7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy if he can arrange to have laid upon the table of the Library all the papers in the possession of the Navy Office in connexion with the requisition for trading purposes ‘ of the two vessels orginally known as Emerald Wings andBright Wings, and as to the arrangements for their subsequent trading operations in the Commonwealth?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s request to the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton).
Inter-State Commission’s Reports
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the reports of the Inter-State Commission dealing with the cost of living - I refer particularly to the reportson house rents and clothing - will be made available at once to honorable members? I haveseen a copy privately, but wish to know when these reports will be available to honorable members generally ?
– I will see that they are made available as early as possible.
– At an important gathering in England recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), according to the press reports, declared that profiteering bred Bolshevism. I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is. in accord with that opinion, and if so, whether he will do something to suppress profiteering ?
– I regret that I am not at liberty to answer the honorable member’s question, since a question of the same kind stands on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for Capri- cornia (Mr. Higgs).
– On our last day of sitting last year the Acting Prime Minister promised to make inquiries as to an advertisement in the press inviting persons to apply for employment on the South Maitland coalfields. Has the honorable gentleman completed that inquiry ?
– I do not know how long it is since the inquiry was completed. All the details are in the Department, and I will look them upfor the honorable member.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether any negotiations are proceeding between the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments relative to the selection of a successor to Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson as GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth. If so, will he suggest that a commoner, who is neither a military “nor a naval officer, would be most acceptable to the people of Australia ?
– It is rather unusual to bring a matter of this kind before the House without notice. I am not aware that any Such negotiations are proceeding between the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will state for public information what steps have been taken by the Government to obtain overseas a supply of potash for the use of the fruit-growers of Australia?
– It would be well, I think, for the honorable member to give notice’ of this question, so that I may be in a position to give the House full and detailed information. For some considerable time we have been negotiating for supplies of potash, and I should like to give the House full particulars.
Final Report of Royal Commission
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received the final report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into Navy and Defence administration? If so, will he lay it on the table of the House, and move that it he printed. I think there was a final report drawn up.
– I think that a very smallreport was rendered before the Commission dispersed. I do not know whether it has been laid on the table, but I shall look into the matter.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make available all papers, letters, telegrams, &c. , in relation to the naming of certain seaports as places for the appraisement of wool ?
– The honorable member refers to all correspondence, &c. ?
– I see no objection to that.
Separation of Husbands and Wives
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he does not consider that it is rather out of harmony with the publishedpolicy of his party in regard to the purity of the home and the sanctity of the marriage tie to forcibly separate Australian-born women from their husbands of German blood, as is being done by the Government in connexion with the deportation of alleged aliens?
– I am not aware that that is being done. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall ascertain the required particulars.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the negotiations which were interrupted by the war have been resumed, with a view to trade reciprocity between the Commonwealth and the Dominions ofCanadaand New Zealand?
– The matter is at present receiving the consideration of the Minister for Tradeand Customs in connexion with the preparation of his Tariff, and will, in the course of a week or two, come before the Cabinet for ratification.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that, owing to the disastrous drought that has afflicted a great part of Australia, many of our country mail contractors are practically ruined, because of the enormous increase in the cost of fodder, and whether he will take into favorable consideration the granting of some relief to them?
– The matter is under review. A compilation is being made of the actual alleged losses, and when it is complete I shall endeavour to submit it to those who have the authority to decide the matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether any action is being taken by the Government to secure an assured supply of cornsacks and woolpacks for the coming wheat crop and wool clip?
– No action has been taken by the Government this season in regard to either cornsacks or woolpacks.
– If the Government do not intend to operate in cornsacks this year will the Minister for Trade and Customs make a definite announcement at the earliest possible date, so that other importers may have an opportunity to operate on a favorable market ?
– Some timeago the Government announced that they proposed to sell whatever bags they had on hand, and to allow trade to flow back into the ordinary channels, and the regular private agencies to be used for the supply of cornsacks in Australia.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is a fact that the Imperial authorities are prohibiting emigration to the British Dominions and Colonies ? I have before me a letter, in which it is stated that intending immigrants to Australia were prevented from booking passages, although they were anxious to rejoin their friends here.
– I am not aware that the Imperial Government is taking any such action.All that I know is that the published accounts of. the policy of the British authorities show that they desire henceforth to encourage immigration under the flag - particularly to the British Dominions. There are, however, a number of difficulties in connexion with shipping, for which we are largely responsible, because we are insisting that, wherever possible, the shipping available shall be used primarily for the return of our troops to Australia.
– Will the Treasurer consider an amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act in order to provide that seamen domiciled in Australia and permanently incapacitated whilst voyaging in ships trading outside Australia, should participate in, the invalidity benefits of the Act?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will supply me with the question, so that I may inquire into its incidence. The proposal has not been put to me previously.
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs noticed the abnormal increase in the charges for fodder within the last few days.? Will he inform the House whether the Government has relinquished control over the price of those commodities ?
– We are not exercising control over the prices of any articles other than those which are either the subject of a contract with the British Government or in regard to which we have certain financial obligations. We are allowing the States to take up their own constitutional obligations in that regard.
– When does the Minister for Trade and Customs intend to remove the objectionable quarantine regulations now applied to passengers travelling from Queensland to New South Wales, but which are not applicable to passengers on the upward journey?
– The regulations to which the honorable member refers were made after the outbreak of influenza in Queensland, and were to operate until we had some evidence of the form which the epidemic would take in that State. As it appears that the epidemic in Queensland is similar to that in other States, instructions have already been issued to remove the regulations, and I anticipate that that will be done in the course of a few days.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs given consideration to a recommendation made by Mr. Justice Powers recently on the hearing of certain claims by the meat inspectors in the Trade and Customs Department, namely, that they should be made permanent appointees. His Honour said -
I cannot make any order that the inspectors should be appointed by the Government permanently, but after hearing the evidence given in the case, I suggest that the Government should in the public interests, and in the interests of the meat inspectors, reconsider the question whether the meat inspectors who are generally employed permanently, namely 80 per cent., should not be appointed as permanent officers, subject to the Commonwealth Government continuing the work of meat inspection for export, and subject to good behaviour and continued efficiency.
– The matter is under consideration at the present time.
Payment of Officers
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question regarding the payment of officers who were on duty at the reception to Admiral Viscount Jellicoe in this building. Certain officers were brought back” to the building for duty, but the list of those officers which has been prepared is not complete. Can you, sir, inform the House of the name of the officer who prepared the list, and why he has rendered it in an incomplete form, with the result that many officers who were on duty did not receive extra payment, or even tea money.
– I have not heard of this complaint before, but I shall make inquiries regarding it from officers of the House. Tea money or any other expense that was incurred in connexion with that reception will be defrayed by one of the Government Departments. The function was not a Parliamentary one; it was arranged by the Government, and therefore was not under the control of the President or myself. I shall endeavour to let the honorable member have an answer to his question later in the day.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is correct that he has refused to allow the people of Tasmania, who are isolated from the mainland so far as mails are concerned, the privilege of using lettergrams? If so, upon what grounds is the refusal based ?
– There is no special restriction upon the people of Tasmania in regard to lettergrams. The law does not allow of differentiation between one State and another.
Absence in England.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister why the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) did not come to Australia with Admiral Viscount Jellicoe, who is conducting an inquiry into Naval Bases? Do the Government think that the reported appointment of Sir Joseph Cook as chairman of the Czecho-Slovak Committee at the Peace Conference was a sufficient reason for his remaining in Europe?
– From the information at the disposal of the Government I think the reason why the Minister for the Navy was unable to come to Australia with Viscount Jellicoe was that he had even more important duties to perform as one of Australia’s delegates at the Peace Conference. Viscount Jellicoe, with whom I discussed the matter, understood the position perfectly.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral, aware of the great congestion in the telegraph office at Wagga? In view of the importance of that office as a distributing centre, will the Minister endeavour to relieve the congestion which results in delays of from one to three hours in the delivery of telegrams? The congestion was in evidence before the influenza epidemic.
– I am advised that there are absent from duty, owing to the influenza epidemic, over 300 men in the engineering branch, 250 in the telephonic branch, 250 in the mail branch, between 50 and 60 in the telegraphic branch; or a grand total, including sectional branches, of 1,100 officers. I have appealed to the public to assist the Department by withholding all but imperative business as the staff is working more overtime than I desire them to do. I am not inclined to force further overtime upon the men, who are already bearing the brunt of the extra work. The prevalence of the influenza epidemic has affected the activities of the Postal Department for nearly six months. I think the honorable member will find that it is the cause of the trouble about which he is now complaining. The delay to press telegrams is the main cause of complaint. ‘The business of the Department has largely increased because of the necessity to make use of telegraph and telephone facilities. Furthermore, messages relating to the peace celebrations have almost doubled the work of the Telegraph Branch from a press standpoint. In the circumstances I think the Department is doing well to give the service which it is rendering to-day.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any reason to doubt the truthfulness of the statement he made the other day that the peace terms had been signed by the Germans? Can he say whether there is any truth in the rumour abroad that the peace terms have not been signed, and if he has any doubts upon the matter, will he make inquiries?
– I did not make the statement that peace had been signed. I simply told the press of the interception of a radio message from Mauritius to Perth, and immediately it was received gave the contents of the message to the newspapers for the information of the public. From information that has reached . me I have no reason to doubt that the Germans will sign the peace terms. I think they have no option in the matter.
Land Settlement: Taxation on Bonds.
– In view of the statement by the Treasurer that it will cost £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 to repatriate our soldiers, and the fact that the States are paying for the land they repurchase with scrip free from Federal and State taxation, does the Treasurer deem it right that this exemption should remain, while people who subscribe to war loans are called upon to pay income tax?
– I did not say that our obligations in respect of repatriation would amount to between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000. What I intended to convey was that the commitments of the Commonwealth to the States for land settlement would bebetween £30,000,000 and £40,000,000.
– The amount is immaterial to the point I wish to make.
– A vast amount of other money will be required for sustenance allowance, vocational training, and housing, which matters are as intimately associated with repatriation as is land settlement. As to the question whether the States in the re-acquisition of land for soldier settlement are doing the right thing in paying with tax-free bonds, a mere expression of an opinion from me would be valueless, because the law at present is clear on the point. I am advised that we are not entitled to tax those bonds. That such is the case is certainly unfortunate, but it is merely another illustration of the impossible condition of government into which Australia is drifting.
Control of Metals
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in England, that the first intimation we shall have of the next war will be the roar of cannon, I would like to know what action the present. Administration have taken in order to secure that the people of Australia will have control of the baser metals of Australia, such as lead, zinc, and copper, utilized in the production of munitions of war?
– I did not see the report of the utterance of the Prime Minister to which the honorable member refers, but I assume that he is quoting it correctly. The action taken by the Prime Minister before he left for Great Britain, and the policy he initiated, and which has been followed by the present Govern ment, in regard to those metals which are the basic element in the production of munitions of war have placed absolute power in the hands of the Australian people and the. Australian Commonwealth Government to control those metals. All enemy influence has been finally excluded, and commandeering could be carried out more swiftly to-day than has been possible at any other period in the past history of Australia.
Prohibition of Imports
Mr. JOHN THOMSON (for Mr.
Gregory) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The circumstances under which the prohibition of importation became necessary were as follow: -
Towards the end of 1917, owing to the lack of shipping facilities, the position with regard to the supply of sheep dip was becoming acute and the wool-producing interests which were dependent on supplies of dip from overseas were threatened with serious loss. The vital urgency of arranging for supplies was stressed on the Government by the State Governments and pastoral and other bodies. All the raw materials used in the manufacture of dips were also urgently required for munitional purposes by the British Government, and it was not considered desirable to continue drawing upon Britain for these essential supplies used in the prosecution of the war, if other arrangements could be made. As the position was becoming daily more acute, negotiations were commenced on behalf of the Commonwealth by Sir John Higgins in the hope that one of the largest British sheep dip manufacturers would establish a factory in the Commonwealth, and. various proposals were made to Messrs. Cooper and Nephews with a view to inducing them to manufacture their well-known dips in Australia, and offers were made on behalf of the Government through the chairman of the Central Wool Committee -
All these proposals failed to induce the British company to establish works in the Commonwealth, the company seeking special conditions regarding plant and machinery, labour, &c, which could not be granted to any applicant. Negotiations were then opened up with the Victor Leggo Company - one of the largest arsenic producers in Australia - to undertake the manufacture of arsenical sheep and cattle dips. That company immediately agreed to accept the responsibility of erecting works, and expended several thousands of pounds in plant and equipment. It is understood that this firm entered into negotiations with other manufacturers which enabled them to jointly guarantee the necessary quantity of dips for Australian requirements. Firms who were prepared to manufacture dips were promised by the Prime Minister - Mr. Hughes - support against oversea manufacturers. This promise did not apply to any one particular firm or company, but to all who entered into the business. When it became apparent that the requirements of Australia could be fully met by local manufacturers a cable was sent to the Ministry of Munitions in England, which controlled the issue of raw materials to manufacturers, and the priority of shipping space, in the following terms: -
Sheep Dip: Commonwealth Central Wool Committee, after careful consideration, advise unnecessary obtain sheep dips Great Britain, as requirements can be effectively met by local manufacturers.
This cable was despatched on 22nd January, 1918. The British Munitions Department subsequently inquired through the High Commissioner whether Australia actually needed any sheep dip from the United Kingdom. A reply was sent through the same channel, in which it stated, “ Please give definite assurance Ministry Munitions importations unnecessary.” It was intended, of course, that the space which was being occupied by sheep dip would, instead, be filled with some of the articles which the Munition Ministry in Britain and the Shipping Controller were being daily urged to provide space for. Notwithstanding that the Central Wool Committee advised the Government that the imported sheep dip was not required and the Commonwealth Government advised the British Government’ accordingly, and notwithstanding also that the Commonwealth Government was constantly pressing the British Government for space for urgently - in some cases desperately - needed goods, a’ portion of the shipping space still continued to be occupied by sheep dip, and not by things we pressed and asked for. How the shippers of these dips succeeded in obtaining space under these circumstances is not known to the Government. There was, therefore, no option but to impose an embargo on the importation of dips. Sheep and cattle dips may be classified under two main divisions - Arsenical and carbolic, or phenol. Australia produces arsenic as a by-product in the treatment of auriferous arsenical ores, and in quantities, not only sufficient for all Commonwealth requirements, but also for exportation; in fact, shipments of Australian white arsenic have been made to sheep-dip manufacturers in Great Britain. During the war many parcels of arsenical compound were shipped to Great Britain. From coal tar, millions of gallons of which are produced annually at gas works in Australia, ample raw material is available for the production of all phenol clips. Although alkali has still to be imported, it is hoped in the near future that Australia will manufacture its own requirements. The quantity used in sheep and cattle dips is relatively small. As to sulphur, another constituent of most sheep dips, it hasbeen procured from Japan, but there are supplies of this raw material which can be procured from the islands which, will be controlled under the mandate given to Australia in terms of the Peace Treaty, and from other sources adjacent to Australia. Portion of the sulphur contents of certain powder dips are obtained in Victoria as a by-product in other chemical manufactures. There are now two Australian manufacturers of powder and phenol dips respectively, operating on a large scale. There are also other companies operating on a smaller scale. An exhaustive analytical and physical examination has been made of the several imported and Australian dips - powder, paste, and liquid - on the market, with the result that the Australian article has been found to differ in no material respect from the imported dip, and, value for value, to be a cheaper article. Detailed experiments showed that the local dips did not injure the texture of the wool or its spinning qualities in any way, and the Government was quite satisfied the Australian wool producers had nothing whatever to fear by using the locally-manufactured dips. In support of the view taken by the Central Wool Committee that ‘the Australian-manufactured dip met all the requirements of the sheep owner, it may be mentioned, as revealed by the correspondence in the files of the department, that for some time the Australasian general manager of Messrs. Cooper and Nephews was in communication with Messrs. A Victor Leggo and Company, with a view to the latter firm manufacturing dip in Australia under “Cooper’s” label. This in itself should be ample evidence of the value placed by the English company on the loyally-manufactured sheep dips. It is the intention that the present embargo shall operate only until such time as adequate protection is afforded to the Australian manufacturer under the new Tariff proposals of the Government. To allow the unrestricted importation of dips at present would be a distinct breach of faith on the part of the Government. If, however, importers are agreeable to such a course, they may make shipments to Australia on the understanding that all such shipments will be held under Customs control pending the introduction of the new Tariff, delivery then to be given subject to the payment of duty. An intimation to this effect has-been sent to the British Government.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General upon notice -
Mr.WEBSTER. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether there is any appeal from the sentences recently imposed by the Naval Court Martial on members of the Australian Navy?
Mr. WATT (for Mr. Poynton).There is no appeal to any higher Court from the sentence of a Naval Court Martial. Higher authority has, however, the right to review the sentence. In this case, the higher ‘ authority is the Admiralty, inasmuch as the ships are still under Admiralty control under the terms of a Proclamation issued by the Governor-General dated 10th August, 1914, transferring the vessels of the Commonwealth Naval Forces and all officers and seamen of those vessels to the King’s Naval Forces. The Proclamation provided that such transfer should continue until the issue of a Proclamation declaring that war no longer exists. The Acting Minister for the Navy is at present in New South Wales, and on his return I will confer with him on the matter.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– All that is known of this matter is contained in a cablegram from the Prime Minister, that as the result of very strong representation made by him, he has succeeded in obtaining on account of three cargoes of Australian wheat and flour shipped to the British Wheat Commission, and diverted to Roumania, half the difference between American parity and 4s. 9d. per bushel already paid by the British Wheat Commission. This half difference amounts to £106,500, payable in Roumanian bonds.
Arrest and Trial of Gunner Yates: Mutiny on H.M.A.S. “Australia”: Steel for Shrapnel Shell: Case of James Mathews.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the Library the following: -
Papers connected with the arrest and trial of Gunner Yates?
Papers connected with the trial of the men of H.M.A.S. Australia for mutiny at Fremantle?
All papers connected with the endeavour of the Government to secure the secret formula for the manufacture of steel for shrapnel shell in 1914-15?
Papers connected with the summon ing and trial, under the War Precautions Act, of James Mathews, at Maryborough, in 1917?
– I shall consult the Ministers concerned, and see if there is any objection to laying these papers on the table of the Library.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether a mother, who has divorced her husband, and who has had the sole care and control of her children, will receive the same living allowance on the death of her son at the Front as that payable to a widow under similar circumstances?
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House a copy of the agreement or understanding between Britain and Japan said to have been approved by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes, whereby Japan was to occupy the islands of the Pacific to the north of the equator, and Great Britain the islands to the south of the equator?
– I am not in a position to disclose the contents of any of the secret correspondence which has, during the war, passed between the Governments of Great
Britain and Australia, but on the arrival of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I will refer the matter to him for his consideration.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Commonwealth Government have agreed to pay half the ordinary soldiers’ fares to Australia.
Staff and Pay
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table a statement showing the names, the ages, and the period of service in the Australian Imperial Force, if any, of the pay and other clerks who accompanied Senator Pearce to England?
– A statement giving the desired particulars will be prepared and laid on the table of the House.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I compliment the honorable member on his advocacy of gold braid and decorations.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government propose to take any action to prevent or punish profiteering ?
– If the honorable member will furnish particulars as to the direction in which he believes profiteering to be taking place, the matter will receive attention.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– These are questions for the Minister for Repatriation. I have been furnished with the following replies : -
In all the States, with the exception of Queensland, the moneys so collected were paid into the central fund, from which general disbursements have been made, without regard to locality. It is not seen how an exception can be made in the case of Queensland.
Hand Weaving of Cloth
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– Further inquiries are being made, as the information at present available does not justify the contention that the industry is capable of being placed upon a stable footing.
asked the Assistant. Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follow : -
I might say that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is chairman of the War Trophies Committee, and further questions on the subject had better be addressed to him.
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The return in question has been prepared and forwarded to the several States for checking. It will probably be available in the course of a few days.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with Australia’s share of the indemnity to be paid by the Central Powers, the Government has given, or is prepared to give, any consideration to the question of the justice of allocating a portion of this money to be used for the following purposes: -
To relieve from the necessity of paying rent under the Commonwealth housing scheme any widow, who remains such, or person who was entirely dependent upon a deceased soldier?
To augment the pensions of blind and. totally incapacitated soldiers,
To pay interest for a period of five years on loans granted by the Repatriation Department to soldier settlers and others embarking in business ?
– The Government will consider the indemnity question in all its aspects when it is in receipt of reliable information as to what indemnity, if any, is to be paid to Australia, and as to the period over which such payment would extend.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the House as to’ the quantity of butter exported during the years 1914-15-16-17-18, and the price obtained locally and overseas for same?
– The information desired will be obtained and supplied.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether all the privileges enjoyed by returned soldiers under the Repatriation Act will be extended to nurses, including land settlement?
– Under the Repatriation Act members of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service accepted or appointed for service outside Australia are regarded as returned soldiers, and are, therefore, eligible for all the benefits of that Act. Inquiries are being made as to whether nurses are included in the land settlement legislation of the several States. The honorable member will be informed of the result of these inquiries.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay ‘on the table of the House a return showing -
The number and names of post-offices and receiving offices in Victoria which have been deprived of mail services or have received a notice to the effect that, unless certain payments are made by way of subsidy, their mail services will be curtailed or dispensed with altogether?
How many towns outside of the metropolitan area, formerly enjoying two mail services per day,- have been reduced to one service?
The amount of money expended in remodelling the old post-office at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke streets ?
The amount of money expended at the General Post Office, Melbourne, for club and recreation purposes?
– Having regard to the cost- of preparing the return asked for by the honorable member, the fact that the exercise of economy has to be strictly adhered to, and the relative value of such return when furnished, the circumstances do not, in my judgment, warrant compliance with the request.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What steps is he taking to obtain a supply of telephone wire, so that intending country telephone subscribers may be connected with local exchanges without delay?
– Tenders have been called for a supply of wire for country and other subscribers’ lines. These close on the 1st and 7bh proximo.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he agree to a full and complete inquiry with regard to the purchase of the Shaw wireless plant at Bandwick, such inquiry to be conducted preferably by a High Court Judge?
– This matter has already been fully inquired into, and the Government does not propose to re-open it.
Relief of Distress
– By permission of the House, I should like to ask a question of the Acting Prime Minister.
– This proceeding at this stage is somewhat irregular. The honorable member for Melbourne intimated to me that he desired the permission of the House to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question of some urgency. Is there any objection? There being none, the honorable member may proceed.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give the House any information about the deputation” that waited on him last night regarding the unemployment and misery now prevalent in Melbourne?
– I received a small number of representatives of the Disputes Committee of the Trades Hall and of the Relief Committee last night, and heard from them statements regarding the cases of distress to which the honorable member refers. I promised to confer to-day with the Premier of Victoria, as this is very largely a State matter, but I found that the Premier was absent from the city, and that conference has, so far, not taken place. In. view, however, of the pressing nature of many of the cases, I ordered the payment to-day of £500to relieve the most distressful cases, and the circulation from the Defence Department of certain blankets and flannel to meet the necessities of women inurgent need.
– Will that treatment be extended to other States?
– Yes, wherever the facts are the same.
Repatriation : New Industries : Vocational Training and Exhibition of Soldier’s Work: Administration: Sustenance Payments - Cost of Living and Industrial Unrest : Profiteering: Control of Prices - Navigation Act: - Oil Development - Federal Capital - Northern Territory - Shipbuilding - Returned Soldiers and Compulsory Military Training - The War: Terms of Peace : League of Nations - Senator Pearce: Defence Administration: Visit to England - Australian National Spirit - Encouragement of Primary Production - Manufacture of Small Arms - Industry and Labour Conditions : Arbitration - War-time Profits. Taxation - Exports and Shipping Space - Control of Metals - Per Capita Payments to States - Oversea Mail Service and Cargo: South Australia - Settlement of Seamen’s Strike: Round-table Conference: Seamen’s Grievances: The Governor-General - Nationalist and Labour Aims - Mutiny on H.M.A.S. “ Australia “ : Sentences of Court Martial - Military . Punishments : Case of Gunner Yates - Control of Sea Transport: Position of Tasmania: Light Dues - Pay of Postal Employees - Country Telephone Facilities.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Debate resumed from 25th June (vide page 10091), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1919-20, a sum not exceeding £4,337,339.
.- I was pointing out last night that, notwithstanding the fact that we have had four years of war, and that during that period statements were made from one end of the country to the other that this was an opportune time to start industries, with a view to absorbing our men when they came back from the Front, up to the present nothing of a substantial nature had been done in that direction. I challenged members opposite to produce one instance where b’ig industries had been established, and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) referred to a new industry for the manufacture of copper wire, started at Port Kembla. No doubt that is a very large work, but it was started by men in private enterprise, and not by this Government. I challenged the Government for their lack of enthusiasm in the establishment of industries to absorb our returned men, but the statement of the honorable member for Illawarra was no reply.
