must support, the’ Opposition in their desire, if possible^ to impress on the Government the necessity for Parliament being called together early in the new year to discuss these great and pressing problems to which I have referred.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Corio (Mr:. Lister), who does not desire to detain the House, I do intend, if I may, to take up a little time. When a motion -that the Estimates be considered urgent business is carried1, it is competent for any member of the Ministry,, during any sitting^, to specify the’ time that may be allotted’ to’ each Department, or to the whole of: the. Estimates.. The- Acting. Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has moved’ that, the time allowed- shall be until 4i3.0p.m. . to-day,, and it, is now nearly 1 o’clock. Is there- any special reason why only to-day is to be allowed for the consideration of the Estimates-?’ There is nothing- in the Standing Orders to say that, we’ may not deal with the Estimates to-morrow. In” my opinion,, if it were decided that the discussion of. the Estimates should cease at 4.30 p.m.. on the 14th January next, it would be too short a time, in which to discuss our vast expenditures’.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has acquired the habit lately- of handing himself large bouquets3 carna^ tions at one- time, and roses at another. He has told us that he is the only Treasurer who ever seriously considered economy, that -he has’ reduced the Estimates- by so many millions, and that he has; this year introduced’ the Estimates many months earlier than has any former* Treasurer. The Estimates may have been introd-nced1 earlier than usual, but we had no opportunity top discuss them until two.- days ago. The honorable- gentleman, with all the wickedness- isa. temperament and con? stitution indicated’ by that strong jaw o<£ his, speaks of “breaking the back”” of the discussion on the Estimates iby keeping honoraibte members up all night”. Why “ break” the back “ of the discussion ? Are we, sent here for that purpose? Some inept chatterers in a certain place talk of discussing repatriation and- demobilization during the small hours of the morning. Is that a time to discuss public business, when burglars are setting about their work and. all respectable people ought to be in bed? With one accord, the supporters of , the Government have complained that we on- this- side did not avail ourselves- of ‘the opportunity of the Budget debate to discuss repatriation and demobilization. But there are many other subjects we might discuss; and now all the time afforded us is two hours and a half this afternoon. We desire to put the microscope - or, perhaps it would be more correct to say, the acid - on the Estimates of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise). Personally, I wish to discuss the meanness of the Department in taking away the overcoats of the soldiers.
– That was done last July.
– So much the worse for the Department, for many poor fellows must have met their death in consequence.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
In Committee of Supply (Considera tion resumed from 18th December, vide page9613) :
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, ?944,984.
– (Hon. J. ML Chanter). - The honorable member is entirely in error. As soon as the division to which he refers had been taken, as honorable members remained in their places, I immediately put the question that the Estimates of the Department of the Prime Ministerbe agreed to, and declared it carried.
.- There are three items in the Estimates relating to the Treasury on which I desire some information from the Treasurer (Mr. Watt). On page 39 there is an item of ?535 in respect of an Assistant Commissioner for Invalid and Old Age Pensions. That appears to be a new office. I notice also that on page 41 provision is made for 172 officers in the Old Age Pensions Branch, as against 133 employed in 1917-18. I presume that increase of staff is due chiefly to the increase in the number of war pensions now payable; but I should like to have the matter cleared up. On page 52 there is an item relating to the entertainments tax tickets. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has raised a question as to whether or no the Department supplies, free of charge - apart from the payment of the tax itself - rolls of tickets to conductors of entertainments. If it does, such a practice must make considerable inroads into the revenue obtained from the tax. Honorable members know that I am opposed to the tax; but I do not think we should reduce in this way the revenue obtainable from it.
Coming to the provision made for the Government Printer, we find that ?4,500 is set apart for wages and overtime of compositors, and the same amount in respect of proportion of salaries of the State classified staff of the Government Printing Office, Melbourne’ The total amount appropriated in respect of the Government Printer in 1917-18 was £12,822, and the actual expenditure was £12,839. A Department that can . keep its expenditure within £17 of the amount actually appropriated is a marvellously accurate one. Having regard to the uncertainty that must prevail as to the overtime which the Government Printing Office will be required to work in connexion with the sittings of Parliament, remarkable skill must have been displayed in framing the Estimate of Expediture for 1917-18. It is quite possible, as has been alleged at different times, that since our work is carried out in the State Printing Office we have to pay for what the State does not. We could, not have a better man for the position of Government Printer than Mr. Albert Mullett, who was a personal friend of mine long before he thought of holding that office, or I thought of being returned to this Parliament. I urged the Government some years ago to establish a Federal Government Printing Office, and to place him in charge of it. I am convinced that if my suggestion had been adopted large savings in our printing bill would have been effected. I hope the Treasurer will be able to give me some information on these points.
– I shall be glad to do so a little later on.
.- It will be- remembered that yesterday the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), when replying to my contention that we did not require an intelligence officer it a salary of £504 per annum, said that such an officer was employed while I was Treasurer. I denied that statement at the time in a rather blunt way, and you, Mr. Chairman, called me to order. I have since examined the Estimates, and if honorable members do so they will find that no money’ was appropriated for such a purpose when Iwas at the Treasury. The item appears for the first time in the Estimates for 1917-18.
.- In connexion with the Treasury Estimates I have been considering how far we might properly go in bringing about an amalgamation of various Commonwealth and
State Departments and activities. I find that there are quite a number of State and Federal Departments which could be amalgamated and carried on either by the State or the Commonwealth, and, personally, I think they should be conducted by the Commonwealth Government. In the first place, the Commonwealth Electoral Department costs £53,700 per annum, while the Electoral Departments of the States cost £86,275. It will be generally conceded that these Departments could be amalgamated and controlled by the Commonwealth Government with advantage to the States and the Union as a whole. Such an amalgamation has already been carried out. so far as the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments are concerned, and a” considerable amount has been refunded by the State Government for work done by the Commonwealth. . A general amalgamation of the kind would lead to great saving. In passing, I may say that I am not here to indulge in destructive criticism; my desire is to put forward some constructive criticism that will tend to the benefit of the country. The Commonwealth Statistician’s Department costs £15,013, while the State Statisticians’ Departments cost £32,117. Much of the information given in the State YearBooks is supplied in the Commonwealth Year-booh.
– About ‘ threefourths of the information is duplicated.
– Undoubtedly a big saving could be effected in that direction. Another item in respect of which amalgamation would be attended with satisfactory results is that of immigration. There is nothing on -the Estimates in respect of that item, although in former years we have incurred expenditure in connexion with it; but the expenditure of the States amounts to £38,602. There is no reason why we should not have a Commonwealth Immigration Department in London, where information might be obtained on application as to the opportunities offering for settlement in all the States. If an intending immigrant desired to settle in New South Wales, he could go to such an office and secure the fullest information. The one central office would be far better than the present system, under which each State has its own agency, the one competing with the other, and all largely covering the same ground. The State Agents-General cost £40,307, while the High Commissioner’s Office costs” £48,841. There is no reason why the High Commissioner should not act on behalf of all the States. The cost of our State Governors and the up-keep of their Departments is £42,489 per annum, and the. maintenance of the Governor-General’s Department costs £26,875. The Chief Justices of the several States, as Lieutenant-Governors, could do all that is now required of the State Governors, and we could continue to have a Governor-General for the Commonwealth.
Coming to the question of taxation, it seems to me that even the Choctaw Indians would adopt a method more rational than that pursued <by the Commonwealth and States. Here we have seven distinct Departments engaged in the collection of taxation, a work which could be most effectively carried out by one Commonwealth Department. So far as I have been able to ascertain, £128,705 per annum is spent by the States on their Taxation Departments, while the Commonwealth Department costs £273,067 per annum. An enormous saving could be effected by the amalgamation of the State and Federal Taxation offices. The Commonwealth is expending £417,496 per annum, and the States are expending £368,495 per annum in respect, of these several instrumentalities qf government, making a total of £785,991. I am confident that by a judicious amalgamation of these State and Federal Departments at least £250,000 per annum could be saved. In my opinion, a commission of clever accountants could effect a saving of at least £250,000 on- these figures. The uppermost thought in the- minds of the taxpayers generally is that we should do something in this direction. At least, we ought to co-ordinate taxation work. I spoke of this matter recently to Mr. Hoi- man, Premier of New South Wales, when travelling with him in a railway train, and he said that I was right in the contention that I have just advanced, and that something should be done in this direction. I venture to say that every’ legislator in Australia would agree that something should be done to bring about this reform. I know that our Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is as anxious as any one to bring it about. In fact, he has put the necessary legislation through this Parliament, but it has not been favorably accepted by State Houses, or has not yet been submitted to them for consideration. I hope our Treasurer will submit the matter to a referendum at the next general* election. I do not think there would be half-a-dozen votes in opposition to a proposal to have one taxing Department for the Commonwealth. It is a scandal that we should have seven taxing Departments working in antagonism to one another, and causing great dissatisfaction to the taxpayers. Notwithstanding the view that Mr. Holman expressed to me personally* I heard him subsequently make a statement at a public meeting that the Commonwealth Treasurer’s proposal was impracticable, because, while the Commonwealth collected the income tax upon the distribution of earnings to the various units in the Commonwealth, State Governments collected their tax upon those earnings at their source, and confusion would result if, when taxpayers sent their returns in, one office had the task of dealing with those two. methods of collecting the tax. It seems to me that there should be- no confusion. It should be an easy matter for the Commissioner of Taxation to discriminate, and say, “ This man pays a tax under the Commonwealth system. Very well; we shall tax him upon the distribution of a dividend. The other man is paying State taxation under the State method. Very well, we shall tax the source of his dividends.’” .
– There is no trouble in doing that.
– The present system of taxation is a great annoyance to ,the taxpayers. Many uneducated ‘people who do not keep accounts are obliged to forward returns to the Taxation Department, although they may not be liable to pay the tax. Many farmers are obliged to pay fees to agents to prepare the necessary forms for them. Many of them pay a great deal more to have their forms made out than they pay in actual taxation. I was recently speaking to an ex-member of this Parliament, who has interests in every State, and is obliged to send in every year seven different income tax returns. It is necessary for him to pay a man £400 a year simply to look after that one section of his various undertakings. There are so many Taxation Acts in the different States, and there are so many amending Bills passed each year, that it is almost impossible for a man who draws an income in each State to know where he stands. I am sure it would be of great advantage to the people generally if they were called upon to furnish one taxation return only.
I was very pleased to hear the Treasurer, during the course of his Budget speech, refer to the consolidation of State and Commonwealth debts. This is a matter we shall need to look into in the near future. A big saving can be effected if the Treasurer’s proposals are carried into effect. State loans to be renewed during the next ten years amount to £200,000,000. The Commonwealth will be called upon to renew loans in the same period to the extent of £190,000,000. Mr. Collins, Secretary to the Treasury, has informed me that local governing bodies in the Commonwealth borrow £5,000,000 annually. Their borrowings for the next ten years will thus amount to £50.000.000. In all, loans amounting to £440,000,000 will have to be renewed in Australia during the next ten years. If we can make a saving of 1 per cent, in interest on all these renewals we shall effect a total saving of £4,400,000 per annum. Another saving may be effected in the matter of flotation charges. In London we pay 25s. per £100 for underwriting, 5s. for brokerage, 5s. for bank commission, 12s. 6d. for composition duty, and 5s. for advertising. The total charges amount to £2 12s. 6d. per £100. It seems to me extraordinary that we should be obliged to pay 25s. per £100 for underwriting when we have the Commonwealth Bank and the High Commissioner in London. Of course, I under stand that Sir Robert Nivison controls underwriting matters in London.
– I spent three months in London five years ago looking into that matter, and I could not succeed in cutting out the underwriter. It is very easy to talk about doing it, but it is very hard to do it.
– If we could devise some means of avoiding the underwriting charge and these other flotation expenses I have mentioned we ought to be able to effect a saving of £10,237,500 per annum when we come to renew the whole of the £390,000,000 which represents the amount of State and Commonwealth loans falling due within the next ten years. It must be borne in mind that before one penny of this money will reach Australia, charges will absorb £10,237,500.
– What about borrowing locally ?
– If we could do it, well and good; but these loans must be redeemed. The Treasurer would be very clever if he can succeed in borrowing £390,000,000 locally during the next ten years.
I am not opposed to the payment of the maternity allowance, but I am opposed to paying it to people who can afford to . ride about in motor cars. The allowance is by no means sufficient to help many poor women in their time of trouble, who may have to incur medical and other expenses amounting, perhaps, to £10 or £15. I think that in certain cases we should pay the whole of the expenses a. woman incurs at such times; but, at the same time, we should cease paving any allowance to wealthy mothers who are in no need of assistance from the . State.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) have asked for information in regard to several matters. The firstis in relation to the position ‘of the Assistant Commissioner of Invalid and Old-age Pensions. The Commissioner of Invalid and Old-age Pensions is the Secretary to the Treasury. He was drawing no remuneration for his administration of pensions, but, in conse- quence of the great stress of war work imposed upon Treasury officers, it was plain to me that the two senior officers should be freed to a great extent from routine work in order that the questions of taxation, loan raising, and spending should receive more deliberate attention, which the rush of work upon those officers had made impossible. I therefore assented to the proposition that a ‘man to take charge of this workas Assistant Commissioner, and do all the routine work under the direction of and responsible to the Commissioner, should be appointed. The officer selected at that time was in the Queensland office of the Department, and, speaking from memory, he has been promoted from the second class . to the first class in order to give him status to do thework.
– He is a good man, too.
– I believe he is. As to the increase of officers and salaries in the Old-Age Pensions Office, the steady expansion of the work is accountable for that. The number of pension eases dealt with in 1915-16 was 115,000 ; in 1916-17, 120,000 ; in 1917-18, 125,000 ; and up to the 3rd November, in the current financial year, 126,000. That increased business accounts for certain additions to the staff, whilst the statutory increments to which officers become entitled year by year explains, to some extent, the greater amount provided on the Estimates for salaries.
As to the entertainments tax tickets, the Taxation Branch informs me that the Attorney-General’s Department ruled that it was necessary to supply showmen with tickets, and that we could not charge promoters of entertainments with the cost.
Reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to the fact that the amount provided on the Estimates for the Government Printing Office is exactly the same as the amount expended last year; I am entirely responsible for that. In the chopping of the Estimates there were requests from the Government Printer for increases, but I told the Department that its expenditure must be kept down to last year’s amount.
The Treasurer has to do arbitrary things of that kind, and an instruction was issued to the Departments that they must live in the current year within the amount they received last year. I knew that in the case of the Government Printing Office that would be difficult, because the cost of paper is very much higher than it was, and increased expenses have to be met in other, directions also.
– In a Department like that some latitude must be allowed, because it is impossible to gauge exactly the quantity of printing to be done.
– Many Departments are in that position. The Government Printing Office can only conjecture what its requirements will be. The number of papers that this Parliament orders to be printed, and the quantity of printing which the Departments may feel compelled to order, will condition the expenditure of the office, but the Treasury must keep a repressing hand upon that expenditure. If a- Department cannot live within the amount that has been provided on the Estimates, it must show good reason why it should receive a supplementary provision.
– Will the Prime Minister explain the two items on page 53 - “ office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes,” and . immediately below “writing paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon, £5.”
– Those are two small items in the administrative section of the Government Printing Office, but provision for them must be made on. the Estimates.
– That is merely the Commonwealth’s share of such expenditure.
– Yes. As honorable members are aware, the Government Printing Office in Melbourne is a joint Department. The building and nearly all the machinery, excepting certain linotypes and presses, are owned by the Victorian Government. The Government Printer is a servant of the Victorian Government, but for the purposes of that co-ordination to which the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) so ardently aspires, Commonwealth work is done at that office, and the State Government Printer is also the Commonwealth Government Printer. Attempts were made at different times to found a separate Commonwealth printing office, but the arrangement made with the Victorian Government has worked so successfully that a continuance of it is mutually advantageous.
– Do the Victorian Government allow Mr. Mullett to retain the £150 which we vote for him, or do they seize it for the State Treasury?
– I should not like to say. There have been three Government Printers at this office within my time, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that Mr. Mullett is a singularly able man for his position, and the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments alike are fortunate in having such an officer.
– Mr. Green, who is in charge of the office during Mr. Mullett’s absence, also ‘is a very good man.
– He is.
– Is the honorable member sure that the’ Victorian Government does not seize the £150 which this Parliament votes for the Government Printer?
– I think that the Government Printer receives the special allowance made for Commonwealth services.
– In nearly every case, the State Governments seize any such allowances.
– Not in every case; certainly not in the case of the police.
In regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare on the subject of statistical co-ordination, the States in conference assembled some time ago, decided that statistical collection and compilation should be a function of the Commonwealth. Although that apparently meant great -expense to the Commonwealth, the Government at that time signified their acquiescence in the proposal. Since then the States have receded from that position. I re-opened the question this year, and asked them if they would give effect to the unanimous resolution of the Premiers arid Treasurers, but for some reason State after State refused to do so. We are powerless to compel them to move in this matter, but co-ordination of the statistical activities is an object at’ which we should aim. If we achieve that, a vast sum of money will be saved to each of the Governments. Not long ago I had occasion to direct the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) to a publication by the Statistician of New ‘South Wales, which duplicated almost to a letter a previous Commonwealth publication. The expenditure seemed to me quite unnecessary. I hope that when we confer with the States in the’ new year about many questions that must be dealt with, and some of which must be settled, we shall be able to arrive at a satisfactory agreement.
– Will the honorable gentleman indicate the . intentions of the Government as to the maternity bonus, and say, alao, whether any progress has been made towards an amalgamation of the Savings Banks?
– My own views regarding the maternity bonus are very strong. I cannot pledge the Government to any course of action, because I have not been able to finalize the matter yet. The weakness of the present system is that women of means who do not require the money draw the bonus in the same way as poorer People who really need it. I am not prepared . to say that . it 1 should be abolished, but any Government which will look into this matter - 1 have not yet had an opportunity to do so- will devise a better system than the one which is now operating.
– Mr. Fisher said that everybody should claim the bonus.
– I do not agree with that view. I intend when I get the chance to produce a scheme for the consideration of Parliament which I hope will remove the defects of the present system, and save a good deal of money.
Regarding the amalgamation of the Federal and State taxation Departments, I have made abundantly plain in previous utterances that I do not believe that the proposal of the States that we should disband the Federal tax collecting office is feasible. The scheme which I submitted to the State Premiers would be safe for the States, simple for the taxpayer, and. economical to both sets of governments, and I intend, when the opportunity arises, to still further urge that suggestion in conference, and, if possible, effect a settlement.