– Take a walk around the Queen’s Hall.
– The honorable member for Calare, in pursuance of his policy of partisan barracking for the Government, refers me to the exhibits in the Queen’s Hall. They simply show that men returned from the Front have been making tables, chests of drawers, boots, and so forth. If those men go into such industries, they are only replacing other men. That is not solving the problem. I want new industries established. The more returned men you put into the factories to make furniture or boots, the more you are replacing other men. That seems to be the policy of the Government - “ Get rid of the men now established in industries and make places for returned men.” Surely that is not a statesmanlike manner in which to deal with a big problem like this. “We have 300,000 men or more coming back from the war, and no more important question can engage the attention of this Parliament than that of settling them in civilian life again. To do that we must open up new industries in this country. I am astonished that the Acting Prime Minister’ (Mr. Watt) should come down with a Ministerial statement containing no jot or tittle of evidence that the Government are going to deal with this great problem. The statement will not cause any enthusiasm in the House or the country, because the Government hold out no prospect of a big policy. All they give is an array of Bills showing what they are going to do as the session proceeds, but the one outstanding feature should be what they are going to do to absorb the men coming back from the front.
– Does not the statement say that the Government are going to encourage new industries?
– Will not that do it?
– I admit that it will provide for a few, but there is no indication of any big effort.
– Is it not largely a matter for the States?
– These men coming back from the Front are our men; we have been paying them, and they are under our care. The Government have been discharging them, and putting them on the labour market, whereas it should be the first care of the Government not to discharge them until there is employment for them. Like other members, I have had experience of men coming to me to get them employment. It cannot be done, because there are no avenues open. It is all very fine to talk about settling them on the land, but thousands of them do not want to go on the land, or are not capable of it, and would be a failure if put there. Surely the Government should have come down with a vigorous policy to develop the resources of this country. They have the money to do it. Last year we gave the Government authority to borrow over £40,000,000 to carry on the war. The war practically ceased before Parliament rose, and that money should be used now to employ our men. That should be part of the war expenditure.
– All that money has been absorbed.
– The Acting Prime Minister said yesterday that the mere fact that men were coming back, and would be struck off the pay-list, had relieved the Treasury to a great extent.
– He said alsohe had £24,000,000 of loan money still available.
Mr.RILEY. - If that is so, surely the Government can see their way to employ our men. I am disappointed with the Acting Prime Minister’s statement, the Committee has reason to be disappointed with it, and I am sure the country will be.
Honorable members opposite say that the community is in a state of industrial discontent and turmoil. Is it any wonder? That state of things applies not only to this country, but all over the civilized world. What is the reason? I have come in contact with men in my electorate who before the war were earning £3 per week ; they have had increases, perhaps, to £3 10s. a week, and yet they are worse off to-day than they were before the war, owing to the increase in the cost of living. It is not a question of this Parliament or of this or that party doing it. It seems to be in the air, and whereever’ a man can make money he makes it, irrespective of whom he is going to injure. The Government should try to deal with this question, and not leave it to the States. This. Parliament should be above the States. It has the duty of protecting the people of the whole of the Commonwealth. When profiteering goes on to the extent that we have it in Australia, we must expect discontent, strikes, and the spread of the revolutionary feeling amongst the people. We ought to do everything we possibly can to prevent that.
– What will stop it?
– That is a fair question. It is only reasonablethat those who urge that a stop should be put to profiteering should be prepared to show how that can be done. As most honorable members are aware, I was for three years a member of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales. In that Court, after inquiring into the profits made in a particular industry, we had power to award the rates of wages to be paid, but we had no power to determine at- what price the product of the industry should be sold. I take the view that if our arbitration powers were so extended as to enable the Court not only to fix the wages to be paid in, say, the boot trade, but to determine the prices at which the boots should be sold - allowing the manufacturer, of course, a reasonable profit - we should put an end to profiteering. The Government should deal with these questions in a proper way. To do what I have just suggested it would be necessary to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– To amend the Constitution.
– We shall certainly have to do that.
– We tried to get amendments, but failed.
– That was some time ago; but I am satisfied that the people are suffering so severely because of the high cost of living that such an amendment of the Constitution as would empower the Federal Government to deal effectively with profiteering would be readily agreed to. Questions of this kind should be tackled, and tackled at once if the whole country is not to be thrown into a state of chaos. I represent a big industrial centre, I move freely amongst the people, and I know the feeling beneath the crust of public opinion. On every hand there is a deep feeling of resentment in regard to the high cost of living and the profiteering that is going on. One man told me recently that he had been trying for three weeks to save enough money to get his hair cut, but that, because of the high cost of living, lie had not been able to do so. Honorable members may smile, but the position is most serious, and I am dealing with it in all earnestness. Thousands of people have not the means to provide the necessaries of life. Surely we should be prepared to stop party fighting and to deal with a measure that is well calculated to save Australia from chaos.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) says he does not know how many of the people are able to exist.
– I am sure that he, like many other honorable members, realizes the position. It is the same all over Australia, and I am disappointed that the Government ‘ have not come down with proposals to create new avenues of employment to relieve the distress that exists and to deal effectively with profiteering.
– Why not bring the shipping strike to an end ?
– I did not propose to deal with that matter, but since it has been mentioned, let me say that, had the Government brought the Navigation Act into operation by proclamation the seamen’s strike would not have occurred. That measure has remained in abeyance for over three years. Had it been proclaimed before, the conditions of our seamen would have been raised to a decent standard, and this strike would have been avoided.
– The honorable member helped to put the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill on the statute-book, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Court could deal with the matter.
– But I am speaking of the Navigation Act,” which was passed before the honorable member entered this Parliament. It is one of the best measures ever passed by any Legislature. All over the world complimentary references have been made to it, and I contend that it should be at once brought into operation.
– It is not the fault of this Government; the Leader of the Labour party, when in power, could have brought it into operation.
– We had to await the Royal assent to the Bill. Now that it has been assented to, it should be proclaimed without further delay. The conditions of our seamen would then be brought to the level to which honorable members generally desired, in passing the Bill, to raise them. It was not a party measure. Honorable members generally took a pride in dealing with it, but it still remains a dead letter.
Recently on the New South Wales coast three colliers have been wrecked. There is nothing to regulate the loading of such vessels. The trucks of coal are . dropped on the deck of a collier, and. before the men have time to trim the coal into the hatches, off go the lines, and away goes the ship to sea. Before she reaches her destination, heavy seas wash over her, and she is lost. If the Navigation Act were in operation to-day, no vessel would be able to leave port until her hatches had been put on and every thing made ready to go to sea. . We cannot expect our seamen to submit to these hardships lying down. They should have a decent place to sleep and eat in.
– The Arbitration Court could deal with those matters.
– They have been dealt with in the Navigation Act. The seamen have endured these unsatisfactory conditions during the war, and now that hostilities are over they demand that for which they have waited so long. Is there any reason why the Navigation Act should not be proclaimed?
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has promised that it will be proclaimed.
– Let him proclaim it at once and the seamen’s strike will end.
In the schedule to this Bill provision is made for a vote of £4,000 for oil development in Papua. I have been examining an excellent, although brief, report made -by the Public Accounts Committee in regard to this question. Oil developmental works have been going on in Papua for the last six years. During that time we have expended nearly £70,000 in boring operations, but have won only 2,000 gallons of oil. There seems to be no finality to these developmental works. The Public _ Accounts Committee urges that boring operations should be carried out more vigorously in different parts of the Territory, so that we may determine without delay whether we are justified in continuing this expenditure. It was reported in the press a few days ago that the Commonwealth Government had entered into arrangements with the British Government to share in the work of development. I have no objection personally to our cooperating with the British Government, but since we have spent already over £70,000-
– And most of .it has been wasted.
– Since we have already spent on this work £70,000 - a good deal of which, as the honorable member says, has been wasted - why should we invite the co-operation of the British Government? If the Commonwealth authorities are satisfied that oil deposits exist there, they should go on with the work, and the Commonwealth should reap the benefit of any discoveries made. I regret that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is not present, since we ought to have from him a statement of what is taking place in Papua. It is unfair that Parliament should be asked again and again to vote money for this work, without having any details to show whether or not the expenditure is justifiable. The position in this regard seems to be very like what is happening under the Act which we passed some time ago . providing for a bounty to encourage the production of oil in the Commonwealth. Mr. John Pell has taken advantage of that Act; but I am prepared to say that he is not carrying out what was the intention of the Parliament in passing it. He hasnot produced even one gallon of refined kerosene; but he is producing crude oil for fuel purposes and obtaining the bounty upon it. He hasnot produced any of the lubricating oils that we require for machinery purposes, but has grabbed the bounty in respect of the crude article, which does not come up to the required standard. On all these important matters there should be forthcoming statements by the responsible Ministers. This man is evading the terms on which it was decided that the bounty should be payable.
– Then he has no right to the bounty.
– He is receiving it.
– If that is so, the Minister responsible for its payment should be impeached.
– The trouble is that we cannot induce a Minister to remain here and listen to us when we speak. Our object in passing the Bounties Act was to encourage the local production of oil and so to bring down the local price of petrol. The price of petrol is higher in Australia than in any other part of the world, and the payment of this bounty has done nothing to bring about the desired result.
The next question to which I desire to refer is that of the Federal Capital. The Constitution provides that the Seat of
Government shall be in the State of New South Wales. That was one of the conditions on which the State of New South Wales entered into the Federal compact, but it has not been carried out. In respect of other States, promises that were not actually embodied in the Constitution have been honoured. For instance, the people of Western Australia during the Federal campaign were promised that if they accepted the Constitution Bill, . the trans-Australian railway would be built. There was no constitutional undertaking that that line would be built, but we have carried out our promise in regard to it.
– The Commonwealth has not kept the promises made to South Australia.
– We have honoured them ; we have taken over the burden of the Northern Territory, and have thus relieved South Australia of great responsibility and expense.
– Not at all; South Australia would have developed the Territory.
– She had better take it back again.
– South Australia for many years tried in vain to develop the Northern Territory, and the burden was bringing her into a state of bankruptcy when the Federal Government relieved her of it. If South Australia would ask for the return of the Territory, I believe that every member of the Parliament would agree to the request and give her a bonus for taking it back. Then, again, certain promises were made tn Tasmania. Thev. too, have been observed, although they were not part and parcel of the Constitution. The representatives of New South Wales did not object to the honouring of these promises ; but although eighteen years have elapsed since the inauguration of the Commonwealth, there is no indication that the people of Victoria desire to allow the Seat of Government to be transferred to New South Wales. I do not blame the representatives of Victoria, because they are very comfortable here. An honorable compact was made, and the people of New South Wales are entitled to have it kept. There is strong resentment in that State of the treatment which it has received in that regard, and unless this Parliament gives New South Wales a fair deal, there will be bitter opposition to the continuance of the Federal Administration in Melbourne. The Government have spent a great deal of money in preliminary .work at the Capital site. A huge reservoir has been constructed, and a complete water supply is now available; there is a large electric generating plant in order to supply light and power to the district and brickworks have been constructed in readiness for building operations. But all these enterprises are idle. The Federal Territory comprises 900 square miles of land belonging to the Commonwealth, and it is certain that when this Parliament is moved to Canberra a large population will lease the land, and the Treasury will receive from that source a yearly increasing revenue, which will help to defray the expenses of government. I have no desire for this Parliament’s venue to be changed to Sydney. The Commonwealth Parliament should have a home of its own. The longer we remain in Melbourne, the greater will be the expense in the creation of new office accommodation. The construction of the Federal Capital would provide profitable employment for many returned soldiers. If this Parliament is sincere in regard to the promise to create a Federal Capital in New South Wales, the present is an opportune time to proceed with the work, because thousands of , the soldiers who are .returning to Australia are skilled in various building trades, and will require employment.
– Build the Federal Capital as a soldiers’ memorial.
– That would be a good idea. The greatest portion of the Federal revenue is derived from New South Wales, but the people of that State are becoming very dissatisfied with the treatment they have received in connexion with the Federal Capital compact. The Capital city was to have been created within the first ten years of the Federation, so it cannot be said that the people of New South Wales have been unduly impatient. .1 hope that this Parliament will take the present opportunity to proceed with the establishment of its own National home.
Some time ago we were informed that the Government had evolved a great scheme for shipbuilding, and that they had let contracts for the construction of wooden ships. But, even before the war ended, they had . discovered that the wooden ships were a mistake, that they could not be run profitably, that their maximum speed was 7 knots in a favorable wind and no current, and that if they were navigated too close to a current they would run on. to the rocks. Consequently, the Government were forced to cancel the contracts for wooden ships. On the Parramatta River one can see on the slips the ribs of these partially-built ships. What is to become of them? I should like the Government to explain their reasons for abandoning that portion of the shipbuilding policy, and to state the amount they have paid for the cancellation of the contracts. What has been the total cost of this blunder to the Commonwealth?’
– That statement does not harmonize with the speeches which the honorable member made some time ago when urging the Government to proceed with shipbuilding.
– I urged the building of ships, not of 7-knot toys.
– Some of the wooden ships built in America averaged 7 knots throughout a voyage under all conditions.
– I do not doubt that, but my reference was to the contracts for fourteen wooden ships to be built in Sydney and Melbourne. The Government have realized the folly of proceeding with those contracts, and we have a right to know the conditions of the cancellation.
In regard to home defence, is it the policy of the Government to compel returned soldiers to complete their training under the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act? Men have come to me and said, “ We have been three years at the Front, and are now compelled to parade and be drilled by compulsory training officers.”
– I have had many such complaints.
– That policy is not fair. Will not the Government consider the exemption of men who have had military service abroad?
– The Assistant Minister gave me a distinct promise in the House last year .that that policy had been discontinued.
– If the application of compulsory training to returned soldiers is persisted in, the only result will be to create further resentment of the military system. In my opinion, all compulsory training should be suspended for the next ten or fifteen years. We have no need to train a civilian army at the present time, when we have 300,000 veteran soldiers fully trained in every branch of warfare. If we are desirous of economizing, this is clearly an expenditure that -we can dispense with. Parliament should have an opportunity to express an opinion on -this question.
– The honorable member has reached the time limit.”
– I was very pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) in regard to the Commonwealth control of the Northern Territory. The honorable member expressed the opinion that this Parliament would be only .too pleased to hand the Territory back to the South Australian Government. It seems to me an inglorious record that, after all the years of control of the Territory by this Parliament, and after the enormous expenditure there, members opposite should now realize how absurd the Federal administration has been. I am convinced that, with a sane policy, we could make something of the Territory; but by the insane policy initiated and, to a large extent, controlled, by honorable members opposite, we have destroyed what might have been a fine Federal asset. Yet we hear the honorable member urging further Government control in connexion with the oil-fields of Papua. He desires that this Parliament shall have the same power and con- trol over the Papuan oil industry as it has over the affairs of the Northern Territory, and I suppose with the risk of the same waste of expenditure and general failure. If it is demonstrated that oil in commercial quantities exists in Papua, and the Government will throw the industry open to private enterprise, with certain control reserved to the Federal authority in regard to export there will be a probability of success attending that venture. But I have no faith in Government control of the enterprise.
The honorable member for South Sydney condemned also the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) for his efforts to build ships. Had the honorable member for Grey been in charge of the Navy Department when war broke out, and made the same effort then as he did later, Australia would have built ships which would have been a great asset to us. The Acting Minister deserves- more than the ordinary measure of credit for the efforts he made to alleviate the difficulties that were imposed upon us by the scarcity of shipping.
– I indorse everything he did in regard to steel ships.
– My only complaint is that the Acting Minister’s effort came too late. I condemn former Ministers for the Navy - Senator Pearce, Mr. Jensen, and Sir Joseph Cook - for the lethargy they displayed. In the early stages of the war I urged the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to call for tenders and offer a bonus for shipbuilding by private enterprise, and, had action been taken then, all of us would have been pleased with the result. I realize that the honorable member for Grey made a big, strenuous, and businesslike effort to solve the shipping problem, and had the war continued his work would have been more fully appreciated.
Undoubtedly it is too early for us, in this debate, to discuss the conditions of Peace. We have read only a summary of the agreement, and we do not know fully how’ Australia is to be treated in regard to the repayment of our war expenditure. All matters arising out of the Peace agreement will come up for discussion later, and I presume Parliament will have full opportunity for dealing with the various questions. But I may say, in passing, that I have very little sympathy with the so-called League of Nations. There has been too much theorizing and delay in connexion with the Peace negotiations. The deliberations of the Conference were too protracted, and the resultant delay is largely responsible for the trouble and unrest that have developed. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that we must continue in the future to make ample provision for the naval and military protection of Australia.
Some comment has been made upon the Australian representation in London. It seems to me strange that, with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) in London, in addition to the High Commissioner - I do not know for what reason we have a High Commissioner now - it should have been found necessary to send Senator Pearce to England. His administration of the Defence Department was bad. I have no admiration for his Ministerial record, and I think a grave mistake was made in sending him to London. The efficient work which has been done in connexion with the repatriation of Australian soldiers was undoubtedly due to the efforts of that splendid engineer and soldier, Sir John Monash; and I am not at all satisfied with the action of the Government in sending Senator Pearce to England to attend to repatriation matters.
– The Government continued to deny that there was any intention to send him to England.
– There was a lot of secrecy about the matter. Big troubles are in store for us, and there are two great essentials which must be considered by this Parliament. The first is the building up of a national spirit amongst the people of Australia. No country in the world made such a magnificent response as Australia made in connexion with this great war; but after all the sacrifices our men and women have made, it is indeed hard that so many of our people have such little faith in their country. Something should be done to build up a national spirit. The Americans are doing much in this direction. At cinematograph theatres one can see pictures illustrating the marvellous methods they are adopting to build up that spirit. Certainly, there is a good deal of bombast about it, and a great deal of credit is claimed that I think is hardly due to them; but I commend them for the evidence they have shown of earnestness in building up a spirit of patriotism. One picture in which this was illustrated was shown at a picture show I recently attended in Sydney, lt was followed by a picture of a lacrosse match in Sydney, and the next picture was that of a football match in Melbourne. I think it would be an act of wisdom on the part of the Government if they were to appoint some one like General White,- who recently returned to Australia, to organize some method by which a great national spirit- might he created among the people of Australia. I read General White’s recent speeches with a great deal of pleasure. He is doing his best to build up a great national spirit.
– Let us get to the national Capital.
– We must first get rid of the vile spirit of internationalism that is abroad to-day, and that section of the community who .go about preaching that “ the whole world is ours;” yet in the very next breath have no time for the brotherhood of nations when they fear the entry of goods from an alien country. Their po.icy in one direction is narrow and cramped, yet they tell us that we should form one of the brotherhood of nations, and be internationalists. My view is that we ought to build up a great Australian spirit - or rather an Imperial spirit, seeing that our future rests wholly on the protection afforded by the British Navy.
Another great essential for the future of Australia is the stimulation of production, particularly primary production. We have only to look at Knibbs to see what Australia exports.
– We must have both primary and secondary production in order to be successful.
– There is no reason why we cannot have both. Any person who believes in building up primary production must realize that the home market is the best; but I have no wish to strangle primary production in order to build up trumpery industries in the cities, as many of them are. By the time we have paid for our war debt, and provided the money which will be required for repatriating our soldiers, the public debt of Australia, States and Commonwealth, will be between £950,000,000 and £1,000,000,000- nearly £200 per head of the population. Is it proposed to liquidate that debt by crippling the primary industries, and increasing production in the cities? Surely every one admits that taxation is unduly heavy in Australia at the present time. Our revenue has increased year after year, and that fact has undoubtedly led to the grossest extravagance, not only in Commonwealth administration, but also in the administration of the States. Many legislators hold the belief that we can keep on taxing the people, and that the Government can spend the people’s money better than can the people themselves. This belief has tended to extravagance and to the destruction of that private enterprise which alone can build up industries in this country, and which would be started were the people allowed to retain in their own pockets the money which the State now draws from them by way of taxation. The Treasurer will have a heavy task, and our only hope in the future is to stimulate our primary industries. Establish as many factories as you like, but with whom must they compete ? With the exception of a few harvesters, and a certain quantity of leather, although factories have been receiving the benefit of high duties, have we ever sent any manufactured products from Australia? In our very best year, I do not suppose we have exported manufactured goods to the value of £5,000,000.
– We have sent abroad khaki for the soldiers.
– And small arms ammunition.
– The honorable member should not say anything about 6m all arms.’ We did not send away a rifle after the first four months of the war.
– I said “ small arms ammunition . ‘ “
– From a very reliable source I have heard that one in every ten, and sometimes one in every twenty cartridges manufactured here contained two bullets. The manufacture of small arms at Lithgow has been a damnable disgrace. We sent our boy6 away from this country with such vile weapons that we might just as well have sent them to the Front with their hands tied behind their backs.
– Some of the rifles were dashed bad.
– The honorable member was in Perth, and saw some of them. The great mistake in connexion with the Small Arms Factory is that its administration is in the hands of the Minister for Defence. I give way in my belief in private enterprise to this extent that 1 hold that the making of munitions of war should be absolutely under the control of the Government, but the controlling Minister should be any other Minister but the Minister for Defence. When the officers of the Defence Department found that the rifles manufactured at the Small Arms Factory were bad, they could not complain, because they would be blaming their own Minister. They should be in the position to say exactly what they require, and refuse to accept anything that is not up to the highest standard, no matter what it may cost to attain that standard. But this cannot be done so long as the Small Arms Factory is under the control of their own Minister. It should be under the control of another Minister or special Commissioners.
It is the wealth we receive from our primary industries that enables us to build up our secondary industries, and we must not continue to build a wall of China all round Australia. We must not do as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggested a couple of sessions ago, when he said that there were plenty of people in Australia to manufacture all Australia’s requirements, and therefore we should not permit any machinery to be imported. It is preposterous to put forward such an argument, and absurd to propose to impose huge duties that will absolutely prevent articles coming into this country from abroad. If that is done, where shall we get our revenue in the -future when we lose the Customs taxation 1 What sort of an impost will be placed on those who have to take all the risks of fire, flood, and drought in their endeavour to develop Australia’s resources, despite all the difficulties put in their way, and despite the enormous expenditure which has to be incurred by them, and which of recent years has so considerably increased? It is only by increasing our production that we can increase the population. Unless a demand exists, it is useless to commence to build up factories. If we had a population of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 persons, we would find industries starting by leaps and bounds. If there were only less Government control and less interference, many people would be found coming here to help us to build up our secondary industries. I have been told that certain gentlemen came from America for the purpose of establishing a factory here, and that they were prepared to spend £1,500,000; but after having been here for three or four months, and seeing the labour conditions and food control in Australia, they decided to recommend their people not to spend the money in establishing the enterprise.
– There is enough labour trouble in America.
– There is labour trouble everywhere.
The honorable member drew attention to the trouble which was due to profiteering; but a great deal of it is caused by the very people that the honorable member should condemn - the red-raggers and the Industrial Workers of the World- who flout the laws so freely. No matter what party is in power it is the bounden duty of every member of Parliament to insist upon the observance of the law. Of course, we should do our best to pass legislation that will provide for conditions that will ameliorate many of these troubles; but, at the same time, when we have laws on our statute-books, it is the duty of honorable members opposite, equally with honorable members on this side, to endeavour to induce the people to comply with them. Certainly there has been no equitable attempt te prevent profiteering. Price-fixing, as carried out, has been an absolute absurdity. Generally, men were appointed to fix prices who knew nothing about trade, and there was always a considerable amount of undue interference that only served to increase the price of commodities. I must say that it “broke me up” to find the Government introducing an amendment of the War-time Profits Tax Act, which proved of great advantage to commission agents, who here and in Sydney made huge fortunes out of the war. Under this Bill, no matter if a commission agent made £30,000 or £50,000 last year, or the year before, he has not to pay one sixpence in taxation, whereas poor devils who have gone out into the back country, and burdened themselves with debt in developing their holdings, at the same time running all the risks of fire and drought, have to pay 75 per cent, if they show a profit of £5,000’ or £10,000.
– And possibly half of that profit is represented by stock, and not realizable.
– Often, it is a book profit, and, at the same time, such a man may be heavily indebted to some financial institution. It is not too late to provide by legislation that a person who has made an income of over £1,000 beyond his average annual income shall have his case specially investigated, and if there is any trace of profiteering, shall be called upon to pay 50 per cent., or, if need be, 100 per cent, in taxation.
– A lot of the .retail men ought to be taxed.
– I feel sure of it. It seems ‘ strange that commission agents should be able to come here, and get special legislation to prevent their being called upon to pay war-time taxation.
– What Government passed that legislation ?
– The present Government ; but the other side, when in power, did nothing.
– I stopped stuff being sent away.