– As we have less than two hours in which to dispose of the Estimates’, I suggest that instead of discussing each Department separately, honorable members should be allowed a few minutes each for the discussion of any item in the Estimates.
– I propose to close my remarks with a suggestion to “the Chairman that will facilitate the, discussion which the honorable member desires.
Regarding the amalgamation of the Savings Banks, I am one of those who was very strongly opposed to the establishment of Savings Banks in connexion with the’ Commonwealth Bank. I fought very hard against the proposal, and with considerable success in Victoria, the only area over which I was able to exercise any influence. I still believe that the competitive system is evil, and can be eliminated. Since I have been in charge of the Treasury, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has been absent from Australia, and he is now in quarantine at Sydney. I have just . received from him a” letter sent from the Makura, which is anchored off North Head, Sydney, and he intimated that he expects to be released next week. I hope to be able to discuss this and other matters with him after the holidays. It is possible, I believe, to arrange, satisfactorily to the Commonwealth Bank and the Governments of the States, for the elimination of that competition; but it. may mean a recasting of the structure, principles, and activities of the Commonwealth Bank. That is a course that in war time- could scarcely be attempted with prudence. But now that we have a temporary peace, and permanent peace is about to dawn’, this reconstruction seems feasible, and I intend to proceed with it.
Not for any purposes of the Government,, but in accordance with a desire that has been expressed by honorable members, I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that, instead of the discussion being confined to any Department, the members of the Committee ought to be free to deal now with any item in the Estimates.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The honorable gentleman promised to- make a statement in regard to the Commonwealth police.
– I asked the honorable gentleman, if he would accept an undertaking from me. I did that because I have read in Hansard and in the press that some honorable gentlemen in the Ministerial corner have refused to accept my undertaking.
-i was not one of them.
– That is what I desire to know.
– I have not heard any statement of the kind to which the Acting Prime Minister refers.
– According to Hansard, that statement was made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory).
– That was because the Government once promised to resign, and did not do- so.
– I am not going to give undertakings to any honorable member who- will not value them.
Mr.Boyd. - You cannot say that about me.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. In regard to the Commonwealth police, I say, quite frankly, as I did in an interjection the other day,, that I have been too busy on other matters to know much about it. It was not my creation. I think that there should be investigation officers to do special work for the Commonwealth, though not necessarily to strut about in uniform, vieing, with the State police. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) as a Southerner, may not know as much as the Government dd of some facts affecting the administration of northern Australia. There are Queenslanders who could affirm from personal knowledge what I know only from . documentary or hearsay evidence. There was a time - I cannot say whether it still exists, because I have been chained to my desk for months - when orders for the execution of Commonwealth decrees were impossible of enforcement in certain parts of Australia. I hope that that time has gone. I wish for an opportunity to look thoroughly into the facts. If our responsibilities will allow of the scrapping of the Commonwealth Police Force, or the putting of it in a different position, that will be done. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with the consent of his colleagues, was primarily responsible for the creation of the Force, and I am not entitled to repudiate anything that he has done, but I ask for an opportunity for examination to see what is the best course to be taken. I hope next year to pare out of the Estimates all. unnecessary expenditure. I say that to men who are prepared to take my word.
– I am prepared to take it.
– The course that the Acting Prime Minister has suggested occurred to me as desirable before it was mentioned by any honorable member. As the time allotted to the discussion of the Estimates is limited, it might convenience the Committee if honorable members were allowed to refer to any item in them instead of being confined to those of the Department of the Treasury, which is now before the Chair, and then, in their order, to those of the other Departments.
– Do you suggest that items cannot be taken out of their order?
– That they might be dealt with in any order.
– I suggest that honorable members should be free to make their own selection. Is it the will of the Committee that the question be that the remaining Departments of the Estimates be agreed to?
– Most respectfully - No.
.- I am pleased at the great success that has attended’ the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. The Budget papers show that there was a deficit on the 30th June, 1913, in connexion with the operations of the Bank during the first six months of its existence, amounting to £46,636. In 1913-14 the Bank made a profit of £9,640; in 1914-15, of £39,217; 1915-16, of £144,847; in 1916-17, of £379.223; and in 1917-18, of £232,659; the net profit for the whole period totalling £758,951.
In the few moments at my disposal I wish, by placing some facts on record, to do justice to the gentleman who conceived the idea of establishing this Bank, who took the necessary steps to bring it within the range of practical politics, and, subsequently, by his strenuous advocacy of it, led to the passing of the law under which it was established - I refer to my old friend, Mr. King O’Malley. He has been most unjustly treated. At the head office of the Bank in Sydney there are foundation stones in. scribed with the names of Mr. Hughes, of Mr. Fisher, and of Mr. Higgs, but my old friend, who was really responsible for the establishment of the Bank, and had to fight for it against the opposition of some of these men, is not remembered there. Year after year he put before this Parliament a well-thought-out scheme for the establishment of a national Bank, and on his initiative the matter was taken before the Brisbane Labour Conference in 1908, with the result that it subsequently became a plank of the Federal Labour platform, on which the party to which I belong contested the election of 1910, and was returned to power.
The honorable gentleman had to put up a fight for the Bank even in his own party. I do not say that Mr. Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, opposed the establishment of the Bank. He could not do that, because it was a plank of the Labour party; but evidently he was very much afraid of it.
– You grossly misrepresent him. I was there.
– The honorable member was not a member of the Labour Caucus in which these matters were dealt with.’
– I was at the Conference.
– I am referring to matters- which took place within the Parliamentary Labour party, of which the honorable member who interrupts could have no knowledge whatsoever. The only name that I mentioned in connexion with the Conference was that of King O’Malley. On page 10 of the re- port of the Conference a motion for the establishment of a national bank is recorded as having been moved by King O’Malley. The matter was afterwards referred to a committee, whose recommendation was adopted by the Conference, and later became a leading plank of the Labour platform.
– That is not so.
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- I was present at the Conference, and have refreshed my memory by reading the report of its proceedings. The proposal was referred to a committee, which reported on two questions, the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank and the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Its recommendations were adopted by the Conference, and the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank was made a plank of our fighting platform. The bank which we were pledged to establish was a bank of issue, deposit, exchange, and reserve.
Mr. Fisher provided for the establishment of the Australian notes issue as something quite separate from the bank.
– He cut out the note issue.
– He took from the Bank the power of issuing notes. I do not think that I am unjust in saying that at that time he had no intention of proceeding with the Commonwealth Bank scheme. It seemed a little too big for him. Knowing this to be so, a number o£ us took steps in the party meeting to prevent the project being dropped. I think that was done on the initiative of Mr. King O’Malley, and I believe that Mr. Chanter, who occupies the chair at this moment, was on one of the committees which threshed out the matter.
I have refreshed my memory with the recollection of several honorable members, amongst them the Hon. W. G. Higgs, M.H.R., ex-Treasurer; the Hon. Dr. Maloney, M.H.R.; the Hon. James Page, M.H.R. ; and Mr. James Mathews, M.H.R., as to the action which had to be taken by the Labour caucus to force the Government to establish the Bank. These gentlemen support my statement of the facts. I remember the incident in the party meeting, complaint being made that Mr.Fisher was not proceeding to establish the Bank, and, notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of Mr. Pisher and Mr. Hughes, the party instructed these gentlemen to bring the Bank into existance. I am reminded by the exTreasurer (Mr. Higgs), who sits beside me, that the late Mr. Fraser, then a Cabinet Minister, said that the establishment of the Bank would ruin the Government.
There are those who from time to time have spoken unkindly of King O’Malley, but whatever may be that gentleman’s defects, it must be remembered in’ his favour that he is responsible for this institution, and did more than any other man in the country to bring it into existence. It, therefore, seems paltry that his name was not placed with the others in the head office of the Bank.
– He is commemorated at the Federal Capital. You ought to provide for his commemoration somewhere on the route of the transcontinental railway to Perth.
– In my opinion, the speeches made by the Hon. King O’Malley at Canberra and at the opening, of the transcontinental railway have not been equalled by any oratory in the Commonwealth of the present day.
– I do not see any item in these’ Estimates referring to this matter.
– I have really finished what I have to say, and only desire to add that the Bank was established amongst the misgivings even of those who were its nominal sponsors. The establishment of the Bank was not in any sense due to those gentlemen, who might be called the Leaders of the Government at that time, because it was really forced on them by the younger and more active members of the great party to which I belong. I notice, however, that those gentlemen who blocked the Bank as long as they could now figure as the authors of it, and take great credit for its establishment; and I desire to take this opportunity, though it is late, to place on record some of the facts, so that justice may be done to my old friend and colleague.
– I should not have taken part in the discussion but for the fact that my name was mentioned a few nights ago, when the
Chief Justice’s Pension Bill was being debated, as one who Had voted against the original proposal to pension the Judges of the High Court. Much water has run under the bridge since that time.
– Is this a personal explanation 1
– No, it is not.
– Then, with great reluctance, Mr. Chanter, I have to draw your attention to the fact that the honorable member is anticipating the discussion on the proposal to grant a pension to the Chief Justice.
– I was following the honorable member^”’ and waiting to hear him connect his remarks with the Estimates.
– The Estimates are now under discussion, and the question to which I am referring involves expenditure. My desire is to show reasons why I intend to vote in favour of the Chief Justice’s Pension Bill, although I voted against pensions for Judges on a former occasion. I think that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is very unjust in” trying to prevent my giving reasons for my vote on the present occasion, for it must be admitted that it is not very often that I address either the House or the Committee. I submit that we have already established a principle of pensions by the” payment of old-age pensions and soldiers’ pensions, and neither the person nor the amount involved in any way vitiates or affects that principle.
At one time I evolved a scheme by which, members of this Parliament might themselves be pensioned, and it was approved by every one to whom I submitted it; so much so, that many honorable members signed it, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), the honorable member for Maranoa. (Mr. Page), Senator Rae, and others. My scheme took cognisance of the fact that a man’s first election might be something in the nature of a fluke, and made -no provision under such circumstances j but if a man were elected to a second Parliament he became entitled, on retirement, to a pension of £60 per annum, or £5 per month. If he were elected to a third Parliament, and continued to be elected to successive Parliaments, he was allowed an increase of £50 per annum” in respect of each Parliament, until the pension reached a maximum of £260 per annum, or £5 per week.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) was chairman, and I was a member, of the Old-age Pensions Commission, and when taking evidence in Sydney on one occasion, an incident was brought’ before us= which clearly illustrates the usefulness of making provision by way of pension fordays of misfortune. During the discussion on the Chief Justice’s Pension Bill’ much was said to the effect that men with large incomes should make provision for themselves, and not ask others to “ go round with the hat ‘ ‘ - an expression to which I take strong exception in this connexion. However, one witness before the Old-age Pensions Commission gave us. some evidence in confidence of a case of a man who, at one time, was a very noted figures in .sporting circles in Australia. He had a fine stud farm in New South Wales, and had won many classic races. He had sold that stud farm for a very large sum, and yet, at the time that evidence was being given, he was in receipt of an old-age pension of . 10s. a week from the State Government. I mention this to show that, no matter what a man’s position may be, it is possible! that, at a later period in his life, he will get into such necessitous circumstances as to make a pension, however small, very desirable.
– Especially when a man has devoted himself to public affairs and not to his own.
– That was the argument I used when I submitted my scheme, and had it fully indorsed by those I have mentioned. Just about that time the Bulletin propounded a scheme under which every member of this Parliament was to be paid £1,000 per annum, £600 in cash, the other £400 being placed to his credit, and given to him when, either compulsorily or voluntarily, he ceased to be a member. But neither that scheme nor my own was indorsed by the Government, although I believe that my scheme, at any rate, would receive support were it submitted now. In regard to the amendment to tbe Chief Justice’s Pension Bill that was moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs)-
– Is this in order? The honorable member is discussing an amendment on the Chief Justice’s Pension Bill.
– I had no opportunity to speak on the Bill.
– The honorable member may make a passing allusion to that Bill, but cannot deal with it in detail.
– I am merely making a passing allusion to it, and my point is that the honorable member for Capricornia, in submitting his amendment, did not attack the principle of pensions, merely saying that the proposal was inopportune.
– It is a good job it is Christmas, or I should object.
– Perhaps the Chair is a little lenient because it is Christmas; but honorable members have only an hour in which to voice their opinions, and I desire to allow as much latitude as possible.
– I shall not pursue that line of argument any further, and thereby raise the ire of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I should now like to say a word in relation to the Commonwealth police. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has referred to Queensland as a place where the people know something about this- force, and what rendered its establishment necessary. In my electorate there are a few of the Federal police, all good men, doing good work; and I take exception to the action of the Government in dispensing with their services. There may be still a few members of the Federal police in the electorate, but certainly not more than five. These men were offered the positions by the Government, and though they did not wear uniforms, they went about doing, in some cases, very necessary work. Some of them, in order to take up the positions, had left other employment, and it is known that on their appointment they immediately became marked men amongst those in their own walk of life. The result is that since their services have been dispensed with by the Govern ment, they are boycotted, and cannot obtain employment in the work to which they had previously . been accustomed . In my opinion, the Government have treated these men very badly. As to the necessity for a Federal Police Force, I was told by a military officer of an incident that occurred in Queensland a little while ago. A meeting was being addressed by a number of Industrial Workers of the World men, of whom only two out of about eleven were British; and when one of the foreigners made remarks of a distinctly offensive character, a man in the crowd called out, ‘ ‘ You are a liar !” A State policeman, who had taken no notice of the disloyal utterances on the platform, immediately tapped this man on the shoulder, and told him that if he interrupted the proceedings again he would have to be “ taken care of.” I know that, even if there had been several Federal policemen there, they could not have taken any action in the presence of the State policeman, and with the crowd to a great extent in sympathy with the speakers. In some cases, however, the Federal police have been instrumental in suppressing and preventing disturbances. In my electorate there is an hotel called Cassidy’s, and not long ago a party of soldiers - every one of them a wounded man: - was there celebrating the armistice. A strange crowd, of men caine in, and commenced to ‘ ‘ slang-wang ‘ ‘ the soldiers, one going so far as to pull a badge off a soldier’s coat. Of course, there was immediate trouble and the wounded men were so badly treated that some of them are, I am told, in hospital even to-day. Two pr three Federal police, it is said, came along and attempted to do something, and their efforts were very greatly assisted by a number of. boy scouts, who went around to the various picture theatres and places of amusement, calling out, ‘ ‘ Diggers, your mates are being atacked at Cassidy’s. ‘ ‘ This brought every soldier in the place to Cassidy’s, and the first party of attackers were very severely treated.
– Were there any State policemen there?
– There are always State policemen about, but they take very little action; in fact, at one meeting of mine, where the audience was singing choruses; in order to interrupt me, the police at the back of the hall joined in.
If the Federal police were in greater numbers, and better organized, they would be able, if not to prevent disturbances, at least to exercise a restraining influence. There is only a small number of them, and the expenditure involved is nothing to cavil at.
– Will you explain where the Federal police did anything in connexion with the trouble you speak of?
– I said that there were only two or three there, and that they could do nothing.
– Had they any influence on that occasion?
– I admit they had not, but if they were better organized they might effect very good results ; and I hope the item will be allowed to pass. Honorable members have no idea of the state of things up in my electorate. We have heard this morning of what has happened at Port Darwin; and I am sorry to say there is a number of men of the samecalibre in my district. We have all heard of men who, when discussing British rule, have said, “ I would just as soon be under German rule.”
– Has the honorable member heard that statement made by any one?
– Yes ; but not by the honorable member. I ask the Treasurer not to allow this item to be eliminated from the Estimates.
.- On page 35 of the Treasurer’s Estimate there is an item of “ Unforeseen expenditure,” in respect of which we are asked to vote £1,500. Under the same heading in 1917-18 a sum of £2,500 was voted, and the amount actually ‘expended was £836. I should like the Treasurer to state whether, put of this item, provision is made for the payment of a salary of £300 per annum received by a certain man, who is employed at the present time in the Defence Department, but who instead of doing any work for it, is engaged in looking after the requirements of the Prime Minister’s constituency of Bendigo. He is drawing £300 per annum of the taxpayers’ money, and although he is on the permanent staff of the Defence Department he does no work for that Department.
– Was he appointed by the Public Service Commissioner ?
– No. In the first instance he was employed as a temporary clerk in the Prime Minister’s Department. The Prime Minister evidently had sufficient influence with’ the head of the Defence Department to obtain for this gentleman an appointment in that branch of the Service. This is an item , of “Unforeseen expenditure.” It could not have been foreseen by honorable members that a man employed nominally in the Defence Department would be in reality looking after the constituents of the Hon. William MorrisHughes. He signs’ himself “ Private Secretary.” He is not private secretary to the Defence Department, but acts in that capacity for the Prime Minister, who is in England.
I do not object to the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government having” a duly appointed private secretary. But, in view of the fact that Ministerial supporters are constantly preaching economy and demanding retrenchment, it is interesting to know what is being done in this regard. I have no fault to find with the man ‘ who is drawing this salary. The fact that he is employed in this way by the Prime Minister shows that the right honorable gentleman has confidence in him, and believes him to be a very capable man.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is now discussing the payment received by a clerk whom he says is employed by the Defence Department, whereas we are now dealing with the Treasury Estimates?
– On a point of order, I would remind you, Mr. Chairman, that you said you would allow a fair avenue of criticism in connexion with the Treasury Estimates.
– But members of the Opposition objected to any reference being allowed to other Departments while the Treasury Estimates were being dealt with.
– It is true that I submitted to the Committee the suggestion that fairly general criticism should be allowed, but that suggestion was rejected. 1 understood the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) to say that he was dealing with an officer who was acting for the Prime Minister, and desired to know whether his salary was provided for under a specific item, to which he referred, in these Esti- mates.
– I said in the view of the Treasurer this officer’s salary must have been provided for under the heading of “ Unforeseen expenditure.”
– Why does the honorable member wish now to deal with a matter relating to a Department, references to which, on these Estimates, were objected to by other members of the Opposition?
– I am not referring to an item in the Defence Estimates. I am dealing with an item in the Estimates that are before us.
– On a point of order, sir, have you ruled that we are at liberty, in discussing the Treasury Estimates, to deal with any matter covered by the Estimates as a whole ?
– Then I submit that the honorable member for Barrier is not discussing any item in the Estimates now before us. He has said that this officer is employed in the Defence Department, but is, in reality, acting for the Prime Minister. The Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department have been passed, and those relating to the Defence Department have not been reached.