– The Labour Government did bring in a Bill, but it was a, stupid Bill not applicable to Australia.
– I was out of the Government when that Bill was brought in.
– My desire is to build up and encourage primary production in Australia, realizing that this represents the only means whereby we can pay interest on our great war debt, and increase prosperity and population. The primary producer has to rely to a great extent on the State Governments for all the assistance he gets. What assistance is rendered by the Commonwealth Government by means of the Post Office? One would think that the utmost possible effort would be made to afford postal and telephone facilities to every one who has gone out into the bush.
Then, again, in regard to stock, very little is being done to help the producer. What I desire is a distinct promise from the Government that if freezing works are established on the north-west coast, every encouragement will be given by way of bonuses to ships with, freezing space for the purpose of getting the produce to market. I am informed, however, that when these industries are established will be time enough to . consider the question ; but they cannot be established unless there is some assurance of being able to reach the market. I suggest that the Board of Trade should see that it is fully informed of the possibilities of trade from the outlying portions of Australia, so that it may devise the best means of rendering assistance in the way I have indicated. In Western Australia, I motored through an avenue of grapes, three-fourths of a mile in length, all of export variety, capable of supplying thousands of cases, all ready to be sent to the Old Country; but I was unable to get space for a single case. I do not blame the Government, because I believe the Imperial Government released only apples, but what I have said certainly shows the great importance of encouraging such industries. From one little patch of 15i acres in Western Australia, a man made a gross revenue of £2,196 in grapes, currants, and raisins last year; and this will give some idea of the wonderful wealth there is in the country. Had there been room on the ships to take this produce away to the extent of thousands of cases, wealth would have been produced on which we could have levied taxation. But, instead of this, a great proportion of the grapes was allowed to rot. In regard to apples there does seem to have been some stupidity on the part of the Government - or, it may be, some people have too much power. In Western Australia we have grown a lot of apples, and we were anxious to find out if space was available on the *Somerset. We were advised that there would be room for about 8,000_ cases; but I saw an advertisement in the West Australian of the agent of Messrs. Jones and Company, of Tasmania, announcing that that firm had room for 10,000 cases on the Somerset, and asking people to send in to that quantity, with a return of, I think, 7s.
– I bold no brief for Jones and Company, but may not the firm have already paid for the space, and were merely sub-letting it?
– That was the advertisement of the agent for Messrs. Jones and Company ; and if such were the case, they had no right for priority of space in Western Australia. In this connexion I have to complain of an insolent letter from the Prime Minister’s Department -
Messrs. Jones and Company are indignant that such a report as that from Perth, which was published in the Melbourne Age of the 1st instant, and which is on similar lines to the telegram sent by you, should have been circulated.
I sent a telegram setting out the facts, and yet the Department has the impertinence to tell us that Messrs. Jones and Company are indignant. At the same time the Department apparently did not think it worth while to see what kind of advertisement it was that had appeared.
– Who signed that letter?
– It was signed by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) for the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), but I do not blame the Acting Prime Minister, nor do I suppose that the PostmasterGeneral read the letter or knew the facts. I submit that the Departmental officer was wrong in sending out a letter of that sort. We do not wish anybody to get preference, but only that every State shall have a fair deal.
– It is about time the growers got a fair deal.
– I am ascertaining the requirements of the growers in Western Australia, and I propose to ask the Western Australian representatives in this House to form themselves into a committee in order to see whether something cannot be done to secure fair treatment.
The only other matter I desire to refer to is that of the metal industry. I do not propose to go fully into the question now, because it is one that ought to be discussed by itself. However, unless something is done in the near future, it will be necessary to move the adjournment of the House, or take some other drastic measures for relief. The action of the Government in this regard has built up a monopoly which is bound to prove more dangerous than any German monopoly we ever had - in short, the conditions which have followed the Government’s action are absolutely disgraceful. We ask people to go out prospecting, and we are all pleased when we hear of some poor fellow, after long labour, finding something good, because we hope that extensive employment will follow.
– The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– If no other member wishes to speak, I shall be very glad to take my second half -hour now. There were three men who, some time ago, made a wonderful discovery of lead, which was then at a very high price. Almost out of one small pot hole these men took £70,000 worth of lead in less than two years, and yet the profit they got was just under £4,000.
– Who got the rest?
– Those in control should answer that. Even had the men got £25,000 it would only have been a fair margin out of a rich little pocket. I shall not mentionnames, but there is a mining man who was compelled to send his tin oxide over here for treatment, and there was a delay of about four months when he sought permission to sell it, involving a loss of something like £60 per ton to him. The State smelter is compelled to send standard copper of 98 per cent. over here for treatment and realization at a cost of about £4 9s. a ton ; in fact, it is worthless to produce anything under 11 per cent. over in Western Australia, whereas 5 per cent. ore ought to be worth working.
Representatives of New South Wales ought to realize that a big company in that State is being harassed by the Government; and that hundreds of men are in consequence thrown out of employment, causing a big reduction in trade service and employment generally. If 300 or 400 men are deprived of their work, it must affect 1,000 or more other people. The company to which I am referring applied for permission to sell their product, but they were sent from the Attorney-General’s Department to the Prime Minister’s Department, and told to go to the Copper Producers Association; but they have failed to obtain a permit to trade. This company, however, refused to join the Copper Producers Association at a cost of £500, pay 1 per cent. on the value of their output, and lose control of their product for the next fifty years. The Government will not tell these people that they must join, but they keep on prevaricating; and month after month elapses, while the mines are closed and hundreds are thrown out of employment. These people have their own plant, their own mine and their own furnaces and electrolytic plant, and have capital to treat their own ore. They say -
No doubt you are aware that electrolytic copper is now quoted at £90 per ton, and we seeno reason why we should not try and make a start if we can only get permission to dispose of our finished product when made.
Why not? No doubt the Government are justified in preventing the export of metals to this or that country if there are special and proper reasons for such a prohibition ; and we have no knowledge of what the Peace conditions may be in this regard. The Government, however, have no right to place in the hands of a small clique - the Zinc Producers Association or the Tin or Copper Association - an absolute monopoly.
– Who are the syndicate - the Broken Hill people, or who?
– The Broken Hill people objected to join the Zinc Producers Association, and so did the Mount Lyell Company. They were told by Sir John Higgins, when the Conferencewas held, that he would ask the AttorneyGeneral to use the strongest powers he possessed rather than the scheme should fail, and Mr. Mahon, who was then Acting Attorney-General, said they would have to accept the scheme within forty-eight hours in the letter and spirit in which it was proposed. So these people were forced to join, and, according to the agreement, they had to pay £500 to join, and 1 per cent, for the handing of the ore. And they gave to that Association, on which they certainly had some representation, for they had one director each, the absolute control of all their output - that is the making of their contracts and the fixing of the price - for the next fifty years. It is abominable that these corporations, the biggest in Australia, should have been forced into an Association of that kind.
– Do you not think that all these committees ought to be abandoned now, and things allowed to return to their normal state?
– In this instance there would have to be legislation.
– I mean the Wool Committee, the Copper Committee, and the Metals Committee. .
– They have never had the force of law, and that is where the equivocation comes in here. Other than the regulation which gives the Customs Department the power to prevent the exportation of goods to any country, there is not even a regulation. It is all donesub-rosa and by force; it is simply “ bluff.”
– Is it true that a few firms have control of the shipping of some of these metals yet?
– Not of the shipping, but the Association has control of the export. My people say, “ We will not join the Association; we are not going to give it the control of our mines,” for that is what it really means.
– They got better terms from the Germans.
– Have we not better people to trade with than the Germans? The Government, of course, are justified in saying, “ We will not allow this stuff to be exported to any country where German firms may get hold of it.”
– This was done to smash the German combine.
– What is being built up now is a combine worse than any German combine. Why give to a small directoratein Melbourne the absolute control of the zinc or copper production of Australia ? Why, if we produce copper in Western Australia, should we be compelled to have our contracts made and to sell our copper through the Copper Producers Association in Melbourne ?
– I do not suppose you will be now, but it was better than the Germans.
– I have told the honorable member repeatedly that if you joined that Association, you agreed to give it the control of your product for fifty years.
– That cannot stand in a Court.
– It is an agreement, and it exists.
– Some of the people who control the metals now are the people who used to deal with the Germans in the prewar period.
– That is a question for the House to deal with; but there is no doubt in my mind that an effort was made by a certain section to manipulate the control of these metals. When these agreements are concluded, do they not give to that Association the absolute control of the output for the next fifty years ? They certainly do unless we pass legislation to annul them on the ground that they were signed under duress. I was not prepared to speak on this subject today, because a great number of facts and figures have to be got ready, and all I have stated are facts which I have memorized for some time, through having to deal with the subject so often.
As regards the building up of the primary production of Australia, the primary producer has to depend to a very great extent on the States for assistance. He cannot get it from the Commonwealth. This country is too great for us in this Parliament to be able to realize the difficulties and vicissitudes of many of the outlying industries. The Government have suggested that, owing to the demands on the Commonwealth purse, a big reduction should be made in the per capita payment that we agreed to make to the States.
– There is no hope of them carrying that through the Senate.
– I am afraid they will carry it. I want the Government to understand my position distinctly in the matter. I came here as one who believes in the Federation. I do not believe in Unification, and will do all I can to prevent any such scheme, because the Treasurer’s proposal means the absolute destruction of the States, and this must be followed by Unification.
– It may .injure the State Legislatures; but ,it will not injure the peoples of the States.
– It will injure the States, because this Parliament cannot help to build up the industries of remote States like Queensland and Western Australia, and if you injure those States you will injure Australia. Honorable members here have not the necessary knowledge, and with the small representation we have’ here we shall he absolutely destroyed.
– Good- old parochial idea!
– I have a great area to represent, while the honorable member represents only a few yards in comparison.
– I have flesh and blood to represent.
– The honorable member does not represent a much greater number of people. I represent about 40,000, and the honorable member may have 7,000 or S,000 more in his electorate ; but the difference is very small in proportion. There have not been in Victoria and New South Wales the objections to this proposal that are coming from the other States. That is rather short-sighted on the part of the two States I have named. There has been an enormous expenditure for war purposes in
Australia during the past three or four years, nearly the whole of it in Victoria and New South Wales, which have had a prosperity in consequence that will not continue in the future. They are, therefore, working on false premises if they do not realize how this scheme will affect them later on. I hope that all those who believe in the Federation, and in helping the States to carry on the work of development, all those who want to see the best interests of Australia conserved, will work together for the purpose of preventing the Government from carrying a proposal which, if given effect to, must tend to destroy the Federation, and result in Unification. Of course, those who believe in Unification will support the Treasurer’s proposal; but I hope the good sense of the House will prevent its passage, and that the Treasurer will see the danger of endeavouring to make it law.
– I do not intend to delay the passage of Supply, because it has been customary for Supply Bills prior to the present Parliament to run through in a very short space of time, and I have known a Bill covering a much larger amount of Supply than this, to be dealt with in less than ten minutes. I do not complain of the action of the Opposition in debating this Bill. As the House has been in recess for six months, it is not at all surprising that honorable members on both sides should wish to’ discuss a few pressing questions. In considering the grant of Supply to His Majesty, we should, I think, be confined to the old constitutional practice, by which the House of Representatives declined to pass Supply until the Government had redressed grievances, or promised to do so. There are, of course, grievances and grievances. Some are of a most pressing character, and we should be following the old constitutional practice much more closely if ‘we debated them only; but under our Standing Orders practically everything under the sun can be made the subject of a grievance, and discussed on Supply.
I propose to call the attention of the Government to one or two matters, lt it not my intention to quarrel with them.
My idea is more to urge improvements in the future, because what is past is past, and all the talking by this House, or writing by the press, is of no avail unless it prevents a recurrence of the practices complained of. During the war, up to the time of the armistice, things worked as well as could be expected in Australia, considering the difficulties under which the Empire laboured and the gigantic nature of the struggle in which it was suddenly involved. But since the armistice was signed the Government have shown some neglect of the interests of the outlying States. We, in South Australia, expected . a great deal from Federation, and there is no doubt that in many respects we have reaped great benefits, although we have not got all that we would like. It is a peculiarity of human nature to be always wanting what we are unable to get, but the smaller States have suffered, and in the instances I propose to give, my own State has certainly suffered unnecessarily. Since the armistice, there seems to have grown up an idea that Sydney and Melbourne constitute the bull’s eye of Australia. They are the only two great places recognised either in Australia or overseas, and no other part of Australia seems to he in the reckoning. In dealing with these grievances, I propose to put the blame where I believe it should attach. It does not suit my book to attack the Government merely because they are the Government. There is no sense in that, and it is of no benefit to the people.
The position in regard to the delivery of mails has not been satisfactory since the armistice was signed. During the war they were distributed with far greater regularity in South Australia, and the arrangements were better as regards both the outgoing and the incomingmails. Since tho armistice, I have known as long a period as ten days to elapse before mail matter has reached South Australia, although the business people of Melbourne and Sydney have had their letters days and days before. What position is a commercial man in Adelaide placed in when mail matt.p.r has been distributed in the eastern States several days before he gets his?
– That only applies to the American mail.
– The honorable member knows Sydney very well, and he will give me credit for knowing ‘ what occurs in Adelaide. The American mails come in, and leave that city at any hour. The Deputy Postmaster-General for South Australia makes up the mail for despatch on a certain date, but suddenly receives from Sydney an order countermanding his previous instructions, with the result that the American mail steamer leaves with mails to be sent on to London from Sydney and Melbourne alone. There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason for the present system, under which the people of South Australia are placed at a, great disadvantage.
– The honorable member is referring more particularly to the American mails ?
– I am referring to the system generally. Only ‘ recently a. mail from America suddenly turned up at Adelaide, and no one knew that it was coming. Some of cur mails come direct from’ the Old Country. When a Blue Funnel or Aberdeen liner is about to leave England with troops, the postal authorities in London should be advised, so that they can despatch mails by her. There is a very good law which provides that the King’s mails may be placed on any vessel, and when a troopship is leaving the Old Country for Australia direct, the postal authorities at Saint Martin’s le Grand should be advised that mails, if despatched by her, would reach Australia sooner than if sent.by one of the ordinary mail’ steamers. I have gone into this matter very carefully at the request of citizens of Adelaide, who have been subjected to much annoyance, but the quarantine restrictions are such that one does not care to visit Melbourne too frequently to inquire into it, more especially ‘ when one has to come from a “ clean “ to an “ infected “ State. My contention is that no oversea mails should leave Australia unless mails from South Australia are also carried. I am surprised that the postal authorities here are unable to deal with so simple a matter. The regular despatch of oversea mails is of far more importance than are many of the wonderful postal reforms of which we hear so much. I am also at a loss to account for the extraordinary and eccentric system of despatching mails to Australia from the Old Country. They come sometimes vid America and sometimes direct. When inquiry is made as to the failure of the postal authorities at Home to take advantage of a vessel coming direct to Australia, the answer is made that no information as to the intended departure of such vessels is afforded them. What are our representatives doing in London ? I do not expect the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) or the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to take action in regard to a matter of this kind, hut surely the High Commissioner’s Office should he able to deal effectively with it. Is the High Commissioner’s Office doing anything at all?
– The honorable member will be given the “kick out” from his party.
– That would not occasion me any more worry than I suffered when I was kicked out of the Official Labour party. From what I hear there is nothing to prevent the High Commissioner communicating with Saint Martin’s le Grand either by telephone or messenger as to the approaching departure of a vessel for Australia by which mails could be shipped here. The High Commissioner’s Office should be in a position to advise the British postal authorities of such matters, and to inform the postal authorities here whenever a mail is despatched, and when it is likely to arrive As it is, it would appear to be no one’s business to do so. The well-paid officers of the High Commissioner’s Department should be able to put an end to the present eccentric system, which is causing so much annoyance to the people of South Australia.
– Why should not the Com- monwealth Cabinet Ministers at Home deal with the matter?
– The High Commissioner should deal with it. My remarks have no personal application. My contention is that the High Commissioner should take the initiative in these matters.
– And he would if he had the power.
– Is it impossible for him to communicate with the British postal authorities in the way I have just suggested? We ought certainly to have a more regular mail system.
– The present Government are disorganized. They could not create any system. On the honorable member!s own showing, they cannot even arrange for the proper arrival and despatch of oversea mails.
– That is a weakness on the part of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster).
– Of course it is.
– My desire is to impress on the Government the necessity for placing Adelaide in the same position that other State Capitals occupy in this respect.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has urged - and I agree with him - that steps should be taken at once to suppress profiteering. Parliament should do everything within its power in that direction. This very difficulty in regard to oversea mails is given as one cause for the increased cost of many imported goods sold in Adelaide. Two out of every three vessels from Great Britain, voyaging either by way of the Cape or Suez, now come direct to Melbourne and Sydney. Although Adelaide is on the direct route, they do not touch there. South Australian cargo is carried round to Melbourne or Sydney, and has subsequently to be returned to the South Australian capital. Even before the shipping strike, thousands of tons of overseas cargo intended for Adelaide were carried on to Melbourne or Sydney, and were lying at those ports awaiting return to South Australia. My contention is that all these vessels should touch at Adelaide and discharge their South Australian cargo there. I am informed that the authorities on this side say that they must come direct to Melbourne or Sydney to discharge the troops or whatever they are carrying. This shifting of cargo back to Adelaide must result in increased cost.
– The honorable member knows the reason for the practice. The first consideration is that our boys shall be brought home. You can have your cargo after that is done.
– I think that some vessels carrying troops have discharged cargo at Adelaide. The present arrangement may suit Melbourne and Sydney very well, but it hits South Australia very hard.
– The people of Queensland have to put up with the same sort of thing.
– With the exception of the Blue Funnel liners, the majority of the oversea vessels touching at Queensland ports come direct from the Old Country. Adelaide is on the ordinary trade route of oversea vessels coming to Australia vid the Cape or Suez, and all such vessels carrying cargo for South Australia should discharge it at Adelaide before coming round to the eastern ports. Under the present system we are giving the profiteers a good excuse for putting up prices. I have no doubt that when we return to normal conditions these o troubles will disappear; but, meantime, I ask the Government to see that South Australian traders are no longer subjected to the disabilities of which I have complained.
Although I have criticised the Government this afternoon, I am satisfied with their actions as a whole. I do not say that they have not committed errors of judgment. They are not perfect, and I have no hope of seeing a perfect Government in power. The present Administration and the party behind them are the great bulwarks of the Commonwealth, standing as they do for its stability, security, and prosperity. . There are only two parties in power to-day. There is the party that is building and the party that is wasting. The old idea of party politics and divisions is passing away.
– The honorable member belongs to the German party.
– No ; but the honorable member does, and he is sorry that he is not a German proper. Honorable members opposite advocated peace by negotiation when the policy was first launched from Berlin in 1917, and if they are not German allies I should like to know what other conclusion can be drawn from the English language.
– Have we not been negotiating for peace for the last two months ?
– There would be a nice lot of negotiations between England and Ireland if the Sinn Feiners had their way. If the Sinn Feiners had England “ by the wool,” as we have Germany to-day, there would not be much negotiation. The Government, and the party behind them, are the builders, and, of course, we make some mistakes; the party opposite are the wasters. To-day the great industrial army of Australia is split in twain. By what? Two-thirds of our workers are downright sensible, honest, good industrialists, and a credit to Australia. They believe in arbitration.
– More than twothirds of them .
– I am stating theproportion of two-thirds because I know the ramifications of the cut-throat redraggers. They would be dominant to-day but for the fact that they are frightened of the word “ scab “ being hurled at them. For that reason I support, and will continue to support, the Government, because they are the bulwarks of society, and are the best protection against the attempts that are being made to overthrow it. Honorable members opposite will disclaim the effort to overthrow society. I do not suppose they believe in that policy, but they have been the lackeys of the men outside this Parliament, and they will tumble over themselves in their readiness to do the bidding of their masters.
I am sorry that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is not in the Chamber, but I hope that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Wise) will convey to him the suggestion I am about to make. The most serious problem that faces Australia to-day is the maritime strike. I wish the matter to be looked at very calmly, because it is too serious to every portion of the community to be regarded in any other way. I suggest that the Government might advise the Governor-General to call the president of the Ship-owners Federation and the president of the Seamen’s Union to a round-table conference.
– The Government will not do that.
– I do not know that they have been asked before; I ask them now.
– Would you recommend that .the Governor-General, when he gets the seamen to the conference, should- call them “ cut-throat red-raggers “ ?
– No. My idea in proposing to bring the Governor-General into the dispute is that, at the head of this conference we should have a distinguished representative of the King who enjoys the confidence and respect of all people in Australia. All I desire him to do is to bring the parties together. What objection can there be to that course? The Government say, “ There is the Arbitration Court; go to it.” And one party replies, “ We will not go to the Court.” It is of no use to argue with a large body of men who say that they will not do a certain thing. Therefore, it behoves this Parliament of representative nien, who are responsible for the peace and good order of the community, to find another way out of the difficulty. I am pledged to the principle of arbitration, but I believe in a round-table conference on the lines of the Whitley Commission in England. That policy will save the industrialists and the world yet. Before it comes, I may have been given 6 feet of earth to sleep in, but the time will surely’ arrive when the industrialists of England and Australia will realize that, if the parties can only meet to discuss their differences, every dispute can be settled. It may be said that no practical good will result, from a round-table conference. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labour, said, “ I believe in conciliation by Boards sitting down to discuss their differences, and when a deadlock is reached asking some independent individual to mediate.” That policy may be contrary to our arbitration laws, but it is the duty of Parliament and the Government to bring . the two parties together. If that were ‘ done, I believe that within a very few hours the conference could arrive at a basis upon which the ships could be manned and the commerce of the community resumed.
– There can be no conference until rebellion ceases.
– What is the use of talking like that? Rebellion means an armed insurrection against the Government. There is no rebellion. But there is chronic dissatisfaction on the part of a large number of sailors with certain conditions of their employment; and, if we cannot get the dispute settled by the direct legal method, let us seek a settlement in some by-way. Are we in such a position that we cannot suggest a settlement of thi3 great trouble other than by following the beaten track? If that is so, the people of Australia are unfortunate in having their hands thus tied.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
No other honorable member having risen,
– With the permission of the Committee, I shall continue my remarks. It has been suggested that the Government might settle the trouble by proclaiming the Navigation Act. I respectfully suggest that this is not the time to raise that matter. The two principal provisions that delayed the proclamation of that Act are the sleeping and eating accommodation on board ships, and the -payment of the Australian rate of wages to seamen employed on mail boats when travelling on the Australian coast and competing with the excellent fleets of the Australian Ship-owners Federation. In regard to the first point, the ship-owners promised that all new vessels would be built to conform with . the requirements of the Navigation Act, and the Seamen’s Union practically acrcepted that as the means of remedying their grievance. I suggest that we can get the idle ships to sea without troubling about that matter at the present time.. The mail steamers will not be in full operation for some time. The wholesale torpedoing of steamers by the enemy means that the fleets for the trade from Europe to Australia are being practically rebuilt; and for the time being we should confine our efforts to calling the attention of the Ship-owners Federation to the desirability of complying with the provisions of the Navigation Act.
– I have no desire to prevent the Government getting Supply. When the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) wishes to get a Bill through, he will get it as quickly as he desires. Yesterday we were treated to one of the best exhibitions of solidarity I have ever seen. To-day we have had homilies preached to us by a late member of our party and by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). Of course, the slogan of the National Labourites when they first broke away from the Labour party was that they had no desire to be bound by secret juntas. Even the Argus now christens the Labour party “ the Caucus party “ - a designation which, no doubt, is expected to cut some’ ice at the next election.
– Our opponents used the same expression at the last election.
– They are making it more prominent now. We are accused of being Caucus-ridden, but yesterday Ministerialists gave us an excellent example of party discipline. I do not know whether there are a few red-raggers in the National party, but it would appear that the honorable member for Dampier, at least, will not consent to be leg-roped entirely, whilst the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has not quite lost the influence of his association with the Labour party, and feels that he must at times kick over the traces. We have had two contributions to the debate this afternoon from honorable members opposite; but, seeing the times we are passing through, and knowing the sins of commission there have been, to which honorable members opposite have at times referred, ‘it is strange that others have not been plucky enough to criticise the Government as the public expects them to do. Surely they cannot say that they approve of all the Government have done. There are some matters upon which they must hold independent opinions.
– Oh, yes!
– The honorable member does not approve of many things the present Government have done, but he is Caucus-ridden.
– Is he?
Mr.- YATES.- Although he dare not express his true opinion of the present Government, he may follow on the lines of the honorable members for Dampier and Hindmarsh, but what about the other section of honorable members opposite, and the move of “ law and order,” which is to be the slogan at the next general election - Bolshevism versus law and order? Honorable members who belonged to our party at one time, and subscribed to all our principles, are now to go to the country on the “ law-and-order “ stunt. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) realize that they cannot, carry the country at the next election if they individually go out in their genuine colours as Liberals or Nationalists, asI may call them, although some call them Labour renegades. The general body of electors will know them for what they are, no matter by what name they call themselves. The Prime Minister knows that he cannot go out with his “ gang “ and command a majority of the electors, and the Acting Prime Minister, for whom I have a great admiration, because of his outstanding ability, strong man’ as he is, cannot hope to carry the country with the “crowd” that will follow him. Consequently, there has been a solidifioationof the numbers for the sake of downing Bolshevism. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) was speaking, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) interjected that rebellion must first be settled before the Arbitration Court could be approached. The late members of the Labour party are now a very docile mob. The honorable members for Darwin (Mr. Spence), Boothby (Mr. Story), Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) realize that they cannot get back to the House unless they are now taken into the folds of the Liberal party, which, during the whole of their careers with the Labour party, they have derided as being the Reactionary party.
There are big questions to be dealt with by this Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out that it is the duty of this House to see that the affairs of the country are kept going in a proper manner; but the responsibility which this House assumes is evidenced by the fact that during nearly the whole of the debate to-day the average attendance of honorable members opposite in the chamber has been about four or five. The honorable member for Hindmarsh says that we can talk Supply as much as we like - from now until doomsday - but we are committed to the expenditure. He says that the expenditure must go on, and that talk on our part will make no difference to the incidence of it. But I wish to refer to a funny suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), that the Northern Territory should be handed back to South Australia. It is not to the credit of the National Parliament, which has taken over as a national obligation, and for the protection of Australia, what is really the front door of the Commonwealth, that it should be necessary to urge its development. All far-seeing men and patriots should realize, without being urged, that it is necessary to develop the Northern Territory, and make it a secure ;part of Australia. The National Parliament was quite cognisant of the obligation it took upon itself when it entered into the agreement to take over the Northern Territory, and the mere, suggestion that the people of South Australia would not be prepared to take it back as a gift is no justification for neglecting it as it is now being neglected. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) is very keen about having a national Capital. I do not think he would be so keen about it if it were to be at Port Augusta; but, nevertheless, he is very, keen on establishing the Federal Capital and on the development of the Federal Capital territory, because he realizes that it will, give an impetus to the development of the surrounding country. On the other hand, we have the arguments of those who know the Northern Territory, and who have pioneered the outback districts of Aus- tralia, that that territory will be valueless until a railway is built to it from the south. It is the only feasible method of populating it if it is our desire to- keep Australia white. When the Territory was handed over there was an agreement that a railway from north to south should be built, and it is only reasonable to ask the Commonwealth to honour its obligations in that direction. No mention of doing so was made by the Acting Prime Minister in his Ministerial statement. The representatives of South Australia have now an opportunity of expressing their opinion of the Government for not having honoured the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, and I hope that before the session closes we shall hear it. I hope that early action will be taken, so that it will insure something being done this session. We have just completed a transcontinental railway, perhaps longer than the one that will be necessary to bridge the gap from north to south. What have the Government done with the material that was used in building it? The live stock must have been disposed of, but what has become of the other material used in such a gigantic undertaking? Has it been left to rust, as some farmers leave their implements to stop gaps in their fences? It cannot be advanced as a reason for delay that Australia is stuck for money. If any one says that Australia is stuck for money he is camouflaging a lie. If the war had gone on for years we would still have had to raise war loans for the purpose of providing material with which to shoot and kill people. The money is here if the Government choose to use it for the purpose of honouring the promise made to the people of South Australia, and at the same time developing an important part of the continent that cannot be populated until it is linked up with the south by a railway. Australia will not be safe from the menace that is supposed to be at its door until that line is built. South Australian members of the National party have every justification for raising their voices in protest, and, if it be necessary, for removing the Government, if they have the balance of power enabling them to do so. No matter what conditions my Caucus may impose on me, I should follow them in any action taken by them to en- able South Australia to get its dues in this regard.
I have no desire to make a one-sided State speech, but if Federation is to be maintained in the spirit as well as in the letter it is the duty of Ministers in office to see that no State is unduly handicapped or penalized in regard to public services. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has referred to the position of South Australia in the matter of overseas mail services. This is not a question in which the ordinary Labour man is concerned, because when his sons or brothers return from the war he seldom gets a letter from England once in fifteen years. I am concerned in this matter, and support the honorable member for Hindmarsh on behalf of the commercial community, and I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr.Webster) will see that Adelaide, as a part of the Federation, gets the fair treatment to which it is entitled in the matter of overseas mail.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh has suggested that the Governor-General should be called upon to settle the seamen’s strike, but I hope that whatever is done in regard to that dispute he will not be called in to take a hand. I deplore the fact that he has already entered into political affairs in Australia. He came here when there was a grave crisis in this Parliament, and the party in power at that time found him a willing individual who would grant them their request for a double dissolution. Again, I have a keen recollection of that awful scandal, unparalleled in the history of any Parliament or country, by which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) endeavoured to extend the life of Parliament by inducing a senator to become sick and resign in order to enable another to be appointed in his place in a manner which I have not the least desire to dwell upon. The facts of the case are well known throughout Australia, and condemnedby all those who believe in clean politics. Nevertheless, we know what the reason for the intrigue was. There were some, I suppose, who were afraid of an election ; at any rate, it suited the Prime Minister of the day to, if possible, extend the life of Parliament. This could be done in the Senate by only suborning or buying some one there, and apparently a weak member was got to acquiesce. We found the Governor-General in that up to the hilt.
– Anhonorable member may not, except on a specific motion, discuss any matter in connexion with the Governor-General.
– I. ammerely basing my remarks on the suggestion of the honorable member for Hiirdmarsh (Mr. Archibald) that the Governor-General should be asked to call the heads of the shipping companies, and of the unions, to a round table conference, in order to settle the seamen’s dispute. I am merely giving instances in that connexion, and pointing out that at other times the Governor-General has entered into matters political, which, from my point of view, has not been to the credit of the Commonwealth, nor within the ambit of his activities. However, if I am out of order, I shall not refer to these matters. There was another occasion, when I was away at the Front, when the GovernorGeneral entered into matters pertaining to this House in regard to the camouflage, for camouflage it was, surrounding the resignation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who went in and out of office. like the man in a moving picture. I should have liked to criticise these events, but if that can only be done on a specific motion, I, like others in the community, will have to think more than I say.
– Do I understand you to say, Mr. Chanter, that an honorable member may not refer to the GovernorGeneral, except on a specific motion ?
– Not in the tone in which the honorable member was referring to the Governor-General.
– Do you think the terms used are objectionable, and, being objectionable, that they may be used on a specific motion ?
– I have given a ruling; does the honorable member rise to dissent from that ruling ?
– I rise merely with a desire to understand the position. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was referring to the GovernorGeneral, and I understood you to say
– Up to a certain point I did not intervene when the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was referring to the GovernorGeneral. That honorable member, however, went on to refer to the actions of Ministers, which he said were of a discreditable character, and that the Governor-General was “ up to the hilt” in them. That is certainly a reflection on the Governor-General outside the scope of the question before the House. If the honorable member desires to make a charge against the Governor-General, he must do so on a specific motion.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chanter. I had not intended to refer to the Governor-General, and was merely discussing the suggestion of “the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) that the Governor-General should be called in as a mediator in an industrial dispute, the conduct of which the Government regard as a challenge w> law and order.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in his remarks this afternoon inferentially and incidentally “ gave an exhibition of his bitterness in regard to organized labour. That honorable member did not speak outright; but the time will come when he will do so, because he cannot keep those sentiments to himself. As a matter of fact, the majority of honorable members opposite will express similar sentiments at some time during the session. They will refer, I suppose, to the Bolsheviks, and what they have done, and, at the same time, tell us that there is no profiteering, and no reason for the stand taken by the men in the case of the seamen. The honorable member for Dampier said that the first of two essentials was the building up of a national spirit in Australia. My experience at the front was not long, but there you come into contact with the men of various nations, and one’s mind necessarily is expanded. I saw the world as presented in Egypt, France, England, and at the Front; and I can only say that if there had been no inherited national spirit in the Australian soldiers, born of the conditions under which they live, they would never have put up the splendid record they did. The self-reliance, selfrespect, initiative, and resource of the Australian soldier were such that the “ Tommy “ looked up to him as something far above him;- and these are the qualities that make the Australian what he is. If any national spirit is to be fostered and developed in the Australian, it must be by creating better conditions of living and higher ideals; and if that be the desire of the honorable member for Dampier, as it ought to be the desire of every one of us, I am inclined to think that the activities and actions of the Labour party in politics, and in trade unionism generally, will do much more than the policy indicated by the honorable member - of freedom of contract, freedom of trade, and freedom from all restrictions. Such a policy would mean allowing the profiteer to do more than he is doing at present, and would not, to my mind, tend to build up a national spirit in Australia, but, rather, a spirit of subserviency. Official reports in England regarding conscription show, if my memory is right, that some 54 per cent of the men there did not come up to the standard. That could not happen in Australia; if it did, it would not be because of labour conditions, whatever occasions for complaint may exist in certain areas. The honorable member for Dampier does not say outright that all Government restrictions on profiteering and so forth should be relaxed; he does not say, but implies, that there should be no interference with private enterprise, and that we should allow the trading profiteer and the mining man to exploit us at their own sweet will. If that ideal were realized, it would certainly not make for a national Australian spirit.
The next essential of which the honorable member speaks is the stimulation of primary industries. What does he mean by that ? He can only mean that wo must improve our country from a primary point of view; but it would appear that we are not to foster our secondary industries, continuing to live from hand to mouth on all the cheap labour countries which care to exploit us. We have been told that Germany in the past was allowed to augment her power at the expense of Great Britain; with the free entry of goods. Even our great Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), at one time a strong advocate of Free Trade, is telling Great Britain not to continue her policy of the past, but to alter her fiscal system so as not to permit Germany again to become a menace to civilized humanity. What other stimulation of trade can the. honorable member mean? Evidently he does not desire Government interference; and I take that to mean that he does not desire Wages Boards or the regulation of hours and conditions of labour by the Arbitration Court. God knows that no party more than the Labour party have endeavoured to open up the lands of Australia and have them developed. We have always urged that the best advertisement for immigration is the means we supply for permitting people to develop our lands and make a living here for themselves. What have we done to encourage primary industry, apart from arbitration laws and other concerns of the worker? What does the Wheat Pool or the Wool Pool mean? Do these not mean stimulating industry? The last measure I recollect before departing for the Front was one to provide silos for our wheat. In this regard, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) made a staggering admission in his speech, and certainly the amount of wheat standing in Australia is stupendous. What is going to be . done with it?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to know what the Government intend to do in connexion with the savage sentences passed by a court martial on men of the Australia after their arrival home. If ever there was a diabolical piece of work it was the sentencing of these men. I wish honorable members to understand that I do not believe in mutiny or revolution of any sort. I think the men deserve some punishment for what they did. These men, however, have been through all the horrors of war. I remember when the cables came about the Zeebrugge “ stunt,” and how pleased and gratified patriots opposite were at the part which Australians took on that occasion. But I have not heard a single word of protest from those patriots against the savage sentencesimposed on these men. One of them, in particular, was specially mentioned and decorated by the King for services rendered at Zeebrugge. When he came back to Australia, I suppose he got too much grog aboard after being too well entertained in Fremantle, which was the fault of the people of the western State. He took the law into his own hands, according to the report in the press, and organized what they termed a mutiny. A month’s imprisonment would have been quite enough punishment for that man, whom we were glad to call a hero a few months ago, yet, on his return to Australia he is proclaimed a convict. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), or the Minister for De_ fence (Senator Pearce), or whoever has the power of revoking that sentence, should say, “Dismiss the man from the Service and let him go.” My God, what a homecoming for his parents who were waiting in Sydney to receive him ! After all his faithful service and duty nobly done, when that lad came home - and they are all only lads; the eldest of them is about twenty-threeyears of age, and they have been away nearly five years - this savage sentence was passed upon him. The court martial has made convicts of heroes for something which, in civil life, would be punished with about a fortnight in gaol at the most. Let honorable members consider this contrast. Lieutenant-Colonel Howell Price, in Sydney, robbed the Commonwealth of between £70,000 and £80,000. For this he was given from eighteen months to two years’ imprisonment. ‘The same sentence is given now to a young man who has nobly carried thebanner that honorable members on the other side were proud to wave, yet not one of them has uttered a word of protest. I read in the Sydney press that the honorable member for Nepean (Mr.
Orchard,) appeared at the court martial to defend the brothers Rudd. If what he did represents his idea of defence, God help them ! He knows the whole of the facts, and was present during the whole of the trial, but ,1 have not heard that he has done anything whatever to get the sentences reduced. It behoves this Parliament to take up the cudgels on behalf of these men, and to see that the punishment is reduced, at any rate. What inducement does this incident offer to any young Australian to join the Navy? If any young man asks me my advice about joining His Majesty’s Navy upon the Australian station, I will refer him to the savage sentences passed on the men who misconducted themselves on board the Australia at Fremantle.
– Some of them were innocent, too.
– I do not think they were innocent, because they pleaded guilty.
– That was on the advice of their advocate.
– If I were innocent of a crime no advocate in the world would make me plead guilty. Something should be done, and done quickly, in this matter. Let honorable members who have sous growing to maturity, picture what their feelings would be, after reading in the London Gazette how a son of theirs had been decorated by the King for bravery - and that attack on Zeebrugge will live for ever in British history - if the boy misconducted himself on the way out, and when they went to meet him, they found him in irons, and saw him taken into custody on Garden Island. I feel for the relatives of these boys, who have been handed over to the tender mercies of Naval officers. Is this all they are to exexpect from a grateful country - two years’ imprisonment and ignominious dismissal from His Majesty’s Forces? Honorable members will remember that some soldiers, tried for alleged mutiny in the Defence Forces, received only a few months’ imprisonment. They were not ignominiously dismissed from the Service, while none of the soldiers who took possession of Sydney was punished. The Defence authorities were glad to get them out of khaki as quickly as possible and smother the matter up. Every man who fought at Zeebrugge, and every man who has been fighting for his country on board ship, deserves all the credit that it is possible for us in Australia to give him. If the Government will not do something towards letting these men out, or reducing their sentences, it will have the same effect on the party opposite at the next election as Wade’s action had in New South Wales, when he dragged Peter Bowling through the streets manacled and shackled as a convict. The sentences should have been reduced, or something should have been done, ere this.
– It will be done.
– The Government will have to be quick about it, or the smell will be there just the same. It was one of the most savage sentences that ever T read of in my life.
– The Acting Prime Minister says that the matter is in the Admiralty’s hands.
– Knowing the Acting Prime Minister as T do, I know that he has a warm, sympathetic corner in his heart for any man who has gone overseas to fight for his country, and I was surprised that he had not taken action ere this.
– He said there was no appeal from the sentences.
– The Government is supreme. I was talking to a Naval officer in Sydney, and he said the crime was intensified because the men were on active service. Fancy that, and in home waters! The Australia had clone her war service, and. Fremantle was her first Australian port, of call. The hospitality of the people of Fremantle and Perth was to blame, and not the sailors. It would have been quite enough to keep them in prison until they landed in Sydney, and then let them go free.
– .Has not the Acting Prime Minister power? to make a suggestion in a matter of this sort?
– The Government are allpowerful, and one word from them would open that prison door to-night. Something should be done .to release .these young men at the earliest possible moment. What a home coming it is for these boys, returning after faithfully serving their country ! Is this the way to popularize the Australian Navy? Is this the gratitude Australia has for her sons returning after doing nobly by their country ?
– It is not Australia, it is the imported officers that passed the sentences.
– Those officers are in the pay of the Australian Government. The least we can do is to let these men out after their five years of active service. Is it not enough ignominy to dismiss them from the Service? I do not want honorable members to think , that I am condoning their offence, because it was one of the most serious offences that can be committed on board ship - especially a war-ship - but, taking all the circumstances1 into consideration, if I had the power I would release the men to-morrow, and dismiss them from the Service.
– It was not a mutiny in front of the enemy, but in front of their friends.
– If they had mutinied in the face of the enemy, it would have meant shooting.
– Cannot you ask the Acting Prime Minister, now that Peace is about to be declared, to make representations to the Admiralty to treat these men leniently ?
– The question put by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) related to the possibility of an appeal from the decision of the court martial; but I am not asking for any appeal. I am asking the Government to act. The men pleaded guilty, and have been sentenced. There is no appeal from that. They threw themselves on the mercy of the Court, and their mercy was two years’ gaol for a man who wore the distinguished conduct medal, and fought at the battle of Zeebrugge. That was the clemency of the Court - two years’ gaol and ignominious dismissal from His Majesty’s service. What more could they do to a man, unless they hanged him? That man will carry the brand of this sentence for the rest of his life. He is languishing in a prison to-day. If the people felt as I do, they would tear down the prison walls. I think the sentence was savage and brutal. I cannot find words to express the horror with which I read of it. The men certainly should have been punished, but not in the savage way in which punishment has been meted out to them. It is a very easy matter for Naval officers, seated at dinner, with their feet under tho mahogany, to say, “ This sort of thing is an awful crime and must be suppressed “ ; but in passing such a sentence they are destroying the Australian Navy.
– It is too much like victimization.
– I do not think it is, and I fail to understand how the honorable member can apply the term, because these men never “ ratted,” and the honorable member did.
– I did not. I was expelled and victimized.
– The answer given by the Acting Prime Minister to the question which the Leader of the Opposition addressed to him as to the right of appeal from the sentence of the court martial was -
There is no appeal to any higher Court from the sentence of a Naval court martial. Higher authority has, however, the right to review the sentence. In this case, the higher authority is the Admiralty, inasmuch as the ships are still under Admiralty control under the terms of a proclamation issued by the GovernorGeneral, dated 10th August, ]!)14, transferring the vessels of the Commonwealth Naval Forces and all officers and seamen of those vessels to the King’s Naval Forces. The proclamation provided that such transfer should continue until the issue of a proclamation declaring that war no longer existed. The Acting Minister for the Navy is at present in New South Wales, and on his return I will confer with him on the matter.
If we have no control over our own ships while they are in Australian waters, what does the Acting Prime Minister mean by his promise to confer with the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton J?
– To confer with him as to making representations.
– Then the sooner we go to the country the better. This is one of the questions on which we shall fight the next election. If the Labour party is returned to power, then within twentyfour hours of our taking possession of the Treasury bench these men will be released.
– The honorable member is assuming that the Labour party will be returned.
– We shall do so whether the Admiralty has anything to do with the matter or not. I make this declaration in the name of our party, and take full responsibility for it. I know enough of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to be convinced that if he had the power to release these men they would not remain in prison for twenty-four hours.
I am glad that the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) is now present, since 1 have mentioned his name in connexion with the passing nf these savage sentences. According to the press, the honorable member attended the Naval court martial as the friend- of these men. What has he done since then to secure their release from gaol, or at least a reduction of their sentences?
– I shall follow the honorable member.
– The honorable member will have a chance to explain. I have been in Sydney during the last ten days, and have heard, not only supporters of the Labour party, but business and professional men say that clemency should be extended to the nien.
– Surely everybody says that!
– Then everybody should take action to secure the release of the men.
– The Acting Prime Minister said he would confer with the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) .
– He also said that the Commonwealth Government had nothing to do with the case. The honorable member, as an old English “ Tommy,” ought to know what that means.
– If we have nothing to do with our own Navy, then in the name of heaven who has ? We pay for its upkeep, for its manning, and everything else, and yet we have nothing to do with its control.
– It was under ‘ the control of the Admiralty at the time. Be fair.
– I do not wish to be unfair. My sole concern is for the relatives of these men.
– Think of the men, not so much of the relatives.
– Surely the men must be’ considered.
– I am thinking of their relatives. What would a young man care about a sentence of two years’ imprisonment for such an offence as this? I should not have cared if I had been sent to gaol in connexion with the shearers’ strike of 3891, but my wife and family would have been much concerned. Let me tell the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that I am not trying to condone the offence committed by these men. They committed an offence against discipline, but the sentence imposed on them is a savage one.
– We all admit that.
– Then we should do something to secure a reduction of it.
– Every one is willing to do all that is possible in the matter.
– That may be so ; but the men are still in gaol. We have talked about our heroes, and what they have done for Australia. Surely we are not hypocrites. I believe there are some true men in Parliament, and there ought to be some consideration for a man who volunteered to take part in the Zeebrugge “ stunt”.
– I would forgive almost anything that such a man did.
– So would I. I would say to such a man, “ Your grateful country can extend clemency to you. Even if these Naval ‘ Johnnies ‘ have passed sentence upon you, a grateful country can overlook your offence.” I do not say these men did right. They committed a very serious breach of discipline ; but why should we act like savages in meting out punishment to them. From my knowledge of the Acting Prime Minister, I had anticipated that long before this he would have used his influence and position to. at least secure a reduction of the sentences.
– I have reason to believe that he has.
– He had an opportunity to say so this afternoon, but he did not avail himself of it.
– I can well understand that he does not wish to supersede the Acting Minister for the Navy.
– Even so, the telegraph lines are open to him.
– There are some matters that cannot be dealt with by telegraph.
– But this sentence is “ killing “ the Australian Navy.
– That is so. I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) what sort of an advertisement this sentence will be for recruiting for the Australian Navy. I think the Navy is to be congratulated on what it has done. These men volunteered to fight for the Empire, and “ did’ their bit “ in policeing the North Sea and the West Indies. I was astounded when I saw the map recently published in a Melbourne newspaper showing the seas traversed by the Australia during the war. On board a man-o’-war there is no back door by which to escape. There is little chance of a wounded man being picked up when his vessel goes down in a big Naval engagement. We know what awful casualties have taken place in such circumstances. Our boys knew of these things when, in 1914, they volunteered for the Navy and risked their lives for their country. When they came back and “ kicked over the traces,” as young Australians will always do, we could have well afforded to be generous in our treatment of them. The spirit that led these young men to “ play up “ is the spirit that has made the Australian nation of to-day, and if we are not hypocrites the least we can do is to persevere in our efforts to secure a reduction of their sentences. Let every honorable member take (action. Honorable members opposite all say that they think the sentences are savage, and if we all put our shoulders to the wheel these young men should not remain in gaol much longer.
Mr. ORCHARD (Nepean) f6.0]. - Since the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has introduced my name into this discussion I think it- only right that I should explain my connexion with the lads at the recent court martial. Mr Connington, an old friend of a family of which two of these lads are members, and who is well known to the Labour movement, asked me to appear at the trial as the friend of the boys. I went on board the Australia to ascertain exactly what were the privileges or functions of a “ friend “ in such circumstances, and found that a Naval court martial in this respect was different altogether from a Military court martial. The man who appears as a friend of a person accused before a Naval court martial is not allowed to address the Court on his behalf. He can ask questions only by permission of the President of the Court, and that permission may be withheld, I take it, at any part of the proceedings. His efforts, consequently, are very restricted.
– What a lovely machine this Democracy has erected !
– It is framed on the old British system. On leaving the Australia, I went to the Naval prison, at Garden Island, where I saw Mr. Rudd, the father of two of the boys. One of his boys is a Zeebrugge hero, has the distinguished conduct medal, and, although only twenty-three years of age, has six years’ service to his credit, while the other is twenty years of age. I also saw a number of relatives of the other accused men. The relatives were trying to persuade the lads to plead guilty. A couple of the boys, however, to use their own words, felt that they would “ like to have a flutter,” because the maximum sentence for the offence was two years. Upon the advice of Mr. Rudd his two boys decided to plead guilty and to throw themselves upon the mercy of the Court.
– And they might not have been guilty.