– The honorable member for Barrier will not be in order in discussing at this stage any matter that does not pertain to the . Department of the Treasury. That ruling is in accordance with the expressed wish of the Committee. If honorable members desire to deal with other matters, they will be able to do so on the Appropriation Bill.
– I fail . to under stand why the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) should be so supersensitive in respect of criticism of his leader. I object to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) attempting to throw me off the track or to put words into’ my mouth. I am dealing with the item of “ Unforeseen expenditure “ in the Treasury Estimates.
– On a point of order, I submit that the item of “ Unforeseen expenditure “ in the Treasury Estimates cannot cover the salary of the officer to whom the honorable member is referring. He says that he is on the regular pay-sheet of the Defence Department, and that being so, his salary could not by. any means be covered by the item to which he refers.
– The honorable, member for Barrier was dealing with the item of “ Unforeseen expenditure “ on page 35, and I gathered that his inquiry was as to whether part of that proposed vote in respect of which the Treasurer is responsible was being paid by way of salary to an official acting for the Prime Minister. The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Defence Department or any of its officers, but he will be in order in discussing any disbursement through the Treasury for any purpose.
– I shall be glad to hear from the Treasurer, or any other Minister, that no part of this item has been used for the purpose to which I have referred. The honorable member for Illawarra feels hurt when any criticism is levelled at” the Prime Minister.
– I am very hurt that I cannot get an opportunity to discuss matters relating to our soldiers.
– Perhaps so; but the honorable member must know that he cannot deal with that matter on the Treasury Estimates. I desire to havefrom the Treasurer an assurance that no such practice as that to which I have alluded is being indulged in.
– What practice?
– The practice of employing an officer temporarily employed in the Public Service to do the personal work of the Prime Minister as the representative of Bendigo, and paying his salary out of the funds of the taxpayers. The people will want to know why distinctions are made in favour of the Prime Minister, and why, out of hisown salary, he is not able to pay for the work of his constituency.
.- So far our most brilliant legal men have accepted positions as Justices of the High Court, the fountain head of our justice, for the sake of the kudos appertaining to them; but whether this will be the case in the future or not is open to a great deal of doubt, because of the very low salary offered. Owing to the fact that our High Court sits in the different capitals, our Justices are practically away from their homes half the year; and,, no matter how frugal they may be, seeing that they are obliged to live at a fairly high rate, their salary is quite inadequate for them to make provision for that time, when they will be obliged to retire. In carrying out his duties, a High Court Justice has y to devote the whole of his attention to * very intricate matters, requiring the application of all his intelligence; and we know that a professional man is lacking in a certain amount of practical knowledge, which is a drawback to him in seeking to invest his savings to advantage. We ought to provide our High Court Justices with adequate pen- sions, so that we may secure the very best men obtainable. It would be a tragedy for Australia if the High Court simply became the resting-place for second-class or briefless barristers. This is not a matter of economy. It is a matter of getting the very best men to dispense justice on our High Court Bench. If we do not do this, litigants will go past the High Court to the Privy Council, and we shall be paying seven second-rate men for doing nothing. Everybody in Australia, no matter how worthless he may be in the ordinary walks of life, or how thriftless, or how criminal, is entitled to receive a pension at the age of sixty-five years; but for men of the highest integrity, intelligence, and moral character on our High Court Bench no adequate provision is made if they have been unfortunate.
When the Estimates are being dealt with, the Treasurer should be in the chamber. Although another Minister may be in charge of the Committee during the Treasurer’s absence, he is unable to supply information about the bulk of the matters touched upon by honorable members.
– The Treasurer has been in the chamber from 11 o’clock this morning until a few minutes ago. He lias other matters to attend to.
– Of course, I recognise that he has a lot of work to attend to, and cannot always, be in attendance. Nevertheless, when the Estimates are being dealt with, a Minister should be in the chamber who is able to supply information to honorable members.
It is fair to assume that when the Federal Land Tax Bill was first introduced, very few. persons except the then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), who introduced it, knew what it would mean. Mr. McKay, the first Commissioner of Taxation, pointed out in his first report that the revenue received from secondary taxpayers - that is to say, shareholders in land-holding institutions - did not pay the cost of collection. The Department has an army of clerks endeavouring to bring within the clutches of the Federal land tax all those persons who, while not owning land themselves, hold shares in Dalgety’s, the Bank of New South Wales, or the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency. * The valuer, who, by building up his department, comes into a higher grade in the Civil Service, has every particular locality valued, although it is well known to practical men that there are thousands of acres in the interior which are all practically of the same value. If the value of one place is determined a man can easily ride over the others and fix a value upon them.
It seems to be the object of the officers of Departments to get as much work done as is possible. If a person writes to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions the Federal member for the district receives a copy of the communication, a copy of the Pensions Office communication, and a copy of. his covering letter. It seems to me a waste of clerical labour.
– The duplicate copies are very useful to members.
– They are very useful to any honorable member who is not doing the best he can for his £12 per. week. This correspondence merely go** to a member to help him to dig himself in well in his electorate.
– It helps a man to get justice who cannot get it in anyother way.
– If people cannot secure justice from any Department the head of that Department should be dismissed. A member’s life is made miserable because of the clerical work he has to do, addressing envelopes and forwarding correspondence, work which in his own office he would intrust to a typist earning 30s. per week.
According to one item on the Estimates, the Commonwealth Bank is paid £8,000 for bank exchange from all Departments. As it gets the whole of the business of the Departments, to the detriment of the general public, it ought to do the exchanges for nothing. Previously the private banks did it for nothing, and seeing that the Commonwealth Bank has been bolstered up at the public expense, and that it has a vast amount of money lying idle to the credit of the Commonwealth Government, it should also do this exchange for nothing.
Our note issue is up to its limit, and should not be increased any further. I understand that £10,000,000 of the gold backing does not belong to the Commonwealth Government but has been borrowed for the period of the war from the private banks. In these circumstances the interest earned by the notes fund should be applied for the purpose of building ur>” a gold reserve, so that the Government can say honestly that the backing to our note issue is our own, anO is not borrowed.
Ever since I have been a member of this House I have protested against allowing Commonwealth loan money and our ordinary Consolidated Revenue money to remain idle in the Commonwealth Bank. For the last three quarters of the year the deposits in the Commonwealth Bank amounted to about £30,000,000, while the advances to the public were not more than £8,000,000. I have asked year after year why we cannot adopt the procedure followed in other countries, and How the loan moneys to remain with the private banks who have found them until they are required by the Government.
With so much taxation and such a heavy drain on the. private banks and on the public for money for war loans, our position soon will be that the private banks will be obliged to borrow from the Commonwealth Bank, and pay a high rate of interest for the taxpayers’ money, which has been drawn from them and paid into the Commonwealth Bank.
A great deal might be said on these Estimates, but time will not allow it. Our finances ought to be looked into by the Treasurer. Particularly should he take notice of the money lying idle in the Commonwealth Bank. Attention should be paid to the growing size of the various - Departments, and to the number of employees in them. When I go into a public Department I can always see halfadozen young fellows standing about, carrying files of papers tied up with red tape, and chatting away to one another. We should pay our public servants well, but we must have an efficient and capable Service, which does not include one man more than is necessary. In regard to the High Court, I hope the Treasurer will bring forward a Bill to provide for pensions for all the Judges, so that they may be given that independence which is essential to their high position.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) regarding the Public Service may be applicable to a few men, but it is .unfair to make a general charge against a service which, in war time, has done good work for the country. . I do not defend a waster in any department of life, but in all large institutions, whether governmental or private, one may see at certain times of the day men or women who are, apparently, doing nothing. But it is unfair to accuse them of idleness because of what one sees on a casual visit. We have no continuous oversight of them, and it may be that when they are apparently idle they are waiting to receive the attention of some, other officer who is busy. The New’ Zealand Government has provided £400,000 on the Estimates in order to pay bonuses to the public servants.
I agree with the other remarks of the honorable member for Hume regarding the Commonwealth Bank. The last quarterly balance-sheet of that institution shows that £21,000,000 was lying at short call. Presumably the bulk of that money is operated through the branch in London, where there is more opportunity for investment at short dates. I believe that most of it represented deposits on current account by Commonwealth Departments. The Commonwealth has £18,000,000 lying in the Bank not earning one penny of interest for the Government.
– I drew attention to that when I was Treasurer.
– The interest which the Commonwealth Bank is getting by utilizing that sum ought to be flowing into the Treasury. The Government should take steps to carry out the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that the interest earned by the Bank from Commonwealth moneys in current account should be either paid to the Treasury or divided . between the Bank and the Treasury.
– In any case, why should money be drawn from the people before it is required?
– There is a good deal in that point. The references of the honorable member to the Old-age Pensions Office remind me that that office has carried out an economy in stationery which is much better than the PostmasterGeneral’s little green telegram forms. I believe that an envelope telegram form, much, easier to open, and cheaper and better in every way, could be devised.
– The present telegram forms are the most economical used in any part of the world.
– The New Zealand form was not secret.
– The Old-age Pensions Office uses for the acknowledgment of communications received a printed sheet that can be gummed up and posted.
– I considered the adoption df a sheet like that and found it impracticable. It would be no cheaper than the envelopes we are using now.
– As one who understands something of paper and printing I join issue with the Postmaster-General. I know that the form used by the Repatriation Department must mean a sav ing of hundreds of pounds per annum. And why should the Departments continue using stamps which represent a certain quantity of paper and gum and involve the use of special machines, when a stamped form could be used, allowing the adhesive stamp to be dispensed with.
– That system was condemned in New South Wales fifteen years ago.
– It is used in some of the Departments, and could be adopted by others. It would mean an economy in printing and paper. Business firms, instead of having special stamp lickers on the premises, generally send out their communications in “ franked “ envelopes.
– They take the risk.
– There is no more risk in connexion with franked envelopes than in connexion with adhesive stamps.
– Experience contradicts that statement.
– The Treasurer said that he proposes to consult the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank regarding a reconstruction of that institution. I hope that the reconstruction will te along national lines. I am in favour of an amalgamation of the Savings Bank branch with the Savings Banks of the States, but I do not desire that the business should be handed over to the States entirely. The Commonwealth Savings Bank has been very well conducted.
– Would the honorable member hand over the note issue to the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Treasury officials have done exceptionally, well in connexion with the note issue. If we were to hand that over to the Commonwealth Bank we should be losing a big revenueearning asset, and we cannot afford to do that. At present £1,500,000 is earned in interest on loans under the note issue. I trust that we shall have an opportunity of discussing any proposals for the reconstruction of the Commonwealth Bank.
I understand that £150 is voted by this Parliament every year as a special allowance to the Government Printer. He and the Assistant Government Printer are among the hardest worked public servants in the country, but, unfortunately, this payment, which Parliament intends as an additional reward to those gentlemen for the fine services they render to the Commonwealth, is seized by the State Government and credited to the revenue.
– Is the honorable member sure that the State Government seizes that money?
– Yes. Even the fees paid to the police for doing Federal work are paid into the State revenue. . This is a mean way of filching the little extra allowances that rightly belongto the rank and file of the Public Service, and I hope that representations on the subject will be made to the State Governments by the Treasurer.
.- I find that in the Treasurer’s Department twelve new officers have been added to the staff at salaries ranging from £535 down to £39. They include a clerk at £140, a clerk at £320, an Assistant Commissioner at £535, a special magistrate at £320, a draftsman as £300, a chief assessor at £430, a draftsman at £126, and so on. I do not understand why these new positions should have been created under existing conditions.
– I am asking for 860 officers less than were in the . Postal Department last year.
– I give the PostmasterGeneral credit for having done a good deal to effect economies in his Department. I am convinced that the increase in the number of public servants has very largely contributed to the everincreasing expenditure of public money.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes for remaining Departments agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) agreed to -
That the following Resolution be reported to the House : -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His" Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1918-19, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £23,624,914.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the resolution be adopted.
– wish to know when the House will be called together next year? When the Appropriation Bill has been passed, it will be competent for the Government to shut up shop at once, and not meet Parliament again until early next July. We have had no proper opportunity to discuss the
Estimates, but it would have been useless to call for a division against the motion for their adoption. Even had we had the numbers to defeat those proposals, nothing would have been gained by doing so. I should have liked, however, to vote on certain items, such as that providing for the Commonwealth police, with which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) proposed to deal. Then I have a sheaf of Defence matters to which I should have liked to refer. 1 have complaints of the treatment of parents whose sons were killed at the Front, and who are receiving pensions of 5s. It was impossible, however, to deal with these matters when we had but two hours in which to consider proposals affecting the expenditure of £44,000,000. The Treasurer will acquit me of having said anything that was not apropos to the question before the Committee, and did not concern matters of the utmost importance.
– Hansard will show how the time allowed for the discussion of the Estimates was used.
– The honorable member is a champion apologist for the Government, as he has to be.
– No, he has not.
– The Leader of the Opposition cannot speak three words without being personally offensive. .
– I do not think that I have ever referred to the honorable member, except by reason of some interjection made by him. No doubt, in the two recent election results, he sees the writing on the wall. This Government seems good at picking thirds. However, I have no wish to be offensive to any one, and 1 apologize to the honorable . member for anything that may nave offended him. I protest against the manner in which, the Ministry has gagged the Estimates through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1918-19, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund ft sum not exceeding £13,512,774.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) tion of what has been described by some as a riot at Darwin. Unfortunately the administration of tha Northern Territory comes within the Department of a Minister, who, though sprung from a very combative race, meets opponents in such a way that it is almost impossible to assail him as one ordinarily assails political adversaries ; because it takes two to make a quarrel. The information I have been receiving for months past prevented me from being surprised at the recent news. 1 have informed the Minister of the situation in the Territory. When Professor Gilruth was appointed Administrator of the Territory, he was understood to bo an exceptionally strong man; but strong men must learn that they cannot govern by brutal methods, and that, in addition to strength, they must have discretion. Professor Gilruth has no discretion whatever, and he alone is to blame for the trouble that has occurred - lt was the outcome of the seething discontent which has prevailed in the Territory for some considerable time. I informed the Minister that the sending out of correspondence and telegrams from the Northern Territory was being suppressed, and that persons leaving the Territory were being searched for letters which might contain information of what was happening there. Characteristically, he spared no trouble to investigate all the details, and I must admit that he endeavoured to prevent what has taken place. Nevertheless, what I said would take place has occurred, and on him must fall the blame. If the Northern . Territory had been ruled by the German Kaiser, it would not have been ruled more despotically than it has been by Doctor Gilruth, who has no leaning towards conciliation. He regards, and has made, himself a dictator, censoring all the communications from the Territory to the Seat of Government. Such a man does not deserve the support of his Minister or of the Government. I cannot say that the judiciary of the Northern Territory is corrupt, but, like the Administrator, it is pig-headed, and has proceeded along such lines that it has made the people of the Territory believe that they have no chance of getting justice from it. Such a belief breeds discontent in a British community, and develops trouble such as has occurred. It is admitted that the report of this trouble was censored, and that the newspapers at the Seat of Government were not allowed to publish it. What can be obtained by suppression of news concerning the discontent in the Territory ? Of course, I cannot blame the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) for the censoring of the press reports, because that is not within his control; but why does he not assert himself and prevent the Minister who does supervise the censorship from exercising it in connexion with the affairs of his Department? Of course, I realize that there is such a thing as Ministerial responsibility, and also international responsibility, and that Ministers have to acquiesce sometimes in a course of action that does not meet with their approval. But this interference by one Minister with another in such a matter as the censorship requires some explanation. Nothing that can take place in the Northern Territory to-day can prejudice the safety of the Empire, because, to all intents and purposes, the war is now over, and to me it is an atrocity that the Minister who controls the Censor’s Office should go out of his way to interfere in the way I have described. Such conduct ought to be condemned, and will be condemned by the public. Personally, I have often had to complain about the attitude of the press ; but even if I myself were prejudicially affected, I would never advocate the suppression of any news of thekind.
– What is the use of suppressing the news when it will be in all the newspapers to-morrow ?
– Of course.
– When thequestion was asked me to-day I at once informed the House as to the circumstances. News from the Territory has been published in some newspapers.
– At any rate, the news was suppressed in Melbourne. I know that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has sufficient worries pf his own to contend with, but, as head of the Government, he should have something to say, when one Minister can go so far as to suppress the publication of news concerning another Minister’s Department.
In a time of national or international crisis we might understand such an exercise of the censorship, but by no stretch of the imagination can the occurrence at Darwin be so described. “
– Is it not a fact that a member of the Government prevented the publication of this news?
– It is a fact.
– Do we understand that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) takes no responsibility for this action of the Minister for Defence?
– I am now dealing with the Minister of the Department, who must throw the responsibility on the head of the Government. The reason I take such a strong line to-day is that I previously pointed out the trouble that was coming.
– Not this trouble.
– I assured the Minister as to the effect of the exercise of the censorship.
– That was not in connexion with this trouble at all.
– The present trouble is the culminating point of all that has occurred in the Northern Territory. The main charge is, and has been for some considerable time, that the Judiciary is biased. The Administrator is isolated from the rest of Australia, and. has complete control of telegraphs, postal affairs, shipping, and so forth, and can suppress what information he desires. If he does suppress’ information, he is exercising a power that he ought not to possess.
– If you say the Administrator does that, you are not correct, for he does not interfere with the censorship.
– I say that the socalled riot that took place at Darwin a few davs ago is the outcome of the Administrator’s interference with the liberties of the people. He censors everything.
– You are on another matter now.
– This trouble has been led up to by the actions of, not an Administrator, but a dictator. There are three men in Melbourne who assure me that before leaving the Territory they were searched, in order to insure that they did not fetch away with them any documents that could prove the statements made by residents; and the postal law has been broken in order thatI might not receive communications from the Northern Territory. The magistracy is a cause of much of the trouble, and has been so all along. The following communication has been received by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) from Messrs. McCay and Thwaites, solicitors, Melbourne: -
Re Darwin Clients - Second Letter.
Since writing our first letter of to-day date to you, we have received the following telegram from Darwin: - “ Since my last, two justices appointed here, namely, Evans and MacDonald. Evans is Government Secretary, also holds various other posts. MacDonald minor Government official Protector Aboriginals, keeps the aboriginals enclosure near Darwin, also Darwin Point keeper, was constable. Comment in this wire superfluous.”
Messrs. McCay and Thwaites are acting on behalf of the people of Darwin. This is not a Labour party affair, but embraces the whole population of. the Northern Territory outside the public officials; indeed, I may say that many of the officials are with the rest of the community in this matter, but are afraid to assert themselves because of their position. The communication continues -
As you will see by the telegram, the two new justices are both Government officials, which . makes the position with regard to justices a great deal worse from the point of view of our clients.
Bad as the conditions are in these southern centres of civilization, where all sorts of favoritism is exercised to place mon of a particular political colour in power, such appointments and such administration as has been experienced in the Northern Territory would not be tolerated for two minutes. It is useless to appeal to the Judiciary, and the partisanship of the magistracy is undoubted. Whatever the private feelings of the public servants might be, they are still public servants, and they do not exercise their functions as magistrates otherwise than at the pleasure of the dictator.
– They do not ait on the bench.
– I should like to place before the Minister some facts in connexion with the appointment of justices of the peace in the Territory. Even in the wild political appointments made to the magistracy in other parts of Australia there is a certain decency observed; and the people in the Northern Territory desire that in such appointments all shades of opinion in the community shall be represented. I have presented a petition to Parliament on this question, signed by almost the whole population of . the Northern Territory outside the officials, and I have received another, with 251 signatures, objecting to the whole of the present procedure. The Territory, financially, is subsidized by the rest of Australia, and I am not asking that the people of the Northern Territory shall have the full control of the money thus received. If I did, I should only make myself ridiculous ; but we must remember that these people are Australians, like ourselves, and that they have no representation in this Parliament. They have to trust to honorable members, and I dare say there are very few of us who have not been asked, and who are not willing, to present any fair case that they may submit. They are, of course, very much isolated, and we are only too desirous to assist them in any way we can. Much as I respect the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), I would not place even in his hands full control over the lives and wellbeing of the people of the Northern Territory, because that is not the civilized way of governing a community. I admit that a benevolent dictatorship may produce even a better civilization than we have ; but, unfortunately, we cannot make people run in grooves, and some regard must be paid to their feelings and desires. Professor Gilruth is, of course, very human, with the peculiarities and weaknesses of humanity, and it is impossible for him to rule with justice the people with whom he has for so long been disputing and fighting. What is really ‘ wanted is a new Administrator, able to put aside the hatreds of the past, for it is evident that Professor Gilruth is not one who can forgive and forget. I have suggested to the Minister that, he should visit the Territory himself, and see the people who are working under disabilities that do not obtain in any other part of Australia. It is possible, in a community like that of Darwin, for persons of all shades of political thought to sign such a petition as that to which I have referred. No doubt it would be signed by hundreds of people who would not even dream of voting for a Labour man. I am willing to admit that there are in Darwin men who, in politics, differ as widely as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and I do, and that amongst those who take the stand that the Administrator is not administering the Territory in a way most beneficial to’ the Commonwealth there may be men of extreme views. The Northern Territory is a kind of sink, into which the money of the taxpayers has for years been poured. We must expect large expenditures to take place in connexion with it. People of all shades of political thought feel that it must be kept white. It was a kind of vampire, sucking the very life’s blood of South Australia, and it was because that State had kept it “white” that I voted for its transfer to the Commonwealth. “ I believed that the Commonwealth Government would be in a’better position to keep it “ white “ and develop it.
Many Ministers have been condemned for their administration of the affairs of the Territory. I recognise that it is necessary to intrust some one with executive power in respect of the Territory, and the powers so conferred on the Administrator, if rightly used, would be productive of much good. We find, however, that they have been so exercised as to bring about chaos. It is time that the Government considered the desirableness of removing the present Administrator, and of replacing him by some one who will not be ready to vent his spleen on individuals.
I have heard of a statement that a man named Nelson, secretary of the local branch of the Australian Workers Union, had- induced the people of Darwin to riot a few’ days ago. As a matter of fact, I have, during the last few months, received from this very man dozens of letters and telegrams, pointing out what would happen if improvements were not made, and showing that it was impossible to live under the conditions imposed by Dr. Gilruth. Nelson will possibly be prosecuted, and if he is tried in the Territoryhe may be sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment on each of three charges, or sixty years’ imprisonment in all.
– He need not be tried upthere.
– Having regard to the Judiciary of the Northern Territory, and the peculiar jury system in vogue there, this man, if tried there, will not have a chance. Even if he were tried down south, no Judge would be likely todisplay any mercy in dealing with a man> suspected of inciting a riot in such a community. The point I wish to emphasize, however, is that Nelson warned the authorities down here that this trouble was coming. He urged that much discontent would be removed if the people of the Territory were given representation in this Parliament and a jury system such as we have in the several States. He urged, further, that what was desired was a magistracy which would deal out justice, and the decisions of which would not be coloured by the opinions of the Administrator. I am satisfied that if what is taking place in the Territory wereknown in certain quarters, it would besaid at the Peace Conference that Australia was tolerating there a form of Kaiserism such as even Germany would not allow.
Even if I were to speak for hours I could not tell in detail of all the pin pricks and spear thrusts to which residents of the Territory have been subjected. America was lost to England by the blundering of British statesmen, whotried to force upon American colonists taxation without representation, and laws in the making of which they had not been consulted. We should have regard to the experience of the Empire, and avoid these blunders in connexion with the Territory. The Administrator of Papua, Judge Murray, has to deal with even more complex questions than those associated with the -Northern Territory, but although some of the traders may occasionally complain, we . do not hear of any trouble up there.
– Judge Murray is assisted by Judge Herbert.
– And by Mr. Staniforth. Smith. Even if these three men gave a wrong decision in regard to any matter of importance the people of Papua would abide by it, because it would be recognised that, even if they had erred, they were well-intentioned.
– - Judge Murray is a. tiptop man, but I have had to deal with complaint after complaint reflecting on certain things in connexion with the plantations - complaints that were quite unfounded.
– No doubt; hut the Minister will admit that whilst there may be differences of opinion amongst the planters, the traders, and the official and missionary sections of the community in Papua under the administration of Judge Murray, we do not have any complaints of personal spleen such as we have from the Northern Territory. I have no personal feeling against Dr. Gilruth. Prom what I have seen of him, I think he is just the sort of man with whom I should Like to spend an evening over a glass of whisky and .a game of bridge, but he seems to be temperamentally unfit to administer the affairs of the Territory. He is a dictator in every sense of the word. I have full confidence in the Minister, however, and know that he will see that justice is done. I am aware that before allowing certain .action to be taken in the Territory, he has devoted weeks to the consideration of bulky files of papers dealing with the matter.
– And some of them dealing with somewhat pettifogging grievances.
– I know that, and I know that the Minister has endeavoured bo do justice in all cases. So far as the riot is concerned, I hope that he will see that the men implicated in it will receive justice, even if he considers that they have committed a crime.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas - Minister for
I know that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is perfectly well-intentioned, I cannot allow the remarks made by him to pass without offering some comment. He has led the Committee to assume that the emeute particulars of which were telegraphed to me on Wednesday last, was foreshadowed in telegrams received by him and others, and shown to me. One of these messages that I saw came from the editor of a newspaper, and a second which the honorable gentleman showed me came’ from another resident in the Territory. There was also a telegram is reference to hotels sent to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), from which it appeared that the threat of a rising or that impending trouble was based upon a complaint that the price of bottled beer had been raised from ls. 6d. to ls. 9d.
– That was not the trouble as put before the honorable gentleman by myself.
– That was the complaint contained in a telegram sent to the honorable member f or. Maranoa. . Upon such grounds it was suggested to me that there was going to be a tumult in the Northern Territory. What would be said of a Minister if he recognised as a reasonable ground for ‘ a sort of rebellious movement - for the supersession of the Administration by the forces of the mob - the complaint that the price of bottled beer had been raised from ls. 6d. to ls. 9d. ? I telegraphed that the dispute was to be determined on its merits and not by any intimidation.
These are the class of complaints upon which recently it was alleged great trouble was likely to occur in the Territory. What happened on Wednesday last, however, was practically an attempt by certain leaders of the crowd to supersede the Administration. We could not allow that sort of thing to go on, however desirous we might be of settling all disputes on lines of reason and common sense.
– Why was the press censored in regard to Northern Territory matters? *
– I should be very glad if every telegram from the Territory dealing with public business were published. So far as I know, all such messages are published, although the honorable member who watches over the affairs of the Territory with the constancy and credit of a direct representative, has often told me of complaints as to administrative interference with communications between Darwin and Melbourne. As a matter of fact I find that even the ordin”ary letters of the Department are sometimes delayed in the post for some days. These delays are not due to the interference of the Administrator.
All these complaints, in cases of a petty character, have to be inquired into as if the very ‘future of the Territory depended upon them. There have been a series of complaints to deal with. Complaint was made in regard to the management of the hotels, and a departmental Board was appointed to inquire into it. I went through the report” and the evidence taken by the ‘Board, and could not say that its finding against the complaint was unjust. The honorable member has referred to the work of the Administrator. Dr. Gilruth has , a very difficult task.
– I admit that.
– It is not an ideal country for expeditious development, but Dr. Gilruth went there with a reputation which his past justified. He has a good deal of direct knowledge of cattle, and he is a man of exceedingly active temperament and of admitted ability. He has done, in the circumstances, his best to meet the somewhat rather difficult condi-tions. We cannot hope for success at once, or in all things perfection; but there has been evidence of probable success in lines in respect of which much condemnation was heard not very long ago. For instance, the Mataranka Farm, as a test station, is practically a success, and the Oenepelli Compound, according to a report which I recently gave to the papers, is able to show a profit. The breeding of cattle there has been a success, and dairying has also been successful, although about two years ago experiments on these lines were condemned as among the follies of the Administrator.
The honorable member for Melbourne Forts has made some reference to the Courts. What evidence is there that there is anything seriously wrong with the Judiciary of the Northern Territory ?
– There is the evidence of a petition which I presented from practically the whole of the people of Darwin, excepting foreigners, who were not allowed to sign it.
– Most of the complaints that have recently reached me have been directed against particular incidents that have occurred in the local Court, and not in the Supreme Court of the Territory. The other day there was sent to us by the Darwin Town Council a resolution couched in such terms that a Minister would have been justified in ignoring it altogether. It was stated, in effect, that Mr. Malism, a solicitor, complained that he was handed a jury list which was invalid - this jury list related, not to the Supreme Court, but to the local Court. As a matter of fact, the two lists in material lines are substantially identical, so far as the names appearing on them are concerned. On going into the matter I ascertained that Mr. Mallam applied for this list five or six days before the Court sat, but he got the Local Court list - the rotation of which was somewhat irregular - instead of the Supreme Court list. A day or two afterwards, I understand, he was informed of the fact, and if he had wanted a Supreme Court list he could have obtained one.
– Why did he want the jury list?
– Simply for the purpose of challenging jurymen, I suppose. As every lawyer knows, he could have applied for a Supreme Court list and obtained it, but he evidently preferred to go into the Court, challenge the jury list, and upset the whole panel. Complaint was made immediately, and this has been one of the causes of disaffection among some of the people of Darwin. I merely give this as an instance of some of the matters upon which Ministers are compelled to spend valuable time. There was a similar complaint, by some former dwellers in those regions, in regard to the Macdonnell Ranges. An allegation was made that was not sustained. The finding of the Judge was apparently justified.
The honorable member must not assume that the Administrator is anxious to remain in the Northern Territory. He had been asked to remain there.
– He was down here for eight months.
– That is true; but I thought it was only right, in the circumstances, to ask him to return to the Territory for the duration of the war. He consented to do so. I have not discussed the point with him, but I do not think he is very desirous of remaining in his present position.
– It would be better if he were put away.
– He will not be put away because of the general allegations in regard to his past having been justified. Last Wednesday about 500 men assembled outside his residence, and asked him to come outside and address them. He was asked to give an account of his five years’ administration or be prepared to leave by a steamer departing next day for the South, and remain out of the Territory of which he was an Administrator until a Royal Commission had inquired into his past administration. Of course, he refused to do so. Subsequently, after he addressed the men for about twenty minutes he was assaulted and knocked down.
– Was that request put forward by the local “ Soviet “?
– There was a body of about 500 men there, and, according to a telegram, the orders were given by some of the leaders of the unionists, the very men that are not always in harmony with the societies down here of which they are supposed to be members. The same discord seems, at times, to an extent, to exist between the general secretary of the union for Australia, and the local secretary as apparently exists between the Administrator and the men at Darwin. That will give honorable members an idea as to the merits of some of the complaints that have been put forward.
– I would like the Government to reconsider the sugar question in its application to the jam-making industry. It is fully recognised now that the production of sugar for the present year is not equal to the requirements of Australia, and that at least 25,000 tons of sugar, must be imported. This sugar can be landed in Melbourne, Sydney, or Hobart for about £15 or £16 per ton f.o.b., but the Government are charging the jam manufacturer £27 per ton. Surely they are not anxious to make a profit out of the jam-making industry ? In the limited time at my disposal I shall give a few figures in regard to jam production. In 1915 there were 128 factories in Australia engaged in the manufacture of jams and jellies, employing 4,393 persons, distributing £326,440 in wages, purchasing £1,600,000 worth of raw material, and having an output valued at £2,417,000. It takes one ton of sugar to manufacture one ton of fruit into jam,, but while the value of apricots, peaches, plums, &c, is about £7 or £8 per ton the sugar is sold to the jam manufacturer by the Commonwealth Government at a price which is four times as great as the duty paid on the imported article, and that is nearly equal in value to the cost of the fruit utilized in the manufacture. By an award of an industrial Court the orchardists and the packers have just been called upon to pay increased wages. If the Government do not wish to make a big profit on the sugar which they are importing for the manufacturers at a cost of about £15 or £16 per ton f.o.b., why should they charge £27 per ton for it? We are not dealing with the sugar produced in Australia. In this connexion! we are dealing with sugar that must be imported to make up for the defieiency in the local” production. But the Government will not allow the manufacturers to import sugar for themselves. They prefer to import it and, apparently, make a profit of £10 per ton, including the duty, out of it. I ask Borne Minister to make a note of these facts and endeavour to treat the small fruit-growers of Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales more liberally, otherwise they wilt be driven off the orchards on which they have spent thousands of pounds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Glynn and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Glynn, and read a first and second time.
In Committee :
. -We have two and a half minutes in which to discuss a Bill containing 268’ pages and authorizing an expenditure of £13,512,774 covered by clause 2, and £23,624,914 covered by clause 3.
– The substance of the Bill has been discussed for the past three days.
– We have been discussing the Estimates, and when the guillotine fell we were dealing with the Treasury votes. There were many matters which honorable members were prevented from discussing, particularly in regard to the Defence and Postal Departments. I failed to get any reply to a question I submitted in reference to the training of returned soldiers. I pointed out that the Department of Repatriation had agreed to appoint committees of employers and employees to -value the work done by those returned men who have been given positions in various factories, and that although the organizations had appointed their representatives, the committees had not been called together. If we can interest the fellow employees of these returned men in this way we may possibly be able to give them the best of training. The scheme has everything in its favour, but although the representatives of the organizations were appointed in August last, so far no word has come from the Departments. It was asserted in a letter I quoted - and I believe the statement is true- that the ‘value of the work done by returned soldiers is such as to justify the employers paying 80 per cent, instead of 40 per cent, of these men’s wages. As the position is now, the Commonwealth are paying 40 per cent, of the wages that the employers should be paying.
– The honorable member said that some of the unions were hostile -to returned soldiers.
– No, that statement is toot correct; on the other hand, they have appointed representatives to act on these committees. Mr. Bradshaw was representative of the Trades Hall Council on the committee in this State, which resigned the -other day. The organizations are far from being hostile to the returned soliders ; they are very anxious to do the best they can for them; but they have not been called together, and the Minister who represents the Minister for Repatriation has not said a word about the matter.
– I have already taken steps to report to the Minister for Repatriation.
– I trust that the mat ter will be placed upon a proper basis.
– The time allotted for the debate has expired.
Bill reported without amendment, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– As already intimated, I have had under consideration for some time the granting of a small bonus to the lower-paid employees of this House. The Treasurer has agreed to make available an amount from his Advance Account, which will enable me to pay to cleaners and messengers who have dependants, and are in receipt of less than £204 per annum, a bonus of £10 each in the case of males, and £5 each in the case of females. This bonus is not to be regarded as a precedent; it is granted in recognition of the unusually high cost of commodities during the last twelve months, owing to war conditions.
– Will the gardeners participate ?
– I am referring to only those officers of the House over whom I have direct control. The gardens are controlled by the Joint House Committee, of which the President of the
Senate is Chairman. Quite recently, on account of war conditions, the gardeners received an increased rate of pay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill covers a promise made some time ago by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), when he stated that the original Act was not to be regarded as the last word upon repatriation. He still had under consideration various proposals, and amongst those was a scheme for the building of homes for returned soldiers and sailors. The necessity for this Bill arises from the fact that it is exceedingly difficult at the present time, particularly in New South Wales, to obtain dwelling-houses. The object of the measure is really to provide homes and acquire land for homes, in contradistinction to what may be termed the land settlement portion of the repatriationpolicy, although it is quite possible under this scheme to acquire a home, surrounded by a small area of land, which may be of some assistance in making the burden of life easier to the . returned soldier. The general application of the scheme will be to all returned soldiers, sailors, and nurses. The measure will apply only to such soldiers as are defined as “ eligible,” and as the home idea is the . vital principle in the Bill, an eligible person is defined as an Australian soldier who satisfies the Commissioner that he is either married, is about to marry, or has dependants for whom it is necessary for him to maintain a home. Others who may benefit are the female dependants of soldiers, and they are defined as being the widow of an Australian soldier, or, in the case of a deceased Australian soldier who was not married, his mother, provided that she is a widow and was, prior to the enlistment of the soldier, dependent upon him, or that her husband is so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to her support.
In regard to the general scheme of administration, it is proposed to appoint a
Commissioner who, subject to the Minister, should be responsible for the administration of the Act. He is to hold office for a term of seven years, at a salary of £1,500, and he will be removable from office only upon the conditions set out in the Bill. These provisions indicate the character of the person whom we desire to get for this position. He must be a man of high qualifications, because large responsibilities are to be intrusted to him in connexion with the acquisition of. land and the erection of houses. Provision is made, also, for the appointment of an Acting Commissioner’ in the event of the suspension, absence, or sickness of the Commissioner, or the vacancy of the office. The staff will not be governed by the provisions of the Public Service Act; that is to say, officers will be appointed to hold office during pleasure only. Civil servants, however, who may be appointed to assist in the work of the Commissioner will have their rights as members of the Public Service preserved.