– I do not wish to go into that phase of the matter. Before the five boys decided to plead guilty, I went through their records. To the civilian mind some of the offences against their names might appear to be bad, but when I said to the Judge Advocate, “ I take it these are trivial offences, inseparable from a calling such as the Navy,” he replied, “ Yes; we do not look upon them as being in any way serious.” One lad had “ desertion “ marked against his name. When I probed the matter, however, I found that the lad had got tired of patrolling the North Seas in the Aus tralia, and that when the. London metropolitan police found him he had enlisted and was actually on his way to France. That cannot be regarded as any crime on the part of the lad ; rather did it 6how his spirit. From my short acquaintance of the rules of the Navy, I am quite convinced that drastic changes will require to be made if the Australian Navy is to be popular. On the night preceding the trial, Mr. Connington and I prepared a statement by the boys. We were not allowed by Naval rules to speak for the hoys at .the trial, but we were allowed to read a statement on their behalf. They pleaded guilty, and 1 confess that the sentences passed upon them came as a big shock to me. I saw the lads immediately afterwards, and they took their fate quite light-heartedly. They were not affected as their relatives and I were. ‘ I promised I would make representations to the Government immediately in the hope that some substantial reduction of the sentences would be made. The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) being in Sydney, I saw him at once, and said, “ Two of these lads have received the maximum sentence. If it was the intention of the court martial to record a sentence that would deter other men from committing the same offence, very good; but if they are to serve the full term, I consider that the sentence is too great for the offence.” He promised to look into the matter. Last evening I was closeted with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) who promised to investigate these cases immediately the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) returned to Melbourne. I remind honorable members that no departmental wheels move more slowly than those in the Naval and Military Departments. But, even the verdict of a civil court cannot be upset a day after it is recorded; a certain procedure must be followed. I was very much impressed with the statement of
Lieutenant Bowyer-Smith, who was called to give evidence for the youngest boy. He pointed out that when the lad was only a little over fifteen years old, he had the misfortune to witness a similar disturbance on the Psyche, and later he was on an English ship when trouble of this’ kind occurred. He had never had the Naval -rules read to him ; he is only eighteen years of age now. All the boys are of a very fine type. I have already represented to the Acting Minister for the Navy and the Acting Prime Minister that one of the Rudd boys is in a most unfortunate position. He married an English widow with one child, and she died in giving birth to a child of which Rudd is the father His principal concern now is as to whether the allotment money which was being paid for the children in England will continue to be paid while he is serving his sentence. There are circumstances surrounding this case that tear at a man’s heartstrings. I assure the Committee that everything that can possibly be done by me as a friend of the boys, although I had not known them previously, will be done to induce the Government to reduce the sentences of the court martial.
– I had hoped that this question would be dealt with exhaustively at a later stage, but as it has been raised today, it is well that we should understand where we are. I do not wish to discuss at length the discipline of the Army’ and Navy, but I do know that the Aus- ‘ tralian will not make a good garrisson soldier or a sailor in peace time under the conditions that exist in the British Army and Navy. I was reared in the Army, and I know what the conditions are. After the landing at Gallipoli, a sergeant of police in my electorate said, “ Some people said the Australian boys would not fight. I knew they would fight if they had the chance, because they used to fight me when they had no chance.” Time after time, the Australian young man has been condemned by, globe trotters as only fit to smoke a cigarette or lean against a lamp-post. Some of our own citizens took the’ same view, based, no doubt, on the knowledge that the Australian boy will not become a soldier or sailor under the conditions that are accepted by Britishers. It is of interest to remember the fact in connexion with the trouble on the Australia. The vessel was returning home after an absence of over four years, and on arriving at Fremantle the men were landed and feted by the citizens. They were given a glorious reception, and they thought they would return the hospitality which had been extended to them by inviting their friends to visit the ship on the Sunday. To their surprise, they found the vessel was to leave on the Sunday instead of on the following day. I undertake to say that if the officers had arranged to entertain their friends on the Sunday, the vessel would not have left on that day. That is my experience, at any rate.
– But the officers were in command of the boat.
– I admit that. We have had considerable trouble, and it is particularly evident in my own electorate, in getting men to remain in the Australian Navy. We have raised the rate of pay, and the present Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has endeavoured to make the seafaring life more attractive to Australians. It will require to be made enticing, and the old order of things must pass before Australians will accept Naval service. In >the Navigation Act we made provision for the-‘ treatment of boys on ships; but those clauses will be inoperative because Australian boys will not take to a seafaring life. In the mercantile marine, the captain of a ship has the power to treat his crew under certain conditions as he jolly well likes. Australian boys will not submit to that treatment, hence the difficulty of getting them to enter the mercantile marine. How much more reluctant will they be to serve in the Navy, which is modelled upon the conditions of the British Service. From the days of the mutiny of the Nore down to the present time, mutineers in the Navy have been hanged ; and if there be punishment after death the men who ordered those hangings will surely suffer damnation. The sailors at the Nore struck because they were working under impossible conditions ; but they were told that they must accept them because they were serving in the British Navy. That is the spirit of the Navy. I am hopeful that we shall not require a big Navy in Australia ; but if we do. the present system will require to be altered. I hear references to the British Admiralty. Are we to subject the men of Australia to control by the British Admiralty, which is composed of men trained in the horrors of the Naval system, and who wish to see excessive punishment for all crimes on ships- crimes that would not take p’ace on land at all? The trouble at Fremantle would never have happened in the face of the enemy. If the men had been mutinous before the enemy, I could understand the severity of the sentences; but they were merely returning to their homes after long absence, and were participating in the welcome jubilations. If Australia is to have an Army and a Navy, we must wipe out the conditions of. the old officer caste, which teaches those in authority to look upon the lower ratings as dirt. Even Australian military officers, who have been reared in our midst, and know the traditions and spirit of this country, have imbibed the caste traditions of the British Army, and are inclined to mete out the same sort of punishment. I say, again, that we cannot rule Australians according to the discipline of the British Navy.
– I hope we shall not try to do so.
– If we do, we shall make a mistake. I recognise’ that many members on the Government side feel just as sympathetically in this matter as we do. We can understand the feeling of the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard). It is becoming very apparent that this kind of treatment will not be accepted in Australia, and the Government should realize that the sooner we get away from control by the British Admiralty the better it will be. The ideal of the British Navy is to keep the lower ratings under such strong control that they are deprived of their manhood. We have heard much of the encomiums passed upon the Australians for their conduct in France and Gallipoli. In fact, they have been such as to belittle the efforts of others who were fighting during the war, although. I know that the stock which produced the Australians has, in the past, fought and died as Australians have fought and died. It has been said over and over again that the very fact that our ‘men were willing to accept circumstances as they met them, in spite of what might happen to them, made them such good soldiers, and if now we endeavour to prevent that feeling from growing in Australians we shall do harm. It is true, as the honorable member for Nepean has said, that a court martial could not move quickly; but the same remark applies to civil Courts. We have had handed down to us from our forefathers the dictum that the law can do no harm, and that when once a man is sentenced, time must elapse before the decision can be upset. Not only have Judges laid this down, but it is a principle that has been instilled in the Navy, that although a mistake is made, it is better that the men should suffer any penalty than that the British Navy should have a stain upon its escutcheon. It will not hold good in Australia. We say that it ‘ is better for the guilty to escape than for the innocent to suffer. What is the crime that these men have committed? I do not agree with the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) that it was a terrible crime. The gentlemen who control the mercantile marine of Australia regret that they cannot handle the seamen on strike as the men on the Australia were handled. Iri our so-called civilization, those who control others want to maintain such a hold over them that they can have them body and soul, and make them do what they wish them to do. And that is the spirit which permeates the Navy. Only within the ‘last few years have we been able to get rid of it in our mercantile marine. Australians will not work under those conditions. In spite of the bait which is offered, men whom I know will not sign on again in the Navy. The soldier gets a chance; but the man on board a ship is so circumscribed that he has but few . opportunities for relaxation, and when he gets on shore he hardly knows what to do’. Others have to take him in band. Some treat him well. Others rob him. The people of Fremantle treated the men of the Australia well, and when the men who were coming back to their own country found that the vessel was about to leave that port, they took certain action. It is admitted that no violence was used.
– If they had used violence they might have escaped. The two men who used violence in the matter with which I was concerned got off without punishment.
– The men who tried the fellows must have been idiots, such as those who tried Gunner Yates. I have seen dozens of courts martial, and know how they are conducted. The honorable member for Nepean has spoken about the defence of these men. In military courts martial the man on trial is supposed to be able to appoint a friend, but when that friend is endeavouring to make a point, it is not unusual to hear the President of the Court cry, “Silence! Silence!” The friend is not allowed to put the prisoner’s case. He is shut up at once if he endeavours to do so. When a sentence is being imposed, there is a lot of rigmarole. The President says, “ In this Court of His Majesty you have had an opportunity of proving your innocence.” These men had no opportunity of doing so. The trial was a farce.
– I thought things- were going well until the sentences were imposed.
– We have much to complain of in our civil Courts. A lawyer is allowed a certain licence, which he exercises. He is not afraid to tell a Judge or a magistrate that he is doing wrong.- On the other hand, if I attempt to defend myself, I am jumped on by the Judge or magistrate, and treated with contempt. I am not allowed to defend myself as a lawyer could defend me. That happens in civil Courts, but in military tribunals a man has very little chance of doing so, while in the Navy-
– He has no chance at all.
– He has not. The Naval and Military caste must disappear from Australia. It is permeating our Defence system. The war has instilled into the minds of many of our Australian officers who went abroad a strong feeling that they are nothing but ‘subordinate parts of an army. They have been bitten by the Military caste.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment for dinner I was pointing out that this Naval and Military caste that we have built up on lines handed down to us would have to go, and drawing the attention of the people of Australia to the treatment that has been meted out to men who have risked their lives in the defence of this country. These men have been subjected to treatment that could not possibly befall them in civil life. My principal objection, however, is to the different treatment given to commissioned officers from that given to the lower-paid ranks of the Army and Navy. Just take the case of Captain Glossop, the commander of the Sydney-
– He was chairman of the court martial.
– If so,he is a bright object to be chairman of a court martial, after his own misdemeanour. If a subordinate officer in the Navy had committed such a grave blunder as he did on the Sydney, in his attack on the Emden, he would have been shot. The way in which Captain Glossop handled the Sydney was a disgrace. He had a superior ship, and superior guns, both in range and calibre, but he muddled things up so much that the vessel was knocked about and nearly torpedoed, and there was great loss of life. It is current knowledge that if he had handled his ship properly, nothing of the sort would have happened; but, instead of punishment, he was given a nice soft job at a good salary.
– He was disrated, was he not?
– He got a nice job at a good salary, I know that much. If is occurrences of this sort that not only disappoint, but dishearten people, when they see the punishments inflicted on unfortunates in the lower ranks. I donot wish to be hard on the officers, but if severe punishment is necessary for the lower ranks in the interests of discipline, the same rule ought to apply to the higherpaid officers. In our own Army, for instance, they ‘ heap honours on men who are guilty of heinous crimes. I will give you an instance. There is BrigadierGeneral McCay, and, as a native of this State, with a little provincialism about me, I am sorry to say he is a Victorian. When in charge of a brigade in Egypt, he conceived the idea that he would do something, and, in the heat of the summer, he took a.’ brigade a long-forced march with only the water in their waterbottles. This is an incident of which every returned soldier speaks, and the newspapers were full of it at the time. He ought to have had the necessary knowledge, or he was not fit for his position ; but, as it turned out, owing to a lack of water, men suffered and died; indeed, if it had not been for the fact that a New Zealand brigade was following up behind, thousands’ of men would have been lost.
– Numbers were lost as it was.
– Of course; hundreds were sent back with damaged hearts and broken constitutions, and all through the blundering of a man on whom honours were heaped afterwards. I do not know that Brigadier-General McCay, when he returned, was received with open arms or with any great flourish of trumpets, but he was knighted, received promotion, and went to Europe. We have heard of other mistakes, but this is one incident in his career as a General in command; and he ought to have been disrated at once. When men are thus honoured, instead of being punished, is it any wonder that there is much high feeling, together with disgust and contempt, amongst the people of Australia because of the punishments meted out to the young fellows on the Australia? No nation can live in which such events are possible, and no Government ought to be able to live which allows anything of the kind . to take place. I know I shall be accused of trying to create class hatred in the community ; but the class difference is here now, . and it ought to be exposed. If the Government do not do something within the next few days, I trust a test question will be put to the House, so that we may see which members are on the side of humanity and justice, and which in favour of bolstering up anything done by the Naval and Military caste, which, unfortunately, we have allowed to grow up in our midst in the course of the war. To-day I received, a letter from a woman, a relation of one of the men, and it is truly heart-breaking to read it. She had a son at the Front of whom she was proud; she knew all his weaknesses, and was quite prepared to admit them; but she tells of a terrible punishment that has been inflicted on him. She also knows that similar punishment was not meted out to others who deserve it. Wherever officers are the cause of the trouble, and men have to be punished for the purposes of discipline, the officers responsible ought also to be punished. Gunner Yates, the honorable member for Adelaide, was found guilty of an offence, and sentenced to sixty days’ detention. He whs recommended to mercy, because the offence arose through somebody else’s fault; but, all the same, those at fault have never been dealt with.
– Yet, instead of listening to a memorial with 700 signatures, the authorities lined the beach with men armed with live ammunition. We were to have got lead. Honorable members do not know that.
– In his evidence on oath, the health officer said that, although the ship had been in port for six days, and complaints had been made by the men, it was not until 7.30 in the evening that he heard of any trouble on the ship. The men were without soap for five days, and were reduced to pressing their clothing to get rid of the lice ; yet no man in authority was punished for this. Gunner Yates, however, got sixty days, and the other criminal got thirty days,
– And he. admitted doing worse than I did.
– I should like honorable members to see this other criminal. He is a man about fifty years of age, with an innocent looking face, iron-grey hair, and spectacles. ‘ From the time he left Australia his duty had been to look after the comforts and requirements of the men, and because he devoted himself to this duty, and spoke about the inattention of the officers, he was sentenced to thirty days. If the health authorities had not had the trouble pointed out to them, that silly, damned old fool, Antill, who was Commandant over there-
– Well, I will call him a jolly old fool. He, apparently, did not interest himself at all in the matter; indeed, I cannot say whether he did know anything about it. These men, who had been fighting on the front lines, were kept under such circumstances for six days, and no one in authority was punished. As I said before, if men are to be punished for dereliction of duty, with a view to maintaining discipline, then those others who bring about the trouble ought to be punished ten-fold. Unless we get something direct from the Government within the next week in regard to the so-called mutiny on the Australia, I hope honorable members will have an opportunity of showing how they stand in the matter.
– I should like to say a few words in reference to the speech made last night by the honorable member for Ballarat, (Mr. McGrath), a speech which must have not only interested,’ but greatly impressed, every member of the House. That honorable gentleman referred most feelingly, and, I hope, effectively, to the treatment of our men in France and in other places, and I should now like to intimate to him that, personally, I shall be glad to give him reasonable assistance in the excellent work that he has evidently set himself out to do. I’ venture to say that every member on both sides of the House will give a sympathetic ear to all such oases. The honorable member, in my opinion, was very temperate in his remarks, and with him I now appeal to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), with his practical master-mind, to heed what has been said, and when Peace has been established, we hope, for many years to come, to extend clemency to these men, and have them released. The honorable member for Ballarat told us of boy* of seventeen who have fought for this country as no other men have fought in any other part of the world. They may have gone a little astray, but what can we expect from youths of such an age? They may at a most critical time have failed in their duty; but I hope that serious consideration will be given to all such cases, and that sentences will be considerably reduced, and as many men as possible released. I say, “ as many as possible,” because I hold that we must maintain discipline in all walks of life.’ There is only one way in which ‘to maintain discipline, and it may appear to be hard at times; and, as I say, I hope that clemency will be extended.
We are all anxious to see that our returned men shall be kept from becoming unemployable. We did not have such men in Australia before the war, and I hope we shall not have them now. By “ unemployable “ I mean men similar to those I saw on the Thames Embankment on two nights during my visit to England. These were men who, if given work, could not possibly perform it. They had become unemployable. Any man who is kept out of occupation, who cannot get work for a long time, who does not work when he gets it, ‘ or who does not try to do his best when he is working, will become dwarfed in intellect, and cannot be a good citizen. Consequently, I am anxious to see provision made to find occupation for these men when they come back, after they have had. a fair and reasonable rest, and to train them in the way they should go. There is in the Queen’s Hall a practical illustration of what may be done. I had an opportunity this evening of doing something that I have not done for the last ten years - working a telegraph key. I could send messages just as well on that key in the Queen’s Hall as on any key I used when operating in the electrical department. The work is excellent. I understand it has been done by men who have only been recently trained.
– Practically all crippled soldiers.
– I believe most of them have returned from the Front maimed in some way, and are undergoing vocational training. There are splendid telegraph relays there. The winding seems good, and the connecting up splendid, and those relays are a credit to the men who have done the work. This clearly demonstrates to us that the master mind is in those men when at peaceful occupations as well as at war. The results are creditable, not only to the men themselves, but to the Department of Repatriation.
I do not propose to criticise the Department unless I can make practical suggestions for improvement. Any one can find fault in any Department or private institution in the world. No man at the head of an institution will claim that it is being perfectly run, although it is easier to carry on a private concern where you have men with years of training than a new Government Department like this one is. To judge by his appearance, the Minister in charge of it is already broken in health; but he is doing his best, and the sooner we try to do something to help him, the better for us and for all concerned. We have the right to criticise and complain here ; but do not let us abuse that right, or the protection we enjoy as members of Parliament. When we criticise, let us make suggestions for improvement. I offer this suggestion : I hope that before long the Minister will see his way clear to decentralize, to take some of the work away from Melbourne.I would throw more work on to the Returned Soldiers Association. I would select men from that Association, put them on the local Boards, pay them well for their services, and then throw the responsibility on to them.
– But they are on the local Boards.
– But is the system working as it should ? I am told that everything has to be submitted to Melbourne. If a local Board had more power, it would be able to give effect to the views of its members as practical men, things would work much more smoothly, and the Minister and those immediately surrounding him would be relieved of many of their present arduous duties. Instead of the bitter criticism that goes on now, the Minister would be able to say, “ But you are responsible; I gave you certain authority; you have the right to exercise certain powers; what have you done?” In that way, the responsibility would be thrown on to certain persons, and it is remarkable what a difference this makes. When a man gets into the chair, he finds he cannot do so easily what he would like to do.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) spoke to-day of the Navigation Act. I do not know why it has not been proclaimed, although I have my ideas on the subject.
– The British Government asked that it should not be proclaimed.
– I do not know the reason, but the world is getting so small that no one country can legislate now unto itself. We have gradually been born into nationhood, and we have to take on ourselves a nation’s responsibilities. At one time, I could not understand why one gentleman in my electorate always voted for me. He was wealthy, and, by all appearances, I thought he should be totally opposed to me in politics. When I asked him the reason, he said : “ I am a. Canadian, and I vote for you because you are out to control transport. The power that controls transport controls the people body and soul. I am going to vote for you because I have suffered from the private control of transport in Canada.” I 6aid, “ Are you not’ afraid of our going too far?” “No,” he replied; “immediately you go too far, you will have the guns of another nation on to you.”
– Did he refer to sea or land transport? Canada has no reason to complain of her land transport.
– Both sea and land, I believe. T think the reason the Navigation Act has not been proclaimed is that it may interfere greatly with the commerce of other nations.
– Whatever be the reason, I hope the day is not far distant when effect will be given to it, because the best brains available in Australia were put into its preparation, and it should consequently be a very good Act.
The interjection of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) brings me to the important question of shipping. I am very pleased to find so many converts to the control of sea transport as well as land transport by the State. Years ago I advocated this, and to-day you will hardly find any great body of men in Australia opposed to it. At the recent Tasmanian elections, there was scarcely any difference between the platforms of the two parties on the question. Both advocated State-owned steamers, and the Premier of Tasmania is in power to-day largely owing to this idea, which at one time was sneeringly referred to as Socialistic. The position in Tasmania today is this: There is a great dearth of shipping; we have not been able to get sufficient tonnage either to take away the foodstuffs that are waiting there for transport over the sea, or to connect the State with the mainland. We are also suffering from the withdrawal of the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company, whose boats now take the western route through the Panama Canal to New Zealand, instead of coming the other way round, and making Hobart a port of call. I do not think it is the opening of the Panama Canal that is responsible. A most extraordinary thing has happened. Before the Commonwealth took control of the lighthouses, a 7,000-ton boat had to pay £25 to the State in light dues to enter the port of Hobart. To-day it costs £145 16s. 8d., or an increase of £120. Surely this extra expense cannot be due to the additional lights that have been put on our coast. We have had, I think, only one or two new ones.
– There have been twenty or thirty new lights for the’ whole of Australia. You cannot differentiate between States under the Constitution.
– The honorable member refers to the whole of Australia. 1 waa speaking of the coast of Tasmania. Cannot the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) do something to remedy this grievance, which is a very serious matter for us? The ships will not call at our port, because the cargo they take up is’ not of very great extent, and they would rather run past than call in with the light dues so high. The suggestion of thb Master Warden is that the rate should be reduced to 4d. per ton, or a maximum charge of £75 per vessel. Even that would be a big increase over the cost under State control, ‘ but the reduction on present charges would help us materially. I believe the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) promised, when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, that something would be done if it could be shown that vessels were not entering our parts on account of these charges. We suffer also because we have no direct communication with the Old World. Of our imports, 76.3 per cent, come from or through other States; 17.76 per cent, come from the United Kingdom direct; 1.8 per cent, from other British possessions: and 4.06 per cent, from foreign countries. Of our exports, 87.71 per cent, go to or through the other States;- 8.5 per cent, to the United Kingdom direct; 1.35 per cent, to other British Possessions; and 2.43 per cent, to foreign countries. Here I should like to compliment the shipping correspondent of the Hobart Mercury upon a number of shipping articles which he has written, and which I commend to the perusal of Ministers and members of this House, who may desire to do Tasmania justice in this matter. He has put the figures I have quoted in another way when he says that no less than £2,271,000 worth of goods passed through the other States in the form of transhipments, and the value of the whole of the import and export trade of Tasmania was estimated in 1913 at £8,675,000. We desire that that trade should grow, and the only way in which that can be brought about, and we can produce the wealth so much needed at the present time, is by giving our producers facilities to get their produce to market. I had some experience of their difficulties this year in trying to secure shipping transport for blue peas. With the honorable members for Darwin (Mr. Spence), Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and other Tasmanian members, I tried to get. the blue-pea crop away, because it meant so much to a certain portion of Tasmania. Had we been left alone things would have been better than they were, but every one seemed to desire to have a finger in the pie, and so many telegrams on the subject were sent to merchants in England that they thought that we had 10,000,000 tons, instead of 10,000 tons of blue peas to get away, and they offered no reasonable price at all. One grower had 100 bags on the wharf, and, so far. as I know, they are there yet. He had fifty bags in his barn, and was offered 5s. per bushel for them by a man at Burnie. ‘In this connexion farmers’ representatives might learn something from what has taken place. We know that many farmers have said- that they did not want the Wheat Pool, and that if left alone they could sell- their wheat to better advantage themselves. The growers of blue peas were left alone, and the result is that they cannot get rid of their crop unless they are prepared to take 5s. per bushel for it. Only the other day I learned that blue peas were selling for Ils. per bushel in Sydney, and that shows the nice rise which would, have been made by the man who offered 5s. per bushel for them earlier in the season if he had been able to get them at that price.
We have been assured that the people of the Commonwealth are to have the advantage of first-class cargo and passenger ships run by the Commonwealth, between the States of Australia and the Old Country. I wish to appeal to the Minister who will have charge of shipping to see that proper consideration is given to Hobart, which has the finest port, not only in Australia, but in any part of the world.
– Except Sydney.
– I have no wish to deprecate any other port in Australia, but at Hobart we have no channel, and without dredging there is a depth of 64 feet of water at low tide, and of 30 feet right up to the wharfs in the city. Great ships like the Ceramic may lie alongside the wharfs there. I can tell honorable members that when the Ceramic left the pier at Hobart she left without a tug, and was steaming out in the stream twenty minutes after her hawser was cast off. I do not wish to deprecate any other port in Australia, but, in Sydney, I have seen two tug’s pulling a large steamer away from a wharf. I appeal to the Minister in charge of shipping’ to let us know early the routes which the Commonwealth steamships are going to take. I believe that the whole of the trade from north, south, east, and west of Tasmania will be concentrated at Hobart, and could be carried by those ships to the Old Country, where we have been selling our produce so well.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer. Every one must admit that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has had a most trying time, and a very difficult task, and has done good work, but I question whether he has not been, to some extent, carried away by his interest in a saving policy. The Post and Telegraph Department should pay its employees well, and particularly the telegraph operators and the girls of the telephone exchange, who follow such a trying and nerveracking occupation. It should also be economically managed, and if it pays its way that should be sufficient, and not a cent should go into the Consolidated Revenue of the country as the result of its operations. Revenue can only be earned from the Post Office by taxing the most useful body of our people, the citizens who use the post and telegraph services. I want the PostmasterGeneral to help in the work of repatriation by extending our telephone system as it has been extended in Norway.
– We have a Repatriation Department.
– The PostmasterGeneral can help the Department considerably by extending the telephone system into the country, as has been done in Norway and Sweden. In those countries nearly every farmer’s house is connected with a telephone exchange. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall be able to say the same of Australia. Copper is cheap to-day, and I should like to know what the Postmaster-General has done in the way of purchasing that essential commodity. There are opportunities all over Australia for the extension of the telephone system. We have excellent engineers in the Post and Telegraph Department, and as a result we have a very fine system. There is no cheeseparing in construction, but our system might be very greatly extended so that every farmer might be brought into touch with the market, instead of as at present, having to lose a day to find out what market prices are ruling.