-Will the Commissioner’s office be a branch of the Repatriation Department?
– It will be a separate branch, working under the Minister for Repatriation. There will still be the Controller doing the general administrative work of the Department of Repatriation, but there will be also the Commissioner appointed under this measure to carry out this housing, scheme. The Commissioner will be expected to utilize the existing agencies of the Commonwealth and the States wherever possible, in order to avoid duplication and unnecessary expense. The first power of the Commissioner will be to acquire land for the purpose of erecting, homes. The land may be acquired from private owners, or, with the consent of the Minister, any Crown land of a State may be acquired. The land acquired may be vacant land, or land upon which buildings have been erected. Very wide discretionary powers are given to the Commissioner, but there is a limitation that land, or land and buildings, exceeding £5,000 in value shall be acquired only with the approval of the Minister. All lands will be vested in fee-simple in the Commissioner. In regard to the erection of dwellings, he may call for tenders or have the buildings constructed in any way that he thinks advisable, but the total cost of any dwelling-house erected or. acquired, together with the land, is not to exceed £700. The Commissioner may ascertain that in some suburb a large area of land may be acquired, and he will have authority to purchase the land, subdivide it, and erect dwellings thereon, either on applications made or in anticipation of applications. In some of the more populous centres, such as Sydney and Melbourne, the Commissioner may find it cheaper, when he knows there is likely to be a number of applications in excess of those already received, to let a contract for the erection of a number of cottages, and to obtain all his building materials on a wholesale basis.
– This really means a system of standardized cottages.
– That is the idea. ‘ The Commissioner is given power to sell to any eligible person who is riot the owner of a dwelling-house within Australia or elsewhere. This scheme being for the benefit of returned soldiers, and such female dependants as come within the definition, the Commissioner can sell only to them. The sale will be upon prescribed terms, and the price must not exceed the capital cost to the Commissioner of the dwelling-house and the land. The land may be sold either with or without a deposit. If the soldier or sailor is able to pay a deposit there will be a transfer of the land and the building to him, subject to a mortgage to secure the balance of the purchase money. If he has no money with which to pay a deposit there may be a sale of the land to him, tut it will be in the form of a lease-purchase agreement, the title remaining in the Commissioner.. The land will be leased on a weekly tenancy, for which a rental will be charged sufficient to cover interest at 5 per cent, of the capital cost of the property, insurance, rates, if any, ‘repairs, and such sum towards the reduction of the purchase money as the Commissioner may think fit.
– How repayments shall be made will be at the absolute discretion of the Commissioner)
– Yes, as to the rates and amounts. It will depend on the nature of the home. There will be a scale, and tables will be prepared in the usual way. When a sum equal to onefifth of the purchase money has been paid, a transfer, to the purchaser may be effected, and the land will be vested in him, subject to a mortgage. He will thus become the registered proprietor of the estate, subject to this mortgage. .
The Commissioner has power to advance money to eligibles within the definition. Advances must be for the purpose of erecting a dwelling-house on land owned by a soldier or sailor; or to purchase land and erect a dwelling-house on it; or to purchase a dwelling-house, together with the land on- which .it is erected; or to complete a partially-erected house owned by the soldier or sailor; or to enlarge a house owned by him; or to discharge any mortgage, charge, or encumbrance already existing on such a house. The money borrowed must be expended upon the property on which it is advanced, and on which it will be a first charge.
– Could a man get an advance upon a home which was unencumbered and use the money in his business?
– No; these advances are given only to help soldiers and sailors to acquire homes. Assistance for the carrying on of a business must be applied for under the general scheme of repatriation.
– If a soldier has a home and dispossesses himself of it, will he be debarred from taking advantage of the provisions of this measure?
– The intention is that every soldier and sailor shall have an opportunity under this Bill to get a home. Suppose a man has got into difficulties, and. has had to sell a home acquired independently of this scheme, there is nothing to prevent him from applying to participate in its benefits. Under the Bill, however, money can be borrowed only for the purpose of making a home.
– Does the Bill cover the case of . a man possessed of a farm who wishes to erect a dwelling-house on it?
– A man possessed of a few acres can apply for a loan for the erection of a home on his land, but it is intended to keep this scheme_quite apart from the land settlement scheme.
The advances may be made in instalments, and their purposes, are determined by clause 23. The Commissioner cannot make an advance unless he is satisfied that the dwelling-house in respect of which, or for the purpose of which, itis applied, is intended to be used by the applicant as a home for himself and his dependants, and that neither the applicant nor his wife, should the applicant be married, is the owner of any other dwelling.
The conditions of the advance are specified. The Commissioner is to be satisfied that the house, when erected, will be a substantial dwelling, and that the plans and specifications comply with the prescribed conditions set out in the regulations, and the plans and specifications must be approved by him. Further, the Commissioner must be satisfied that, having regard to the locality . in which the house is proposed to be erected, the risk is a reasonable one for him to undertake. In all cases where advances are made, there must be a mortgage executed to secure it, and the property must be unencumbered by any previous mortgage or charge.
There are certain general conditions which apply both to sales and to advances. In the first place, the Commissioner is not bound to make a sale or advance to every eligible person. Before he makes an advance, or executes a contract of sale, he is to be satisfied that the returned soldier or sailor has a reasonable prospect of carrying out the terms of the contract, or repaying the advance. That is an’ ordinary proper business precaution. The terms of repayment which are applicable to mortgagees and to sales, may be made either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. They will depend entirely on the terms contained in the contract of sale or governing the advance. Where a dwelling house is of brick or stone, or material of similar durability, the life of it is set down at thirty-seven years, and the life of a wooden building is set down at twenty years. The life, for instance, of a mixed wood and stone, or wood and. brick, or wood and concrete building is to be fixed at the discretion of the Commissioner, but is not to exceed thirtyseven years.
Persons, on making a contract, may give a deposit, “which will be treated as a deposit bearing interest, and the accumulated interest will be taken into account in the final settlement. The rate of interest is not to exceed 5 per cent.
The property will be held by the purchaser on certain conditions. Gene-
Tally speaking, as long as there is money owing by the purchaser or the persons to whom an advance has been made, the property in. respect of which it is owing must be kept in good and tenantable repair, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, who, should there be default, has the necessary power to step in and protect it. While money remains unpaid, the soldier or sailor who owes it is prevented from sub-letting the property on which it has been advanced, except with the consent in writing of the Commissioner. But as in Australia persons find it necessary to move about a great deal, the Commissioner is empowered to permit sub-letting. It may be found desirable to exercise such a power in cases where a man finds that he has to leave his home to go elsewhere to get work.
– Would such a man be precluded from applying for assistance to establish another home in another district?
– Each person eligible under the Act will have one chance, but one chance only.
– What will happen when a man has paid off the money advanced to him?
– The Commonwealth will then have done its duty in providing for the home. So long as an advance or mortgage remains unpaid, there is a limit on the right of transfer.
– Can a man pay off at any time?
– Yes. So long as any land or dwelling is subject to the contract of sale, mortgage, or other security, the transfer will not have any force or effect. If a man has paid for his land, then, of course, as I say, the Commissioner has done with him. At the same time, there are some transfers that will take place by the operation of law, where a man goes insolvent, or dies, and the property descends. In addition, a man may arrange with the Commissioner to transfer his land to an eligible person, but he will not be allowed to transfer except oh prescribed conditions or in cases of hardship.
– If an eligible man in the city desires to go to the country, may an exchange be made?
– I am sure the Commissioner will facilitate any arrangement of the kind, so long as it is bond fide. When it is the case of a proposed transferee who -is not eligible, and it is within five years after the making of the advance, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the -refusal thereof would induce great hardship, the Commissioner may consent to a transfer; but after five years consent to the transfer is under such conditions as are prescribed.
As regards default, in a case where it is a matter of three months, the Commissioner has power to sell; but I wish honorable members to bear in mind that there is a relief clause in the latter part of the Bill. Clause 44 enables the Commissioner, in cases of hardship, to extend the period under such conditions and terms as he may think fit for the payments required under the Act. That is a very proper clause, enabling relief to be given.
Insurance of the property is required. By clause 38, the purchaser or borrower has to take out a policy, and it is proposed that the Commissioner shall have his own insurance fund. It is believed that there will be a sufficient number of persons and homes under the Act to justify a fund of the kind being established.
For the purposes of the scheme a special fund known as the War Service Homes Trust Fund is to be created. It will be supported by the sums of money which come from loans under Acts to be passed by Parliament from time to time; by certain moneys which are to be appropriated out of revenue and paid into the fund; re-purchase moneys realized in cases where the Commissioner sells properties; and any moneys received in payment of loans. As against that fund there will be debited all those moneys which are paid out for the purpose of acquiring land, for loans by way of advances,, or expended on the erection of buildings and on the salaries of the Commissioner and staff, and all other payments, excepting those relating to insurance. ‘
In conclusion, I wish to refer to one other clause. I may say incidentally, however, that the Bill refers to the Northern Territory, and the Commissioner is enabled to deal with leaseholds in accordance with the .Territory Ordinances. I particularly desire to call attention to clause 49, which indicates one of the most important methods by which the Commissioner proposes to carry out the Act. That clause provides -
Several of the Savings Banks have now already in existence staffs which are engaged on an exactly similar class of work as that proposed by the Bill. Instead of setting up staffs, wherever it is possible to take advantage of the experience of those State institutions, it is proposed that the Commissioner shall do so.
By way of illustration, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has given in his remarks in the Senate one or two illustrations of how the system of repayments will work. In the -case of a £600 brick house, with a life of thirtyseven years, the scale of repayment works out at 13s. 6d. per week with rates and insurance, and, with a twenty-six years* period, at 15s. 4d. A wooden house, at £500, will work out at about 15s. per week.
– As against 13s. 6d. for a brick bouse?
– The honorable member will see that in the case of the wooden bouse the period is twenty years, whereas in the case of a brick house it is thirtyseven years.
– A house at £600 or £700 built now will, two years hence, be altogether a different proposition.
– The men will require houses” immediately, and the Commissioner must do his best with the material at his disposal ; the mere fact that timber, and so forth, will be cheaper two or three years hence is no justification for not assisting the men as soon as possible. How many will take advantage of the scheme it is impossible to forecast. There are about 70,000 soldiers here already, and there are to come from 180,000 to 200,000. A great many of the men are single, and some are married with families, while a certain proportion have homes already, and no doubt there will be others who do not desire to have homes. Many have been killed, but their dependants are here, and we may have to provide homes for them.
– I suppose the provision of homes is irrespective of whether men are married or single?
– The homes are for those who are married, or are going to be married, or who have dependants for whom it is necessary to provide homes.
– Is there any specific time in which a man must be married?
– I think the Commissioner will be able to get sufficient satisfactory evidence to satisfy him on that Joint; at any rate, that is a matter of d etail, which I can hardly discuss on the second reading.
– To have to pay 13s. 6d. per week will be hard on many of the men.
– It will be cheaper than paying rent for a corresponding house, for it means only 5 per cent, on the, outlay.
– Is there any power to purchase houses already erected?
– Yes; the Commissioner has- that power, but the limitation is £700 for the individual home. I submit the Bill in the hope of seeing it placed on the statute-book before we rise for Christmas. It is a big housing scheme that we are initiating to provide homes for a large number of men over the whole of the continent. The scheme, I believe, can be carried out satisfactorily, and, if it is, the Commonwealth Parliament will have performed a very useful function, and assisted in solving the housing problem of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
Mr. Poynton. - No.
– I move -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
This is a Bill to simplify dealing with what may be called the military estates of deceased soldiers. In many cases, the estates of deceased soldiers consist only of their military pay and personal effects in the control of the Department. In such cases, the practice of the Department has been to follow the provisions of the Regimental Debts Act, an Imperial measure, so far as it is considered applicable. We have been in the habit, where the soldier died intestate, of communicating with the next of kin and paying over moneys in hand, and also handing over the effects to persons whom we believe, on the evidence submitted to us, to be next of kin. Where there has been some doubt, the practice has been to ask the Curator of Intestate Estates, or the Public Trustee, as the case may . be, to obtain administration of the deceased soldiers’ estates; but, even in these cases, the Curator or the Public Trustee hasasked us for indemnities against any mistake that might be made in paying over to the beneficiaries on the information we supply.
– Will this Bill apply in every case?
-No; only in cases when we deal with the estates, or ask the State officials to deal with it. Of course, in cases where the wife or next of kin has thought fit to take out letters of administration in the State where the deceased was domiciled at the date of death, no trouble has arisen; but, in many cases in which we have endeavoured to avoid administration, . and have handed over small amounts of money and personal effects, we have subsequently found ourselves called upon to make good claims made under wills subsequently found. In other cases where we have asked the Curator to administer, he has called on us under our guarantee to’ refund to him amounts he has paid over when subsequently claimed by executors under wills. In one case, we paid over, I think, £60 odd to a widow, believing her to be the next of kin and the only person entitled, and twelve months after, a trustee company proved a will in which the money was left to the deceased’s father. He made a claim on the Curator, who called on us to pay under our indemnity, and we had to do so. The object of this Bill is to clear up any doubt as to the Imperial Regimental Debts Bill being applicable to the whole of the Dominions, and also to enable us to deal” wholly and solely with the military estates of deceased soldiers. It is provided in the Bill that- “Military estate” means-
It is to enable us to pay over any money due to the deceased, to his personal representative, or to any person “ who, in the opinion of the prescribed authority, is beneficially entitled thereto, or to such persons or classes of persons as are prescribed.” There is also in the Bill a provision’to exempt the Department from liability for past action. Clause 6 provides that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act or ‘State Act the Commonwealth shall not be liable to any action, claim, or demand in respect of anything done in connexion with -
the disposition of a military estate in pursuance of this Act; or
the disposition, prior to the com mencement of this Act, of any property of a deceased soldier, in pursuance of the provisions of the Regimental Debts Act; or
the disposition, prior to the commencement of this Act, of any property of a deceased soldier, which, if this Act had been in force at the time the thing was done, would have been in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
– That clause is practically to indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of past actions.
– It is retrospective. Under another provision, if the Curator acts in a case . at our request and . has a surplus in hand which he cannot dispose of, the Government may call on him to return it to the Commonwealth. As to any unapplied military estate, it is provided that-
Where it appears that there is no person to whom the military estate of a deceased member may be paid or delivered under section 4 of this Act, the proceeds of the estate shall be applied, as prescribed., to the creation or maintenance of any prescribed fund for the benefit of persons who are or have been members or dependants of members.
We have decided that in such circumstances the proceeds of the estate shall go to the Repatriation Fund.
– In the event of a blunder by a departmental officer, leading to the proceeds of an estate being handed over to the wrong person, would the Department, under clause 6, be relieved of all responsibility?
– Yes. In that case the next of kin would suffer.
– If a departmental junior clerk made a mistake, as the result of which money went to the wrong individual, would the next of kin, under this clause, be debarred from recovering from the Department?
– That would be very cruel.
-This Bill will grant relief to many beneficiaries who cannot now obtain money which should properly go to them. As a lawyer, I know of such cases. In a Queensland case the Curator was asked to administer the estate of a single man. In such circumstances, under the State law, the father was entitled to the proceeds. The deceased’s brothers and sisters could not prove the death of the father, although it was morally beyond doubt that he was dead, and the money lies to-day in the hands of the Curator, and will ultimately go into the State funds. If this Bill had been in force, the money could have been paid over to the brothers and sisters of the deceased who were the only persons entitled. There was no moral doubt as to the father’s death. He had gone to Western Australia on the discovery of gold there, and although his death could not be proved, there was no doubt that be was deceased.
– The Bill may be sound so far as particular cases are concerned; but why should we have this general indemnity ?
– What about the position of fathers who have deserted their families ?
– There are many cases in which the father of a family who has cleared out, leaving the mother to rear the children, is entitled to claim. There ate many cases in which a boy has gone to . the Front and has died intestate, and where we have been asked by the mother to pay over the money that was coming to him. On asking for evidence of her widowhood, we have been told that the husband is alive, but has not contributed a penny to the support of his wife and family. In such circumstances, we cannot pay the mother of the deceased soldier a penny. The Curator takes over the estate, and if the father hears of what has happened he comes in and claims.
– He always does, and very often he is a waster.
– Yes. My knowledge both as a lawyer and as a member of this House convinces me that this Bill, if passed, will enable justice to be done in many deserving cases.
– The general indemnity in clause 6 would not impair the right of the lawful beneficiary to recover from a person who had wrongfully received.
– No. In one case, as I have already stated, we paid over the money coming to a deceased soldier to his widow, who was living in England. Twelve or sixteen months later a trustee company in Melbourne proved the will of the deceased, in which he left everything to hisfather, and ignored his wife. The trustee company called on us to pay over the amount involved - £60- and we had to do so. . That was a case in which we had. done an act of simple justice, but on the will being subsequently proved, an action could not stand.
– The Minister does not seem to have provided in clause 6 that reasonable care shall be taken by the Government to ascertain the true beneficiaries in every case.
– The claimants in each case have to fill in a very elaborate form, setting out the names of the relatives and the position of the deceased. In very few cases is it possible to fill in every clause.
– Could not the Minister so amend the clause so as to provide that it shall apply except where the Commonwealth has been guilty of oarelessness or negligence ?
– t do not think there would be any objection to the insertion of those words.
There has been some doubt as to whether the Imperial Regimental Debts Act applies all over the Dominions and it is really to remove any doubt, so far as the application of that Act to Australia is concerned, that we have introduced this Bill. Theestates of soldiers who have died in the Old Country have been administered there under the Regimental Debts Act, and the Home authorities hold the opinion that that Act applies throughout the Dominions. If we do not pass this Bill we shall leave the beneficiaries, in the case of the intestate estates of members of the Australian Imperial Force, exposed to many troubles.
– I sympathize with the object which the Government have in view, but the Bill should provide for the exercise of reasonable care.
– Under clause 5 the Commonwealth is also relieved of all responsibility.
– Honorable, members may rest assured that all possible precautions will be taken to ascertain who. are rightly entitled.
– What authority would advise the Department before the. actual distribution of the proceeds of such an estate ?
– -When we ask the Curator to administer he takes action under the law of the State, and calls upon the claimants to prove that they are the next of kin. In the case to which. I referred a few moments ago, the Public Trustee of Queensland asked the brothers and sisters of the deceased soldier to prove that their father was dead. There was no moral doubt as to his death, but no legal proof of it, and the result is that the money in the estate, which might have been very helpful to the claimants, who were in a humble position, will ultimately be paid over to the State Government.