– No country in the world with the same population gives such facilities as are given in Australia.
– That may be so.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra) [8.231.- There are one or two matters I should like to refer to. I should not deal with the Navigation Act if it had not been mentioned by the other honorable members. The history of the Act is well known, at least to some members of this Parliament. It was first introduced in the Senate in 1903 by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best).
– I introduced it three times.
– That was before the honorable gentleman left that exclusive Chamber to come to us. The Act was passed in 1912. The British Crown reserves the right to have all Navigation Acts of the Dominions sent to the Old Country for approval. They cannot be assented to by the representatives of the Crown in any of the Dominions.
– Was not the Act passed in. 1914?
– No; it was passed in 1912, and at that time was probably the most advanced Navigation Act in the world.
– And our seamen have been denied its benefits until now.
– While the matter of giving the Royal Assent to the Act was under consideration in England there occurred the unfortunate accident to the Titanic in the Atlantic, and in consequence of the sinking of that vessel a Commission representing all nations concerned in navigation laws was appointed to consider the question. The Commission reported in 1914, before war was’ declared, and all European nations agreed to pass a similar Act. The British Parliament passed the Act recommended by the Commission a few days before the war broke out. Because of the difficulties connected with shipping at that time, the
British. Government requested the Australian Government not to put our Act into operation. That is why it was not proclaimed long ago. I need make no excuses in connexion with the matter, because I have been out of the’ Customs Department for three years. The Act now requires amendment to bring it into line with the decisions of the Navigation Conference which sat as a result of the accident to the Titanic.
– Is it not nearly time that w,e had self-determination?
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but I wish to point out that if the Navigation Act is now proclaimed, whilst we shall have control of Inter-State shipping, we shall not be able to control Intra-State shipping. In Queensland and in New South “Wales there is a good deal of Intra-State shipping, and that will remain under the provisions of the British Merchant Shipping Act. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) knows better probably than, any other member of this House, with the exception of the honorable, member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), that the worst conditions which our seamen have to put up with are found on vessels trading within the borders of a State, and not upon Inter-State vessels. Any one who knows what the work of seamen, and especially of firemen, is will agree that they are entitled to the best conditions of employment and to a high rate of wages. With respect to the present trouble in the shipping industry, I took the representatives of the seamen - Mr. Walsh and Mr. O’Neil - to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) ten days before the trouble actually occurred, with the idea of settling the difficulty before it reached the stage which it has reached to-day. I say that if the putting of the Navigation Act into operation will facilitate the settlement of the present dispute, the Government should proclaim the Act in operation.. Every effort should be made to put an end to the difficulty.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) made some reference to light dues, but without looking up the matter I am unable to say how they stand now. I should like to make some reference to the question I asked yesterday concerning the awful sentences, in my opinion, which were passed on certain men of H..M.A.S. Australia. It was my privilege to send to the Acting Prime Minister a resolution arrived at a month or six weeks ago by the members of the party on this side - that, in view of the early termination of the war period and the celebration1 of Peace an amnesty should be declared in respect of all political prisoners. That has always hitherto been done. We all desire that our Australian Navy shall be popular with Australians, but the treatment of the men to whom I have referred is not going to make it popular. There may have been a ringleader amongst them, and every one knows that what most frequently gets youths into trouble - and these men are hardly more than youths - is their desire to be loyal to their pals. Some of the men on the Australia got into trouble, and they are going to be dismissed the Service. I do not suppose the Naval authorities will try to hang these men or to take from them the awards they have received for gallantry, but1 they have sentenced them to long terms of imprisonment.
The day after the Australia arrived at Port Melbourne I was waited upon by a lady who said to me, “ My boy is on the Australia now in port. He has been away from home for four years and nine months. His father enlisted, and was killed on Gallipoli a fortnight after the landing. His only brother volunteered as a munition worker, and has not yet returned. I went down to the vessel, and was told that, because of some minor offence, my boy would not be allowed to go ashore, but that I could see him on board as often as I pleased.” She urged that her boy should be allowed to visit his home. The offence which he had committed could not have been very serious, otherwise his mother would not have been permitted to see him even on board ship. I invite honorable members to consider the circumstances under which that mother was allowed to converse with her boy. When I visited the Australia while she was at Port Melbourne, there were thousands on board. Many of the schools gave their scholars a half-holiday in order that they might visit the vessel ; and on the day that I boarded her there were- dozens of lads racing up and down the awning stretched over the main deck. I made an appeal that the boy should be allowed to go home, but was told that in the interests of discipline it could not be permitted. What a fine recruiting agent for the Navy that lad will be when, later on, he stands amongst his pals! Clubs for returned soldiers and sailors are being established nil over Australia, but our young men do not favour club life. We are an open-air people, and when this youth stands with his mates on a street corner, or at a football match, he will not be a very good recruiting agent for the Australian Navy. The iron will have entered his soul.
I have had an experience of a Military court martial. When the honorable member for Adelaide (Gunner Yates, as he then was) had to appear before a court martial ait the St. Kilda-road barracks, I thought that, since he was a member of our party, I would attend the Court, and hear for myself what had to be said concerning him. I found two soldiers standing at the door of the room in which the court martial was being held, and knowing that it was declared to be an open court martial, I inquired from one of the men whether any one might enter. I was told that I could, not go in. When I pointed out that several press men were in the room, I was asked to give my name. One of the men interposed with the remark, “It is Tudor,” and after a whispered conversation they decided to allow me to enter. I stood there as dumb as the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) is at the present moment, and listened to a recital of the .awful offences which my honorable friend (Mr. Yates) was alleged to have committed. A man sitting at the table - I do not know whether he was a member of the count, or only what is known as the “ waiting member “ - spoke to a burly soldier, who then came up to me and told me to “get out,” as no witnesses were allowed iu court. I said, “ I am not a witness”; but the reply I received was, “ If you do not want to cause trouble, you had better get out.” One never knows what one of these military men will do if one treads on his corns, and I determined to leave. I had scarcely reached the gate, some 60 yards distant, when a soldier came running after me, and said, “ There has been a mistake; you should not have been sent out.” But I declined to go back.
– They had found out the honorable member’s identity. Had hh been an ordinary citizen, he would have been throw out.
– No doubt. Notwithstanding that this was declared to be an open court martial, I was ordered out. An open court martial should be open to all citizens, and since half-a-dozen pressmen were present, it could not be said that I was ordered to leave because statements were likely to be made that should not go abroad. This sort of thing is an absolute absurdity. The incident serves to show what military men will do ‘ when they have the chance. There were only nineteen persons in the room including myself, so that it cannot be said that I was ordered to leave because of the influenza regulations in regard to more than twenty individuals meeting at any one place. The Military authorities simply said “Out” - just as in court, sometimes, .a piece of Labour legislation is declared ultra vires, which simply means “ out “ - and out- 1 had to go.
The Somali, by which the honorable member for Adelaide returned from the Front, occupied seven days on the voyage from Fremantle, so that the time limit fixed by the influenzal regulations had expired.
– And the doctor admitted that she was a clean ship.
– That being so, the troops on board should have been allowed to leave for their homes upon her arrival at Adelaide. Take the case of the Ceramic, which arrived here a couple of months ago. She anchored off the Portsea Quarantine Station, and the soldiers were taken off and compelled to .remain in quarantine for nine days. Meantime the Ceramic went up to Brisbane, where, no doubt, she loaded or unloaded cargo, and where her crew must have mixed with the wharf labourers or others, and she arrived in Port Philip again on the very day that the troops were released from quarantine. When the men heard of this, they naturally wished to know why they were quarantined, while; the steamship, with its crew, was allowed to go on? There is something rotten in the management of some of these departments.
I wish now to refer to the exhibition of the manufactures of returned soldiers, which is now in the Queen’s Hall. Most of these returned soldiers are partly maimed, but the exhibition goes to show that they are able, nevertheless, to do good work. We are all pleased to know that this class of work is being carried out by returned soldiers in all the States. It is of the utmost importance that these men should be put in the way of making their own living. I am very much afraid that the paying out of sustenance money, without at the same time putting the men in the way of making their own living, may prove an injury to the men themselves.
– In many cases it will do so.
– I have discussed this matter privately with the honorable member, and I know that that is his view. I myself have put it to a meeting of returned soldiers. In my own electorate there are some 2,000 or 3,000 returned men,- and at a meeting there recently, I put it to them that it surely was not their desire that a married man who was himself not eligible for service, but whose only son had gone to the Front, should be dismissed, from a position worth less than £3 a week to him in order to make room for a returned man. They told me that it was not their desire, and 1 do not think that such a system would be in their own interests,. We ought to stress -the point that every returned soldier should be given an opportunity for vocational training. The exhibition in the Queen’s Hall will be an eve-opener to the people-. The work is certainly very creditable to the men, and, indeed, is worthy of the most expert tradesmen in Australia.
, - I am glad that the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) has referred to the case of the men on the Australia, who have been so brutally and savagely sentenced for a breach of discipline. It is apparently the opinion of honorable members opposite that the sentences, although harsh, are not altogether unmerited, because discipline must be maintained. As an ex-seaman, I think the men have been most unduly and harshly punished. The evidence clearly shows that all that happened was that a deputation of them waited on the Commanding Officer to lodge certain complaints. They also preferred what, to some, may appear to have been the somewhat unfeasible request that the ship should remain another day at Fremantle in order that they might entertain their friends. If Admiral Viscount Jellicoe or Commodore Dumaresq had desired to entertain friends alt Fremantle on the following day or week, the ship would have remained there, and nothing would have been said of the matter. But because the men had the temerity, after conferring amongst themselves, to ask that the ship might remain there another day, they were court-martialled, and some of them sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. What would the people of Australia say if a body of working men,’ waiting upon their employers to ask for a holiday, were marched off between a cordon of police and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment ?
– Did not the men re-> fuse to obey some order?
– The order was that they should return to their work. The same order might be given in a factory or in any branch of industry. The men refused to go back to their work, and were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
– In 1891, men were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for refusing to go back to work.
– But we are not now living in the barbarous middle ages, when men were gibbeted and put into stocks. These men had had four years’ -service on the other side of the world. They had been serving in the North Sea and around Great Britain for the whole of that time, during which they had had very little liberty. They came to Australia and were hospitably treated. It was their first taste of liberty for four years. Having tasted it, they, naturally, wanted more. Accordingly, they preferred a simple request that the sailing pf the Australia should be delayed for a day. After all, the Australia is quite a useless thing now. She is of no more value than an old tin kettle. She carries no cargo and no passengers between ports. For all the harm or all the good that she is doing she might as well be lying in Fremantle Harbor to-day. So that the request preferred by these men might have been acceded to without any ill-results accruing from it.
– But that might have interfered with the officers’ programme.
– Yes. They may have had some function arranged for them in one of the other ports with which delay in the departure of the vessel would have interfered. The Government should immediately take into consideration the severity of the punishment meted out to these men, and, in view of their good service overseas, should immediately release them. The only punishment which should be inflicted upon them is to discharge them from the Navy, and there would not be very much punishment in that, because every man who serves in our Navy Will he only too pleased to obtain his discharge from it. Indeed, we shall experience the utmost difficulty in getting men for our Navy if this is the sort of treatment that is to be accorded them.
Very similar treatment is meted out to the men in our mercantile marine. Under the Navigation Act, the master of a ship has absolute power to fine a seaman £20 or £50. In fact, . all the seaman’s wages can be forfeited by a mandate from the master. I recollect what happened to the men employed on the Paratta whilst on a voyage from Sydney to Great Britain with cargo. During that voyage the economy party considered that work would be facilitated if - the sailors undertook to discharge the ashes’. ‘As this work was no part of their duty, they refused to undertake it. Thereupon the master charged them with refusing to obey his. lawful commands. They were taken ashore, tried by a military officer, and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. Whilst in custody they were compelled to herd with coloured people, whose habits were not too clean, with the result that, when they were released, they found themselves infested with vermin of all descriptions. Those men had to pay 2s. per day for their passage back to Australia. That is the sort of treatment which is meted out to seamen all over the world. Their history teems with anomalies of this description. There is no class which has been so badly treated. Thank God they have an organization in Australia to-day which is powerful enough to defy the authorities. Of course, the question may be asked, “ Why do they not submit their case to arbitration?” But, to my mind, the Arbitration Court receives more condemnation from honorable members on the other side of the chamber than it does from the party with which I am associated. The pastoralists condemn it, and I am in receipt of a circular from the Farmers Union of Tasmania asking for its abolition. The orchardists, too, say that if the Court awards the members of the Australian Workers Union what they are contending for, they will have to go out of business. Evidently, therefore, most of the opposition to this tribunal comes from the other side. Personally, I think that the Arbitration Court is a failure.
– What about a roundtable conference?
– That would suit me admirably. It is up to us to look at this matter seriously, and to consider how we can best combat the industrial discontent which is raging, not only in Australia, but all over the world. The Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, is ineffective, because, while it can award a basic wage to the employee, it has no power to fix the profits which an industry shall be allowed to extort from the consumer. Consequently, if the Court awarded seamen £16 per month, there would be nothing to prevent the shipowners from increasing freights to such an extent that the general public might be further harassed by increased prices of commodities.
-Could not all these matters be settled by an industrial conference ?
Mr.WALLACE. - We cannot rely too much on individuals. As one who believes in constitutional government, I say that we should shoulder these responsibilities ourselves. It is up to us to make the Arbitration Court conform to our modern ideas. It needs to be remodelled. To my mind, all industries should be organized upon industrial lines.For example, the whole of the unions engaged in the transport industry should be organized into one union, and a Judge sitting in the Arbitration Court should be the controller of that industry. He should fix the prices to be charged by the dispenser of any commodity, the profits to be made and the wages to be paid.
– Would the honorable member allow one man to do that?
– One man could do it for one industry. But it is too much to expect any one man to organize the whole of the industries of a country.
– What if a man would not accept the wages that he was awarded ?
– The same thing would happen as is happening to-day. Men are prepared to work so long as the remuneration they receive will provide them with the essentials of a good living. In New South Wales, a minimum wage of £3 per week has been fixed. I suppose that 60 per cent, of the workers there are receiving 10s. per week in excess of that wage. But when one takes into consideration the high cost of commodities and the rents charged for houses, he will see that such a wage is not sufficient for a man to live upon if he is to make any provision against sickness and old age. So it is necessary that we should arrive at a basic wage which will enable a man to live in comfort. We can, if necessary, control industry to the extent of making the men who are managing industries to-day for their own personal aggrandise ment manage them for the State, and we can provide that the surplus profits shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue for the benefit of the entire community.In that way we could make provision for the payment of adequate old-age pensions - not 12s. 6d. per week, but £3 or £4 per week. We could give a man the same money as he had been earning.
– Is the honorable member sure there would be a surplus?
– Yes; it necessarily follows that there would be.
– I think there would be a loss.
– What does it matter, anyhow? All that we ask is that we should get the full benefit of what we earn. I consider that every man and woman has a right to the best that the world can afford to give them. I see no reason why one man should have’ £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 whilst another has not 4d. There is no reason for this inequality of distribution. What is wanted to-day is not so much ‘ organization in respect of production, but organization in respect of distribution. It is a function of government to see that that distribution is equitably carried out. It was done in Great Britain during the war. There it was found to be absolutely essential for the Government to take over every industry. The managing staffs of industries were quite prepared to cometo the assistance of the authorities by devoting their intelligence and ability to the organization of particular enterprises for the sake of carrying on the war, and protecting the Old Country from the menace which confronted it if the enemy should win.
– The honorable member does not wish the people of Australia to work as hard as the people of Great Britain had to do during the war? .
– There is no longer any necessity for the people of Great Britain to work as hard as they did dur-: ing the war. It was recognised that all this organization should be undertaken for the purpose of winning the war; and although the people had to work long hours, they received much better wages; and at least their living was assured to them. Statistics show that before the war in Great Britain, there were 33,000,000 practically on the bread line, while 14,000,000 owned the whole of the wealth.
– No people could keep up the pace ‘at which the people of Great Britain worked during the war.
– I have no desire to enter into that line of argument, but it must be admitted that there was superior organization in Great Britain during the war in the matter of the limited supply of foodstuffs available. There were 7,000,000 men organized as fighters; in an economic sense, they might as well have been on a holiday, so far were they from assisting in useful, production; and there was another 14,000,000 engaged in the production of war material, -who also, in the same sense, might as well have been on a holiday. Thus there were 21,000,000 people whom the Test of the people of Great Britain had to maintain. If that 21,000,000 had been engaged in useful production, there would have been no necessity for the others to work fourteen or fifteen hours a, day.
From, the press and other quarters there has been a great deal of condemnation of the attitude the seamen who are on strike are adopting towards the Arbitration Court. I express no opinion as to whether they are right or wrong in refusing to go to that Court; but I agree with them that it is not always the best tribunal for securing an alteration of working conditions. The proclaiming of . the Navigation Act, faulty as it is, would materially assist them. If that Act had been in operation, no doubt a more conciliatory spirit would have been displayed by the seamen, and quite possibly they would have felt inclined to submit their case to a tribunal for a proper hearing. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) pointed out that during the last six months three colliers have been wrecked on our coast, with lamentable loss of life. This could have been avoided if the Navigation Act had been in force, because it provides that no vessels shall leave port in an unseaworthy condition. The s.s. Tuggerah left Port Kembla with coal simply tipped into the hatches and loaded up about 9 feet above them. The weather was so bad that when the vessel was at sea the crew were set to work trimming the coal; and while they were engaged in this task, the steamer was continually taking in water. The men got one set. of hatches on, but before they could get another set on, the Tuggerah lurched and over she went. She sank within five minutes’; and not a soul would have been saved had it not been for the fact that the lifeboats, instead of hanging on the davits as usual, were lying on the deck, and floated off into the water. Those members of the crew who were lucky enough to be. thrown into the sea when the ship lurched over, were able to. scramble into the boats and save their lives. But that vessel should not have been, allowed to leave port before being properly inspected. The Navigation Act provides that inspectors shall be appointed at different ports to see that vessels are properly equipped and thoroughly seaworthy before leaving. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) told us that the Navigation Act has been hung up since 1910, but the measure has been before’ this Parliament since 1904 - fifteen years ago.
– It would not have been passed had not a Labour Government come into power in 1910.
– I would not say too much about that. The Act provides that every overseas vessel coming to Australia must conform to Australian conditions before engaging in our coastal trade - that is to say, carrying passengers and cargo between Australian ports. For example, the Peninsular and Oriental Company, which employs Lascars at 25 rupees a month, would have to pay its crew at the Australian rates; but the managing directors of that company are very big men on the other side of the world - the company’s profits last year amounted to something like £1,500,000, and its shares are now worth £45. It has plenty of money to throw about, and has a very big political influence in Great Britain. It would not suit it to have to pay £13 or £14 per month to Lascar firemen. Lambert and Holt’s Line, Crosbie and Company, and another line running to South Africa, all carry cargo between the different ports of Australia,, and employ coolies; but if the Navigation Act were in operation, they would be compelled to pay higher rates of wages. This is the influence operating against the proclamation of the Act. If we hope to be anything as a nation, we must build up a mercantile marine. As most of our produce is carried by water, we should do everything we possibly can for our maritime industry. New Zealand has a Navigation Act which has been in operation for many years past. It is much more up to date than ours, and places severer restrictions on foreign-going boats that trade between New Zealand ports; and if the Dominion can enforce its measure without international . complications, I do not see why the Commonwealth cannot have its’ Act proclaimed without being afraid of them.
As for the conditions under which a seaman works, if he does not happen to be on board his vessel at the scheduled time, he is liable to a penalty of £20 ; and if he commits a breach of discipline while on board, he is under severer penalties than are imposed on the average worker ashore. If we must have discipline on vessels, and if we want the seamen to conform to the conditions imposed upon them, we should give them a little extra compensation for submitting themselves to them. The fact that for the last six weeks it has been impossible to get men to man our ships shows how necessary it is to have trained men upon them ; but the accommodation provided for them is abominable. In the building of vessels, no attention is paid to it. The s.s. Niagara, one of the most modern’ ships trading to Australia, came out on her maiden voyage as a coal-burner, carrying a crew of 125, for which accommodation was provided ; but when she was afterwards fitted as an oil-burner, and the crew was reduced to forty, instead of the accommodation being altered to suit the forty, it was cut down. Today that vessel, in the matter of accommodation for the crew, is no better than a steamer built ten or , twelve years previously.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
T.hat Mr. Watt and Mr. Webster do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first and second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £4,337,335).
– Perhaps I did not follow the Treasurer yesterday when he. was making his statement with regard to the motion that has just been carried. Did I understand him to say that this Bill dealt only with loan moneys that had been borrowed for carrying on the war?
– In reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I have to say that the figures I gave yesterday were in relation to loan finance, and covered only war loan money.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4agreed to.
.- I move -
That Item No. 1, Division 13, Department of the Prime Minister, “ Salaries £2,000,” be reduced by £1.
I desire to call attention to the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in Great Britain at the present time and recently in regard to certain matters. Under cover of this amendment, I want to know just what is the position concerning the representation of Australia on the other side of the world. The Prime Minister and his colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) have now been absent from the Commonwealth for about fourteen months, and during that time we have been treated to some remarkable exhibitions that make us wonder whether Australia is being represented by one man, or by two men with different ideas. Right through, so far as we are able to trace events by the cabled reports and the press statements, there has been a conflict of opinion between the Prime Minister and Sir Joseph Cook ; so much so that we had a report, which was not very seriously denied - indeed, the correspondence confirmed it - that the two gentlemen were, not on speaking terms with each other. I find, to my surprise, that, even in to-night’s Herald, there is further evidence of a conflict between the two gentlemen. The Prime Minister, speaking recently, and referring to the League of Nations, pointed out that it would be of no use to Australia, as it would be too slow and too dilatory in coming to our aid, so we mu6t rely upon the British Navy for our protection. Then the Minister for the Navy is reported in to-night’s Herald as having said that he believes in the League of Nations, but that the sword must remain in the background.
In the statement presented by the Acting Prime Minister to the House yesterday, reference was made to the fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy were expected to leave Great Britain this week. There was also reference to the matters which we shall have to deal with when they return to Australia. I have no particular desire tonight to go into details concerning these matters, because there will be abundant opportunity to deal with them at first hand. At present, there is no doubt that we are somewhat handicapped, but I was interested to notice that, at a meeting of the Ministerial party on Tuesday, as reported in the Age newspaper of the 25th inst., a motion moved by you, Mr. Chairman, and seconded by Senator Pratten, was carried unanimously, so it was reported.
– There must have been some mental reservations.
– Yes; I am anxious to know what mental reservations there were in the minds of some of the gentlemen who supported the motion, which was as follows : -
That this meeting of Ministerial supporters, having heard the official statement of the Acting Prime Minister, and the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Sir Joseph Cook, as Australian representatives at the War Conference, and during the Peace negotiations in Great Britain and France, expresses its entire approval and appreciation of the splendid work that they have done, and that their groat efforts were put forward in the interests of Australia, hereby expresses its continued confidence in Mr. Hughes as our leader.
Evidently the Acting Prime Minister was more communicative to members of the Ministerial party than he has yet been to the House, because all the information we have received so far from him has been that vouchsafed to us through the press. If there is any information of the character indicated in the resolution submitted at the -meeting of the Ministerial party, which called forth its unqualified admiration of the Prime Minister, the House is entitled to have it. Evidently he submitted some information, because it elicited the unanimous approval of the Ministerial party and led to the adoption of the motion referred to as a splendid testimonial to the Prime Minister, to whom it was to be cabled. I have no doubt that, after the severe criticism that he has received on the other side of the world, and the misrepresentation that he complains of, Mr. Hughes will be very glad to know that there is such a happy family in Australia. It will be a great satisfaction to him, no doubt, to know that.
– You do not seem pleased about the happy family.
– I am not very much alarmed at the happiness of honorable members opposite. I wish them every success. Politics, as Senator Lynch once reminded us, makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows.
– We do not throw bricks about like you do.
– The Prime Minister throws enough bricks to satisfy honorable members opposite.
I want to refer to one or two matters which I think require some explanation. Yesterday I directed the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to the speeches that have been delivered by the Prime Minister in London in regard to fiscal matters, and I asked if those views were indorsed by the Government. In his reply the Acting Prime Minister informed the House that the Government took full responsibility for the. Prime Minister’s utterance in England in respect to all matters. That being so, I would like to know where we stand, and whether the Prime Minister’s advice to the Imperial
Government concerning tie fiscal policy is to be indorsed by the people of this country. For instance, we find the Prime Minister saying this, as reported in the Age of 20th instant -
Are the Germans to be helped or permitted to resume trade with Great Britain, as they did before the war, sometimes under a transparent disguise? If so, Germany will creep back to her old position, and the war will have been fought in vain.
Unless a definite policy is adopted which will give British manufacturers preference in their home markets, and give the overseas Dominions’ raw materials a larger market within the Empire, not only will Imperial trade suffer, but the Empire will tend to disintegrate. The Dominions are passionately attached to the Empire, and do not hold the view that “Empire” is another name, for “ British.” The economic policy which does not recognise this will destroy the Empire. The alternative is a policy of “ Britain and the Empire for the Germans,” dictated by pacifists and defeatists, or by the interests of international finance. If this policy of negationis adopted, it will not matter much whether the Hohenzollerns or Ebert the saddler control the destinies of Germany.
That is a most significant utterance, coming as it does from the Prime Minister, because there are on record some remarks made by a gentleman in this country about the recent great world conflict being a sordid trade war. He was most severely castigated on that occasion by the Prime Minister, and was very insultingly criticised by many of the Prime Minister’s supporters. Of course, Archbishop Mannix may have been unwise in making that statement when he did, but it is most illuminating now to learn that the Prime Minister himself admits that, unless we can secure the trade which Germany previously held, we shall have fought this war in vain. But this is not the Prime Minister’s only, although it is his most recent, statement on the matter. I find that, in addressing the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in 1916, he said -
It is refreshing to turn from the sickening folly of these doctrinaires, visionaries, agents of Germany - call them what you will - to the robust truth of the German Emil Zimmerman. He shows that the short-sightedness of Britain was responsible for the rise of Germany; that the economic position arising from that policy was directly responsible for the war.
How strange, indeed, it is that the. Prime Minister, who, with lurid rhetoric, tried to make the people in this country believe that we went into this war for just, high and honorable responsibilities, now admits that it was the economic situation that brought about this war, and that unless we can secure some of the economic results it will have been fought in vain. One wonders whether the people of this country have realized, as the Prime Minister seems to have realized, that, after all, in regard to this war, as in regard to most other wars, they have been fooled. It is a most lamentable position. But not only in regard to economics has the Prime Minister shown a remarkable change. I desire to protest against his attitude concerning fiscal and economical arrangements with the Mother Country. The Prime Minister has not in any way scrupled, I was going to say, to advise the Mother Country as to its policy, but he seems to have assumed the position of director-general of British trade. It is not a question of whether he is entitled to advise the people at Home, but there is no justification for his assumption of the role of dictator to them, practically telling them that the policy they must adopt is the policy that he suggests. Listen to two extracts from a book that I came across in the library last night.
– Who wrote the book?
– I do not know, because there is no author’s name attached, but it is published by Fisher, Unwin, and Company, and the title is’ Mr. Hughes: A Study. This is what he said in 1916. Listen to the dogmatic rhetoric of the man, and remember that he was a guest, as one of the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, at the invitation of the Imperial Government, to confer on matters of Imperial concerns. He proceeds to dictate to them and schoolmaster them on matters of internal domestic policy.
– And the British people were paying his expenses all the time.
– We are paying his expenses now. On page 71 we read -
You must create new industries; you must develop those you have already. A comprehensive scheme of organization must cover the whole .industrial field. You must summon science to your aid, walk with her daily, and let her guide your feet by her clear shining light. And you must use the land of Britain to grow more of the food that Britain consumes…..
We must produce more wealth…..
If we fail, it is the end of all our greatness….. There is but one way by which we can be saved. Let us then, without delay, resolve to take it.
But so little did he gain from castigations which he received after such utterances castigations well deserved because of his unnecessary and impudent interference in affairs he had not any authority to touch - that, in 1918, addressing the London Chamber of Commerce, on 27th June, he said -
There must be a policy declared, and some man must Have charge of this policy to give effect to it. We can do nothing in the Dominions of a permanent and effective kind until you declare your policy. Upon your policy ours is to be established. If Imperialism is to be something more than an aim, we must have action and a definite declaration of what you intend to do - a step from which there cannot be, and will not be, any drawing back. The policy of England must be known; it should be declared from the housetops. Germany does not hesitate to do so. She has formulated her policy with Austria. Let us do the same.
I only desire to point out, in contrast, what Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada, said, and then I shall make the application. Sir Robert Borden said-
In giving effect to the resolution of last year, the British Government must necessarily take into account the like considerations. Canada lias no desire or intention of interfering in any such question of domestic concern in the United Kingdom, or of offering advice thereon.
It has never yet been suggested in this Parliament, nor has any one ever dared to suggest at any time in Australia, that the internal fiscal policy of this country has to be determined by the fiscal policy of Great Britain. That is a position we could not tolerate for a moment. The Prime Minister has, to his credit, at times been very insistent on Australia’s right to its own self-government. I know of no matter of so immediate and extraordinary importance to the people of Australia at this particular juncture as the free and absolute control of their fiscal’ policy; yet the Prime Minister has said to Great Britain, “ Our policy is dependent on yours.”’ Is that the reason why the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) indicates that we cannot determine our trade policy - that we cannot establish our relations with Canada or New Zealand, which were interrupted by the war - until we know what the Prime Minister has arranged with the Imperial Government?
– Who said that?
– You suggested that when I asked you a question this morning.
– I said that we shall know the reciprocity proposals when the Minister for Trade and Customs has produced his Tariff. That has nothing to do with the Tariff.
– What the Acting Prime Minister said to me this morning was -
The policy of the Government’ on Tariff matters will be considered in full consultation with all the members of the Cabinet.
– Hear, hear!
– From that I take it that the decision in regard to Tariff matters will not be determined until all the members of the Cabinet are in attendance.
– The honorable member is not entitled to make that deduction. We have frequently consulted with the Prime Minister on various matters by cable.
– The deduction I draw is quite a fair one. It ought to be declared in this House that our control of our fiscal arrangements cannot be determined or affected by what the Imperial Government may or may not do in the matter.
– Or any other Government.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Acting Prime Minister; but that is certainly not the policy as declared by the Prime Minister.
– I do not make that deduction from the reported speech you have read. I do not know what speech you are quoting from.
– I am quoting from a speech by the Prime Minister to the London Chamber of Commerce in June last. The first speech I quoted from was one delivered to the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in 1916. I pointed out that, so far from his having learned . anything, or taken to heart any advice as to the unwisdom of interfering with British domestic affairs, the Prime Minister, when he returned to England last year, laid it down, on the 27th June, before the London Chamber, of Commerce, that our policy in Australia was awaiting the decision of the Imperial Government - that our policy was to be based, on theirs
– I do not think that is a deduction you are entitled to make from the report you quoted.
– Irefer honorable members again to the words I quoted, and ask whether the deduction I make is not a fair and reasonable one. I think that the words are not capable of any double meaning.
– What was the Prime Minister talking about?
– About the fiscal policy, and the need for protection against German economic domination.
– Surely the Prime Minister may easily make that statement, and preserve the attitude of the honorable member for Brisbane. If the British family is to trade- together by reciprocal arrangement, it cannot be one-sided. We must know what the Mother Country intends before the reciprocal arrangements of the Dominions can be drafted. But that does not determine the whole fiscal policy of this country.
– Even -the Acting Prime Minister admits there is a possibility that we may come to some sort of reciprocal arrangement with the Mother Country which must affect our own arrangements in fiscal matters.
– Just asthe honorable member himself suggested we should do with Canada and New Zealand.
– I suggested that that matter should be determined by arrangement inregard to reciprocity. ‘
– Quite so.
– Thatdoes not in the least degree affect our control of our own fiscal policy.
– Of course, it does.
– Our policy is not to be based on the policy of Canada, whereas the Prime Minister said that the Australian policy is to be based on the policy adopted by the British Government.
– It is like a question between a buyer and a seller; the buyer does not know whether he can do business until the seller mentions his terms, and reciprocity must be based on give and take, and a knowledge of each other’s intentions.
– The whole point of my argument is that the Prime Minister lays down the proposition that the British policy must be fixed before we can know what our own policy is to be; it is not a question of giving and taking, but a question of taking or leaving.
– That is a strained interpretation of the words you read.
– I have raised the question because the position ought to be known. I am sure that on both sides of the House there is a desire to conserve and develop trade within the Empire, and we are prepared to give all sorts of kindly consideration to every preferential proposal from the Mother Country or from the other Dominions.
– Every reciprocal proposal.
– We are prepared to deal with them; but I think the last thing ‘we are prepared to do is to enter on a system of bargaining with the Imperial Government in regard to preference to Australian goods and materials in. consideration of some quid pro quo in regard to goods and materials that we require.
– I am just a bit afraid that the honorable member’s antipathy to the Prime Minister has sprained his judgment.
– I am just afraid that the Acting Prime Minister is exaggerating something that is only in his own mind. My antipathy to the Prime
Minister is not at all a personal matter, and I have said so repeatedly. It is based on my antipathy to his policy; and surely I may be permitted to discuss the policy announced by the honorable gentleman without being charged with antipathy to him as an individual. In any case, the Prime Minister is a proper subject for criticism, and, if necessary, most severe criticism, by any honorable ‘ member.
Mr.Watt. - I think a preferable course is to discuss the utterances of a gentleman when he is present.
– I am not the only individual who criticises the Prime Minister.
– Hear, hear!
– The criticisms that are directed to the Prime Minister are not all personal.
– Some of them are.
– The honorable gentleman may speak for himself.
– I know some of them are.
– Some little time ago, when the armistice was signed, the Prime Minister of Australia, in Great Britain, placarded himself as being so thoroughly dissatisfied because the armistice had been signed without his having been consulted that he broke out into a most unfortunate castigation of the Imperial Government. As to this, I may quote from the Argus.
– It is something new to find the honorable member falling back on the Argus for support!
– The same matter appeared in every newspaper, and if the honorable member likes I can quote from the Age or the Herald. The Prime Minister is reported to have said, at a luncheon given by the Australian AgentsGeneral -
Under President Wilson’s Peace terms, Belgium and France get what they want, while Australia gets nothing for her sacrifices. No provision is made for her staggering burden of debt, which she has the right to ask from the aggressors. Australia will insist upon making what Tariff distinctions she thinks proper.
Mr. Hughes was then in a very critical frame of mind. He was evidently sulky, or very petulant, and when the Acting Prime Minister was interrogated by the press, he said he could not imagine that Mr. Hughes wouldsay a thing like that.
– No; not “like that.” It was another part of that speech.
– Where it was stated that Australia had not been consulted in regard to the signing of the armistice, and that Mr. Lloyd George had said Australia would be consulted.
– I do not think it was that point either, if the honorable member will refresh his memory.
– Ask the Acting Prime Minister what point it was.
– I know that some time afterwards the Prime Minister considered that the Acting Prime Minister had not been quite fair to him.
– No; Mr. Keith Murdoch said so. There is a difference in that.
– I have before me a report from a Brisbane newspaper, dated 30th January of this year.
-“ Our Special Correspondent.”
– It is by the United Cable Service, and it states -
Mr. Hughes was repeatedly cheered as he spoke of the national feelings. “We -have a right to govern ourselves in our own way,” he said, “ It may not be other people’s ways, but it is our way. In this peace there must be written in indelible characters those terms for which we went to war - self-government, security, and liberty.” ( Cheers. )
Mr. Hughes ended with. a slashing attack on his Australian critics, aimed at least in part at Mr. Watt, whose deprecatory remarks on Mr. Hughes’ American interview had been widely published in ‘the British press. He said, “ I am much criticised by my fellow citizens in Australia, because we put Australia first, not subordinating her interests to any. (Cheers.) Australia’s interests are first. (Cheers.) I am her representative, and nobody else. (Cheers.) When I return to Australia I shall not be slow in telling those who, behind my back, attack this doctrine, that they are grievously injuring Australia.”
– That is good.
– The Prime Minister was referring to you, and otherslike you.
– He will teach you.
– That is aimed at Mr. Watt.
– That is wrong.
– The extract continues -
Some seem to clutch only at the skirts of Empire, and crawl along the ground where the Empire walks. You–
That is, our soldiers, whom Mr. Hughes was addressing -
You, and not they, have put Australia in her proud place to-day, and we owe to you the present attention to Australia’s needs.
– And the Acting Prime Minister has not been such a critic since that time.
Mr.Watt. - I would just say that that newspaper man is a liar, and I so cabled to Mr. Hughes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has lapsed.
. The honorable member for Brisbane has been getting on so remarkably well that I do not think the Ministerial side are desirous of hearing him further. That holds good in regard to the Acting Prime Minister particularly. I will leave the Minister in the hands of the honorable member for Brisbane, who has dealt with him exceptionally well to-night. But, as we are dealing with the Department of the Acting Prime Minister-
– We are not. We are dealing with one item now. Speak to the amendment.
– Will you, Mr. Atkinson, kindly inform me exactly what the question is?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendment moved by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) was “That the item ‘Salaries, £2,000, be reduced by £1.”
– Then I shall leave the honorable member for Brisbane to proceed with his argument.
.- That brings me back to the resolution so cordially agreed to by the Ministerial party a couple of days ago, approving of the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), in regard to matters which have been under discussion this evening.
– When, and where, was this resolution carried?
– The honorable member and his friends passed it unanimously on Tuesday.
– Who told you that ? Where did you get hold of that?
– It appeared in the papers.
– Surely you do not believe everything the papers tell you.
– The newspapers stated that “ Mr. Watt added that he was requested to cable the resolution to Mr. Hughes, and he would do so to-day.” No doubt, Mr. Hughes is now in possession of that veryflattering testimonial . That the people on the other side of the world are not quite so satisfied with Mr. Hughes’ conduct as are his friends here, is evident from two or. three brief statements which I propose to read -
Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth, who ought properly to be attending to its affairs at home, figures by invitation of the profiteering Tariffist party in. Britain as its special spokesman. It is for the people of Australia to pronounce whether he is theirs, and whether they approve of his taking a vacation in Britain for the express purpose of playing firebrand for the profiteering interests - he, the nominal representative of Labour and head of a Labour Ministry.
– Who wrote that?
– The writer of this book.
– What is his name?
– I do not know.
– Baron Munchausen, junior, I suppose.
– If I find out, the Acting Prime Minister will be the first whom I shall tell. On page 34 of the book the writer states -
If a British politician were to go to Australia on a campaign of vilification against the majority of the Australian people on the score of the fiscal policy they had seen fit to adopt (to say nothing of their policy as to conscription), he would probably not be very politely received. It is, indeed, not unlikely that he would be urgently advised either to keep a civil tongue in his head or to return to the scene of his normal political activities. Mr. Hughes, however, has the comforting knowledge that the grossest scurrilities on his part towards the majority of the British people will have the congenial backing of a press of which scurrility is the habitual instrument.
Then, on page 38, he proceeds -
There is nothing for ‘it, then, but to hold Mr. Hughes and his doctrines up to the light of day. He has made unwarranted use of his privileged position to cast infamous aspersions on a mass of British electors considerably more numerous than the entire population of Australia; and he has followed up this attack with a mere mass of incoherent rhetoric that, on analysis, yields neither information nor argument. The production of such rhetoric, and not any process of rational persuasion, is the special function of Mr. Hughes.
Let that suffice.
– Will the honorable member show me that book?
– Certainly . ‘ It was taken from the Library.
– The honorable member for Brisbane says he does not know who is the writer of the book. I think it is Mr. Hughes’ publicity secretary, acting under instructions.
– I hand the book over to the Acting Prime Minister.
– I note that there is no author’s name.
– I said so. The Acting Prime Minister should castigate the Library Committee for having approved of a book going upon the shelves of the Parliamentary Library without an author’s, name. We are told now that the . Prime Minister and his colleague are about to sail, and that they will soon be back in Australia, and that, with their return, we shall enter upon the consideration of some most important matters. I propose to reserve my criticisms of Mr. Hughes’ conduct in regard to the League of Nations and the Pacific Islands until he is present; and I trust there will be abundant opportunity given honorable members for the expression of their opinions frankly and freely. These matters are so important to the future welfare of Australia that we cannot but discuss them with our eye to the future. We must look upon these subjects from the broad, national stand -point, and think, not only of ourselves, but of the generations to come after us, that we may secure them, as far as possible, in their heritage here. The unfortunate position in which we are placed to-day is that Mr. Hughes is saying things on the other side of the world which must be embarrassing both to the Imperial Government and to his friends here. Although the Acting Prime Minister admits - and, of course, he cannot do otherwise, in his efforts to be loyal to his absent chief - that the Government accept full responsibility for the Prime Minister’s remarks, we shall have to adjust ourselves to the changing attitude adopted by Mr. Hughes in regard to these matters. I again protest against the absence of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy for such a long period. There is no reason why they should have been, so long away. There was a suggestion that Mr. Hughes desired to wait in order to sign the Peace Treaty on behalf of Australia; and it was said, further, that Sir Joseph Cook was determined to wait until Mr. Hughes came home.
– None of the Dominions representatives has left Europe while the Peace Conference deliberations have proceeded. The delegations are all still there.
– It was much easier for the representatives of some of the Dominions to be present in England and France the whole time than for the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
– Why so?
– There is a good man acting here in his stead, anyhow.
– The Government stated that one of the reasons why Parliament had not been called together earlier during the past six months was the protracted deliberations of the Peace Conference; and it was considered inadvisable to summon Parliament together for the discussion of public business. There was so much work awaiting honorable members in this Parliament - work of a domestic character which could have been in no wise affected by the deliberations of the Peace Conference - that the suggestion that the Conference was the reason for not calling ‘ Parliament together
– The honorable member has shifted his ground. He was arguing that the Prime Minister should have been in Australia, and this would have meant - as he puts it - the non-representation of Australia at this critical hour in Paris.
Surely the honorable member does not advocate that!
– I am not shifting my ground. While I am satisfied that the Prime Minister was properly in England, I hold that there was no reason for two Ministers to be there all the time; and I protest again that for two Ministers to have gone away from the one party in Australia, and to have pretended that they represented the Australian people at the Peace Conference, was a travesty on justice, and neither fair nor honest.
– New Zealand had two Ministers there, and Canada five. And, if what the honorable member says is true, the duty of the head of the Commonwealth Government was to be at the Peace Conference.
– I quite admit that.
– Then what is the good of talking? Your quarrel is really with Sir Joseph Cook; yet you are quarrelling with the Prime Minister. Your complaint concerns the absence of the Minister for the Navy, and not of the Prime Minister, when it is all boiled down.
– I say that there is no justification for the continued absence of the two Ministers.
– Will it satisfy the honorable member if Sir Joseph Cook is censured - formally admonished - when he returns?
– The Government were not only satisfied, evidently, that Australia should have but one kind of representation at the Peace Conference, but the unfortunate fact regarding the Conference right through has been that only one class of people in the world has been represented there. Folk may talk as they like about this being a people’s peace. It is not a people’s peace, and it will not be ratified by the peoples of the world, although it may be ratified by their Parliaments. I protest once more against two Ministers holding but one point of view pretending to represent Australia at the Peace Conference, when nearly half of the people of the Commonwealth hold political views differing from theirs.
– If your party had accepted the invitation to join in forming a national Government, Mr. Tudor would have been there, I suppose.
– I am glad the honorable member puts it as a supposition, because I had not the slightest belief that anything of that kind would have happened. . We on this side ought to have been invited to send a representative to the Peace Conference, either in addition to the two who went or as an alternative to one of them. Unfortunately, the Ministry, not satisfied with having two Ministers there, decided to send a third for some other duty. The Minister for Defence is absent from Australia, although he is the head of the biggest spending department in the Commonwealth, a position that it has always been conceded should, at the earliest possible moment, be removed from the Senate to this Chamber. We have items to discuss on the Defence Estimates which demand the presence of the Minister for Defence in this Chamber, and vet when the Government had the opportunity, in the absence of the Minister, to appoint in this Chamber an Acting Minister for Defence, with the full authority of his absent chief, instead of giving the portfolio to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), who was Assistant Minister, and a member of this House, they gave it to a Minister of another place.
– Your own. Government put the Defence portfolio during the war in the Senate.
– That is so: but when the war broke out the Minister for Defence was Senator Millen, and when the Labour party assumed office in 1914. Senator .Pearce was appointed to succeed him. When Sir Joseph Cook was Leader of the Opposition he protested against the Defence portfolio being in the Senate, and members of the Labour party, whether on the right or the left of the Speaker, have also consistently protested against it. I am sure the members of this Chamber would have appreciated the control of the Defence Department being given to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) instead of to Senator Russell, for the special reason that we want to deal with Defence matters in this Chamber.
Evidently Ministers and their party were quite satisfied with all the statements that the Acting Prime Minister was able to make to them in their party meeting on Tuesday. After passing the most enthusiastic resolution regarding Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook, they passed another which members opposite will hear more about, as the criticism of the present Administration proceeds. ‘ It was this : -
That this party desires to express its hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Acting Prime Minister, and his colleagues have administrated the affairs of Australia during the absence of the Prime Minister, and approves of the policy for the coming session so ably and clearly set out by the Acting Prime Minister.
We have all on both sides of the House appreciated to the full the difficult task that the Acting Prime Minister has had to face. He has carried during the past twelve months a load rather beyond what the average man could bear, and we have all felt sympathy with him, especially when we learnt of his unfortunate illnesses. I hope that the relief from the strain that is probable in the near future will be to his advantage.
– Only he can tell of the strain of those cables from William.
– He has no doubt had to carry not only a heavy and difficult load, but a load that at times must have been extraordinarily irksome, because he had to enforce certain laws and put into operation certain machinery for which he was not primarily responsible, and which he must have known were detrimental to the best interests of Australia. The declaration of his party that they approve of the admirable manner in which the Government has been carried on brings us to what is admitted to-day to be one of the most critical positions that Australia has ever faced. The party declare that they are satisfied with the position that the Government has brought this country into. I wish them joy of their satisfaction. If they are satisfied with the “ admirable “ manner in’ which thousands of the people of this city and of the rest of Australia are suffering while facing want and. privation, then the people outside are not satisfied, because it is anything but satisfactory to them.
The party also expressed their approval of the policy for the coming session propounded by the Acting Prime Minister. That is the policy that he propounded here yesterday, and which says to the people of this country, “We defy you; we challenge you; we will offer no concessions.” Until to-day, when the Acting Prime Minister announced that he had agreed to give £500 towards the relief of distress, it was a case of “ You can starve so far as we are concerned; we are going to fight you.”
– It is your own people that are making them starve. Why talk such rubbish ?
– The position became so acute in Queensland that appeals were made by the State Government to the Commonwealth Government to allow them to run the ships on the Queensland coast so that the food supplies of the people would not be held up.
– Yes, by conceding the demands of the seamen. We could do that to-morrow.
– The Government’s own supporter, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), has appealed to them repeatedly on behalf of some of the ports in his constituency. The Queensland Government have appealed to them, and given them every guarantee that they can find crews for the ships, and get them loaded and discharged.
– -By conceding the demands of the seamen.
– Yes, and the Commonwealth Government preferred rather to see the people in the North Queensland ports go short of food than to give way to the seamen, when, after all, what the seamen asked for was a very small and modest consideration.
– Why should the Government give way to men who break the laws ?
– The men have not broken the law. .
– They have broken the Arbitration A.ct.
– Who have been the foes of arbitration in this country up to now ? The Arbitration Court was established to try by conciliatory means to prevent and settle industrial disputes. The employees have been continually thwarted and obstructed in their efforts to get to the Court, and Mr. Justice Higgins stated that the approach to the Court was so surrounded by a Serbonian bog of legal technicalities that it was difficult for any organization to get an award there. Those who have tried it have found not only that the employers have obstructed, hindered, and opposed them, but that the expense and delay have been so exasperating that it is no wonder the unionists of Australia are beginning to think that arbitration is of no use to them. I think they are wrong.
Mr.Watt. - There was nothing of that kind in this case. Before the strike took place I told the seamen that I would throw open the doors of the Arbitration Court by every power the Government had, and when, in defiance of that, they struck, I immediately instructed the Controller to apply for a conference. That all took place in forty-eight hours.
– We are all well aware of the efforts made by the Government, but the men are being castigated and misrepresented to-day because it is said they refused to go to the Court, and turned down arbitration.
– I did not say that. I said they declined the mediation of the Court when they were brought there.
– They refused to accept the mediation of the Court.
– Would it be possible to settle this affair if the Government did not intervene?
– I believe, if it had not been for a question of Government policy, the matter would havebeen settled without any difficulty, and it is the Government policy that I want to criticise. Their policy towards the seamen, and other workers who are now out is simply this - “ You have either to accept our terms or you can stay out, and we challenge you to battle.”
– No ; I said that if the seamen went to the Court; the Government would observe any award the Court might make.
– The Governmentcould take up no other attitude.
– Precisely. Then what are you talking about?
– When the Queensland Government, in the interests of - the food supply of the people in the north, wanted to man the ships and load them with food, the Commonwealth repeatedly refused its sanction.
– The Commonwealth Government said that none of the ships they had commandeered could give way to the seamen’s log unless they all gave way, and that was a question for the Arbitration Court.