– We are not attacking the principle of the Bill, but I should like to know who would have the final .voice in the disposition of this money.
– The matter would be dealt with by regulation, and probably the Minister administering the Act would have the final voice in the matter.
– Supposing a woman had obtained a divorce from her husband on the ground of desertion and had married again, could the first husband, who was perhaps an absolute waster and had left his family without support, claim to share in. the estate of his son who died intestate?
– Yes. An extraordinary state of affairs in regard to the relationships of various people has been disclosed in connexion with the Department’s dealings with soldiers who have gone abroad.
– This Bill applies, only to the military estate, and not to any other part of a deceased soldier’s estate.
– That is so; it applies to money due by the Commonwealth to the deceased as well as to the personal effects of the deceased that may happen to be in our hands. There is also a clause providing that-
The medals of a deceased member that are not bequeathed to some specified person by will shall be delivered to such person as the Minister, or the person authorized thereto by the Minister, approves.
That clause, will enable the Department to hand over the personal decorations of a deceased soldier to those entitled to receive them. I commend this Bill to honorable members, and am satisfied that after careful consideration they will recognise that it will give a great deal of relief, and is intended to deal fairly and justly with the military pay, personal effects, medals, and decorations of soldiers who, unfortunately, die intestate, and whose relatives we do not wish to put to the expense of taking out letters of administration.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Tudor) adjourned.’
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 16th December, vide page 9333) :
Amendment (by Mr. Page, on behalf of Mr. West) again proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - Section sixteen of the principal Act is amended by adding the following proviso to sub-section (12) : - “ Provided always that when the last accounting period prior to the 4th August, 1914, was not a date later than the 30th September, 1913, then any accounting period between the 4th August, 1914, and 30th September, 1913, shall be one of the pre-war trading years, provided that it is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the profits made between the 4th day of August, 1914, and the close of the accounting period are not proportionately in excess of the profits of the preceding part of such year.”
.- I move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by leaving out all the words after “ last “ in the first line of the proviso, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words - “ pre-war accounting period is more than six months prior to the 4th day of August, 1914, the proportion” of the 1914 balance may be taken and averaged as the pre-war standard of the last pre-war trade year, and this provision shall apply to the 1915-16 tax already paid and a refund made on account thereof.”
In common with other honorable members, I received a copy of this proposed amendment from Mr. Macintosh, whose case was put before the Committee when this measure was last under consideration. I understand that it is acceptable to those manufacturers who suffer on account of having an unusual accounting period. The amendment will accord with the provision in the British Act, which provides that where a portion of the accounting period is within the war period, it may be averaged in accordance with the profits derived before the outbreak of war. Can the Treasurer see his way clear to accept the amendment?
– It is the general desire of honorable members on both sides of the House that this Bill should be disposed of as quickly as possible. Since Monday I have conferred on more than one occasion with the Commissioner of Taxation, to see if it would . be possible to adopt the principle embodied in the proposed new clause and in the suggested amendment of that clause, but I have been assured that the acceptance of it would mean that the Bill and the original Act would need to be recast. I am not prepared to do this at the present stage. The measure, as it stands, contains some very remedial provisions which will be appreciated by the community generally, and I ask honorable members not to press the matter further.
.- I admit that the Treasurer has made concessions. He has consented to an amendment which will remove the retrospective character of his proposals in regard to new capital and the 10 per cent, standard, but I prefer not to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment of the proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I had intended to submit for the consideration of the Committee a new clause, to read as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act or this Act, this Act and the principal Act shall expire on 30th June, 1918.
Would that proposal have been acceptable to the Treasurer?
– After consultation with the Commissioner of Taxation and the responsible officers of the Treasury, I am prepared to terminate the Act definitely on the 30th June, 1919. If peace is signed before the 30th June in the coming year, the Act will automaticallycease to operate before that date; but as it is conceivable that peace may not be signed until 1920, I have given instructions for an amendment to be drafted which will accomplish more effectively than would the proposal of the honorable member that which he seeks -to attain, namely, the termination of the Act on the 30th June next. The amendment will be moved in another place.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; and report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- While many of the amendments incorporated in this Bill give some relief to the taxpayers, I wish to place on record my objection to the exemption of people who may earn’ profits without having to spend 6d., and simply live on their wits. I have fought very strongly to secure some relief for those persons who go out in the back country, and endeavour to build up one of the best assets of the Commonwealth, but I have not succeeded in getting it. If two persons have a few thousand pounds each, the one who goes out into the back country and endeavours to develop our resources, who provides employment for -many people, and takes the risks of drought and many difficulties unforeseen, is called upon to pay war-time profits taxation on any profits he may happen to make, although they may be profits on paper only; whereas the other, who may invest his money in mortgages, and come to the city to get a living by his wits, will find himself exempt from this war-time profits taxation, no matter how much money he may make. The man who may make £15,000 or £20,000 by securing an option of a mining property, will not be called upon to pay 6d. in the shape of war-time profits taxation; whereas the man who is engaged in the task of developing the resources of the Commonwealth will be deprived of 50 per cent, or 75 per cent, of his profits. It is a flaw in our legislation, and I would not be doing my duty if I did not draw attention to it.
T8.14]. - I thank honorable members for the consideration they have shown in connexion with the passage of this Bill. I am well aware that many of them have foregone their views in relation to the intricate matters contained in the parent Act in order that, at this late hour of the session, the Bill may not be delayed, and so that benefits conferred by it may be given to the community. The Government are quite sensible of the spirit of conciliation displayed on both sides of the House.
Question resolved in the’ affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 16th December (vide page 9364), of Governor-General’s message, on motion by Mr. Groom -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the grant of a pension to the first Chief Justice of Australia.
Upon which Mr. Higgs had moved-
That after the word “ That “ there be inserted the words “ in view of the state of the finances and the just demand by the public and press for economy in Commonwealth expenditure, the present is not an opportune time to grant a pension of £1,750 to any one.”
– It is not because of any feeling against the present Chief Justice of the Commonwealth that I oppose the granting of this pension. He is a man who has filled ‘a great public position in Australia, and has been prominently before the people for many years, and we feel that he is entitled to all honour and respect. He was a shining light in the political arena, and also as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, and of the High Court. I have watched his career for many years, and have regarded him as a highly talented lawyer and Judge, who has given what some people would regard as his best to the country. I have differed from him on many occasions, but that does not influence me in my opposition to the motion before the Committee. If the circumstances warranted the granting of this consideration to Sir Samuel Griffith, I would still think the amount was too large. But one cannot forget that when he accepted the position of Chief Justice of the High Court, there was a clear understanding that no pension attached to the appointment. He has dra’wn a bigger salary than any other Australian Judge, and why a. pension should be granted to him, and not to any other members of the High Court Bench, I cannot understand. During my membership of this House, many men have left political life, and some of them have since died. Although they had been receiving the emoluments which attached to membership of this Parliament, and in some cases to Ministerial positions, some of them were in poor circumstances. Yet, though they had given their best to their country, there was no thought of granting a pension to them. I could enumerate twenty or thirty men who are equally as deserving of a pension as is Sir Samuel Griffith. Although they had not advertised their impecuniosity, their circumstances were well known. Their talents had been employed with profit to the country in Federal and State politics. Their income was much less than that received by the Chief Justice, and, in addition, they were subjected to demands upon their resources, as all members of Parliament are, from which a Judge is immune. The Chief Justice has not a large number of constituents who think that they are entitled to a portion of his salary. I have never refused in this House to vote for increments to men who were receiving high salaries., I have recognised that there are established standards of what men in certain positions are worth; and if increments were due I have always voted for them, and in consequence have brought down upon myself a good deal of adverse criticism. Some persons think that the salary of the- King’s representative is very large; but, although I would vote for the abolition of the position, I would not, while the position remains, support a proposal to reduce the salary attaching to it. A reduction of salaries will not effect in any way an alteration in our economic system. I, with many others, believe that the whole economic system should be changed, so that pensions might be granted to all men and women when they are compelled to retire from work. One could understand a proposal being submitted to pay the old-age and invalid pensioners an allowance sufficient to maintain them. There is no pretence that the small pension now paid to those people will support them; it is recognised to be only an aid. My view is that adequate provision should be made by. the community for the old-age and invalidity of all men and women after their working days are over, because, whether they work with their mind or with their hands, all contribute something to the welfare of the community. It is quite possible that the Chief Justice has been unfortunate in investments - I should not think that that is the case - and the Government may be « of opinion that it is not right that an ex-Chief Justice of the High Court should spend the leisure of his old age without an income sufficient to maintain him in the state to which he has been accustomed. But no such consideration is shown in respect of other people. For instance, old soldiers who have fought for their country, and by reason of that fact have been incapacitated in life earlier than they otherwise would have been, are left to their own resources in their old age. We hear of no proposal to give to them an increase in their pen- sions. Perhaps they have never had an opportunity to set aside any money for their old age or to keep them in the event of their becoming invalids. It is a well-known fact that 95 per cent, of the community have very little opportunity to save, and the most they can expect is that, with a fair amount of luck, they may possess a home of their own and be independent of the landlord. But no effort has been made to introduce a comprehensive pension scheme for the benefit of. the whole community. With the knowledge I have, I wonder at that omission. If I could think that’ this Bill was the forerunner of an extensive system of pensions to all aged and invalid people, I might be inclined to regard it more favourably ; but we know that this proposal stands alone. In my electorate there a”re many people who for a number of years have just managed to exist. Many in’ years gone by may have been in comfortable circumstances, and lived and dressed well. But as they grew older, especially if they were unskilled workers, and their muscular strength was their only industrial asset, they were no longer wanted, and now they are obliged to eke out an existence by taking any job that offers. I have always regretted that our economic system permits of such And bearing them in mind, I cannot conscientiously vote to grant a pension to a gentleman who has been drawing £4,000 per annum for fifteen years, and had received £3,000 per annum in the preceding ten years. I agree as to the need for paying our Judges adequately, in order that the Judiciary may be kept pure. But the salary which Sir Samuel Griffith has been receiving has been high enough to secure that end. Many people are of opinion that a person drawing a large salary ought to save a good deal of money. Some of my constituents think I can save £500 per annum. They say that a man who has been a member of this House for fifteen years, and has not made a competency, must be thriftless, and it is a peculiar fact that those who expect one to save most make the heaviest demands. Surely, if a member of this House is expected to save on an income of £600 per annum, after paying election expenses, and meeting all the other demands that are made upon his resources, how much more should a man’ be- expected to save out of an income of £4,000 per annum. Knowing that the Chief Justice has been drawing a large salary for many years, and that he was appointed on the understanding that he would receive no pension, those honorable members who vote for this Bill will be adopting a course that is not justified in the circumstances. Of course, this Bill is a legal method of providing such a pension; but the proposal is not fair to the rest of the community. Whilst I have the highest opinion of the gentleman for whom this pension is proposed, I know there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who have never had an opportunity to save a penny, and who require pensions but do not get them. Before a woman of sixty years of age can obtain a pension of 12s. 6d. a week, we insist that she shall prove that her husband is not earning £2 a week. If he is earning £1 17s. 6d. a week, she can get a pension of only 2s. 6d. a week. Similarly, a man of sixty-five cannot get a pension of 12s. 6d. unless he can prove that he is not earning more than a trifling amount, and has not put by for a rainy day. Under these circumstances, we should not give a pension to the Chief Justice without requiring of him the declaration that he is in an impecunious position, and would not be able to live if he left the Bench. At any rate, he should be asked what his position is, and a pension of £1,750 would be too much, whatever the circumstances. I have no feeling against the Chief Justice, but I think that, while we are niggardly towards those who have never had an opportunity to make any provision for their old age, it is not fair to grant a pension to a man who has always drawn a large salary.
. -i am sorry that the Committee is not unanimous in regard to this proposal, which I shall support, because I understand that the Government desire to recognise the great work that Sir Samuel Griffith . has done for Australia, and have also private reasons to justify their action.
If I might digress a little, I would ask Ministers to consider in the recess the advisability of amending the War Pensions Act. At the present time, pensions granted to soldiers and their relatives are Eased on the earnings of the soldier at the time he enlisted. Many hoye enlisted at the age of eighteen years, when they were either not wage-earners at all, or were getting very, little. They were away at the war for three or four years, and during that time did a man’s work; but when one of them has fallen, the amount of the pension payable to his mother is made to depend on the amount of his earnings at the time of his enlistment.
– On the extent of her dependency on him.
– Had the son remained here, he would to-day be probably earning £3 or £4 per week. The pension rate should be based on what the men would be earning now had they not gone to the war. I hope that consideration will be given, also, to the case of returned single blind soldiers whose pension is not sufficient under the present Act, and urge the Minister to make some announcement of the Government’s intentions in this direction.
The proposed pension to the Chief Justice is a tribute to one whose work is well known, and of whom Australia may justly be proud. We should be wanting in a sense of duty did we not recognise our indebtedness to him.
– I protest against the granting of the proposed pension. I have nothing against the Chief Justice, whom I do not know personally, though I am willing to accept all that the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has said of his capacity and attainments. What was said on that score has nothing to do with the question.
– But the necessities of the Commonwealth have. We want the best judicial talent that we can get.
– The fact that the Chief Justice has occupied many high political and judicial posts, with credit to himself and advantage to the country, is no reason for paying him a pension of £1,750.
– Is the honorable member totally opposed to the payment of pensions ?
– I am opposed to the payment of pensions to officials and others until the workers, who produce the wealth of the country, toiling in factories and workshops, can obtain more than a mere pittance in their old age, and are , not forced to go through a humiliating procedure to get it. An old gentleman of seventy, who has resided in the “ colonies,” as he calls them, for sixty-three years, a widower, and by trade a carpenter, has written to me to say that he has been refused a pension because he earns more than £58 a year. He has worked as earnestly and thoroughly at his occupation as has the Chief Justice; but contrast the treatment of the two ! The carpenter cannot get a pension of 12s. 6d. a week because he has earned £58 10s. in the last twelve months. The country does not care what may become of him, though if .he drops in the street the police will take him to the hospital, where he can die if he gets there in time. Until the country recognises the worth of its toilers, and provides for the time when they can no longer be usefully employed by placing them above want, I shall not vote for the payment of pensions to officials who have always drawn big salaries. I get many letters of complaint about our pensions law. Recently, a gentleman in my electorate was refused a pension because he happens to have acquired a house. I do not reflect on the public officials who are administering the law; they have to carry out its provisions. At my request, when I forwarded the papers in the ordinary way, the case was reviewed, and the magnificent sum of 6d. per week increase was solemnly given.
– Does the pensioner live in his house?
-I think so. He does not get rent from it. Do you say that because a man has saved enough to acquire a house, he must starve ?
– If he lives in his own house there is nothing to prevent him getting a pension.
– I cannot say whether he lives in the house, but I believe he does.
– The fact that a pensioner lives, in his own house is not counted against him.
– I shall look into the matter, and ascertain the exact position. In any’ case, after the matter had been carefully gone into, his pension was advanced by 6d. per week.
– There are many similar cases.
– That makes my case all the stronger, and I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite. The only one who has taken a decent view of the position is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
– All I say is that the facts stated by you are not quite accurate, because the man would be entitled to a pension.
– The facts are as I have stated. The only point on which I am uncertain, in the absence of my memoranda, is whether he actually lives in the house, but, in any case, I am certain if he does not he is not receiving rent for it. Then, there is the case of. a lady in Broken Hill, who - has an invalid son of about seventeen and a paralyzed husband. The son, who has to be moved about by mechanical means, was in receipt of a small invalid pension, but the amount was regulated by the fact that he had a father living. As I say, the father is now paralyzed, and the lady told me a month ago, when asking me to try to secure a (pension for her husband, that unless something was done she would have to disown her child, and hand him over to the State. All who read the newspapers must know of such cases as those cited by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) the other night; and only a day or two ago we had that awful case in Fitzroy, where a woman had to wheel her dead child, and abandon him under a tree, because she was too poor to bury him. From personal experience, I know how these things hurt, and so does every working man or woman in the country who lives on the borders of starvation. ‘ There is not a worker whose family could exist for a fortnight if the wages were cut off. And how are these people treated when they are old ? They are thrown on the scrap heap - there is no talk of a pension of £33 odd a week for them. All honour to the Chief Justice for obtaining the position he did ; but he was well recompensed with a magnificent salary for any services he rendered to the Commonwealth. It has been pointed out that during the period he occupied the position of Chief Justice of Queensland and the Commonwealth he received in return something like £87,000. In his case it is not desired to take into consideration how much he earned last year, or what he did with the £87,000; and this difference is because of the difference in the social scale.
– There was no difference in intellect or intellectual services, of course?
– There is just as much difference in intellect, possibly, as there is between the honorable member and the Chief Justice. The honorable member reminds me of a gentleman of the other side who spoke to me when I first came into this House as a member. One day, in conversation, he said, “ If you want to stay here you will have to keep your opinions to yourself.” When I replied that I had not got here by holding my tongue, he said, “ Wait until you have been here a bit longer, and you will realize that if a man has brains enough to get here he could, by the exercise of them, have attained a very much better position outside.” “ But,” I said, “ if it was my brain capacity that brought me here, how is it that my employer did not take that brain capacity into consideration when I was ‘ rattling the banjo ‘ at Broken Hill, where I did not get anything more because of it?” To this he retorted, “You are a hard case.” It is the same with the honorable member who interjected ; he talks about brain capacity, but he might just as well have directed his question to his present leader (Mr. Hughes) some twenty odd years ago, when that gentleman was walking about the country without a decent suit of clothes to his back. He might then have twitted the present Prime Minister with want of intellect, though now he is willing to follow that gentleman as leader to-day. The workers I have been talking about may have far more brains than either myself, the honorable member for Koo- yong (Sir Robert Best), or the Chief Justice, but they lack the opportunities to acquire education and so enable themselves to occupy highly-paid and honoured positions in the country, as the Chief Justice has done. If these workers are robbed of these opportunities, they, like the poor carpenter of whom I have spoken, have to stick to whatever occupation they are following, and when they become old they are asked, “Did you earn £58 10s. last year?” If they have earned more than that sum then they are refused the paltry 12s. 6d., though they have helped to pay the Chief Justice’s salary, and, in doing so, if they happen to be miners, have run the risk of falling rocks, pneumonia, lead and other diseases inseparable from their occupation. They may “ hew the wood and draw the water “ all the days of their, lives unless some happy accident gives them the chance to develop their intellect. If they are given the chance, and succeed in spite of thendisadvantages, they are patted on the back’, and told what clever fellows they are; if they fail, it is 12s. 6d. per week or the scrap social heap, not the £33 odd which goes to the successful man.
For those reasons I am opposed to the Chief Justice, or any other official, receiving a pension of any kind. They are, in my estimation, paid sufficiently well to enable them to practice that thrift which they are always urging on the workers. Does any honorable gentleman who is supporting this measure propose to put the Chief Justice, or any one else to whom they are willing to pay a pension of this kind, through the sort of social “third degree” -that the workers have to face? Do they wish to make the Chief Justice or his family the subject of the same kind of investigation that is being made in” the case of the telephone girls at the present time, when they are asking for an. increase of wages? Do they desire to know, like the gentleman on the Board of the jam factory employees, in Sydney, why a work girl, who was under crossexamination, wore lace on her clothes? Would they ask the Chief Justice’s lady that question ?
– They might ask the Chief Justice himself why he wears lace.
– They might, but they are not likely to. This .humiliating procedure is gone through under our arbitration system -when it is a question’ of the bare necessities of life, and it is all based on the fact that society does not recognise the people on whom the whole social fabric rests. Because of this, I am irrevocably opposed to giving a pension to anybody until we here, in Australia, set an example by recognising the workers’ right, to whom we owe everything - who have made it possible for us, who have escaped from the risks and misery of starvation, to know a little of the joys of life.
– So long as you use the word “ workers “ in the wide sense in which you used it previously.
– I make no distinction between the mental and the manual worker. Anybody who contributes useful work I recognise as a worker; but I do draw a distinction between a mere owner of plant and the man who, in the capacity of manager, uses his brains and works the plant.
– It all depends on how the owner came by the plant ; it might be by his brains.
– Ownership does not mean brains. An idiot may be born a millionaire, and sometimes it does not require brains to acquire wealth. All workers, mental or manual, who contribute useful work to society are entitled to at least the necessities of life, and, until these are guaranteed by society, I, for one, will not vote in support of any pension for people who all their lives have enjoyed all the advantages of our social system, and for whom it is now proposed to make life more easy; the more people have, the more is given to them, while the poor devil who does not know where his next feed is coming from, and requires a pension, is asked what he earned last year. If such a man, or his wife, or sister, happens to get a job,. they are put through a humiliating examination as to how much they have paid for their clothing, their tobacco, or their newspapers when they seek decent wages. All this humiliation for the man who creates the wealth of the country, but nothing of the kind for the Chief Justice, or those of his class. This is but the forerunner of other proposals of the sume character. If the Chief Justice is entitled to a pension, it will be said that other occupants of the High Court Bench should receive’ a pension upon their retirement, and so we are to be saddled with this added burden.
I referred this afternoon to a gentleman who is on the salaried list of one of our public Departments, and who, in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is looking after his constituency. There we have yet another instance of the truth of the saying, “ That to those who have shall more be given, and the country shall pay.” Honorable members know of these things. No solid reason has been given for the payment of this pension only that Sir Samuel Griffith has a long list of scholarly achievements and that he occupied a high position in the political life of Queensland prior to his elevation to the Bench. I do not claim to be. able to pass judgment on the services he has rendered the Commonwealth, but as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has said, he has been well paid - and paid according to the agreed terms of his contract - for the work done by him. Contrast his treatment with that meted out to men and Women in our factories and workshops. There are nopensions for them, when they are no longer able to work. Take again the case of the Broken Hill miner. When his system has run down, or he has broken up, does his employer say to him, “ You have worked for me for eight or ten years; you have done good work, and you have been paid the wages that were due, but now that you are no longer able to work I will pay you a pension.” Not at all. If he cannot do his work it is a case of “ Up the shaft,” and his job is given to the next man. And so in every calling with the exception Of those in the higher walks of life. The Chief Justice, having obtained the best- that could be- given him. is now told that the Commonwealth will pay him a pension of nearly £34 a week. It is a scandalous outrage on justice. There is no excuse for it; and the working men and women of Australia will justly resent this attempt to further load the country with an unnecessary and unwarranted liability.
.- I fail altogether to follow’ the arguments of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) who has just resumed his seat. Our statute-book clearly indicates that the Commonwealth Parliament has at all times been alive to the necessities of the whole community, and has ever been animated by a desire to deal out even-handed justice. The legislation of the Parliament proves that.
I regret that this Bill has afforded some honorable members an opportunity to cast reflections upon one of the most eminent men who has ever lived in Australia. He has rendered to Australia services which seem to be unappreciated by some honorable members. In order to show the immense responsibility that is cast upon our Judiciary, may I refer honorable members to the Commonwealth Constitution. Under section 51, the Federal Parliament is empowered to make laws covering some thirty-nine subjects which in that section are enumeratedIn ordinary colloquial language, the bare statement of the subjects with which we may deal has but a small meaning. Following the example of the United States, the subjects in respect of which we may legislate are merely enumerated in the Constitution, and there is cast upon the High Court the responsibility of determining the full scope and width of our powers to legislate in respect of those subjects. In other words, the Judiciary has the responsibility of clothing the words employed and of defining the ambit of jurisdiction covered in regard to each of such subjects, giving to them their full meaning. The Federal Parliament, for instance, have power to make laws with respect to “defence,” and the luminous judgment on the subject delivered recently by the High Court affords the honorable member for Barrier an opportunity to realize the meaning that may be given by the Court to that one word. The Court held that the one word “ defence “ used in that section gave Parliament power to legislate with respect to every sphere of activity which could be directly or indirectly associated with the defence of Australia and the Empire. This illustration, which might be extended to the other thirty-eight subjects mentioned in section 51, shows how great is the responsibility cast upon the Commonwealth Judiciary.
We were singularly fortunate in our selection of a Chief Justice, and in considering this Bill I desire that honorable members, if. possible, shall consider for a moment the value of the services rendered by Sir Samuel Griffith. He is not only an eminent Australian lawyer, but is recognised as an eminent Imperial lawyer, and is a member of the Privy Council. His judgments have been able and powerful, and of the most luminous character. They have indicated on his part a breadth of thought and juristic learning of immense value in the guidance of this community. Were it possible for us to fail in securing the highest and most accurate judicial interpretation of our laws, it would be a calamity to the community, the gravity of which could hardly be estimated. It is absolutely necessary that, we should have men of the highest legal acumen and ability in the occupation of our Judiciary, since such immense responsibilities are cast upon them. No one challenges the Chief Justice’s ability. Every one should realize the magnitude of his services, and if we recognise to the full the colossal character of those services, surely we have a right to say that they entitle him to some further acknowledgment, in the form of a pension as provided by this Bill, at the hands of thepeople of Australia.
It has been suggested that the Chief Justice has been well paid for his services. I do not agree that such is the case. True, his appointment took the form of a contract, but no one with a full knowledge will venture to say that the services he has rendered have’ been adequately rewarded by the salary of £3,500 a year which he has been receiving.
– He did not suggest when he accepted the appointment that it was not an adequate salary.
– Quite so; but it is within the ambit of our power to say whether that salary is an adequate compensation for the services rendered by him. We are at liberty to review the position in the light of the work he has done for us. There is no legal right as between the Commonwealth and Chief Justice under which he could demand a higher salary than he is receiving, or a pension.
– He could have demanded the provision of a pension before he accepted the appointment.
– That is so. His appointment stands as a legal contract, and he is receiving all that Parliament bargained to give him. To say that, however, is to view the matter from a very rigid stand-point, and to ignore the fact that the services actually rendered have surpassed our highest anticipations at the time of the contract. Surely in his declining years we may review his services, and determine whether it is not reasonable to grant him some further compensation.
This is, I admit, an act of grace; but the services of the Chief Justice warrant us in awarding him this extra compensation. We admit that he stepped out of the position of Chief Justice of Queensland, which carried with it a salary of £3,500 a year and pension rights, in order to accept the higher position of Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. He saw fit to give up that position and to accept the Chief Justiceship of the Commonwealth, with the same salary attaching to it and without any pension rights.
– He did so from the highest sense of duty.
– From the highest sense of duty, and because of the opportunity which his new position would give him for a greater career, and to render greater service to Australia. Those were the animating causes. He was not moved to accept the Chief Justiceship of the Commonwealth because of any paltry, sordid consideration. The one thought animating him was whether in this position he could render greater service to Australia. No one can suggest that he has failed to render that greater service. He has succeeded to the very full. Australia is richer for his work - and richer to a greater degree than we can calculate. If so much is admitted, then it is not an unreasonable act of grace on the part of Parliament to grant this pension to Sir Samuel Griffith.
– The same argument will be put forward for granting a pension to Mr. Justice Barton and all the other High Court Judges when they retire.
– It is of the highest importance to Australia that we should have upon our Bench the greatest legal ability obtainable. If the payment of pensions would enable us to secure that ability, I should be ready at once to vote for them, believing that it would be in the interests of Australia.
– Does the honorable member suggest that, in the event of this pension not being granted, and the position of the Chief Justice becoming vacant, the services of the best man at the Bar in Australia would not be available to fill the vacancy?
– They might or might not be available. We shall have great difficulty in securing another Sir Samuel Griffith.
-But the pension will not secure him. If he is there, he will come.
– As a matter of fact, in some cases we are aware that the fact that a pension attaches to an office is an operating cause in inducing some men to accept certain positions; but it wasnot an operating cause in Sir Samuel Griffith’s case. He had already behind him a great career, and he desired to render additional service to Australia. He has succeeded in doing so, and now, after sixteen years, we are reviewing his services, and assessing the value of them. We wish to show him that we appreciate, to some extent, the value of those services, and that we are anxious that, in his declining years, he should experience a degree of leisure and comfort. By passing this Bill, we are simply doing our duty; we are doing nothing beyond barely acknowledging the work that Sir Samuel Griffith has done, and rewarding him for the valuable services he has rendered to Australia.
– I wish to give one or two reasons why I shall record my vote against the grant-“ ing of a pension to the Chief Justice of our High Court. In the State of Victoria the granting of pensions to public servants was abolished by Parliament in the early eighties, and it was provided that any person entering the State Service and occupying a permanent position in it should take out a life insurance policy, and maintain the premium payments year by year, so that when he reached a certain age he could, draw a lump sum of money from the insurance company. In the early days of the Federal Parliament, when in both Houses there were many eminent men in the political and legal world of Australia there was a great consensus of opinion against the provision in the Judiciary Bill for the payment of pensions to the Justices who would be appointed to the High Court. There was an extended debate upon the matter, but neither House would consent to the provision. It is an undoubted fact that many gentlemen of the legal profession who are elevated to the Bench surrender practices at which they have been earning twice the amount they receive as salary, for the high and honorable positions they occupy as dispensers of justice in out Courts. It only shows that when these positions of honour are open to the legal world, there are “men, eminent in their profession, who are pre-‘ pared to give up highly remunerative practices in order to occupy positions on the Bench. It is strange that at this late stage we should find before us so many advocates for the granting of a pension to a member of our High Court Bench. We are all anxious to eliminate personal matters in considering this question; but it seems to me that the Ministry could have overcome the difficulty without seeking to place on our statute-book a principle that will form a dangerous precedent, and may land future Parliaments in considerable difficulty when efforts are made to reward the eminent services of other Justices of the High Court Bench. There was no pension attaching to the position of Chief Justice fifteen years ago, when Sir Samuel Griffith accepted the post. Since then he has been drawing a magnificent salary, which should have enabled him to make pro vision for himself, without any necessity arising for the submission of a Bill to Parliament having for its purpose the granting of a pension to him equal to half his present salary. . Are honorable members opposite, who are willing to support this Bill, prepared to apply the same principle throughout the community ? Are they prepared to give a man who has been drawing £150 per annum during his best years a pension of £75 a year in his old age? If a man has been earning £300 in his best years,are honorable members willing to reward him with a pension of £150 per annum so that he may enjoy himself in comfort in his declining years? I do not think so. Yet if they are prepared to give a reward to one man who has done his task faithfully and well, they should be ready to carry the same principle into effect, and reward every citizen according to his ability and the services he has rendered to bis country. Otherwise, they are not consistent. I see no reason why our Justices should not have made provision for their own .declining years. Some of them would decline to accept pensions from us, no matter how unanimous we were in our desire to make provision for them. On the other hand, there are others on the Bench who might look forward to receiving them. Many men have died in poor circumstances, but yet, because of their inventive genius, have left rich heritages to humanity. Have we rewarded them ? I remember one man who worried himself into a premature grave through giving his country the benefit of his invention, but nothing was done to help him. His wife also went to a premature grave, and his family have had to toil very hard, and overcome’ great difficulties. As I am reminded by an honorable member, this country gave no reward to Farrar, whose researches enabled Australia’s wheat production to increase to a wonderful extent, and whose efforts stimulated others to follow up his work until, step by step, a grade of wheat has been produced here that induces one to believe that very soon we shall be able to garner fair harvests with a very small rainfall. One could go through a long list of men whose services to the nation have not been rewarded.
Have we rewarded men who have discovered rich gold-fields where thousands have found employment] I venture to say that if a proposal came forward in this House to reward such men, it would be ridiculed by the very honorable members who will vote for a pension for the Chief Justice. We have all known men who have died almost in poverty. What is the pension given by the Commonwealth to nien and women who have rendered very valuable service to their country ? We dole out to them the miserable pittance of 12s. 6d. per week. I agree with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that we ought to recast our ideas. If this Bill is a beginning, we should set to work in earnest and apply the lessons -we have learnt during the war. It needed the war to make the statesmen of Great Britain realize what inroads the factory system and slum life had made on the population of the Old Country. Sociologists and others have known that in the wealthiest country in the world, with a population -of 40,000,000, no less than 14,000,000 people are living below the poverty line. We require a levellingup system. All honorable members opposite are prepared- to do is to pick out here and there some distinguished individual, and deal with him with exceptional liberality in his declining years, whilst they make it a struggle for other people to get a dole of 12s. 6d. per week. Honorable members know how hard it is to live on an ordinary wage. If a workman loses a week’s work through illness he is rarely able to make good the loss, especially if he has to keep a family. His life is a veritable struggle. If honorable members intend to give pensions to men who have been enjoying large salaries, let them treat persons in other walks of life in the same liberal fashion. I suppose honorable members read the report of the recent trial of a workman who had been detected in stealing certain articles from the workshop in which he was employed. Week after week he had stolen and sold goods to the total value of £13. When he was brought up for trial before the Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine) he pleaded guilty. Asked why he, the head of a family, a man in regu- lar employment, and with a previously clean record, had resorted to stealing, he said - and his statement was corroborated by reliable witnesses - that in order to buy boots for his children he had been tempted to sell certain articles belonging to his employer. The Court was so satisfied of the genuineness of his statement that he was liberated on simply entering into a bend. That proved conclusively that, although the man admitted his guilt, the Court regarded him as a reputable citizen who was fit to resume his place in the world. Does not that indicate a sad state of affairs? In this land of plenty there ought to be no men and women out of work. I have heard some talk of an unemployment allowance; there should be no need for such a thing in a country like Australia.
– The honorable member has given a very good testimonial to “ the Iceberg.”
– That cold, callous, and bloodthirsty man I
– Although in politics Sir William Irvine and I were as wide apart as the poles, I have not hesitated to express my belief that when he took his place upon the Supreme Court Bench his verdict would be found to be very different from his utterances in this House.
– Hear, hear ! I said that, too.
– I warn the ‘ Committee that in granting this pension they are taking a dangerous step. On principle, I could not vote to give a pension of £1,750 to a man who, I admit, has eminently well discharged the onerous and responsible duties that he has been called upon to perform. I know nothing of the antecedents of Sir Samuel Griffith. It may be that he had exceptional educational opportunities in his youth; he certainly had a fine brain, and displayed gifts which we are all delighted to find in any walk of life. But, on principle, and because so many people find it hard to live - because, although they have fought life’s battle until they were sixty-five years of age, they have not been able to save sufficient, to maintain themselves in their old age. and this Parliament has made it difficult for them to get a pittance of 12s. 6d. per week - I am opposed to the granting of this large pension. The time is coming when the people will be educated enough to sweep these unfair distinctions aside, and those who advocate, the continuance of them will not have the remotest chance of finding a place in this Parliament.
.- After the very able remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), it seems hardly necessary for me to add anything to this debate. I listened with sympathy to the tale of woe related by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). When we leave this chamber at night the tears almost stream from our eyes at the sight of masses of people, with every appearance of poverty, coming out of the theatres and picture shows. Those people have my sympathy. I regret that this pension proposal does not apply to all the Judges of the High Court. I think it is a pity that the pension of a Judge should be left to the whim of any Parliament or party. If, as honorable members say, men eminent in the legal profession should, out of a sense of duty, make great monetary sacrifices in order to occupy a position on’ the Bench, why did honorable members raise their own salaries? Why did they not regard it as an honour and a duty to serve their country at £400 per annum, instead of increasing the salary to £600?
– Because, I suppose, they were not all poor pastoralists like the honorable member.
– Not having the reputation of being “ a poor pastoralist,” my £600 is absorbed by the soldiers and others who are in need of it. But that is my affair. Men who are qualified to take positions on the High Court Bench have ample scope in the practice of their profession, and they make a big monetary sacrifice in accepting a judicial appointment. I do not see why a man should be required to make sacrifices, because he is willing to do his duty. That is not right or reasonable. The Judges of the High Court were appointed at salaries about equal to the income of a second-class barrister in the Criminal Court. The salar ies are not high enough, and should be supplemented by pensions, so that the best men may be attracted to the positions. If we do not do that we shall some day see some servile political hack appointed to the Bench. The Judges who receive £3,500 per annum are required to visit all the capital cities in the discharge of their duties, and that entails the maintenance of two homes. To some extent, Judges must live a life of isolation, and they have not the time that an ordinary man has to pay. attention to their financial affairs
– It is not well that they should be making investments in any case.
– (Surely, because a man is a J udge, he should not be debarred from investing his money.
– Why do not the Judges practise the thrift about which they preach so much?
– No doubt they do. There are very few business men who do not practise thrift to a greater extent than their employees. I repeat that Judges of the High Court must practically maintain two homes.
– Do they not get a travelling allowance?
– They do; but that allowance will not cover everything. The travelling allowance may pay .the honorable member when he goes to Benalla to defend a sheep stealer, but it does not pay a Judge.
– Four guineas per day is a fair travelling allowance, surely.