– And because if would have involved a recognition of some of the rights that the seamen might nave had to the consideration of their demands, the Government refused to help the citizens of North Queensland.
– We wanted the question of those rights stated before the proper tribunal, and would accept its verdict.
– Is it a fact that all those conditions are being allowed on the Commonwealth line of steamers?
– Not that I am aware of.
– Have we reached the position now that it is a case . of who can last out the longest?
– No. If the honorable member knew all the facts - and I thought he did from the confident way he attacked the subject - he would know that there is another stage.
– We are all anxious that the industrial dislocation throughout Australia should be brought as speedily as possible to an end. We are passing through a very critical situation, but the Government party say they are quite satisfied with the policy propounded by the Acting Prime Minister for the coming session. What is that policy? I have asked honorable members on the other side whether they approved of the admirable manner in which the Government of the country has been conducted-
– The honorable member wants to know what is the policy of the coming session. He will see that at the end of the statement, and not at the beginning of it.
– I have asked honorable members on the’ Government side whether they approved of the admirable manner in which the Government have conducted the affairs of this country when their administration has brought about the position we see in Australia today. It is futile to say that the seamen are entirely responsible for the present position.
There is another circumstance I wish to refer to inthis connexion. Ever since the Prime Minister established these “scab” recruiting agencies, or so-called “ loyalists’ bureaux,” there has been industrial trouble in this country. This is another factor of the present position of affairs which goes to show that the Government, in the admirable manner so unanimously approved by honorable members on the other side, have sought not to bring about good government in Australia, but to stir up and provoke a most unfortunate and regrettable feeling of antagonism amongst the workers of this country.
– The honorable member is very mixed about the motion to which he is referring. The approval was for the admirable administration, and the motion then proceeds to approve of the policy of the session.
– I have been talking of the administration- the admirable administration that has brought us to the position in which we are to-day. This admirable manner of conducting the Government has put 20,000 people out of work, and has necessitated a grant of £500 in Australia for the relief of distress. That is, indeed, something to be proud of. What do the Government propose to do to remedy this state of affairs? They propose to amend the Arbitration Act. We do not yet know exactly what the proposal is, and we can only guess what it is from fugitive remarks and presscomments, but we understand that the Government propose to amend the Act in the direction of enabling the antagonistic unions to register also in the Arbitration Court, and still further fight the trade unionists of the country. Does the Acting Prime Minister expect that peace will result from that? Does he expect that that will bring about satisfac-‘ tory government? What concerns me in the matter is that Australia, as a result of the war, is facing such a huge load of debt, and is under such a necessity for internal development that we need to unite all the forces of the community to secure the highest development, and. to secure peace and harmony in this country. Yet the policy of the Government has been so directed in the past as to bring about chaos, confusion, disorder, and disintegration ; and they now propose to continue that policy. What do they think will be the result of their proposed alteration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– Will the honorable member allow me to suggest that he is now addressing himself to a Supply Bill, and to an amendment which has been moved for a specific purpose. He. has got on to the question of the Government policy, the consideration of which will follow this measure. If honorable members had put the Bill through, the honorable member would be nearly in order.
– I have moved a reduction of the vote for salaries of the Prime Minister’s Department by £1.
– In order to attack the Prime Minister at Home; but the honorable member has become bushed out here, and is now on the question of the seamen’s strike.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr. Finlayson’s amendment)put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
-I move -
That Item No. 2, Division 13, Department of the Prime Minister, “Contingencies, £3,000,” be reduced by £1.
I submit this motion as a protest against the failure of the Government to deal adequately with the question of the manufacture of wool tops.
The Government, through the Central Wool Committee, acted most unfairly in giving secret concessions to two wool top manufacturing companies, without advertising to the general public that they had these concessions to give away. It will be remembered that Mr. F. W. Hughes, a member of the Central Wool Commit- ; tee, acting in conjunction with Mr. J. C. Watson, was able to persuade that Committee to give a concession to the Colonial Combing, Spinning,and Weaving Company, which enabled that company to make very large profits.
The nominal capital of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company was £100,000. The first issue of shares consisted of eight of £1 each, and the second issue of 99,092 shares. The number actually taken up, as at 22nd October, 1917, was, of the first issue, eight shares, and of the second issue. 20,000 shares, or a total, of,. 20,008 shares. There has been £1 per ‘ share called up in respect of the first issue of eight shares, and 5s. per share called up on the second issue of 20,000 shares. The directors of the Colonial Combing, . Spinning, and Weaving Company are Mr. F. W. Hughes and Mr. J. C. Watson, and the acting secretary is Mr. G. F. Carson. Mr. Phillip Morton held one share, Mr. F. W. Hughes isthe holder of 20,001, while Mr. F. Y. Wilson, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Frank Herbert Hughes, Mr. J. C. Watson, and Mr. C. H. McLean each hold one share. This, company, in which Mr. F. W. Hughes held 20,001 shares out of a total issue of 20,008, was enabled, with this paid-up capital of only £5,008, to secure contracts covering a period of six months, and amounting to £721,391 13s. 4d. We pointed out at the time that it would reap enormous profits. It was to receive for the wool tops manufactured by it 6s. per lb., whereas the company with which Mr. F. W. Hughes was associated before the war - Messrs. F. W. Hughes Ltd. - got for its wool tops only 2s. 6d. per lb.
As to the history of the company, I might remind honorable members that Messrs. F. W. Hughes Ltd. went into liquidation in order that it might break its contract with Japan.
– Do you know that that was the motive ? It is so easy, under the cloak of privilege, to make such a statement.
– I am not abusing my privilege as a member of this House. It is generally understood that the reason for the company going into liquidation was that which I have stated. There, was no other reason.
– It might have gone into liquidation in order thata new company might be formed.
– It did, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company was formed. The shareholders in F. W. Hughes Ltd. were allowed either to take up shares in the new company or to accept debentures for their capital. The greater number of the shareholders were satisfied to accept debentures’ carrying 7 per cent, interest, rather than become shareholders in the new company. They were, apparently, afraid, though, of course, without reason, that they would receive only 5 per cent, dividend. Evidently they did not care to take up shares in the new company, and it was left practically to Mr. F. W. Hughes, who took up 20,001 shares out of the total of 20,008 issued, and who paid up a capital of £5,001.
– Does the honorable member say’ that only 5,008 shares were issued?
– No! £5,008 capital paid up. When the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company obtained these vast contracts extending over a period of six months, its paid-up capital consisted of only £5,008. I admit that a great deal of debenture capital was being used by the company; but under the agreement which the Government made with the company to share the profits, all this debenture capital had to be. allowed for, and paid for, before the net profits could be ascertained and the Government could secure its share of them.
I have tried repeatedly to obtain from the Acting Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee full information about the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, but without avail. Sir John Higgins wrote me a letter in which he complained of my questions to the Acting Prime Minister. He resented them; and although he said, “ We are willing to give the fullest information about the company,” he failed to act up to his professions. I have made efforts to ascertain the business arrangements and the auditor’s reports in regard to the company, but have been side-stepped by the Acting Prime Minister.
– Not at all. I have given the honorable member quite a lot of information. What I declined to do was to give information which I thought ought not, in the interest of any company, to be made public for the informtion of its opponents.
– That was the last reason given.
– It was the real reason.
– After endeavouring for many months to obtain the auditor’s report on the transactions of the Government with this company, I was finally told that it would not be fair to give this information, since .it would let the company’s competitors know how it conducted its business.
– What is the extent of the debenture capital?
– I have been unable to ascertain, because I have not been furnished with the auditor’s report. The debenture capital might have been £150,000.
– A £700,000 contract might not have been out of the way in the case of a company with a capital of £150,000.
– What does the honorable member mean by a £700,000 contract? The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is apparently referring to the business which the company did after it had obtained the right to export wool tops during war-time. It secured no contract from us.
– I can explain that. This company, with the influence of certain persons, was able to get contracts with Japan. The total contracts which it obtained during six months amounted, approximately, to £732,000. That, as the honorable member for Henty remarked just now, is not a large sum where there is a capital of £150,000 involved.
– There is much more capital involved than that.
– We do not get the auditor’s report-
– I do not mind showing the honorable member anything in regard to’ the capitalization or the balance-sheet of the company ; but what he asked me to do was to lay on the table the whole of the fact’s, which I do not think would be fair.
– There was a kind of partnership between the Government and this company - a partnership under which the Government were to receive a share of the profits.
– They were to get 33£ per cent, of the profits.
– What I asked was that the Government should lay on the table of the House the auditor’s report concerning the transactions of this company. Why was my request refused ? What reason could there be for such a refusal, seeing that the Government were not allowing any other company to manufacture wool tops ?
– Oh, yes, they were.
– No other company was given this concession.
– Whiddon Brothers were manufacturing at the same time.
– I mentioned that company.
– Since then there have been others. The Yarra Falls Company have come in.
– The Government may have acted in that way as the result of criticism.
– No. These companies said, “ We now have our machinery. Will you give us the right to export wool tops?” and we said “Yes.”
– I remember the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) refusing an application of that sort,.
– Because those applying for it did not have the necessary machinery.
– I am not going to indulge in a dialogue such as the Acting Prime Minister had with the honorable member for Brisbane, so he must excuse me if I do not reply to his question. I have been refused the auditor’s report, although I have asked for it. But if honorable members will turn to page 229 of the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipt and Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1918, they will find the following report by the Auditor-General: -
Manufacture of Wool Tops - Audit of Accounts.
On the 1st March, 1917, agreements were entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Whiddon Brothers Limited, Sydney, and the Colonial Combing Spinning and Weaving Company Limited, of Sydney, respectively, under which these companies were authorized to purchase wool for the purpose of manufacturing wool tops. It was provided that all books, vouchers, and documents in the possession or under the control of the respective companies relating to the purchase, manufacture, or sale of the sheepskins, wool, and wool tops referred to in the agreements should be produced to an auditor nominated by the Commonwealth Government for that purpose, and it was also provided that any nomination or other communication by the Commonwealth Government to the companies should be deemed to be duly given if signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
He then goes on to point out that the. Treasurer, the late Lord Forrest - submitted his opinion that these audits should be conducted under the control of the AuditorGeneral for the Commonwealth, and suggested that the auditor appointed by the Central Wool Committee should net under an appointment made by the Auditor-General - under the provisions of section 11 of the Audit Act - should the Auditor-General be willing to make such appointment. I was quite prepared to do. this, but upon the matter coming under the notice of the Chairman of the Committee, he declared that such an arrangement would not be as satisfactory as the then procedure.
The Chairman of the company is Sir John M. Higgins. Everybody will admit that Sir John M. Higgins is a very able man. But he has been intrusted by the Prime Minister with a great deal too much power. He appears to be a sort of Australian Czar or autocrat, whose opinion possesses all the influence of a command. Because he is of opinion that the auditor appointed by the Government should not be on the staff of the Auditor-General, the latter is unable to attach that gentleman as one of his officers. The report of the AuditorGeneral proceeds -
Upon receiving the balance-sheets of the auditor ‘ appointed, the Treasurer asked for further information with respect thereto, but it was pointed out by the auditor that his reports were final, and that if further information with respect to accounts was required this should be obtained from the companies direct.
But the companies would refuse to give the Auditor-General this information, because they are acting under the jurisdiction! of the auditor chosen by the chairman of the Committee. Then the statement by the Auditor-General continues -
Under the agreement made with Messrs. Whiddon Brothers, the certified balance-sheet prepared for the half-year ending 31st July, 1917, showed the moiety of the profit which accrued to the Commonwealth as £12,646 17s. 5d., and that for the period ending the 31st January, 1918, as £7,258 ls. 4d. - in addition to which a special licence-fee amounting to £16,286 19s. 2d. became payable by the company - or a total of £36,191 17s. lid. That “licence-fee” appears to be a new term. I suppose that the Government found that, owing to the criticism which had been offered, the term “ partnership “ was not satisfactory.
Mr.Watt. - There was no term “ partnership “ in the agreement.
– But that term wasused by the Prime Minister himself when speaking. He declared that the Government had gone into partnership with theWool Tops Company. Regarding the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, the AuditorGeneral states -
The certified balance-sheet of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited for the half-year ending the 31st August, 1917, showed the moiety of the net profit which accrued to the Commonwealth as £48,3841s.11d., and the special licence-fee payable bythe company amounted to £129,016 7s. 6d. - or a total payable of £177,400 9s. 5d.- the payments thus due by the two companies amounting to £213,502 7s. 4d.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) asked me how much debenture capital was involved in this transaction; but, judging by the laughter and conversation on the Ministerial benches, Ministerial supporters, having expressed their approval of the actions of the Government during the recess, do not desire to hear anything about this matter.
– They know that we have issued a writ against that company claiming £280,000, and they approve of our action.
– The fact that the Government expect to get out of the company a share amounting to £177,000 merely goes to show what a lot of money the company must have made on a paidup capital of £5,008.
– I think that the debenture capital is part of the capital of the company, just as is the £5,008 paid-up capital.
– The interest on debenture capital has to be reckoned before profits are taken. The agreement with the Government provides that all outgoings are to be considered before the net profit is taken. Thus, interest on borrowed capital had to be taken out of the gross profits, and the Government’s share came out of the net profit. Seeing that that share was £177,000, the company must have made an immense profit.
– Speaking from memory, I think there is a much larger amount of debenture capital . than the honorable member suggests.
– There may be; but the agreement entered into with the company was so elastic that it enabled it to spend all the money it possibly could in the way of repairs to machinery and interest on borrowed money before the Government were considered. That is why there is litigation to-day. The agreement was so loosely drawn that this clever Mr. F. W. Hughes has been able to keep the Government out of their money.
– I am trying to get it.
– But the Treasurer has been trying to get it for a long time. The Auditor-General says -
The Colonial’ Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, however, disputed a payment of £88.412, and this is now the subject, it is understood, of litigation as between the Central Wool Committee and the company. The amounts actually paid by the companies total £125,179, and this amount remains in a special account entitled “ The Wool-tops Manufacturers’ Account “ at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, and it is subject to certain conditions related in the agreements respecting war-time profits tax and State taxes.
The position is a very unfortunate one. Sir John M. Higgins is a czar, who is operating the wool-tops industry, the Central Wool Committee, and the metal industry. In these industries he seems to have more power than the Acting Prime Minister has.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– The Acting Prime Minister objects to the term, partnership “ ; but it is a partnership which entails certain responsibilities on the Government as employers. The employees of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company are being ill-used. Mr. F. W. Hughes, in association with Mr. J. C. Watson, strange to say, is exploiting the miseries of the employees of the company. The work’s have been closed down. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) would support me if he were here.
– The honorable member for South Sydney did not support me when I endeavoured to put the agreement on a proper basis. He said that the effect of my interference with the old agreement was to stop work. On the other hand, the honorable member is complaining about the old agreement. His utterance shows that if he were in my position he would have done what I attempted to do. . He would have put the agreement on a proper business basis.
– The Acting Prime Minister has failed to do so.
– I got the agreement signed after elaborate conferences; but it was not abided by, and nothing could be done then but to push the company.
– Mr. F. W. Hughes is an extraordinarily clever business man. He appears to know all the tricks necessary to obtain political influence, and he is an adept at exploiting the miseries of his employees in order to bring influence to bear on the Government. From time to time he closes down his works, and then he gets the unfortunate people who are out of employment to approach members of Parliament and ask that the works may be set going again, and that the Acting Prime Minister should give the company certain concessions. Then, of course, the Acting Prime Minister says, “These people are out of work; we must get them to work,” and he gives Mr. F. W. Hughes a concession.
– I have given him no concessions.
– He has been given concessions. He got a bounty from this Parliament on the understanding that he would employ a lot of skilled labour, but he installed automatic machinery and employed a number of girls. He failed to carry out his promise to Parliament. From time to time he has closed down his works, and Parliament has been approached and asked to furnish him with means to carry on in order that the unfortunate people in his employment may be given work. That has happened recently. The Government are now attacking the company because they want their money. What does Mr. Hughes do? He closes down the. works - they have been shut down for weeks and months - and he has been trying to get certain senators to arrange a sort of modus vivendi with the Government, by which the Administration will carry on the works, and probably withdraw the litigation. I do not know whether this is his object, but it is a fact that the unfortunate employees are not working. The Government know that ‘ they are partners with Mr. Hughes, and that they are in duty bound to look after the employees, out of whom they get this profit. If Ministers were carrying out their administration in “an admirable manner,” as claimed by the National Caucus meeting held on Tuesday last, they would use a portion of the £213,000 for the purpose of paying a small bonus to these employees.
– We have not got the money yet.
– -Why cannot the Government get it? What is the matter with the agreement that prevents them from getting it?
– That is a matter for the Courts to decide.
– Have Sir John M. Higgins and his advisers recommended the acceptance of an agreement so loosely drawn that the Government are unable to get their just dues from Mr. F. W. Hughes ?
– I have seen wills contested though they have been dr.awn up by the most eminent legal men of the country. At any rate, the dispute has yet to be settled, and we cannot discuss it, seeing that the case is sub judice.
– These unfortunate people are out of employment. They have been exploited by Mr. F. W. Hughes, and his partners, the Government. If the Acting Prime Minister denies the application of that term, 1 refer him to a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), about the time the agreement was initiated, when he referred to the fact that the company were going into this business of manufacturing wool tops, and said that the Government were to get a share of the profits. I raise this question in order to draw attention to the. extraordinary position Sir John M. Higgins occupies. He is a very eminent and clever man, but he is responsible to no one but himself. In this Chamber we are responsible to our electors, who may turn us out if they disagree with our actions.
– Sir John Higgins has given some very valuable assistance during the war, not only to this Government, but also to prior Governments.
– I agree; but does the valuable assistance he has rendered entitle him to occupy the position he does? He defies the representatives in this Chamber who ask for information, and he is able to so influence members of the “Government that they will not take action to compel him to disclose it. I have moved my motion in order to protest against the conduct of the Government in allowing Sir John M. Higgins to “ run the show.”
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr. Higgs’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I desire to draw attention to a matter concerning the High Commissioner in London, but before doing so perhaps it will be as well if I make an explanation of a personal nature, so that any honorable members who have been in London recently, and are aware of what took place, may be under no misapprehension. Whilst I was in France some time after the “hop over” of the 8th August, and after we had been at the guns for some considerable time, we pulled out of Rosieres, and we had rather an exciting time, as we had to get out under open observation and were shelled very heavily in daylight, but luckily we had only one casualty. The point of my story is that when we pulled up for lunch, the paper in which our jam had been carried from South Australia was handed over to me, as quite naturally I was interested in Adelaide news. As luck would have it, that paper contained a full account of the official opening of Australia House in London. I read all that took place there, and turning to the page on which were given the names of those who were presented to the King, I noticed the names of Corporal Fleming, Lieutenant Burchell, and Mr. Anstey. I had no objection to that. What annoyed me was the fact that on the morning that we pulled out from Ignacourt on our way . to Rosieres, I received an invitation from. I think, Lord Burnham, but of course I could not attend. I also received three other invitations, including one from the Speaker of the House of Commons, all of which I highly appreciated, as a recognition ofmy official position in this Parliament; but I got no invitation from the High Commissioner, the source from which I was entitled to expect one. Accordingly, I wrote and expressed myself in pretty clear terms to Mr. Fisher, because he did not know. then that I was not in England, and, therefore, would not be able to accept an invitation. I felt that, as member for Adelaide, I was entitled to the same recognition that was accorded to other members who were holding up the front. Without reflecting on anybody, I contend that I was as much entitled to invitations as were others who were holding up the London front. It might be thought that I am challenging the High Commissioner’s vote out of pique at my treatment, and I make this explanation to remove that impression. I challenge the vote because I would like to know what are the duties of the High Commissioner, and what is the use of his office. On my way home, I read the Age newspaper on this matter. Having referred to the various Ministers who are now at Home, it asked the same question. I admit that I am not aware what the High. Commissioner’s duties are, though I conceive that he acts diplomatically in regard to loans, the finances generally, and other Commonwealth business. When I was overseas, I saw that the Prune Minister had decided to stay in England for the express purpose of negotiating the sale of our wheat, wool, and metals, and to attend to demobilization, and with that in view, he wired to his constituents at Bendigo asking whether they were agreeable to his remaining. So far as I know, the honorable gentleman did not .say that he had asked his colleagues whether he could be. spared. In addition to him and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), there is now the Minister for Defence ( Senator Pearce) in London ; and hence the press asks what the High Commissioner is there for. I think the expense of this office is rather extravagant, though I know it plays up to society. I do not wish to make a Bolshevik speech. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) shakes his head, but I know that if I, as a working man, went Home, and he were there at the same time, he would see much more of the Commissioner than myself. Australia is paying a most exorbitant price for a figure head, and this is not in accordance with the Democratic ideals of this country. All these expenses have to be met bv the workers. It does not matter in which way we impose taxation, there is a process of filtration whereby it ultimately reaches the labourer, who cannot pass it on, and necessarily must pay. It is due to the Prime Minister to make a clear, plain statement of the functions and duties of the High Commissioner at Home. I do not say he does not fill an office necessary in some degree, but I think he ‘is simply a figure head for the social’ caste of Australia in Great Britain, and I think that when I express my opinion I am voicing the sentiments of those who sent me here. When Lord Jellicoe visited South Australia he attended u ball given by the Mayor of Adelaide, and I - have to say that there were very few diggers there. I myself had not an invitation, because, perhaps, I do not come from the right political element. Every one was there who counted in society, and, above all, F. H. Snow, they tell me, was an invited guest. I do not cite this ball as an argument against the High Commissioner’s office, but as a comparison audi a contrast. Unless some justification can be given that will satisfy the working community, I think that the Chief Officer of the High Commissioner’s office could do the work, as, in my opinion, he really does, while Mr. Fisher wears the rosettes.
– It was the representatives of the working community that appointed a High . Commissioner.
– I admit that our party when in power did a lot of things which honorable members .opposite say we did, and some of these things I should not have done myself. However, I commend the Labour Government for sending one’ of our own side Home, because it is so seldom that .we have an opportunity - to put any of our people into positions of the kind. The time may come again when we shall have to fill the position if it continues to exist, but that does not interfere with my argument that the position is not justified. As to the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy representing us at the Peace Conference, we were not over-represented by them if we had to be represented at all; and I hope their work will reflect credit on themselves, and be of benefit to Australia. It is not the time to argue about what they have done; but they have not done what I went to fight for. I went to get the blood of those who made the war, and to see that they were left to lament. However, none of the top-dogs have been killed up to now, though the Socialist leader, who stuck to his guns, went down, and is now kicking up the daisies. The whole question will have to bc faced some time or other. The honorable member for Brisbane made out a good case; and whatever trouble does arise . in Australia will come, not only . from the industrial classes, but from the soldiers the promises to whom have not been honoured. But . it will come without the bloodshed which has been witnessed in Russia, and we shall surely gain the beneficial results which those men fought for. Reverting to the High Commissioner and the “ rosette “ business - when we look at the whole of the cost set down it represents a tidy sum ; and all for what purpose?. If it were going to confer on Australia anything like an adequate return for the expenditure I would not criticise. But, on behalf of those who have to foot the bill, I call upon the Government to make clear exactly what the position is.
– The Government are loth to control or limit discussion. I remind honorable members, however, that there will be an excellent opportunity following upon this debate, for a general discussion of the policy of the Government; I refer to the motion for the printing of the document containing the Ministerial proposals. If honorable members will assist the Government, we do not desire to. avoid or abolish that debate. We Want’ honorable members to have a reasonable chance to discuss the subjects therein referred to. ‘ But it should not be forgotten that, whatever Government may be in power, certain payments ‘have to be met. There are no politics in a Supply Bill. If honorable mombers opposite were here on the Treasury benches - which God forbid - the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) or some one of his colleagues would now be trying to achieve what I am endeavouring to do, namely, to get money for the Public Service.
– And honorable members opposite us, who are now dumb, would be kicking up the biggest row with respect to the actions of those in power.
– No, they would not be doing that; they would be contributing to the education of those in occupation of the Government benches, and, no doubt, would be doing so in that classical way that has distinguished them whenever they have chanced to be in opposition. There are certain payments due, whether we like it or not, next week; and I am quite willing to make this compact with honorable members, namely, that if before 3.30 p.m. to-morrow they will permit this Bill to go on to the Senate, so as to allow public credit to be met within the time requisite under the Audit Act, opportunity will be afforded for full discussion of Government business. I consent, therefore, now to the reporting of progress.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Annual Report - For year 1917-18.
Ordered to be printed.
Sheepskins - British Imperial Government in account with Commonwealth Central Wool Committee for purchase of sheepskins, season 1917-18.
Public Service Act - Promotion of F. W. Arnold, Postmaster-General’s Department.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 June 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190626_reps_7_88/>.