– Even so, the Judges are not as well paid as i3 the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and, in comparison with the calibre of men required for Judges of the High Court, one could get dozens of men competent to manage the Commonwealth Bank. The High Court is the fountain of justice in Australia; we desire to keep it untainted, and to have Judges in whose ability and probity we can have complete confidence. We must make the positions worth while. Otherwise, second-class men may be appointed to the Bench, the Court will be ignored, litigants will go direct to the
Privy Council, and we stall be maintaining the Court for nothing. In regard to the pathetic pictures of poverty which have been painted by honorable members opposite, I remind the Committee that a man is paid according to the measure of his ability. There are some honest, moral, good-living people who do work which is worth practically nothing to the community. An under-gardener, for instance, may give satisfaction to his employer by adding to the refinement of his surroundings, but the world would be none the poorer without his work. As a supporter of the Government, I urge them to introduce a Bill in the next session to give a pension to all the Judges of the High Court, so that they may be placed on that footing of financial security which is essential to the positions they occupy.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Higgs amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented (by Mr. Groom), and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The other evening, when speaking on the Appropriation motion, on which the Bill is founded, I said that it was wrong to grant a pension of £1,750 a year - that is £35 a week - to the Chief Justice of Australia, when the fathers and mothers of the community who gave their sons to the country during the recent war, have been unable to obtain pensions. The Minister asked me for a definite case. I said that I had one which came to me in the absence of the honorable’ member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). No doubt, similar cases have been brought under the notice of other metropolitan members who are doing part of his work. The letter, which I sent to the Pensions. Commission, in regard to the matter, was this : -
Mrs. S., of Ivanhoe, is very indignant over the treatment she has received regarding her pension on account of her sons who have been killed at the Front. She had four sons there; two have been killed in action, and the third died last month whilst at sea.
This lady made application in connexion with her first son, and was told her pension would be 5s. per week. On account of her second son, she was advised that no pension was due. She does not feel disposed to take any action in regard to her third son, as she feels sure that her claim will be rejected, as in the case of the second son.
You will see that this family has a splendid record, and the mother is deeply offended at the action of your Department.
I shallbe glad if you will have this matter reconsidered, with a view to offering the lady an increased pension.
On receiving a reply from the Pensions Commissioner, I forwarded it on to the gentleman who was in correspondence with me about the case, and wrote to him a covering letter, in which I said -
You will remember writing to me regarding Mrs. S., of Ivanhoe. I at once made strong representations to the Commissioner of Pensions on her behalf, and have just received the enclosed letter.
She was receiving 10s. per fortnight on account of her first son, and nothing on account of the second one.
I am pleased to see that she is to receive Us. per fortnight for each, one to date back to 19th July, 1917, and the other from 22nd October last. She will, therefore, have a fair amount of back money to draw.
I am very pleased I was successful on her behalf.
It is not necessary to put on record the letter written by the father, a railway labourer, with a family of eight or ten children, four of whom went to the war, where two were killed, while a third died at sea. For many years, railway labourers in Victoria were receiving only 6s. 6d. per day, their wages being of late years raised to 7s. per day, and recently to 8s. or 8s. 6d. per day. Of course, there are many cases in which the parents are not dependent on the lads who went away; but had those lads” returned, they would have contributed to the upkeep of the home. Yet I know of cases in which pensions have been refused to parents because their lads were only eighteen or nineteen years of age when they left Australia.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) brought the matter up, and I have promised to bring it under the notice of the Minister.
– My experience of the Commissioner for Pensions is that he is a fair man, with a human heart, as no doubt all the officials are. These cases have only to be brought under his notice. The father’s letter, in the case to which I have referred, is pretty strong. He says that the treatment he had received was not likely to encourage recruiting. I am glad that, as the result of my action, the family is getting a pension of 14s. per week, or 7s. for each of the sons who were killed. That is “nothing to write home about “ - a pension of 7s. for a son who has been killed is certainly not a subject for boasting. We were told the other day that the Bill passed by the Government of which I was a member fixed a maximum; but it is not a question of the maximum in the majority of cases; it is a question of bringing a number of people up to that rate.
– The law is the same as in your Bill.
– But I was asked for a definite case, and I am showing the different treatment that is me±ed out to two different sections of the community. When the Judiciary Bill was before the House in 1903, the present Minister for the Wavy (Sir Joseph Cook), in the absence of Sir George Reid and Sir William McMillan, moved to reduce the proposed salary of the Chief Justice from £3,500 to £2,500, because there was no provision made for a pension. The honorable gentleman was induced to withdraw that amendment, until it had been decided whether there should be pensions for the Judges. Parliament, by twenty-nine votes to twenty, representing a division of two-thirds of the House, decided that there should be no pensions, and the salary was then fixed at £3,500. This Bill is departing from the contract that wa3 then made with the people of Australia. We pay pensions of 5s. to 7s. a week on account of sons killed at the war, whom no power on earth can replace, and this Bill proposes to give the Chief Justice a pension of £1,750 a year. I shall vote against the second reading.
.- I am opposed to the Bill, and will vote against the second reading. I take the view that the making of grants to any member of the Public Service, or to any other person, in an arbitrary way out of the public Treasury, is to be deprecated. The policy of granting gratuities or making donations to persons because of their public services, or their alleged public services, without any settled principle to guide those who are responsible for doing so, does not appeal to me. Bearing in mind the question of pensions to the aged and the invalid, I contend that the only ground on which pensions of any kind are justifiable in a civilized and progressive community is to make provision for those exceptional cases of sickness, invalidity, and weakness which cannot be provided for by any just system of distribution of the world’s good things. I say this quite recognising the fact that it may be suggested for a moment that I am giving only half-hearted support to old-age and invalid pensions. I give those pensions a full measure of support, because they represent just those exceptional cases for which any civilized community must make provision, even though the wealth of the community were distributed with ideal fairness.
It seems to be assumed that the Chief Justice of the High Court has claims of unanswerable character to recognition in the form of a pension. Apparently it is taken for granted that his public services, taken alone, are of such a character that they should, if I may put it so, in the evening of his days be the subject of some special recognition. I challenge that view at once. I do not admit for a moment that the services of the Chief Justice are necessarily of a specially distinguished character. I admit that the Chief Justice is, and has been for many years an eminent lawyer, who, by his training, and by his capacity, was likely to make a success of his work, and, probably, to amass a fortune out of his earnings. But I do not admit for a moment that, as a citizen of the country promoting the best interest of the community, his work has been such as to recommend any special or, at all events, any monetary recognition. The Chief Justice came into his office from the political arena.
– There is a suggestion that he was given the position in Queensland in order to get him out of the way in politics.
– That is a very unworthy suggestion.
-I heard that chapter of the political history of Queensland from the honorable member for Brisbane, and there may be something in it; but I am not at present concerned with that aspect of the case. I am not going to attribute any unworthy conduct to the Chief Justice, nor am I going to. attribute anything but the highest motives to him in the discharge of his public duties as Chief Justice. But I venture to say that, coming to his office out of the arena of politics, he brought a cast of mind to bear there which was certainly a keen and logical mind, but which, so far from breathing life, as the Minister has said, into the dry bones of the Constitution, rather tended to dissect and analyze those bones than to vivify them with any new life whatever. When I say that, I am not for a moment, as a humble member of the lower grade of the profession, putting alone my own view of his work. I am holding up, in comparison with his public services, the work done by other eminent men on the High Court Bench. I take courage to say, with the knowledge we have of their work, and the interpretation that they have fearlessly given to the Constitution, and to constitutional points of law brought before them for their decision, that there are men on the High Court Bench to-day - and we are likely to have other men to succeed the Chief Justice - who will follow the pattern of the great Chief Justice of the United States, and will breathe into this Australian Constitution, whether amended or not, that humanizing interpretation which could never be drawn fromthe decisions of the academic mind of the present Chief Justice of the High Court.
A somewhat amusing and painful suggestion has been made by, I think, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), that a Judge, although eminent in law, may possibly have such meagre business capacity as to fail, though drawing a large salary, to make adequate provision in his life for his later years. If it is a fact that the Judges of the High Court bring to bear* such a small measure of worldliness into their work, and are so equipped mentally that they are to be regarded as deficient in making adequate, reasonable, and lawful provision for themselves and their families, I think it is a very disquieting disclosure as to the calibre of the High Court Bench.
The Minister is making a personal matter of this, although honorable members, whom I have heard speak, are agreed that it should be regarded rather as a matter of principle, in which invidious distinctions should not be drawn between the various holders of this high office. The Minister gave us what sounded painfully like a “ somewhat previous “ obituary’ of the Chief Justice in extolling his manifold virtues, and even his scholastic performances.
– It reads like a Clement’s Tonic testimonial.
– Very much so. But whatever may have been the performances of the present Chief Justice, at school, in the University, at the Bar, or in politics, he has up to the present been able to say that, whatever he has won he has won by his own effort and his own ability; and he has not been behoven to the State for any special gratuity to make up, as is suggested by some honorable members, for his deficiency in business acumen. I remind the House, though probably they have been reminded already, that when the Chief Justice renounced the position of honour and fairly substantial emolument which he held in Queensland to become the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, he enjoyed all the kudos, and adopted all the praise, which came to him by reason of the fact that he was giving up a position which would have entitled him later on to a pension. I venture to suggest that it is unworthy to ask the Chief Justice, and it is unworthy of the Chief Justice, in the language of the Bill, to “ demand “ a pension - because, curiously enough, that is the verbiage adopted - in view of the contract he then made with the people of Australia, the terms on which he was appointed, and the fact that lie enjoyed all the honour and distinction of having made some monetary sacrifice in connexion with the acceptance of the position. It is pointed out, of course, that in many of the transferred offices, the persons transferred carried with them their pension rights. That. is true; but I think the general tendency of Australian legislation for many years past has been to abolish the pension system altogether. We know that for many years - I should say nearly thirty - the system has been abolished in Victoria. The system has ceased to be acceptable to the people of this State, and the general tendency is to abolish the pension system, for public service. That being so, the claim that in 1918 the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth acquires any special right to a pension by reason of his being a transferred officer falls entirely to the ground, not only on its merits, but upon a reference to the terms on which he accepted the position. *.c- ‘v
There are many public men who, ontaking up public duty, made financial” sacrifices. Every one knows that therehave entered this House men who weremaking large incomes at the Bar, and! who have sacrificed some of that pecuniary advantage in order to discharge their public duties here.
– They could not make a name in Parliament unless they did.
– Not without some personal sacrifice of their private incomes. I could name examples of where distinguished lawyers, on entering this House, have made substantial sacrifices of pecuniary benefit.
– The late member for Bendigo (Mr. Arthur) was a member of our party who did so.
– Tes; but unfortunately the House and the country lost the distinguished service of that barrister before he was able to make any substantial sacrifice of the kind. Unhappily, he waa taken from us.
– Even in the short time that he was here he made some pecuniary sacrifice.
– No doubt, ‘ and I am glad that the honorable member has recalled the name of .that brilliant and promising personal friend of my own.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) adopts a principle that we should be prepared to hold out this special inducement to members of the Bar to become Judges, otherwise we shall fill the offices of our highest judicial tribunal with “second-raters.” If a man who is earning at the BaT more than £3,000 per’ annum is still so animated by the greed and lust of gold, that he cannot be persuaded to give up his additional financial gain in order to accept the position of a -Judge with a salary of £3,000 a year, together with all the honour, distinction, and dignity attaching to the office, that -fact discloses him to be a person whom it is well to keep off the Supreme Court benches. That is a complete answer to the honorable member’s contention. There is, moreover, a counter-argument, and it is this: that men who are earning at the Bar up to £3,500 per annum are exceedingly hard worked. No man can earn such an income without working very hard. I have in mind the case of a barrister who was earning a very large income, but was working so hard that his health threatened to break down. “When an opportunity presented itself of taking the more moderate emolument attaching to the position of a Supreme Court Judge, together with the additional attractions to which I have referred, he had no hesitation in moving up to the Bench. I do not believe that the absence of a pension will prevent our having the services of the very best man at the Bar. I should be sorry to think that men of high standing at the Bar were of such a cast of mind that they would decline to make a financial sacrifice in order to go on the Bench. The number of even - eminent lawyers who are making incomes equal to the salary received by our Chief Justice is very few. The number, I think, is often exaggerated. I have no doubt whatever that their services could be obtained for the Judiciary in return . for the emolument offered. At a time like this, when the whole of the efforts and genius of this Parliament should be directed-
– As far as the Standing Orders will permit.
– As far as the Standing Orders will permit, to a more economical administration of public Departments - at a time like this when we are faced with the necessity of doing a full measure of justice to the men who have fought for us, and of considering their - paramount claims, and those of their relatives and dependants - I venture, without hesitation, to say that there is an act of political indecency in the proposal to award a gratuity of this kind. . It does not establish a principle; it is not offered by way of principle. This pension is offered as a gratuity to a public servant who, having, perhaps, treated the State well, as far as he could, has been well treated by the State, and who, to my mind, has not anything like as strong a claim upon the special beneficence of this country as have thousands of others who could be named, but whose claims are not considered in the “Bill before the House or any other Bill.
– A point to which I should like to draw attention is that this Bill does not provide that the Chief Justice shall spend his pension in Australia. In the early days of Victoria, Sir Andrew Clarke, after about four and a half years’ public service, and the Right Honorable C. E. Childers, after something like three and a half years’ work in this State, were granted a pension; and they lived thereafter for close upon half a century in England. They continued during that time to draw pensions from a people whom they never benefited, but upon whom they fastened like leeches. These pensions, amounting to about £800 per annum in the one case, and to some £600 in the other, were granted to them because it was thought they had risked their chance of advancement in accepting high posts in the then young Colony of Victoria. To show how absurd was the reason given for their payment, I might mention that Mr. Childers rose to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Gladstone Government.
Let us analyze the figures relating to this pension. During twenty-five years on the Bench, Sir Samuel Griffith has received about £82,000. In round figures, he has received £70 a week, in addition to his share of the £5,000 per annum divided amongst the Judges to cover expenses. I do not know whether the £4 4s. per day to which they are entitled by way *of travelling expenses is included in that amount. By the terms of this very measure, the Chief Justice becomes an oldage pensioner; but he will draw as much as fifty-three pensioners under our Oldage Pensions Act receive. I resent that. All men when they have reached a certain age, and have’ become too old to work, should receive the same rate of pension. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has referred to the pitiful case of the mother of four sons who went away to fight for the Chief Justice, for me, and for every other citizen of Australia. One of these boys paid the supreme sacrifice, and the mother was granted a war pension of 5s. per week. The pension of the Chief Justice is equal to the pension received in 134 such cases, and equal to sixty-seven war pensions of 10s. per week. Will any one say that what this man has done is equal to the services that have been rendered by our men at the Front. Then, again, under our War Pensions Act differential treatment is meted out to the mother who has been deserted by the man who should have cared for her. It was not the intention of Parliament when the War Pensions Bill was passed that there should be any such differentiation, but it exists to-day. Then, again, in determining what rate of pension shall be paid to the mother of a young man who has been killed at the Front, the authorities take into account the amount that the deceased contributed to his home for twelve months prior to enlistment. Many of these soldiers of ours enlisted when they were only eighteen years of age, and that is very often the most expensive time of a boy’s life. As a rule, boys of from eighteen to twentyone years of age can take very little into their homes, but when they reach the age of twenty-five years they are able to give substantial help to their people.
– This would have been a fitting opportunity to make provision for the unmarried mother of a soldier to whom the honorable member and I have referred in this House more than once.
– Yes. I am proud to think that the laws of Australia no longer contain what was an impertinentinsult to thousands of innocent children. Thanks to Mr. Andrew Fisher and those who supported his Government, the word “ illegitimate “ has been erased from all our Commonwealth laws: It is an infamy that the amount to be .paid as a war pension to a mother or father of a youth killed at the Front should be based upon the amount he was able to contribute to her support for the twelve months before he enlisted. If the assistance to the home be made a basis of computation, why should it not be made at the time of the death of the brave soldier ?
I have no personal animus towards the Chief justice. . I. have, if anything, a kindly feeling for him. I had one experience of his Court, and three afternoons spent there cost me something like £200. The cost would have been greater but for the generosity of the legal men in charge of my case. I have never heard a poor man bless the name of the Chief Justice or declare himself to be thankful for his help. Is he <a poor man ? Then my pocket is at his disposal. If he has speculated and been comparatively ruined, I am willing to give equally with any man on the other side of the chamber; but it is discreditable to him if he has had anything to do with ‘ this sending round of the cap asking for the people’s money. It is the people, those who have no say in the matter, who have to pay. I cannot conceive that the man who had the honour of translating Dante’s Inferno into English verse similar to the original would stoop to accept this pension. At any meetings I shall address in the near future I shall move -
That it is disgraceful, dishonorable, and foolish on the part of Sir Samuel Griffith to accept this pension.
We_have paid him £70 per week, with many extras, for putting in five hours’ work five days a week, and sometimes he has had five months’ holiday in the year. There are fathers of families who are trying to feed their children and clothe them in these expensive times who are not .receiving per week, even what he draws per day as travelling allowance, namely, £4 4s. Would they not look forward with pleasure to the receipt of even one day’s wages as a pension when they get old and weary. I have sounded a warning note. If Sir Samuel Griffith dares to leave this country drawing this pension to spend it outside Australia he will not be an honorable man. _ Any member of this House who goes away has to obtain leave, and if he wishes to go away from Australia, let him obtain leave from the people who pay him. I resent the granting of this pension. When we ask for 2s. 6d. extra per week for those who will never draw £4 4s. a week in all their lives, the Treasurer cannot grant it. When we ask that the little children of the mon who have lost their lives at the Front, or in dangerous trades and callings that sometimes take a greater toll of life than does warfare, should be allowed a little more than 3s. 6d. per week, they cannot get it. At this time, when the war has demonstrated to us the value of human life, this Government will make partial provision for soldiers’ babies to the number of five in a family, hut the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth arc left without a penny piece in the shape of assistance. Go ‘to the homes for neglected children, and ask some of the angel women connected with them how much a child costs, even in its earliest years, even when its only food is milk, and then judge how far the pittance of 3s. 6d. per child will go. I shall vote against the Bill, and ifI can get meetings to support ine I shall ask them to resolve that any man who has earned the salary that Sr Samuel Griffith has earned is not a real Australian or a real human being if he accepts a pension when those who have to apply for an old-age pension can only draw 12s. 6d. per week with which to keep life and soul together.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
House adjourned at 10.43.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181219_reps_7_88/>.